It’s not every day that Ramon Rodriguez gets the chance to patrol the streets of Los Angeles with a squad team or train with some of the toughest LAPD officers on the force, but that’s just what the star of the upcoming Fox drama Gang Related had to do to prepare for his newest role. DuJour spoke with Rodriguez about playing Ryan Lopez, the newest recruit of the LAPD’s Elite Gang Task Force, and the world of organized crime.
It’s revealed early on that your character was adopted and raised by the leader of one of the most notorious gangs, which complicates things for him a bit.
He’s in a precarious position and tries to do the right thing for his family, but he ends up having a crisis of conscience when tragedy strikes his team. That’s when he first starts to question who he is. What I loved most about the role—and the show—is that it’s not all black and white. You’ve got good guys doing bad things and bad guys doing things that are honorable and very human. That’s the world we live in.
What attracted you to the role?
I actually wasn’t looking to do a TV show, but when I read the script I was surprised by how interesting these two worlds are and how the show pushes the envelope of network television. I was also attracted to the complexity of Ryan and his dilemma.
How much did you know about the LA gang scene before you came on board?
I had about six weeks before we started shooting to research, which is quite rare in this business. I got to spend time with different divisions of the LAPD doing surveillance and high-speed car pursuits, so it was great hands-on experience and very eye-opening. I was also able to speak to former gang members to get perspectives from both sides.
What has been your favorite part of filming?
We got to shoot in great locations throughout the city, so I got to see parts of Los Angeles that I’d never really explored. I was also fortunate enough to work with the writers on every script. Being part of that process is something that I truly love.
Is writing something you’d like to do in the future?
I’ve been writing a screenplay for the last six years with my good friend Rosie Perez. I’m hoping to direct it in the next year. When you’re not working, it’s nice to be creative and still feel like you’re still turning those wheels—although right now I’m just dying for the show to come out already!
Gang Related premieres May 22 on Fox.
Photographs by Nino Munoz