Ricky Cruz – from Alberton to LA

South African actor Ricky Cruz is making it big in Hollywood. At the age of 21 he has already received high praise from the film industry in LA – no small feat for a young man from Alberton. Ricky’s first film appearance, at the age of 16, was in the acclaimed South African movie, Spud, based on the book written by John van de Ruit. “2010 was a busy year for me,” Ricky recalls, “between filming Spud and the FIFA World Cup, it was one of my shortest school years ever!” Prior to his role in the South African movie, which also featured the inimitable John Cleese, Ricky had done no professional acting. “Before Spud I had only ever had a lead role in an original school play in Grade 7. I had always tried to be an active member in the drama department, but typically you had to be a little older to be given real responsibility. Although I did a lot of prepared and impromptu public speaking,” he says. “I’ve always turned to comedy as an emotional distraction when I felt overwhelmed or unhappy, in life. And when I got to high school I found myself subconsciously doing the same thing for other people. Making people laugh makes me happy, so getting into comedy and acting seemed like a natural progression.”

In his last year of high school, Ricky took it upon himself to take a video camera to school for the entire year and document special moments and funny incidents, as a gift to his fellow matriculants. The film was extremely well received. “Although I was fairly certain about what I wanted to do, it was only after I heard how happy everyone was with the film – and how much they appreciated it, that I knew for sure I would only be satisfied if I was making other people happy. The best way I thought that I could do that was by getting into the entertainment industry,” Ricky continues.

A few bit parts in advertising campaigns and TV shows kept Ricky busy as he furthered his education in SA, as well as being cast in leading roles for theatre productions, the Sucker Squad, Footloose and Dead Poet’s Society. It was then off to the Big Apple, where he enrolled for a degree in acting for film at the New York Film Academy. While studying, Ricky continued to hone his skills, appearing in numerous productions over the years, including various comedic short films, a Lays Chips commercial and some web series productions. It was Ricky’s performance in the hit web series Millionaires that really got him noticed – and
resulted in a SAG-AFTRA accreditation.

The SAG-AFTRA is an international union that recognises talent in the entertainment industry and offers support to deserving upcoming stars. With 160 000 members worldwide, SAG-AFTRA formally identified Ricky as a leading talent emerging in comedy and acting. It is one of the ultimate feathers in any entertainer’s cap.

In April this year, Ricky graduated from the New York Film Academy, receiving his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting for Film, cum laude, and is now paving his way to further success.

“I’m currently working at the Groundlings Theatre & School in Hollywood, as stage manager, following an internship with the theatre.” Established in 1974, the Groundlings Theatre is renowned as Hollywood’s leading sketch comedy theatre, and has been the launch pad for some of Hollywood’s biggest names in comedy, including Will Ferrell.

Commenting on his gravitation towards comedy, Ricky states, “Although I am naturally drawn to comedic material, I find anything with a meaningful message that resonates with me appealing, regardless of the genre. I do try to bring my sense of humour into most of my roles, when and where it’s appropriate and welcomed, of course. I think it’s important to be honest and truthful when it comes to depicting a character and that’s me. Real life can be
hard and painful but it’s also pretty funny.”

Perhaps Ricky’s biggest achievement to date, was his involvement in the smash-hit theatre production, Made in the 90’s, in April 2016, which he starred  in, produced, directed and wrote. The show was a huge success and sold out for the entire season.

Asked how he thinks he got to where he is, he says, “I can say without any uncertainty that the driving force behind everything I have ever accomplished has been the unconditional support and belief I have had from my family and friends. If it wasn’t for them, I would never have had the courage to pursue my dreams.”

“Further to that, you have to want a career in the entertainment industry more than anything. But that is only half the battle. You have to earn it, too. You have to be prepared to work yourself stupid and dedicate every ounce of energy you have to furthering yourself in your career. Hard work and dedication never goes unrewarded.”

With an attitude like that, pure talent and the entertainment world at his feet, we expect to see Ricky Cruz’s name in bright lights for a long time to come. Watch this space.