Unique experiences: Get to know ‘Ayar’ actress Ariana Ron Pedrique
Ariana Ron Pedrique is ready to become a crossover star. She was born and raised in Venezuela, but eventually moved to Mexico City when she was twenty-one to pursue an acting career. She put together an impressive acting resume in Mexico, with her most notable role being the lead in the hit Netflix series Rosario Tijeras.
Pedrique’s profile has steadily risen in the wake of Rosario Tijeras. She appeared in the Amazon Prime release Two Lakes and the Netflix series José José El Príncipe de la Canción, and she recently made her film debut with Ayar, which debuted to positive reviews at the 2021 SXSW Festival.
Film Daily had the absolute pleasure of talking with Ariana Ron Pedrique about her career, her transition to English-language roles, and her experience working on Ayar. Here’s what she had to say:
Tell us about your history in acting. How did you start your journey?
The first time I stood on a stage was when I was three years old. The school I attended from a very young age until college – known as El Colegio Emil Friedman – always offered its students the opportunity to connect with our artistic side. My first memorable experience as a performer was when I was eleven years old and I played the role of Juliet in Shakespeare’s iconic play.
But, it wasn’t until I was invited to join the Performing Arts School CEFAT located in Mexico City that I became aware of my passion for acting. Mexico not only provided me with an exemplary education as an actor, but also offered me my first professional roles on TV as well as in Theater. After almost a decade residing in Mexico City, I decided to keep pursuing my dream in the United States. Ayar is my film debut.
Was there a particular film or show that inspired you to become an actor?
I have always loved film. I honestly cannot keep track of how many films have inspired me throughout my life. I would have to say, it was probably a sum of these great films that made me fall in love with this career. However, the very first movie that made me want to learn more about the camera’s process was The Notebook.
I remember being 16 years old, hiding in my room, watching Rachel McAdams’s audition for the role of Allie hundreds of times and then imagining myself in that situation. I could see myself auditioning just like she had at the moment. I remember learning the lines and then acting them by myself along with Ryan Gosling’s voice.
You first gained attention with a lead role in the Netflix series Rosario Tijeras. What was the most important skill you learned during your time on the series?
I will never forget the day when we were on location, about to film one of the most important scenes for my character, as well as for the arc of the story and Alejandro Lozano – Rosario Tijeras’s director – tore up the script right in front of my face and told me “forget about the lines, I want you to take this personally”. It was the moment my character finds out my fiancé was being unfaithful, so it was a very emotionally charged scene.
I was terrified, but that day I remember feeling suddenly free to lose myself in the character. It allowed me to get to another level of confidence within my performance, and I absolutely loved it. To this day, that’s the scene viewers still connect with the most. They always mention that particular moment for my character and how it resonated with them. And I will always feel grateful to have worked with Lozano who gave us the liberty to be the characters in pure freedom.
So, the most important skill I learned throughout the series was to trust my capabilities to become the character even in the most challenging scenarios.
You recently made your American film debut with Ayar. What initially drew you to the film?
I fell in love with the story the minute I read its logline. Ever since I became a professional actor I have always wanted to tell a story like this. The reason why I moved to Los Angeles in the first place was because I wanted to play a character like this. I loved the rawness of Ayar and the authenticity of the story. I felt connected with her as a human, as a woman, as an immigrant, and especially as a dreamer.
You co-wrote Ayar with Vilma Vega & director Floyd Russ. Did you take inspiration from your own life when working on the script?
Yes, absolutely. In fact, the film is based on both of our lives. Especially on Vilma’s. When Floyd invited Vilma and I to be part of the creation of the script, he offered us a safe space for us to be ourselves, to share our experiences as two Latina immigrants, to raise our voices and to take hold of the narrative so Ayar could be as authentic and honest as possible.
Do you find it easier to play a character that you have a personal connection with?
I don’t think I could ever embody a character without first finding a personal connection with the role. Even in the most seemingly different ones, to me acting is about finding the similarities between us both so I can become the character in the most authentic of ways.
How closely did you work with Floyd Russ on honing your performance?
Very much. In my experience, a performance will always be a collaborative process with the Director, and this case wasn’t the exception. I definitely found it easier to find Ayar after those scriptwriting sessions with Floyd and Vilma.
Do you like to improvise during filming or do you prefer to stick to the script?
Honestly, I enjoy doing both as long as I feel confident about who the character is and the Director agrees with the approach. However, as an actor when you find a script that is beautifully crafted, you don’t want to modify it. You want to cherish it, respect it, and perform it exactly as is.
Do you have certain acting routines to help you get into character?
