He’s the Manny: Rico Rodriguez

Photo: Bob D'Amico/Courtesy of ABC

You would imagine that, to play a super-precocious, coffee-drinking boy Romeo on TV—especially as well as Rico Rodriguez does, as Manny on Modern Family—you’d have to be all those things in real life. But Rodriguez is just your average 11-year-old boy, albeit one who goes to the Golden Globes. Rodriguez spoke with Adam Sternbergh.

Hi, Rico. Are you having a busy day?
I just came home from school, and later I have a table read.

How did you feel about landing a sitcom?
When I was going on auditions, it was nerve-racking. I’d always say to my mom that it would be awesome if I could get a series. When Modern Family came along, I said, “You know what, Mom? I believe I’m going to get this role.”

I’d ask you for your favorite acting job so far, but I’m guessing it’s Manny.
Yes, because I’ve never been that type of character before, but also a role on NCIS. It was my first action-type drama show. I was one of three main boys who find a gun and then they find a dead body, so that was fun.

How is Manny different from other parts you’ve played?
He’s so mature. He’s like Antonio Banderas in a kid’s body.

What’s your favorite episode so far?
I really like “Moon Landing,” the one that aired two weeks ago, because I got to stuff a big cupcake in my mouth. But my favorite is coming up. It’s called “Starry Night.” Mitchell, Jay, and Manny go stargazing in the mountains. I was always saying it would be cool to see a wolf or coyote. Right after they wrapped my scene, they go, “Look, a coyote!” I said, “Mom, let’s get out of here.”

Do you have any particular wishes for Manny?
To get a girlfriend. It would be cool to have a fake girlfriend.

Are there actors you really admire?
It would be fun to be a Bruce Willis type of guy. But the actor I really, really wanted to meet, since I was like 6, was Spider-Man. When we were at the sag Awards, they said, “Who do you want to meet?” I had just seen Brothers, so I said, “I want to meet Tobey Maguire.”

So did you get to meet him?
No. The other one I always wanted to meet is John Cena, the wrestler. I just started watching wrestling in 2008, and I’ve loved it ever since. I told my mom I wanted to become a wrestler. Then I’ll be on TV and can do commercials and then movies. If you’re a good enough wrestler, you’ll be on everything.

So you and Tobey Maguire and John Cena should go out for coffee. Do you drink coffee like Manny does?
No, I drink milk.

Modern Family
ABC. Wednesdays at 9 p.m.

He’s the Manny: Rico Rodriguez