Photo credit: Mollie Rose for Raechelle Banno; George Maher for Karina Banno
From the network that brought to life many of the books in V.C. Andrews’ rich bibliography, comes the newest film adaptations. Adapted from the Ruby Landry books, Ruby, Pearl in the Mist, All That Glitters, and Hidden Jewel are every bit as pulpy and over-the-top crazy as the best Andrews output! Set in the bayous of Louisiana, the films follow Ruby (Raechelle Banno), who is forced to confront a harsh new reality when her Grandmere (Naomi Judd) reveals a shocking secret on her deathbed. Discovering she’s currently dating her half-brother, finding out she has a twin she’s never met, and falling head-over-heels in love for her twin’s hunk squeeze, Beau (Ty Wood), are only the tip of the iceberg for Ruby.
The reverberations of this secret will follow Ruby through a social-climbing, incest-riddled, shockingly twisty, and outrageously entertaining bubble of intrigue and fun. Ruby’s twin sister, Giselle (Karina Banno), will stop at nothing to smear her name and expose her deepest secrets. I got a chance to speak with real-life twin sisters Raechelle Banno and Karina Banno about their experiences on set, working together as sisters, filming during COVID, the vital question as to whether they are Team Beau or Team Paul, and which of the four films in the series are their faves. Please note, there are spoilers for all four films. Read on for my exclusive interview with Raechelle and Karina.
Thank you so much for chatting with us today! I’m Josh, and this is Allison, my editor. We both really enjoyed all 4 films. Can you tell me how you became entangled in the twisty world of V.C. Andrews?
RAECHELLE BANNO: Well, I had the audition come through from my representation, and they’re aware that Karina and I are twins. They offered for us to have a discussion if we wanted to put something down for it.
We were familiar with V.C. Andrews—I had auditioned for Petals on the Wind, the production that Lifetime did years ago, and had watched Flowers in the Attic as research. So I was very familiar with the world, but I’d actually never heard of Ruby. We thought, we get to work together… why not? We may as well put something down.
KARINA BANNO: We love working together. We absolutely do. You’ve got to be particular about it, because you don’t want to ever repeat the same sort of trope in everything. It was the first sort of script that we found for twins that came about that was really fun.
They have little Parent Trap moments where they switch, and things like that. Otherwise, being able to play such opposing characters as identical twins was a challenge, and was really exciting to tackle. The material’s all there for you. We devoured it.
I like that you guys are, like you said, pretty much polar opposites. The dynamic between the twins was important to get right, and you definitely both nailed it. What was it like getting to work together on such a big project, and how appealing was it to work together as sisters?
RAECHELLE: The last couple of projects that Karina and I have been able to collaborate on have been short films. Obviously, a lot smaller shoot. This production gave us such a lengthy time to really unpack this story individually, but also together. It’s a rare experience for any actor, let alone someone who’s working with their twin.
I really enjoyed it! To be able to have someone who could participate in the bubble of filmmaking (usually quite an isolating experience) and share that—to watch Karina shine all day, every day on set was so much fun.
KARINA: Raechelle and I naturally have a shorthand together, and we help each other audition frequently. Pretty much every audition that we get, usually when we’re in the same country, but sometimes when we’re not in the same country.
We love working together, and this project was really special. We found out that we booked the job quite in advance, and so we had a lot of time to work on the project together, and develop it prior to starting Ruby. Then due to COVID as well, we also had an extended break in between. That will be stressful on any individual actor, but to be able to have someone like Raechelle to consistently fill that unknown timeframe everyone was dealing with last year, and be able to still work together and show up and help each other with certain scenes that we had coming up—we were able to really feel prepared.
Once it came to us being on set, we could look each other in the eye and know you’re having a good day or having a bad day. What can I do? That shorthand really paid off. I think we just get it. We get each other, and we know how we work best. We can see-saw one another, and give each other the time to shine, which is really lovely.
You definitely notice the dynamic a lot. It really comes through, and you guys really play off each other. Speaking of the pandemic, I had a question about that. How much did the pandemic actually affect your filming? Do you know if there’s still any plans to make a fifth movie?
RAECHELLE: Each film took three weeks to make. We were able to get through the first film, and then we had a two week production break before starting the second. We got one week into our three weeks before we got shut down. Because we were in Victoria on Vancouver Island, we were actually one of the last productions in Canada still going at that stage because the Island really didn’t have many cases.
The time came when everyone had to pack up shop and go home. We ended up having a four month break between that week of filming, and when we were able to pick back up. It’s quite interesting when we watch back the film—obviously you don’t shoot in order. There’ll be scenes where you walk into one room, and we shot that pre-COVID, but when your character walks out of it, you shot it post-COVID.
