How did you get involved in Jessica Jones?
Paul Schnee from the Barden/Schnee casting office called me in to audition for the role. The character description read: “20s, angelic, pale-faced, redhead, odd and awkward, but kind,” which is pretty spot-on, so I had a good feeling about it going in. He called me in on a Wednesday, called me back on Thursday, had me dye my hair on Friday and we started shooting on Monday. It was all very fast!
Your role is, at first, meant to lighten the dark atmospheres of the series. How did you work to find the necessary balance between these two aspects?
The Marvel universe has to be very secretive with projects in development. The first step for me in building a character is gathering as much information as I can get my hands on, which in this case required some creativity – I only had the original comics (which I don’t appear in), the character description from casting, and a few lines from my first episode to work with. So those lighter aspects I really had to feel around in the dark for! When I posed some character questions to the writer (Micah Schraft) and director (S.J. Clarkson) on my first days of shooting, I was only getting responses like “Well, not quite that, but more like this…”. I quickly realized the bulk of my work on Ruben would have to be intuitive and independently creative, which in retrospect seems fitting for such a sensitive and eccentric character. The actress playing my twin (Colby Minifie) and I bonded strongly and immediately, which turned out to be the best preparation in the early days of shooting. We would spend every off-screen moment together in each other’s trailers or dressing rooms, imagining our back story and getting specific about the details of our relationship. Those were some of my favorite days on set.
Despite the fact that your character has less screen time compared to others, the influence of his narrative path permeates the whole season. What do you think about this?
The best part about it for me was getting to learn more about Ruben as time went on. Because series are usually being written and re-written after production has already begun, it was funny to be finding out so much more about my character well into shooting – and even beyond, since I didn’t get to read any of the episodes I wasn’t in. I also like that because of Ruben represents an innocent love you don’t get to see in many other relationships in the show, the dominant idea communicated through his influence is that love’s effect on the characters who got to witness it.
The series is set in New York. Since it is your city, what is your opinion on its portrayal in the show?
My father used to call me a New Yorker born in exile (which is a funny thing to be when growing up in Texas), but getting to see the result of the stellar location scouting and Manuel Billeter’s beautiful cinematography reminds me what a gift my eyes get every time I walk outside here. I live in the East Village, which still has a good deal of grit – a lot of which I have to make sure my dog doesn’t pick up on our walks – so occasionally I lose sight of all this great city’s wonders. The show is a refreshing reminder.
How was it to work side by side with a legend of TV such as David Tennant (the renowned tenth Doctor Who), with whom you share a crucial scene?
A year or two ago, my sister had posted a picture of David’s and my headshots side-by-side, with a caption saying I should be the next Dr. Who, so it was funny to finally be side by side with him in real life. David was outgoingly engaging and fun on set – so much so I had to ask him not to make me giggle when we were shooting the last moment of our scene together. The most magical thing about getting to work with actors you admire is when they make you feel like an equal on set, and everyone I worked with on Jessica Jones did.
Your character has a very special relationship with Jessica Jones. How did you work with Kirsten Ritter?
Working with her was one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. Krysten is such a phenomenal actress – I had been a huge fan of her work since DON’T TRUST THE B* IN APARTMENT 23 (I would stare at the tv reflectively and say “She’s so good!” to my friends during every episode I watched). Getting to work with her was a real dream. Acting is one of my favorite parts of being alive, so working alongside someone who cares about it as much as I do is pure pleasure. The last day I shot with her, she introduced me to her wonderful manager, and he and I have been working together since. That was one of the kindest things another actor has ever done for me.
What projects do you have in store for the upcoming future?
I have a few film projects in early development that I am excited about. I also played two fun guest star roles this month on LAW & ORDER: SVU and THE BLACKLIST, and right now I am preparing for a couple of readings of an amazing play called THIRD RAIL by my dear friend (and creative twin) Jacob Perkins. He’s started to write roles for me in his work, and that’s one of the best things an actor could hope for. I satisfy my need to be constantly working by staying in acting class with Caymichael Patten, who coached me for this show and teaches me something new every day. On the other side of the holiday season is pilot season, which I am looking forward to being a successful one!