Marcel Ruiz was born into the world of film – but at age 14, he is shining on his own.
The teen actor, who just booked the lead in the upcoming faith-based film The Impossible, stars as Alex Alvarez on the Netflix reboot of popular sitcom One Day at a Time.
Growing Up Behind the Camera
Marcel Ruiz was born in Puerto Rico to filmmaker parents. “I was raised on a set,” he said. “It was natural [and] normal to me, being on set.” In Puerto Rico, Marcel began his acting career with the occasional project or commercial, but at that time acting was “just for fun.”
When his family moved to Los Angeles, Marcel was 9 years old. He wanted to keep acting, and did commercials in Spanish. “[When I moved], I didn’t know any English,” he said, noting that his schooling helped him gain English proficiency as he progressed in his acting. Though acting was still fun for Marcel, as he got older, it had become more of a professional career and a passion.
Marcel is not only an actor – he’s an athlete, too. “Honestly, the main thing [outside of acting] is that I love sports,” he said. “I like every sport, but I play soccer and basketball on a team.”
Marcel also enjoys fashion, describing his style as “a mix of designer and street wear.” He hopes to design clothes and have his own clothing line when he gets older.
Acting, One Day at a Time
Marcel’s audition for One Day at a Time was a long process. “The first [audition] was a self-tape – I usually like to do that because you can [film] as many times as you want,” Marcel noted. “At an [in-person] audition, you have to get it right the first time.”
Marcel worried at first that he didn’t get the part of Alex Alvarez. “They didn’t contact me for [a couple of] weeks,” he said, but soon after that, he headed to a round of in-person auditions. “I didn’t expect it,” he said of landing the role, “but I was really, really happy.”
On the day Marcel had booked the sitcom, his parents surprised him – “They picked me up from school and brought me to eat ice cream, [then] they pulled out a camera. That’s how I knew something was about to happen.” He headed over to the car, where “in the back of the car, [my parents] had written Welcome to Netflix.”
Marcel and his character Alex have a lot in common.
“We both love sports – he likes baseball, but I’m more of a basketball and soccer guy. He’s the comedic guy in his family, and always tries to put a smile on everyone’s face. He has a really good relationship with his grandmother, just like me in real life,” Marcel said, adding that Alex “is always trying to fix his hair and wear good clothes – which is what I’m trying to do, too.”
Each episode of One Day at a Time takes about a week to film. During the week, the cast rehearses before performing for a live studio audience. “It’s great to have a live audience,” Marcel said. “When you hear them laugh, it gives the scene more energy and all of the actors perform better.”
Who inspires Marcel? One actor he looks to is Ansel Elgort, from The Fault in Our Stars and Baby Driver. “He’s a really cool actor and I’ve always liked his work,” Marcel said.
Doing The Impossible
When we talked to Marcel, he was celebrating his just-booked leading role in The Impossible.
“This [audition] process was much more difficult than for One Day at a Time,” he explained, “[while One Day] had about 3 auditions, this had about 7 auditions.” As Marcel progressed through the audition process, he enjoyed getting to know the material better as he now prepares to film in Canada.
“I’m excited to film in Canada,” Marcel told us, adding that he hopes to experience some snow and cold weather. He also noted his excitement to work with other young actors closer to his age, since he’s the only kid in One Day at a Time. He’s also excited to play his character, John – a basketball player, just like Marcel, and to act out an emotional and dramatic story.
As Marcel continues to find success in his career, we asked if he had any advice for young aspiring actors. “Take classes – that’s going to help a lot,” he said, “and just really get to know your character.”
“Get to know what type of acting [you’re doing] – comedy, drama, action – and figure out what interests you the most,” he said.
“Honestly, never give up. There’s a lot of competition in this industry. Just, really be yourself – and you’ll get a role.”
Feature Image Credit: Elaine Torres