Michaela Jaé Rodriguez

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Michaela Jaé Rodriguez
Mj Rodriguez Christmas Lives Within You 2020.png
Rodriguez in 2020
Born (1991-01-07) January 7, 1991 (age 31)
EducationBerklee College of Music
Occupation
  • Actress
  • singer
Years active2011–present

Michaela Antonia Jaé Rodriguez[1] (born January 7, 1991), known professionally as Michaela Jaé Rodriguez and formerly as Mj Rodriguez,[2] is an American actress and singer. Born in Newark, New Jersey, Rodriguez attended several performing arts schools in her youth before being cast in a theater production of Rent as Angel Dumott Schunard, winning the 2011 Clive Barnes Award for her performance.[3]

Following her performance in Rent, Rodriguez took a hiatus from performing to transition.[4] From 2012 to 2016, Rodriguez began to work on stage again and appeared in small television roles, including Nurse Jackie, The Carrie Diaries, and Luke Cage.[5]

In 2017, Rodriguez was cast as one of the lead roles in the FX television series Pose, making her part of the largest cast of transgender actresses to be starring as series regulars in a scripted series.[6] Her performance as Blanca Evangelista garnered critical acclaim.[7] In 2021, she became the first transgender woman to earn an Emmy Award nomination in a major acting category; she was nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her performance in the third and final season of Pose[8] and won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama.

Early life and education[edit]

Rodriguez was born on January 7, 1991,[9][10] in Newark, New Jersey to an African-American mother and a father of half Puerto Rican and half African-American descent.[11] Rodriguez attended the Queen of Angels Catholic School.[12] She has wanted to become an actress since the age of seven, and began pursuing the profession at the age of 11 after her mother enrolled her in the New Jersey Performing Arts Center—where she became an eight-year veteran of the program and participated in its New Jersey Youth Theater program.[13][3]

While she had "prayed to become female" beginning at age 7, Rodriguez states that she was in denial for many years and initially came out to her parents as "bisexual/gay" at the age of 14.[13][4] At 14, Rodriguez became involved in the ballroom scene where she found support from her house father who taught her to vogue.[14][15] She is a graduate of Newark Arts High School,[16] and later attended Berklee College of Music, where she was a 2009 Star-Ledger scholarship recipient and a 2009 Young Arts first level scholarship recipient.[3] She eventually took the stage name "Mj" Rodriguez after the Marvel Comics character Mary Jane "MJ" Watson, being a self-described comic book geek and from putting the letters together from parts of her birth name.[9][17]

Career[edit]

Stage acting origins[edit]

While attending college, Rodriguez was cast in a theater production of Rent as Angel Dumott Schunard. Rodriguez had wanted to play the role since first seeing the 2005 film adaptation.[9][13][4] She connected with actress Fredi Walker-Browne (the actress who originated the Broadway role of Joanne Jefferson in Rent) who was in attendance at one of Rodriguez's performances. Walker-Browne asked Rodriguez to read for the part of Angel and helped her to land an audition in an upcoming off-Broadway production of Rent.[4] Rodriguez was cast for the role in the off-Broadway production, and acted alongside then-up and coming stage actor Annaleigh Ashford (cast as Maureen).[3] Rodriguez' performance garnered her the 2011 Clive Barnes Award that was established in honor of the late English writer and critic Clive Barnes.[3]

Transition and reemergence[edit]

During this period, Rodriguez began to fully explore the transitioning process. Following the conclusion of the off-Broadway revival in 2012, Rodriguez made the decision to go on hiatus to begin transition. Beginning with hormone replacement therapy in early 2016,[4] and allowing sufficient time for privacy, Rodriguez reemerged as an actress. Rodriguez then contacted her representation to inform them that she was no longer auditioning for male roles.[4] Despite her concerns, Rodriguez found her representation to be fully supportive of her new gender identity.[4]

From 2012 to 2016, Rodriguez appeared in small television roles, including Nurse Jackie, The Carrie Diaries, and Luke Cage.[5] Her 2016 appearance in the non-speaking role of "Sister Boy" on Luke Cage also marked the first appearance of both a transgender actress and character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.[18]

