Rodney Gray, a full-time Temple student, has appeared in a variety of student and professional films over the past five years. Two of his films, Robot Boy and Dead Broke, premiered at the One Weird One X 10 shorts program at the Philadelphia International Film Festival on April 11.
Though he played only a minor role as the neighborhood jerk in Robot Boy, a senior thesis film by Temple graduate Ted Passon, Gray takes on the leading role of a man desperate for cash and surrounded by crazed cats in Patrick Hasson’s Dead Broke.
Before he delved into the world of acting, Gray, a native of Graham, Texas, served as a United States Marine Sergeant for more than a decade. Following his Honorable Discharge from military service in the mid-1990s, he decided to study acting at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia. He appeared in the Theater’s production of “To Kill A Mockingbird.”
In 1999, Gray began to take jobs as an extra in independent films. One of his first films was Animal Factory, a prison drama starring Willem Dafoe and Steve Buscemi.
“I was playing a prisoner, but some of the extras actually were prisoners,” Gray said. “Then Willem Dafoe approached all of us, shook hands with us and told us about the story. He was very approachable.”
Since the beginning of his film career in 1999, Gray has been cast in more than 30 independent films and has worked with legendary horror film starlet Debbie Rochon as well as Sunny Leone, the 2002 Penthouse Pet of the Year. Perhaps his favorite A-list celebrity to work with was Lisa Kudrow, whom he met while filming the comedy Lucky Numbers in 1999.
“It’s different, depending on what production company is producing a movie,” Gray said. “Sometimes, the production people will tell you ‘don’t talk to the celebrities!’ while other actors and crew members are much more approachable. It changes from set to set.”
In addition to his roles in mainstream and independent films, Gray has appeared in many commercials, including television spots for Comcast Sportsnet and the YES Network.
For now, though Rodney Gray makes an emotional appearance in Temple University graduate student Brian McDermott’s upcoming film, Cigarettes and Fresh Air, he is focusing on being a junior communications major here at Temple University. And when he’s not concentrating on his schoolwork, Gray is always looking for a new role to play.
“It’s good to stay busy,” Gray said. “I feel different if I’m not constantly working on a film project. I’m afraid I’ll lose the magic if I stay away from my element for too long.”
Marta Rusek can be reached at email@example.com.