Role Recall: Mel Rodriguez Talks 'Better Call Saul,' 'Last Man,' and a Brutal 'Gilmore Girls' Audition

Kimberly Potts
·Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
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He inspired Jimmy McGill to take one more giant step towards becoming Saul Goodman in the Better Call Saul season finale, and it’s his arrival that disproved the title of Fox’s just-renewed freshman comedy The Last Man on Earth.  

Mel Rodriguez is having a moment, though he humbly points out that it’s taken more than a minute. “I’ve been going to school, did theater for a long time, been plugging away for 10, 15 years,” he tells Yahoo TV. “I was told earlier in my career, it’s all laying track… one day, all that track is going to come together in some way, and it has.”

Rodriquez, who is also celebrating the recent birth of his first child, daughter Stella, takes a trip down résumé memory lane with Yahoo TV. Oh, but first, he offers this, the very little he can say about the rest of the season of Last Man: “I just really urge people to hang in there, and give it a shot. A lot of stuff happens with Phil,” he says. “He is a dimensional guy, not some mustache-twirling, one-dimensional evil dude… he is this kind of incredibly selfish guy to begin with, but he does have some epiphanies.”

Better Call Saul, Marco (2015)

On being a Breaking Bad fan and finding out his character played a pivotal role in the life of Jimmy McGill and Saul Goodman: I was just thrilled. You know, I was like, "I’m the reason Saul wears his pinky ring!”

Related: ‘Better Call Saul’ Postmortem: Peter Gould Talks Where Jimmy Will Be in Season 2

On Saul co-creator Peter Gould saying Rodriguez and his performance was so beloved that cast and crew tried to get Gould to re-write Marco’s death: Vince and Pete and those guys, we’ve all joked that there will be more flashbacks. The great thing about Breaking Bad was they were able to write themselves out of anything. So maybe they could write themselves out of death. [Laughs.] I had a lot of advocates on the set. I remember Arthur [Albert], the cinematographer, he was pitching this idea that maybe Marco had a twin brother. [Laughs.] It was just really cool to hear, because I knew the story of what happened with Aaron Paul, how he was supposed to be written out.

The Last Man on Earth, Todd (2015)

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On Todd’s backstory: I’ve asked them questions. They’re very like, “Mmm, we don’t know. Just be you, Mel.” So, there’s a lot of that. We’ve discussed a little about how Todd was probably really, really wealthy. He acquired some wealth during the dotcom bubble, almost like a Steve Wozniak-type character, and then went on to go into philanthropy, working with charities and kids… decided he’d made enough money, and it just didn’t fulfill him anymore. He wanted to do something kind and good. It’s so fun to play him, because he’s such a good-natured guy. I literally can’t be unhappy playing him. I think he really sees the good in everyone, and [playing him] has really almost been this meditation in a way on how to live.

Getting On, Patsy De La Serda (2013-present)

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On finding out he had gotten the role during a lull in his career: I was in between jobs. My wife and I we were… you know how this business is, it’s feast or famine. We were broke. We were on our way to go stay with [family] for awhile in North Carolina. We were driving across country. We were in Little Rock, Arkansas, and we got a phone call from HBO saying that I had gotten it. I had heard Michael Chiklis’s name thrown around, and like really big names for Patsy, so [the role] was gone as far as I knew. They had said they’d passed. So, I was going to get out of town for a few months, and go hang out in mom’s basement. When I got that call… I had seen the BBC show and loved that. The writing is phenomenal… It’s so melodic. I remember reading it and thinking, “If only.” It is a dream role.

Enlisted, Specialist George Chubowski (2014)

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There’s nothing like Enlisted fans. I mean, they really loved us. To this day I still hear things, especially from current military, ex-military… I almost get choked up sometimes thinking about it, just because it really was a very special thing… It really was something I had never experienced before, where people just came together, and I think it had a lot to do with Geoff Stults. Geoff was just a real team player. When you get together with people like that, it’s just a blessing, because it’s not about anything other than having fun, and doing [the show] right.

Community, Sgt. Nunez (2011)

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Ken Jeong is one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met in this town, hands down… we just laughed so much. There was this one scene in (“Geography of Global Conflict”) where I’m trying to tell him about the thing that comes up and down in a parking lot, at the exit. Not the turnstyle. The thing that comes up and down when you’re going through, in and out of a parking lot… I couldn’t remember what that thing was called, and I’m trying to explain it to Ken in the scene. I’m saying it’s made out of wood, and it’s black and white, and I just kept going, and [director Joe Russo] just let us go on for like 10 minutes. Ken, he’s this sweet man, and he’s got that wonderful insanity. I still get a lot of people coming up to me and recognizing me as Nunez, because Community fans are really hardcore.

Gilmore Girls, Raul the videographer (2002)

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That was the most awkward audition process I’ve ever had. I guess it was a last-minute casting thing, and they had 30 of us come in, to this office in Burbank, and they were going to tell the person that got the job that day who got it, in front of everyone, and send everybody else home, which was super uncomfortable and never happens. You usually get a phone call, and they tell you. So we’re all sitting out there in this waiting room, and the casting director came out… all I remember was who [else] was there as they said, “Melvin, you can stay, and everybody else go home.” It was just really uncomfortable for all of us that day.

Big Love, Don Dona (2010)

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On how one wins the role of Mexican transvestite exotic bird dealer: [Series creators] Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer just have this eye. I came in and I had kind of a version of Don Dona, but we changed it a little bit. I think they just… they knew I was malleable and that they could kind of get what they wanted from me. That was such a blast… lots of hairpieces. That was kind of a game changer role for me, because it was like, “Oh, you can play a Mexican transvestite exotic bird dealer… right, you are a character actor.” It kind of proved that a little bit.

The Watch, Officer Chucho (2012)

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On whether or not he and co-star Will Forte began discussing The Last Man on Earth on The Watch set: No, but we became really good friends on that set. He’s such a kind man, and I think we see the world kind of the same way. When [The Last Man on Earth] came up, I think I just popped into his head. And I thought I had a decent audition, but I’m sure he had to pull some strings. I mean, this was a pretty big role. I’m sure it wasn’t just complete cake to get me in there.

The Last Man on Earth airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on Fox.