An Interview with Ariana Ron Pedrique
Having played the lead role in the hit series Rosario Tijeras, Ariana is an actor known for her work on Two Lakes, José José: El Principe de la Canción and Ayar. I spoke with Ariana about landing her first role, moving to Mexico City to pursue an acting career, her latest film Ayar, and her upcoming projects.
Did you always want to pursue a career in acting, and how did you land your first role?
No, the first time I actually became aware of my passion for acting was when I moved to Mexico City and I got invited to study in this performing arts school, called CEFAT. That’s when I realised that this was my passion. Now if I see my life in retrospect I’ve been on the stage ever since I was three years old. I was lucky enough to go to an amazing school in Venezuela and they had always been very aware and conscious of the importance of teaching their students arts. I learnt how to play several instruments. I not only had my regular classes like maths, chemistry and physics, I also had cuatro and theatre classes. I did my first theatre play back in the school and I was Juliette. I have been doing this for a long time. Professionally I started when I moved to Mexico City and I thought, wow, this is my passion.
Was it always the plan to move to Mexico City?
No I started working as a television host in Venezuela which is a job that I enjoyed. All of a sudden my manager back then meets this guy from Mexico who was visiting Venezuela. He wanted me to come to Mexico to audition for acting school because they were looking for new talent. I said I’m not an actress, I’m a television host and they said ‘no worries, this is a school for actors and hosts!’ So I got there and that was a lie, it was a school just for actors, but the first moment I had a script in my hands I thought I want to do this for the rest of my life.
What was it about the script that drew you to a career in acting?
There is something that happens to me and I’m sure it happens to other actors as well. When I have a script in my hands I feel like I know how to do this. I read the script and I know exactly what this looks like and I want to dive into it and get lost in this world. I just love it. It’s funny because it is a way of living so many lives in one lifetime. It really makes me happy.
Was it also a big culture shock moving to another country at that time?
Absolutely. I think that the toughest thing to do when you move to another country is always leave your family behind. That was the toughest thing for me when I moved to Mexico City. Here when I moved to LA was another big experience. I was lucky that Mexico was so welcoming. They love foreign people and welcome you with open arms. No matter how hard it was for me to leave my family behind in pursuit of this dream, I felt like Mexico was also my home. I felt that I belonged and I was lucky for that. LA was different though. I’m still trying to learn English, but it’s different. LA has been lonelier in a way, even though I’m living with my husband. When I moved to Mexico City I immediately started in this amazing school, so I was meeting so many people. I felt like there was so much movement going on and here it feels like you are trying to hike up a very high mountain, it’s not that easy. It’s definitely worth it.
So there’s a big contrast between working in the industry in LA and in Mexico City?
In a way it’s the same, meaning I’m so grateful for my experience in Venezuela and in Mexico because that has given me the tools that I need to be able to here and do Ayar. I wouldn’t have been able to do Ayar without my previous experience. I’ve been acting for more for ten years and that’s given me the tools I need to do this. Having said that, it is another language, so I realised that it’s so much easier for me to connect emotionally with my characters when I’m speaking Spanish. I believe that it’s because I grew up speaking Spanish and that language is rooted in me, so the words have like a lifelong meaning. When I’m acting in English sometimes I have to learn what a certain word means as I’ve never seen that word before and don’t know the meaning of that word, or pronunciation. I need to focus much more on the technicalities to be able to let that go and then get lost in the character.
Ayar was your debut feature film. You were also a writer on the film. Could you tell me more about this?
First of all I heard of Ayar because I got this notice for this audition and the moment I read the logline for Ayar I fell in love with it. We started a long audition process. I believe there were five different auditions. After the last one I remember being in my house and getting a call from Floyd Russ, the director of the film and he tells me, ‘welcome aboard Ayar.’ That same day he tells me I would not only like to invite to be Ayar, I also want you to be part of the creation of the script. To me that was a gift. I was already in love with the logline of the film, but when I heard him say that to me it was a testament that he wanted to do something honest and that he wanted authenticity. He wanted my experiences as an immigrant, a Latina, a woman and a dreamer, but also of Vilma Vega, who plays my Mum in the film. He offered us a safe space for us to be ourselves. He basically started asking us about our lives and our experiences. He used that and we all used that to make the story stronger.
So that allowed for more creative freedom with that particular character?
Yes. More often than not you see stories of Latinos told by people other than Latinos and it’s not that I have anything against that, I’m very grateful that they are interested in telling stories about Latinos. The fact that Floyd not only wanted us to perform these characters, but also invited us to take a hold of the narrative. To me that was a gift.
What were the biggest challenges you faced shooting the film? Covid is the backdrop of the story, though I suppose that had its own difficulties?
Sometimes it felt like we were trying to do this impossible dream come true. We were trying very hard to make this. We were a very small crew trying to be safe on set and it worked because nobody got sick, but it was definitely challenging and nerve-wrecking for all of us. Floyd and the production team all made sure that we were safe and we had Covid tests almost every day. We did everything we needed to do in order to be able to do this. That was a challenge. The other challenge, again, this was my first movie in English. I needed to make my character a first generation American Latina. I needed to sound like I was born here although I have this Latino heritage, but still I remember that was something I was very focused on.
The biggest challenge to me was learning how to play the piano in two weeks. I’ve never played piano before. Singing and playing piano are two very crucial things for Ayar. I remember when I read the first draft of the script noticing how important this was for Ayar. I was going to sing, but not play piano and at first I was okay with that, but I woke up one day and thought I really want to do this. I’d never played piano before but I feel like I have a musical ear. That’s a Spanish expression: ‘Tienes oído musical,’ you have a tendency to understand music in a way. I really wanted to do my best for the character so I remember calling Floyd and saying I can do it. I got tendinitis unfortunately, but it worked! Because of Covid I couldn’t have regular classes in person, so I had lessons and two teachers over Zoom. I was playing hours on end with the computer on top of the piano trying to imitate what they were doing with their fingers. I’m Venezuelan, I know how to dance and I love dancing. I had to learn it like it’s choreography for my hands, that’s the only way I’m going to do it in two weeks and it worked.
Is writing something you’d like to continue to focus on?
Yes. When the pandemic hit I had just gotten my Green Card, so three to four months after that I was in my house all in quarantine. I remember thinking how can I stay productive. I contacted a friend of mine who is a producer and writer, a fellow Venezuelan who I love every much and thought maybe we can start working together through Zoom. We can start writing our own script and I was lucky enough that he already had something in development. I started working with Octavio and right when I started working with him Ayar happened.
I had to stop my process with Octavio and I did Ayar. Funny things happen because I remembered before contacting my friend that I’m an actor, how am I going to write something? Then all of a sudden Ayar happens and the director asks me to be part of the scriptwriting process, so I felt like it was meant to be. I think it wouldn’t be smart of me to leave that behind and not keep trying.
Are you currently working on any projects? Have you gone back to this project?
Yes. Octavio has two feature films in development, but we are focusing on one that I fell in love with. We’ve been doing what we have to do to hopefully start shooting it soon. It all depends on the pandemic and so many things, but that is on the table right now. We want to do it in Italy and he’s currently in Canada and I’m in LA, so we are in the mix of it. I’ve got a producer friend as well who offered me a film and if all things go well we will be shooting that by the end of this year. The film I’m planning with Octavio has a special place in my heart and if all things go well then I’d love to do that.