Please introduce yourself, what you do, why you do it, and what you want people to know about you.
Hello, I’m Rib Hillis, an actor, producer, host, writer and model. I do what I do because I love being creative, expressive, and versatile. I’m currently starring in a new series titled The Tall Tales of Jim Bridger. I’m also happily married to a beautiful and talented actress, Jessica Morris.
What qualities make you different and unique from everyone else in the industry?
I think what makes me different and unique from everyone else in the industry is my diverse background and experience. I have worked in various fields, such as modeling, acting, hosting, designing, producing, and writing. I have also traveled and lived in different countries and cultures, which has given me a broader perspective and understanding of the world. I am always open to learning new things and expanding my horizons.
Describe THAT moment when you realized you wanted to do what you do now. Who did you tell first? What has it been like since that moment?
I don’t think there was one specific moment when I realized I wanted to do what I do now. It was more of a gradual process of discovering my passions and talents. When I was in college, I was discovered by a modeling agent, and that opened up a whole new world of opportunities for me. I decided to give it a try, and I ended up traveling and working in Europe for several years. I loved the experience, but I also wanted to pursue acting, so I moved to Los Angeles and started auditioning. Since then, it has been a roller coaster ride of highs and lows, successes and failures, joys and frustrations. But I have never regretted following my dreams, and I have learned so much along the way.
Photographer: Adam Reed
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve had to face and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge I’ve had to face is probably the uncertainty and instability of the industry. There is no guarantee that you will get the next job, or that the project you are working on will be successful, or that the audience will like your work. You have to deal with a lot of rejection, criticism, and competition. You also have to balance your personal and professional life, and make sure you don’t lose yourself in the process. I have overcome this challenge by staying focused, resilient, and optimistic. I have also surrounded myself with people who love me, support me, and inspire me. I have learned to appreciate every opportunity, celebrate every achievement, and learn from every mistake. I have also tried to diversify my skills, interests, and explore different avenues of expression and creativity.
You star in the new INSP Network series The Tall Tales of Jim Bridger. Can you tell us more about the show and your character? What drew you to this role?
The Tall Tales of Jim Bridger is a new series that follows the adventures of Jim Bridger, a legendary mountain man, explorer, and storyteller in the American West. I play Jim Bridger, who is a charismatic, witty, and fearless hero who faces all kinds of dangers and challenges living out on the frontier. He also has a knack for spinning wild and exaggerated stories about his exploits, which adds humor and fun to the show. I was drawn to this role because I love history and westerns, and I thought it would be a great opportunity to portray such a fascinating and iconic figure. I also liked the idea of playing a character who is both a real person and a myth, and who has a lot of layers and dimensions to explore.
What did you enjoy most about working with the cast?
For me, I had the privilege of being front row in the best live action play you could imagine. Every single one of our actors on the show brought their A-game, putting everything they had into their characters. I would find myself sitting there watching in awe as they performed, then realizing, “Oh, shoot… I am not just watching this play. I am in it! I better remember my lines.” We all feed off each other’s energy and commitment. It really created some incredible moments that I hope the audience will enjoy.
Did this role require additional preparation since you were filming in Montana?
Filming in Montana was a blessing and a challenge. It was a blessing because it was a beautiful and authentic location, and it helped me connect with the character and the story. It was a challenge because it was also a harsh and demanding environment, and it tested my endurance and adaptability. But I think it was worth it, because it added to the realism and quality of the show.
What was the most challenging part of working on the show?
Just shooting in Montana can present a challenge. The weather can change in a moment and you have to be able to adapt. We had a few long days into nights, as we had to wait for massive lighting storms to pass. It was a challenge but added to the authentic feeling of the show. We were really living and working in the environment that Jim would have. Aside from that, one of the most challenging parts of working on the show was probably the physical and mental demands of the role. Jim Bridger is a very active and dynamic character who goes through a lot of action and drama in every episode. I had to be in good shape and condition to perform the stunts and scenes that were required of me. I also had to be emotionally and psychologically prepared to portray the different aspects and emotions of Jim Bridger, who is a complex character. It was a very demanding and exhausting role, but also very satisfying and fulfilling.
You started your career in the entertainment industry as a model. What is your favorite campaign that you have been a part of, and what made it so memorable?
I have been a part of many campaigns as a model, and I have enjoyed them all. But if I had to pick one, I would say my favorite campaign was the one I did for Versace with the legendary photographer Bruce Weber for Versace’s Versus line. It was memorable because it was one of my first big breaks as a model, and it was a prestigious and glamorous brand. We shot down in Islamorada, FL. There were a bunch of other male models there that week and we would all hang around windsurfing and swimming when not shooting. I became friends with several of the other guys and am still to this day. One in particular, Eric Etebari, an incredibly successful model, went on to an equally successful acting career.
Please tell us about your character Jack in Piranhaconda. What was the most memorable part of this project?
Piranhaconda is a sci-fi horror comedy film that I did for Syfy. It is about a hybrid creature that is part piranha and part anaconda, that terrorizes a film crew and a group of kidnappers in Hawaii. I play Jack, who is the lead actor of the film within the film. He is a handsome and charming action star, who is also a bit of a jerk and a diva. He is more concerned about his image and his career than anything else, and he often clashes with his co-star and director. He also gets involved in a love triangle with his co-star and one of the kidnappers. The most memorable part of this project was probably working with the giant rubber snake that played the Piranhaconda. It was a hilarious and ridiculous prop, that was operated by a bunch of guys with wires and poles. It was hard to keep a straight face and act scared when I saw it, but it was also a lot of fun and a unique challenge.
