Ruth Livier: A New Media Pioneer
Actress/writer/producer: She's a Latina Tina Fey
By Al Carlos Hernandez, LatinoLA, July 31, 2009
Ruth Livier is not just another alluring Hollywood beauty. She has substance, style and is an in-demand working actress of stage, screen, and film. Ruth is probably most remembered for her continuing role in the ground-breaking Showtime TV series "Resurrection Blvd." She is continuing to break new artistic ground in her second season of writing, producing, and starring in her own Tina Fey-styled, one woman army webcast program called "Ylse." www.Ylse.net
Her journey to cinematic success is rooted in a strong Mexican family.
Here's what she told LatinoLA:
I'm from Guadalajara; totalmente Tapatia. The first parents I remember were my maternal grandparents and my mom's youngest brother and sister. I lived with them in Guadalajara for a part of my childhood while my parents worked in the fields in California.
When I was about seven they finally crossed me to this side of the border. My home life was very Mexican and I grew up in a Spanish-speaking household. I'm a child of migrant workers. At one point eleven of us, including aunts, uncles, and cousins, lived in one trailer. So you can understand why now-a-days I value space and silence. Bilingualism, then biculturalism, wasn't a part of my life at home. Once outside the home, I adapted to the American culture simply from growing up in the States. That's how I'm both Mexican and American.
My first acting gig, actually my first job ever, was touring with children's plays across Jalisco. It was fantastic! We performed in really beautiful quaint theaters and even in bullfighting stadiums. But my first performance was singing 'El Rey' de Jose Alfredo Jimenez on TV in Mexico when I was five or six. Then, in junior high, it turned out I did extremely well in 'Declamación' competitions. It's when you recite poetry competitively.
I found my role models in books. As soon as I learned to read English, I devoured every single Nancy Drew book in the library, then the Hardy Boys. There just weren't enough mystery novels to keep me satisfied. I guess I was attracted to these characters' inquisitive nature and problem-solving abilities. The characters were not content with taking things at face value. They were willing to ask the questions, do the diligent work that others wouldn't, and they weren't satisfied until the mystery was solved. I loved that. I still do.
Yo soy una preguntona. It just dawned on me that maybe I got this from reading too much Nancy Drew! Yeah, I was a very serious kid. I've since learned to loosen up a bit.
I've been drawn to acting and to the theater my entire life. I have to say that what made me sure that I was destined to act was after doing my first 'serious' dramatic play as a small child with a very reputable theater company in Guadalajara. My performance was very successful and I took it as a good sign. I just never stopped working after that. I was moved by the idea that you could emotionally affect people, question the status quo, put a mirror up to society or simply make people laugh. I have decided to make performance my life's work.
I was greatly encouraged by my first acting teacher and her playwright husband. They were my first mentors in the theater. They believed so much, they charged me with so much confidence at such a critical stage in my development. That confidence, discipline and love of the art is still in me. My first 'serious' play was a social piece written by him. It is one of my favorite experiences ever.
In addition to acting, I'm learning to write. It's such a beautifully powerful craft. The pen is mightier than the sword. Writing my web series Ylse has been a phenomenal experience. To see these amazingly talented, experienced, generous actors giving life to my words . . . it just blows me away. I find the process is addicting; the more I do it, the more I want to do it. Writing . . . it is almost cathartic. I get to explore issues that are important to me, things that I am dealing with and trying to understand. I get to ask questions. This process gives me insight and understanding.
I find that I like producing too, although on Ylse I've it done more out of necessity. It turns out I enjoy the process and do it pretty well. My co-executive producer on the series Stephanie and I joke about it; we attribute our producing skills to our type 'A' personalities. But hey, whatever gets you there.
As an actress I enjoy all performance based platforms: stage, screen, TV, even voiceover work. I particularly love good stories and I love being around other people who love stories.
I have to say that my greatest role so far was playing Yolanda Santiago in Resurrection Blvd. The show was truly groundbreaking and the people I got to meet and work with were just incredible. I mean, aside from the countless amazing experiences on set, I was invited to the executive offices in Washington, DC. There I was, sitting at a conference table with the likes of Robert Rodriguez and Esai Morales while government representatives asked our opinion on the state of Hispanic representation in the entertainment business. For an ESL kid from a trailer park...well that's just a pretty surreal turn of events!
Participating in this show was another instance that recharged my confidence. Before the show I was extremely uncomfortable speaking up, but I have been able to overcome that and speak publicly with confidence all the time. Because of the show I learned that I have as much of a right to state my opinions and ask question as anybody else. It helped me feel like I belonged to the theatrical community and it took some of the mystery of the entertainment world away. That was very good for me.
