Before I meet with Ruby Rose (virtually, of course), I’ve typecast her: She’s an action movie heroine; a vigilante who defends her city not with weapons, but with her own physical strength; she was Batwoman, for God’s sake. My narrowed perception stems from when I first saw her as a jumpsuit-wearing, sarcasm-slinging prisoner on Orange Is the New Black. From there, the archetype was built into my brain: a gritty, unbreakable, gender-fluid enigma who, through various roles, has both committed crime and fought against it. It seemed only natural to assume that during our recent Zoom meeting—an occasion that’s already visually intimidating—her sage green eyes would pierce through me, like we were about to wage war in Gotham City. But instead, I’m met with someone who’s warm and doesn’t take herself too seriously. She laughs about her ironies; she’s more comfortable posing for photos if her rescue chihuahua is in hand. And she’s duly aware that she has been typecast, not by just me, but by Hollywood.
"There’s something in being stereotyped or sort of pigeonholed into one genre that it really depends on how you frame it," she tells me. "In one way, it can be frustrating, because you want to do romantic comedy and do lighter films (that don’t scare my mother), but it does mean I’m being stereotyped or pigeonholed as a strong female that can lead a film, that can be a badass… " She pauses for a moment. "It’s not a bad rap to be kind of known as one of the people that can play a strong female. A lot comes down to when I choose a role that isn’t just like, 'Oh, it’s an action film. Great. Let’s go.' I’ve definitely said no to more of those films than I’ve said yes." (One such role she's recently found variation in is her latest as Ali in The Doorman, an action-packed thriller where she takes a seemingly innocuous job as—you guessed it—a doorman after returning from combat and unexpectedly has to defend a family against a gang of thieves.)
In fact, it’s because of this "badass" silo that Rose convinced director and producer Elizabeth Banks to let her forego a role in Charlie’s Angels for Pitch Perfect 3 where she sang in a band—a surprising deviation from her typical action-packed roles, albeit one that allowed her to showcase her range (as an actress and as a singer). But Rose is full of surprises, as our virtual chat would reveal.
How have you been handling these past few months—the pandemic and the state of affairs—how has it been on your mental health and well-being?
I think, like anyone, there have been ebbs and flows of bursts of creativity, and enjoying time off, and taking care of myself, and connecting more with friends and my family back home in Australia. I have an adopted grandparent in the UK through this program where you "adopt" a lonely grandparent and so I call her in the morning... There are days where I’ll do everything: I'll get up really early, I’ll have a bath, I’ll do a stretch, I’ll go boxing, I’ll cook an amazing vegan meal, I’ll walk the dogs, I’ll start painting, and then I‘m playing the guitar... And the next day I’m like, It’s bed. Today's a bed day. And when I say, "work from home," I’m working from my bed. But for me, I had a couple of cleanses—I did a couple of juice and vegan broth cleanses because I felt like I wasn’t eating well and I felt like I wasn’t sleeping well, and that really helped. And just exercise—exercise and sleep, water, and good nutrition is what I think has kept me sane and kept my mental spirit up. And reading books and watching classic films and connecting with friends that I have in sort of a quarantine pod since pretty much the beginning. All of those things have been sort of life lines.
Has your wellness routine shifted at all during this shift in the world?
I’ve always been a big one with self-care and taking baths, I think because I’m a Pisces and I need my water [laughs], so I’ve always been very into that and I’ve always been very into exercise. I’ve been training—really, really training—for 15 years, between when I was training to be a boxer to then getting into acting and doing a lot of stunts and a lot of action films, and I was like, "I deserve a break. I deserve to just not work out." I would not work out, and eat whatever I wanted, and just relax. And halfway through, I was like, "I feel like that made me less happy than I thought it would." It was nice to have a break, but definitely getting back into fitness was very important.
How about your beauty routine? What are you doing differently or keeping the same?
