Ramon Rodriguez interview: ‘Will Trent’

Ramon Rodriguez isn’t the first guy you’d think of when casting a television series role of an eccentric special agent for the Georgia Bureau of Investigations. Foe one thing, he’s the literal antithesis of a Southerner, a Puerto Rican who grew up on the Lower East Side of New York (a self-styled “Nuyorican”). Perhaps this is one reason why Rodriguez admits he initially wasn’t interested when he was offered the titular role of detective Will Trent in the ABC police procedural “Will Trent.” “I originally passed on this project,” he says. “I wasn’t convinced that I was right for it. And it took me a while to wrap my head around the character. And doing a series is a really big commitment, so I first needed to know I could really tackle (the role) and be on the same page with the team.” Watch our exclusive video interview above.

Of course, Rodriguez finally said yes, and he’s happy he did. “Will Trent” has proven to be a surprise hit, breaking out as ABC’s top drama in prime time in both total viewers and the Adults 18-49 demographic. It was renewed in April a few weeks before the show’s Season 1 finale on May 2. The series is based on a series of bestselling “Will Trent” books from author Karin Slaughter, who is also an executive producer on the series. It was listening on audio to the Slaughter novels that helped pique Rodriguez’s interest. “As I started hearing them, I liked the fact the character was quirky but tough, very good at his job but with a big heart – and a complicated human being. That all appealed to me.”

Rodriguez appreciated the rough edges that Trent exhibited after his having been abandoned by his parents in infancy and facing a difficult childhood navigation of the Atlanta foster care system. “We went back and forth discussing the plan, and I was convinced after speaking with our showrunners Liz (Heldens) and Dan (Thomsen) that our tastes aligned,” he stresses. “Because, I mean, there are a lot of cop shows out there, and I had to be sure they were planning something different that would really elevate the genre. We agreed it needed to feel unique and different, and tonally, it does. We touch on a lot of tough subjects through these characters, like dyslexia, child abuse, trauma and addiction – some really heavy stuff. But we don’t shortchange the fun, silly stuff, either.”

Part of that fun involves Will Trent’s co-pilot, a purebred Chihuahua named Bluebell in real life, Betty in the show. Trent reluctantly adopts the tiny pooch, and the dog has proven to be a popular draw. “You’re obviously not supposed to (star onscreen) with animals or babies,” Rodriguez admits, “but this dog is a pro. She’s amazing. And by the way, she lives the best life, better than you or I or anyone else. She knocks out her scenes in an hour, she gets these delicious treats, and she’s gone. I love her. Having her on the show also just melts Will’s heart in a way nothing else could, establishing this amazing bond.”

But Rodriguez understands that none of this would matter if he hadn’t nailed his Southern accent. “That was a big thing for me,” he admits, “because it was so important that the character sound like the environment he came from. I spent a lot of time with a dialect coach so I didn’t appear like I had an exaggerated drawl. It’s amazing what dialect does to crack the character wide open.”

Along those same lines, it’s interesting that the Trent character has no specific Latino identity (or any other identity, for that matter). “That was critical to me, because the character should resemble his experience, where he grew up, his environment.” As a result, Rodriguez stands tall as a rare brown-skinned actor playing a series lead. “And besides that, people see a Latino who isn’t portrayed in a stereotypical way,” he says, “and that’s a big deal for our community. I don’t take that lightly.”

Rodriguez adds that he’s proud to “walk in the footsteps” of such Latino performers as Rosie Perez, John Leguizamo, Benicio del Toro, “going all the way back to Raul Julia and Rita Moreno. There’s a lot of folks whose shoulders I stand on, and I’m honored to do that. I’m doing my best to hold us up even higher.”

One thought on “Ramon Rodriguez interview: ‘Will Trent’”

  1. I am 80 yeaers old and just Love Will Trent. He thinks kind of like I do, putting himself in the mind and body of the victims to find the killers. I am a closet detective. I love to try to solve murders. It is a 1/2 and 1/2 thing but I have fun doing it, winning or not and I adore Betty!. I recently had to put down my ShitzPoo which broke my heart. He was very smart like Betty. And probably just as spoiled.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

UPLOADED May 1, 2023 8:30 am