It depends on the character. I allow myself to approach each role the way the role itself demands. So, I would say I don’t have a particular routine to get into character. However, my process usually involves me sitting with the script for as long as I need to find the reasoning behind my character’s choices and especially to connect with their emotional path.
One thing I have found to be extremely helpful is meditating. It helps me let go of unnecessary thinking and connect with that inner wisdom that usually reveals the path to a truthful performance.
What is the biggest difference between acting in English and acting in Spanish?
I have found that since Spanish is the language I grew up with, it is embedded in my emotional memory. Therefore, when acting in Spanish, words tend to be more meaningfully rooted in me which allows me to feel more confident about the lines and just focus on the character’s journey.
When acting in English, I need to spend more time learning my lines, studying the script, sometimes even learning the meaning and pronunciation of certain words that I might have never heard before. Then, learn how to let the technicalities go in order to emotionally find the character in order to not sound rehearsed and instead, be as natural as possible.
What part of acting do you enjoy the most?
My favorite part is that I get to see the world through someone else’s eyes. It gives me perspective. It teaches me empathy. It also provides me with joy, bravery, hope, love, and awareness. I feel an emotional growth every time I interpret a new complex character, especially one like Ayar.
If I am lucky I’ll get to live a thousand lives in a lifetime. A good story can be the most accurate mirror to your own life. And being part of this world is a gift to me. In simple words, it makes me happy.
You have a fear of cockroaches, which you had to face in a scene involving a nest of roaches. Can you tell us about this scene and how you overcame your fear?
We were on location shooting one of the most crucial scenes for the film. It was very late, it was the last scene of the day, this was a ten plus page scene, and we were all exhausted in the middle of a motel in Lancaster, California. Everything was set and ready to film the sequence and suddenly, I see a cockroach on the floor and that’s when I notice there’s a nest of roaches.
They were walking among us, climbing on my feet, throwing themselves in the pool right in front of us… It was definitely a huge challenge for me. I find it very hard to control myself around them. Like you mentioned, I have a terrible phobia of cockroaches because of an experience I had back in Venezuela. So, I was a mess… But at the same time we’d all worked so hard to that point to tell this story. We were a small crew, working together day in and day out as a family, trying to do the impossible and shoot this feature film in the middle of a pandemic.
We all believed in Ayar so deeply that I remember feeling it was my responsibility to make it work. And so, I remember having to have a moment where I basically said to myself: “Keep it together woman!”. I wasn’t going to allow this fear to get between our hard work and ultimately all our dreams for this film. And so, instead of fighting or avoiding them, I found a way to use them for the scene, and thankfully, it worked!
What’s the most important theme you want audiences to take away from Ayar?
No matter what the obstacles are, if we just collaborate, we can make something beautiful. Jasmine (played by Calliah Sophie Estrada) has this amazing line in the movie about how we are supposed to work as a family. The message for me out of the pandemic, and out of this film, is this: look at what we can accomplish when we work together as a human family.
Do you have an interest in doing more in screenwriting in the future?
Yes. Without a doubt. It’s something that I recently realized I do enjoy as much as acting.
Who are your biggest acting influences?
I love Jennifer Lawrence, Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Javier Bardem, Gary Oldman, Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna, Tom Hanks, Viola Davis, Denzel Washington, and I could keep going… But I have to admit I have probably watched Jennifer’s, Meryl’s, Julia’s and Denzel’s movies the most.
I never get tired of watching them. It seems like I keep learning the nuances of acting every time I see them in action. I love to track down an actor that I admire and watch as many of their movies as possible.
What has been your greatest success?
Learning to let go of impatience and enjoy the process. When I am in that state of mind, beautiful things seem to happen more often, like Ayar.
What has been your biggest failure? What did you learn?
Going against what I believe to please others. I learned it is simply never worth it.
Have you worked with mentors in the past? How would you recommend people go about finding them?
This is a great question; I am aware mentors can significantly improve your life. Although, I have to admit I don’t think I’ve ever had an official mentor in my life. However, I have been fortunate to have found teachers throughout my journey, and those have been priceless and paramount to my own growth as a woman, as an actor, and ultimately as a human being.
I believe a great teacher can be found anywhere as long as you’re willing to listen. And my advice to those who are reading – as well as to myself – would be that it is ok to show our vulnerability and ask for guidance from those whom we admire the most. That’s what makes us unique.
Can you tell us about any upcoming projects?
There is an offer from a Mexican producer I’ve worked with in the past to potentially shoot a feature film by the end of this year. Additionally, I’ve been helping a Venezuelan producer and writer friend of mine with two feature films we have in development. If everything goes as planned, we might be filming one of those this year shortly.
What advice do you have for aspiring actors?
You’ve got to believe in yourself so much that others have no choice but to believe as well.