We were a bit interested to see if you were going to notice, but we had such a dedicated team. Our director David [Bercovici-Artieda] was able to stitch the two together so perfectly that it was seamless in the end. For the length of the shoot, it definitely impacted it, but the quality of it, I don’t think it did at all. We were very lucky to have such a dedicated team who really made sure that we kept up the same caliber of work that we started with, which I’m very grateful for.
KARINA: You, Raechelle, had the added benefit of particular scenes. Remember David, when we got back from COVID and we were in pre production, he was able to show you a particular scene he knew he wanted to transition into the shot we were doing the next day. You had that benefit almost of being able to visualize it.
Usually you’re moving so quickly. You definitely don’t have time for playback. Raechelle and I are really interested in playback on set. Whereas you kind of got that benefit of seeing the picture in your mind, and being able to collaborate with whatever David was working with. That was beautiful.
In terms of it affecting anything, for me personally, the first time I was back on set, it was more the anxiety of being around people. We’d been alone for four months here in Australia. I had quarantined when I came back, but then, we were essentially on intermittent lockdowns, with limited capacity of peoples and rooms and things.
Obviously the production respected all of that when you came back. But I hadn’t been more than four people in a space in a really long time and, as you know, sets are quite busy and chaotic. Your capacity for energy throughout a day has been reduced over that amount of time. The first week was probably that anxiety of realizing that I’m safe, but I’m surrounded by people and this is new again. Re-remembering my Giselle-isms was a challenge, and trusting that it was there, and not having to recreate anything, because that’s never going to be your best work. Trusting in it.
Raechelle and I would look at each other and be like, ‘I don’t know what I did there. Was I doing the right thing?’ And we would be like, ‘Yeah, you got it. It’s in you. You don’t have to think about it.’ The mental gymnastics was quite a challenge, but we had the most supportive production and cast and crew. In no time we were back into our own rhythms.
RAECHELLE: Karina was quite concerned that she’d lost Giselle, but she never did. In terms of the fifth movie, I’m actually not sure. As you’re aware with the books, it’s an entirely different story. It’s the prequels, so Ruby and Giselle wouldn’t be in it. If they were, they’d be very, very little. I’m actually not sure what their plans are with the fifth film. With the success of these first four perhaps, but unfortunately I am not privy to that information.
That sounds like it was really challenging to get back in the mindset of the characters. I honestly didn’t notice anything—it didn’t reflect work at all. The remaining questions that I have are basically all spoilers. Who is the better kisser Sam or Ty, and are each of you team Paul or team Beau? Who is the better fit for Ruby?
RAECHELLE: In all honesty, both Ty and Sam were such wonderful scene partners, not just in the romantic sense in the intimate scenes, but on a day-to-day basis as creatives—they’re very supportive and very collaborative. When scenes like that come up, where it is a much more intimate nature, it’s all about communication, and consent, and trust. They were both so on board with that.
When you kiss another actor, it does not feel like a kiss in real life. You get no tummy tingles from those experiences, it’s all acting. It all feels like choreography. But the “enjoyable” part of it is to know that you feel safe, and I felt safe with both of them. I couldn’t really pick the two apart.
However, in terms of team Paul or team Beau, it’s so hard because I really did have to go along that rollercoaster with Ruby. I leapt from one to the other. One is very taboo, and the other one is kind of taboo, because there’s adultery involved. Different parts of filming, I was on both teams, at different times.
The interesting thing about their relationship is that Paul is much more of a puppy love type of relationship that they’re trying to hold on to. There’s a natural chemistry there, but Beau is much more of a passionate, mature love. We tried to distinguish the two, which I felt quite comfortable with, but Ruby ended up with the right person. It took her some harsh tragedies to get there, but she ended up with the right person.
KARINA: I’m going to throw it out there, Team Paul. Why not be controversial? They didn’t know, it’s not their fault! I’m gonna be Team Paul, why not.
In All That Glitters, Giselle goes into a coma, and Raechelle, you get to play a whole different side to Ruby than we see in any of the other movies. How much fun was it to fill your sister’s shoes, and to emulate Giselle?
RAECHELLE: It was absolutely terrifying. The most fun part about it was the costumes. We all know Giselle has the best looks, so it was so fun to just feel like an absolute doll in whatever they put me in. I was envious that Karina got to do that every single day.
