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Interview With Venezuelan Actress And The Star Of Ayar: Ariana Ron Pedrique

 

Ariana Ron Pedrique
Venezuelan actress Ariana Ron Pedrique left her home country to pursue a solid career in Hollywood. This year, she made her feature film debut in Ayar that premiered at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival in March. Directed by Emmy winner Floyd Russ, the melodramatic feature began shooting during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We caught up with Ariana to talk about the challenges of shooting on-set for an English-language production and why a performer like her demands visibility for Latina artists in Hollywood.

Ariana, give our readers some insight into your childhood life and how it was like growing up in Venezuela.
I grew up in Caracas and was lucky to always be surrounded by a loving family. Known within my loved ones as Ari, I am the youngest of four, and according to my siblings, I am the craziest one of all of us. I grew up surrounded by all types of pets including a wild snake. I love animals to this day. My husband and I currently have three lovely adopted Mexican pets, or as we like to call them “our daughters.” We consider them a crucial part of our family.
 
My house, growing up, was always very loud. We always enjoyed hearing music all day long, which I think is typical of a lot of Latino households, especially our gaitas, which are the seasonal songs we listen to in Venezuela to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

My mom would teach us Salsa and Merengue in the middle of the living room. We would eat arepas every weekend, and my dad would cook a barbecue every Sunday for the entire family. Then we would all get together in the TV room to watch a new film. I had a beautiful upbringing. Then, life in Venezuela became increasingly challenging for political and economic reasons, and so, we all tried to find opportunities of a worthy future elsewhere.

How does it feel to represent Venezuela as a budding actress in Hollywood?
For me, it is always an honor to carry the name of my country into my career and what I love doing. Hopefully, my work can inspire Venezuelans – and anyone around the world – to be whomever they want to be, to dream big and reach as high as they want, even in the darkest of the circumstances. Hope will always be a light in the road no matter how impossible that road might seem.

How was it like transitioning from Venezuela’s entertainment industry to American cinema? Were there any differences you came across while experiencing this shift?

Acting is universal and I love how, in the best case scenarios, everyone can relate to it no matter where the project is coming from, or in what language the project is in. I think that is what makes this career special. Stories, life lessons, challenges and emotions are universal. That is why storytelling connects people from all over the world. To me, being able to act and be a part of something like this, is a gift.
       
When it comes to the industry and the business side of things, each country has its uniqueness and challenges. Whenever you try to expand your business into a new market, you have to learn how to thrive within new circumstances. For example, one big difference I have found between Venezuela and the United States is that outside of the US, there is no doubt that I am a Latina and yet, here in the States, I have found more often than not that I don’t “belong” in Hollywood’s narrow vision of what a Latina should look like. That can be very discouraging. I know there is still a long way to go but hopefully, my work as well as the work of fellow Latinx performers can help change this limiting view of our community.
 
The transition to Los Angeles has allowed me to fulfill a lifelong dream. Ever since I became an actor, I have dreamt of playing a character like Ayar and being a part of a story like this. Performing a fully dimensional role is what I have been looking for in my professional life, and I am honored and grateful to have been able to be her. Hopefully, this is just the beginning!

Ariana Ron Pedrique

Talk to our readers about your English feature film debut Ayar and the part you play?
I play the role of Ayar in the film, a first-generation American-Latina who is tormented with guilt over leaving her newborn child behind to pursue her dream of becoming a singer. After five years of an unsuccessful career in Vegas, my character is determined to return home and amend the relationship with her daughter Jasmine (Calliah Sophie Estrada) and mother Renata (Vilma Vega). When Renata refuses to allow her to have contact with Jasmine due to COVID-19, my character is forced to grapple with past mistakes and peel back the layers of who she has become to figure out who she should be.

What challenge did you have to put up with while filming Ayar?
Filming a movie in the middle of a pandemic was very trying for all involved. Yet, the production team did an amazing job keeping us safe, and thankfully, nobody got sick. Ayar is my first American film, so I had to speak English throughout the whole film, which was a fun challenge to tackle.

Before this point in my career, I hadn’t had the fortune to act in a language other than Spanish. For me, to be able to immerse myself in Ayar’s life, I had to dedicate extra hours studying the script than usual in order to dominate the language, and still find a way to sound as natural as possible instead of coming off as rehearsed. However, without a doubt, the biggest challenge was learning how to play the piano in two weeks, which was crucial for the character. That was exciting!
 
In your experience, which medium of storytelling – film or television – is harder to pull off?
Both are demanding in their own particular ways. In my experience, the most crucial difference I can find is the quantity of scenes you shoot per day. Sometimes when you are working on TV, you can have a work day of 15 hours and 30 to 60 scenes to shoot per day. Meaning, the actual quality time you spend per scene is very little in comparison to when you are filming a feature film. Your work days can last the same amount of hours and yet, you could only be filming maybe six sequences in total per day. Some days it may even be just one, allowing you to dedicate much more time and quality to each scene.

Ayar was a special case; since we shot the feature film during the pandemic, we had to fit sometimes even ten scenes a day, so I was very glad to have all of my TV experience to bring to this film shoot. The schedule allowed us to finish shooting the film in 13 days and safeguard all the crew and cast from the potential exposition to COVID-19.
 
What is your acting style?
If I am honest, I would have to admit that I have never identified myself with a particular acting technique or style. It is hard for me to put into words what acting is, in my opinion. The best explanation for me is the make-believe game. You must believe with total conviction that you are someone else; just like kids do. I remember playing a game that allowed me to become another character. Today, that is what I still do every time I perform a new role.

I immerse myself in the new reality this character is in and wholeheartedly believe I am this person. To me, this is the most amazing game there is. As an actor, you are safely living somebody else’s life. Then, at the end of the day, you go back to be who you are, and yet, you have lived, learned and gained perspective from living someone else’s life, and I love that. 

 Photographer: Ben Cope