Freddy Rodriguez Talks 'Seal Team Six', Chicago’s Gang Violence, & His Love of Hip-Hop

Venerable Puerto Rican actor Freddy Rodriguez (Six Feet Under) spoke to about his role in Nat Geo’s Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama bin Laden, the current gang violence epidemic in his hometown of Chicago and his first passion--hip-hop!

Tell us about your role as Trench in Seal Team Six.

As Trench, my role is the breacher—it’s my job to breach the doors in order for the team to come in safely into a room or compound. I’m the guy who comes in with a shotgun and shoots off the door hinges and applies an explosive to the gates.

What type of research did you do for this film?

When I found out I was going to do the film, I went online and I checked out their training, when they're in buds, which is the name of the training they go through before they actually become a Navy SEAL. I went on YouTube and it was absolutely unbelievable the things that I saw. It’s a testament to the human spirit in terms of what they can endure. In order for us to even go through that type of training, it would have taken years. We did a fast {version} of what I saw. A lot of the training was for the purpose of cohesiveness between the teams so that in the film it would look like we were a solid unit.

You were born and raised in Chicago. What can be done about the gang violence permeating the city?

It’s crazy. They have more murders than Brazil. I have friends that are cops over there and they kind of give me the inside scoop on what’s going on. In a nutshell what I’ve been told is it’s all about drugs. It’s gangs that are fighting and people associate the violence with gangs or turf wars but a lot of it is drugs. God, I don’t know what the answer is but I guess it’s trying to figure out how to infiltrate the drug game and stop that. It’s not about trying to figure out a solution to the turf war. It’s more the drugs and drugs equals money so you’re messing with someone’s money.

How is your old neighborhood of Humboldt Park AKA Bucktown now?

I go back to my old neighborhood and I want to see familiar faces and no one lives there anymore. Someone said to me the other day, "Can you believe there’s a Marc Jacobs in Bucktown?!" I was like, that’s crazy. I remember in the ‘80s and '90s I would get shot on that corner that Marc Jacobs is on. I guess gentrification is the natural progression of life. Back in the ‘50s and ‘60s it was all German and Polish and then the Latinos came in and now it’s just American. It’s the circle of life.

You recently wrapped a biopic about the iconic punk rock venue, CBGB. Quite a jump for a hip-hop head?

I am a b-boy but I’m a music head too so I appreciate different aspects of music. I play a heroin addict (Idaho) who’s a real guy and helps Hilly Kristal (Alan Rickman) to open up CBGB. I was a representation of the characters that were in that neighborhood at that time. There was this transient hotel atop CBGB that would rent their rooms for $2 a night. And the patrons there were all heroin addicts and junkies. First it’ll premiere at a film festival early next year.

Being a hip-hop fan as you are, it’s weird that you haven’t made a hip-hop inspired film yet.

Doing that is really personal to me and being involved in something like that I would have to have a particular type of control in order for the movie to be portrayed in a way I would like it to be portrayed. I came up in the early ‘90s, which is to me the golden age of hip-hop with A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Gang Starr and Pharcyde. That’s my era. But there was a Renaissance that came back around when Kanye West came on the scene and Lupe. I wish that there were more balance today.

Since Big Pun passed away there hasn’t been another Latino MC to carry the torch. I mean we have talented artists like Joell Ortiz but no one on that Pun level.

Well, a lot of artists don’t get signed. The music industry is even worse than the film industry. It’s just so hard to get signed and get your music out there. Everything that goes behind it is so hard. I’m sure there are guys out there that could have the same resonance as Pun but they’re not being seen.

Well, there’s Pitbull.

Someone like Pit is the other side of coin—Latinos also want to be mainstream and be accepted by the mainstream. I think there’s nothing wrong with that. As long as you do it in a way that maintains your integrity and class that it’s OK. It may not be Tribe but think about it man, you have a Latino doing Pepsi commercials. That’s crazy! I look at that and say that’s fantastic!"