In terms of playing Giselle, any time that you step into shoes that have already been worn, it’s an intimidating thing because you cannot build your own character. You’re emulating what someone else has done. There’s always fear that it’s going to be a caricature, and Karina built this person who is so heightened, and yet so grounded at the same time, and it’s such a fine balance. She really did such specific work in order to get there that I didn’t want to let her down.
I felt a little bit embarrassed in front of the crew. They were all aware that I was pretending to Giselle, it just was a bit odd. Giselle is such an extroverted energy, and it’s very different to Ruby, and I’ve gotten quite comfortable in Ruby’s more introverted nature, which is more similar to my own.
Our poor, poor sound team had to figure out ways to move my mic around because every time I played Giselle, they could hear my heart beating because it was beating so loud. I was so nervous. She does have the best lines, which was really fun to read. The second you have one of those sassy monologues to do, it’s enough to keep you up at night.
Those monologues are the best! Speaking of Giselle, though she has a tragic ending, I loved her biting attitude, and how she’s always doing everything in her power to undermine Ruby. Karina, what appealed to you most about this role? Do you think Giselle ever found love for her sister?
KARINA: The way in which Giselle goes about things, me, Karina, I find a little bit questionable obviously. It’s quite vicious, and ‘unconventional’ is one way to say. I really admired how outspoken Giselle was written. For a woman of her time, usually they’re written meek, or submissive. Whenever you get to play in that era, you know you’re playing a certain woman was being brought up to represent something in society. Giselle has had that, but she has so much spunk that there’s no way you could make her submissive. There is no way Giselle could be meek.
That was such an honor to be able to get those monologues. They’re so juicy and fun. There’s such a roller coaster that she takes you on. She just wants you watch her take you on that roller coaster. That was really lovely.
The second part of your question: There are sneaky moments where Giselle realizes the connection is undeniable between them, and if she didn’t care about what everyone else thinks, and if she wasn’t so fragile and worried that she would crack publicly, she probably could find a closer relationship with Ruby.
There were moments where that shines through. In the letters that she sends her at the end of Pearl, and she gives hints that she’s missed her, and she tries to show off the life that she has back home without Ruby when she comes back in All That Glitters.
There is a little bit of sadness that she’s having to relay this information, and not experience it together. Finally, she has a partner in this crazy family, and the society life, and someone who she can share that with. She’s too vulnerable to be able to publicly declare that, and probably not for the best for her fate.
I assume you read the books before, and not cold read the script, but as you were reading the books, were you surprised that Giselle actually died? I was not expecting that at all.
RAECHELLE: Well, I did read the books ahead of time. However, Karina did not, for her own reason… you can go into that.
KARINA: Yeah, essentially, the stories are told from Ruby’s perspective, and I think it’s responsible as an actor to make sure that you’re completely on your character’s side, and whenever you’re playing an antagonist, that’s a challenge. I didn’t want to have any of Ruby’s instincts, or opinions essentially on Giselle’s actions to influence any decision I made as an actor. So I didn’t, but yes, I was. I wasn’t surprised that she died. I was surprised how she died. I don’t know why I was expecting it, because most of the character deaths sort of happened off screen anyway, within V.C. Andrews’ Ruby characters.
The idea that it was encephalitis, this mosquito… I genuinely, throughout the entire time of filming, I would just be in a coma, and Ty would be there. I said, “you did this to me!” There is no way you came up with this plan. I’m sure Beau is behind it, Giselle’s death. It completely facilitates his entire desire. I’m sure of it.
RAECHELLE: A really interesting thing while the films were screening: Karina and I tried to participate on Twitter, and I was so happy to see (but also kind of surprised) that so many people were the same as you, that not many people thought she was going to die. People kept saying, wait till Giselle comes back and hears about this! So many people wanted her to live.
Even when we screened Hidden Jewel, there are a lot of people that were like: “she was a terrible human being, but I’m really missing some Giselle on my screen!” That’s a testament to Karina’s work. It’s true whenever Giselle’s not on screen, you miss her. And so for her to not come back, I think it was a real shock for people. It’s a good thing, but you know, not so much for Giselle.
Do you think Hidden Jewel serves as a true happy ending for the series? Is the curse truly broken, or do Ruby and her family continue to be haunted by the ghosts of their past?
RAECHELLE: A family that deals with such a spiritual belief ingrained in their bones; there’s always going to be a hint of mysticism in their life. Probably the Paul curse is broken. However, there is some spirit world that does still follow their family. Where we leave them is as happy as they can be. They also seem to have their eyes open, particularly Pearl, that this stuff is real. This is a part of life, and you can have both science and faith. Moving forward with an acceptance of that dichotomy, living fully, is probably what keeps them as happy as they are.
