When Jake Foy saddled up as Tuff McMurray in the new Hallmark original series Ride, he says there was a short learning curve because he immediately felt comfortable.
For four months, he and the rest of the stellar ensemble cast, led by Nancy Travis as Ride Matriarch Isabel McMurray, had three weeks of prep time when they worked on riding horses, character work, and story development – all pleasure-filled work.
The Canadian-born actor, producer, and director for stage and screen spent much of his early years drawing and painting, writing scripts, and making videos. Foy always had a holistic passion for the arts.
During his three years of study at Sheridan College’s prestigious Music Theater Performance program outside of Toronto, he performed in more than six productions; most notably as Melchior Gabor in Spring Awakening and workshopping the Broadway-bound smash hit Come From Away in its initial staging and recording.
He appeared in the third season of Designated Survivor on Netflix with ER star Anthony Edwards, as King James in Reign on The CW with Rachel Skarsten, in Eat, Drink & Be Married opposite Jocelyn Hudon, and in the BravoFACT short film Ariel Unraveling.
As a director, Foy’s unique lens on musical storytelling for the screen has led to collaborations with a roster of internationally acclaimed artists. Foy worked with the Second City Toronto Conservatory on his earliest short film, Kristine & Kirstine.
His subsequent musical short Before They Were Them debuted nationwide in Canada after being decorated with winning laurels in Los Angeles and New York. Foy’s newest collaboration and screenwriting debut is a 38-minute musical short film based on a true love story titled More Together, with music and lyrics by Drew Gasparini.
On Ride, Foy’s character Tuff McMurray is the youngest brother, who is fiercely protective of his mother, Isabel, and others who he cares about. The Ranch Foreman and an aspiring musician, he literally wears many hats. He is known to put his own dreams and passions on the back burner to help those who he loves.
“I think I’ve waited my whole life to get an opportunity to get on a horse; it just so happened to come with this work,” Foy exclusively told Monsters and Critics.
“I was beyond excited to get to do Ride. You even get to see me ride horses in a couple of scenes off the top,” he recalled. “In two of the early episodes, I have opportunities to do scenes on horseback, and it really adds a texture to the work I already enjoy as an actor.”
Read on for more on what makes Ride such a special series, how he and his co-stars became an instant family, and why we will all fall in love with the show.
Monster and Critics: Why were you attracted to this series, Ride?
Jake Foy: Well, I mean, to start, it’s a fantastic opportunity to tell a story that you don’t get to see a lot of on television right now. But even more than that, I grew up watching family entertainment, there were always grandparents, nieces, and nephews watching the same movies and shows. It had been a long time since I have had the opportunity to audition for something that was going to be precisely that. And then add to it the amazing music and the rodeo elements and the fantastic cast, it was something I just couldn’t say no to.
M&C: How familiar were you with rodeos, ranches, horses, and this world?
Jake Foy: Not at all going into the show. I’d grown up in the suburbs but had been a city boy for most of my life. But we’re lucky in that we are surrounded by a crew of rodeo experts, so of course we have our animal wranglers and rodeo counsel on the show, but even our hair and makeup department, our props, our set dec, all these people live and breathe ranching and rodeo because they call Calgary, Alberta, home. So, we were lucky as a cast in our being able to immerse ourselves in the world of the show on and off screen, which is great.
M&C: Are you a good rider? Do you enjoy it?
Jake Foy: I took to riding naturally. To toot my own horn, this was one of the quicker learning opportunities for me.
M&C: Did you have a favorite horse?
Jake Foy: Well, I have my horse in the show, his name is Quigly. So, I couldn’t call any of the horses a favorite, he was always mine, and he has some get-up-and-go. He likes to get moving, so that was great for me because Tuff is obviously an accomplished rider and the foreman of McMurray Ranch off the top of the show. So having the horse on the crew that wants to pull into a gallop was awesome for me because we were supposed to be moving at a safe clip, but Quigly always wants to get running, and so did I, so it was great.
M&C: Tell me about Tuff. What do you appreciate about him, and are you very similar or different from him?