Following her reemergence, Rodriguez uploaded a video of herself on Facebook singing the number "Satisfied" from the Broadway musical Hamilton. The video received a positive response and landed her an invitation to audition for the role of Peggy Schuyler/Maria Reynolds in Hamilton.[4] The news of her audition as a trans-actress for a cisgender role made various Broadway and LGBT news outlets.[4][19] She then appeared in several additional stage productions:

Rodriguez also landed a supporting role in the independent film Saturday Church as Ebony. The 2017 film, which premiered in January 2018, depicted a runaway teenager exploring their gender identity and becoming involved in the contemporary underground ball culture scene. Her portrayal of Ebony earned her a nomination for Best Actress at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival.[24]

Breakthrough with Pose and debut as a singer[edit]

In 2017, Rodriguez was cast in the leading role of Blanca Evangelista in the FX series Pose following a six-month casting search.[25] The show was created by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Steven Canals and made history by casting five transgender actresses in leading roles. As of 2018, the show features the largest cast of transgender actors as series regulars in a scripted series.[14][26] The pilot for Pose went into production in November 2017 and premiered in June 2018 to positive reviews.[26][27][28]

The series is set in New York City during the 1980s and explores the lives of queer people of color (especially Black trans women) who are involved with the underground ballroom scene. Rodriguez's Blanca is a young woman who forms her own "house"—the House of Evangelista—after receiving a positive diagnosis for HIV. As the head of the House of Evangelista, she becomes a surrogate mother to several abandoned queer youth of color.[29] Described as a "breakout, starring role,"[24][7] her performance has been praised by critics.[7][30][31][32] Among the show's regular cast are Rodriguez's Saturday Church co-star Indya Moore, Tony Award-winner Billy Porter, model Dominique Jackson, trans rights advocate Angelica Ross, Evan Peters, Kate Mara, and James Van Der Beek.

Rodriguez performed with Pose co-stars Dyllón Burnside, Billy Porter and Ryan Jamaal Swain in a benefit concert on July 23, 2018, to celebrate the season 1 finale and raise money for GLSEN and sing "Waving Through a Window" from Dear Evan Hansen.[33][34][35]

In 2019 Rodriguez became the first openly transgender woman to win Best Actress - Television at the Imagen Awards.[36]

In the fall of 2019, Rodriguez played Audrey, the leading lady in Pasadena Playhouse's production of Little Shop of Horrors, becoming the first transgender woman of color to play the role in a major production. Her cast mates included George Salazar (from Broadway's Be More Chill) as Seymour and Amber Riley (Glee) as Audrey II. About the role she told Broadway.com, "I’m simply an actress. I think any woman should be considered for this role. [My casting] shouldn’t be something that’s trending—it should be normal."[37]

On October 1, 2019, she and Little Shop of Horrors co-star George Salazar were the musical guests on The Late Late Show with James Corden on CBS where they performed "Suddenly Seymour."[38]

In November 2019, Rodriguez landed a contract with Olay Body, becoming the first Latina trans woman to enter a partnership with the company.[39] On May 7, 2021, it was reported by Variety that Rodriguez would star alongside Maya Rudolph in Apple TV's upcoming comedy series directed by Alan Yang and Matt Hubbard.[40]

In 2021, she became the first transgender woman to receive an Emmy Award nomination in a major acting category; she was nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her performance in the third and final season of Pose.[8]

On June 4, 2021, Rodriguez released her debut single "Something to Say" under the record label Access Records. The song serves as the lead single for her upcoming debut EP.[41][42]

In September 2021, Rodriguez announced that she now goes by Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, stating, "I wanted people to see that I was more than just this character that I played on a television screen. ... It was only right and even more personal to let people know who the woman inside of Mj is".[2]

On January 9, 2022, Rodriguez won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama at the 79th Golden Globe Awards, becoming the first transgender actor to win a Golden Globe in the history of the awards.[43][44][45]

Filmography[edit]

