The world of the CW’s CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND is filled with outrageous characters, comedy and musical numbers, but one of its finest achievements is spotlighting. In CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND, Gabrielle Ruiz portrays Valencia Perez, current girlfriend of Josh Chan (Vincent Rodriguez II) — the long, lost love of Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom). As fans have seen, there is really nothing Rebecca will not do to be closer to the love of her life and the man who got away. But in a fine twist, the show decided to not let Rebecca’s longings and dreams dictate the reality in which she lives and have kept the relationship of Valencia and Josh alive and thriving. Credit to that goes to Gabrielle Ruiz, whose multi-talents of singing, dancing and fine sense of comedy melded perfectly into the zany adventures of the show.
In an exclusive interview, star Gabrielle Ruiz talks about the exciting opportunity to continue with the show and be a part of its blossoming world of mixed-up dating adventures.
What initially sparked your interest in the role of Valencia and the show?
GABRIELLE: When the audition script was sent to me, it just gave very broad strokes about what the show is about along with a few clips from the pilot. Like anyone who watches CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND for the first time, I was completely blown away. I was completely excited to take a chance in what the musical world is doing on television right now. So, of course, I jumped at the chance. The fact that Valencia was a yoga instructor and can be portrayed as the “mean girl” and creates conflict for the lead character was a great opportunity. Also coming from New York to Los Angeles for the role was an exciting change for my career and life.
You wanted to play a “mean girl”?
GABRIELLE: Yeah, why not? Different is good. As I discovered, Valencia tends to be the voice of reason. She speaks truths for herself and everyone that is around her in West Covina about this woman who just walks into everyone’s life and changes their games and all of their situations. It’s exciting to stir the pot a little bit and to do that as well with all the other characters in this world.
In you mind, who is Valencia? Who is she as a person?
GABRIELLE: Valencia is a woman who was in her prime in high school. She was a Queen B. She is a person who believes in natural health and chakras and also being one with the world. Underneath it all, like any woman who wants to be her best and she is competitive within herself and with other women. I have sympathy for that. When someone feels their world is being stirred around, they get a little defensive. In her defense, she had a normal life before Rebecca Bunch showed up and things happened once she did and Valencia doesn’t like it. She also finally has a chance to be friends with a woman in her adulthood versus all of her experiences in high school that created this wall. I think a lot of women relate to that. Like whenever you finally become vulnerable with someone and the wall crumbles and you feel like you are being fooled or what you thought is wrong, there is some sympathy for that. I love that the writers are creating Valencia in that way. Not only can the modern woman relate to Rebecca, they can also relate to Valencia.
What do you most admire about Valencia?
GABRIELLE: I love that she is the voice of reason in some situations. She feels Josh is not being honest with himself. He needs to step up. She’s ready to take their relationship in a new direction. Tick-tock, tick-tock and she’s tapping her foot all the time. She’s also friends with Rebecca. Like in episode 102 that introduces Valencia, she tells Rebecca how honest she is about her life and how she can help Rebecca in her situation. But she does not want to be lied to and won’t take it. I love the fact that Valencia doesn’t take people’s BS — especially Rebecca’s. I can relate to that.
At this point, are should we be rooting for Josh and Valencia to make it as a couple?
GABRIELLE: [Laughs] I am! Why not? At this point, I hope the viewers are having fun deciding who is a friend and who is a foe. That’s what the writers of CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND are doing and constructing for us as each episode is being written. It’s exciting. I’d like to say that since Josh and Valencia have been dating for 15 years, they really should give it a chance. I hope they do!
What is one of the best things about working with Vincent Rodriguez III?
GABRIELLE: Oh, Vincent and I are both theater nerds. The first moment we finally met we had maybe 300 friends on Facebook in common, as well as in real life. We were able to shoot names back and forth. There is like one-degree of separation between cast members as theater vets. So we were able to feel like we were friends for decades. The chance to be able to work together in this chapter of both our careers is so much fun. [Laughs] He’s kind of hot too! I think a lot of people can agree with me that he’s fun to stand next to a lot in scenes.
The show also has a lot of crazy dance and singing numbers. What is it like to prepare for those as well as your other scenes?
GABRIELLE: It has been an absolute blast. We are having so much fun as an ensemble as well as solo performers and not only support each other as each prepares for their scene, but we also make it up as we go. These dance numbers and musical numbers are extremely hot off the press. Like in episode 109, I got the lyrics 24 hours before I had to record it. For an artist, it is kind of exciting and thrilling to be challenged in that quick of a turn-around. I love it. I absolutely love the challenge. I love creating and developing as we are doing things. That’s what has been really fun crossing over from Broadway from live-performance acting, singing and dancing and being able to use all those tools. It’s been really fun to collaborate with Rachel Bloom and the rest of the team that way.
What do you feel you have learned from working on the show?
GABRIELLE: [Laughs] What I have learned is to go to bed at 7:00 p.m. so I can show up at 4:30 a.m. for my call-time. Valencia takes a while to get ready. She takes about 2 and 1/2 hours to get ready in hair and make-up. Coming from the Broadway scene where you only have to be there 1/2 hour early, that has been one thing. The discipline that I have been ready to utilize is being exercised at the moment. So waking up early is one thing as well as taking all day to do one page of scene work. That’s extremely different than live theater. And I’m loving it. I’m loving the change of pace. Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of “Hamilton,” referred me for CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND and I get to represent what we have all been doing on Broadway and it is fun to share and compare stories.
Sounds like you guys are a high-energy set. Are you always singing and dancing?
GABRIELLE: You bet! We’re bouncing off walls. It’s any typical day on set, but the fact we get to create so many different musical numbers, it creates an energy that is on a different level of excitement and also spontaneity. It keeps us on our toes. Most of the numbers are fantasy sequences so I don’t always have to be Valencia in my yoga pants. I get to be a Bollywood goddess or I get to be an Indigo Girls artist.
If you could sit down with your character Valencia and offer her some advice, what would you tell her?
GABRIELLE: “Girl, you are in your prime. The world is your oyster. Change is good. What is happening in your world is for the better. So it’s okay to ride the wave and it’s okay to let new people in your life.” [Laughs] I don’t know if she’d listen to it, but that’s what I’d tell her.
What can you tease about what is upcoming?
GABRIELLE: Get ready again to be shocked and surprised, and also get ready to keep falling in love with Rebecca Bunch and the rest of the people of West Covina.
You sound quite busy with the show, but do you have time to work on anything else right now?
GABRIELLE: I’m also an advocate for “paying it forward” for the next generation of artists. So I love to do that, as well as to working on my own craft. And it’s pilot season. So I’m looking forward to finding out what the future of MY CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND is, as everyone else. It’s an honor that they brought me onto the show. The character of Valencia was only supposed to be around for a couple of episodes and it multiplied from there. It’s been a delightful surprise to be a part of it through the evolution of creating the show and I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next.
To see more of Gabrielle’s delightful and spectacular array of talents, be sure to tune in for all new episodes of CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND on Monday nights at 8:00 p.m. on the CW.