For awhile now, I have noticed this lovely actress who appears in various supporting roles in Hallmark and Lifetime films as well as guest and recurring roles in television shows. Since her name is Rukiya Bernard, I have never failed to not notice her name in the credits of any show or film I am watching. I am very sensitive to unusually memorable names such as hers. Add to that the fact that she appears in some of my favorite works and that she always gives a stellar performance, and I knew I had to seek out an interview with her. This summer, we set one up, but technology has only just allowed me to be able to share it with my readers. I am so glad that Rukiya was eagerly disposed to share about how she began her career in the entertainment industry, her remarkable experience with Hallmark and other networks, and a bit about her future aspirations.
RH: What inspired you to become an actress? What kind of training have you received?
RB: There have been so many instances that inspired me to become an actress when I look back on the timeline of “Rukiya Bernard.” My parents surrounded my sister and I with the arts, and we were exposed to a lot of performances from a very young age. I feel it was pre-destined, like when I was a kid, my parents used to call me “Miss Dress-up” because I was always going through their closets and then making them sit in the living room while I put on shows. But I think the defining moment when I decided to pursue this professionally was when I was in high school and I went to see a George F. Walker play, Problem Child starring Ted Dykstra and Kristen Thomson in Toronto. It was so good. The audience was howling the whole time, and at the end of the play Kristen delivered a beautiful monologue that made me cry and I thought, “What a whirlwind experience we’ve all shared here. This is beautiful and I’m going to do that.” And that year, I applied to a number of theater schools and got into Ryerson University’s program.
As you have made several Hallmark films, what do you like about working for that network?
Yes! I’m writing a lot these days and I’m almost finished the pilot of a TV show I co-created and have started researching my next project. Between my first job, being a mother of two, and my second job of acting, I’m very busy these days. Or I guess an average working mom.
Since you have played a wide variety of roles that call for incredible versatility, do you have some kind of process that helps you get into each character?
I do all kinds of stuff. The first part is learning my lines, which I do in my car. I swear I look like a crazy person sitting in my car with the light on and talking, crying or yelling to myself. I’ve seen the looks of people passing by, but hey, it works. And then once I know my lines, I like to get together with an actor friend to help discover the fun in the role. If I’m enjoying playing a character, the audience will enjoy it too, and that’s what it’s all about for me.
Do you have any upcoming or very recent projects that you can mention?
Most recently I appeared on SyFy’s Van Helsing as a survivor named Doc. It’s about a group of people as they try to survive the vampire apocalypse and one woman’s discovery of her supernatural powers. It’s such an exciting, action-packed show with a kick ass female lead. Kelly Overton, who plays Vanessa Helsing, is amazing.
What do you like to do in your free time?
What I like to do and what I actually do are two very different things. What I like to do is shop for furniture and interesting pieces since I love interior design. I love a good massage and I love going to the movies, but what I actually do is a lot of glamorous diaper changing, fabulous hustling children to school, dance classes, daycare, soccer practice and also red carpet laundry folding. Mom stuff.
I see you’re also a dancer. Please tell us more about that part of your life.
I’ve been dancing my whole life. Longer than I’ve been acting actually. I studied ballet from the time I was four years old at Toronto’s Opera Atelier. I did ballet throughout my schooling years and then when I went to college, I really got into jazz, contemporary and hip hop. I never thought to pursue it professionally, but I still take classes and just simply love to dance. It’s a great way to stay in shape.
As a woman in entertainment, what is your outlook on gender equality in this business?
For most of my life, I have been a champion for diversity (yes, I know I’m about as “white” as they come, but that has not stopped me from noticing the inequality that exists and attempting to do what I can about it). As I reviewed Rukiya’s responses, I sensed my heart surging when she spoke about things that truly resonate within me–especially that last answer. While I respected Rukiya’s talent long before this interview, I cannot tell you how much my respect for her has increased. Not only is she an awesome actress, woman, and mother, but she is an advocate for women and ethnic diversity. While I am sure she could speak at length about these and other issues, she is one who has chosen in her quiet (and I’m sure, at times, not so quiet) way to work within the system rather than just wax eloquent. She is a woman of action in all areas of her life, and for that she has earned my highest regard. I always knew there was something special about this woman, and discovering that she is as authentic, industrious, and benevolent as I perceived she was excites me to no end. I hope that Hallmark will consider her idea as I am one who greatly anticipates continuing to see even more diversity from Hallmark as they continue to lead the way in this area. In the meantime, as we await more from Rukiya, be sure that you look up her Hallmark works and also Van Helsing, which is now available on Netflix with a season two in the not-to-distant future. Additionally, please support this amazing lady by checking out all her links below so that you can be kept up to speed with everything this busy, successful actress is doing! You will not regret it!!