Ashley Judd’s first starring role in a film came in 1993, in “Ruby in Paradise.” Judd stars as the title character, Ruby Lee Gissing, who moves from Tennessee to Panama City Beach, Florida, after the death of her mother. The movie has been described as a coming of age film, and Judd’s character certainly goes through all the steps toward realizing adulthood. She makes friends, gets a job, and meets men.
As Entertainment Weekly wrote at the time, Ruby’s strength was not losing her sense of self and identity in the men who entered her life. As the publication wrote, Judd’s performance was one of the strongest in the film, and she “conveys such a quiet war of emotions-a need for security coupled with a yearning for identity-that Ruby’s very tentativeness comes to seem a sign of strength.”
Judd told film critic Roger Ebert that the day she went to audition for the film was a busy one. In fact, “Ruby in Paradise” was her fourth audition of the day, and she was frantic by the time she arrived. She was struggling to find her scenes in the script when she was spotted. Judd explained, “The casting director sees this and she says to me, ‘Take your time, go home. Come back when you’re ready. He’ll want to talk to you about character.” Judd followed the advice, and ended up coming back and landing the role. Her career trajectory was set.