Rukiya Bernard was born and raised in Toronto.
She grew up heavily immersed in the arts studying classical ballet for 13 years, receiving her grade 10 classical piano certification from The Royal Conservatory of Music and doing plays throughout her school career. She graduated with honours from Ryerson University’s theatre program and quickly started working with a support lead role in Ernest Dickerson’s Our America. Other notable appearances include Supernatural, Stargate Universe, Primeval: New World, The Haunting Hour, Stuck, The Music Teacher.
Rukiya can be seen in the hit BBC America show Intruders which recently premiered on Space. We sat down with this talented beauty who now calls Vancouver her home and chatted about her career and aspirations.
Q & A with Rukiya Bernard
Surrey604: You have been acting for a long time, when did you decide that you were going to pursue it professionally?
Rukiya: During high school I didn’t like high school all that much. I always felt different. So I decided to fast track through high school and I shaved off a year but when I realized that I would be graduating and my parents were expecting me to go through some sort of post secondary education I had to choose something. So I just chose the only course I actually enjoyed: theatre. My parents, though supportive – were scared.
Surrey604: You were recently seen in the hit BBC America show Intruders. What was it like working on this project.
Rukiya: AMAAAAZING!!!! I was in a couple of the very first episodes and any show that’s starting up usually has some kinks to work out before it becomes a well oiled machine. There was magic working on Intruders. From the time we did the table read I felt a sense of togetherness – no egos. Shooting was equally fun. Director Eduardo Sanchez, gave a lot of liberties to play around with character. And the majority of my scenes were with Millie Brown – who was such a pro to work with – even at her tender age of 8. It’s certainly been one of the highlights of my year.
Surrey604: You have been involved in a lot of big budget Hollywood products including Cabin in the Woods, Supernatural, The Day The Earth Stood still among many others. Do you ever get nervous? How do you deal with the nerves?
Rukiya: I rarely get nervous on set and not so much with auditions anymore. Cabin in the Woods I was nervous for though. I had watched Richard Jenkins’ Oscar nominated performance and became an instant fan. Then I had to do a scene with him. Well it really got me thinking about my talent – if it would measure up. That’s the mistake I’ve been working to undo. The craft isn’t a competition – I don’t think I’m the best actress – far from it. I think of myself as a student. There’s something about having that mindset that frees me up from being “the best” – and in that I can do my best. It’s been working these days 😉
Surrey604: I’m sure being an actress for so long requires a lot of self awareness. What are some practices that you incorporate into your life to help you stay balanced?
Rukiya: Ha! Self awareness is absolutely key -but lemme tell you – it can become indulgent. Since having my kids I’ve become a very busy lady and have worked a lot more. I think it’s because I’m not indulging in my self awareness but gaining an awareness of the world. I make sure I listen to people. I try to be as curious as possible about everything in life and learn from that. Only then can I relate to character because I’ll see myself in other people.
Surrey604: What would be your dream role?
Rukiya: I have a few. I’m currently writing some of them. I’ve always wanted to adapt Macbeth into an urban tale and play Lady M. I’m inspired by real life, be it comedy or drama – finding the humanity in extraordinary circumstances. So anything Judd Apatow, Vince Gilligan, Ron Howard, even Shonda Rhimes – man I wish I could play with Kerry Washington on Scandal.
Surrey604: What are some of your favourite television shows right now?
Rukiya:There are so many – I’m so happy great shows are drawing audiences again – away from reality TV. Um.. It’s done now – but I think Breaking Bad will go down as one of the best shows of all time. Sure hits are: The Mindy Project, Orange is New Black, House of Cards, Scandal. I’m old school too – Apatow’s Undeclared and Freaks and Geeks were genius shows as was Arrested Development – why they were cancelled…? Who knows.
Surrey604: Who is your favourite actor or actress you have worked with on set?
Rukiya: There have been so many – so many interesting joyful experiences and I’ve met some dear friends. Pascalle Hutton of Arctic Air was fabulous, Mena Suvari was fantastic. One of my best friends, Chris Jacot – I met him on the set of Relic Hunter in Toronto. We were both fresh out of theatre school. We’re still really close a decade later.
Surrey604: Which actor would you love to work opposite?
Rukiya: There are some giants I’d love to play with – Jason Bateman, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Kerry Washington, Viola Davis, Jennifer Lawrence, Sean Penn, Kevin Spacey, Meryl, the list goes on and on and on.
Surrey604: What advice do you have for anyone interested in pursuing acting as a profession?
Rukiya: Do it for the love of the craft – not for the fame and certainly not for the money. There are many more sure-fire ways of becoming famous and rich. I think all of us actors battle this notion – so at least have an awareness of this to help keep you grounded in the down times. And live your life.