Five Favorite Films

Mel Rodriguez's Five Favorite Films

by | December 16, 2015 | Comments

Getty Images / Astrid Stawiarz / Stringer

Mel Rodriguez is in three of the best-reviewed TV shows of the last couple years: Better Call Saul (Marco), The Last Man on Earth (Todd), and Getting On (Patsy). His characters — when their shows’ titles are murmured around the water cooler — evoke reactions like, “Ohhhhh [insert character name here]! I love him!” But his new film, Fat, features Rodriguez in a very real, naturalistic performance that is sure to earn him new fans. Rodriguez spoke to us about his favorite movies with passion and enthusiasm; it’s no wonder his likability is being noticed around the world. Here are five of his favorite films:


Bicycle Thieves (Ladri di biciclette) (The Bicycle Thief) (1949) 98%

I really love Bicycle Thief. That just reminds me of my relationship with my father. My mother — they were divorced and I was raised mostly by my father. We grew up really poor. Something about that film really strikes a chord in me real deep. I remember [when I first saw it],I think I was in college and I had just left home. It was part of film studies class. We were told to watch it and I remember getting really emotional watching it. I guess it just really struck a chord because it made me realize everything my father had gone through to support us and to be there for us. I just remember that relationship, that father/son relationship and him loving his father so much and the end — his father just constantly trying so hard to support the family and make ends meet, and really not being able to pull it off. Poverty sucks, you know what I mean? And then in the end, him having to kind of resort to something that goes completely against his character, really, in order to provide for his family. And those moments of just pure humiliation, as a man, to try to provide for your family.

I remember times like that with my dad and it just really hit close to home. I remember missing my dad because I was in New York. I was away from home for the first time and getting a real clear idea of what my father had gone through to provide for me. I think when you’re in the day-to-day and living it, you don’t have that objectivity, and you’re not able to step back and see the big picture. Then sometimes these really great movies are able to that for you. They’re kind of able to strike these chords in you and illuminate things for you. I think that’s what the Bicycle Thief did for me.

GoodFellas (1990) 96%

I grew up in kind of a rough neighborhood and there was kind of this whole gangster thing, too. I think that’s the opening line: “As far back as I can remember I always wanted to be a gangster.” And I think there was a part of me that felt the same way. I just loved Robert De Niro’s work, all those guys really. Man, the acting, and everything about that movie — almost flawless film. And I’ve loved all of Scorsese’s films. Just his working relationship with Robert De Niro, from Mean Streets on; there are so many movies that I love with the two of them. I feel like everything kind of comes together in Goodfellas in some way. Goodfellas has kind of got it all. That was probably one of my favorite films as a kid, so I carried a picture of Goodfellas in my wallet. With De Niro and Pesci and Liotta, it was like, you know, the trinity [laughing]. I mean, really, Goodfellas was kind of like my Star Wars [laughing].

Really just the pacing of that film, everything, just how realistic. And at times it’s just jarring how violent it is. And hilarious too.  It’s f—ing hilarious. I mean, I know it’s not funny that you would wrap a telephone cord around a guy’s neck. That’s not funny at all! The whole situation is terrible! But I think on some level, really, you kind of care for these guys and I think that’s what Scorsese is able to do in his films, is make these guys so human that we are able to somehow relate to them and, on some level, even kind of root for them, even though some of the stuff they do is just really despicable. I mean, the stuff that Joe Pesci does is just awful and I don’t think you really necessarily root for him; he’s kind of a hot head.

The thing is, obviously, I know these things are bad. I do know how life can go one way or another, and that it’s not all just black and white, and there are many different situations and twists and turns in life. I feel these things sometimes and say, “Oh wow, I knew a guy like that. And I knew a guy like that.” And so I am very into gangster movies just because I feel, in some ways, I don’t think I have the heart for it, honestly. I’d have a nervous breakdown as a gangster. I’d be a very nervous gangster. I’d be the gangster that pops a lot of Klonopin.

RT: That’s your next movie, or sitcom.

