"Call Me Adam" chats with dancer and rising actor Oskar Rodriguez about his acting career, dancing with Ricky Martin, Janet Jackson, and Shania Twain, as well as starting his own production company, StoliGrant Productions, with his partner Marc Cleary!
1. You have had quite a career already! From working with Ricky Martin, Janet Jackson, Shania Twain, Jennifer Lopez, Rhianna, and Carrie Underwood to acting in such feature films as Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, Shrek Forever After, The Muppets, and Disney’s Teen Beach Musical, to starting your own production company, StoliGrant Productions with partner Marc Cleary. What has it been like to accomplish so much at such a young age already? To be honest sometimes I have to pinch myself to understand how much I’ve been able to do in my life. I’ve worked really hard to get to where I am today and believe me, nothing has come easy. At this point I have to remind myself that with hard work and dedication I can keep working and hopefully inspire others to do the same.
2. But let's go back to the beginning for a moment. You started out as a dancer in your hometown of Puerto Rico. Who or what inspired you to become a dancer? As a kid I remember sitting in front of the TV watching music videos, concerts, movies and literally closing my eyes and transporting myself to that image I had in front of me. It was almost like I could feel the lights and the screaming fans right next to me and at that very moment I knew that’s what I wanted to do the rest of my life, entertain.
3. How did you get to work with Ricky Martin? What did you learn from working with him? I worked with Ricky Martin when I was a young boy. I was dancing for him at the Miss Universe 2001 pageant, he was the guest artist. Even though I never got to talk to him, it was a huge honor to be so close to such an icon.
4. You left Puerto Rico and moved to LA to further your career. When did you know it was time to leave Puerto Rico? What some of the thoughts you were thinking as you were making this move? I’ve always been a very spontaneous and adventurous person. Right after graduating high school I went on to work on cruise ships and while doing that I knew it was time for something bigger. I had one goal in mind, save money to move to LA and work in Hollywood. I felt like I needed to go to the center of it all and put myself in a position where I had to challenge myself to be better. In my mind I never had a plan, I was so ready to learn, to see Hollywood, and to be in this incredible town, that I never looked back.
5. From LA you fly to NYC to audition for none other than Janet Jackson and out of hundreds of hopefuls, you got selected to go on tour with her as a dancer. What went through your head when you found out you were selected? What did Janet teach you that you hadn't known previously? Me going to NYC for the Janet audition was crazy. My friend and I went to our agency to pick up a check and our agent mentioned the audition in passing, both of us looked at each other and we bought our tickets right then and there. When we got there, it was insane, the biggest open call I have ever witnessed. After almost 12 hours on the first day and 8 or so on the callback, I came back to LA with no word from it. I had lost all hope, then on a Tuesday at exactly 11:40pm I got a call from the choreographer. My knees started shaking by just hearing his name, "Oskar are you available for Janet?," he said, "are you F***ing with me right now?" I replied. I think I blanked for a second after hanging up. I just dropped to my knees and started screaming and crying. This has been the best booking call I’ve received to date. Janet taught me ONE huge thing, practice makes perfect. Janet was in every single rehearsal. She knew what she wanted and knew exactly how every step should be done. We were not only her dancers, we were her "kids" and an extension of her as an artist. She practiced, and practiced, and practiced nonstop, always full out.
6. What made you want to transition into acting? What do you get from acting that you do not get from dancing? Since I made the decision to move to LA, I knew I wanted to be an actor, but the more dance jobs I got, the further away I was to acting. Acting is very different from dancing, at least in my opinion. When you dance, specifically onstage in front of thousands of people, there’s a rush like no other. Adrenaline takes the best of you and all of the sudden you’re on top of the world. With acting, studying to become a specific character is thrilling as well, but in a very different way. There’s something about being on a set, surrounded by cameras, costumes, lights, smoke, scenery, things that you may or may not have on your every day life that makes being an actor outstandingly amazing.
7. When did you decide to start your own production company? What has been the best part about this venture and what have been some of the challenges you've faced? Five years ago my partner Marc Cleary and I decided it was time for us to start our own company. The best thing about it has been able to be in charge of our own creativity and building our ideas from the ground up. On the down side, most of the challenges of doing your own thing is that if anything goes wrong it all falls on you.
