On Thursday, October 7th, the Rugrats revival returns with eight brand new Season 1 episodes on Paramount+, and with those new episodes comes not only new adventures for Tommy, Chuckie, Angelica, Phil, and Lil, but new characters and guest stars as well. Among those coming to Rugrats in these new episodes is Raini Rodriguez. The Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous star will join the Rugrats crew as Gabi Gutierrez, Phil and Lil's 14-year-old cousin who is absolutely adored by the babies, but especially Angelica.
In the series, Gabi is Betty's bilingual niece, having grown up in a house where Spanish and English were both spoken. Lively, fun, and hip with a sweet nature that draws in kids and adults alike, Gabi brings a burst of enthusiastic teenage energy to the Rugrats whether she's helping out at Betty's Beans or reading to preschoolers in the park for the Reading Rangers program. Gabi will appear in the upcoming episodes "Great Minds Think Alike" and "Betty and the Beast". You can check out a clip of Gabi in action below.
ComicBook.com recently had a chance to sit down with Rodriguez to talk about Gabi as well as her own life-long love of Rugrats, how Rugrats is truly for everyone, as well as what it's like to be part of two very iconic universes between her work on Rugrats and Camp Cretaceous. We even made her choose between Jurassic World's T-Rex and Rugrats' Reptar for who is the coolest dinosaur.
Read on for our full chat with Rodriguez!
A life-long fan.
ComicBook.com: The Paramount+ Rugrats revival is just delightful on every possible level. Were you a big fan of Rugrats before becoming a part of this iconic universe?
Raini Rodriguez: Yes. Yes. Double yes, I mean, absolutely. I still have my old VHS Nickelodeon orange tapes that said "Runaway Reptar". I went to all the theater showings of Rugrats The Movie, Rugrats in Paris. When they did their crossover with Wild Thornberrys and they gave you like the sticker for the scratch and sniff...
Oh my gosh.
Right? Huge fan of Rugrats. Growing up, which looking back on it now I'm like "good thing, bad thing", but growing up, I used to be called Angelica sometimes. So I was like, not a good thing. What does that mean about myself? Yes. Huge fan of Rugrats. When I heard they were doing a revival, first and foremost as a fan, I was excited. You know, everything that is Rugrats, the purses, the backpacks. So like I've always been a fan of Rugrats. Hearing about the revival as a fan, like I said, I immediately was excited for it. I have 10 nieces and nephews, so to be able to show them my childhood and what I got to grow up on was... crazy. And then, getting an audition for Rugrats, seeing that it's for a whole new character that they're introducing, she gets to interact with the babies and the adults and she fits like right into this world. It was a huge literal dream come true. A childhood dream come true. And now getting to be on the show, even crazier, like just auditioning for it, I was excited. Just the opportunity that somebody from Rugrats and Nickelodeon would be able to hear my voice was like, cool. And in the script I like interacted with Angelica. Some of my lines I said Angelica's name, and I was like that's crazy, because I grew up with that. And then I booked it and I was like, this is even crazier because here I am in the booth, literally just recording with all of these legends. Just amazing.
It sounds like, in a sense, you've been training for this your whole life.
Pretty much. Yes. I've been ready for very much. Gabi is a lot like me, literally how she is at 14 is probably how I was at 14. Like I said, I have a big family so I was always around babies, helping them with their homework and going to parks and playing around with them. So to kind of be able to bring that in for Gabi and that youthfulness and that lovable, she's like the cool aunt, the cool babysitter combined. She's kind of it all. I love it. How they fit her in as Betty's niece, she's bilingual and there's so many fun things about Gabi I'm so excited for the fans to see.
On diversity and inclusion
One of the things I'm really loving about the revival... I feel like it's introducing this whole new level of inclusion and diversity into the series. Your character comes from a household where she is bilingual and she's related to someone who is a member of the LGTBTQ+ community. For you as a performer what is it like to be able to help kind of usher in this iconic world that's so meaningful to people, but also to help open the doors to be like "Everyone is welcome. Look at all these beautiful, vibrant people we're bringing into this world."
I think as, as an actor, you approach it with big gloves because you're like, all right, I have this iconic world in my hand like you said, this amazing franchise that, like you said earlier, the sash is so big and we always tend to have specific memories of what it was and what it made us feel like. So not only do you have all that, but then you also get to create this character and make her as real as possible and then get to release her into the world and watch how everything fits in perfectly. I think the writers do such an amazing job of doing just that, combining both the nostalgic part of the Rugrats world and then bringing it into more of a millennial time and showcasing that all these characters that you're seeing, all the different backgrounds, the different cultures they bring to the play, LGBTQ+, Latinos and all these different types of things.