In the entertainment community there is typecasting. The 'powers that be' don't really know what to do with you. In my case I am not dark enough to fit their Latina stereotype and not white enough to be white. That's why writing and producing for New Media is such a fantastic option. It affords us the opportunities that traditional media hasn't. Let's be real, the opportunities to break in through 'traditional' channels are slim. Like my friend Dennis Leoni says, "The oldest form of affirmative action is the 'Good Ol' Boy' network." And he is right. Try breaking through that! If you are not a part of the GOB network, mainstream media is super expensive. I don't know about other Hispanic Americans with similar upbringings to mine, but rich relatives do not abound. No one has the private money to fund theatrical projects. I am not complaining. I'm grateful for my life experience.
I'm just saying New Media, the vehicle we are now using for Ylse, is a fantastic resource and a wonderful opportunity for us. We have immediate and unaltered access to a world audience and are circumventing traditional media platforms which are controlled by a small few.
We get to tell our stories from our POV, shoot them, edit them and distribute them worldwide. It's an exciting new world! The 2010 census projects there are over 47 million Latinos in the U.S. and, by 2050, Latinos will be nearly 25% of the population. This means one in four Americans will be of Hispanic origin. Well, I'd say we are 'THE' untapped market . . . so I'm not too worried. My focus is to continue to create projects to give up-and-coming Latino and Latina talent material with which to shine. My goal is that I will contribute by giving our growing audience some culturally relevant programming to choose from. Ylse is a new and pioneering effort.
From day one a lot of friends have come on board to make Ylse happen. The cyber response has been good and we know it is going to get exponentially better. What could be more fantastic than working with your friends? We have so much fun and we get to create something that is actually being distributed and viewed worldwide.
There's a lot of serious work involved and a lot of people are contributing their talents and their time. I don't take that lightly, although you'll see me bouncing up and down with joy once in a while 'cause what we do is so friggin' cool and we have so much fun!
My job is to piece it together into a whole that we can all be proud of. My cast is amazing: Marlene Forte (Star Trek, The House of Payne), Judy Reyes (Scrubs), Alma Delfina (Te Amare en Silencio), Richard Yniguez (B-Girl, Boulevard Nights), Raymond Cruz, Yvonne De La Rosa, Alex Mendoza . . . the list goes on and on. The crew is amazing, young, and talented. My editor Stephen Murray is brilliant . . . plus Elizabeth Peña came on board to direct a webisode this second season as well.
The production team is amazing! Herbert Siguenza and Stephanie Wiand have also come on board as writers. And we are all friends. Most of us were already good friends before the start of production.
I like dramedy. It is a combination of drama and comedy just like real life. I just like having the ability to communicate. Whether it's sharing a serious moment or a great laugh, comedy and drama are all intertwined really, like in life. I do like wearing many hats. 'Whatever it takes' is my personal mantra.
I think we Latinas are still largely stereotyped in the English language media and still greatly objectified in the Spanish language media. Neither of these are a realistic representation of what a real Latina is. And, as an audience member, neither is culturally relevant to me. They just don't ring true.
I see this as a gap in the market that simply needs to be filled. As a writer who is a part of this demographic, my job is to write the roles I'd like to see. Heck, it's my pleasure to write roles for Latinas.
There are some wonderful Latina writers who are doing just that, including Ligiah Villalobos who wrote 'Under the Same Moon.' She is fantastic! And some amazing Latina producers are moving projects forward, including my mentor Diana Lesmez.
Right now we're in post-production for season two of Ylse. We launch the revamped website the end of August. I'm in rewrites for a feature film driven by a strong Latina character. I love the story and I can't wait to launch Ylse 2.0 so I can just focus on the feature film rewrites.
Season three of Ylse is already written and we're looking to shoot in the first quarter of next year. And I was just asked to produce a PSA with Attorney General Jerry Brown.
I did get to work on Sam Raimi's 'Drag Me to Hell' where, on the first day of rehearsals, I got to meet Adriana Barraza and that was a thrill.
How can people support you in your artistic and culturally enriching endeavors?
Watch Ylse! Tell your friends to watch Ylse! Every view counts. That's the thing with the web, every view actually counts. And the way for us to continue to create culturally relevant programming is to prove we have an audience.
Season 2 of Ylse will launch late in August. Tell all of your friends and familia to watch: www.Ylse.net