You Won’t Believe What This Disney Channel Star Says:
Exclusive Interview Behind the Scenes of PAUL BLART: MALL COP 2
By Evy Baehr, Executive Managing Editor
Another Paul Blart movie is on its way, PAUL BLART: MALL COP 2. The first Paul Blart Mall Cop was filled with good clean and did incredibly well at the box office, making almost $200 million worldwide. This time Paul Blart rides again and we will see if it is just as clean and fun as the first.
Along with Kevin James starring, Raini Rodriquez plays Blart’s daughter, Maya. Once again, the movie has a sweet relationship between the father and daughter. MOVIEGUIDE® had the chance to talk to Raini not only about her role in PAUL BLART: MALL COP 2, but also directing on her show AUSTIN & ALLY on the Disney Channel.
You would never expect what she says about Kevin James and directing in this exclusive interview.
MOVIEGUIDE® (MG): How fun was it to do a sequel?
Raini Rodriguez: So much fun! The day after we wrapped the first movie, six years ago, the day after I was like, “Alright, let’s do a next one. I’m ready for the sequel.” I just didn’t know it would take six years to do, but I’m ready. It was absolutely so much fun to make. I was 14, when we filmed the first one, I had never done a feature film before, I had only been acting for three or four years. So, now fast forward six years later, I have a full 10 years under my belt, so coming back to work with Kevin was amazing. You know, everyone on set still thought I was 14-years-old. It was very funny, because I haven’t grown in height, but age-wise I’m getting older, just not in the looks-wise. So everyone was like, “Oh, you’re still 14.” I was like, “Nope, I’m 20-years-old now. It’s a thing.” It was so much fun. We filmed it in Las Vegas, which was a blast. We were there for three months, and that was fun. Just getting to film it overall was great. Getting to play Maya again and coming back to play her as older, getting ready for college and ready to experience life, was great because that’s sort of where I’m at now. So, it was kind of cool to play that.
MG: A little bit closer in age.
Raini Rodriguez: Yeah. I think that she’s the first character I’ve ever played that’s closer to my age than I’ve ever done on TV.
MG: Wow. They say that’s golden, that you play younger.
Raini Rodriguez: Oh yeah, I absolutely love it. I can still order off kids’ menus when I go to restaurants. It’s a win-win for me.
MG: Getting a deal!
Raini Rodriguez: I don’t complain. It’s a win-win for me. I get the fruit cups and the Go-Gurt on the side.
MG: What about the toy?
Raini Rodriguez: I give it to my nieces. Sometimes I open it first, but it’s fine. We don’t judge.
MG: When you guys were shooting, you weren’t 21 yet.
Raini Rodriguez: No I was not.
MG: You were in Las Vegas. . .
Raini Rodriguez: So we filmed there for three months, and I was 20-years-old. We wrapped the movie five days before my 21st birthday. I don’t drink; I don’t smoke; I don’t gamble; but, it was very funny to me that I couldn’t walk on the casino floor without someone who was over 21 holding my hand. So I’m 20-years-old walking to set, and we couldn’t take the shortcut through the casino floor. We had to go all the way around it because I wasn’t 21. Then, we wrapped five days after, and everyone was like, “Are you gonna stay?” I was like, “I’ve been here for three months already. I’m ready to go home now.”
MG: I think I’ve experienced Las Vegas.
Raini Rodriguez: I’ve seen Las Vegas in every way that I want.
MG: Well you guys were actually shooting in the Wynn Hotel. How was that? Because it’s so busy.
Raini Rodriguez: It was amazing. We did a lot of night shoots, so it was really cool filming in the hotel at night and getting to go through all the back doors, and we really went through the entire hotel. I can literally say from bottom to top, because we filmed on the roof of the Wynn Hotel, which is 66 floors up, so that was very high and very fun. It was great. The Wynn Hotel was so lovely. The entire crew there was so accommodating to everything we needed. We had the best room service for lunch every day. We got to hang out in all the suites in the hotels and nap on the beds. It was really, really lovely. It was so much fun.
