Good golly, she’s ‘Holly Hobbie’
Teen makes the leap from small parts into the lead role of a new Hulu series
Teen makes the leap from small parts into the lead role of a new Hulu series.
Ruby Jay thought something was strange when, one day after school, her mother called her upstairs to talk about real estate and how to buy houses and — as the 14-year-old actress and singer from Cypress, California, succinctly puts it — “all these things that I had no interest in doing.”
Which isn’t exactly true, because she does want to be a real estate agent someday. But her biggest dream — the one that by that point in April had seen her land small parts on TV series and a handful of national commercials (and to the point of her mother’s subterfuge, a series of auditions for the title role in the Hulu TV series “Holly Hobbie”) — was to be in showbiz.
“After about an hour I was like, ‘OK, Mom, I had three tests today, I have homework to do and I want to go eat ice cream and take a nap,’ ” Ruby says.
She walked downstairs and into her bedroom, which she found packed with balloons and 10 or so friends and family who attacked her with Silly String.
“Finally, after about five minutes of me being, ‘What the heck?’ somebody moved a balloon and behind it it said, ‘Congratulations, you booked “Holly Hobbie,”’ and I started to freak out and probably cried,” she says.
Two weeks later, her seventh-grade year at the Orange County School of the Arts wrapped up early, and she and her father, Anthony Mark Kutscher Jr., were on a flight to Toronto, where the Hulu series, a family show with lots of laughs and music, was shot over the next few months.
It was, Ruby says, the peak so far of a love for performing that started a decade earlier.
“Ever since I was like 3 years old, I would just always perform,” she says. “I’d randomly come up with dances or I’d perform a magic show. Or I learned the entire dance to ‘Single Ladies’ and performed it over and over.”
Her parents signed her up for theater, as well as soccer and T-ball and gymnastics, but it was musical theater that captivated her, starting with a small walkon role in a local production of “Annie” when she was 4 or 5. From there, she acted steadily in youth and civic theater productions, playing
such parts as Alice in “Alice in Wonderland,” the Scarecrow in “The Wizard of Oz,” and two years ago, having finally reached the appropriate age, the title role in “Annie” opposite her dad in the role of Daddy Warbucks.
About three years ago she signed with an agent and manager to work in TV and film. This led to guest spots on popular shows such as “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Modern Family” as well as voice work in the Disney Junior animated series “Fancy Nancy.”
In early 2017, her agent called her about the audition for “Holly Hobbie,” a series based on or inspired by the art and stories of
the real-life Holly Hobbie, whose illustrations of a rustic New England girl on greeting cards in the 1960s led to books and other projects in the years since.
Because the production company was located in Canada, her early rounds of auditions were done by videotape and Skype. Only near the finish line did she act in person for the casting and production team, which led to the surprise her parents planned, and then the almost-immediate transition from home in Southern California to sets in Toronto and Hamilton in Ontario.
“Honestly, it was really surreal,” Ruby says. “I didn’t really understand what was
happening at first. I had done jobs before but they would shoot for two days at the most.”
In addition to acting the part of Holly, a teen who lives on a farm with her family and helps her grandmother in town at the Calico Cafe, Ruby was surprised that she’d have to sing an original song in every episode to move the story forward.
“Holly kind of uses music to express herself,” Ruby says. “It’s like when she doesn’t know what verbal words to say she kind of flows it into her music.
“I had been in the studio a million times before. I knew how it worked,” she says. “But this was the first time trying to connect the emotions to (a TV show).”
As for the actual singing, she was on solid ground, thanks to all those years of musical theater and more recently establishment of herself as an Instagramand YouTube-based vocalist. After a run of homemade videos, she and her friend and fellow singer Vivian Hicks teamed for a fully produced music video of Little Mix’s “Shout Out to My Ex,” which with almost 1.9 million views remains her most-seen song.
While she still drops new covers on her YouTube account, Ruby says she’s increasingly moving to original numbers, such as “Cherry Pop,” which also has a splashy video, and “Young Love,” the first song she’s written by herself. “I also have three more songs coming out (this) year, and there might be more,” Ruby says.
Ruby Jay, a 14-year-old from Cypress, California, stars in the title role of Hulu’s family series “Holly Hobbie,” which is inspired by the artwork of the illustrator and writer of the same name.