As the gung-ho mortician Federico on HBO’s ”Six Feet Under” (Sundays, 9 p.m.), Freddy Rodriguez massages dead bodies, rebuilds mashed-in faces, and struggles to understand why his employers don’t appreciate him more. Off-screen, life is far less grim for the former hip-hop choreographer and father of two. EW.com talked to Rodriguez, 26, about naked not-so-dead people, why a flop TV show was his lucky charm, and the one episode that freaked him out.
Why do you think David and Nate still refuse to make Federico a partner?
Federico is like family, but he’s still an employee. So they embrace him and they dis him and keep trying to find a balance. It’s good, because we’re seeing Federico as much more human and flawed this year, which is true for all of the characters. But there will be a climax to Federico’s issues, I’ll tell you that much.
Since you’ve started working on the show, have you had more morbid thoughts?
I think we have a greater appreciation for life and our loved ones. But the pilot episode probably freaked us out the most. Richard Jenkins [Nathaniel Fisher] had to look over his own body in one scene, and they made one of these $20,000 silicone replicas that looked exactly like him. I just thought that was freaky. I know it’s fake, but you know what you’ll look like when you die.
When you don’t have a silicone replica on the table, how do cope with a naked extra?
We usually introduce ourselves and make them feel comfortable. A lot of times these people are just doing it to get their SAG card, so you feel bad. There was this one girl who had to be butt naked on the table, and we all felt so uncomfortable for her. We kept asking her if she wanted water or anything, and she kept saying she was fine. But still, every time she’d get up, we’d ask everyone to turn their backs.
Given that ”Six Feet” was Alan Ball’s first project following ”American Beauty,” did you have to fight for this role?
It’s funny, because the story behind this proved to me that fate is a real thing. Before ”American Beauty,” Alan was the executive producer of a show called ”Oh, Grow Up!” on ABC. I auditioned for a recurring role, and the part initially went to another guy. But at the last minute he dropped out to take a movie role, and I was cast as Deke. I was only on four of the 13 episodes that aired before the show was canceled. Then ”American Beauty” comes out, and shortly after that I get an invitation to a party at Alan’s house. I wasn’t a regular [on the series], so I didn’t think he even remembered me. But I go and have a great time, and three days later, I get a script in the mail for ”Six Feet Under.” After I got the role, Alan pulled me aside and said, ”I wrote this with you in mind.” I was floored.