Film[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
2017 Saturday Church Ebony
Bun in the Oven Bertha Short film
2018 Gema Gema Short film
The Big Take Robyn
2019 Adam Emma
2020 Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen Herself Documentary film
2021 Tick, Tick... Boom! Carolyn

Television[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
2012 Nurse Jackie Lonna Episode: "No-Kimono-Zone"
2013 The Carrie Diaries Fabulous Clubgoer #2 Episode: "Read Before Use"
2016 [Blank] My Life Kerry Episode: "Mr. Owl"
Luke Cage Sister Boy Episode: "Manifest"
2018–21 Pose Blanca Rodriguez-Evangelista 25 episodes
2022 A Black Lady Sketch Show Beauty Store Clerk Episode: "Save My Edges, I'm a Donor!"
Dead End: Paranormal Park Zagan (voice) 3 episodes
Loot Sofia Salinas Main role

Theatre[edit]

Year Production Role Location Category
2011 Rent Angel New World Stages Off-Broadway
2016 Runaways Pixie Encores! Off-Center Off-Broadway
2016 Street Children Gina New Ohio Theatre Off-Broadway
2017 Trans Scripts: Part 1, The Women Luna Loeb Drama Center
2017 Burn All Night Ensemble Oberon at the American Repertory Theater Cambridge
2019 Little Shop of Horrors Audrey Pasadena Playhouse Regional

Discography[edit]

Singles[edit]

Year Title Album
2021 "Something to Say" N/A

Music videos[edit]

