Paul Rodriguez Jared Souney © Lat34
Paul Rodriguez...The Third?Nov 02 2006 / Los Angeles, CA
Paul Rodriguez, known by many as P-Rod, has transcended the sport of skateboarding, taking it to a whole new level. He’s the poster boy for one of Nike’s newest ventures, Nike Skateboarding (Nike SB for short). The Nike SB team is being led almost single-handedly by arguably the mightiest star of the new generation of skateboarders, Paul Rodriguez himself.
P-Rod grew up in Los Angeles, amazingly as the son of famous actor and comedian Paul Rodriguez. Yet his father’s celebrity status had nothing to do with his son’s success in skateboarding. Quite the contrary in fact. Paul Rodriguez Sr. wasn’t thrilled with his son’s hobby, hoping he’d grow out of it and pursue a more legitimate career. Yet P-Rod proved him wrong, with a maturity and talent that has made him a household name amongst the more casual fans of action-sports.
I caught up with Paul after he had qualified for the finals of the Skateboarding Street event in the final leg of the Dew Action Sports Tour in Orlando. Relaxing in his hotel room with his girlfriend, P-Rod talked about his rise to success, how much of a factor spirituality plays into his daily life, idolizing Danny Way, and an unusual misnomer about his name.
Lat34: HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel did a feature about a year ago that really exposed you. Until the feature aired, the skating community knew a lot about you, but this really opened you up to the mainstream. Did that feature help make you into the household name you are today?
P-Rod: It’s crazy, that show definitely did a lot for me. As a matter of fact, the night after that show aired I was eating some food and the guy at the table next to me said, “Hey man, I just saw you on HBO! How’s it going?” It was crazy, a lot of people gave me feedback about that show.
Lat34: A lot of people in the industry regard you as one of the few skaters that has the type of celebrity status that hasn’t been achieved by many people in extreme sports until very recently. How does it feel to have the celebrity status, especially in a hotbed like Los Angeles?
P-Rod: It’s not like I can’t walk down the street and relax without people coming up to me. It’s a nice blend. I get love from people who are into (skateboarding) and recognize me from some things, yet I still have a free life that doesn’t involve body guards or things like that.
P-Rod: (Laughs) Yeah, well, you gotta take the good with the bad. We’ll see what happens if I win more.
Lat34: Your name sounds familiar to a lot of people due to your father. Your full name is actually Paul Rodriguez Jr.
Lat34: Why does everyone call you Junior?
Lat34: Has your dad’s career made any difference in your skating? Regardless of who your dad is, would you be a skateboarder today?
P-Rod: I would like to say regardless of who he is. I don’t think him telling jokes could make me skate any better. Like with music, you can have someone write a song for you, and you can be the singer. I can’t have somebody skate for me and make me any better at skateboarding. Jokes aren’t going to make Nike go, “Oh, hey, we want to sign up your son on his skateboard, we want to sponsor him.” It’s kind of a whole separate deal. He couldn’t have done much for me in terms of whether I can skate or not.
Lat34: Has your dad been supportive of you getting into skating in such a full-time arena and taking off with your career?
P-Rod: Once he found out that I was able to take care of myself. Before that, he didn’t mind the fact that I skated, but he was worried when I told him that this was something I wanted to do for my career, to make it my life. He asked me, “Son, are you going to be able to raise a family and take care of yourself? I don’t want you mooching off me your whole life!” I told him I’ve got one life to live, and I gotta do it.
He’s really psyched now, he’s really proud. He’s always telling me that he’s seeing me in different magazines, picking up the latest skate magazines.
Lat34: I read somewhere that Nike has only had in their entire history five athletes where they named a shoe after them. And you’re one of them. I know skating is something Nike really wants to blow up, but how did it come about where you have become the guy for Nike and skateboarding?
P-Rod: I guess God set that one up. I couldn’t say that I was the one who made that happen. It was just a blessing. I didn’t see it coming at all. Nike approached me one time and said that they wanted me to ride for them, and I sat down and talked with them and their plans were just ridiculous. My ears perked in interest as they planned this much about me before the meeting. God just aligned it the way he wanted to I guess.
