From superheroing, to time traveling, to starring in Kevin Smith movies, actress Genesis Rodriguez is living her fangirl dreams.
A self-admitted obsessive when it comes to all things Spider-Man, “Star Wars” and other geek properties growing up, Rodriguez first entered a larger world of nerdery in the 2014 Disney/Marvel animated film “Big Hero 6,” in which she voiced of the heroic Honey Lemon, an immediate fan-favorite and cosplay idol, and a role she’s resuming for the upcoming TV series. Simultaneously, she became a fixture among filmmaker Kevin Smith’s current stable of go-to actors, appearing in “Tusk,” “Yoga Hosers” and the forthcoming “Moose Jaws.”
Now, she’s adding time travel to the mix with a leading role in ABC’s new sci-fi/horror adventure “Time After Time.” Based on Nicholas Myers’ cult classic 1979 film of the same name, the series, as reimagined by Kevin Williamson (“The Vampire Diaries”), casts Rodriguez as Jane Walker, a contemporary everywoman in the vein of the original movie’s Mary Steenbergen character, who finds herself caught in the battle of wits between a time-traveling Jack the Ripper and his pursuer, pioneering sci-fi author H.G. Wells.
For Rodriguez, it’s more than just a highly visible TV gig – it’s food for her genre-loving soul.
CBR: You’ve been a fan of genre entertainment for a long time. How did getting this project feed that nerdy side of your soul?
Genesis Rodriguez: It gave me life! You have no idea. I’ve been waiting for my sci-fi moment, and I get to time travel. Just the idea of going back to certain times, it was fun to even imagine what it would look like, and see everyone in costume, and try to fit in of the time. I don’t want to say which era exactly, but that era’s so particular for American culture, that once you see it, you’re going to laugh, because we were so funny back then with our hair styles, and our clothing.
That’s got to be not just fun as a fan, but as an actress, to be able to get in the headset of a certain era and imagine you were being there then.
Definitely. And what was important for them at the time, and what they had to do in their daily lives, we had to kind of fit in and talk the same topics they were talking about. It was really fun to be able to even imagine that sort of idea that you could go into another space in time.
Were got you excited about the show’s regular H.G. Wells Easter egg-style references, which are peppered throughout?
I got really excited because my character’s the one that’s kind of explaining to the audience, “Oh wait, this is what we’re talking about right here. This is Moreau…” and we do touch base a little bit of that in this season. The good thing about it is that, even if you haven’t read the books, you’ll be able to see it through Jane’s eyes. She’ll explain it to you, and you’ll follow on quickly.
So those little Easter eggs are pretty cool. And just the fact that references and names that we don’t really know how they got there, but we’re kind of putting that puzzle together. You’ll see little glimpses from the very beginning, and you’ll see it in every episode, an Easter egg, I’m sure.
We see who she is pretty early on, and at least at first she’s very much in line with Mary Steenbergen’s character Amy from the 1979 movie. What are the other dimensions we’re going to learn about her?
There’s obviously a softness and strength in her, and she really is the one that saves the day in terms of saving his butt throughout every situation. She’s the one right behind him making sure that he’s not making a mistake. She knows that without changing the timeline, because she knows exactly what’s supposed to happen, and she knows she can’t change what happens, even though it’s awful or something like that.
Does Jane kick ass?
There are big action moments for Jane, scary moments. She does kick ass a lot. And it’s kind of funny to come home from work and be completely beat up, and you’re like, hold on a minute, I didn’t know I was signing up for an action show, but apparently I did. It’s fun. I like it. It’s the genre that I’ve done a lot as well. So I’m glad.
I think that part of the real fun of a meaty time travel story. Is there a personal moment where you’re like, “If I could just redo that one thing that I wish I would have gone a different way on…?”
That’s a question I ask myself a lot. Would I go back and not make the mistakes that I’ve made in my past? I don’t know, because that made me the person I am today. I think the beauty of being human, making mistakes, and learning from them, and evolving from that point. So I don’t know if I would go back in time. I’d be more interested in going to the future, and seeing what I’m not going to be able to see in my lifetime. That would be pretty freaky and cool.
Does any of the time travel get paradoxically confusing for you?
Sometimes. One time I called [director] Marcos [Siega] and with complete brain fart because I had no idea what we were talking about. And I was like, “Hold on a second, are we jumping the timeline here? Are we not? This doesn’t make any sense – did the time machine come with us?”
It was something that, thank God for Marcos and Kevin to be able to explain these things, because I would have no idea how to figure this out on my own after 16 hours at work. But we figured it out, and I think it turned out really well.
What are some of the time travel movies or TV shows that you’ve really enjoyed? The ones that resonated with you over the years?
Can I reference my favorite? “Family Guy.” Stewie is the best time traveler, ever. I love what he does with his time travel, and I love it when he meets different Stewies. Their form of time travel is my favorite. I wish we could have done that and we could have met different Janes, but we don’t do that. We replace each other every single time we time travel.
Do you want to do some “Back to the Future II” where there’s like four of you in a scene?
Right?! That would be amazing. I would love that, and I would hope that I would meet the uber villain Jane, or something the complete opposite.
I was always weirded out when Marty McFly was back after he’s changed history to a family that is not the family that raised him, and totally different people.
Totally different! It’s pretty funny, though. Yeah, you just create an alternate universe. Who knows? I love that idea of that mystery of parallel universes and whatnot.
The original movie – did you discover it a long time ago? Or was it with this project that you discovered it?
I actually discovered it with this project. My family was a huge fan of this cult movie. I feel like it really has a following from the time that it was aired. I feel like everyone who’s into sci-fi is really into that movie too. We hope that we honor it, and I think we do. We touch a lot, we get a lot from it in the pilot, but then afterwards, it’s just like a jumping base for the rest of the show.
Have you shot “Moose Jaws,” your next film with Kevin Smith, yet?
We haven’t started on “Moose Jaws.” I should write Kevin. We should do that pretty soon. I know he scouted for it, but hopefully he can get that done.
It’s still Allison from “Tusk,” so she reprises her role. And I was different in “Yoga Hosers.” I thought it might have been like a completely different character, but now I guess Allison is either a wildlife specialist, because she dedicated in taking care of Wallace the walrus.
From what I read, there might be a little comeback of Jay and Silent Bob and that sort of stuff, so that’s pretty exciting… He’s going to explore his own universe, but he’s going to also reference a lot of what he geeks out about in this particular movie. He’s going to reference maybe like a “Star Trek” death or something like that. That’s all I can say!
Have you had some conversations about a “Big Hero 6” sequel? Has that been talked about directly to you at this point?
“Big Hero 6” is coming back this year in the fall for Disney Channel. So we’re finishing up. Most of the cast came back. Scott [Adsit], Ryan [Potter], Jamie [Chung] and I, we came back and it’s going to be on the air for every week for kids. It’s really exciting.
Has she changed at all since the events of the movie?
A lot. You get to really get to know every single one of these superheroes in the world they live in. There’s a lot of villains that they bring in, and of course we’re going to have a lot of Baymax moments. You get to really know the superheroes in this TV show, which is pretty exciting.
Tell me about the first time you saw the cosplayers playing that character, because they embraced that character immediately.
It melted my heart, because even before the movie came out, I saw some cosplayers. I really love that about our movie, and Disney – this is the beauty: you bring so much life to older fans, and young fans, and everyone can connect to it. It has that sensibility, a Disney heart. It makes me smile, because I’m going to be able to give this to a whole new generation, but to my generation, too, because I enjoy it just as much as every kid.