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Persistence pays off for veteran actor John Ruby

March 25, 2014

Pewaukee native John Ruby has worked for more than 10 years in Los Angeles, carving out a career for himself as an actor in the glitzy city.

Ruby, 36, said his interest in acting developed over time — starting in Lake Country. He was a member of the Hartland North Elementary choir growing up, where he got his first taste for the stage.

“I had a choir teacher, Mrs. Wilson,” he said. “She is no longer there, but she used to give me solos, not every year, but for the Christmas shows, and that was a really exciting thing for me to be a part of.”

His mother, Gay, remembers Ruby had a fascination with magic growing up. He would be the magician, and his sister would be the sidekick.

“They called themselves Jangle and Pop,” Gay recalled.

Ruby played basketball and volleyball at Arrowhead High School and then continued on to Northwestern University, where he majored in German with a minor in international business.

He said he wanted to work for German car manufacturer BMW, but ended up as a consultant for a Chicago business firm.

“I didn’t enjoy being in a cubicle with no windows,” he said. “I felt constricted; it wasn’t what I loved.”

At age 24, Ruby realized he needed to make a change.

 Despite living in Chicago, the birthplace of improvisational theater, Ruby said he still did not have much interest in theater then.

“I maybe went to one or two plays in Chicago,” he said. “I wasn’t part of that world.”

Despite a lack of experience, he said his interest in performing motivated him to pick up his life and move to Los Angeles.

Gay said she was concerned about her son.

“We had many discussions about security, about the perceived Hollywood lifestyle,” she said. “I didn’t want him to be changed, in a negative way, you know, by the Hollywood type. I was concerned about his security as a person and his health.”

Ruby crash landed in a city where he had no friends and no real idea how he was going to pay the bills.

“It is really hard,” he said. “The important thing is, if someone moves here, you gotta figure out how you are going to tread water. How you’re going to pay the bills. There is a lot of inconsistency in acting.”

He said he got hired by a temp agency and then began working in casting. He said working in the business, rubbing elbows with other actors and directors, was instrumental to his career.

“That was a game changer, I got more comfortable,” he said.

He attended an inexhaustible number of acting workshops and classes, on subjects ranging from improvisation to scene study, and began to find work in commercials and in improvisational shows.

In 2011, he co-starred in his first feature film, “Touch,” in which he plays a married mechanic who strikes up a friendship with a Vietnamese-American manicurist.

The film, directed by Minh Duc Nguyen, won best storyline, actress and cinematography at the Boston International Film Festival. It was named best picture by the audience at the Vietnamese International Film Festival.

“That was a great experience, because it was an independent film, and he was the writer and the editor, and it was neat to participate in something that the director was so passionate about,” Ruby said.

Ruby said he is currently writing a feature film script about a triathlete who struggles as a single parent.

“It is a world that has not really been explored, and there are a lot of people doing triathlons and mud runs,” he said.

Last July, Ruby married his longtime girlfriend, Annie, whom he met on stage while performing on “The Maiden’s Prayer.” His future wife actually played his wife in the play, and the relationship developed off set. He said the couple’s first kiss happened backstage.

Ruby still returns to Wisconsin regularly. He said his hometown is a source of strength.

“When I go back, I have those roots,” he explained. “I go back to the house I grew up in and that helps ground me.”

Audiences can learn more about Touch by visiting touchthemovie.com.

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Weekend Happenings

Featured this week:  

Lake Country Players present “The Diary of Anne Frank”: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 3, Lake Country Playhouse, 221 E. Capitol Drive, Hartland. $13 - $18 (262) 367-4697, www.lakecountryplayhouse.net.

Cottonwood Wayside Nature and Education Center Grand Opening: 5-7 p.m. Oct. 4, Cottonwood Wayside Nature and Education Center, 901 Cottonwood Ave., Hartland. Features the new chimney which will be home to more than 1,000 displaced chimney swift birds. Event also includes face painting, nature scavenger hunt, games and more. Hot dogs, chips and soda will be available for purchase.

Indian Summer: 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct. 3; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct. 4; 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Oct. 5, Ashippun Town Hall, Highway P and Highway O, Ashippun. Buckskinner encampment, tepee tours,wigwams, Native American drummers and dancers, Highlanders Voyageur Camp plus Revolutionary, Civil and Spanish-American War camps. Free admission. (920) 474-4619 http://www.ashipppun.com.

Dark Carnival: 7-10:30 p.m. Oct. 4, 10-11, 17-18, 24-25, 31, Enterprise Building, 212 Wisconsin Ave., Oconomowoc. Formerly Haunted High, exhibit features more than 70 volunteers creating 50 specters and zombies plus special effects, lighting and sounds. $15, $23 fast pass. Open 2 to 4 p.m. Oct. 25 for kids 5-12 ($5) with lighted displays and treats along the way.

Updates to this calendar are made weekly Monday afternoon. 

All weekend happenings.