8. You started your production company, StoliGrant Productions with your partner Marc Clearly. What has it been like to work with him in addition to being partners? Working with Marc has been great for the most part. In the company you have two extremely creative minds that run a million miles a minute. Most of the time when we disagree on something we have to step back and see the bigger picture. After five years, we’ve been able to master these sort of things, allowing each other to work heavily on the parts of the company we know how to handle best.
9. Another career highlight was dancing for Shania Twain during her Las Vegas residency, but you left her show to concentrate on your acting. You are working for one of country music's greatest artists and something inside you says it's time to leave to pursue my acting career. What was the moment that made you make this decision? How do you tell Shania you are leaving? Dancing for Shania in Vegas was an extremely fun ride. She’s truly a country and pop diva and no one can’t take that away from her. Behind the scenes Shania was an incredible human being, laughing all the time and deeply concentrated on her work. The roar of fans at the Colosseum every other night was music to my ears and having Shania singing her greatest hits on top of that was remarkable.
Since I moved to LA almost 10 years ago I always wanted to act. I lost a couple agents and managers along the way because I could never fully commit to it. It took me a couple months in Vegas to finalize my decision but I woke up one Monday morning and it was like a switch in my head. It was time. Dancing will forever be a part of my life and I will continue doing it till I die, but for now there are other things to be accomplished. My biggest regret was never being able to tell Shania I was leaving. Shania wasn’t only my boss, she cared for us. Every night I would do partner work with her onstage, tease her, we would make each other laugh, and all of the sudden I was leaving and not allowed to tell her. So that was a bummer.
10. You have had such an amazing career so far, what do you feel has given you the strength to go after all these opportunities that has lead you to where you are today? I’m not gonna lie. There’s been a lot of moments when I don’t really have, nor can find the strength to keep going when I hit a rough patch. All you need to do is look back at your hard work, your accomplishments, your life and really understand that without bumps in the road, being successful wouldn’t be the same. Appreciate every moment, good or bad and you’ll be ok.
11. What have you learned about yourself from being a dancer, actor, and running your own company? That there’s no limits to what you or anyone out there can achieve. With the right mindset, love, friends and DEDICATION you can literally make anything happen.
12. What's the best advice you've ever received? My mom always told me that doesn’t matter where I go or how big I get, to never lose who I am as a person. To always have faith and love unconditionally.
13. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? I would love to be able to teleport. I love traveling but not a fan of flying. So being able to close my eyes and be on the other side of the word sounds pretty cool.
14. Favorite way to stay in shape? One word. DANCE!
15. Boxers or Briefs? Definitely briefs.
Oskar Rodriguez has made a notable impression as a versatile actor and dancer. He started his career at an early age in his hometown in Puerto Rico. After much success as a competitive dancer he quickly turned professional, dancing with Puerto Rican idols such as Luis Fonsi and Ricky Martin. When it came time to take his career further, Oskar made the jump to LA and was immediately signed by top dance agency BLOC.
After TV episodes of Bust-A-Ritmo and Dance You’re A** Off, Oskar’s big break came from when he flew to New York to audition for his idol Janet Jackson. He was chosen out of hundreds of hopefuls and toured around with the superstar on various US promo dates.
From there, Oskar’s success sky rocketed as a dancer for when he danced behind Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez, Carrie Underwood and PSY while promoting his worldwide hit "Gangnam Style." Oskar also had huge success in acting as he appeared in feature films such as Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, Shrek Forever After, Teen Beach Musical.
In 2010, Oskar turned his dancing skills towards choreography and direction and set up his production company StoliGrant Productions with partner Marc Cleary. Since then, the two have choreographed music videos, concerts, and promo tours for artists such as Kat Graham, Brooklyn Haley, Giulietta, Australian Idol’s Anthony Callea, and many more. Their work has also been featured on TV shows including Dancing With The Stars, Ellen, and Good Morning America. Oskar also danced behind global superstar Shania Twain during her residency in Las Vegas.
In 2014, Oskar left Shania Twain’s show to concentrate on his acting career. Shortly after that Oskar got a big opportunity as a new leading character on Hulu’s East Los High and an dance pilot called From The Top. He’s currently working on his own web series and is extremely excited to take on Hollywood.