If the friendly and fun rapport between Jai Rodriguez (“Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”) and Kendra Wilkinson (“Kendra on Top”) is any indication, their new show “Sex Tips for Straight Women From a Gay Man” at Paris Las Vegas will be an evening full of laughs, bawdy behavior and, well, satisfaction and enjoyment.
“Sex Tips,” based on Dan Anderson and Maggie Berman’s bestselling book, stars Rodriguez, also known for “Rent” on Broadway, as Dan and Wilkinson, of “The Girls Next Door,” as Robin alongside Michael Milton as the hunk at Anthony Cools Theater on the Strip.
Adam Steck, owner of entertainment agency SPI Entertainment that produces “Sex Tips” along with Human Nature at The Venetian, Thunder From Down Under at Excalibur and more, said: “I went to New York to see the show and fell in love with it. I took my wife, Bri, to get a female perspective, and we both flipped out that this is perfect for Las Vegas.
“We’ve been trying to bring it here for the past three years, but the show in New York didn’t have any stars in it. For the show to break through in Las Vegas, it has to have a star. We’ve been waiting for the right stars. The stars aligned, and we got Kendra, who is a household name, and Jai, who is a seasoned actor who people know from ‘Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.’
“It’s going to stand out because it’s unique. The title alone is going to make you say, ‘What is that?’ It’s intriguing. It’s ballsy to have that title, and for a casino to let us have that title, it has been all thumbs up. Advance sales are great, and people are excited about it.”
Rodriguez and Wilkinson, who was recovering from a cold and is married to retired NFL player Hank Baskett, chatted about “Sex Tips” and more at the Henderson offices of SPI Entertainment on May 10 ahead of Saturday’s first performance (the official grand opening is scheduled for June 8):
How did this role in “Sex Tips” come about for the two of you?
Rodriguez: The play “Sex Tips for Straight Women From a Gay Man” has been running in New York for a while. They approached me about performing it in New York, but the timing never worked out. I think that I was in the mix for the Las Vegas production, but the real draw needed to be the role of the Robin character.
They really wanted a woman to step into this role who audiences would be dying to see, but they didn’t want the typical, stuffy actress type. They wanted someone fun and who could represent Las Vegas and really tackle this role.
Wilkinson: I wonder who that could be (laughs)?!
Rodriguez: That was Kendra (laughs)! So when she came along, they said, “We’ve got our girl.” When they told me it was Kendra, I was like, “Oh my God. I had gay panic! Kendra from ‘Kendra on Top’ and ‘The Girls Next Door’ ”? The minute they said that she was locked in, before we talked money and other details, I said, “I’m in!”
I’m really excited. After I saw it in New York, it solidified it for me. I’m really grateful that they’re allowing us to create our own versions of Dan and Robin. They’ve given us liberties to create our own characters while still keeping the integrity of the script.
And same question to you. How did this role come about?
Rodriguez: Yeah, how did it come about? I don’t know this.
Wilkinson: I honestly still don’t know (laughs)! I don’t know why they chose me, but they did, and I am so lucky and so fortunate. I got a call from my manager one day saying, “Would you like to be a lead role in a Las Vegas show?” I was like, “Excuse me? I have never in my life done anything like that before. Ever! The closest thing I’ve done to this is “Dancing With the Stars.” That’s the biggest audience I’ve had.
Rodriguez: That’s a pretty big audience (laughs)! I would be scared for that!
Wilkinson: Yes, but I didn’t have to talk. I just danced (laughs). I wanted to go to New York to see the play before I agreed to it because I didn’t want to let anybody and everybody down. I went to New York to see the show, and, after it was over, I pretty much stood up and said, “Yes — I’m in!”
It was so fun and so funny. It is a perfect match for me. If this is the first time I’m doing this, this is perfect. And when they said Jai was in, I got nervous because he has so much experience in this world of acting. I was like, “Oh my God, how is this going to work?”
Rodriguez: That’s her way of saying that I’m older (laughs).
Wilkinson: I instantly that day, right after the show, I agreed to do the show. I called my manager, “Get me an acting coach now! I need one badly (laughs)!”
Is there any special preparation that you’re doing before the show?
Rodriguez: It’s us and our third actor, Michael, who’s done the show before. He’s the heartthrob-y, hunk character.
Wilkinson: He’s the guy who I will be making out with every night of the week (laughs).
Rodriguez: (Laughs) So we definitely had to get someone who is very attractive and who’s done the show before in New York. He knows what could go wrong because the audience is an additional cast member. They get lines. They get to name certain parts of the show.
Wilkinson: They’re involved in the play. We’re definitely breaking the fourth wall.
Jai, you have an extensive Broadway background. Do you get nervous before a show?
Rodriguez: I get anxious. If the show is at 8 p.m., around 7 p.m. I get anxious, like, “Let’s do this.” Once I’m onstage, I trust that I can make it work out. If I screw up a line, it’s fine; I’ll work around it. In my head, I trust myself, but the moments leading up to it are the worst. I don’t mean to scare you, Kendra.
