Sure, Ana Ayora isn't quite a recognizable name yet. However, considering she's co-starring in The Big Wedding with names like Susan Sarandon, Diane Keaton and Robert De Niro, that will slowly start to change. In the rom-com, which follows a divorced couple who fakes a marriage for the sake of their adopted son's (Ben Barnes) nuptials, the Miami native makes her biggest film appearance yet, as Nuria, the overprotected biological sister to Barnes' character who develops a romance with Topher Grace's Jared.
Complex got a chance to speak to the stunning breakout actress about discovering her talents, what it's like to work with Hollywood legends, and the daily struggle to stand out among a crowded casting couch of would-be superstars.
As told to Tara Aquino (@t_akino)
On breaking into acting:
I was a dancer for a really long time. When I was 20, I got injured and that kind of hindered you know being able to dance. I remember feeling so lost. You devote so much of your life to something that you love, and then it's gone. Fortunately, I met this friend in college who worked for a talent agency, and encouraged me to send them my pictures. The next thing I knew I was booking commercials. That's what I realized I liked being in front of the camera acting, rather than other modeling.
When Marley and Me came to Miami, I booked that. And once that did well in theaters, I realized I was ready to take on L.A. I started saving a lot of money for the move. I use to work at American Apparel, I use to work at the door for a club called Touch at night, and I use to work as a cocktail waitress. I remember when American Apparel let me out for a lunch break, I would change so I could run to a casting, and run back to make it in time for work. You have to hustle. You have to invest in something that you really want.
On fitting into Los Angeles:
Luckily, one of my best friends had moved out a year before me and so that made things so much easier. I was really lucky in the sense that I had a core group of friends in L.A. It’s funny because today, four years later, it’s still us. We are always together and I’m so grateful for that.
Of course I could say, given the city's reputation and the fact that the majority of people who live here are in the entertainment industry, that you would encounter people who maybe aren't the coolest or nicest. But I’ve had a great experience in California in general. I love adventure. One weekend, I could go camping and go to the beach, and the next I could go snowboarding. Everyone is really active, and I just love the lifestyle. I'm not interested in feeding into fake friendships or connections. I very much just want truth in my life in every sense of the word.
On the challenges of being a new actress:
With the industry comes a lot of uncertainty. The biggest challenge I've had as an actress has been to find the balance between effort and surrender—to live and work hard, and invest and give 100%, but to also not have expectations and just allow what has to be, to be. I don’t believe in competition because each individual is different, and you can't change that. The job belongs to who it belongs to, and if it’s yours its yours.
Sometimes you put a lot of work into a project that you’re so close to booking that you become attached to it emotionally, but you have to learn to let it go.
On working with Hollywood legends on The Big Wedding:
The biggest challenge I've had as an actress has been to find the balance between effort and surrender.
Beyond being incredibly humbled and grateful to have been given the opportunity, I remember the first day on set, one of the first conversations we shot was alongside Diane Keaton and Robert De Niro. Of course I was nervous, but I didn't really think much of that. I was more emotional for having the chance to be there. At that moment, I remember thinking to myself, "Oh my god, I’m really here." I had an almost out-of-body experience.
The director was amazing because before we started shooting, he pulled me aside and was like, "I just want to let you know, that you are here because you earned to be here. We aren’t doing you a favor. I don’t want you to feel intimidated or want you to feel like you don’t belong. You belong here, you earned your way here."
It was such an awesome time. Like, three weeks in, everyone was having dinner together, and if we weren’t going to somebody’s restaurant, then we were going to somebody’s house and having dinner there and just hanging out and listening to music. It felt like a family really. I always tell everybody that it was the best summer camp I could have ever asked for as an actor.