Yeah totally [laughing]! You know, Miami was just fraught with this kind of stuff in the 1980s. I remember telling a buddy that you’d see a guy adding these really palatial additions to his really modest home in the southwest area of Miami. And you know, these kinds of houses, you’d be like, “Oh, you know, so-and-so got into selling drugs,” and they’d pop up all over the neighborhood. Then all of a sudden, construction would stop on one, it would stop for months. And you’d go, “Oh, well so-and-so went to jail.” That’s kind of how the 1980s were in Miami. But back to Goodfellas. It’s great and the pacing. And it all it seems very real.

Das Boot (1981) 98%

I love Das Boot just because it’s a real keen movie. But I’m doing this show, The Last Man on Earth too, and there’s this thing where [my character] Todd is kind of crumbling. He’s got all this stuff on his plate; he’s just kind of starting to fall apart a bit. And there’s this one scene in Das Boot, where one of the guys realizes he is going to die, just losing it. Something about this one actor — he’s able to convey every single bit of claustrophobia and fear, and man, he’s able to convey all that on his face somehow in a moment. Literally, I think the scene is probably about two minutes long, and you just feel everything, man. You know these guys are about a thousand feet underwater, and literally you take that ride with him. I think some of the performances are just so unbelievable.

Raging Bull (1980) 93%

I think [the performances are] what it is for me with films. Like Raging Bull, for instance. It’s just beautiful. I love Robert De Niro and how he was just able to embody Jake LaMotta that way. That was inspiring to me. I remember thinking, “Oh wow, this guy is just like a chameleon.” He’s just able to take on the spirit of someone and become this person. I was really fascinated by that. The fact that he went on to gain all this weight for LaMotta in the later years, and his relationship with his brother; it’s so powerful. I had a younger brother. I just really related to that. And their relationship, how they just love each other so much, but do such awful things to each other sometimes. And the whole story itself, the life of a fighter. What makes a fighter and what makes a fighter kick?

I’m also a huge boxing fan. I box. That was something that I considered doing as a profession at one point, until I got punched really f—ing hard [laughing]. It’s just an awful f—ing feeling, and it sucked. And I was like, “I’m not going to do this for a living; there’s no way [laughing].” And with that, my whole attitude changed about that really quick. But I have so much respect for what those guys do, the fact that these guys — I mean, they literally fight for a living, and they train so hard. I’ve been in the gym and I see what these guys do.

It’s also a poverty thing, too, in a lot of ways. I don’t think a lot of really wealthy people jump in the gym and decide they want to be a boxer. It’s usually these guys; “I’m gonna make something for me. I’m gonna make something for my family. I’m gonna do it by training six, seven, eight hours a day and getting in the ring with one other man. And f—ing laying it all on the f—ing line.” I have a great respect for that.

It’s one of those movies you can feel. It’s visceral that way. And the dialogue just seems to come almost effortlessly. So much like life; it really is like you are watching this piece of life. I really love films like that. 

Scarface (1983) 82%

Pacino in Scarface. That’s another one, just because it was where I was from. I am half Cuban American. That wasn’t the story necessarily of Cuban Americans but I know a lot of the guys that I grew up with and a lot of the people I grew up with felt that way. Being first generation — you know people had a lot to prove. And God, I feel that movie is so sleek, and very much what Miami is. It was really cool. It was a really interesting time when the Mariel boatlift happened and Castro emptying out his prisons and insane asylums. It was a crazy time. I think crime went up by 200 percent in Miami. I mean, literally we had killers on the street and it was a f—ing nutty time. I remember somebody saying that it’s funny that I ended up doing comedy, and I was so into all these other super hardcore dramatic films. But I just remember Al Pacino doing an interview once and him saying that he was — while he was doing that — he kinda really dropped into the role and became this really kind of vicious guy to play Tony Montana. And he said he was coming out of his house one day, and I guess some guy’s doberman had gotten loose and he was kind of “in it” on his way to work — and this doberman came up to him and he realized the doberman was going to attack. And he just kind of planted himself — you know, all Tony Montana — and just f—ing was like “Hey!” And the dog kinda turned around and whimpered and ran away [laughing]. And he was like, “Me, Al Pacino — I would have freaked out but I was just in this thing and I was really in — and this dog comes in… ‘This guy’s f—ing danger, you know? Stay away.'”

