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Why Hugo From CSI: Vegas Looks So Familiar

"CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" premiered October 6, 2000. Created by Anthony Zuiker, the show had a simple yet highly provocative angle which allowed for great mysteries and a well-developed main lead in Gil Grissom (William Peterson). Right away, the show captured the imagination, giving viewers pulse-pounding and engaging storylines and transfixing fans with the various scientific methods used to solve ghastly crimes. 

The highly successful show ran for 15 seasons and managed to spawn an entire spin-off universe. These include: "CSI: Miami," "CSI: Cyber," and "CSI: New York." Fans needing to fill that void of crime scene investigation would finally get "CSI: Vegas," the latest installment in the franchise. "CSI: Vegas," which premiered October of 2021, currently holds a strong 82% score on Rotten Tomatoes for its first season. 

The show follows a brilliant team, now in the titular Las Vegas, as they solve various crimes in the city of sin. Actor Mel Rodriguez plays the quirky but lovable Hugo Ramirez, the Chief Medical Examiner. The role truly allows Rodriguez to showcase his wide range, including dead-pan comedy. But you might be wondering: Why does Rodriguez look so familiar?

Panic Room was an early role for Rodriguez

One early major film role for Mel Rodriguez was in 2002's "Panic Room." The film was directed by David Fincher and starred Jodi Foster and a pre-"Twilight" Kristen Stewart. Thanks to Fincher's staggering attention to detail, direction, and the off-putting muted color palate, "Panic Room" is a classic white-knuckle thriller for the ages. 

The simple yet highly effective premise sees Meg (Foster) and her daughter Sarah (Stewart) trapped in their home's titular panic room as a group of thieves break in, including Junior (Jared Leto), Raoul (Dwight Yoakam), and Burnham (Forest Whitaker). It seems they have designs on a fortune that has been stashed somewhere inside. 

In a scene that had many viewers gripping their armrests for dear life, Meg's former husband calls the police. Two officers show up, Officer Keeney (Paul Schulze) and Officer Morales, played by Rodriguez. Though his screen time is limited, Rodriguez makes the most of it, even managing to get off a few wisecracks. Plus, working on a David Fincher movie and getting to share the scene with Foster certainly doesn't hurt.

Mel Rodriguez has had many television guest spots

It may surprise you to know that Mel Rodriguez has been featured on another "CSI" show, prior to "CSI: Vegas." In the first season of "CSI: NY," Rodriguez plays Al McGrath. Far from his character of Hugo, this time the actor finds himself on the other side, now a suspect rather than a hardworking member of the investigative team. In the episode, four bodies are discovered in a mine. It is revealed that a fight among the men had taken place, and Al had traces of blood on his shoes. This, of course, leads him to be questioned as a suspect — though it is discovered that Al is simply a misdirect and is not the killer.

The famed character actor is no stranger to the small screen and has guest starred in many television shows throughout his career. Fans may know Rodriguez from appearing in such hit programs as: "Community," "NYPD Blues," "Malcolm in the Middle," "Gilmore Girls," and the revived "Twilight Zone."

More recently, he appeared Netflix's hit "Grace and Frankie" and had a powerhouse performance in the 2019 Showtime series "On Becoming a God in Central Florida." 

Rodriguez was in the cult classic Little Miss Sunshine

Made on a relatively low budget of $8 million (via Box Office Mojo), director Jonathan Dayton and Valeries Faris's 2006 comedy "Little Miss Sunshine" was an indie darling, and it currently holds an impressive 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes with both critics and audience members. The film follows a delightfully dysfunctional family as they take a cross-country road trip to take the sweet Olive (Abigail Breslin) to a beauty pageant. As you might expect, mishaps and hilarity ensue in this sometimes-dark yet ultimately heartwarming tale. The stellar cast includes Toni Collette, Steve Carell, Alan Arkin, and Greg Kinnear. 

In "Little Miss Sunshine," Mel Rodriguez plays Officer Martinez. Towards the latter portion of the film, Olive's pageant routine goes, shall we say, completely south, when the pint-heroine ditches her planned performance for a memorable dance to the song "Super Freak" by Rick James. This leads to a literal brawl on the stage, and the family lands at the local police station. 

Martinez dryly informs the family that they are free to go, with the proviso that they never enter Olive in another pageant. Once again, Rodriguez makes the most of his scene delivering his lines with dead-pan wit.

Mel Rodriguez brought the lovable Todd to life

Prior to "CSI: Vegas," Mel Rodriguez played Todd Rodriguez in the FX series "The Last Man on Earth." The series follows Phil Miller (Will Forte), the seemingly only person alive after a deadly virus sweeps the world. This, of course, turns out to not be the case, as Phil meets a host of other survivors — one of which is Todd.

After Phil sets off fireworks on a romantic night with Melissa (January Jones), Todd sees this and speeds over in his flashy car. Enter the fan favorite character. A big lovable teddy bear is probably the best way to describe Rodriguez who brings heart and humor to the show. Despite his incredibly sunny attitude, Todd certainly is dealing with the loss of his loved ones, as he is among the few people to survive. 

The character actor effortlessly balances the over-the-top humor with the more dramatic moments. In an interview with the AV Club, Rodriguez remarked on his time on "Last Man" saying, "I feel super blessed to be part of that show and we all ended up being like a family."