X Games 15 Skate Preview: Paul Rodriguez

With X Games 15 on the horizon, a new shoe set to drop and the welcomed addition of his daughter to his life, Paul Rodriguez's life is looking quite nice. But...can he win another X Games gold?

So you got a new shoe coming out with a commercial that features some celebrities. Can you tell me a little bit about it?

There will be some very special guests in the extended version, dropping on July 31st on the Nike SB site. But, Ice Cube is currently featured in the commercial, so it was great being on set. I felt like I was able to experience the best of both worlds, because I was able to dabble in some acting and skate, as well as experience the nice catered lifestyle of an actor...But, to be able to rub shoulders with a guy like Ice Cube—he's a legend man. Iit was great. I was feeling really surreal on the set, 'cause I was like, "Man, skateboarding brought me here, sitting in this low rider with Ice Cube, talking to him." It's great, man.

And, of course, we have Theotis [Beasley], our boy on Nike, and Shane O'Neill have a little cameo there. It's basically like a music video. With "Today was a Good Day" as the song, it's so perfect, you know, because in the commercial, mysteriously the gate's open at schools where I normally have to climb the fence. There's no one to kick you out and the consequences of that are that I'm able to land tricks that I was very excited about—you know—the skater's version of the perfect day.

Along with the P-Rod 3, you've got a shoe—the 2.5—coming out?

The 2.5 is basically a version of my second shoe. It's gonna be like a vulcanized, but it's not—it's called a cold-wrap cement, which is a lighter, more eco-friendly version of vulcanized. I'm really stoked on it. I just want to reach all the skaters out there. It will be more like a price-point shoe—not as expensive as my pro shoe. It's really thinned down.

[Rainbow, Paul's girlfriend tip-toes in the room]

So, you just came out with Street Dreams, a movie about skateboarding. How many of the experiences in the movie are things that you experienced growing up wanting to skateboard?

Um, I did have conflicts at school when I was younger. It's not that I was dumb or anything, I just didn't apply myself at school, because, as far as I was concerned, the minute I started skateboarding, that was it—I wanted to be a pro skater. Not that I would promote that kids not pay attention at school, but, as far as I knew, this was gonna be my career. So, you know, that part of the film definitely applied to me. I gave every bit of attention to skateboarding and, in turn, it caused me to have conflicts with teachers and parents, because the teachers would call my parents saying, "Paul is literally doing nothing." I was just sitting there and existing in class. My mother to get on my case about it and I'd be like, "Mom, trust me. I promise you that one day this will work out—I'm not just being a loser. I'm working very hard, but school just isn't what it's gonna be." In that aspect, I lived those scenarios.

What did your dad think?

My mom was very supportive of my skating, but she just wasn't supportive of my grades [Laughs]. There's nothing to get twisted—my mom was definitely all good with me skating, but she, as a parent, had to be a parent and be like, "Look, son, I need you to do well in school." My dad wasn't unsupportive about skateboarding, he was just na├»ve about it. He didn't realize it was something you could actually do for a living.

It's a funny parallel, considering some people would say, "Really? You're gonna grow up and be a comedian? That's crazy."

I used that exact same argument on him—exact same—and he couldn't say anything. Not only was the comedian part hard to break into, but he came straight from Mexico. My family's straight from Mexico. They emigrated here. They were dirt poor farmers, you know? He grew up in Compton. For him to come and tell my grandparents, "All right, I'm gonna become a comedian!" Probably, they were like, "A comedian? You really think you can act like a goof and that's gonna be it?" So, it was passed on in the genes, I guess, that drive to go for your dreams. Once I made it into the Tony Hawk pro skater game, he was like, "Oh, all right!"

Your family is all originally from Mexico. So, that means you're second generation then?

Well, on my dad's side, he was straight from Mexico—born in Mexico—and he was brought here as a young kid. But, my mom's side, she's second generation. Like two and a half generation.

So, when you were growing up, did you speak Spanish in your household?

No, unfortunately, on my mom's side, since they were here Americanized more, they kept Spanish on the D.L. My mom doesn't speak Spanish. In a way, I got screwed on that aspect, because I lived with my mother.

It's kind of odd, because you are such a role model for a lot of the Latino kids in the Los Angeles area that have picked up skateboards in a way that a lot of inner city kids did with basketball years ago. It's like a way out for them and you're kind of a role model.

Yeah, exactly. At first, I was, like, I'm gonna keep this under wraps that I didn't know Spanish. But, as I grew up, I realized that half the kids from East LA don't know it either.

