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Rodney Chester Talks Brand New Podcast Series, 'My Best Friend Rodney'

Exclusive | TV & Film

In this exclusive Gaye Magazine interview, trailblazing actor Rodney Chester reflects on his legendary dance career, gives an exclusive on the Noah’s Arc reboot, and talks about the upcoming release of his first-ever podcast, My Best Friend Rodney


My Best Friend Rodney, eponymously hosted and executive produced by Rodney Chester himself, will be an eight-episode YouTube series intimately showcasing conversations between him and his esteemed guests such as Patrik-Ian Polk, TS Madison, and Darryl Stephens to name a few. 


Chester is known for his iconic role as the hysterical and den-motherlike Alex Kirby on Noah’s Arc (2005-2006), the first scripted television series to center on a group of Black gay men.




In the series, created by the barrier-breaking Patrik-Ian Polk, Rodney Chester played an integral part in the mass representation of Black, gay culture and community. 


During the early aughts of TV and film where Black, queer portrayals were normally reduced to one-dimensional stereotypes, Noah’s Arc provided multifaceted depictions of Black, gay men. Each lead character had their own unique personality and were professionals who enjoyed loving relationships in the city of Los Angeles.


As Alex Kirby, Chester personified confidence and joy as an HIV/AIDS counselor. The necessity of this type of role was so vital given the backdrop of the ongoing HIV/AIDS pandemic and its devastating impact on Black, LGBTQ+ communities in America.


Witnessing a Black character on a nationwide channel exude such positivity and compassion in a position that could easily be seen as a dismal profession was revolutionary for its time (and still is). 




Although Chester’s acting rapport is widely recognized, his dancing background is equally as important. Early into his professional career, Chester would go on to dance with icons such as Whitney Houston, Prince, and Chaka Khan just to name a few. If anything, dancing supplied the foundation for the Rodney Chester fans know and love today. 


Do you think your dance career would reach such exceptional heights? How was that experience dancing with these legends? 


“What’s so interesting about that is I had such a long, extensive dance [background] before I moved to LA. My first professional job was as a dancer at Disney World. Once I got a scholarship, I started pursuing dance theater.”


“How I ended up in LA, I took convention classes from this guy who ran an organization called Tremains. He offered me a dance scholarship on the condition I move to LA. I wanted to do commercial dance more like videos and tours, so that’s when I moved to LA and started working with all these artists. It was amazing…it was really amazing.”


So you lived in New York before LA? 


“Yeah, I stayed in New York for a short time. I was going back and forth [between LA and New York]. A girl that I danced with at Disney told me to come to LA because they were having this audition for Prince."


“So I went to the audition, made it all the way to the end, went back to New York, and then I had to go back to LA because Prince wanted to meet everybody he was interested in.”


“I met with him and I went back to New York and they called me and said I got the job. I never went back to New York. I stayed in LA.”


Wow! Were you star-struck? What was that like? 


“Well you know, Prince is a nice guy. This is kind of a funny story, but basically when I went to the audition, Prince wasn’t there. He didn’t come until like the third callback. They were saying ‘don't look at him.’”


“I remember I went to the restroom and he was in the hallway with me and we kind of crossed paths and I was all nervous because of what they told us…’don’t look at him just do your job."


“Actually, it was the music video “Betcha By Golly Wow!”, if you go back and look at that I’m in that video. That was the first video I did with him and then I went on the road after that. Once I started booking, I started working with a lot of different people. So he was my first, my very first job.”


Chester later made his film debut in director Patrik-Ian Polk's Punks (2000), which is credited as the first Black, gay rom-com. 



On Punks, you didn’t audition as an actor, you auditioned as a dancer? 


“Punks…it was just an audition…a dance audition. When I did theater, I did La Cage aux Folles, so I knew that drag era, because I did it in theater.”


“We had to come dancing as boys first, then we got a callback as boys. When we had the next call back we had to come in drag. After I auditioned, I didn’t get it originally. I took Gene Anthony Ray’s place because I guess I was first in line. That’s when I first met Patrik.”


“So, when I worked with Patrik on that project we became friends and that’s what led to Noah’s Arc. Basically, we were hanging out and he said, 'Rodney, I’m going to do a TV show and I wrote a role for you.' I was like 'really?


“I had never done a TV show. He was the first to give me an opportunity to act. I didn’t audition for Noah’s Arc.”



Could you have imagined that being a lead in a landmark show would be your future? 


“No, not at all!” 


In the series Noah’s Arc, Alex Kirby is a HIV/AIDS counselor and de facto matriarch of the friend group the show is centered on. Alex later quits his former position and opens his own non-profit HIV awareness treatment center.



What was the response to Alex Kirby as a character while working on Noah’s Arc


“I think Patrik when he was creating the characters, he didn’t know what everybody was going to do. At first my role was going to be a dance teacher…I thought 'oh my god I’m going to have to dance every episode.


“But he changed it because the Black AIDS Institute was a huge part of our beginning at the start of Noah’s Arc - with the pilot and all of that. So Patrik made me an HIV/AIDS counselor.


“Then I had to start investigating and learning more about what that was. I knew what it [HIV] was and what I needed to do to stay healthy. But, I still had to learn the statistics. I even had to learn how to take blood tests.”


