Gabrielle Ruiz is a very talented actress, whose passion for singing and dancing has delighted audiences from her performances on the stage and now as Valencia in The CW’s Crazy Ex Girlfriend.
I spoke with Gabrielle about how her interest in performing developed and of course, about Valencia and Crazy Ex Girlfriend. She is witty and enjoys being a part of the show and her character. Read on to find out what she had to say.
I know that you are theater trained and have appeared on Broadway. What was your favorite role?
“My favorite Broadway role, musical theater role that I’ve played that will always have a really special place in my heart is the role of Diana Morales in ‘A Chorus Line.’
I remember when I was 11 or 12. I’m from South Texas originally and there really wasn’t a lot of exposure to musical theater when I was there. This was before You Tube and smart phones. You can see the world from the palm of your hand now. It wasn’t like that about twenty years ago. I remember my dad took me to a national musical theater tour that was coming to Texas and it was ‘A Chorus Line’ and he wanted to show it to me because it was a show about dancers. I grew up primarily first as a dancer and I just loved to be in a dance studio, I just loved it. I didn’t know whether I could do anything with it. But it was ‘A Chorus Line’, that showed that there was singing, dancing and acting on stage. And all I knew at that time in my life was that I loved to dance and I got to see this one Latina share her story and she was representing our kind of people. I was completely changed.
I remember memorizing the cassette tape in the back of my dad’s suburban all the lyrics of ‘A Chorus Line.’ Especially the role of Diana Morales. I did research and I found out that actress Priscilla Lopez originated the role. And I idealized Priscilla as a woman doing what I wanted to do, as a Latina woman. What came full circle was when ‘A Chorus Line’ had it’s revival in 2006, I was in college. I remember going to audition in secret while in college for the show. I got cut immediately. They had you do a double pirouette, which is like a double spin. And my dad, he was almost like angry at God (laughs). He was like “I know you were good, I’ve seen you.’
I remember right as I graduated from college, I got the role. I played Diana Morales, the girl in the sneakers that sang ‘What I Did For Love’ the iconic song. After ‘A Chorus Line,’ I went straight to my Broadway debut in ‘The Heights,’ where Priscilla played the mother in that show. I looked up to her and admired her career and I was able to be her colleague and play her daughter.
To answer your question as to what is my favorite role, it’s definitely ‘A Chorus Line.’ I had Priscilla eventually to sign my sneakers which is the iconic look of Diana Morales. And she wrote on my sneakers ‘To Diana, From Morales’
I felt like a did something right. It’s a privilege and honor to be her friend even to where she’s cat sat for me. She’s been my cat sitter (laughs). That’s as special as it gets and I hold that dear to my heart. We keep in contact and she’s such a real person. She has a real mentor energy about her, anything you ask her, she’ll tell you the truth. I love ‘A Chorus Line,’ And would play that role over and over again if I can.”
What has been your greatest challenge in playing Valencia?
“The writing is so good on the show that I really don’t have to try to be funny. And from what I hear from people, it’s hilarious (laughs).
Valencia is a great counterpart for Rebecca Bunch. In everyone’s opinion and in Rachel’s opinion, she needs a Valencia in her life. But the hardest thing I can admit to you in playing Valencia is not laughing at Rachel Bloom on set during takes. Valencia is written kind of as the straight man to Rebecca Bunch’s craziness. And Donna Lynne gets to be the sidekick. Everybody has their position in Rebecca Bunch’s world, that’s why it’s so well done because everyone can play off her energy and bounce off what the character would do. And Valencia doesn’t react. She’s like the stone wall that Rebecca keeps hitting her head on. If we have a blooper reel that comes out once the season is over, I’m just straight the whole time, I’m not laughing, I try to hold it together (laughs). Even the level of my improvising, I don’t have the luxury to just giggle and laugh because Valencia wouldn’t do that. She would react in her way.
So, there are times off set that I just let myself go and people are like ‘This is a different side of you’ and I’m like, ‘This is me, I swear (laughs). So not laughing at Rachel is the hardest thing I have to do on set (laughs).
I was very specific in asking certain questions of Aline and Rachel when I was in callbacks because I wanted to make sure if they wanted for her to be a true villain in the sense of the word. But in the writing, she’s not. She’s the one who doesn’t want to change, she’s the one who’s world got rocked by this random person who came to West Covina. She’s been Queen Bee for fifteen years, she’s had the same boyfriend, she had tons of followers on her Instagram. So, it’s just fun to see where the writing is going to go.”
Is there any advice Gabrielle would give to Valencia about her relationship with Josh?
“As Gabrielle, especially as the kind of girlfriend that I am I would tell her she should have broken up with Josh already. I would tell Valencia ‘Girl, change is good. The world is your oyster, you’ve got this. You’re young, there’s so much more out there. As well as ‘Stop wasting your time.’ (laughs).”
