Talent agent Michael Rodriguez: Big Apple dream becomes Bobcat's reality
Talent agent Michael Rodriguez
by Jacque Crouse
Big Apple dream becomes Bobcat's reality
Even as a youngster in tiny Woodsboro, Texas, Michael Rodriguez felt the lure of the Big Apple. In the journey from his early life in Refugio County to building a successful career in New York City, Rodriguez found Texas State University, a place he credits with changing his life.
Today, Rodriguez (B.F.A. ’90) manages his 84 clients — including nine Texas State graduates — at The Roster Agency, a Manhattan talent agency he founded. What began as a childhood dream was nurtured when he was introduced to Texas State just before his sophomore year in high school.
"There was a theatre camp at Texas State, and a high school counselor said it would be a good thing for me, to open my horizons and get beyond Woodsboro," Rodriguez recalls. "I fell in love with San Marcos."
The theatre camp for high school students has been a university fixture for more than 60 years. While attending the camp for three summers, Rodriguez says he met other teens from Houston and Dallas who were "like me" in their world views. Some 20 camp buddies are still his good friends. "The experience at camp opened my eyes to the world," he says. He recognizes the value of growing up in a small town where he was class president, competed in University Interscholastic League finals, and was the lead in the senior play.
Despite his ambition, there were many among his friends and family who told him he would never get to New York City, never make it in the musical theatre business, and never leave South Texas. "It was a long road, but I guess I proved them wrong," Rodriguez says. His mother, Alice, a feisty single mom who now lives in San Antonio, told him she always knew he would end up in New York and would do well because even as a small child he saw the Big Apple on television, he said he was going to live there. "She said it made her heart sink a little because she knew I would be gone there someday," Rodriguez says. "But she has attended events with me, seen and met celebrities, and that makes her happy."
Rodriguez majored in musical theatre and wanted to be an actor. After graduation, he got a job teaching at an exclusive theatre summer camp for high school students in Pennsylvania. At the end of the summer, he took his earnings and headed for New York. "I had $800 and thought I was rich. But that didn’t last long in New York," he recalls.
At a temp agency he failed the typing and letter-writing tests, but his polite Texas manners had made such a good impression that an agency representative offered him a two-week job answering phones at Atlantic Records. Later, down to the last of his cash and wondering where he would go when he vacated his friend’s apartment, he wandered into a bar. The bartender asked if he was Michael Rodriguez and if he went to Texas State.
"It was Larry Birdsong, who was a senior when I was a freshman at Texas State." The fellow Bobcat was moving in with a girlfriend and offered to sublet his apartment to Rodriguez. It felt like a miraculous turn of events, and Rodriguez took the offer and was able to stay in New York.
Not too long ago, Rodriguez was on the subway when he saw a group of college students laughing and talking excitedly about a show they had just attended. Never having lost his penchant for talking to strangers, he asked what they saw and where they were from. "They were from Texas State — the connection has always kept popping up in my life," Rodriguez notes. "I reconnected and came back to the university to do workshops here. Now I make it a point to go to every Showcase Texas State brings to New York. I’m very partial to Texas State grads."
The temp job Rodriguez took at Atlantic Records became a nine-year stint and he eventually became the firm’s product manager. He continued with radio promotion and worked with celebrities including Mick Jagger, Bette Midler, Hootie & the Blowfish, Tori Amos, Phil Collins, Snoop Dogg, Nine Inch Nails, and Lil John.
Rodriguez met his husband, Scott, a casting director, while he was contemplating a career change. Scott and others suggested he would be a good talent agent, and he sought a job with a major agency. Today, he has his own firm with clients on Broadway and London’s West End stages. Others appear on television and in films.
Though he says he did not achieve his original dream of being the next Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise, he has been as close as he can get without walking onto the stage.
"I have lived the life I wanted," he says. "And I can’t wait to see what comes next." ✪
The 2018 New York Showcase will be May 18 at New York's Pearl Studios.
Bobcats make the Roster
Michael Rodriguez goes to every showcase that Texas State brings to New York, and often he goes a step further, taking on alumni at his talent agency.
His Manhattan-based firm, The Roster Agency, currently includes nine Bobcats. No surprise then that Rodriguez says he always feels a little more responsible for those clients. "If they are not with family, I will take care of them," he says. "I know what it is like to come here from Texas to this big, scary place." Rodriguez has even hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for his clients who don’t have family in New York. "I cook, they all come over, and we celebrate as family," he says. "My Texas State grads are special to me, and I want them to know it."