Lat34: Are you a spiritual man?
P-Rod: Yes. I mean I don’t consider myself a preacher or anything, but I’m on my journey like all of us, trying to be a better person. Trust in God and see what happens.
Lat34: Back when I watched the HBO special on you, a big focus of the story was your maturity. You’re 21 years-old now, and have been skating since you were really young. What do you attribute to your maturity?
P-Rod: I don’t know exactly. I guess coming along with having faith in God, you just have to trust that he’s doing the right thing. That caused me to become laid-back and not worry as much about certain things. I guess from a young age I knew what I wanted. Whatever it was that I was interested in, I wanted to do it in full-force. I went through all kinds of phases until I was about 11, then I found skateboarding. Once I get into something, that’s it. My mind is set, I’m ready to do it, and there’s no turning back. There’s no other option.
Lat34: You also ride for Plan B, which is Danny Way’s company. Danny’s been a huge influence for you. How did that come about, and what’s your relationship like with Way?
P-Rod: It’s pretty good man. It’s pretty crazy how that evolved too. That was all God as well. (Danny) gave me the phone call. I didn’t search him out, I didn’t know he was planning on bringing Plan B back, and he gave me the phone call and told me the roster of skaters he was having on the team. I told him you can’t go wrong with that! (Laughs) I was into it, and it was a once-in-a-lifetime thing.
Lat34: Danny Way has a different philosophy compared to another big name in skating, Tony Hawk. Danny believes in pushing skating to new extremes, going completely gnarly and not worrying about what corporations think. Tony is more like the ambassador of the sport, making things smooth between different levels. Which belief system are you more into?
P-Rod: I don’t bother much necessarily with what everybody thinks. At the same time, you know, I’m down to make a couple of dollars here and there. I’m not trying to whore myself out to the industry either, because you can make some money with your core companies and this and that. I just believe in keeping true to what I believe in. I grew up skating street, that’s what I do every day. You can catch me in the streets, making skate videos, being in a skate magazine, so that’s what I pretty much stick to doing, and the formula’s really worked out for me. I just need to win a couple of good contests, that always helps out.
Lat34: Do you surf or snowboard?
P-Rod: I’ve surfed once in my life, when I was like nine years old. I’m kind of allergic to cold water. (Laughs) I don’t like shivering in the cold. I just snowboarded last season, at the beginning of this year for my first time.
Lat34: How did you do?
P-Rod: I was alright. I was able to get down the mountain, carve and go through trails. I didn’t try and do any tricks, because everyone that I know that skates and then goes and snowboards or tries some other sport goes crazy and then comes back with a broken collarbone or arm or something. I took heat from my friends, but I took it easy.
Lat34: There’s a movie coming out next year called Vicious Circle starring Paul Rodriguez (the Third). What’s the movie about, and when does it come out?
P-Rod: We just finished it, wrapped it up about two weeks ago. It probably won’t be out for about a year. It’s just a drama about this kid in Venice Beach who is going through this whole ordeal with his girlfriend who dies, and people think that he killed her. And he thinks that somebody (else) killed her. So he’s trying to kill this guy, and the name of the movie really suits the story. So that was pretty cool to play a role outside of anything that’s me.
Lat34: Do you get to make out with any hot girls?
P-Rod: (Laughs) Uh, you know, they had a couple of scenes, but it was kinda weird.
Lat34: Is Vicious Circle your first real acting job?
P-Rod: Actually, it almost was, because I did another film right before (Vicious Circle) and they kind of blended into each other, like I just went from one film to the other. The other film I did was called Street Dreams. It’s an actual skate movie that was written and produced by (pro skater) Rob Dyrdek. We just got sick of seeing wack-ass skate movies like The Grind, which is so untrue to what skateboarding is. Any skater who grew up in the streets can relate to what we do in this film. We’re pretty proud of it, and we feel like it’s not corny and it represents our people well.
Lat34: When does Street Dreams come out?
P-Rod: They want to do a screening at Sundance. So maybe around February they’re going to screen it.