So you feel like Valencia’s wasting her time with Josh?
“I feel like Josh is wasting Valencia’s time about not making decisions. If I were watching this show without not being in it, I would be like ‘Josh is the problem, Valencia you need to work on you.
As a friend in real life, I know that you have to have patience with friends like that, who can’t deal with that reality. It’s easy for you on the outside to see it, but not from the inside.
And I would offer that piece of advice to Valencia if she would ask, but that’s the thing about Valencia, I don’t think she would ask(laughs).”
And she’d probably look at you like you don’t know what you’re talking about.
“And sing a song about me later (laughs).”
Would you like for the show to delve more into Valencia’s backstory for Season 2?
“That’s a great question. Even Rachel had answered that in a way, she told me once off set that she wishes Rachel and Valencia could be friends and because of our chemistry, we’d like to look further into the character of Valencia and dive deeper into her. Learn about her family. So, I’m looking forward to seeing what happens and there has been a few sneak peek conversations between myself, Aline Brosh McKenna and Rachel Bloom that we’re definitely going to get to Valencia a whole lot better than in Season 1.”
I want to see more of Valencia outside her relationship with Josh. Who is Valencia as a person, as a woman.
“Yes, who is Valencia? (laughs).”
Since all the episodes have ‘Josh’ in the title, maybe it could be called, ‘This Is Not About Josh, This Is All About Valencia’ (laughs).
“There’s just so much excitement for next season. The day I’m leaving Los Angeles and driving to the airport, I got the call about Season 2, it was kismet.
There have been a few conversations about starting to create the story lines for Valencia. I know that writing for Season 2 is going to start as early as May. Rachel’s been really open in sharing with the cast what’s going to happen next. Stay tuned next fall to see what’s going to happen to Valencia.”
Here’s a question from Donna Lynne (Paula). She’s asks-What was your earliest call to the Crazy Ex Girlfriend set?
“Anything before 5AM was known as ‘Valencia’ time. Because it takes two and a half hours for her to get ready (laughs). Everyone thinks that it’s effortless and she woke up like this, but it’s so not true. The earliest I ever been called on set was 3:30 in the morning. This one time it was 4:30 but I have about a forty-five minute drive.
I really try to force myself to go to sleep around 7:00PM so I can get a full eight hours. I do pretty good, it’s just with the driving, I have to be awake I can’t just drag myself out of bed.
What’s different between working on television and working in the theater is on tv, you have more time to prepare, you could be working on one scene for four hours whereas in the theater, it may be two hours for the whole show. There’s pros and cons on how to get through the day.”
Question from Rachel Grate (Audra)- What is your favorite Valencia line?
“That’s a tough one to have to pick just one. But if I have to pick one that was so much fun to experience, it was ‘It’s the Spanish word for brave.’ That’s in the episode ‘Josh’s Girlfriend is Really Cool’ when we meet Valencia. And she says “My name was orginally Maria but I never felt like a Maria. So I changed my name to my mother’s maiden name Valencia.’ When I read that, I laughed so hard because my old room mate did exactly that in real life. Her name was Epiphany but she changed it to Raina, which means queen because she never felt like an Epiphany.
She’s also a yogi. She’s a firm believer in natural things and she now lives in Hawaii.
The show’s so diverse and there’s also true to form yogi representation in Crazy Ex Girlfriend. And my other really good friend is a well known yoga instructor from New York and now she travels a lot. She was very proud to see that I’m so good at yoga. And the show represents the yoga industry and that lifestyle and that’s good to see.
I like that Valenica is a yogi and also because the show is well written, she’s Latina and she could have been as anything. I look forward to seeing more of her character explored.”
Another question from Donna Lynne – Of the nicknames Paula has called Valencia, what’s your favorite? Any suggestions for Season 2?
“(Laughs) I think my favorite is Valerio. I was drivining away from set one day and I looked to my left and seen the street was named Valerio. It’s very special to where we have our set so that’s why it’s special to me.
My advice for Paula is that she needs to be prepared for Valencia to give her some nicknames (laughs). Let’s be creative here…Polo or Palina or lillipop, let’s go backwards with the ‘l’ and the ‘p’
We had one scene and those four hours with shooting that one scene was probably one of my most favorite moments on set. We got to joke and talk about all the Broadway people that we know. It was great. Valencia and Paula never get to have scenes together because Valencia never goes into Whitefeather except for that episode about the lawsuit. But I hope that the writers give Valencia and Paula the chance at a stand-off at some point.
There was a moment during the scene on the bus where Vella Lovell, who plays Heather and I have a stare-off and I hope it’s on the bloopers. There are unique characteristics to both characters, Valencia and Heather so I hope we get more scenes together.”
Can you describe the character of Valencia for someone who’s never seen Crazy Ex Girlfriend?
“The Queen Bee That You Always Wanted To Be(laughs).”
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