Good golly, she’s ‘Holly Hob­bie’

Teen makes the leap from small parts into the lead role of a new Hulu se­ries

The Morning Journal (Lorain, OH) - - FRONT PAGE - By Pe­ter Larsen South­ern Cal­i­for­nia News Group

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.

HULU

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.

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