Texas-born Latina actress Gabrielle Ruiz starred on Broadway. She is known as ‘Valencia Perez’ on the CW’s Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning, critically-acclaimed musical comedy series “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” (now available on Netflix). As a Rio Grande Valley native, she developed her dancing and singing skills in Texas. Now she’s taken her craft across the country and recently released her first holiday song “Twinkle Twinkle.”
What were you doing in Texas recently?
I was at a benefit fundraiser for Impact Arts. Flint & Stone is the company that is raising a collaboration with Impact Arts, and Flint & Stone and myself are producing more movies. We’re producing more materials and opportunities for local artists to be a part of so it keeps bringing me back, which I’m not complaining about because I love Austin. I love Texas. I’m from there.
Tell me about your new Christmas song.
Yay! “TWINKLE TWINKLE.” It’s a poem that a friend of mine wrote a few years ago that Charlie Malcolm and I produced a song out of. He created the music and the lyrics. I was a producer and a singer on it. I love the lyrics because they’re timeless in a way, and I think it’s relatable. My favorite phrase in the lyrics is “I’m learning to live in the light” and that really just struck me, first of all when Chensiang Tiow wrote the poems and then when Charlie made it into music. It’s been a really beautiful friendship journey to create the song that I hope is a released album in 2023 with the other poems that Chen wrote. Charlie would like to make an original piece in it so it’s just the beginning.
Are you friends with the person who wrote the poems?
Yes. Chen and I were part of some Christmas concerts in Los Angeles that he participated in and helped me. He was one of the engineers on it. And he created the mood of the poster for it. Just a really creative, brilliant mind of a friend. Charlie also helped me with the concerts, too. So that’s kind of how the poems were brought to me because that was one of the acts of the show. He recited it and I just loved them. So I used to love that he made one every year. I told him a few years ago we should make music out of these and we did it this year. It’s awesome. It’s an original piece.
How did Texas get you to where you are today?
I would say my arts educators, my teachers and my parents were supportive, and I’m very grateful for that. I am a dancer. I’m a ballet dancer from Melbourne in McAllen, Texas. I was in dance school, and I give all of my credit for vocal training to my public school. I was in the choir and I would say that education just really helped with the advisement from my teachers. I wanted to pursue it in college and they directed me into auditioning for colleges. It is what gave me the exposure to professional arts opportunities, like how to be an artistic entrepreneur and show what business was, is and always evolving to be. So it was the launch from college that helped me get to New York. I did Broadway. I performed on Broadway for 10 years and ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,’ which was on the CW and was the TV show that brought me and my husband to Los Angeles and now we now live there.
Would you ever move back to Texas?
I would love to have a house in Texas. I wouldn’t mind visiting it often. For sure. I mean, especially with Flint & Stone and with the relationships that we’re creating in this Impact Arts. I am an advocate for arts education. We’re raising money for the local access of Texas talent that we want to support with the community. I have no complaints on returning as many times as possible to help launch that and keep it growing.
What other work are you doing in Texas?
When it comes to showbiz, it’s always to be announced. It’s always ‘stay tuned.’ I did a film this year in January with Brock and Bonner Productions, who are the people that are producing Flint and Stone. It was called “Dance Dads.” We had a world premiere at the Austin Film Festival in October and we won the comedy feature. It was a really big deal for us because we loved the script. I loved being a part of the post production editing, getting it to its final cut. Also, there’s a director’s cut. I’m so proud of how far we’ve come in 10 months with the film. I also choreographed it. So I made a lot of great relationships there.
What’s your podcast about?
“What are Friends For” with Pallavi Sastry. It’s about friendship adulting and how to manage platonic love in adulthood. We all are given a chance and a break in elementary school and we all get to play together without working together. Sometimes as adults we don’t make time to play together. We don’t make time to socialize together. I mean for me and my New York years, my 20s, I only knew how to be friends while I worked with people and friends with people while I worked. I had to make conscious decisions to socialize and create non working relationships. We get to actually know people versus the job. Pallavi and I take an hour a week to talk about how we’re dealing and how we’re creating, cultivating and breaking up with friendships and it’s a wonderful conversation to have. I feel like it’s made my life better. Our finale this season is with Ricki Lake. Through all of my generation we loved Ricki Lake and a lot of people are discovering who she is now. The title is “Ricki Lake is a Damn Good Friend.” She really is. We had a double drop finale. The other episode is about loving our bodies and Pallavi and I enjoy our solo episodes because we get to know each other even deeper and further as friends because we are best friends. But there were some things in every episode that I didn’t know about Pallavi and I love that part.
What’s your relationship with the comic and sci-fi world?
Oh, my gosh, “Star Trek!” “Star Trek: Lower Decks” is the title of the TV show. It’s an animated series. It’s an adult animated series and it’s a valentine to the Star Trek world. My mom is a Trekkie in the Star Trek world and I’m very proud to be a Vulcan on that comedy animated series because Star Trek is definitely more of a drama series like Star Wars. It’s very dramatic. But this is a love letter, and a comedic approach to the lower deck employees of Starfleet. It’s so clever. Mike McMahan, who is also the creator of “Rick and Morty,” he just has a beautiful approach to making it accurate and appropriate for all Trekkies that know all the vocabulary and what’s right and what’s wrong and accurate. He puts a spin on it with comedy, and I get to play Vulcan who doesn’t really have tons of emotion. I get to be funny in that way. It’s a pleasure to do Spider-Man as well. I’m doing a children’s animated series. So voiceover work has been so much fun for the past couple of years. I play Rio, who is Miles’ Mother. So if you watch “Spidey and His Amazing Friends” I play the mom.
Do you know when you’re going to be back in Texas?
Again, to be announced. I’m loving the flight. It’s easier than I thought from LA. It was only two and a half hours. So yeah, I’m motivated to come back. I also want everyone to check out Impact Arts to see what they’re doing when it comes to local support. It was a gala where we raised some money. It’s about access and not about exposure. It’s not about funding, it’s the access that’s being provided for these young artists to have professional experience and professional mentorship. In Austin, keep talent there. Because for me as a professional growing up the message was New York or LA . . . you have to move. And now in 2023 it’s not that anymore, especially after the pandemic with the amount of evolution of how everyone’s working now. It’s definitely the new way of work that definitely supports Austin because Austin is already cool and has always been cool and always been talented and Impact Arts is really facilitating that for many people.
Cover Photo courtesy of Liza Anderson
Maddie Rhodes is a graduate student at Syracuse University. She aspires to work for a travel magazine when she graduates.