Ronnie Rodriguez is a Johnny Depp Impersonator and True Jack Sparrow Double
If you walk down Hollywood Boulevard, through the Walk of Fame and past Grauman’s Chinese Theater, you’ll see countless celebrity impersonators selling photo ops and performing in character. They’re a surprisingly tight-knit group of people, like the legion of mall Santas across the country, and prefer to call themselves Tribute Artists.
It can sometimes feel like some demented version of Disneyland, watching all these characters from various movies and TV shows congregated in one place, all for the exact same reason. Many of them are aspiring actors themselves. Some of them decided to take that uncanny resemblance everyone has mentioned for years and put it to good use.
Ronnie Rodriguez: The Ultimate Celebrity Impersonator
There are a handful of impersonators, however, who are able to have their own moment in the spotlight. Ronnie Rodriguez, a professional Johnny Depp impersonator who has worked as a stand-in for the actor on numerous occasions, is one of those people.
Rodriguez’s origins are fairly mysterious, but we do know that he was an aspiring actor and a black belt in Taekwondo before working as an impersonator. Like many celebrity lookalikes, Rodriguez only considered working as a Depp double after people kept mentioning the resemblance.
According to an interview with Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, “I had people coming up to me saying, ‘You look like that guy on ’21 Jump Street,” but I actually didn’t know who they were talking about.” Rodriguez didn’t give it too much thought until the release of the first “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie.
Rodriguez Becomes an Overnight Success
Just weeks into his career as a Tribute Artist, Rodriguez was hired to impersonate Johnny Depp on a Japanese TV show.
Rodriguez would go on to work as a photo double for Johnny Depp in 2007’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.” By 2009, he had made appearances on Adult Swim’s “Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!” and “Carrie Underwood: An All-Star Holiday Special,” which is just about the most 2009 title one could ever imagine.
In the years to come, Rodriguez would work as a photo double and stand-in for Depp on a number of occasions. There’s also a bizarre interview from 2010 where Rodriguez appears on a morning news show dressed as Johnny Depp while talking about his history as a Johnny Depp impersonator.
You could maybe chalk it up to the idiosyncrasies of life in Los Angeles, but there’s something about Rodriguez that people find endearing, to the point that he has a fan base of his own. “I love that Ronnie hasn’t lost his sense of identity like some other impersonators,” reads a YouTube comment responding to his morning show interview.
Ronnie Rodriguez Meets Nathan Fielder
It wasn’t until 2014, however, that Rodriguez got his biggest break yet. Following his appearances on Adult Swim’s “Tim & Eric” and its spin-off show “Check It Out with Dr. Steve Brule,” Rodriguez was featured on “Nathan For You,” a Comedy Central show produced by Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim.
The series, hosted by comedian Nathan Fielder, follows his attempts to help small businesses with some very strange ideas. Fielder’s comedy mixes scripted scenarios with deeply uncomfortable, real-life interactions. The show has become emblematic of the cringe comedy era, with Fielder going on to create the critically acclaimed HBO series “The Rehearsal.”
A season two episode of “Nathan For You” sees Fielder working to help a struggling gift shop. The store sits a few blocks away from the Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard and doesn’t generate much business. Fielder convinces the store’s owner to let him set up a fake movie set.
The plan? Attract nearby tourists who think they’re watching a real Hollywood production.
Rodriguez fools the naked eye
To actually make sales, however, Fielder devises a scenario in which onlookers are cast as extras in the movie. He then poses as a director and tells them to purchase items from inside the store. Unfortunately for him, a few of the “extras” get suspicious. Fielder is prepared, though, and already has an ace up his sleeve: Ronnie Rodriguez.
If the fake extras complained about spending real money to appear in a fictional movie, Fielder was prepared. He would simply tell them that “Johnny Depp” was very interested in meeting them. This isn’t even close to the weirdest thing Fielder has done on “Nathan For You.” Regardless, it’s a hilarious segment that’s racked up nearly 2 million views on YouTube.
Fielder makes a fake short film in the same episode, starring Ronnie Rodriguez as a hacker played by Johnny Depp. The short film, called “The Web,” also features a Bill Gates impersonator named Bill Heath, a “Nathan For You” regular.
Most importantly, Rodriguez is a good guy!
In addition to being a genuinely decent human being who isn’t difficult to work with, part of Rodriguez’s appeal comes from how similar he looks to his real-life counterpart. There are thousands of Tribute Artists around the world. You could name just about any movie star and immediately get a line of impersonators that goes out the door and around the block.
Chances are, none of them are going to look like their celebrity inspirations quite as much as Ronnie Rodriguez. The guy is an undeniable dead ringer. In fact, Johnny Depp has started to look even more like Rodriguez in recent years. It’s so uncanny, Rodriguez has been able to fool people who are standing directly in front of him. He’s made multiple film and television appearances that force people to go, “Wait, is that actually Johnny Depp?”
It’s not just the face, either! Rodriguez’s height and weight resemble Depp’s pretty closely. He’s one of the lucky few Tribute Artists who get to work with the actors they’re impersonating. Ultimately, Rodriguez’s humility is what keeps him in demand.
“You do have to be very careful about what you do, because it can go to your head very quickly. You have to remind yourself that you’re not the real celebrity,” he said in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette interview. Except, now he kind of is.