‘Fantasy Island’: Kiara Barnes Shares Ruby’s Reasons for Joining Roarke’s World
To Tattoo or not to Tattoo? That is no longer the question for 2021’s Fantasy Island, now that viewers know how Fox’s infectious and emotionally layered reboot has handled the matter of whether Elena Roarke (Roselyn Sánchez) would have a sidekick.
Instead of a diminutive dress-alike, this version has given us Ruby (Kiara Barnes of The Bold and the Beautiful), a guest who came to the island in the opener with her husband Mel (Adain Bradley) as a 75-year-old woman with terminal cancer. Though the couple was hoping to feel healthy again, if only for one last time, their vacation quickly turned into a trip back in time as they suddenly found themselves 50 years younger.
By the end of the weekend, Ruby had realized some important parts of herself that she’d ignored as a younger woman, Mel made peace with the inevitable loss that awaited them back home, and Roarke had an idea: invite Ruby to stay on the island as her vibrant new self and be her second.
This twist not only fills the role fans loved from the original Island series, but it also allows the show to build a more compassionate connection between Roarke and her protégé than we previously saw on the classic anthology.
Here, Barnes fills us in on Ruby’s role going forward and how she and Sánchez are Fantasy‘s dream team.
OK, I love this take. I love this idea. I love this second chance that Ruby gets.
Kiara Barnes: I’m so glad that you’re connecting to it. That was my main hope, that people would feel all the love and everything that Ruby was going through, which is an ongoing process throughout the entire season.
But she is stuck on that island now.
[Laughs] Yeah. Yeah. It’s really still difficult. I’ve seen some comments of people being like, “Wait, how is she just able to make that decision?” And honestly, I think she was ready to come to the ending of her life—that’s why they did the trip, because she didn’t want to do treatments or undergo all that—so they knew that the end was near for her. They were just trying to come to the island to feel good again, feel healthy. And then they end up getting turned into their younger selves, and all these things that she didn’t process in her 20s started coming up from the island. So she was already prepared for that goodbye, but Mel was the one that gave her the courage to stay. He is the one who said, “At least if I know that you’re healthy and happy, I can die peacefully as well at some point or be OK living alone, knowing that you’re completely safe.”
And that’s the definition of love, wanting the best for the person you care most about.
So what is her journey now? Because Elena is more connected to the guests than the previous Roarke that we all knew and I feel like Ruby is probably going to be more involved as well, way more so than his original Tattoo was.
Definitely. It’s interesting, because the island is very intuitive itself, so it knows when someone is fit for the island and meant to be there. Even later on, we find out a deeper reason why Elena Roarke is there and we find out that there was actually some kind of process into that. It didn’t just happen.
And in these beginning stages, Ruby is trying to figure that out. She’s trying to figure out, “Yeah, we saw this ad, and we knew that it was going to be this beautiful, amazing place, and you could wish for whatever you want…but do you just do this all the time? What’s going on? Are you the one just bringing these things to us?” There’s not a lot of clarity all. [Laughs]
Right. Like, is there anything else to do on the island? Are there stores? Is there a downtown area?
[Laughs] That’s hilarious. Yeah, exactly. It’s kind of like a growing process because she doesn’t realize exactly what it is, but even Ruby is feeling this intuitive connection to the island and a pull to stay. You start to see how intuitive and connected Ruby is. And that’s why I think she’s also on the island because she’s meant to help people, she’s meant to help Elena, help the guests and ultimately help herself. And that’s kind of my main [idea]…through all of these episodes, she’s trying her best to find a home within herself.
At first, it’s really, really rocky, like it’s super uncomfortable. She’s 75-years-old but back in her 20-year-old body, and all of a sudden the island’s like, “Hey, remember this thing that you repressed? Remember this thing that you didn’t want to talk about?” And it keeps serving and serving these, like, lessons of the universe. You know how people say that you’ll keep getting the same lessons until you sort them out? Things will keep reoccurring? That’s very much the vibe.
You mention she’s 75-years-old. There are certain things that you only learn and earn as you age, not when you’re in your 20s. So are you pulling from grandmothers or your mom to give Ruby this old soul?
Totally. This character Ruby means so much to me because I feel like I see a lot of me in her and I also see a lot of my Nana, my grandmother, in her. Every time I was on set, I felt like I was hanging out with my Nana, the way that Ruby speaks, her cadence, and the way that she’s really attentive with whomever she’s speaking with. She wants you to feel at ease immediately so you can speak your mind. Ruby’s not going to judge. She might be taken off guard at a few things, but she is always like, “You know what? That’s okay, we’ll get it sorted. Don’t worry.”
She’s very much such a loving, compassionate character. And so I definitely pull from my Nana, and my mother, even women on set. It was great having directors too that were mostly females because most of them had either kids or were above 30 or 40-years-old and had that “certain stuff” that I haven’t earned yet from living. I’m still in my 20s right now and there are just life experiences that I haven’t had. So it was nice to get two cents from people and be able to ask, “This is how I would respond, but that doesn’t make sense, right?” If she’s 75, she processes things differently. Or, she knows the right time to say something, or when she should hold it back…she’s old enough to know when to sprinkle in a little bit of a nudge of, “Do this, do that.” So it’s an adjustment period.
There is also such a lovely bond developing between Ruby and Roarke. Did you and Roselyn have a chemistry read?
It’s so lucky. I didn’t get to chemistry read with her. It happened so quickly that I actually met her the day we did the network table read in Puerto Rico. We met for like 15 minutes before we went to do the entire table read. I was so nervous, because it’s Roselyn Sanchez, like come on! I was freaking out. But immediately, she came in, started cracking jokes, talking about the crazy haircut that she had at the time. She was making so many funny jokes, it immediately put me at ease. And we just felt like girlfriends from a long time [ago].
She’s such a pro and we just jelled so easily. She is so nice, so down to earth and I feel incredibly lucky because I know sometimes that’s not always the case [on other shows]. But Roselyn and I get on so, so well. She’s great.
What can you tell us about upcoming guests?
I’m really excited for this week. That’s one of my favorite episodes, one of them, there’s a lot, but that’s with Odette and Dave Annable. Oh my God, Dave is so incredibly funny. Even in between set-ups, we would just be in tears laughing. They are so funny, oh my gosh.
I have seen this and they so clearly threw themselves into it. And you can tell that they’re each clowning on each other, and playing those little things that only a husband and wife would know about each other.
Exactly. That is exactly right. And I had some scenes with Odette, and she’d be walking around in a different way, she’s like, “Yeah, I think Dave does it like this.” It was very cute.
Hilarious. Where do we end up in the finale? I have heard that season gets us to a point where the Island team starts to feel like a family.
Oh, it’s really sweet. So it’s a part one, part two split up for the finale, and it’s really cute. It’s kind of poking a little fun at Christmas movies and how how they can be a little cheesy. Ruby loves a good Christmas holiday, so she’s having the time of her life during the finale. There is a little bit of a dramatic situation to come, but by the end, they all come together in are very sweet, loving way. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I just have to give props to prop design and set design. Production did such a beautiful job for the finale…it is freaking stunning.
Fantasy Island, Tuesdays, 9/8c, Fox