Teresa Ruiz is a Mexican actress representing Latinas in Hollywood with a sense of power, grace, and humility. Born in Santiago Matatlan, Oaxaca, Mexico, Ruiz is known best for her role as Queen Isabella Baptist in Narcos: Mexico. She has several films coming out soon, with the first being Father Stu, (in theaters April 13th) where she acted alongside Hollywood legends Mark Wahlberg and Mel Gibson. Written and directed by Rosalind Ross, her talent radiates throughout the film, and her character Carmen is a bright light full of faith, wit, and love. Ruiz has won several awards for Best Actress internationally, and her career is only going up from here.
HOLA! USA is excited to have Ruiz as the star of our digital cover and in this exclusive interview, we talked to the actress about her experiences acting with Wahlberg and Gibson, the differences in having a woman in the director’s seat, the moment she knew she wanted to be an actress, and more.
“I was maybe like 12, and I stepped on the stage, and I remember having these pages, and I read it, and I had this feeling. It was just a feeling. It like felt like my heart and I thought, ‘there’s nothing else I can do.”
I was sent the script. I read it. I really liked it because it spoke about a vocation and faith and the capacity of a human being to be redeemed and to grow and to become whoever that person wants to become. And I met with the director the day after I read the script, and we spoke about what I liked. And she told me her vision, and we really got along. She’s very smart and strong and beautiful, inside and out. And I just wanted to work with her because she was so gentle yet knowing what she wanted. She wrote the script, she’s producing it, and directed it. And then she liked me. So we then set up a Zoom with Mark, and we read over Zoom because he was shooting a movie far away, and I was in Mexico. And that was interesting cause it was the first time that I did a reading over zoom. And then I finished the call, and I went for dinner, and then Mark called me while I was in dinner and said, ‘you know what, Teresa, I, we don’t wanna wait. You’re the perfect Carmen, and we’d like you to come and join us. This project is one of the most important projects of my life, if not the most important one. And, I want you to come.’ Everyone that is working on the project is almost like my family. So I felt like I was this guest at this party that had been in the making for so long. So I came in and they really hosted me and taught me everything that they had been researching and we rehearsed for about a month. It was a really great experience.
Watch Teresa Ruiz’s exclusive interview with HOLA! USA
In my experience, I have worked with a few directors that are females, and especially with Rosie, I think there’s gentleness and inclusion. Like there’s a lot of listening that happens. They listen to what you have to say, they like to collaborate. A lot of male directors do that too, but I have felt a lot of detail, a lot of collaboration, at least on the set of Stu.
Well, I think it’s incredible when you work with great actors because there’s very little to worry about. Like Mel for example, those scenes that I have with Mel, I remember when Mel would just come onto set I didn’t need to prepare anything. You know, he was just there with all his incredible electrifying talent, and all you have to do is just be there for off or him or even in the scenes with Mark, there were many scenes where I just read them, and I had an idea about, about them and I would show up to set, and then Mark would be there completely, fully believing who he was as Father Stu. And it was heartbreaking, and he would just make me break down crying because he was so vulnerable. So in that sense, it was very easy to work with them because they’re great actors, you know, it’s like, you’re not acting, you’re just with them. You’re just sharing.
Yeah, I think one time we were doing a scene, and it was very weirdly lit because of the place that we were at, and it was a two-shot, and he was right next to me, and he’s more experienced in film than I am. You know, I’ve done 10, 12 films and he’s done, I don’t know, hundreds. I don’t even know how many, but you know, I’m standing here, he’s standing right next to me. And I remember him moving me so I could have, like we’re in the scene, but he was moving me so I could have the better light. So I thought that was so generous of him because you find a lot of actors wanting to shine, and Mark just wanted his cast to shine. You know, it was very generous and I remember that a lot, how he like would move, would tell me, be here, stand here. But he was always watching out for me and Jacki Weaver to be at our best. And I thought that was great.
