Jesse and Kelly Ruda

Jesse and Kelly Ruda

Kelly Ruda prefers the California sunshine to wintry weather in Baker City, but she still comes north to visit.

Her in-laws live here, after all.

She married Jesse Ruda in 2014. His parents are Benny Ruda and Be Tiedemann.

Ruda’s next return to Baker City will be on the big screen.

She appears in “Just Mercy,” a movie released this month. It debuts Friday at the Eltrym Theater.

The movie portrays Bryan Stevenson, a real-life civil rights defense attorney who takes the case of Walter McMillian, an African-American man wrongfully imprisoned and sentenced to death for the 1986 murder of a white woman in Alabama.

The film is based on Stevenson’s memoir of the same name.

Ruda appears by the name Kelly Mumme in the film credits. She plays the character of Stella Taylor.

Ruda grew up in Florida on a horse ranch in a small beach town.

“I grew up surfing and riding horses,” she said.

Her acting career started early.

“I was the blue crayon in kindergarten,” she said with a laugh during a telephone interview.

In fourth grade she portrayed Clark in the Lewis and Clark musical, and later Alice in Alice in Wonderland. She acted in community theater and musicals, and her first job was appearing in “From Justin to Kelly” (a film about “American Idol” stars Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini).

After graduating from Florida State University with a degree in journalism and communications, Ruda joined the AmeriCorps program Teach for America aimed at closing the achievement gap in low-income areas.

She spent two years teaching middle school in Hawaii.

“I loved it,” she said.

Afterward, she spent a year and a half reporting news and traffic for a Hawaiian television station.

And she kept acting, landing a role in “Hawaii Five-O.”

She moved to Los Angeles and that’s where she met Jesse Ruda, who was born in Baker City and is also an actor.

While in LA, she’s landed roles in “House of Cards,” “Veep,” and “General Hospital.”

“Just Mercy” was filmed in Atlanta.

“The whole art is the story that it tells,” she said. “I like the impact stories can have.”

As an actor, she gets to see movies from the filming side with multiple takes and angles for scenes. When she sees the movie in a theater, she said she enjoys seeing how the technical pieces came together to create a feature film.

“I like to watch the process and see how it comes to fruition,” she said.

She enjoys the production side of the industry, and is currently working as a video producer for LinkedIn.

“For me, I really enjoy the challenge of other careers,” she said.

As for her acting, she enjoys sharing stories with the world.

“I love the creativity, community, and stories we get to tell,” she said.

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