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Exclusive interview with Mexican actress Teresa Ruiz, costar of ‘Father Stu’

FATHER STU

Karen Ballard | Sony Pictures

José Luis Panero - published on 05/22/22

The actors who plays Stu's girlfriend in the film spoke to Aleteia about what it was like to work on the film.

Mexican actress Teresa Ruiz, 33, already has a long and successful career behind her in television, theater, and cinema. Such is her commitment to her art as an act of redemption that she joined the project of the producer and co-star of Father Stu, Mark Wahlberg, with whom she shares a lot of screen time in the film.

The story is based on true events and contains very interesting aspects of the boxer-turned-priest’s life, including some rough ones. Directed by young newcomer Rosalind Ross and distributed in theaters by Sony, the film was released in theaters in the USA on April 13 and more recently in other countries. Aleteia had the opportunity to talk to this talented performer.

Aleteia: Why did you decide to participate in a production like this?

Teresa Ruiz: Because the story is very beautiful, and I think that films with this tone are no longer being made. Nowadays there are a lot of films with large doses of action or whose stories are a bit darker, right?

I feel that there are very few scripts that talk about the human vocation, about the greatness of human beings, and I wanted to be part of a story like the ones I saw with my parents when I was a child.

This film reminds me, at times, of films like Meet Joe Black or Pay It Forward. I feel they’re inspirational films that aren’t forgotten as the years go by.

What did you know about the story of Father Stu?

Nothing, really. After I finished reading the script, I realized that it was based on real life, and I was pleasantly surprised. Besides, the narration is quite faithful to the original story. The film has only been sprinkled with some more comic or dramatic moments to enhance very specific scenes.

What struck you about your character?

I liked Carmen a lot. She’s an honest girl with a very pure heart who has the ability to transform herself, to forgive, and to change what she believes in. I really like those characters. I came from doing things like Narcos, that is, a show where they talked about a very different aspect of human beings. However, in Father Stu I was able to explore the light and goodness that sometimes is so difficult for us to connect with.

Are you aware of any other cases of conversion like the one depicted in this film?

No, I don’t think so. At the end of the film there is a text that always moves me a lot. It has to do with the real Father Stu, and it says that we all go through these processes of transformation, but his case was an extreme example.

Those words are very beautiful to me, because there are indeed examples of extreme situations that are worth highlighting and valuing in the cinema. It’s not in vain that this is everyone’s path, right? We all have to transform ourselves and we all have to become better human beings, so we can be happy ourselves and be part of a community that’s in harmony.

Did the person you play in the movie get in touch with you, or you with her?

No, we never found her. I asked about it and Mark Wahlberg passed me a little audio in which Stuart talks about how he had a girlfriend, and this girlfriend was a very sweet, very pretty, very family-oriented Mexican woman and that he didn’t want to leave her. It was one of his biggest obstacles, along with being able to start a family. But in the end, Stuart found his vocation elsewhere. So from that description we started to create the character.

FATHER STU

How do you think viewers will react when they see the film?

I’ve seen the film with a lot of people I didn’t know and there were equal parts laughing and crying. Afterwards I went with my friends—they didn’t want to go without me—and they were all touched by the film. They told me it left them thinking, “They don’t make films that talk about faith, about love for the family anymore.” And the fact is that Father Stu, with a markedly commercial tone, knows how to combine all the emotions very well. It’s a great inspirational film.

What does family mean to you?

I’ve received all the support possible to become an actress thanks to my family. Every May 10 [Mother’s Day in Mexico, ed.] I travel to see my mother. At the end of the day that’s the only thing that matters to me: that my family is well, that they are healthy, that they are proud of me. And I think many Mexicans, Latin Americans, and Ibero-Americans have that strong connection with our families, because that’s where it all starts.

051021_STU_KB_14069.jpg

What have you learned throughout this process?

To trust a lot. I’ve learned to trust a lot that life is full of kind people, despite some disappointments, such as the fact that the film was shot during the pandemic. However, the entire crew around me assured me that everything was going to be fine. And I have to admit that it was. They’ve given me a lot of love and treated me with great respect. All of this reconfirms to me that there’s a lot of goodness in the film industry.

What was it like working with Mark Wahlberg?

He’s the best at what he does. And such a sweet and generous person. The whole crew is part of his family. I often compare it to a good soccer team, where everyone knows how to score goals. That’s how I felt in Father Stu, where the passes with the ball are perfect and where the experience of filmmaking becomes very easy.

Did the director give you any specific instructions on how to play your character?

She gave us a lot of freedom to do what we wanted, to propose ideas … She only made some adjustments if it was very necessary to improve what you’d already prepared. She’s an intelligent, observant person, who listens and knows very well what kind of story she wants to tell.

How did you transmit the faith of the character you played?

My character has an unshakable faith. As I was reading the script, I asked myself, “How do you get to that faith?” For this reason, it was a big challenge for me to play this role. So the first thing I did was to dig into the process of understanding my own faith so that I could convey it to Stu and it wouldn’t come across as a violent act, considering he was an atheist.

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