Jake Foy poses in a cowboy hat while leaning on a truck
Jake Foy | Photographer: Kyrani Kanavaros (@kyrani) | Stylist: Kristine Wilson (@kristinewilson) | HMU: Sonia Leal-Serafim (@sonialealserafim)

If you would’ve told us three months ago that one of our favorite gay TV characters would be on a drama series about a family of rodeo stars struggling to save their ranch—on The Hallmark Channel, no less—we probably wouldn’t have believed you.

But here we are the day after the season one finale of Ride, already sad to say goodbye to Tuff McMurray (for now).

Jake Foy (Designated Survivor, Reign) plays Tuff, the sweet and loyal youngest son of the McMurray family, and the Foreman of their ranch. Tuff, like Foy, is out and proud, and from the jump we’ve been impressed by Ride‘s handling of the character’s sexuality: It doesn’t define him, it’s just part of who he is—his family accepts him, no questions asked, and so does the rodeo-obsessed community around him.

With this matter-of-fact approach, Foy brings a natural ease and charm to the role, and Tuff is given space to explore what really matters to him. There’s his family, of course, but he’s also a talented musician with a real shot of making it big, plus there’s the handsome Bronco rider Julian (Vasilios Filippakis) he quickly fell for.

But it all came to a head in Ride‘s season one finale, “Andalusians,” and Tuff found himself having to choose between his country music dreams, his relationship, and sticking around to take care of the ranch.

The morning after—the coals on the campfire still glowing—we called up Foy to talk about Tuff’s big decision, and to reflect on the wild ride that was Ride‘s first season. The actor (who just got engaged earlier this month) was more than happy to discuss what the role is meant to him, and how Tuff’s experiences as a gay man reflect his own. Plus, he shared some eloquent thoughts on why gay cowboys are having a moment—and why he’s so proud to be a part of it.

*Spoilers ahead for the season finale of Ride.*

QUEERTY: First of all, some congratulations are in order—you just got engaged!

JAKE FOY: Thank you! Long time coming.

So how does it feel to finally be able to share the news with everyone?

My partner Nick and I have been together for five years, and I think this was always the inevitability—it just happened from the get-go, that we were like, “Oh, this will be the thing for a long time, if not the long time”. So it feels really, really natural, and it’s nice.

There are new pressures with it, just—we’re about to do a family visit on the Eastern Seaboard, so we have to do a lot of cities, and a lot of smiling and waving, so to speak. So that will be fantastic, but other than that, yeah, it feels really natural. And it’s great to sort of live and breathe a modern relationship that I get to represent on screen as well.

Of course! On that note, now that the season one of Ride has come to an end, what has it meant for you as an out actor to get to play a queer character like this on television?

The first thing that comes to mind is that I actually haven’t felt for a while that there’s been a shortage of queer representation in storytelling. So that’s kind of changed my perspective on exactly why I feel so fortunate to step into this role.

For this, in particular—and I say this a lot, so I don’t mean to sound like a broken record—but for me, what’s most dynamic about Ride is that I feel like Tuff’s representation is actually some of the most progressive that’s on television. We really are representing the world that the queer community is asking to see, which is a totally inclusive, fully formed, four-dimensional life that has access to all of the the wonders of family and love and acceptance that we all crave, right?

So that is what’s most special to me about the representation in this project—is that it’s uniquely its own, and that I haven’t read a script that was seeking representation in quite some time where I saw the potential for, you know, a committed relationship, family life, marriage—all those things. And, to be on a series that both represents a story that I have lived and has the potential to tell even more of the story that I hope to live, is part of the aspirational TV and movie-making that I grew up on. So it feels it feels great!

And have you been surprised by the response to the show, and to Tuff in particular? What have you heard from audiences—queer or otherwise—that have been tuning in?

Yeah, I do hear from members of the gay community, certainly, and there are varired responses—as you can imagine. But I think what has been most meaningful to me is the relief in feeling like this part of the gay experience might take up some space in the mainstream, you know?

Because part of the model for our show was going back to that feeling of a 2010-2011 primetime series that you could watch with the intergenerational audience, with your grandma and your cousins. And so it’s most unique in that way because I think a lot of our gay audience has been waiting for that space in the entertainment landscape as well. It’s not just watching hyper-sexualized… You know, it has to be both things, I think.

And it’s nice to really take up that corner of the market, as well as reach a lot of people who might have had their back up, or who might have been long awaiting the kind of story that Tuff gets to tell.

A lot goes down in the finale, including Tuff making a big decision to not only leave the family ranch for a little while to pursue his music career, but also to put a pause on what he has going on with Julian. Of course, there’s what the character wants, and then there’s what you want for the character… Do you think he made the right decision?

Whoa. Well, I’m partial to the decision because of how meaningfully involved the creators, writers, and network have allowed me to be in the shaping of this story. One of the most important things to me was that the relationship that Vas and I represent on screen was asking the same questions as the other relationships in the show, which is: What are the pillars of attraction here? What is the compatibility between these two? Is there enough groundwork in this dynamic to root for it, to fight it, to wish for a little more, a lot more, and everything in between?

