James Roday Changes His Name To James Roday Rodriguez To Honor His Latino Heritage

James Roday is going back to his roots and will now be professionally known as James Roday Rodriguez.

The 44-year-old actor, who you’ve seen in Psych and A Million Little Things, is opening up about his decision to reclaim his birth name from this point on.

In an interview with TV Line, James went in depth about why he changed his name in the first place, where Roday actually came from, and why he’s changing it now.

He recalled that when he started to audition for acting roles while studying at New York University, he wasn’t getting the jobs he desired because he was told his name was holding him back. He went out for the lead role in Primal Fear – that ultimately went to Edward Norton – but was told they couldn’t cast him because of his last name.

That was when he was offered an audition for the role of a gang member, but was then told he “didn’t look Latino enough.”

James also says that when he auditioned for a DreamWorks pilot and got the job, he was told “the role wasn’t written for a Hispanic or Mexican person.”

“They were worried that casting a white guy with a Mexican name could be construed as their version of ‘diverse casting,’ and there could be a backlash. They said, ‘You might want to give some real consideration to changing your name.’”

“Now imagine someone giving that advice to an actor out loud today, with the climate and cancel culture,” James added. “That’s it; they’re done. 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.”

James said that he asked his dad about the name change and his dad didn’t want that to hold him back from his dreams of becoming an actor, so gave his permission to change it professionally.

“I came up with this name that I pulled right out of a Chekhov play that I was doing at the time, and I’ve been Roday ever since,” he shared. “20 years later, I realize I essentially perpetuated an institutionalized element of what’s broken about this industry, which is, of course, a microcosm of the world we are living in. I can’t excuse the decision because of youth or naiveté or ambition. The bottom line is, I sold out my heritage in about 15 seconds to have a shot at being an actor.”

James also shared that he isn’t changing it back just to be part of a movement, but doing it because it’s his name and he’s proud of his heritage.

“The last thing I would ever want in a million years is for anyone to feel like I’m co-opting a movement to point a light at myself,” he said. “But the truth is, it’s a deeply personal decision that I am doing for me. And I just hope it’s something that can be amplified. I hope we are all having these conversations in our lives. I hope we are all reflecting. I hope we’re all learning sh** that we thought we knew but didn’t know. And I hope we’re all chasing the best versions of ourselves moving forward.”

You can next see James in Psych 2: Lassie Come Home, which will debut on NBC’s Peacock streaming service on July 15. See the full lineup here!

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