This is the real world. It's the world we live in. And to be able to just introduce that in such a seamless way. We don't have to go "this" and "this", they just exist. They just are.
And Gabi is just who she is. Speaking English and Spanish to her is nothing. It's not a huge moment because it's what she does every day at home. It's who she is. And so being able to come into that world and just add herself in, and sort of plant her flag and go "This is who I am, and this is what I bring. And this is how I'm going to add myself to this Rugrats world". It is crazy and it's fun, and it's really nice to get to portray. Growing up, a lot of people talk about representation. And for me it was kind of hard sometimes to find a character to hold onto or find us for a specific actor or a specific show or movie where I'm like, "That's me! That's exactly me! That's my skin color, my hair type. That's how I act at home. That's how I am with my mom. That's how I am with my friends".
So in hindsight to kind of bring Gabi to life and bring her into the Rugrats world. And I don't know, it's sweet to know that there might be a kid at home going, "That's me. Wow! And not only that. I'm in Rugrats, which is crazy. Not only am I being seen, but I'm being seen on one of the biggest stages on Paramount+, which is Rugrats". that's wild. It is. And they do such a great job at just seamlessly tying both worlds together and, and welcoming the old fans and grabbing them in with the nostalgia, and with the crazy adventures, and the same characters you know and love. And then getting to add new characters for the new kids that this world is opening up to more possibilities, more diversity, and all that inclusion, and getting to welcome those new kids in, and then getting to mix both worlds together. So everybody's happy.
A place for everyone in Rugrats.
It's making a space for everybody, which is honestly kind of what Rugrats has always been about.
Always. Because again, when we go back to the core of Rugrats, which is, those five babies, they're all different. They're all different. We've all had days where we felt nervous and had an anxiety problem, like Chuckie. We've all had days where we felt brave and ambitious, like Tommy. We fight with our siblings like Phil and Lil, and then we have those moments where we would fight other people for our siblings, like Phil in Lil would. We're a bossy type, like Angelica, or very smart, like Susie. There are so many ways that you can see yourself in.
And I love that they are, like you said, creating a space for everyone because now with this sort of revival, this re-imagining of it, they're just including a couple more, which I think is really special. And the storylines are great, they're fun, everyone can relate to them. And then you get to watch Rugrats and go, "Wow, this is the show that I grew up with". And if you have kids now, or like I said, my nieces and nephews, getting to introduce them and go, "Oh, Tommy is going to do something crazy and Chuckie is going to freak out and Angelica is going to do this, that or the other". But then it's a whole new storyline, but with the same characters, it makes me feel so warm and happy inside.
The best thing about Gabi.
Just from the little bit I've gotten to see of Gabi in action as it were, she's such a sweet character. I love her so much. What was your favorite thing about Gabi?
I loved how patient she is with the babies. I love that. Cause it's so hard, especially when you're a teenager and having to deal with a lot of small kids that are definitely rambunctious like those Rugrats babies. She's very patient and she truly just loves, she's so sweet and kind and gentle. That's just her nature when it comes to everybody. And I think that's why the adults let her babysit the kids. They feel super comfortable around her because she is naturally just that sweet and fun.
Like I said, I grew up with a big family. So I was able to incorporate that. When I do recordings sometimes and we'll do different versions of it, and one of the episodes where I'm reading to the kids, we got to record that and it just brought me right back to me being an aunt. A [foreign language] at home and reading to my nieces and nephews and sharing stories with them, and then them interrupting while I'm in the middle of reading to ask questions, "What this mean?" "Can you get to this part?" And I'm like, "Okay, everybody hold on". So, I mean, it's a lot of like how I would talk to my nieces and nephews, which I think is really special.
It's so special just to watch. Anyone who has ever been around kids knows, it takes a special level of patience and I'm just like, I wish there was a Gabi in my life! I need that in my life.
Yeah. We all need a little bit of Gabi's patience in our life with children, for sure.
On being part of Jurassic Park and Rugrats worlds
Now you're part of Rugrats, which is amazing, but this is not the only iconic franchise that you are a part of. You are part of the Jurassic Park world with Camp Cretaceous, and I'm just like "Another super iconic thing from my youth". What is it like for you to be a part of these two super iconic recognizable franchises and worlds that are both nostalgic and of the moment and everybody loves them? What is that like, to be part of these amazing things?