I was like, "Wow, so you guys don't know Spanish either? What a load off my chest." I wasn't alone. Obviously, I'm very proud of my culture and heritage. Unfortunately, it's not my fault.

At the same time, to be a Latin American, who sets a positive example for these kids is a big honor to me. It's not something I grew up realizing. I didn't realize it until after I started getting recognition and people started saying that to me, like, "You're out there doing something positive for the Latino culture and making us proud." It just started hitting me once people pointed it out. It's not something that you realize at 12, 13 years old. At this point, I take it very seriously.

Going back to the acting, was that always something you saw yourself doing?
Those particular circumstances between "Street Dreams" and another film I did that's set to come out, "Vicious Circle"—I was randomly approached to do both of those. But, acting has been something I've been around my whole life—it's always been something that I was interested in doing. But, as soon as skateboarding crossed my path, there was nothing I could do about it.

I had been around my dad—he got me into a Pepsi commercial when I was younger and we filmed a pilot for the WB for a sitcom back in '98. But, it had all been through my dad, with his connections and his partners, and I didn't want to just be handed this thing. Skateboarding happened to come across my path and it was a way to carve out my own pathway. No matter how funny my dad is or who he knows, there was no way that he could hand me a career in skating—if I couldn't skate, I couldn't skate. Now, that's why I feel okay with going into the acting world, because I know, within myself, that I was able to make it with my own merit.

As far as your dad's career, what is his favorite movie or stand-up he's done?

You know how a skater can be driving in a car and in the corner of your eye you see a rail or a set of stairs? The average person doesn't see that stuff. That's how my dad is with jokes. He's always a comedian, through and through. So it's cool to see what he's done. There are so many favorites. There was this series Hardball back in the day that I liked a lot. I got to go on the set of that show and I like the memories from that. And then, of course, Born in East LA. DC Cab
, Latin Kings of Comedy
, his stand-up comedy—I love. More recently, he did a film with Clint Eastwood called Blood Work—that was about five years ago. Then, there was the World's Fastest Indian that he did with Anthony Hopkins. That was really cool. I was stoked to see him in that. He's been moving into some more serious acting roles with award-winning actors, like Clint Eastwood and Anthony Hopkins.

So, you recently became a dad yourself. What's harder, skating or being a dad?
Skating, for sure. Being a dad is easy. It's fun for me.

Is that what you think, too? Since you're the mom, you might see it a little bit differently. Do you think skating or being a dad is harder for him?

Rainbow: Are you a dad?

No, not at all.
Rainbow: I just wanted to know. Because, if you have become a parent, you find out it's the easiest thing in the world. It's just the greatest experience ever.

Paul: Yeah, this primal instinct takes over, because beforehand, you may think like, "Ah man, the diapers...it's gonna suck," but as soon as this kid is in front of your eyes, it just melts your heart and they have a little poopy diaper—you just change it. It's not a big problem, like you thought in the beginning. For instance, today, before we came, I took a shower—I brought her in, rubbed her little head, washed her, dried her off and put her in her dress. It's just the funnest thing, because the whole time the little things she's doing: moving around, laughing, kicking. There's no, like, "Ah, I can't do this," you just do. When she's hungry, you make the bottle—you just do—and on and on. So, being a skater's definitely harder, because you have to put in way more time to get that same satisfaction.

This being an interview with ESPN, who do you see as doing well in this year's X Games—X Games 15?

I think the usuals will do well, for sure. There will probably be some people who surprise everyone and do well. But, Chris Cole is going to be there killing it—ripping it—as always. Sheckler's gonna be there...Lutzka. Chaz Ortiz is going to be there this year—he's a new addition. He's gonna be killing it. And, I hope that I'll be doing well, too.

So, it might be a battle between us five. Still, there's a really good chance that there will be those X factor guys who everyone's overlooking that will probably be killing it as well. But, I'm pretty sure it's going to be an intense competition. I just saw the drawings of the course a couple days ago. It looks fun.

What's coming up in the next year?

Well, hopefully, success in these upcoming contests. The Plan B video, ultimately, if I had to choose one thing, that's my main goal right now. To me, an artist—a musician—puts there effort into their album. For me, I consider this like my album. I'm just trying to create my best work and do new tricks that I've never done. Hopefully, get a part of the year award, if I can, and get a video of the year—that's what the whole team's hoping for, too. Ultimate goal is to continue staying healthy and keep my skating abilities progressing to the best of my abilities.