Edinburg native Gabrielle Ruiz is getting used to Los Angeles after about 10 years working in professional musical theater in New York City. Ruiz was promoted to series regular in CW’s musical comedy, “Crazy Ex Girlfriend,” during the first season. The show airs Fridays.
Her stay as the yoga-teaching Valencia was expanded for what Ruiz has cited as chemistry with the show’s creative team.
“Last year, with two episodes turning into 11 … my husband and I were able to make some plans, relocate and stay for a while,” Ruiz said. “I’ve been (in NYC) so long, I feel kind of guilty liking Los Angeles.”
New York gave her opportunities, such as her stint on the TV show.
“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” creators Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna were recommended Ruiz after reaching out to theater contacts including Lin Manuel Miranda and Alex Lacamoire, the men behind the musicals “Hamilton” and “In the Heights.”
Ruiz made her Broadway debut in 2009 as an ensemble member and understudy in the Tony-winning musical “In the Heights,” with additional credits including “If/Then” and “Evita.” She’d made appearances in “Sesame Street,” “Law & Order: SVU” and “Orange is the New Black.”
After mailing in a self-taped audition, Ruiz was tapped for “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” — the creative comedy unlike anything on TV — which showcases her skills of singing, dancing and acting.
Coming up through Broadway, long days of rehearsal and quickly incorporating daily edits hours before performing is the norm. She said that comes in handy for a show like “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.”
While cameras reset for shots on set, Emmy-winner Kathryn Burns will pull actors aside to rehearse the next episode’s number. Ruiz was excited to get back into the rhythm of the show when the season started.
“This is a great opportunity in television that it feels very special,” Ruiz said.
Music theater hasn’t been done in a satirical, dark-comedy platform addressing uncomfortable, political and taboo topics, she said. Coming from a music-theater background, Ruiz takes pride in being involved with such a pioneering project.
“We’re not a procedural show. We’re not sitting in a courthouse half every single episode,” she said. “It’s demanding, but it’s possible with the right team.”
She said the entire team feeds off the shows creator Rachel Bloom’s energy, and Ruiz loves how open she is.
Last month, Bloom opened up with Glamour magazine about her bouts with depression and anxiety.
“Rachel is not only transparent and honest and very passionate about what she believes in to us behind the lens, but she addresses everything just as passionately to the fans, critics and the general audience,” said Ruiz, who added she was lucky to work with such a voice. “What I love about her is that everyone can relate to her.”
Ruiz called her boss “inspiring,” she’s “never not surprised” by the caliber of writing and creativity she delivers.
“Every time I read a script, I burst out into laughter,” she said. “The fact that she was able to turn around a parody of (Beyonce’s) ‘Lemonade’ that was so popular this summer to an idea for our season premiere episode is beyond brilliant.
“It raises the bar for the musical parody world.”
When Ruiz started in New York, she was only able to play her live four weeks at a time. When she booked her first traveling Broadway tour, it was a year. Last season of the show, it was month to month. And her promotion to season regular gave her a little stability.
“(For) the entrepreneur actor, the strongest muscle we have is flexibility and trusting that things always work out,” Ruiz said. “Good luck is preparation meeting opportunity, so what I can do is prepare well and wait for the opportunity to present itself.”
Ruiz was married in August, and admits to “definitely switch(ing) gears to not only think of herself but her family, and (her) future family that (she’d) like to grow eventually. What is next for me really is planting a foundation here in this next chapter of my career.”
She admits to missing the mass amount of people in NYC, and the happenstance ways of bumming into friends.
“You forget that you’re overstimulated by people at the time,” she said. And she misses “the grit and the sarcasm of the city — the way people are and the way people talk.”
There’s more reaching out and making plans in LA, she said. The social life is different.
But these are “uptown problems — new kind of stress,” Ruiz said. “But I’ve been working hard for this upgrade of problems is what I say.”