MG: You adjusted to being up all night?
Raini Rodriguez: I mean, I’m a night owl, and I was thinking before, “Oh, it’ll be fine. I like to stay up late anyway.” Then as like three o’clock rolled around, I was like, “Ooh. Alright. It’s getting a little late here people, let’s wrap this up.” It was fun.
MG: Well what I thought was really cute in the first one is your relationship with your father, played by Kevin. You’re so supportive. Does that kind of transcend into this one?
Raini Rodriguez: Oh, absolutely. She’s still the same Maya that we’ve seen when she was 14, and now that she’s 20. She’s the same girl, just a little bit older. You know, she still is a daddy’s girl and cares about her dad with all of her heart. She cares about his wellbeing and his happiness, and she’s always there for him. It’s just now that she’s a little bit older, she wants to try going off to college and experiencing her own life without her dad there every single minute of every single day, and he’s not okay with that. So it’s a real-life situation of transitioning from being a child to an adult, and then same with the dad. You know, I’m a daddy’s girl myself, so I know that if I ever leave somewhere – even if I go off to shoot a movie or something – he’s still like, “Well, let me go with you, and I’ll watch you.” I don’t mind that at all, but it was really interesting to play that and to have her be all grown up now and have to try to experience life by herself. She meets a boy, played by David Henrie, and she kind of flirts with him a little bit, and the dad is like, “Whoa, what is this? What’s going on here? This is all new to me.” Then, of course, more shenanigans happen with her that she needs her dad; in the end, she’ll always need her dad. So he’s there for her there as well.
MG: That’s so sweet. Your family seems very close, right?
Raini Rodriguez: Yes, my family is very close.
MG: Getting into the industry and everything, and now your brother. How is that? Were you like, “This is my thing”?
Raini Rodriguez: No, I was always very supportive from the beginning. My brother is my number one fan and my biggest supporter, and visa versa. I am his number one fan. I watch everything he’s ever done, every interview he’s ever done, I watch it as well. So we are very supportive of each other, and to have somebody like Rico in my life that does the same thing that I do every day, he knows what it’s like. So we come home and we talk about our day of who we met, what interviews we did, and the future projects we have. I love visiting him on MODERN FAMILY, and he loves coming to visit on AUSTIN & ALLY. He came to visit in Las Vegas, and he stayed for a couple days, and we went to go see shows together and things like that. I’m a big fan of him. I have two older brothers as well, and they live back in Texas. They’re big supporters too, and they come out as often as they can, and my nieces and my nephew and my sister-in-law – my whole family. We’re all such a tight family that even though we’re in two different states, in two different jobs basically, we’re all very supportive of each other, which I think is important.
MG: What got you inspired to do acting? I mean you’ve done it half your life now.
Raini Rodriguez: I have, yeah. I think I’ve been acting ever since I was a little baby. I just loved putting on shows for people, and making people laugh, and entertaining everybody. So, when I finally figured out what it was called, you know, “acting, being an actor,” I was like, “Oh, okay. That’s what I’m going to do for the rest of my life. That’s easy.” I was like, “Acting. That’s what I want to do.” Being a girl from a small town in Texas, that wasn’t really known, so obviously “California is the place to be,” so made the move, and it’s been amazing ever since.
MG: You also got to direct, which is cool. How was that experience?
Raini Rodriguez: Oh, amazing. So much fun. Directing has been another huge passion of mine, so to be able to do it on something like AUSTIN & ALLY, which I’ve worked with the crew for four years now, they’re my family, was amazing. It was such an amazing opportunity because we’re all so close. So, directing them was an easy transition from being an actor to a director. Everyone was so welcoming, and so ready to help me learn with whatever I needed to learn about their jobs. It’s always so interesting being an actor and being a part of the vision, but being a director and being in charge of the total vision of the way it comes out, the bigger picture. It’s very different, but I enjoyed every second of it. It was a little tough because I was acting in it as well, so I was running back and forth. So I can’t wait to direct one where I’m not acting in it, and I can just be the director full-time and not director and actor. It was an amazing opportunity. I was so excited.
