Ruby Ruiz lands first lead role with ‘Iska’

Ruby Ruiz lands first lead role with ‘Iska’

After her career-defining stint in Vilma Santos’s ‘Ekstra’, Ruby Ruiz is set to appear in another promising Cinemalaya entry later this year.

After her career-defining stint in Vilma Santos’s ‘Ekstra’, Ruby Ruiz is set to appear in another promising Cinemalaya entry this year.

This time, the award-winning actress will star in her first-ever lead role in Theodore Boborol’s independent debut film, Iska, which tells the story of a doting but impoverished grandmother who wants to take her 10-year-old autistic grandson to a special needs orphanage, but is deemed unfit as a guardian by the media and the government.

In an exclusive interview with PUSH, Ruby, who was handpicked by Direk Theodore for the role, shared how she felt having landed her biggest acting role to date. “Noong una, hindi ko nga naisip na bida ako. Natuwa lang ako na ang daming shot. Kasi usually sa Cinemalaya, kapag lumalabas ako, two days or three days lang. Sa Ekstra lang ‘yung marami kasi nagustuhan ako ni Direk [Jeffrey Jeturian] tsaka ni Vilma Santos. Kaya naging 10 days ako roon out of 15 days,” she said.

“Dito, hindi nag-cross sa mind ko [na lead ako. I saw it as] an opportunity for me to work with Direk Ted again. Nung sa first day na lang namin ng shooting ko na-realize na ‘Ganito pala ‘yun,’” she added.

Her favorite part of making the film, she said without giving away too many hints, was a particular scene that instantly brought her back to her days as a young student and activist of the University of the Philippines-Diliman (UPD).

For the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) actress, time constraint was one of the biggest challenges she has had to face in bringing the character of Iska to life. “First time ko kasi ‘tong magbibida, so hindi ako sanay na every sequence, kasali ako. Sanay ako na support. [In my experience as a supporting actress,] kasama ako sa maraming eksena pero marami ring pahinga. In terms of acting, kailangan madaliin mo because you’re pressured for time,” she told.

The project marks her second time to work with Direk Theodore, with whom she first came to know in the 2013 family drama television Annaliza in which she starred as Kaye Abad’s sidekick. Of the ‘Vince & Kath & James’ filmmaker, she told, “Very straightforward siya. [He’s very honest]. Kaya ikaw din, bilang artista niya, hindi ka rin mahihiya makipag-collaborate. Open siya sa collaboration.”

“Nakakatawa rin sa aming dalawa kasi he’s very competitive, ako naman ‘yung takot. Takot ako,” continued Ruby, who also works as an acting coach. “Pero nung nagawa na namin ‘yung film, at nung nakita ko rin ‘yung effort ng lahat, grabe. Even all the constraints sa location at sa budget. Before ang liit liit ng tingin ko sa sarili ko. [But then I realized],Why shouldn’t I be proud of it?’ Equal naman ‘yung competition so lalaban kami,” she added.

Ruby said that she’s highly appreciative of Direk Theodore for casting her as Iska. “Doing a lead role for the first time, and a role which is not very remote from who I am, has redefined my self-esteem, an essential ingredient to becoming a good actor. After Iska, I have felt a renewed confidence in my craft when I started acting for other projects in TV and film… and for that, I will be eternally grateful to Direk Ted.”

Through Iska, the Gawad Urian awardee hopes to spark conversation about autism. “’Yung awareness sa autism kasi hindi rin naman ako ganoon ka-familiar. Dahil nanay din ako, akala ko ka-iba iba na ‘yung being a single mom. I was just imagining kung binigyan ako kagaya nung apo ko sa film, parang hindi ko alam paano ko kakayanin.”

“‘Yun din ‘yung tumatak sa akin. Paano kinakaya ni Iska ‘yung buhay. Ako nga na nasa middle class feeling ko hirap na hirap na ako. Paano pa kaya ‘yung makita mo si Iska. Paano niya na-survive ‘yun?”

Aside from Ruby, veteran actor Soliman Cruz is also set to appear in Iska.

Other full-length features which will compete in Cinemalaya this year include ANi (The Harvest), Annak ti Karayan (Children of the River), Fucc Bois, Belle Douleu,John Denver Trending, Malamaya, Pandanggo Sa Hukay, Tabon, and Edward.

The film festival is scheduled to kick off this August 2 and run until the 11th.