Sure, Vanessa’s blunt manner of speaking seems off-putting at first, but as Rodriguez points out to TVLine: “Anytime Vanessa says something to April, it changes her entire life. She switched her clinical trial after a conversation with Vanessa, then she decided to dance and be free and get fired from her job because of Vanessa. My character has a strange mind control over April, which is a fun dynamic to play.”
Below, Rodriguez delves deeper into her character, including how her own battle — she went public about her breast cancer diagnosis in February — relates to Vanessa’s. Plus: Are her Smash days truly behind her?
TVLINE | Between you and Andy Mientus, I feel like we’ve now had half the Smash cast on Chasing Life. It’s amazing.
I know! But poor Andy, he just couldn’t catch a break. He gets killed off every show.
TVLINE | Vanessa, so far, has been a very blunt person. Are there more colors to her rainbow we’ll be seeing?
There definitely are. Speaking from experience, everybody handles crises differently. She was probably a blunt girl before, but now, she could give no more … you know whats. Her life is now about her, and when she encounters someone who’s still thinking other things in life are important, she just can’t sit back and let that happen. You’ll get a lot more blunt Vanessa in the future; she softens up a little bit, but she’s not warm and cozy, nor will she be. You’ll get to know why she’s that way.
TVLINE | I don’t suppose April will go to her for wedding advice?
[Laughs] She might not ask, but that doesn’t stop Vanessa from having opinions.
TVLINE | And it’s safe to assume Vanessa doesn’t score an invite?
No, sadly, I don’t get to the actual wedding.
TVLINE | Based on those promos, maybe that’s good. It looks like a disaster.
Well, of course it is; she didn’t consult me on the wedding!
TVLINE | Will we see Vanessa interact with other people in April’s inner circle?
Things do start to open up a little bit, mostly because Meg, who’s a mutual friend of April and Vanessa. So wherever Meg’s invited, Vanessa will tag along. I got to interact with a few other characters on the show, and they’re all so talented and exceptional to watch. It’s been an amazing experience for me.
TVLINE | Most of these people are just actors playing cancer patients. How is the whole experience different for you, since this is something you’re actually going through?
It’s been cathartic in a way. I’m not as straight-talking as Vanessa is, but in real life, I’ll sometimes find myself talking to people whose problems seem … not as immediate as the ones you’re going through. You do kind of want to say, “What you’re going through doesn’t make any sense to me.” But it’s very authentic; the experience they portray on the show is so authentic. People in the writer’s room have gone through cancer, people on the hair-and-makeup team have gone through it, now some of the actors have gone through it. You’d be hard-pressed to find a person in anyone’s life who hasn’t been touched by cancer.
My mom and I watched the season premiere, the part where April finds out the chemo didn’t work, and the camera starts to tilt as everything slows down. My mom goes, “How did they know that’s exactly what it feels like when you hear these things? Everything starts to shift, but you’re still walking forward.” There are a lot of times when the show intersects exactly what I’m going through.
It’s also funny going to the makeup trailer, where Italia and Alycia [Grant] and all these beautiful girls are getting dulled down. They’re having their hair covered, they’re getting pale — and for me, who actually looks like that, they need to get me a little more camera ready. Like, I’m getting eyelashes put on and eyebrows filled in. It’s kind of like a glamorous spa day for me. They’re getting their cancer look on and I’m getting my eyebrows done. [Laughs]
TVLINE | Lastly, and on a totally unrelated note, there’s talk of Bombshell being Broadway-bound. Is that something you’d want to be a part of?
I would love to. I was asked to be involved in the concert, but couldn’t, because I was doing a show out here in L.A. I don’t know what place they’d have for us Hit List kids, but Jeremy [Jordan] represented in the concert and they gave him a great showcase. If there was a possibility, I don’t know why anyone would say no to that.
What are your thoughts on Vanessa and the rest of Season 2 (so far)? Drop ’em in a comment below.