Former star student pursues stardom

Spencer Jenkins

After graduation, alumna and small-town Shelbyville native Ruby Lewis packed her bags and moved from city to city, eventually landing in Los Angeles to pursue an acting career.

She just finished shooting an independent pilot episode called “A Special Education,” she said in an email interview.

“It will be ‘shopped around’ to producers and networks so the entire cast and crew have our fingers crossed,” she said. “It’s a great script, so I think it has a chance.”

Lewis also appeared in the May 1 episode of the ABC show “Brothers and Sisters.”

Associate music professor James Brown remembers Lewis’ earlier performances as a student at WKU.

Brown said Lewis did whatever it took to succeed to the best of her ability, or she wasn’t satisfied.

“I’ve been here 46 years, and I feel she’s the best female musical theater performer that has come out of our program,” he said.

She played multiple female lead roles in WKU productions, Brown said.

“If she was in it, she was usually the lead,” he said.

Brown and Scott Stroot, associate professor of theatre and dance, encouraged Lewis to be part of the theatre and music departments, Lewis said.

“I’d been practicing acting, singing and dancing my entire life,” she said. “I knew I wanted acting to be my career after my first professionally paying gig at age 12 in Musical Theatre Louisville’s ‘The Sound of Music.'”

She became hooked on the journey and rush and has pursued it since, she said.

Associate music professor Wayne Pope said he worked with Lewis in several shows at WKU beginning her freshman year when she started in the chorus of a musical.

Lewis played lead female roles in many productions including “Rag Time” and “The Gondoliers,” he said.

“All the shows needed serious singing,” Pope said.

Lewis performed in “Grease” all over the country before moving to LA.

“I performed nearly 500 hand-jives, but it’s an experience I’ll never forget,” she said.

Moving to a big city has been overwhelming for Lewis, but she’s built to thrive on the hustle, she said.

“I make a point to hold on to small-town values, and people will notice,” she said. “I love telling people I’m from Kentucky.”

David Young, department head of theatre and dance, said Lewis doesn’t need pushing because she pushes herself.

“She’s focused and very self-disciplined,” he said. “She gets it done and ahead of time and she always exceeds expectation.”

Lewis said her ultimate goal is to pay her bills, buy her first home and send her kids to college.

“I would hope to continue building a name for myself until, eventually, I can be considered a bi-coastal actress with the ability to do theater in New York or television and film in LA,” she said. “I’m still waiting for my big break.”