When Sara Garcia first auditioned for the new Hallmark series Ride, she was immediately struck by the genuine and grounded writing and the fresh ideas being offered as a personal glimpse into the McMurray family and their ranch life.
Best known for her work in many successful TV and streaming series, video games, and movies, including Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, The Flash, My Little Pony, and Man Seeking Woman, she is clearly not an actor who shies away from challenges.
This is especially true because this self-described city girl from Toronto had never been on a horse. But her love for storytelling and immersing herself in her work, along with support from her talented cast members, triumphed in the end.
The Hallmark series Ride, which premiered on March 26, is a multigenerational family ensemble following the lives of the McMurray Family, part of a rodeo dynasty going back a generation, as they struggle to keep their beloved ranch afloat.
After a tragic loss, each character embarks on an empowering journey of transformation and self-discovery while also uncovering a twisted web of secrets, threatening to tear the family and their small Colorado town apart at the seams.
Now she plays one of three empowered women in Ride, Valeria Galindo, a ranch hand who turned right-hand for ranch matriarch Isabel McMurray, (Nancy Travis).
Val mysteriously turned up at the ranch as a teen and became one of Isabel’s most trusted allies, and in a family of award-winning bull-riding sons, Val became the daughter she never had. Now, Val, Isabel, and her daughter-in-law, Missy (Tiera Skovbye), show viewers that their formidable bond cannot easily be broken – because family is at the heart of everything.
When she is not acting, Garcia enjoys creative endeavors such as abstract and watercolor painting, music, and poetry when not working. In addition, she loves to explore the environment around her wherever she finds herself, whether it be hiking or people-watching.
“For me playing Val was an eye-opening lesson to learn to trust, learn to love and be vulnerable with people that you care about,” Sara Garcia tells MonstersandCritics.”This is so that you can be vulnerable with other people, too,”
Read on for more about Sara Garcia’s time on the ranch, what she learned from Val and her co-stars, and why she is forever hooked on horseback riding.
Monsters and Critics: Why did you want to do this show? What initially attracted you?
Sara Garcia: What really stood out for me was that it was this beautiful family, a multigenerational family drama about these three resilient women who are not bonded by blood but have chosen to be family in order to save this ranch that they call home. It was about the resilience, the mystery, amid the backdrop of the beautiful landscape that really sucked me in and I got extremely excited to play Valeria I was over the moon when I got the call that I had booked the role.
M&C: How do you see Val? And are you more similar or different than her?
Sara Garcia: Val instantly seemed like this comfy old sweater I had in the closet that I put on and that made me just feel so comfortable and good. So, playing her is not much of a stretch for me; I find a lot of similarities between the two of us.
M&C: Such as?
Sara Garcia: Val is loyal, she’s loving, she is guarded because she’s experienced some traumatic things in her past. But she has a huge, huge, huge heart and she would do anything for the McMurrays. They’re her family and I really admire that about her. She doesn’t give up on people. In fact, she doubles down to try and do whatever she can to help them. And although it may not seem like that based on some of her choices which can come off as a little questionable, all will be revealed.
M&C: Why do you think the viewers are embracing and responding to this show in such a major way?
Sara Garcia: Honestly, I think that this is a show about a real family going through real issues. We have a family that has just gone through a terrible tragedy and is dealing with grief, they’re also dealing with some financial hardship and they’re struggling to stay connected while feeling isolated. But through it all they are choosing to be connected, they are choosing each other every single day. They’re choosing to lean into love and into forgiveness instead of letting the hardship overcome and overtake them.
M&C: We all have families that go through difficult times.
Sara Garcia: Yes. And I think that that’s something that a lot of people in today’s climate can relate to. Maybe feeling alone, feeling struggles, and have people that they can go to and rely on. I think it just shows this beautiful way to connect in such a divisive time, so I hope that when people watch the show, they feel this sense of hope. That’s what we feel as a cast when we got to perform, when we get to re-watch the show, we feel a tremendous amount of hope.
M&C: Val came to the ranch as a teen, kind of never left until she was sort of forced to leave and she was more like an adoptive daughter to Isabel McMurray, and now she’s back. How did her backstory inform the way you play her?
Sara Garcia: Well, in the first few episodes, not all the information was given, it was very mysterious from the get-go, so I had to fill in all those blanks. And that’s the fun bit as an actor, that’s where I get to come up with a backstory for myself and then tweak it as we get revealed the truth throughout the season.
Val comes to the ranch as an orphan, and Isabel takes her in, that is all true, and what made it really, really interesting for me was figuring out what the dynamics between Val and Missy and Cash and Tuff and Austin were before we even get to that point where we meet her in episode one.
M&C: What else were you thinking about?
Sara Garcia: I toyed around with a lot of different things about what it was like for them growing up together. Tuff and Val’s relationship is a very twin-like flame, we’re around the same age, we were friends, best friends first. I sort of imagine Tuff and Missy and Val running around and getting into all sorts of trouble.
It felt to me like Cash and Valeria’s relationship was sort of like ships in the night, he left pretty early on to go be in the Marines, so maybe we got a few years together as children or as teenagers and then when he comes back that’s really the first time that they’re really seeing each other for who they are.
I think that’s why they have this sort of unspoken bond that’s being teased out as we go through the season, they really have this understanding where they don’t need to necessarily talk about their trauma or their hardship but they understand that it’s present and they’re bonded because of it. And then she adores Austin, that was really fun for me to play with Marcus. We had a quintessential big brother-little sister relationship, even though I think we’re the same age on set, but it really did feel that way and he’s a wonderful, brilliant, talented actor to play with as well.
M&C: How much of a rider were you before this show and how much are you now? What is your relationship with horses?
Sara Garcia: I didn’t know how to ride at all before coming on this show. I’m a city girl and I was very excited to try it, so actually when I booked the role, I booked an equine therapy appointment. I’d never done anything like that before but it was where you go in and you just hang out with the horses, you just hang around them. I was around them in the pen and petting them and learning about their body language, learning about their empathy, and how to interact with a horse.
M&C: What was that experience like for you?
Sara Garcia: That was so valuable for when I actually got to the ranch and got on the horse for the first time. I felt like I could feel what the horse was feeling. They’re really, really healing, magical creatures, and it was a lot of fun. So, we rode quite a bit on the show, a lot of the times where you see me on the horse, that’s me on the horse, I’m doing the thing. I hope that I get to continue learning how to ride, I think I caught the bug. It might be an expensive habit but I’m thoroughly excited.
M&C: I read somewhere that you were a born storyteller. Can you talk about that?
Sara Garcia: I think probably where that comes from is when I was a kid I used to make my parents sit down and watch these little pageants where I would sing songs. Especially when it came to my grandparents, I would sing these Spanish songs and run around the house singing The Little Mermaid and making sure everybody was watching me. And it snowballed. I ended up studying musical theater in high school at an arts high school and then found my way to Shanghai to do theater there. Now I’m on film and TV, so I never stopped telling stories.
M&C: Talk about working with Tiera Skovbye and Nancy Travis, both as actresses and kind of the girl’s club as you will. I mean, I think it’s very important for young girls and women to see role models like all of you, both as actresses and as characters.
Sara Garcia: It was incredible to work with these two women. They are so talented, such bright and energetic, vibrant people to be around on set. Early on we met for lunch before we started filming and had a whole girl’s lunch; don’t tell the boys. [She laughed]. They’re both so talented, I learned so much from both of them throughout the season, and it’s really nice to be able to work with people that you care so much about.
We also ended up going on this epic hike in Calgary just to get to know each other, and I personally find that hiking really allows for a free flow of conversation. I think it was like a three or four-hour hike. We ended up going off the trail by accident and hiking through ice-cold streams and taking off our boots and wound up at this beautiful ice-blue lake and just reveled in what we were about to embark on. That cemented our bond from the start of the season.
M&C: What do you appreciate about ranch life? What is it like to be immersed in this world?
Sara Garcia: What do I appreciate? I would say working with my hands, being able to do a task all on my own with my hands, and then being able to look at it and see the final product. And also knowing that you accomplished something is maybe one of the best feelings that someone can have. Whether that’s building something or painting something or taking care of an animal. It’s having that humbling feeling.
When we were on the ranch, the ranch is a real working ranch. There are cattle everywhere, there are horses everywhere, there are people doing something at all times. So, when you’re out there in the field in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, it’s just so awe-inspiring. To be so close to nature, to be lucky enough to be outside every single day is an incredible feeling. Even though we’re making TV, we get to be around people who this is their life and this is their livelihood, and it makes it more real and it makes it more connected.
M&C: What do you think you’ve learned about yourself from both your character Val?
Sara Garcia: From Val, I have learned that resilience is a superpower, and vulnerability is a superpower. Val struggles a lot in this season to be vulnerable and honest about her feelings with the people that she loves most for fear of abandonment, and that’s sort of her issue that we see her struggling with back and forth all season long. But we come to figure out why she’s got that fear later in the season.
When I was playing her, I was reminded almost every single day, it is important to allow yourself to be vulnerable with the people that you love because vulnerability increases connection. And when you have an increase in connection, you have an increase in love, you have an increase in understanding and empathy for other people and other people’s circumstances that you might not necessarily have had before.
Two people who have vastly opposing views can come together and understand each other’s perspectives and come to an agreement, which is so critical for us to move forward in society. If you can’t do that with yourself or with the people you love, how can you do that with someone that you’re really at odds with?
M&C: Lastly, what are the reasons you encourage my readers to keep watching or to start if they haven’t watched?
Sara Garcia: I think this show is so beautifully crafted, it’s a multigenerational family drama that you can watch with every single member of your family from eldest to youngest, and it’s going to hit home for everyone. There’s something for everyone in this show. And there are not many shows on TV right now that you can say you can do that. You can have grandma and the toddler watching the show at the same time and it’s going to be enjoyable.
We’ve got baby cattle, like a baby cow being fed in one of the early episodes. And then as we get through there’s so many twists and turns and love triangles, and more drama to be had and more beautiful lessons to show. I’m so proud of it and I hope that people are enjoying watching our show.
Ride airs on The Hallmark Channel Sundays at 9 p.m. ET.
Excellent show…stumbled onto it by accident….watched all episodes in two nights…and hope it is filming for season two….what a great cast, such beautiful country (Colorado)….please keep it going…..