Well, we couldn’t find a trace of Carmen. The only thing we knew is something Father Stu himself said later on in his life, he said, ‘I had this girlfriend whose name was Carmen, she was Latina. And it was through her that I met God. She was so beautiful. She was so kind, she was so generous. It was so hard for me to let go of the idea of marrying her and having a life with her and with her community.’ And that’s the only thing I knew, and I know my community, I’m from Oaxaca. So I know that Oaxacans are very generous. They’re very kind, they’re hardworking, they’re beautiful. And they also have all this like love in their eyes. So I think that from those two things, that’s how I created her to be just as giving.
I think there’s a lot of misconceptions about method acting. I’m a member of the Actors Studio and I was raised by like really the most incredible. I had the very last, the tale of the very last great teachers, you know, like Martin Landau, Billie Allen. Like I was really raised by greats. I heard Al Pacino speak at the Actors Studio many, many times. And I think a lot of people confuse method acting with these people that are grungy and sad all the time, and can’t get out of the character. But in my experience, learning from the greats, method acting is simply having your body and your instruments so ready, so fast, so vulnerable so that, any emotion can arise. And it doesn’t mean to be in the character 15,000 a day, you know? It just means to be open and to be vulnerable. And I feel like that’s who I became through the years of the work that I did there.
I think just a certainty that we are not alone in this world, that we don’t have to figure it out on our own, and that there is a greater force out there that can guide us if we are open to allowing it. After the film, I got incredible movies after. And it’s funny because I usually know what I’m going to go and do next, and ever since I did Stu, I know nothing. And as soon as I wrap a movie, another great one comes. So I feel like it’s a little bit of a blessing of Father Stu, to be okay with not knowing what’s coming and just trusting the process and trusting that someone’s leading you by the hand, or a greater force is leading you by the hand and that we were going to be okay.
Yeah. I think faith, I define faith as the capacity of the soul to believe that things are going to be okay. And even if there is proof that things are not okay, I believe our souls have that capacity to light up some kind of something that will be like, ‘it’s okay.’ So whenever I feel that way, I just try to remember that my soul can have that capacity and can illuminate me, and I’ve been able to walk like that. Of course, sometimes I get angry or whatever, but, you know, we’re only human.
“...‘Who am I?’ I don’t know, because I change a lot. I really do. And I try to be a person that grows, and all I know is I try to stay just true to who I am.”
I mean, I kind of knew that I wanted to try it out, but I remember it was really the first time I took an acting class, just to try it out, I wasn’t even sure. I was maybe like 12, and I stepped on the stage, and I remember having these pages, and I read it, and I had this feeling. It was just a feeling. It like felt like my heart and I thought, ‘there’s nothing else I can do. I can do this well, and there’s not gonna be anything else I can do.’ Yea, that’s how I felt... And I also felt like I could offer something to it.
Well, I don’t know, really. I change with every part that I play, and the parts that I play could be completely different. You know, sometimes I’ll be offered this like super evil drug dealer, and then I’m the Catholic teacher. And, so each one will transform me.
Like I said, I don’t know because I grow, I change, and they ask me that a lot of times, like, ‘who am I?’ I don’t know, because I change a lot. I really do. And I try to be a person that grows, and all I know is I try to stay just true to who I am. I’m from a small town in Oaxaca, and I’m a family person. I still live back home, now with Zoom, it has been easier to stay in my town. But then at the same time, I like the premieres, and I like the glamour, and I like the makeup and the things, you know? So I have a lot of aspects to myself.
Well, after Father Stu, I did many beautiful movies. I have like five, six projects that are coming out that I am all incredibly proud to be in. I did a beautiful movie in Mexico with another female director Natalia Beristáin. I did a 24 show, I did a movie in Bolivia, I’ve just finished working with the creator of my show, Sean Hader from Coda, with the very last job that I did. So there are so many that are coming out that I’m extremely proud of, and I think I got a little Father Stu blessing in that sense.