Jake Foy: Yeah, there are a lot of similarities and differences between Tuff and me. Obviously, our upbringings are really different. I come from a musical theater background, so a love of music is something we certainly share. Tuff is a little more, he’s not a lot more, guarded than I would say that I am in my everyday life. But we both oddly wear our hearts on our sleeves and are thoughtlessly or endlessly loyal to a fault.
M&C: Have you bonded with your castmates and anybody in particular? And how do you keep in touch?
Jake Foy: We all got along like family from the get-go. I think one of the fantastic, both challenges and assets to our work on the show was that we had been relocated from different hometowns. Whether it was Los Angeles, Vancouver, or Toronto, we all ended up in Calgary at the same time and were away from our normal routines, so we were very quick to make space and time for getting to know one another.
We have an ongoing group chat that’s running 24/7, where we’re there to support each other and keep each other in touch on all things like career, work, home, and life-related. I mean, we’ll all say that at the top of the list is Nancy, who’s there for us like a mom offscreen as much as she is on. I think we all get along similarly to our characters in the show in our own different dynamics, but all equally and we answer to Nancy’s Isabel in real life as well.
M&C: What have you learned about yourself both personally and professionally as a result of the experience of being on Ride?
Jake: Well, one of the most beautiful parts about the story for me is this world of authenticity, integrity, and sincerity, and those are values that I try and bring to my everyday life as is. But watching Tuff move through the world in relation to the really dynamic and challenging world of rodeo around him and all the obstacles that the McMurrays face together has really galvanized for me the importance of those values and bringing them to every new day.
M&C: Changing gears for a minute. Talk about the Broadway musical Come From Away.
Jake Foy: I went to school for a musical theater performance at Sheridan College, where I workshopped the first two productions of Come From Away in its development before it went onto Goodspeed Music Festival and then onto Broadway. So, I worked with a number of the company members that went on to play the show on Broadway and in many cities around the world, but the roles that I played in the show I was a bit too young to do on the professional stage.
But David and Irene, the composer-lyricist husband and wife writing duo of that show, still keep in touch, and I’ve got some Broadway musical material on the way for my directing career as well.
M&C: Could you tell back then during the workshop for Come From Away that it was going to be a hit?
Jake Foy: I have been very lucky to be in a number of projects that have had that feeling, and Ride is certainly one of them. But Come From Away was interesting because it’s not so often that a show comes up through the systems of Canadian music theater and finds its way to a Broadway audience. So, we had that inkling but had yet to see that happen for a number of years. But I will say within all that that watching Come From Away rise was something that really inspired me to take my dreams by the reins and begin making more of the projects that I was excited about.
M&C: What is it like being part of the Hallmark family?
Jake Foy: Well, what’s fantastic about being part of the Hallmark family is that love stories coming first is a practice that trickles down from executives and management through to creative and all the way through execution. We really get to lean into our love for each other, our love for our art and our craft in every workday, and that feeling carries on beyond the show in a way that I’ve never experienced working for any other network or studio.
M&C: Do you have any plans for any Hallmark other productions or Christmas movies or mysteries or anything? Is that being talked about?
Jake Foy: None that are pending at the moment, but there’s a music anthology that I’ve developed that I’ll certainly be bringing to them as a pitch. I think that speaks volumes for the fondness I have for what they do, that I’d be bringing my own creative darlings to them first and foremost. But all of that’s to be determined, and we’ll be having those conversations off the record and in the future.
M&C: Tell me what’s going on behind the scenes and on your time off.
Jake Foy: While we’re shooting the show, of course, as I say, we’re in a ranching and rodeo town, so this cast is as thorough as you can imagine about wanting to authentically represent that world. So, from the moment we landed on set, we were in awe of the beautiful environment in which we get to shoot. We’re really on that ranch in the Rockies, shooting practice, and in between takes, we’re out in the stables visiting with the animals on our weekends. We’re really going to the country bar and two-stepping. We had a ball immersing ourselves in the world.
In between takes, in particular, we still operate like a family. If someone’s headed to the craft truck, they’re making sure they offer a round of bringing things back. We can’t stop making each other laugh between takes. All within professional reasons, of course. But we have a ball, and it’s an experience that makes me pinch myself every day when we’re working.
M&C: Did you know any of your co-stars in this series?