RT: Benefits of method acting.

Yeah totally [laughing]. I loved all those guys that did that stuff, man. I really wanted to do that. It’s so funny, I really, I wanted to be that, I wanted to live that, as an actor. If it’s Midnight Cowboy, I’m going to go be homeless for a month and all that stuff. I was so into to that, the science behind the method you know. It just really fascinated me, man. It just seemed like so much fun.

RT: But it can be painful too.

Yeah, and then I realized now it could probably be torturous. I think I was young and a little naive thinking that. I look at a guy like James Gandolfini who had to carry around all that darkness day in day out. Now, I’m on a comedy; we just kind of laugh on set all the time. It’s very light for the most part. Some of it is a little heavy, but for the most part it’s really, really light. I realize, “Oh, I’m gonna go home. I am able to just hold my girl and give my wife a kiss, just hang out and watch TV,” and everything is really kind of light. I can’t imagine going to work where you’re playing this kind of mob boss killer who knows that the FBI is hot on his f—ing tail, and can’t trust anyone. Day in and day out, playing this f—ing thing. I know that, energetically, it’s gotta do something to your f—ing insides. Maybe that’s — God knows — but maybe that’s why we lost him so soon, but it’s heavy s—. It’s really heavy. Now looking back I certainly don’t think I want to do that. It’s too much. And I certainly don’t want to bring that sort of thing home.


Fat is now open in limited release and available on VOD and iTunes.