Year Title Director
2021 "Something to Say" Dano Cerny

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Nominated work Result Ref.
2011 Clive Barnes Award N/A Rent Won
2017 Tribeca Film Festival Best Actress Saturday Church Nominated
2019 Dorian Awards TV Musical Performance of the Year Performing "Home" (with Billy Porter and Our Lady J) Won [46]
Gold Derby TV Awards Best Drama Actress Pose Nominated [47]
Best Ensemble Nominated
Imagen Awards Best Actress Won [36]
MTV Movie & TV Awards Best Breakthrough Performance Nominated
2020 Critics' Choice Television Award Best Actress in a Drama Series Nominated
Dorian Awards TV Performance of the Year — Actress Nominated [48]
2021 Gold Derby TV Awards Best Drama Actress Pending
Ensemble of the Year Pending
HCA TV Awards Best Actress in a Broadcast Network or Cable Series, Drama Won
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Nominated [49]
TCA Awards Individual Achievement in Drama Nominated
2022 Critics' Choice Television Award Best Actress in a Drama Series Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Actress – Television Series Drama Won
GLAAD Media Awards Stephen F. Kolzak Award Herself Won [50]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Mj Rodriguez [@MjRodriguez7] (September 26, 2018). "Michaela Antonia Jaé Rodriguez lol long as hell lol but I shorten it to my initials to Mj cause it much easier lol" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  2. ^ a b Romero, Ariana (September 22, 2021). "Mj Rodriguez is Ready for Her Next Act as Michaela Jaé". Refinery29. Retrieved February 21, 2022.
  3. ^ a b c d e Jones, Kenneth (December 5, 2011). "MJ Rodriguez of Rent Is Clive Barnes Award Winner". Playbill.com. Playbill. Retrieved July 5, 2018.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Gioia, Michael (June 7, 2016). "MJ Rodriguez Talks Her Transition and Hamilton Audition". Playbill.com. Playbill. Retrieved July 5, 2018.
  5. ^ a b Fasanella, Allie (June 10, 2018). "Pose Is Making Television History With These 5 Transgender Actors". Condé Nast. Teen Vogue. Retrieved July 5, 2018.
  6. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (2017-10-25). "FX's 'Pose': Ryan Murphy Sets Largest Transgender Cast Ever For Scripted Series". Deadline. Retrieved 2021-07-13.
  7. ^ a b c Fienberg, Daniel (May 22, 2018). "Pose: TV Review". HollywoodReporter.com. The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 6, 2018.
  8. ^ a b Turchiano, Danielle (2021-07-13). "Mj Rodriguez Becomes First Trans Woman Up for Major Acting Emmy". Variety. Retrieved 2021-07-13.
  9. ^ a b c Henderson, Kathy (September 1, 2011). "MJ Rodriguez on a Heavenly Off-Broadway Debut as Angel in Rent". John Gore Organization. Broadway.com. Retrieved July 5, 2018.
  10. ^ @MjRodriguez7 (6 January 2016). "It's Officially my B-day Jan 7th! I'm 25!!!!!!!" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  11. ^ Mj Rodriguez (November 9, 2020). "Mj Rodriguez on Lack of Representation: 'We Deserve a Seat at the Table.'". Television Academy. Retrieved May 7, 2021.
  12. ^ "NUNN ON ONE TV Mj Rodriguez strikes a 'Pose' - Gay Lesbian Bi Trans News Archive - Windy City Times". Windy City Times. 16 July 2018. Retrieved 2018-08-10.
  13. ^ a b c "MJ Rodriguez – The Importance of Being Seen". October 7, 2017. Retrieved July 5, 2018.
  14. ^ a b Kumar, Naveen (January 12, 2018). "Mj Rodriguez and Indya Moore Break Barriers With FX's 'Pose' and 'Saturday Church' (Exclusive)". ETOnline.com. ET. Retrieved July 6, 2018.
  15. ^ Garcia-Navarro, Lulu (June 17, 2018). "'You Just Serve As Much As You Can': Mj Rodriguez On Ball Culture And 'Pose'". NPR.org. NPR. Retrieved July 6, 2018.
  16. ^ Silver, Jocelyn. "Talking Pose with Mother Mj Rodriguez", Paper (magazine), July 19, 2018. Accessed August 14, 2018. "When I was 14 years old, I was in high school [at New Jersey's Newark Arts High School] at the time, and we would hold mini fashion shows."
  17. ^ Wontorek, Paul (July 6, 2016). "One On One: Runaways Star MJ Rodriguez on Keeping the Drama Onstage and Getting Real as a Trans Actress". John Gore Organization. Broadway.com. Retrieved July 5, 2018.
  18. ^ White, Brett (March 8, 2018). "Marvel's Jessica Jones: Every Easter Egg and Marvel Reference in Season 2". New York Post. Decider. Retrieved July 5, 2018.
  19. ^ Salandra, Adam (May 21, 2016). "Trans Actress Thanks Producers For Letting Her Audition For Hamilton". Logo TV. NewNowNext. Retrieved July 5, 2018.
  20. ^ McPhee, Ryan (May 25, 2016). "MJ Rodriguez & More Set for Encores! Off-Center's Runaways at City Center". John Gore Organization. Broadway.com. Retrieved July 6, 2018.
