Actress Diany Rodriguez can be seen in two wildly different roles this month.
Rodriguez is best known as Weecha, the new, no-nonsense bodyguard for Raymond “Red” Reddington on NBC's The Blacklist.
She also appears in the Netflix rom-com The Valet, where she portrays Natalie, a bike-shop owner and community activist fighting gentrification. This role, Rodriguez says, is closest to herself of any that she has played.
Rodriguez took time out recently to talk in an exclusive interview with TV Fanatic about those two roles, as well as her transition from theater to film and her community activism.
Her transformation to Weecha was a quick one, as she earned the role within four days of her audition.
Weecha and her healer sister, Mierce, nursed Red to health during the two years he was missing following Elizabeth Keen's murder in The Blacklist Season 8.
An assassin who is ex-military, Weecha marks a significant change from Dembe, Red's former bodyguard and confidant who became an FBI agent when Red disappeared and is now part of the Blacklist Task Force.
“Weecha only speaks when she needs to speak, which means, for the most part, when she speaks, people listen,” Rodriguez explained.
“She is a best friend, a confidant, a sister, and many other things to Red Reddington. She became his world in the two years since the end of Season 8, and she takes that role very seriously.”
Like Dembe before her, Rodriguez agreed that too much of Weecha's job is protecting Reddington from his destructive impulses.
“Percentage-wise, [her job] is probably 80 percent protecting Red from himself,” she said.
Going in, Rodriguez didn't realize that she primarily would be working with James Spader, who plays Red.
“So I was only going to work with one of the most well-known actors of our generation,” she said.
“And there was this other group of people who got to work with each other, and James. The way I described it to family and friends was that it was the loneliest and scariest but almost most exciting and thrilling time of my life thus far.”
Since Weecha has little interaction with the Task Force, Rodriguez explained she hadn't formed an opinion on them.
“She also understands that to love Red or to work with Red, is very complicated,” she continued.
“She's curious about Aram. She knows Red cares about Dembe. The rest of them? As long as you don't try to murder Red, we're fine. I don't have an opinion about you as a person. As long as you serve some purpose in Red's life, I will let you live.”
Rodriguez has been gratified at the reaction she has received from such a veteran cast.
“Being a person who is full of anxiety on a day-to-day basis, it was scary for me because the shortest tenure of any other castmate was three years,” she recalled. “So everyone had pretty well-established relationships with each other.
"But also, it was a very lovely surprise that everybody was, across the board, just nice and welcoming in a way I hadn't expected.”
Weecha was severely injured in an explosion on The Blacklist Season 9 Episode 18 and collapsed after learning that Mierce had been abducted by Marvin on The Blacklist Season 9 Episode 20. Is Weecha going to survive the season?
“I don't want to spoil anything for anyone,” Rodriguez said. “It's a horrible TV answer, but you'll just have to wait and see.”
Rodriguez's journey to her role in The Valet was equally streamlined. Within two weeks of auditioning for three different roles, she had the part of Natalie.
“That was the role I wanted to get because Natalie is an activist and a firebrand, as I am,” she said. “I'm too woke to be happy.”
The Valet stars Eugenio Derbez as the titular character Antonio. He is recruited to pose as the boyfriend of movie star Olivia Allen (portrayed by Samara Weaving), who is secretly dating married developer Vincent Royce (played by Max Greenfield).
Antonio develops an attraction toward Natalie, who leads the campaign against Royce's development plans for their neighborhood.
Again, Rodriguez's scenes were with the film's star, Derbez. But she recalled one night when he came to find her and brought her to the set to meet the rest of the cast.
“They wanted to reach out to me and make me feel welcome,” she said. “It very much made me feel like I was filming with a little family.”
Another plus was that The Valet was filmed about five minutes away from her apartment in Atlanta, in an area she frequented.
“On a set, it's usually me and a bunch of famous people,” she explained. “This time, I had the upper hand because they were on my turf.”
The theater is Rodriguez's first love.
“I love theater in that it has given me a bit more confidence,” she said. “I'm an introvert by nature, so having a job where I get to pretend is very helpful because I don't have to be me and worry about people looking at me, Diany.”
That theater background helped Rodriguez when she moved into film.
“Theater has helped me create a little arsenal of different characters and different parts of my personality that, though I don't exhibit daily, I can pull on to convince myself that I belong here,” she said.
Rodriguez prefers movies over TV.
“In TV, unless you're there from the beginning, you're very much going into a family that's already established,” she explained. “You'll always feel like you're invading other people's space and hoping they will invite you in.
“In a movie, your scene can establish a very specific thing for one character, establish a world unto its own,” she continued. “Even if you don't have a huge role in a movie, you can still establish your own community in a way that you don't get to on a TV show.”
Currently, Rodriguez is between projects.
“Right now, I'm just living my life and being a good cat mom,” she concluded.
The Blacklist airs at 8/7c Friday on NBC. The Valet debuts on May 20 on Netflix.
Dale McGarrigle is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on X.