Rudy Martinez, the star of “Dear White People” in an exclusive interview about his life and LGBTQ+ inclusivity

“Dear White People” is dramedy series on Netflix based on the 2014 film of the same name, which follows a diverse group of students at a predominantly white Ivy League college, who are navigating various forms of racial and other types of discrimination. Martinez plays the character ‘Wesley Alvarez’, who is a love interest for Lionel (DeRon Horton), who is one the main characters in season 2.

In addition, Martinez recurs on The CW’s “Jane The Virgin” as ‘Rudy the P.A.’and is best known as ‘Marty’ on the NBC series “Heartbeat”. Additional acting credits include: ABC’s “Speechless”, Disney’s “Good Luck Charlie”, Nickelodeon’s “iCarly” and the film “Senior Moment”.

Martinez was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA. He fell in love with acting at a young age and joined the drama club at South Pasadena High School. He went on to attend college at UC Santa Barbara and earned a BFA in Acting. In his senior year, he earned an undergraduate research grant to do a self study of anything he desired and chose puppetry. The research culminated into a short play that he wrote and directed, using different forms of puppetry.

Martinez started in the entertainment business during college, after mass mailing his headshot and resume to various agents. Soon thereafter, he was contacted by a few agents and ended up being signed by an agent at the former ACME Agency. After being signed with an agent during college, Martinez hit the ground running as soon as he graduated. While waiting for his agent to call with auditions that first summer, Martinez face painted at children’s birthday parties. He went on to book his very first professional acting job as a host job for the Disney Channel, where they flew him to Disney World to interview young celebrities and talk about the newest rides.

Along the way, Martinez performed with theater companies in Southern California including the Independent Shakespeare Company. He is a member of the Actor’s Equity Association and advocates for diversity in theatre and on-screen. He and his husband have set up a scholarship at UCLA, to benefit LGBT writers in the school of Theatre & Film. In addition, Martinez donates to The Odyssey Project in Santa Barbara, which seeks to change the lives of incarcerated youth through theatre.

When not acting, Martinez loves to play the ukulele and dabbling in song writing. He is a self proclaimed “geek” and is a huge fanboy for Harry Potter, ‘Power Rangers and Steven Universe. Martinez stays active by riding his skateboard, running and doing yoga. When he has a free moment, he loves to restore old furniture, visiting flea markets and antique shops and shopping for vintage clothing. Check out the exclusive YASS interview of Rudy Marinez.

Did you expect all the huge success of “Dear White People”? How do you feel about guest-starring in one of the most talked-about and popular shows of this year?

I wasn’t sure what to expect! I knew it was a popular show with a dedicated fan following. I mean the true fans of the show really love it, so I wondered if my character would get criticism coming into a show that has already established it’s main characters. But actually, the response was really wonderful. I’ve gotten a lot of messages from fans who appreciated my performance and that makes me so happy.

 Tell us about the role you play and if there are any similarities with Rudy.

I think there are lots of similarities to me! I play Wesley who becomes Lionel’s boyfriend in Season 2. Wesley is a very dedicated student, to the point of becoming obsessed with school and class projects and that kind of reminds me a lot of me in college!

credits: Ryan West

What shall we expect to see in the new season?

In the second season, there’s a lot that mirrors what is going on in society right now. For example, one story-line deals with the Fox News, talking-head types who fan the flames of the extreme right-wing base. These people spread false information about immigrants and people of colour and it’s really harmful to those communities. The show has a knack for staying extremely relevant. But I mean it’s also show about young, attractive college kids so there’s bound to be some romance and relationship drama too!

The show raises awareness on cultural differences. What is the biggest message “Dear White People” wants to spread?

What I’ve gathered from watching the show is that identity and racial politics are complicated. For a long time I didn’t feel connected to the Latinx community because I didn’t grow up speaking Spanish. But now I’m realizing how much of my culture’s history was swept under the rug because they just didn’t teach us that in school. Now I’m hungry to find out as much information as I can. I’m realizing that I can be a part of two cultures, and be proud of who I am.

How does it feel to be on the set? And what is the atmosphere between all you guys involved in the show?