What interests me most about the art-imitating-life in my representation of Tuff is not just finding love in the world, but discovering a love for your work and your vocation and your calling.

Tuff and I share a love for music, and also a dream of partnered life with someone that you love deeply. And that is a tale as old as time as well. So I think I’m positioned uniquely in the ensemble to have to wrestle with a love of an art that allows your heart to open, and a want for a love in another person that allows your heart to open.

And I think that there’s a lot more to explore there for Tuff’s journey. And so I’m excited that the finale of season one leaves that potential open for him.

Jake Foy and Vasilios Filippakis in 'Ride'
Image Credit: ‘Ride,’ The Hallmark Channel

Right, and specifically between Tuff and Julian, there is a goodbye, but you get the sense that we’re not fully closing the book on what they have together.

Yeah! The only the only real goodbyes in this show seem to be at the hands of a bull, and that is not the fate of Tuff and Julian, thankfully. So, yeah, there’s a lot to explore in future seasons. And as progressive a story as I believe we’re telling with Tuff, I think a love triangle is not out of the question for this queer storyline, and all of the wonderful magic that comes with wrestling in that space. As well as trying to balance your love of music! So there’s lots to explore in future seasons.

Jake Foy poses with a cowboy hat in front of a garage.
Jake Foy | Photographer: Kyrani Kanavaros (@kyrani) | Stylist: Kristine Wilson (@kristinewilson) | HMU: Sonia Leal-Serafim (@sonialealserafim)

Since you mentioned art imitating life, I can’t help but feel that, broadly speaking, the idea of the “gay cowboy” is having something of a moment in culture right now. There’s this series, other films and media, music—but also gay cowboy conventions, a rise in popularity of line-dancing nights at queer venues, and a general sense that folks are interested in queering traditional Western imagery. Has this played into any of your creative discussions around the show? And, if so, do you have a sense of why this “moment” might be happening?

Yeah, let me speak to the American cultural zeitgeist from my apartment in Vancouver. [Laughs.]

No, but we do talk about this sometimes! You know, I start with the subject of my music theater background and something like the musical Oklahoma—reaching a very urban audience and at a very unique time at the pivot into the golden age of musical storytelling.

I think, similarly, at this time when people have been through a lot of undue stress over the past few years, the romanticism of a simpler life is really, really appealing.

Then you add to that the inherent flamboyance of rodeo culture, you know? I joke that there are more sequins at the rodeo than at a drag show—and that’s partly true! And what’s beautiful, too, is that, without all of the rigid animosity that sometimes comes with our current discussion around gender and identity and sexual politics, the women of the rodeo are actually quite gritty, and the men of the rodeo are actually quite showy. And in that non-binary is actually a lot of space to connect.

That might be why you’re seeing what you are seeing! I think there’s a sincerity to a line-dance that maybe doesn’t exist in a laser-lit nightclub, you know? So I think people are looking for sincere connections in a world where they’re harder to find, and a Western life makes that possible.

And, escaping to that Western life for an hour a week is certainly more palatable than having to go shovel hay yourself, so it’s all it’s all of those things.

Jake, I just through the loosest, broadest question at you, and you just responded with such an eloquent, thoughtful answer—my mind is blown a bit! So much to chew on. Thank you for that!

Flattering words from you, thank you!

As a final note, we’ve had the pleasure of speaking with your co-star Vasilios Filippakis previously, and he told us that your sweet dog, Daisy, made quite a few appearance on the Ride set—

Daisy! She’s here—let me grab her. [Picks up Daisy and shows her to camera.] She’s a little snoozy right now, but she’ll say hi. Here’s Daisy.

Aww, so sweet. So is she the diva when she’s on set then?

No, she’s the “fluffer”—she keeps everybody happy. She’s a very happy dog ,gets along with everyone. She’s wary of horses and cows—she’s yet to get over that hurdle.

But, yeah, it’s actually a very dog-friendly set. Tierra [Skovbye] has her dog, Scout, Beau [Mirchoff] has Cali, Nancy [Travis’] dog, Josie, stays home in Los Angeles, but I think that’s going to change because she’s got a new puppy.

Also, it’s something that—I think it’d be very cool to see the McMurray’s maybe get a puppy at some point. So I have to bring it up because it is difficult to work with kids, hats, and dogs. But I think this is the kind of show where we’re already working with kids and hats, so why not?

Sure, what’s one more dog?

What’s one more dog in a world of horses, bulls, and cattle.

Well, we’ll have to wrap it there, but congrats again, Jake, on both the engagement and the first season!

Thank you! Come visit us on a rodeo day!

Jake Foy poses in a cowboy hat while leaning on a camper
Jake Foy | Photographer: Kyrani Kanavaros (@kyrani) | Stylist: Kristine Wilson (@kristinewilson) | HMU: Sonia Leal-Serafim (@sonialealserafim)

The entire first season of Ride is available to stream via the Hallmark Movies Now app, Peacock, and Fubo TV.

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