Tag Cloud

target Photos Family Stephen King series Comic Book rotten Drama Amazon Prime Video mutant DGA Reality Black Mirror sequel adventure child's play movies Epix ABC Signature First Look AMC franchise comiccon Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Acorn TV Awards Tour suspense Creative Arts Emmys kaiju cancelled TV series Winter TV theme song Premiere Dates 2021 Best and Worst Country Watching Series Disney Channel Vudu New York Comic Con transformers romantic comedy composers Amazon Studios Disney jurassic park black scary movies political drama Hear Us Out Box Office IFC docuseries video quibi deadpool canceled discovery french The Arrangement heist movie Countdown cinemax Academy Awards television Amazon Prime President stop motion BAFTA Rocketman ESPN comic Bravo YA Awards Tokyo Olympics chucky USA Network FXX X-Men DC Universe what to watch Superheroe CMT marvel cinematic universe Sony Pictures wonder woman werewolf dragons TLC Musical HBO versus docudrama festival twilight fresh FX on Hulu richard e. Grant Rocky Esquire Heroines best live action true crime Sneak Peek dceu scorecard japanese Lifetime Christmas movies Nat Geo Freeform Schedule popular obituary SXSW ABC Family Mystery Song of Ice and Fire boxoffice DC streaming service CBS Nominations saw Lifetime San Diego Comic-Con telelvision laika Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt SDCC Toys Alien BBC PlayStation king kong a nightmare on elm street TV Rock strong female leads Western Crunchyroll adenture animated Summer zombie lord of the rings 2018 National Geographic documentary MTV streaming aapi Opinion australia Fox Searchlight hidden camera renewed TV shows blaxploitation trailers dogs Brie Larson WGN Adult Swim Horror Fall TV 2019 spain Emmys talk show Television Critics Association Super Bowl GLAAD Warner Bros. A24 book cults sequels 2017 politics Sundance Logo legend comics spanish 24 frames Avengers Showtime Holidays Anna Paquin latino venice Writers Guild of America cancelled television TV renewals james bond Tarantino TCA Awards hist TCA Lucasfilm BBC One children's TV Hulu worst cooking directors BET Awards Martial Arts MCU archives Universal breaking bad TV movies Action Masterpiece RT History Trailer hispanic Certified Fresh prank FOX VOD Cannes game show worst movies justice league Pacific Islander classics Turner Spring TV 93rd Oscars Dark Horse Comics GoT scene in color new zealand Shondaland green book Disney+ Disney Plus spy thriller tv talk TCA 2017 Women's History Month Comedy The Witch Cosplay Walt Disney Pictures slashers spinoff international Red Carpet name the review PaleyFest Hallmark blockbusters See It Skip It miniseries 72 Emmy Awards travel Spectrum Originals Arrowverse cats cops USA Apple TV Plus Hallmark Christmas movies godzilla doctor who DirecTV IFC Films Character Guide pirates of the caribbean psycho The Walt Disney Company razzies films Disney streaming service spider-man toy story Spike cars Turner Classic Movies criterion crime ViacomCBS christmas movies Mindy Kaling comic books CNN Superheroes History Kids & Family blockbuster TBS news remakes Comics on TV vampires TIFF batman Endgame high school Crackle Grammys Columbia Pictures Trophy Talk based on movie VICE facebook die hard DC Comics GIFs Funimation Interview witnail golden globe awards YouTube Red joker binge Apple TV+ Rom-Com 71st Emmy Awards Film Festival singing competition Oscars fast and furious Peacock BET hollywood streaming movies Sci-Fi dark The Academy Polls and Games stand-up comedy ABC Chernobyl zero dark thirty period drama El Rey Captain marvel finale elevated horror NYCC rom-coms police drama Discovery Channel Marvel Television halloween Quiz NBA APB Exclusive Video medical drama Pixar LGBTQ all-time RT21 Emmy Nominations Mary poppins harry potter natural history 21st Century Fox Image Comics serial killer indie documentaries reboot CBS All Access canceled TV shows screen actors guild Television Academy supernatural sag awards OneApp Holiday Nickelodeon dc social media concert Paramount The Walking Dead Baby Yoda Reality Competition rt archives VH1 mockumentary know your critic TCA Winter 2020 Sundance TV First Reviews MSNBC Marathons historical drama Travel Channel ITV A&E Music video on demand japan kong SundanceTV TruTV HBO Go HBO Max BBC America new york Elton John award winner Legendary crime drama Set visit 2016 italian Paramount Plus The Purge diversity ghosts Binge Guide cartoon Winners Podcast Trivia Ghostbusters FX psychological thriller Food Network movie Video Games TV Land reviews Mudbound zombies critics biography Christmas comedies TV One nbcuniversal festivals Election Star Wars Wes Anderson Star Trek Marvel Studios cancelled anime Pop Ovation TNT women 007 thriller PBS American Society of Cinematographers new star wars movies Black History Month E! Shudder Tubi YouTube Premium Disney Plus Tomatazos ratings 2020 game of thrones 20th Century Fox casting Broadway revenge Fox News Netflix Christmas movies 1990s cancelled TV shows E3 jamie lee curtis Animation Teen emmy awards asian-american Netflix universal monsters golden globes OWN parents anthology Extras rotten movies we love boxing monster movies 90s 2015 superhero The CW LGBT nature Pet Sematary Amazon aliens Paramount Network unscripted satire superman Marvel Pride Month foreign Pirates adaptation Calendar CW Seed Tumblr book adaptation Starz Lionsgate mission: impossible halloween tv Ellie Kemper crossover disaster Sundance Now crime thriller Mary Tyler Moore Film spanish language Comedy Central Classic Film teaser 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards war indiana jones 4/20 space Cartoon Network kids Britbox Musicals Syfy Infographic YouTube olympics football 45 Year in Review romance dramedy Thanksgiving 99% independent Pop TV science fiction Biopics toronto basketball free movies WarnerMedia Comic-Con@Home 2021 ID Valentine's Day technology Mary Poppins Returns TCM sitcom Fantasy NBC sports nfl south america Apple screenings robots stoner