Musical theater alum Krysta Rodriguez has joined the cast of Chasing Life for their second season. Rodriguez portrays Vanessa, a fellow cancer patient that befriends April during her current hospital stay. The role is sure to be a personal one as the actress recently came out about her own breast cancer diagnosis in fall of 2014. The actress shares with Talk Nerdy With Us her experiences and personal connection to her character in her latest interview.
What’s it like to play a character whose life experiences are so similar to yours?
“It’s great. As odd as that may sound, it’s great to play a similar character. I was really lucky in this area. They built a really compelling and fun character that I got to dive into. My experience, while not exactly the same as Vanessa’s, is very similar. I definitely have enough experience to draw from. There is no real insecurity, “Can I play this? Am I right for this?” I just got to go and do what I already know what to do, so that was great.”
How many episodes will Vanessa be in?
“I’m in a few more. I can say that. You haven’t seen the last of me.”
What hairstyle will Vanessa rock post-chemo?
“We had a great time with that. We took wherever I was in my real hair life and went with it. When I appear, you see me with hair, which is actually a wig, because I didn’t have hair at the time. Then you see me without hair. In fact, when I watch now, my hair is growing back in. I watched the episode on Monday. I was like, “Wow. I was bald, totally bold.”
You forget. Time has gone by. You see yourself every day, and you don’t really notice. Then, there’s an episode where I just have a fun girls’ night out, where we rock some interesting hairstyles. As time goes on, you watch my hair grow out. We tried to make it more, Vanessa is sometimes in situations that are a little serious. We didn’t really want her wearing a purple mohawk all the time or something. She’s also the type of girl that would just really own exact where she was at that point. A lot of times, it’s just authentically what my hair looks like, but we do have a little bit of a good time with one wig coming up!”
You run Krystacouture. Do you have a favorite look or style that you’ve shared on Krystacouture?
“Oh, my gosh. So many. It’s been really fun. Gosh. I’m so glad that I was given this opportunity to be able to step out of my comfort zone, because we all know what makes us feel the best. If you’re like, “We’re going out. I’m going to meet new people”, or it may be somebody that we want to impress. We know the tricks that we do to feel our best. When those things are taken away from you, you have to be like, “Maybe that’s not the only way to feel. Maybe I can also feel great in a purple bob.” I do feel great in that purple bob. I love that. I have about 20 wigs now. They all become my favorite. I go through phases of them.
I have this purple, curly one that has dark roots built in, which is my favorite at the moment. I also, right now, I’m rocking purple hair of my own. My hair is growing back in, so I dyed it purple. I went down to Comic Con to do a panel at NerdHQ, which is Zachary Levi’s convention. I decided to dye my hair purple, like the superhero. I’m rocking that right now. I also really love the tattoo. I had a temporary tattoo on my very bald head. I loved that. I would have done that a lot more, had I not needed to stay bald for work.”
Actually, back to NerdHQ, you were on the Badass Women panel! What was it like being onstage with a bunch of badass women, and being considered one?
“It was amazing. I had been there. I met Zach years ago, we did a musical together. While I was doing the show, he had to take a week off from the show and do NerdHQ. That was the first I had heard of it. In between my scenes and in between shows, I would livestream the panels so I could see what he was doing. What is this thing that you created? Also, to check up on him and make sure he wasn’t talking too much so that he had his voice for our show. I became totally enamored with it. I just thought the format of it was beautiful. The fans were so respectful. It just became something, I really looked up what he was doing.
The next year, I volunteered. I went down there as a volunteer and helped out, ran errands, I just wanted to be involved, see how it worked. I would sit in the back and watch the panels. I really loved it again. A few days before they asked me to do it for this year. They had not been on my radar, because I just had surgery. I just underwent a double mastectomy three weeks ago. I was not thinking about putting on clothes, let alone driving down to San Diego and being on a panel. They were like, “If you feel like you could do it, if you feel up to it, we’d love to have you.”
It was a really cool thing to look forward to, a goal of mine. By that point, I colored my hair and put on clothes, and put on heels, which I could never believe I was going to be wearing heels again, at that point. I got to be a part of something on the other end that I had been following for a few years. It was really special.”
What’s the best part about being on Chasing Life?
“It’s cheesy. I’ve said this to other people, but the people. I love the people. I respect everybody on the show. I think everyone is doing amazing work. They’re so dedicated. It’s not easy in television, because the hours are so long, to just get there and do whatever comes out, because you didn’t have time to really do your homework. Nobody on this set is lacking in any manner. Italia works tirelessly to make this character authentic and relatable. The team, everybody from hair and makeup to wardrobe to crew to writers, everyone is just really passionate about the show. They really believe in it.
One of the writers and producers, also a producer, she said, “We set out to create the shows that we remember loving as a kid, like My So-Called Life, back when teen dramedy was something that could be taken seriously”. This is not teen. This is the demographic of people who are starting to learn things now, and to really experience what’s going on in their lives when things fall apart, when they’re not the head of a startup company or when things are not taking off for them. It’s not just everyday struggles. It’s life and death. They really hit the nail on the head. I just love being there.”
What is the most interesting obit that Vanessa has read?
“Oh, gosh. They’re fake. The prop team creates them. I did read a bunch of them. They were all just pretty normal. Sometimes prop people will use people they know. I don’t know if somebody would actually do that in an obituary. That’s a little bit morbid. I never asked. They were all, it seems like really nice people that have good families. That was all that I, I didn’t really read too much of them, because I was meditating. I did catch some of them.”