I’m definitely wearing a lot less makeup, but also, I shaved my head at the beginning. I’d been wanting to do it for such a long time. I did it when I was a teenager, but since then, there hasn’t been a role that I’ve had that really kind of suggested that the character would have a shaved head—it was a bit of a stretch. I did ask a few times like, "Hey, you think this character would have a shaved—no? Okay, cool." But I’d been wanting to do it and I knew that it was a good opportunity because my hair grows back so quickly, so I knew that by the time the new normal—or whatever we’re calling this when work picks up and resumes—that I’d have more hair. But luckily I’ve been able to get jobs with no hair, so now someone has to pay me to grow my hair. [laughs] Although, skincare, yes, I’ve always been big on skincare and taking care of myself that way, but makeup-wise it’s just a bit of SPF and some mascara, brows... that’s it. Because if I put too much on, I kind of feel odd. It’s a bit weird.
What have been some beauty product mainstays you’ve used for as long as you can remember?
I have used Drunk Elephant for a long time. They had one product—I discovered it, I don’t know how, it’s an oil, [Ed note: the Virgin Marula Luxury Face Oil] and now they have everything. And, I’m not good with product names or descriptions, but Tata Harper, I use all their skincare. The moisturizer kind of acts almost like a foundation if my skin’s great and I don't need any coverage. It kind of has a little shine to it. And that water mist spray—it feels like you’re in a spa.
Your most recent role as Ali in The Doorman is full of action and impressive stunt work. Do you associate playing a strong female lead with setting the groundwork to empower women and set an example of essentially showing up for yourself in such a difficult time?
I think a strong female lead—when I say that, I mean, sort of the physicality of it and also the fact that she will be equal when matched with a guy, whether it be John Wick or like in xXx going against people like Donnie Yen—I love that part of that and what that teaches young women or young adults, grown-ups... everyone, that we can match men physically and mentally. I love that we’re doing that now because a long time ago, that didn’t exist. There was always the girlfriend, you know, she was the bad guy or she had all these henchmen or whatever it might be. So now there are more roles in that area, which I love, but when a strong female lead... that’s any character. They’re in drama, romantic comedies, horror films, they’re in documentaries... but we’re seeing more of it in every genre, which is really cool.
You did such a great interview with your friend Nina Dobrev on our site a while back. How have your female friendships evolved over the years?
Beautifully. I’ve been in the States for seven years, but when I first got here, I didn’t know anyone. Over time, I was really missing my friends from school and my longer friends that I’ve had for 10 years, 15 years, 20 years. But as I’ve been here longer and gone through ups and downs and my friends have gone through trials and tribulations, we’ve bonded more. Getting to work with people—that’s how I met Nina, was through xXx—our friendship... I mean, she’s one of my best friends. Then through her, I met Riawna [Capri] who’s my hairstylist/best friend that lives down the street, and my friend Morgan... these are all people that are in this sort of Camp Quarantine thing we have going on, like a group chat where you check in every morning, we ask how everyone’s doing, we send some funny memes, we have some great conversations, we'll do Zoom cooking dinner nights, Zoom dates, we watch film... All of those girls (there’s one guy in it), all of those women, including Morgan’s mother who’s also in the chat, have helped. Since quarantine happened when we were in Mexico for Morgan and Riawna’s wedding (that obviously had to get cancelled because of COVID), we went to celebrate their love for a few days, and then suddenly it was like, COVID hit, borders are closing, and we all had to obviously come home to the States. Since then, those friendships have grown exponentially, and it’s so nice to be able to show up for someone and check in on people, which, I think, for a long time, we just kind of scrolled through social media. [Pretends to scroll] "Oh, they’re at the beach they look happy. Oh, they’re doing this, they look good." But it’s not real life, so when you’re forced to kind of get off of that and get more into, "I’m gonna call this person, I’m gonna Zoom or FaceTime." I used to hate FaceTime, and now I realize how valuable it is because you can’t really know how someone is through text. You can’t really know how someone is through email or social media—you do need to be able to look at someone, because it’s very easy behind a screen to not be okay and say, “I’m doing great! I’m having a fantastic day. I’m at the gym," and really, you’re in bed not.
