Guillermo Rodriguez might be one of those lucky guys who was at the right place and time. That’s not unusual in the entertainment business. Then again, it’s the sharp wit and lovable, innocent demeanor of Guillermo that’s kept him in the game.
For those who hit the hay early in the work and school week, Guillermo Rodriguez is the sidekick of late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, and has been on a roll in that role for over 12 years. A native of Zacatecas in central Mexico and a U.S. citizen since 2005, Rodriguez was working as a hotel waiter by day and a security guard behind Kimmel’s ABC studio at night to make ends meet. Yet, he was always upbeat with that boyish, travieso-type smile, especially at the parking lot where the job was somewhat less demanding. It wasn’t long before one of Kimmel’s writers approached Guillermo about appearing in one of the show’s up-coming skits. Others who had interaction with the burly guard agreed that he was an interesting character, including the show’s stage announcer Dickey Barrett, longtime lead vocalist for the Mighty Mighty Bosstones.
“They wanted to do a skit with a Spanish guy who was supposed to be a cook for Michael Jackson,” recalls Rodriguez. “At first I didn’t want to be on T.V. because I’m too shy. But they promised to give me a couple of shots of tequila to calm my nerves.”
Guillermo had fun, got paid and thought he was a one hit wonder. That wasn’t the case though, as he would get called back again and again before finally signing a deal. Gradually, Rodriguez adjusted to his new world thanks to some encouragement from Kimmel’s uncle Frank Potenza, a staple among cast members until passing away from cancer.
“Uncle Frank told me to be natural and don’t try to act or be funny,” Guillermo reveals, almost like Potanza was a member of his own family. “He said to just be yourself. That’s what Jimmy likes.”
A huge sports fan, especially when it comes to soccer and basketball, Rodriguez was thrilled to do a skit with Shaquille O’Neal following the hoop star’s retirement. The bit can still be seen on YouTube and is absolutely hilarious. Of course, Guillermo is best known for his bookend interviews with the stars before and after award extravaganzas, always with his favorite alcoholic beverage. But the jovial Mexican remembers the butterflies in his belly before conversing with Hollywood giant Robert De Niro.
“Oh my God, we were at the hotel before the interview and my hands were sweating,” notes Rodriguez. “Then De Niro says ‘yeah, I know who Guillermo is,’ and I couldn’t believe it!”
Guillermo also loves the attention he gets from the ladies at these gala affairs, and this year’s Oscars were no exception. “Quantico” queen Priyanka Chopra and Daisy Ridley from “Star Wars” eagerly broke from the line for a chat. So did Charlize Theron, who agreed to an “Eskimo kiss” and told Guillermo he was “so cute.” Then came Whoopi Goldberg and a plea for a more passionate smooch.
“I get so excited with these women,” admits Rodriguez, clad in his shiny gold jacket he says was purchased at Target. “They put on these fancy dresses and I get to interview them. I love it.”
As usual, it was an open bar on the Red Carpet with Guillermo serving shots of “Academy A-Water” to his guests in plastic scarlet cups. As the magic liquid was poured from a large labeled flask, folks seemed relieved that it was actually “Patron” and not cheap wine or something even less desirable. That’s part of the Guillermo shtick. In past years at these events, he’s used props like a “Tongue Cam” or a future-predicting “Eight Ball” to lure the elite into his web. Now that Rodriguez is famous, his charm, a few silly questions and some refreshments is all that’s needed.
The men are pleased to hang out with Guillermo too, as long as the tequila keeps flowing. Bryan Cranston has been a frequent visitor, as well as Kevin Hart, Andy Serkis and Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters, who has been greeted by Rodriguez prior to many Grammy appearances. Grohl can sniff out the booze like a bloodhound. And famed director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarrito is also a Guillermo groupie.
“This is the third year in a row that a Mexican director has been nominated for an Oscar. That’s incredible,” proclaimed Rodriguez, fishing for a classic response from his respected friend.
“Si increible,” Iñarritu agreed. “I seems like the Immigration (Service) hasn’t done such a good job!”
Guillermo Rodriguez has been on a wild ride with Jimmy Kimmel for a long time, seemingly like Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon or David Letterman and his band leader Paul Shaffer. The role however, is much different. It’s just Guillermo being Guillermo. The pair respect and feed off each other.
“Jimmy is the best,” claims Rodriguez. “He’s such a nice guy and we have so much fun here.”
Grateful as he might be, Guillermo is nobody’s fool. Only 45, he has reportedly cracked the millionaire club in net earnings, and that’s a lot better than working two jobs at minimum wage.