An ‘ekstra’s’ triumph in ‘Ekstra’

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Ruby Ruiz's odyssey from bit player to Best Supporting Actress in Cinemalaya

 FROM THEATER TO SHOWBIZ. Best Supporting Actress Ruby Ruiz. Photo courtesy of ABS-CBN

MANILA, Philippines – Ruby Ruiz, Cinemalaya’s Best Supporting Actress in the festival’s Director’s Showcase for her performance in “Ekstra,” knows the part of being a bit player too well.

“Ekstra,” directed by the critically acclaimed Jeffrey Jeturian, looks into the frenzied lives and small careers of moviedom’s bit players.

It’s an assignment that has a considerable background in Ruby’s resume. After all, she had been an actress much of her life. 

But in “Ekstra,” Ruby plays a talent coordinator — something of a warden cracking the whip in the “stable” of extras.

Her taking this part may well be an inside joke, or a self-effacing gesture mocking her own background.

And so, her winning the Best Supporting Actress trophy was in many ways significant. 

Past projects with Vilma

For Ruby, it wasn’t only because the film was about the neglected “ekstra” sector, but also because of the opportunity once again to work with Vilma Santos.

Being an old timer in the “ekstra” industry, Ruby began her acting career in a loftier planet — the world of theater.

But soon enough, she was sidetracked into cinema.

Her first time to work in a movie starring the Star for All Seasons was Lino Brocka’s “Rubia Serbios,” a critically acclaimed film that is sadly out of circulation.

The next Vilma Santos project Ruby took part in was “Sister Stella L,” the politically charged film by Mike de Leon in which Ruby’s bit part was an activist-social worker.

With “Ekstra,” Ruby takes pride in working once again with Vilma and this time tackling a meatier role as opposed to her bit parts in the past.

“We had a scene in ‘Ekstra,’” the actress recalls, “where I told Ate Vi, ‘Huwag mo po akong titigan sa mata kasi po nako-conscious ako. Na-cut po ang eksena namin.”

(Please don’t look at me straight in the eyes because I feel self-conscious. That scene had to be cut.)

“She has that kind of magic, same with Nora Aunor whom I also had the chance to work with. There’s a certain spark in their eyes that’s very powerful.” 

RUBY'S GUIDING LIGHT. The Star for All Seasons as an 'ekstra.' Photo from the film's Facebook

Vilma’s expressive “eye-acting” is a talent often eclipsed by Nora’s in this department.

Regarding their acting styles, Jessica Zafra wrote, “Nora Aunor had the advantage of expressing volumes with her eyes; Vilma expresses with her face, hands, and entire body.”

Off-screen, Vilma has the same camaraderie with her fellows in showbiz, regardless of their station.

“Ate Vi is very generous,” Ruby says.

“Bilang artista kasi, susuportahan ka niya talaga sa eksena ninyo.” (As an artist, she would watch out for you in your scenes together.)

“I would not have won Best Supporting Actress [without Ate Vi’s] support because she’s very good in her scenes.

“Kami ang nagbibigayan sa eksena.” (We help out and play off each other in a given scene.)

“May eksena kami na naiyak ako. Hindi po sinabi ni Direk Jeffrey na umiyak ako. Talagang naiyak lang ako dahil sa husay ni Ate Vi.”

(There was a scene where I just cried. This wasn’t as per Direk Jeffrey. I just cried because Vilma was so good to watch.)

‘Mataray’ talent coordinator

Ruby’s “talent coordinator” is typically “mataray” as this template goes, 

But in that complex dynamic, she also portrayed this character as someone who still had a heart for the underlings in this business — such as Vilma’s Loida Malabanan character.

A juror at Cinemalaya pointed out to Ruby this complexity in her portrayal, saying she was very good in her scenes with Vilma.

When not working as an “ekstra,” Ruby does acting workshops for aspiring actors.

She remembers the time her parents expressed their disapproval at her own aspirations. 

“It’s always been my dream to be an actress,” Ruby says.

“It feels good to act out scenes, yung binibigyan buhay mo ang karakter ng ibang tao [when you give life to a character].”

“Kahit na bit players kami [Even if we’re just bit players], we get satisfaction from what we do. Iba na siguro pag iyon ang pangarap mo [I guess it’s a different feeling when this is your dream].”

Stage fright

Ruby isn’t coy about dreaming of one day getting a major role that would make her a star. 

“Of course, that’s a dream, but winning an award for ‘Ekstra’ [is already] a big fulfilment for me.

“When my name was called, parang hindi ko narinig. Kasi lahat kami sa ‘Ekstra,’ kahit di na kami manalo ng ibang award, basta ang wish namin ay manalo si Ate Vi as Best Actress.”

(I thought I couldn’t hear my name being called. Because for all of us in ‘Ekstra,’ even if we don’t win the other awards, it was our utmost wish that Ate Vi would win as Best Actress.)

“But when my name was called, parang di ko narinig talaga, tapos sabi ng katabi ko, ‘Uy, ikaw ang nanalo [I really couldn’t hear my name, until my seatmate said, ‘Uy, you won].”

“I didn’t know what to do when I came up that stage, then Angel Aquino told me I had to make a speech.

Natakot po ako [I got scared]. I didn’t know what I was going to say. I told myself I should have prepared, just in case. But since I’m from theater, I should know impromptu. I had to say something.

“Lahat kami masaya na.” (We’re all happy now.)

Ruby remembers, in hindsight, auditioning twice for her role in “Ekstra.”

“I was even late once because of the traffic, and Direk Jeffrey was about to leave when I came in.

“Nagmakaawa talaga ako kasi malayo pa ang pinanggalingan ko.” (I really begged Direk Jeffrey not to go yet because I came all the way here.)

ON THE SET. Director Jeffrey Jeturian (left) and Vilma Santos. Photo from the film's Facebook

Ruby’s ‘peg’

Ruby explains that, in an audition, you just read for several roles, even if there is no guarantee which role you’ll get, if any.

She auditioned for two parts in “Ekstra” – the role of Carlota, the neighbor and “kumare” of Loida Malabanan from whom she borrows a costume, and the part of the talent coordinator.

“Mataray siya kung sa mataray,” Ruby says of the part that went to her. “Pero pagdating sa pagtatanggol sa mga talent niya, may puso siya.”

(She can be quite a bitch, but when it comes to defending her talents, she has a heart.)

Ruby says her “peg” for her role was talent coordinator Josie Tagle.

But again, the real privilege from taking part in “Ekstra,” for Ruby, was the opportunity to work again with the Star for All Seasons.

This is still something of a rare gift for the veteran actress in her own right, even with her involvement in past movies by Vilma Santos. 

For Ruby, everything else is a bonus, the biggest being her personal victory at Cinemalaya. –

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