Wilkinson: Oh! If my heart starts to beat fast or if I get hot and start to sweat, don’t be surprised if I pass out that first night (laughs).
What are you looking forward to most in your first show May 27?
Rodriguez: You have family coming?
Wilkinson: I have a lot of family and friends coming. Just getting that first one under my belt, getting to know how it feels, then bettering myself.
Rodriguez: For me, and I’m not trying to be sappy, but watching Kendra’s journey: “This is a mountain, I’m going to climb it, I’m going to do it the right way and dedicate myself.” Being a part of this reminds me of why I’m so excited to do what I do. To watch her do it right now, I’m just so proud.
Wilkinson: The story is so funny and so fun and cute and charming. The end makes you go, “Oh, that was so good!” It’s a great, fast-moving show.
What will be the biggest challenge in performing these roles?
Rodriguez: How to improv off what you’re given. I know what I’m looking for — I need to find the perfect couple of people to come up onstage and know that they’re going to be able to play ball with us.
Wilkinson: For me it’s that first moment onstage (deep breath) and doing the best I can and getting it under my belt. It’s my No. 1 challenge.
What’s next after “Sex Tips” ends its limited engagement at Paris Las Vegas?
Rodriguez: I’m here shooting “Dice,” Andrew Dice Clay’s comedy, for Showtime, and I’m also in “Sharknado” this summer.
Wilkinson: I’m filming my show “Kendra on Top” here. They’re following my journey and process; they just filmed my husband and kids dropping me off. Tears were flowing, it was very sad, but they are so supportive and happy that I’m doing this, and so am I. It’s going to be the best journey ever.
Knowing that my mother and father might be in the audience at the same time, and they haven’t spoken or seen each other in over 20 years, that will … I don’t know what I’m going to do there (laughs)! I’ll be focusing on this play, not them, right?
What personal sex tip would you give to a straight woman?
Rodriguez: My personal sex tip for anyone straight, gay, male, female and however you identify is to be your most authentic self to your partner sexually. You could think that you know the techniques that work for everybody, the moves that everyone likes, but the truth is it’s all about the listening and communication.
You being authentic allows your partner to be authentic without any pretense. The truth is people really like who you are to the core because there is only one you. I think that underlying is the message of the show — to empower you to be you sexually. You are your own boss. This is the best date night on the Strip.
Wilkinson: This is good for a marriage if you’re feeling a little stuck. This will help bring it back to life, honest to God. It’s helping me (laughs), and I swear to God on everything!
Tell me one thing that your fans would be surprised to learn about you.
Rodriguez: (Pauses) Oh … Kendra?
Wilkinson: Everything about me has been out there, the in’s and out’s, the blood, sweat and tears.
Rodriguez: I do know something that they would be surprised to know — you said it earlier today: She has never lived by herself. That’s a big one.
Wilkinson: Oh, yeah! You’re a good listener. Yes, I’ve never lived on my own before. I went from my mom’s house, then ages 18 to 24 at The Playboy Mansion and 24 and up with Hank and our kids in a house. So this is my first time living on my own.
Rodriguez: I’m not sure that she knows how to operate a washing machine.
Wilkinson: I know how to put the clothes in the washing machine. I just don’t know how to work the thing (laughs). I don’t know which button to push.
Rodriguez: I will say that I’ve never partied in a straight club in Las Vegas. Never because you always have to have a girl with you, and I’m always with guys. I’m dying to go.
Wilkinson: I’m here for you, Jai! I need to be the one to take you.
What is on your To Do List while you’re in Las Vegas?
Wilkinson: I want to go to Topgolf.
Rodriguez: I wouldn’t mind terribly if I had to see Thunder From Down Under, too, because I’m a fan of an Aussie accent.
Wilkinson: I want to eat, eat, eat, eat, eat.
Rodriguez: I like that, too.
My final question is for Kendra. I worked in San Diego for six years before moving here, and I’m a big San Diego Chargers fan.
Wilkinson: You did? Oh, nice!
I have to ask you, are you still a Chargers fan even though they’ve moved to Los Angeles?
Wilkinson: (Sighs) It’s so weird. Every day when you wake up, you forget. When they made the move, I understood why because I’m a businesswoman myself. I totally get it; I understand why. It hurts, but I get it.
Now that time goes on, my feelings are starting to become mixed. I’m not going to all of a sudden become a fan of someone else, so that’s pretty much the reason why I’m staying a fan. I want my kids to grow up with a team, and I don’t want them to be Raiders fans even though the Raiders are here now.
It kills me. As a Chargers fan, it kills me.
Rodriguez: I had a Raiders jacket growing up, but only because it was black, gray and white (laughs). It was the colors that I liked.
Wilkinson: My real feelings will come at game time, whether I’m staying a true fan or if it’s not feeling right.