Ruby Stokes Will Always Leave the Door Open
The actress is experiencing a breakout moment with the hit Netflix series Lockwood & Co.
At the age of eight, Ruby Stokes attended a weeklong acting course that would set the tone for her bustling and buzzy career. During the intensive, Stokes and her peers came up with their own riffs on “It’s the Hard Knock Life” from the musical Annie; even though the London native had only started dipping her toe into acting work two years prior at 6, she felt a sense of self-assuredness onstage she hadn’t experienced before. So when it came time to perform the classic showtune, the actress really belted it out.
“I must have sounded awful, but I was singing from the top of my lungs,” Stokes, now 22 years old, recalls to me while sitting in the kitchen of her parents’ home in the U.K., where she currently lives. “The teacher was like, ‘Even if you aren’t the brightest singer, sing loudly—like Ruby!’”
Looking back, Stokes sees the whole event as a bit embarrassing. But the important thing, she realizes now, is that she raised her voice with confidence, and was heard—“even if it was in the wrong key.”
It’s a nice metaphor for the pursuit of a vocation that very clearly brings Stokes tons of joy. The actress made her way onto the Hollywood scene back in 2020, when she starred in the Netflix hit Bridgerton as Francesca Bridgerton. But since January 2023, she’s experienced a breakout moment with yet another Netflix series, Lockwood & Co., in which the actress stars as Lucy Carlyle, whose psychic abilities lead her to link up with two teenage boys at the titular ghost-hunting agency, where she uses her gift professionally.
Based on the books written by Jonathan Stroud, Lockwood & Co. has become something of a juggernaut—it’s reached the streaming platform’s Top 10 list in over 70 countries. (Plus, Lucy’s low-key flirtation with Anthony Lockwood, played by Cameron Chapman, is the subject of many, many TikToks.) Stokes also has another big project in the works this year: The Burning Girls, a Paramount+ drama-slash-thriller adapted from the C.J. Tudor novel and co-starring The Walking Dead’s Samantha Morton.
Burning Girls came into Stokes’s life a couple months after she’d finished filming Lockwood & Co. During that lull between projects, the actress realized just how much she “loved working, and being stimulated in that way: constantly having lots of fingers in different pies and being creative,” she says. But Stokes was also drawn to her future Burning Girls character Flo, the teenage daughter to Morton’s Reverend Jack Brooks—a single mother haunted by tragedy who grapples with the untimely death of her husband. Although this plotline couldn’t be more different from the ghostly universe of Lockwood & Co., Stokes sees similarities between the two characters.
“In Lockwood, these books were told from the perspective of a woman—not only this hero at the front of a story, but also a hero who is four-dimensional, and going through that universal experience of being a teenager,” she says. “Both were so enthralling and exciting in that way.”
The roles are also a far cry from her spot on Bridgerton (she appeared in the series for the first two seasons, but has since stepped away from the character). However, Stokes has nothing but good things to say about her experience on the Shonda Rhimes-helmed set, where her costars like Phoebe Dynevor were “so generous with their time, words, and advice.”
“When you are surrounded by people who are genuine and hilarious and lovely, you take that away,” she adds. “You carry the way someone made you feel and take it forward.”
Chalk the actress’s range up to her love for the craft. It is, as she describes it, a very intense adoration. (She said the phrase “I just love it” in reference to acting at least 16 times during the course of our interview. I counted.) Acting allows her to come out of her shell and be her most authentic self. Like many actors who started out in the game as children, Stokes bears a composed, mature, and self-aware nature that belies her youthfulness. It’s only when she starts talking about just how much she enjoys being in front of the camera and on stage that one realizes she couldn’t drink alcohol in the United States just a couple years ago.
“I did a drama club on Fridays after school as a way to get my confidence up,” she says. “Those were the first times where, other than with my parents and their friends, I was made to feel like I was on the same level as an adult.”
Stokes credits her mother and father with giving her the opportunity to “explore the sorts of creative things that I wanted to do as a kid,” but her current status in the world of television and movies is all her own. Next up, she’s hoping a villainous role will arrive in her inbox (“I’d like to try my hand at being a meanie,” she says brightly) and ticks off Greta Gerwig, Noah Baumbach, Sofia Coppola, and Ari Aster as her goal directors with whom she’d like to work. But at the heart of it all, she simply wants to fill her time with “having fun, and doing all sorts.”
“It’s so generic, isn’t it?” she adds with a laugh. “But that’s the beauty of being an actor. There’s so much versatility, and you get to play and explore. So I’m never, ever shutting any door before it opens.”