Chester continued, “The making of all of that was very strategic through Patrik and he wanted to bring that character to life in another way - a teaching way, since I was the mother hen of the group. It was my duty to know about it, teach about it, and make sure that was a great point in the character I was playing. At the time, it was about making it understood that I was a real HIV/AIDS counselor.”


With the process of learning how to draw blood and getting experiences from people that were HIV positive, did you continue that work, but in real life? 


“I did actually, because throughout the show, I was always getting booked to do events in that realm. It made it more effective for me, because I always continued to learn.”


“When I did events, I wanted to make sure that I had all the knowledge of what that really was about. If I was doing an event and was asked to present or speak I had to know the terminology.”


(Source: GLAAD)



Last year at the I AM Awards, Gaye Magazine exclusively reported Patrik-Ian Polk’s announcement of Noah’s Arc return. The response towards the revival of the iconic series was met with overwhelming anticipation. Fans can now imagine the world of Noah’s Arc in the present day, inherently leaving room for a myriad of ideas for what we can expect to see. 


What was your reaction to the announcement that Noah’s Arc was returning? What were you feeling during that moment? 


“We already knew that the show was returning, but we couldn’t say anything. When Patrik made the announcement, we really were surprised.”


Is the reboot going to be a film or series? 


“We did a brand new movie. We’re waiting for Paramount for the official announcement of where it’s going to be and what’s going to happen.”


“It’s really, really great. The movie is phenomenal. The Millenials are going to love it. The old heads are going to love it.”


What led you to creating your podcast, My Best Friend Rodney


“My booking agent and my publicist brought the idea to me. I have never done a podcast before, but it was interesting to me when they pitched the idea to me. It was another way for me to reach out to the fans, which I always love and appreciate.”


“It was another avenue to get to know me. This whole thing of My Best Friend Rodney is an amazing platform. I think it’s going to be phenomenal. We already shot season 1 and we’re already gathering guests for season 2.”


“We are trying to actually [create] something, so it will overlap whenever [Paramount] makes the film announcement, so I can have something going along with Noah’s Arc as well.”



What was the significance behind the title, My Best Friend Rodney


“Danterious, my publicist, came up with the title. Getting to know him, he wanted to know my history. With me telling him about my career, it made sense. Everyone that’s a fan of mine really believes we are best friends, so now I connect that with my fans being my best friend.”


“...Then my guests, we really are good friends. I have an amazing lineup.”



How was it having TS Madison as the first guest? 


“What I love about TS is knowing what she used to do at the beginning of her career and [seeing] where she is now is just phenomenal. I have followed her through her career and told her I was a fan. 


“We are great friends. I love her platform. When I asked her, she said 'yes of course' and we had a great time. She really set the tone for all of my guests. She was the first guest, first episode…You might see TS Madison in…”


(We can assume Chester is hinting to a possible TS Madison appearance on the upcoming Noah’s Arc film). 


Can you talk about some of the areas you delve into throughout the episodes? 


“Basically, the podcast is interviews featuring high-profile people who are my friends. I wanted to have a platform that platformed my guests as well. It isn't just all about me, I wanted to showcase them as well."


“What was so amazing was everyone had some kind of social message within our conversation. It was so phenomenal how it all sealed in together.”


“Everything was off the top of my dome and talking as friends. I think people are going to love it, because [the conversations] was so natural.”




Was it challenging discussing your life on your podcast? 


“I wouldn’t say it was challenging, because I’m pretty much a straight shooter in real life. My story is about my growth, where I was, and how I progressed in my career.”


“I don’t get too much into my personal life. I think if you have something you want to keep to you, then you should be able to do that.”


“It’s not that I’m trying to hide anything. I like to be an activist and be more of a platform for doing what I do, making people smile, and just having a good time. That’s really my personality.”


“When Patrik first told me about the show, he said people have to see you on TV, your personality.”


What are you most excited about once the podcast is out? 


“First of all, I’m going to be so excited for everyone to see it.”


“Secondly, it’s about the connection that I have. I wanted it to be a connection that you can really get to know Rodney and what Rodney’s about, you know me from Noah’s Arc, but this is something different.”


“I want people to come along with the ride and support it. I think it’s going to lead hopefully to Season 2…Season 3…and maybe on TV.”



When can we expect My Best Friend Rodney to be released? 


“It’s all coming within the next couple of months. When we air it, it will be on once a week. It will be a 30-45 minute show.”


“I added some surprising elements to it, because I wanted mine to be a little different than just a regular podcast. We’re trying some really, really great stuff.”


What are the biggest takeaways you want your listeners to receive? 


“Because the guests that I chose to be on the show…their platforms are so amazing that I wanted it to be a learning, friendship of laughter and fun.”


“Once you see the show, you’ll see exactly what I’m saying with my guests and how we were with each other. I just want everyone to take away the fun of it all. I can’t wait for the public to see it.”


Gayes, make sure you tune in to Rodney Chester’s upcoming weekly podcast series, My Best Friend Rodney, which will soon be available on all platforms. 


You can look for more information and updates on Rodney Chester via his website

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