About Features Reviews Community Screenings Archives Studios Home
December 2008
NOTHING LIKE THE HOLIDAYS | An Interview with Freddy Rodriguez

An Interview with Freddy Rodriguez
by Wilson Morales

December 8, 2008

From his days working with Chris Rock in ‘Dead Presidents’ to achieving success on HBO’s Six Feet Under, Freddy Rodriguez has seen a lot so far that he’s ready to make the transition, while continuing to act, to producing films. Not just any films, but films that represent the Latino community in a way that everyone can see and relate with as well. His first project as a producer puts him aside with producer Bob Teitel, who done well as a producer with films such as ‘Barbershop’, Soul Food’, and the upcoming Biggie Smalls film, ‘Notorious’.

Together the two of them have made ‘Nothing Like The Holidays’with a talented cast that includes John Leguizamo, Debra Messing, Alfred Molina, Jay Hernandez, Melonie Diaz, Mercedes Ruehl, Luis Guzman, and Vanessa Ferlito. The film is about a Puerto Rican family living in the area of Humboldt Park in west Chicago who face what may be their last Christmas together.

In speaking exclusively with Rodriguez, he spoke about working with Bob Teitel, putting the film together, and hoping that it does well.

How did you hook up with Bob Teitel in putting this film together?

Freddy Rodriguez: Bob and I have known each other for a long time. We are both from Chicago, and along with George Tillman, we’ve known each other for over a decade. Back in the early 90s when I first came out here, I had ‘Dead Presidents’ out and they had ‘Soul Food’ and we would see each other at the same circles and always talked about getting together and doing a movie together. Years had passed and Bob became very successful and so did I, and about three years ago, Bob came with me on the set of ‘Entourage’ and decided to finally get together and make a project. For three years, we had rights to different books; we had different ideas and we were trying something together that stuck and Bob had the idea to do this film. This was about the same time I started becoming interested in producing. He said, ‘Why don’t we kill two birds with one stone and executive produce the film with me and at the same time you can act in it and we can work together in that fashion. So I came on board and the rest is history. We got the script written, the money to do it, and the actors to be involved.

Who did you cast first in the film?

FR: It was John Leguizamo. I have known John for almost as long as I have known Bob, and we wrote the character in mind, hoping that he would say yes. Once the money was in place and the script was good, I contacted John and said, ‘Here, check this out.’ John read it and loved it and he said yes. So, we were the first two on board.

Was there a challenge having more than one storyline in the film?

FR: The challenge came from us not trying to make the typical holiday film that you see year after year. We wanted our film to have more depth to it. If you are going to have more depth in the film then it will require more storylines with emotional content. The challenge was combining the Christmas movie formula with depth and storytelling.

How did you want to balance the comedy and drama?

FR: As the script was being written, we just went page by page, we saw what was funny at the time and what was dramatic and you could sense the balance of it before you put it on screen. Even in the editing room, whenever you have a rough cut of a movie, it’s always long. When you watch it, you get to see what works and what doesn’t and after you chop it up you try to get a good balance of the two.

Why do you think we have been missing positive Latin films from Hollywood?

FR: I think we have been missing that from Hollywood because to put it to you quite frankly, there haven’t been the people there to put it together; or put it together in the right way. I don’t mean that so that I can pat myself in the back, but we are finally at a point were people like me and Bob and John, and the rest of the cast have all been in mainstream American movies, and by being in them we have learned how to put those types of film together. That was always the goal, to put a positive portrayal American film that revolves around an American family that happens to be Puerto Rican. When you do it that way, not only do you balance the authenticity of the family, but you also open up to a broader audience. Whether you are Caucasian, African American, or whoever you are, you will be able to relate to it. Surely but slowly you are seeing Latino actors getting involved behind the camera and bringing something new to the game.

How was shooting the film in Chicago?

FR: For me, it was wonderful because I am from Chicago. It was a surreal experience for me to get to go back to the neighborhood where I grew up in and to bring a movie Hollywood movie there. I was filming down the block from someone I grew up with and was able to have a conversation with him. I’ve never experience that before. It was the coldest winter in 20 years in Chicago, so when you see the outside shots in the film, you can imagine how cold everyone was on set.

Was there any ad-libbing on the set?

FR: A little bit. If you know John, anytime he’s in a film he will ad-lib. It’s in his contract. Just kidding. The words weren’t precious and as long as the ad-libs worked, we were okay with it.

Having worked with Debra Messing in the past, was it an easier pitch to get her for the film?

FR: Sure. It’s always easier when you know the person. Debra and I did our first movie together, ‘A Walk in the Clouds’ and we have both been on successful TV shows and so I would always see her at those events. I have known her for a long time and by her getting a call from me and knowing that I’m producing this film, she knows that I will bring the same quality that I bring in as an actor.

Was there ever a consideration of making this a Spanish language film?

FR: No. we decided early on that we were going to make this an American English speaking film that happens to be revolved around a Puerto Rican family. We wanted to keep it as authentic as possible. We wanted to make it different, but something that everyone can relate to.

What do you people to get out when they see this film?

FR: A lot of different things. I want people to laugh. I want people to cry. I want people to enjoy themselves watching this. I want the film to do well at the box office so that the powers that be will continue to make these types of films, so that at the end of the day, it’s called the entertainment business; and everyone from the producers and actors and audiences are happy.


Terms of Use | Privacy Policy