It sounds cheesy and it sounds corny, but it's like a literal childhood dream from true. Like it is, it's a huge blessing. You know, as an actor, I've been acting for 16 years, you go into this business, just not knowing what's going to happen. It's such an uncertainty in this industry and to get to something where it's like, whoa, this is huge. And Jurassic was another one that I remember emailing back then and just saying to my agent manager if I got this, this is huge for me. What an amazing world to be a part of if this is something I got to do. Then I get it, and then I'm in the world. And it's kind of funny because on that show, I play Sammy Gutierrez and in Rugrats world, I'm Gabi Gutierrez.
I noticed that the other day. I was like OK. My world's somehow slowly colliding into one. No, I mean, it is. Like I said, there's a little bit of pressure because nostalgia is so in. And when people are fans of things, they are 100% a fan of them. And when they know all the details, you know, they hope that whoever enters this new world for them understands and loves and appreciates all the details as well. And I feel like both franchises have done just that. Camp Cretaceous got to plant its flag in the Jurassic Park franchise as its own little entity that still connects to this bigger world. And the Easter eggs we put in. And the little things we get to throwback to, the movies from the '90s and then the new Jurassic World movies with Chris Pratt, to get to kind of connect all of them.
When we connect with the books, we connect with all of that thing. And so to be able to have that is something really, truly special and mind-blowing to be a part of, and then to come and do something like Rugrats, which with Jurassic, the movie came out the year that I was born in 93, growing up, I was aware of it, but I didn't watch the movies per se. It wasn't until the 2015 new trilogy that came out, that I rediscovered it and really watched all the movies and fell in love. But that was before I even booked Camp Cretaceous, that was before it was even on my radar. Then I became a huge Jurassic fan. And then everywhere I looked there were dinosaurs, and it was a huge thing for me.
Respecting the nostalgia with something new
With Rugrats I was a fan from day one. When the show came out, that was all me. I was the target audience for Rugrats. I was its core audience watching it on Nickelodeon, watching the All Grown Up spinoffs, watching the movies in theaters, owning them on VHS. That was me, owning purses, and backpacks, and hoodies. That was me, the McDonald's toys, and all that. I was their audience. So they're similar and then they're different. You approach them both with honesty and hopefulness in what you're getting to portray.
When it comes to Gabi, you approach her the way that... I approach her the way that I would approach any character. Luckily, like I said, we're very similar. So I approach that with my honesty and my hopefulness, that the franchise, that I'm already a fan of myself, and I know a lot of people are. That they welcome me in the same way that I'm excited to be there. And we both meet in the middle at that excitement and the same goes for Camp Cretaceous. It was the same, of walking in and going. This is a whole new character, a whole new franchise that we get to be a part of. I'm going to go in there with honesty and hopefulness and just portray the character the best that I can and hope that the fans enjoy. And luckily they have.
And like I said, with Rugrats, it's kind of the same thing as the fan. I was going to watch the revival, regardless if I was on it or not. I didn't even know that I was going to get an audition for it, but regardless I was going to watch it because I'm a fan, I'm one of those diehard fans that sit at home going, "Is this the same? Is this the same? Are they going to keep this? Are they going to do that? Is the same song going to be the same? What is this going to be?".
When I recorded with the producers, I was like that. I was like, "Can you show me something, can I see it?" And then seeing the new CG animation. Like we talked about earlier, bringing in new characters and new thoughts, it's just new points of view for the same franchise. And like I said, kind of getting to know all that in the back of my mind, I walk into the booth with all the fans' love on my back, going, "We love and appreciate this". And as a true fan of Rugrats, I'm like, I love and appreciate this. I'm going to go in there and I'm going to do amazing work for all of you. So I'm really excited for the fans to see Gabi on October 7th on Paramount+ I'm excited for everyone to meet her and go along on these adventures with her and these babies and get to just touch that nostalgia bone, but at the same time, surprise you with some new stuff too.
But who is cooler, Rexy or Reptar?
You got two projects, you got iconic dinosaurs, the ultimate showdown. Who is cooler, T-Rex or Reptar?
I mean, oh my gosh, I got to make a whole pros and cons list. I have to make a whole thing. I mean, holy moly. Okay, look, we're here for Rugrats today. I will say this, as much as I love my Rex, that girl, she is fierce. She is tough. She has lived through decades of Jurassic chaos. Let's be real. She has saved our butts countless times, but does she have her own Reptar bar? So I'm just going to leave it at that and let everybody else at home take what they will with that answer.
New episodes of the first season of Rugrats arrive on Paramount+ on Thursday, October 7th.prev