All four films have fun moments and exciting theatrical dialogue. Did you have any favorite moments, lines, or memories that you want to share?
KARINA: For Giselle, there’s too many to choose, honestly. In Ruby, my favorite line was when she comes back from Mardi Gras, and Ruby wants to talk to her because it’s their first intimate moment together, and she’s hungover and can’t be bothered. She just wants to go to bed. Ruby asks if it was fun, and Giselle responds “Well, there weren’t any banjos and washboards, so I doubt you would have liked it.”
It gives a complete idea of what Giselle thinks this ‘thing’ has come from. That’s her world. It encapsulates it so well. For All That Glitters, my favorite line was walking out of Cypress Woods after organizing Daphne’s estate. She starts talking to Ty, and says, “I know you’re not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, but you always find new ways of proving it.” It just feels like a little insight into how dark their relationship is behind the scenes.
RAECHELLE: All of my favorite lines really come from Giselle. The line that made me giggle the most with Ruby would be in Pearl in the Mist, where Ruby discovers that Giselle can walk, and she’s going to reveal it on Christmas. Ruby says, “leave it to you to outshine Jesus on his birthday.”
I thought that was a very good remark from Ruby. She found some spunk, but then Giselle follows up with “you’re the one who always wants to be on the cross, Rubes.” Oh, she got her again!
In All That Glitters, our first day of shooting, we shot Daphne’s funeral. The reveal of Giselle being with Beau was such a big moment for Ruby, but Karina and I had run lines for those scenes. She’s so funny in that scene—how audacious she is with this possession of Beau. Karina was making me giggle so much when we were rehearsing. Whenever we’re on camera, I can’t remember if they cut to me, but I do a lot of looking away. I could not look at her when she said her lines because she was making me laugh. She was so good at what she did!
I really only have one more question. Do you each have a favorite film in the series, and do you have any takeaways for the audience, or any upcoming projects to plug?
RAECHELLE: I thought going into it, having read the scripts, Ruby would be my favorite. It’s my favorite book. Being an origin story of Ruby, I thought that would be my favorite. But when I watched the films back, I have to say Pearl in the Mist really shone. It was so captivating to me, and I thought the pacing was really well done. The adaptation of this script, from novel to screen, was so well done. That was probably my favorite in terms of character development. Ruby really finds her voice in that one. It was really, really fun to watch. Karina?
KARINA: I have to agree, but coming back from COVID, everyone just had this attitude—we’re so grateful to be back at work, and David our director, it was his network directorial debut. It really shows because every frame is just so passionate, and like Raechelle said, it glows.
Personally as well, it was just a real big career milestone, to have the pleasure of sharing each of my scenes with Raechelle, which is so rare. But also—sets can be quite a male-dominated environment. We had that storyline based essentially in an all girls school. There were just tons of girls around all the time. So many different strengths of female characters in every scene that Ruby encounters, and that we encounter.
To be able to have a little posse as well was really quite fun. The girls that I had were amazing. It was a real interesting career milestone, because you don’t find it that often. We really got to play, and I think it shows. It’s very fun. Ruby is so exciting to be able to establish the story. There’s so much information you’re bringing, so many worlds, and by the time we get into Pearl, we’ve hit the ground running, and it shows.
I completely agree with that. The second and the third one were my favorites, because that’s where all the crazy bombshell stuff starts happening. Ruby lays the groundwork, and then the next one, everything starts to really come together in a satisfying way.
RAECHELLE: Yeah, I agree. The great thing about the second and third films are that they then become a character piece as opposed to the two worlds which we set up in Ruby, but in Pearl and All That Glitters, it really is about these characters that we’ve grown to be so invested in. For me personally, shooting All That Glitters was so interesting because the way the shoot fell, I spent half of my schedule with Ty, and half of the schedule with Sam.
That was such a rich experience, rather than having the boys come in for one or two things. We really got to spend a really lengthy amount of time together, and really flesh out these characters. That reflects in the films because they are then character pieces, which is really exciting.
Karina and I are filmmakers, so we’ve always got things in development. We have a few things in development, which we can’t really go into right now, but things will be on the way!
Thanks again to Raechelle Banno and Karina Banno for speaking with us, in the aftermath of their Lifetime movie series event based on the best-selling Landry books. The V.C. Andrews adaptations include Ruby, Pearl in the Mist, All That Glitters, and Hidden Jewel. All four Lifetime films are currently available for rent or purchase on Amazon Prime and Vudu.
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Check out my reviews for all 4 films in the Ruby Landry series: