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Jai Rodriguez has ‘Loose Lips’ about his time on ‘Queer Eye’

Jai Rodriguez in “Loose Lips” at Martinis Above Fourth is on Thursday, May 31 at 8 pm.
Photo credit:
Jai Rodriguez

You know Jai Rodriguez, well you've undoubtedly seen those piercing brown eyes on TV. He is the original culture guru who served on Bravo’s “Queer Eye” for three years and 96 episodes starting in 2003. He’s been on Broadway, starred in soaps, sitcoms, and TV dramas. His latest is the pilot episode of Fox's "The Resident."

Jai is a very busy man with no signs of slowing down...or aging. He credits part of his success to a very famous redhead, but we'll get to that later. And no it's not Lucy. 

I caught up with him ahead of his Martinis Above Fourth show this Thursday called “Loose Lips,” an inside look and "tea" party in which he spills about his life and specifically his time as one of the Fab Five on "Queer Eye."

When I talked to Jai he had only recently come back from his Vegas gig "Sex Tips for Straight Women From a Gay Man" with another San Diego familiar, ex-playmate and reality star Kendra Wilkinson.

Those who follow Jai on social media know he is in tip-top physical shape. I recently saw a post of his; he's laying on a bed with a selfie stick showing off his bare “assets.” He says that he had to get back in shape after his stint in Sin City. “I ended up eating a whole lot. I came back in January and I had put on about 15 pounds.”

He says he and his stage mate Kendra would eat at the Paris Hotel and while he jokingly accuses the wardrobe department of shrinking his clothes over time -- he even split his pants more than once -- Kendra appeared not to gain an ounce he laughs. 

His birthday is coming up next month: 39; it’s okay he’s really open about his age. It’s something he’s proud of, so I asked if keeping in shape was something he personally enjoyed doing or was it required because of his occupational zip code. 

“It’s interesting because in January I booked this really great guest-starring role on a series on Fox called The Resident. I was actually playing a straight male escort and I remember, I was like, I just got back from Vegas, and I am literally at my most out of shape. I had injured my arm, I hadn’t worked out in a couple months, I did nothing but eat delicious food. In my mind I was like I am so wildly out of shape,” he says explaining that when he saw footage of himself, his perceived weight gain didn’t really transfer to the camera. “I think I’m my own worst critic when it comes to things like that.”

He’s probably right. He goes on to say that he went to three auditions in the week I talked to him, “Two for TV and one for film, and so a lot of these people are repeat casting people who like call me and say 'he fits this part.' Now yesterday I went in for this role that was opposite a twenty-seven-year-old guy to play his love interest on this series; a year-long contract. The casting director came up to me and looked at me closely and was like, ‘the beard…talk to me about the beard, would you be willing to trim it?’”

Jai thinks she was just trying to see if by eliminating his signature shadow it would age him down a little bit. “On The Resident, they kept my age twenty-five. When I read the script I thought ‘certainly they’re going to change that. They didn’t.”

Hiding his age or at least keeping it under the radar is a little tougher now, especially since “Queer Eye’s” return. He says it’s been 15 years since that show debuted on Bravo and the Netflix reboot has relit the spotlight; a second season will start streaming mid-June. 

This begins the topic of his show “Loose Lips” at Martinis. Jai is ready to come forward with some inside dish on the original “Queer Eye” and that’s what he will be talking about with the audience.

“So much time has passed, and I realized that I kind of gave little morsels of what it was like to be on the show, little things,” he says unsure why he’s been silent about it for so long. “I thought for the integrity of the show, let it kind of live on in its own little thing. Now that there’s a new version and ours has been beautifully put to rest and honored I can really disclose a lot more of the things that went on behind the scenes and some of the funny moments that I had with celebrities that I thought, ‘I probably shouldn’t talk about that,’ now I’m like ‘f*ck it.’”

He was holding on to secrets he says, but not anymore, it's time to tell all.

Bravo’s version was definitely a breakthrough. It gave visibility to the LGBT community and made some dedicated straight allies along the way. But that was 15 years ago and things have changed, the new one may have the same concept, yet it is completely different when it comes to getting deeply personal with the cast, including their coming out stories. 

“We were very much discouraged from being anything other than gay superheroes," Jai recalls. "You never really saw our flaws. You never really saw our vulnerabilities. Sometimes they would come up organically, but it was more like we’re here to facilitate getting this guy to the next level in his life through the best vehicles possible. We had like, Martha Stewart’s producer; everything was a focus on high end, high taste really strong great aesthetic for our show. We had a lot of product placement, so we spent a lot of time talking about that stuff.”

He says another difference is the original show was run by a network with executives breathing down his collar, “I couldn’t just wear what I wanted I had to wear a blazer for every episode because they were concerned that I read too young on the show."

Still, I had to wonder why now? Why would Jai want to revisit his past telling stories that happened years ago which may or may not shed the beloved make-over series in a tarnished light? Two words: Kathy Griffin.

Kathy is another Bravo alumnus who still has words about her show "My Life on the D-List," and the network. Jai remembers them being on each other’s series and Kathy telling him to take every job offered to him in the future as long as it didn’t compromise his integrity. “Just tell your truth,” she told him.

“I have done really well with that.  I have a strong career in Los Angeles as an actor against all odds because of that idea.” 

Jai Rodriguez has many irons in the fire at this point. He strikes me as the type of person who always will. I was watching a show the other day and there he was, that reminded me of how much I loved the underrated “Malibu Country” in which he starred with Reba McIntire. But in reality Jai doesn't want to live in Malibu, no he'd like to go further down the coast.

“My goal is to have a more visible presence in San Diego,” he said. “I love the town. You know, my goal is to get a place there and just come into L.A. to shoot. I want to spend a lot of time in San Diego because I love it. I think part of that is tapping into places like Martinis.”

Talented and undeniably dedicated to his craft, Jai Rodriguez is pretty comfortable talking about how he got here. Whether it’s gaining a few extra pounds with a Playboy Bunny, taking sage advice from Kathy Griffin, or dishing dirt about his time on an iconic reality series, “Loose Lips” proves that at 39, he's only getting his second wind of success. 

“I’m really proud of this show. There’s definitely a lot more funny behind-the scenes anecdotal stories about celebrities, and you know the kind of obvious question is how do you feel about the new version? How did it even come to be? Were you guys even asked?"  If you're wondering about the answers, he's not giving them all away here. "All that stuff I cover in the show," he laughs. 

Jai Rodriguez in “Loose Lips” at Martinis Above Fourth is on Thursday, May 31 at 8 pm.

Martinis Above Fourth is located at 3940 4th Ave, Second Floor, San Diego, 92103.