Whenever we do go back to… whatever is going to happen when we go back to normal... that will stay ingrained in me. To make sure I’m checking on my strong friends, my funny friends, my friends that have walls up and don’t usually get too into their feelings unless you really ask them, and also maybe your friends that sometimes you know they're more susceptible to being down or being out or depressed or going through something. I think it’s really been a valuable tool for us all to learn about how much we need connection. Like when we first went into quarantine, I was like, "I was born for this life!" [laughs] Staying home with my dogs in one place, not having to travel around. It was great! I’m not the most social person, I don’t really go out and do all that stuff. But after a couple of weeks, two weeks, I sort of went, "Oh, now I really need people. I miss people. What am I doing? My mom, she’s all the way in Australia, is she okay?" And I suddenly had this whole epiphany where I really underestimated how much I need—I think a lot of us do—human connection, human interaction, and deep interaction, not just… a very LA thing is like, "I haven’t seen you! Let’s hang out!" And then that's the end of the conversation.
As awful as the pandemic has been, it really has brought about a lot of change, which is kind of beautiful in a strange way.
Yeah, I mean, look... it’s devastating. It’s devastating how many people have died, it’s devastating how many people have gotten really sick, and how many people have gotten sick and recovered but are still having the after effects of it. It’s scary. But I think you can’t just look at all the negative around it, and all the politics around it, and all of the fear around it. You have to find, in any situation, positives and how we can make something that is negative into something that is a journey of growth and a journey of self-discovery and having time... because how many times, when I haven’t had a day off in three months or something, I’m like, "If I had a week off, I would travel across America! I would do all these... " and then you get a week off, and in the beginning, you’re like, [looks around] "Ah, what am I gonna do?" But you actually can do those things, and when you have time, you can make the most of it. I think thats invaluable.
A lot of my friends have gotten closer with their parents, which has been really beautiful to watch. People that had strained relationships—I’ve always had a great relationship with my mom, but I’ve taught her to, you know, when they always FaceTime like this [gets really close to computer screen] “It’s so good to see you honey, how are you?” And I’m like, "Mom I can’t see you!" And my mom’s young, she's 53. I understand when my grandma does it. But, come on, Mom. And now she knows this is how you do it."
What is something that brings you instant happiness?
My dogs. I have three dogs. They’re all actually chihuahua mixes, they’re all rescues. They're all, you know... a little interesting. Chance can’t walk. She can kind of scoot around, so she’s sort of special needs. She goes to a chiropractor every week, she gets massages, she does water therapy. I’m like, "This dog is living a good life." I have Charlie, he’s about four now. He’s got a broken jaw. I went to get it fixed because he can't eat any kind of hard food and he’s young, and they were like, “No, it must have happened a long time ago, so it is where it is and it’s going to stay there, but we could move it back into place for cosmetic reasons," and I'm like, "Have you seen my dog?” He is not going to be Best in Show. Like this is the mutt-iest of mutt dogs. There’s no way I’m going to cosmetically fix his face for any reason at all. Ru, who I’ve had since I’ve moved to the States, she’s a little bigger, she’s sort of white, fluffy, and she doesn’t have any special needs physically, but she is one of the most intense dogs you will ever meet. She will just sit and stare. She has, like, human eyeballs. And she will just sit and stare at me no matter where we are and I’ll just turn around and [pretends to be yell] "Ah! What are you doing?!" And when I’m driving, she just sits there the whole time and I’m just like, "What? Are you reading into my soul?" She’s amazing.
When I came home from work—I just finished a film in Mississippi with Morgan Freeman—that’s the first time I’ve left the dogs for so long. It was only three weeks, but the longest I’ve left them in six months, and I was having withdrawal, so no wonder they’re co-dependent! Now I know the same feeling. So they’re the thing when I wake up, when I go to bed, when I’m in the kitchen cooking, when I go out and exercise... there’s nothing in the world that brings me joy faster than those three little things.
They’re just... God’s gift.
They actually really are. Truly.
Ed note: This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.