James Roday Rodriguez Talks His New Play About Warring Pro-Wrestling Billionaires

Psych star James Roday Rodriguez has been a life-long fan of professional wrestling, and the nature of his job has brought him not just close to, but actually into the WWE’s grip more than once. To that end, Rodriguez has spent the years working with writer Laurence Davis on a stage play about the seedy underbelly of professional wrestling. Not a Ringmaster-style critique of Vince McMahon or anything, but his new play Masters of Puppets centers on the power struggle between a husband and wife who run a billion-dollar wrestling enterprise, and whose chess match is going to put everyone around them in the line of fire.

Calling Masters of PuppetsWho’s Afraid of Viriginia Woolf in the world of professional wrestling,” Rodriguez has assembled a team of friends and co-stars to headline the play, which is currently being performed at Connecticut’s The Legacy Theatre. You can get tickets here.

“In many ways, this is a love letter [to professional wrestling],” Rodriguez told ComicBook.com. “It’s a black comedy, it’s bloody, but the truth is, I think it celebrates it as much as it is critical of it. The truth of the matter is, the play’s not about professional wrestling. It’s about a marriage, it’s about power, it’s about greed. And you can throw that into any backdrop, and it always works. It’s why people love Succession. It’s why people love Mad Men. The themes are the same, the wallpaper’s different, and in this particular case, you may walk away knowing a little more about wrestling than you did when you walked in.”

Rodriguez promises that they did their best to minimize the “insider baseball” feel that a play like this could easily have, and says that audiences will have a glossary of wrestling colloquialisms (like kayfabe and powder) in the playbill.

Rodriguez, who writes, directs, and produces in addition to acting, serves as a producer on Masters of Puppets, working with Davis and director Gabe McKinley, and bringing in friends and collaborators like Kurt Fuller (Psych, Wayne’s World) and Dana Ashbrook (Twin Peaks), among others.

“I have the traveling Roday all-stars that I can always count on to come and dust off their shoes and tread on the hardwoods, and it’s always a bit like a family reunion,” Rodriguez said. “This one in particular felt almost like drama camp, and kind of turned back the clocks. Just three weeks of rehearsal, three weeks of performance, not a huge time commitment, but everybody knew everybody, and some of us go back as far as 25, 30 years. So it was pretty special in that sense, and the timing was great because the day we started rehearsing was the day the WGA members struck, so nobody had to worry about missing out on other opportunities, and we were able to let loose and have a good time.”

In spite of having been a lead on TV for the better part of the last 20 years (first on Psych, then on A Million Little Pieces), Rodriguez told us that the decision to cast somebody else in a project like this is a no-brainer. As a writer, director, or producer, he would rather get somebody he can enjoy watching, than try to do too much at once and deliver less than 100%.

“For me the math is usually, I don’t want to be in it,” Rodriguez admitted. “I feel like the least interesting experience for me when I’m putting something like this together is to perform in it in addition to all of the other things. I think it pulls my focus. It’s less gratifying at the end because I can’t sit back and enjoy the fruits of everyone’s labor, because I’m in the suit, as it were. I think it’s why I don’t really act in the movies that I make. Psych, I didn’t really have a choice, but especially in the second half of the series, any episodes that I wrote or directed were generally about as Shawn-lite as they were allowed to be. I get so much joy out of watching my beautiful and talented friends do what they do. And they alwys make me look good, frankly.”

He added, “Luckily I have the most talented inner circle that I think an artist could ever have, and no shortage of options when it comes to putting together these dream teams for these projects. This time was no exception. And in addition to my peeps, we also had the Legacy Theatre, which is a brand-spanking new, renovated, beautiful space with a great history in a cool little town in CT and we’re just trying to get the word out — not just about this play but with this theatre, because I think there’s a real opportunity to put them on the map, and this could be a wonderful space where projects are developed in the future.”

Masters of Puppets at the Legacy Theatre started its run on May 25, and runs through June 11.