If Jai Rodriguez and Kendra Wilkinson were on the job hunt, their best bet would be a skills-based resume. A chronological approach would take up much more than one page. Rodriguez, 37, began his acting career at 18 on Broadway in the musical Rent, rose to fame at 21 as the “culture guru” on the Bravo insta-classic makeover show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and has consistently acted on stage and television. Wilkinson, 31, was 18 years old when she was invited to live in the Playboy Mansion as one of Hugh Hefner’s girlfriends. She parlayed her breakout role on E!’s reality series The Girls Next Door into a string of reality roles including starring in her own shows: Kendra on E! and current Kendra on Top on We TV.
Now Rodriguez and Wilkinson are teaming up in the lead roles of Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man, a successful New York stage comedy coming to Paris Las Vegas for 12 weeks starting May 27. The premise is uber meta: shy Robyn (played by Wilkson) is filling in for the role of moderator for a discussion about Dan (Rodriguez)’s book (a 2008 book written by Dan Anderson and Maggie Beerman inspired the eponymous play.) Throughout, Dan assists Robyn to secure the gig and unleash her own sexual prowess, with help from stage assistant Stefan (yet-to-be cast) and the audience, too. We recently caught up with Rodriguez and Wilkinson to talk Sex Tips, the perks of working with a fellow reality star and how to properly handle rehearsals.
What attracted you to join this production?
Rodriguez: I had heard of the show. The New York company pitched it to me a couple of years ago to see if I lived in New York and I was like, I don’t. I think it was January or February my manager said, “So Sex Tips called and wants to know if you’ll …” and I was like “We already said we can’t do it in New York.” And he was like, “No, no, no, they’re opening in Vegas.” There were rumors that it was happening but they were still looking for a female star. I asked “Did you find someone?” And they were like, “Yep! Kendra.” I said “Wilkinson? Yes! I’ll do it!” So by the time I saw the show, I had already signed my contract. I was sitting in the audience with my playbill like “I might have wanted to watch this before signing on,” but it was great.
Wilkinson: I got scared when I knew Jai [was cast] because I knew how experienced he was in the acting world. I’m like “Oh my God! No!” I’m a rookie. I’ve never done anything like this in my life. But we’re bonding already. And being part of a Vegas show? C’mon. That screams Kendra. I’m ready to party.
“[Straight girls] were there for us when we had to pretend we have a girlfriend and take someone to prom. This show celebrates that. Dan Anderson, who authored the actual book, wrote it with his straight female best friend. It’s their lovechild.” — Jai Rodriguez
What’s the biggest challenge for you?
Wilkinson: The first night. I’ve never done anything like this in my whole life. I have stage fright. I need to get night one under my belt so I know how it feels. I want to better myself every time I get up there.
Rodriguez: We actually learned that, personally, we have similar backstories. We bonded over that. We did a photo shoot together and then I watched the most recent season of Kendra On Top because I had watched the earlier seasons. It’s nice—well, I also feel a little creepy right now because I know so much, like “Oh my good, look, I know she likes to cook that.” or whatever—but it’s actually great because I don’t think you get that advantage walking into another show. You trust each other more because you feel like you know each other.
Wilkinson: I trust him to the fullest. I couldn’t have asked for anybody better.
Rodriguez: And she’s going to be great. The show is hilarious. And each night is completely different. When I saw it in New York, it was a completely diverse cast with people of different ages, bachelorette parties, date nights. Leave the kids at home, though.
Wilkinson: I actually thought about bringing my son because I’m so excited! It’s my first time doing this. I thought about doing that because the show is not over the top. But then, people seeing him there, that would be bad. I’ll leave him at home.
Can you speak on the significance of a gay male’s perspective to a straight woman?
Rodriguez: I’m generalizing, but, straight women have been there for gay males from the beginning. You can’t talk to your buddies about your feelings for other boys when you’re really young. It’s usually the straight girl that has your ear. You form this undeniable bond. Conversely, we’re the objective male point of view that’s going to give pointers on how to make yourself your best self. Since cavemen days like, “Girl, let me get that bone in your hair just right!” Straight girls lent us a shoulder when the captain of the football team wasn’t so kind to us. They were there for us when we had to pretend we have a girlfriend and take someone to prom. This show celebrates that. Dan Anderson, who authored the actual book, wrote it with his straight female best friend. It’s their lovechild.
How does the theme of female empowerment manifest in this show?
Wilkinson: [In October] I was involved with Amber Rose’s Slut Walk. I was so happy to be a part of that. Doing this show, at this time, in Vegas, it just adds to this beautiful push for women to be open and celebrate your sexuality. It’s so important that I do this right because I have a chance to be a part of this movement that we’re on as women.
Rodriguez: The message is subversive. It is not heavy handed. It’s done through comedy. You just walk away feeling empowered. This is a great date night. You’re reminded of that great time in the beginning of your relationship where you used to flirt. Maybe he would pinch your butt when you walk by. It’s about rekindling that.
Wilkinson: This has been spicing up my relationship with my husband.
Rodriguez: Oh, this is funny!
Tell me more.
Wilkinson: Well, I have to practice the script. No one else is going to rehearse with me other than my acting coach, but I only see him once a week. Hank [Baskett, her husband] is the one to do it with me. There are 90 pages in the script. We get to about page 10 and we’re already having sex.
Wilkinson: It’s funny because these are real sex tips. It teaches you how to hold you-know-what and I’m like, “Wow, I’ve been holding it wrong this whole time? Hank, come here! I need to see this!”
Rodriguez: “I need to run my lines, Hank!” is now a euphemism in their house.
Wilkinson: I ask, “Is this really working?” And [Hank] says, “Now you’re doing it right.”
Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man
Thursday-Tuesday in the Anthony Cools Showroom at Paris Las Vegas starting May 27, $39 and up (locals receive 30 percent discount), caesars.com.