  21. ^ Clement, Olivia (December 6, 2016). "Street Children Proclaim the Right to Be Fabulous in the Face of Adversity". Playbill.com. Playbill. Retrieved July 6, 2018.
  22. ^ Clement, Olivia (January 23, 2017). "Watch the Cast of Trans Scripts Discuss the Groundbreaking A.R.T. Production". Playbill.com. Playbill. Retrieved July 6, 2017.
  23. ^ Hetrick, Adam (July 28, 2017). "Pop-Synth Musical Burn All Night, by Andy Mientus and Teen Commandments, Arrives at A.R.T." Playbill.com. Playbill. Retrieved July 6, 2018.
  24. ^ a b Champagne, Christine (June 28, 2017). "Mj Rodriguez on Breaking Out as Blanca on Ryan Murphy's Pose". MPAA. Retrieved July 6, 2018.
  25. ^ Goldberg, Lesley (October 25, 2017). "Ryan Murphy Makes History With Largest Cast of Transgender Actors for FX's Pose". HollywoodReporter.com. The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 6, 2018.
  26. ^ a b Andreeva, Nellie (October 25, 2017). "FX's Pose: Ryan Murphy Sets Largest Transgender Cast Ever For Scripted Series". Deadline Hollywood. Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved July 6, 2018.
  27. ^ "Pose: Season 1 - Metacritic". Metacritic. Retrieved June 21, 2018.
  28. ^ "Pose: Season 1 - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved July 5, 2018.
  29. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (June 3, 2018). "Is Blanca On Pose A Real Person? Mj Rodriguez Shares Some Life Experiences With Her Nurturing House Mother Character". Deadline Hollywood. Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved July 6, 2018.
  30. ^ Ramos, Dino-Ray (May 31, 2018). "Pose Review: Ryan Murphy's '80s NYC Ball Scene Drama Scores 10s Across The Board". Deadline Hollywood. Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved July 6, 2018.
  31. ^ Lawson, Richard (May 30, 2018). "Pose Is Bold, Necessary Melodrama". Condé Nast. Vanity Fair. Retrieved July 6, 2018.
  32. ^ Poniewozik, James (June 1, 2018). "Review: Pose Demands to Be Seen". NYTimes.com. The New York Times. Retrieved July 6, 2018.
  33. ^ Feldman, Adam (July 17, 2018). "Dyllón Burnside: Up Close and Personal". Time Out New York. Retrieved August 26, 2018.
  34. ^ Hetrick, Adam (July 14, 2018). "FX's Pose Stars, Dyllón Burnside, Mj Rodriguez, and Ryan Jamaal Swain, Will Perform NYC Concert". Playbill. Retrieved August 26, 2018.
  35. ^ "To Be Real: The Cast Of Pose Gives Back — Already! — At NYC GLSEN Benefit". Boy Culture. July 24, 2018. Retrieved November 19, 2018.
  36. ^ a b Reynolds, Daniel (August 13, 2019). "Mj Rodriguez Wins Best Actress at Imagen Awards, Makes Trans Herstory". The Advocate. Retrieved August 14, 2019.
  37. ^ "Suddenly Mj! Pose's Mj Rodriguez on Her Star Turn in Little Shop of Horrors and the Broadway Dream Role She'd 'Act a Fool In'". Broadway.com. Retrieved 2019-10-08.
  38. ^ Mj Rodriguez & George Salazar: Suddenly Seymour, retrieved 2019-10-08
  39. ^ Singh-Kurtz, Sangeeta (November 8, 2019). "Pose's MJ Rodriguez Lands Her First Big Beauty Contract". The Cut. New York. Retrieved November 9, 2019.
  40. ^ Otterson, Joe (2021-05-07). "'Pose' Star Mj Rodriguez Joins Maya Rudolph in Apple Comedy Series". Variety. Retrieved 2021-05-10.
  41. ^ Rude, Meg (2021-11-09). "Why 'Pose' Star Michaela Jaé Rodriguez Is Our Person of the Year". Advocate. Retrieved 2021-11-29.
  42. ^ Gardner, Chris (2021-11-17). "Why Mj Rodriguez Now Goes by Full Name Michaela Jae Rodriguez". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2021-11-29.
  43. ^ Hanson, Kait (2022-01-10). "Mj Rodriguez becomes 1st transgender actor to win a Golden Globe". NBC News. Retrieved 2022-01-10.
  44. ^ Rice, Nicholas (2022-01-10). "Pose's MJ Rodriguez Reacts to Her Historic Golden Globes Win: This 'Is Going to Open the Door'". People. Retrieved 2022-01-10.
  45. ^ Edmonds, Lizzie (2022-01-10). "Transgender actress Michaela Jae Rodriguez makes Golden Globes history". Evening Standard. Retrieved 2022-01-10.
  46. ^ "Dorian Awards: 'The Favourite' Named Film of the Year". The Hollywood Reporter. 8 January 2019.
  47. ^ "Gold Derby TV Awards 2019 nominations: 'Game of Thrones' and 'Veep' lead, while 'Pose' is the top new show of the year". Goldderby. 24 July 2019.
  48. ^ "'Parasite' Tops Dorian Awards with 5 Wins". The Hollywood Reporter. 8 January 2020.
  49. ^ "Emmy Nominations: 'The Crown', 'The Mandalorian' Top List; HBO/HBO Max Edges Netflix For Most Noms". Deadline Hollywood. 13 July 2021. Retrieved July 13, 2021.
  50. ^ "'Hacks,' 'Drag Race,' and more honored at 2022 GLAAD Media Awards". Entertainment Weekly.

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