In an interview with TV Line, actor James Roday announced that he would be changing his acting name to his real name, James Roday Rodriguez, after twenty years in the industry starting with the release of his latest film “Psych 2: Lassie Come Home.”
The actor, most famous for his roles in “Psych” and “A Million Little Things,” told TV Line that he changed his last name after having trouble early on in his acting career due to his skin tone not matching his name. One example Roday gave was when he auditioned for the 1996 film “Primal Fear” in the role that Edward Norton would be cast in.
“The casting director said to me, ‘You’re so great, but I don’t think I can call you back because your last name is Rodriguez. But, I can call you back for this four-line role of a gang member,’ which I ended up reading for,” he said in the interview with TV Line. “But they said I wasn’t right for that either because I didn’t look Latino enough. They basically didn’t know what to do with me.”
His decision on changing his name would eventually come when he was signed a test deal for a television show pilot. According to Roday, the people in charge believed he was perfect for the role but worried that his casting would receive backlash for casting a white man with a Hispanic last name as a form of diverse casting. He said that he was then told to consider changing his name.
“Now imagine someone giving that advice to an actor out loud today, with the climate and cancel culture. That’s it; they’re done,” he told TV Line. “But this is the late ’90s. It was a different time and, frankly, my first two experiences kind of proved the point that they were making.”
After this, Roday said he called his father, Jim Rodriguez, to discuss the situation. His father told him to follow his dream and he chose to change his name to Jame Roday. However, Roday said that he has come to regret that decision.
“I can’t excuse the decision because of youth or naviete or ambition,” he said. “The bottom line is, I sold out my heritage in about 15 seconds to have a shot at being actor.”
However, now coming to the decision due to today’s climate and a discussion with his father, he now hopes that he will able to present his most honest and true self.
Roday’s decision mimics the decisions of many other actors who have made similar decisions to change their names due to not fitting their name. The most famous case of this is with “Apocalypse Now” and “The West Wing” actor Martin Sheen. Sheen, born Ramon Estevez, decided to change his name in the early 60s due to having trouble finding work.