First of all, the set is beautiful. The show is set in an Ivy League school, so the sets are all brick buildings and old cosy dorm rooms. I love just walking around the set and admiring the work they put into it. And the atmosphere on set is wonderful too. Justin Simien, the creator, has such an easy-going nature about him. He’s not an intimidating type of director at all, so I felt so comfortable asking him questions about my character. He’s so approachable! The cast is the same way.  

credits: Ryan West

Have you made real friendships with other people in the same industry as you?

Absolutely! It seems that with every show I work on, I’ve come away with a new friend. It’s the nature of working in this industry. Actors are usually very affable people.

When did you decide you wanted to be an actor? And how did your career start?

Growing up, I always knew I wanted to be an actor. I acted in plays in musicals in high school and I was a total drama geek. Then in college I suddenly became very afraid that being an actor wasn’t going to pay my bills so I tried majoring in other things like psychology and communications. But in the end, my mind was already made up, so I went back to majoring in theatre, and although the road hasn’t always been smooth, I’ve never doubted that this is what I want to be doing with my life.

How is Rudy as a person? Little is known about your personal life.

That’s so funny! I don’t try to be private, I’m just such a homebody that I didn’t think anyone cared about my personal life. For starters, I’m married! My husband is an officer in the Navy Reserve and he just got back from nine months in Afghanistan. It was really tough being away from him for that long, but I knew I had to stay positive and support him. I honestly don’t know what I’d do without him. We’re hoping to expand our family soon, so we’ve been looking into the adoption process. We really want to be dads!

credits: Ryan West

Looking back, how do you feel watching again your shows in Nickelodeon and Disney?

I’m very proud when I look back on some of my early jobs. I didn’t have any resources back then and I literally started from scratch. I didn’t even know how to write a resume but I pulled it together and sent out mailings to agents and that’s how I signed with my first agency. Some people have a leg up in this industry, but I didn’t know a single person. I made that dream come true for myself and I’m really proud of that.

How was that experience of being a host for the Disney Channel?

I will always cherish that experience because it was my very first job in Hollywood. But it was also difficult for me. When I first started that hosting job, the director sat me down in his office and told me that I needed to act more boyish and masculine. He would say things like “try to not sound feminine”, which was devastating because even though it was my dream job at the time, I was being told that gay kids had no place there. It’s so funny to me because now Disney is embracing the LGBTQ community, which is wonderful, and they even have out characters on Disney Channel, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people were hurt while they were getting to that point. It taught me that if someone makes you feel bad in your own skin, it’s probably time to move on.

It came to our attention that you and your husband have set up a scholarship at UCLA, to benefit LGBT writers in the school of Theatre & Film. How did you decide to start this beautiful cause?

We wanted there to be more interesting and complex roles for LGBTQ people in Hollywood. When you see shows or movies relying on old stereotypes to make jokes, it can negatively influence perceptions about the LGBTQ community. So, we decided to support young writers and directors who are actively writing great parts for this community. We want to let them know that their work is valuable and give them the encouragement they need to keep going!  

credits: Ryan West

Is there anything you have regretted in your life?

That’s a good question! I don’t have huge regrets in my life but I always wish I had started working on my passions sooner. My advice to anyone would be to stop waiting to do that thing you’ve always wanted to do. Whether it’s traveling, or pursuing a creative project, or whatever, there is always something you can be doing today to get started.

People say you have a special talent working with your hands; thus, you are a very talented baker and puppeteer. Tell me about that!

That’s right! One of my talents, that I’m not very open about, is that I love to paint and draw and just be really creative with my hands. I got into puppetry which a lot of people think is a very childish thing, but I wish more people would see that it’s a very unique and beautiful art form. I started making some of my own puppets and I even co-wrote and performed in a short puppetry film recently. As for baking, to be honest I have a major sweet tooth! I wanted to challenge myself so I took up baking which is great because it also satisfies my sweet tooth.

What are your dreams for the future and your plans?

Right now, I’m working on writing, and I’m developing a couple of projects that I’m very passionate about. I’m very dedicated right now to getting them on their feet and sharing some stories that are important to me.


More of Rudy Martinez here:

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