Jake Foy in 'Ride'
2023 Hallmark Media/Photographer: David Brown

Exclusive: Jake Foy of 'Ride' on Playing the Hallmark Channel’s First Out Gay Cowboy

Tuff McMurray marks Hallmark's first gay cowboy character on new rodeo drama 'Ride.'

As Ride's Tuff McMurray, Jake Foy has become the Hallmark Channel's first out gay cowboy. The Canadian actor says that while he finds that moniker to be "really, really niche," he's proud of the work he's done to help shape Tuff into a multi-dimensional character who's not just defined by one aspect of his life. 

Indeed, as fans of Ride know, Tuff is a son, a brother, a musician, a bullfighter and a loyal friend. Wide Open Country caught up with Foy to talk about Tuff's trajectory, how he reps for his community, and why he's #TeamCash.


Wide Open Country: Tuff is an out queer character, but his sexuality isn't the main facet of his life or his experience on Earth. It's there, and it's important, but it's just a part of who he is as a whole. It's also not the cause of a great deal of pain or tragedy in his life, which gay characters often get so bogged down in. Why is showing Tuff's totality important to you? 

Jake Foy: I am a creator and writer myself, and I'm constantly observing the subtle but very palpable changes in the way that queer representation is taking shape in our industry. I had been observing the pilots and options that were coming across my desk as an actor, and really feeling exactly that, for all that's been achieved over the past few decades, there seems to be a pivot into a real hyper focus on all the trauma and victimhood that you're talking about. I think there's a place for that, and those stories do need to be told by the people who are living them, but that's not been my lived experience. 

Particularly on this show, it's nice to reflect an openly gay young man who also has family values, because we exist as well. It's nice to come to the table of the representation conversation from a different perspective — and one that I happen to think is particularly progressive, all things considered.


Jake Foy, Sara Garcia in 'Ride'

2023 Hallmark Media/Photographer: David Brown

As a viewer, though, I think we're trained to wait for the other shoe to drop when we see a gay character experiencing joy. Like, I keep waiting for someone to heckle him when he's playing in the cowboy bar or something — as horrifying as that would be to watch, and as angry as I would be. Do you think the show made Canyon, Colorado, the kind of place where that hate just doesn't exist?

There's a place for it in the world. As always, with cinema and theatrical storytelling and also with television, it's really about where you decide to point the lens. There's a lot going on in Canyon, Colorado, that we just don't get to see because that's not where we want to point the camera. 

To me, how well Ride is being received is because most people aren't leaning into those particularly negative experiences in their day-to-day. I live an out-and-proud life with my partner, and I've actually never experienced the kind of negativity or animosity that's amplified so often in the media and the news. What's so special about Ride is that we're showing a more beautiful version of the world that still has challenges and obstacles and family confrontation within it. But at the same time, we're presenting a space that we'd like to live in ourselves as creators and performers on the show.


There's a lot of press about how you're the first out cowboy on the Hallmark Channel. Is there pressure that surrounds that? 

Being the first out cowboy on the Hallmark Channel is a really, really niche distinction, but the network has been really open since the changing of the guard and, even previous to that, representing these stories in ways that didn't necessarily see the amplification in the media that you're talking about. 

That said, of course it's really very, very special to me to represent that specific corner of Midwestern approach to this particular subject. I think with everything in the zeitgeist right now, there are much more challenging subjects than two consenting adults engaging with each other. So it's wonderful, but I think I'm most excited about all of the dynamic plots that surround Tuff beyond just his romantic interests, although it'll be nice to continue exploring what can come up romantically in the world of country music and rodeo. Hopefully, there'll be some love triangles in the future. It's just a matter of time before some music producer comes knocking, too.


Do you have a sense of what's ahead for Tuff? If Ride continues, do you know where his story will go?

In a sense, yes. Hopefully, we're back for more as well, since you're about as folded into the conversation as we have been. 

We've been very, very lucky as an ensemble cast to be meaningfully involved in every step of production. We didn't have a full season [written] when we began shooting last summer, and everyone in the creative departments was very purposeful about folding in our thoughts into not just the story but everything down to the wardrobe and relationship elements between characters. So it's been a really collaborative process. 

If I could continue in that stead, I'd love to see more of Tuff wrestling with finding his voice, whether that's within the family or within his music and songwriting and what that means for sustaining the ranch, keeping ties to home, and making sure Mom feels supported. There's a lot that he has to juggle in his many roles at home and in town.


Jake Foy in 'Ride'

2023 Hallmark Media/Photographer: David Brown

It was interesting to hear, near the end of the season, people finally starting to ask, like, "But wait ... is this what Tuff actually wants? What does he want?"

And coming from Janine, too! It's very cool to watch her arc, because I think it speaks to how progressive a story we're telling. Someone can make an offhand but not necessarily prejudiced comment about Tuff at the beginning of the season and end up looking out for him later in the complex and nuanced ways that characters relate in real life. 

I think that's going to hopefully be the journey that Tuff will be on for many seasons to come, if we're lucky enough to get those.


