Whether it’s from male stripper flick Magic Mike XXII or CSI: Miami, chances are you recognize actor Adam Rodriguez — or at least his impressive washboard abs. As the latest celebrity to join the slew of guest stars on Empire’s second season, Rodriguez plays Laz Delgado, a smooth concert promoter who unexpectedly catches the eye of Cookie (Taraji P. Henson). Ahead of his appearance on Empire’s upcoming episode, EW caught up with Rodriguez to chat about his recurring role, romancing Cookie, and pressed him for secrets about his time on set.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What can you tell us about your character?
ADAM RODRIGUEZ: I play a character played Laz Delgado who’s an ex-NYPD cop. He has left the force and gone into the entertainment world, and he does concert promotion, among other things. He’s basically a guy who’s not afraid to get his hands dirty. You know, he’s definitely the type who will get scrappy if necessary. That’s what Cookie needs at this point. She’s trying to build up Lyon dynasty to challenge Empire. The music business is a very dirty business. You need as much help as you can get and the right kind of it. Laz steps up on the scene and convinces Cookie he’s the person she needs in her life, and she believes him. He ends up being the right person in more than one way.
How did you get the role?
They called and offered me the job, which I was excited about. I was actually coming back from a camping trip through Iceland with my friends, this incredible group of people. We’ve gone to the Amazon and Guyana for two weeks camping out in the jungle. This time we went in the completely opposite direction. We went to Iceland and camped out on a glacier. I was literally getting off the airplane in New York when my manager called, letting me know they wanted to offer me an arc on the show. He asked if I was interested, and I was like “Hell yeah.” It gave me the opportunity to work with Taraji again, whom I love. We met on the set of a Tyler Perry movie [I Can Do Bad All By Myself] and have maintained a friendship ever since. I’m sure the producers ran the idea of having me on the show by her, and she gave me the thumbs-up. She’s a really close friend and one of my favorite people to work with.
How many episodes will you be in?
It remains to be seen. I think is a bit of a mystery. I’m curious to see myself, how many I end up in!
Will we see you use any Magic Mike moves on Cookie?
I think if you have those moves why waste them? It’s very possible you could be seeing some of those moves. There’s a definite chance I’ll take off my shirt.
We haven’t seen a love interest of Cookie’s last more than a few episodes. How does one get Cookie’s attention – and keep it?
It’s hard being tough 24/7. I think Cookie needs to see that it’s okay to let her guard down around someone who can protect her the way she protects everybody else. So I think the main thing that I’d like to see Laz do for Cookie is to be able to have Cookie have someone tell her that they love her and not want anything from her for it. It seems like everyone is trying to set Cookie up and is always taking advantage of her. She’s just constantly fighting, but I know she has a big heart. I’d love to see her get to a place where she doesn’t have to fight anymore and can be protected. I think if she could be that way with someone, than I think you might see a softer side of Cookie.
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What’s the story about your time on set that you couldn’t wait to tell your friends or family?
You know, every day was such a great time. Sometimes we had some interesting guest stars coming through. I don’t know if I can talk about who they were just yet. But a very famous talk show host was in a scene that I had a lot of fun doing. That was pretty exciting.
You know, there’s an O in her name. That was a cool day. She was a sweet person.
Some of the show’s best one-liners have been the result of improvising. Did you embrace that culture – and can we expect any crazy one-liners from you?
It was really a nice environment to be free and improvise if you felt it. It was really about being alive in the scene. I think some funny things happened in a few scenes that took place in people’s bedrooms. I did say one line that I loved, “I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty.” It’s awesome to be in the moment, be the character and see what the hell comes out of your mouth.
You’re going to be on another hit show soon, with a guest role on Jane the Virgin. What has that been like?
On Jane I play professor Jonathan Chavez. He’s a writing professor in grad school. Jane has decided to really take her writing more seriously, and she takes a course where I happen to be the professor. A sort of interesting dynamic ends up happening as a result. I’ve filmed one episode and got the script for my second episode. I’m loving it. I love the role and everybody there is fantastic. Jennie Snyder Urman is tremendously talented and I adore Gina [Rodriguez]. I’ve had an incredible couple of months. Between Gina and Taraji, I’ve had the two best leading ladies I could ever ask for.