Jake Foy: Well, funnily enough, Tiera Skovbye (who plays Missy McMurray) and I had actually served tables at the same ocean-side restaurant in Vancouver about six years ago, but only really overlapped really briefly, so we never got to become close friends at the time. But all of the friendships we’ve built on the show are ones that seem like they’ll last. So, Tiera’s the only one that I had worked with beforehand. I think that’s right. There have been a few guest stars and visiting Canadian actors that are familiar, but they’d be hard to name at this moment.
M&C: If I had talked to you when you started this journey in musical theater and acting and told you what you have accomplished so far, how would you have replied?
Jake Foy: Oh man, I don’t know if I would have believed you. That’s the first answer that comes to mind. The privilege that this show presents for me is to integrate my love for music in storytelling, my love for an ensemble drama, and real grit and integrity. This isn’t a show about tech and cell phones and all of that, it’s really a hands-on, down-to-earth, back-to-the-heart kind of story, and that is exactly what brought me to music theater, what brought me to acting in the first place, what I love about cinema and television. So to go back to your question, I just don’t know if I would have believed that this opportunity would find me in the way that it did. I’m too lucky, really.
M&C: Obviously, the show is about romance, the ranch, the relationships, and the family, but it’s also about love, loss, grief, and moving on after something really shakes you to the core. Were there discussions during rehearsals or reading any of the episodes where people talked about that?
Jake Foy: Of course. Those are universal themes that we talked about a lot; love, loss, loyalty, grief, and forgiveness. Those are five words that I have on my work board whenever we’re working on the show because they’re obviously feelings and challenges and obstacles that we have all faced at one time or another, and we all handle those dark moments really differently. And I think what we arrived at as an ensemble is really wanting to showcase what community means, whether that’s the community within the family or within your hometown or within the world at large.
Even we explore that theme as it relates to social media and digital connectedness in the show in a really tasteful way. Hopefully, through watching the show, we can help some of our audience that may still be struggling with grief or loss or reckoning with that darkness, to show them that there’s a way forward in leaning on your loved ones.
M&C: I especially loved when Missy McMurray was on the radio, and she was talking about being a widow, and Nancy Travis’ character, Isabel, said, “It’s your story to tell, don’t let anybody tell you how to tell it.” Just some of that dialogue and some of the moments between the characters were very telling and felt very authentic to me.
Jake Foy: I’m so glad you felt that way. I think each of these characters is trying to work to define themselves and the mark that they want to leave on the world. Whether that’s Missy stepping into or rediscovering her passion for trick riding, Cash’s pressure to follow in the family dynasty, or Tuff finding his voice through country music. Everybody on the show is working to tell their story their way, and I think if more of us did that in the real world, we’d have a lot more peace around us. So hopefully, we lead by example in the way that we tell the story and represent these brave characters.
M&C: Are you listening to more country music and thinking about horses and ranches?
Jake Foy: Absolutely, it’s contagious culture, actually. I was raised in a suburban household, like I say, in Niagara Falls, Ontario, but country music was something that I grew up with. And I think also something that I briefly turned away from through my adolescence and into my adulthood, just from my fondness for musicals and maybe even a rebellion against the upbringing I’ve come to.
But it’s so nice to be exploring that world of sounds that I knew as a boy again in my adulthood and then bringing all the years of experience that I had in between back to that world. Singing songs in the shower that I heard as a kid, some of which even end up on the screen, it’s been really spectacular.
M&C: Why should my readers and everybody else watch Ride? Give me a bunch of takeaways.
Jake Foy: Absolutely. Well, I mean, I won’t be shy about saying that I think we have spent the better part of the past three years really disconnecting from each other and leaning into our differences rather than our commonalities.
And it’s really, really meaningful to me to be part of a show and a fan of a show that reminds us how much we have in common, how much good we have to share and celebrate every day, and how much bringing your best self through your work and family life together can make a change in the world I think all great art inspires better and we certainly aim to do that with Ride, and I think you can see it in every moment on screen.
Next: Exclusive: Why Tyler Jacob Moore loves Hallmark’s new family series Ride
Ride airs on the Hallmark Channel on Sundays at 9/8c.