There's a bit of a learning curve with this show because you had to learn rodeo, but you already were a musician. Talk to me about getting to know your band, and how your songs have come together for the show. 

I'll start with just the first part of that question, because I have to thank the incredibly talented stunt and rodeo advisers and wranglers that work on the show. They made it such a seamless process for all of our learning, whether it's riding or getting in the ring of bulls. The stunt doubles keep us very, very safe, too. 

As far as the music, though, I grew up in a household where country music was on more often than I would have liked, even through my liberal arts education that I pursued afterward. What's been really special about this show is that the bandmates that I play with on screen actually have played onstage with some of the bands that wrote the music we cover in the show. So they'll be texting the Hunter Brothers to say, "Hey, we're covering your ballad in the pilot."

There's a funny pressure to that, too, because you arrive at the performance through character preparation to try and find what you might bring to something like that, like you try and find exactly where Tuff's voice can fit. There's a flamboyance to country music as it is, and then to add the layer of my character being gay into that space and having to relate to these other actors that are only with us for the musical sequences, which are only a small part of our shooting schedule .... It's a whirlwind that seems to pass in the blink of an eye when we are shooting. Those days go by very quickly, and they're some of my favorite days on set.


Well, depending on how old you are, it's always been hard to avoid country music, not that you would. There were decades there when everyone knew Chicks or Shania or Garth Brooks songs.

Yeah, country was pop music in so many ways, and I think we're seeing a bit of a renaissance for that now. I mean, you'd be hard pressed to step into a mall right now and not find a cowboy hat in The Gap or see boots on some mannequin. 

It's really interesting to have started working on the show almost almost a year ago and then to see that trend move through pop culture. It's still continuing, and I think people are really responding to the kind of open-hearted, unguarded way that's in country music. 

We've been monitoring each other and censoring each other, and we've been so aggressive with each other for the past few years. I think we're trying to find a little more grace, and there's a lot of grace in country music.


Jake Foy on 'Ride'

2023 Hallmark Media/Photographer: Michelle Faye

I know you're from Canada, and I don't know if you all have the same relationship with cowboys that we do in America, but perhaps you have a sense of this from working on the show: Why do we always return to the romantic idea of the West? Why do we love cowboys, and why is that life such a popular trope in TV and film? 

It's a great question. Coming from my music theater background, Oklahoma is a story I love. Trevor Nunn's production of that show in the UK came from a similar space, which is the idea of working the land and a relationship with the earth, while also kind of integrating that idea of the American dream. That bombast is what's most appealing, because it's both grounded and grand. There aren't a lot of modern stories that can do that. Even something like Succession, which I tune into after I watch Ride on Sundays. On Succession, that kind of grounded nature is absent. I think people like being tethered to two worlds because, on some level, they feel that innately in their day-to-day. 

Without water and food and sunshine and all the things that come with a life under a big sky, you don't have much. That's sort of subliminally in the texture of all things Western, and it's definitely a fun space to play in. 

Incidentally, when we're on the ranch, it happens to be in a location with very little cellular reception as well. So the cast has been able to bond in a way that I don't know that we would have if we were all on location in a space that everyone already lived in. When you shoot in LA and you've got cell towers everywhere, everyone kind of has their own routine, and you're not forced into that connectivity. It's been a tertiary privilege of the workflow for Ride to benefit from that, and we're grateful for it every day.


Personally, as someone who lives in a city, I like watching shows like Ride because they allow me to visit someplace beautiful and quiet and serene but that I could never actually live in for real, because I'd miss Thai food and I'd hate driving an hour to the movie theater. The romance of living out in the mountains somewhere is very real, but I think the realities are what keep so many of us just admiring it from afar. 

If you look at the entertainment landscape right now like I have to when I'm pitching my own musical work — we have this conversation very often, but it's true for Ride as well. We seek escape in times of social distress, and I think we've been in a state of that for varying reasons for the past little while. 

I think you're right that there's a component of taking a big breath of fresh air through the television, if that makes sense. It's being able to go to that space for a little bit and imagining a life that's a little simpler than the one that we're all forced to engage in every day with all of our technology because it's just the way things are.


Last question: There's a big love triangle on the show. Are you #TeamGus, #TeamCash, or are you #TeamMissy? 

I've never been asked that, so congratulations! 

Oh, man. You know ... I think the world of Beau [Mirchoff, who plays Cash] as a person and, obviously, Tyler [Jacob Moore, who plays Gus] and Tiera [Skovbye, who plays Missy] as well. But there's something about those moments, those really intimate close-ups from Beau where there's this masculine vulnerability that you just don't get a lot of on TV anymore. There's that very romantic, starry-eyed twinkle that you get from a lot of leading men that's a dime a dozen. But with Beau, there's a rawness to that feeling that he's able to tap into that I quite admire. 

It's less on the page for Tyler, so it's not to his detriment, but I think that would make me #TeamCash. Also, I'm a sentimental person, so what we will come to learn about Cash's perspective on Missy for these many years is a bit of a heartbreaker for me on a personal level, too.

READ MORE: Exclusive: Nancy Travis of 'Ride' on Playing the Ultimate Rodeo Mom on the New Hallmark Drama