ED- The Eerie Digest not only loves to introduce new and rising stars to our readership, but we are compelled to add well known names and personalities of seasoned actors as well. One experienced actor stands out to demonstrate what it takes to make great profession from the field of cinema. The Eerie Digest is honored to present actor Ruben Pla to all our readers. Ruben, when did the acting bug bite you, and who was the greatest influence on your career ?
RP- I was bitten in college. That nasty bitemark hasn’t cleared up yet, no matter what I put on it! I would have to say my greatest influence was my father. He was always very outgoing, hilarious at parties…and a great dancer. I think he influenced me the most…and after him, Marlon Brando.
ED- What sort of training did you undertake to make your career so successful ?
RP- I majored in Theater in college, then studied at Stella Adler’s Studio in New York which was really a great learning experience. I also did workshops with Elia Kazan. He was very inspiring.
ED- We first saw you in 1985 in ‘The Illegal Immigrant’ then two years later in the TV series ‘One Life to Live’. Tell us about your roles in these production and how they gave you the confidence to continue your career.
RP- ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT was my first feature which I got through a contact at NYU, where I had done several graduate thesis films…a great training ground, by the way. ONE LIFE TO LIVE was a soap opera that shot in New York and was my first tv gig. These jobs were great experiences as to what the professional acting world was all about.
ED- The following year found you in the TV series ‘Loving’, and the short, ‘The Red Herring’. What were the themes behind these projects and your contributions to them?
RP- LOVING was another soap opera shot in New York. I played a doctor telling one of the lead women that she had lost her baby…you know, typical soap opera stuff! RED HERRING was the beginning of my collaboration with Ari Taub, a film student at NYU. I did two graduate films with him and then he cast me in his first feature film, THE FALLEN, a World War II epic where I played Packard, the psychotic Nazi-killing machine.
ED- A short time later you appeared in the series ‘Tattingers’, and the popular ‘America’s Most Wanted: America Fights Back’ in roles completely opposite each other. Please tell our readers what they were and what effect they had on your career.
RP- in TATTINGER’S I played a Jesus, a security guard and in AMERICA’S MOST WANTED I played an assassin…so I guess you could say they were polar opposites from each other. Doing such different kinds of roles just reaffirmed that I was a character actor and wanted to maintain a wide range of personas in my arsenal.
ED- Television was your bailiwick, and you began wrapping up performances in ‘Hunter’, the TV movie ‘Victim of Love’, and the series ‘Crime & Punishment’. Tell us about your roles in these and how you were able to separate the various personalities of the roles that you played.
RP- “Various personalities”…it sounds like I need therapy! Well, in those I played a District Attorney, a Carousel Attendant, and a Defense Lawyer. The script determines the personality involved and I try to serve the script as best I can. That’s my job. Of course, I bring my own special flavor to every role, but the script is the most important thing to me.
ED- These were followed by two short films, ‘Writer’s Block’ and ‘Fast Food’. Please describe these productions and the themes behind them.
RP- WRITER’S BLOCK, directed by the aforementioned Ari Taub, was a hilarious film about two screenwriters who lose control of their script and their two main characters, of which I am one, “break out” of the screenplay and invade their lives. It was really fun, creative stuff, and we shot that on the streets of New York, which is always a blast. FAST FOOD was a spoof of all the DeNiro/Scorsese films. Very inventive and funny.
ED- The following two years saw you in a spate of popular television shows such as ‘In Pursuit’, ‘The Practice’, ‘The Agency’, ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’, ‘General Hospital’, and ‘Judging Amy’. These were some demanding times. What were your greatest memories of them?
RP- Out of those you just listed, I’d have to say that EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND gave me the fondest memories. It was the first time I’d worked on a three-camera tv show. I loved the fact that when we shot it, at the end of the week of rehearsals, it was in front of a live audience…which is where all my theater training came into play. I loved hanging with Ray Romano and Brad Garrett and Peter Boyle. We would have lunch together and it was a great working environment.
ED- For the next six years you were in some of the most well know shows such as ‘CSI: Miami’, ’24’, ‘Without a Trace’, and ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’. You also appeared in a number of other productions. What was some of your favorite roles and tell us about those shows that they were in?
RP – “24” was really very cool to work on. The interesting part of it was that in the show I’m suspected of being a terrorist but, in actuality, it’s my son that’s the terrorist. A few days after I was cast, they told me that the actor playing my son had been replaced. I thought, oh-oh, this could mean they may replace me too, because of the whole families-have-to-look-alike thing. I was relieved to find out that they were keeping me. We shot our scenes, it’s all in the can, and THEN I hear that they didn’t like the new actor’s work and are replacing him too. Now I really start to worry…are they going to replace me now?! But they call me and say they love my work and I’m still in it and now Kal Penn in playing my son! That was a riot. So I got to play “Kumar’s” dad after all that!
ED- You were in the TV movie ‘A Marriage’ as well as ‘Dead Air’, and the television series ‘Eleventh Hour’ in 2009. Tell us about the genre that these projects were in and some of the actors that you played along side in them.
RP- A MARRIAGE was great because I was directed by THIRTY SOMETHING’S Marshall Herskovitz, a long-time idol of mine, and I acted opposite Bruce Greenwood, one of my favorite actors, so that was real special. DEAD AIR was a spooky zombie movie where I get my head blown off!…so THAT was fun! But it was directed by Corbin Bernsen and he was great to work with. ELEVENTH HOUR was a procedural-crime show starring Rufus Sewell, who I loved as the villain in A KNIGHT’S TALE. But the best part of it was the showrunner on that was my buddy, Cyrus Voris.
ED- This past year you were extremely busy and you found yourself in ‘Hannah Montana’, ‘Last Letters from Monte Rosa’, ‘Weeds’ , ‘Insidious’ , and ‘Sex Tax’ which was based on a true story. You once again demonstrated your flexibility in playing various roles. How did your past training and experience guide you through this variety of character roles?
RP- It’s always about the script to me. Serving the script to the best of my abilities. I’m sure my extensive theater background, along with having done so many student films before breaking into professional film and tv, was a big help. I just love doing character roles, whether it’s villains or good guys…It’s a blast sinking my teeth into those…and, yes, I’ve played a vampire too.
ED- Your newest films are ‘The Wasteland Horror’ and ‘Cooler, both are yet to be released. Can you give us a sneak-preview of these and tell us when we will be able to see these ?
RP- I haven’t shot WASTELAND HORROR yet, that’s coming up. But I play a Nazi Commandant in that, which should be a lot of fun…from an actor’s point of view, of course. In COOLER, I play a very touching family-type character who’s trying to help his daughter in a situation. From Nazi Commandant to Loving Father…if anybody wonders why we do it…there’s your answer right there! I do want to mention my latest feature film, INSIDIOUS, which is out in theaters right now! It’s directed by the very talented James Wan and written by the equally-talented Leigh Whannell. It’s a really scary, classic Haunted-House movie which the audiences seem to be loving a lot…in between their screams of fright! I play Dr. Sercarz and it’s a great cast including Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Barbara Hershey, and Lin Shaye…so check it out!
ED- Ruben, it has been an honor and a pleasure to have been able to introduce you to our legions of readers, and with so many students of the Arts who follow our magazine, you have offered them a truly gifted learning experience. We want to thank you for your time with our interview, and wish you much luck in all that you do.