MG: That is a great learning experience for sure.
Raini Rodriguez: Oh, it totally was. I’m so grateful to Disney and AUSTIN & ALLY and my cast and crew. They’re amazing, and I can’t wait to direct more.
MG: I read that you knew David Henrie before, or you had met him—
Raini Rodriguez: I actually met David when I was 12, as a fan. I knew him from THAT’S SO RAVEN, even before he was on WIZARDS. I was all, “You’re from THAT’S SO RAVEN. Can I get a picture with you?” He took a picture with me, and who would have known eight years later we’re starring in a movie together. I pulled out the picture, because they wanted pictures of me around the house of when I was younger. I found the photo of me and David, and I was like, “Dude. Look at this photo; you’re 16 and I’m 12. Oh my gosh, here we are. What are the odds?” He is such an amazing person. I’ve seen him a lot of times at events and things like that, and obviously we have that Disney Channel connection, so a lot of his crew worked on my show as well. So, I’ve known him for a while, but to be able to work with him and hang out with him was really fun.
MG: Kevin James, is he exactly like his character? Tell us the truth.
Raini Rodriguez: You know, he’s very funny and very witty off-camera. He’s not as crazy neurotic as Paul Blart, but he’s very energetic and fun. He knows how to have fun. What’s so great about him is he creates such a fun atmosphere on set, which is very important, especially when filming a movie like “Mall Cop” that’s very fun and energetic and there’s a lot happening. He’s so great about just creating a fun atmosphere for everybody to just do what they do best. He’s really great about improvising—we’ll just let the scene go, and we’ll just riff back and forth. He wrote it as well, so he’s really great about being like, “Oh, I wrote this line, but if you feel like kids wouldn’t say this, then say what you think kids would say.” If one of the words was like, “Hot dog!” and I’m like, “We do not say that, kids don’t talk like that,” then he’ll be like, “Alright, well say what kids say then.” And we’ll add that kind of stuff. So he’s a wonderful person.
MG: And did you get to ride the Segway around all of Las Vegas?
Raini Rodriguez: I did not actually. They were very funny about it, because when I did the first movie I was 14. I’m pretty sure they made up this rule, they were like, “You have to be 18 and 5 feet tall to ride the Segway.” I was like, “Oh, okay, well alright.” Second movie, I was like, “Alright, I’m 20 years old, I’m five-foot-one. It’s on!” Then, they’re like, “Ooh, you can’t ride it.” Come on people, really? I was like, “Really, Kevin? Really? I can’t ride it?” Everyone else did. I was actually kind of a little scared to ride it, too. Ironically, in an episode of AUSTIN & ALLY that’s coming out in the future, I may or may not play a mall cop who rides a Segway, so I got to ride a Segway on AUSTIN & ALLY, just not on MALL COP.
MG: It comes full circle.
Raini Rodriguez: It does come full circle, exactly.
MG: Okay, so Easter’s coming up. What do you guys usually do with your family?
Raini Rodriguez: Well we normally like to go to church, and then we like to go out for a nice Sunday lunch, and just hang out together as a family. I loved to do an Easter egg hunt with my nieces and my nephew. We have big land, so we just hide all the eggs and let them go crazy. We love to make cascarones, which are eggs that have confetti, and then you crack them on people’s heads and stuff – it’s very fun. So, I like to make that with my grandma. Then, we just like to have fun and eat lots of chocolate.
MG: That’s awesome. I love it.
Raini Rodriguez: There’s really no other way to celebrate it. Every holiday should be celebrated with chocolate.
MG: Candy and chocolate.
Raini Rodriguez: Exactly! And, family time. That’s all you need.
Watch the full interview here: