Thirteen-year-old Julie Ruff poses with her family after closing night of a production of “Annie” at the Berkshire Theatre Festival in Stockbridge, Mass., where she had the title role. Julie was joined, from left, by her mother, LeeAnne; brothers Jordan and Justus; sister, Jenna; and father, Jon.
Julia Ruff is chasing her dream.
The 13-year-old Peru Middle School student is packing her bags and heading to Los Angeles, Calif., to pursue a career as a professional actress.
“I’m very nervous,” admitted Julia. “I’m going all the way across the country, really not knowing anybody. It’ll be an adventure.”
Julia didn’t just wake up one day and decide to become an actress. It’s been something she’s wanted to do since she started acting in local theatre productions at the age of 4. Her parents, LeeAnne and Jon Ruff, have been behind her every step of the way.
“When she was 5, she told us she was going to be on Broadway,” said LeeAnne, smiling.
Through the years, Julia’s parents have encouraged her passion for acting which has led to roles with productions for Peru Music Theatre, Adirondack Regional Theatre, Essex Theatre Company and Lake Placid Center for the Arts, among others.
“I’ve been in Peter Pan twice, Annie twice. I’ve been in Grease, The Little Mermaid, Gypsy, The Sound of Music, Seussical,” Julia recalled. “I love acting. It’s something I want to keep doing for the rest of my life.”
And, just as her decision to pursue becoming a professional actress didn’t happen overnight, neither did Julia’s pilgrimage to the West Coast. It began with a benefit concert at the church the Ruffs attend where they met Karen Mason, a Broadway performer.
“Karen and her husband encouraged us to get Julia to New York City to see what possibilities there were,” said LeeAnne. “So, we did.”
Julia enrolled in an acting workshop in the city where she met later with managers and agents who were impressed with her acting abilities, said LeeAnne.
“She got called right away by several people,” said LeeAnne.
Eventually, Julia got enough attention to land parts in two television commercials for Chuck E. Cheese and a commercial for Hellman’s Mayonnaise.
“It’s been such wonderful experience for her,” said LeeAnne.
That experience was also what paved the way for Julia to head to Los Angeles, said her mother, who will be moving with her while she pursues an acting career.
“Some of the people she’s worked with have said she’s really well-suited for TV and film,” said LeeAnne. “And, you really have to be in L.A. for a future in that. So, we decided to go.”
Julia and her mother traveled to Los Angeles earlier this year where they met with people in the acting field, including several talent agencies. They came away with the feeling moving there would be the next logical decision.
“If we didn’t think she had a great shot at it, we wouldn’t necessarily make such a big move,” said LeeAnne.
Knowing she has the support of her parents and her older siblings — Jordan, a 23-year-old mechanical engineer; Jenna, a 21-year-old pre-med student at Harvard University; and Justus, an 18-year-old Wake Forest University business student — means the world to her, said Julia.
“It definitely boosts my confidence. It’s a good feeling to know how much my family supports me in what I’m doing,” said Julia.
“We are certainly blessed by how each one of them has worked hard to go after their goals,” LeeAnne said of her children. “They are all very close and supportive of each other. They are very excited for Julia and certainly are her biggest fans.”
Though Julia’s parents are serious about standing behind their daughter as she takes the next step, they’re also staying grounded, knowing not everyone who moves to Hollywood turns out to be a star. Julia’s father, who is employed as an environmental manager for the city of Plattsburgh, will stay behind, keeping his job to maintain a steady income for their family.
“We don’t want any of that to change in case it doesn’t work out for her,” said LeeAnne. “It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be quite a challenge. But, we figure this has been her dream since she was a little, little girl. We’re going to help her try.”
“It’ll all work out the way it’s meant to be,” she added.
However it works out, Julia said she’ll be OK with her decision, knowing at least she tried.
“I’m just going to try my best and whatever happens, happens,” said Julia.
“I’ve gotten this far, I can’t turn back now,” she added, smiling.