What did you enjoy most about playing Hamilton in Sharktopus vs. Pteracuda?
Sharktopus vs. Pteracuda is another sci-fi horror comedy film that I did for Syfy. It is about two genetically engineered monsters that are part shark, part octopus, part pterodactyl and part barracuda, that fight each other and cause havoc. I play Hamilton, who is a scientist and a spy, who works for a secret organization that created the Pteracuda. He is a smart and suave agent, who is also a bit of a rogue and a rebel. He has a complicated relationship with his boss and his partner, and he also has a soft spot for the Pteracuda. He tries to stop the Sharktopus and save the world, but he also has his own agenda and secrets. What I enjoyed most about playing Hamilton was the action and the humor of the film. I got to do some cool stunts and fight scenes, as well as some witty and sarcastic dialogue. I also got to play a character that was not a typical hero or villain, but a complex and ambiguous anti-hero.
You have done several movies for Lifetime and Lifetime Movie Network. What makes their projects so appealing to you?
I like working on Lifetime and Lifetime Movie Network projects because they are usually stories that are relevant and relatable to the audience, and that deal with issues and themes that are important and meaningful. They are also stories that are entertaining and engaging, that have drama, suspense, romance, and twists. I like to work on projects that have a balance of substance and style, and that can appeal to a wide range of viewers.
You co-wrote, produced, and starred in Kill Shot. What can you tell us about your character Jackson and the plot of the film? What inspired this project?
Kill Shot was a passion project. It was the height of Covid and all other productions were shutting down. We came up with the concept of our own fun action film, wrote it, produced it and shot it, all within six months. We made a movie that had all the fun stuff that we wanted to do hunting, ice climbing, white water stunts, and fights. It was a blast making Kill Shot. Jackson Hardison is a complicated and all too human of a character. He is at the same time noble and virtuous, as he is also petty and greedy. He is like us all: human. We wanted to show a character that struggles with what life throws at him, fights hard and in the end … well you’ll just have to watch to see if he wins or loses.
How did you balance the different responsibilities that come with writing and producing while also acting in the film?
It was not easy to balance the different responsibilities that come with writing and producing while also acting in the film. It was a very demanding and stressful process that required a lot of time, energy, and resources. I had to wear many hats, juggle many tasks and duties, such as developing the script, securing the funding, hiring the crew, scouting the locations, managing the budget, overseeing the production, and then there is post production. I also had to prepare and perform for my roles as an actor, which was another challenge in itself. It was a very hard and exhausting process, but also very rewarding and satisfying. But I had a great team and partner in all of it, which is a key to success. We don’t succeed alone. I learned a lot from the experience and I am very proud of the final product.
You served as a host and designer for Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Do you have a favorite memory from this experience?
I have many fond memories from my experience on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. It was an honor and a privilege to be a part of such a wonderful and inspiring show, and to help make a difference in the lives of so many deserving families. Each show I was involved in has a special place in my heart. One I remember in particular was a family who lost their husband/father, leaving behind a wife/mother and three boys. I felt a very strong connection with them, their love and loss. I have stayed in touch with them over the years. The boys are grown up and living their lives. I was honored to be able to be there for them at a time of need. That was what the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition was about, helping people.
Out of all the TV shows, films, and projects you have worked on, which has been your favorite and why?
That’s a tough question, because I have enjoyed working on all of the TV shows, films, and projects that I have been a part of. They all have been special and unique in their own way, and they all have taught me something and given me something. But if I had to pick one, I would say my favorite is the new series that I’m starring in, The Tall Tales of Jim Bridger. To be able to portray the real life Jim Bridger, bringing him to life, on the screen, is a dream job. Jim was a remarkable character, full of life and adventure, as well as wisdom and introspection. The show takes place in a remarkable time in our country, a time that only lasted 3 or 4 decades, yet we are still to this day living with the after effects of those dynamic times. One of the things I love about the show, about Jim, is how the lessons, the morals of each episode still resonate today. It is my greatest honor and privilege to play this role.
What is one interesting thing your fans don’t know about you?
Many of you may have guessed, or not, but Rib is not my given name. It was a nickname I got as a young boy playing with frogs in a pond (Ribbit) and it stuck. My given name is Robert, and my middle name is Duane, after my father. We lost my dad back in 2020. I think about how much he would have loved The Tall Tales of Jim Bridger. He was a mountain man at heart, like I am.
What advice would you give to young people who want to work in the entertainment industry?
The advice that I would give to young people who want to work in the entertainment industry is to be passionate, persistent, and versatile. Passion is the fuel that drives you to pursue your dreams and goals, and to overcome any obstacles and challenges that you may face. Persistence is the quality that keeps you going and never giving up, even when things get tough or discouraging. Versatility is the skill that allows you to adapt and thrive in different situations and roles, and to expand your horizons and opportunities. I think these are the key ingredients for success in any field, but especially in the entertainment industry, which is very competitive and dynamic.
Do you have any other projects coming up that you can tell us about?
I do. I am currently writing a script with my wife, set at a vineyard in Italy. I am not going to sugar coat it. It was partly why we are writing: it would be a dream to produce and film a movie in Italy with my wife! There are a couple other projects in development I am excited to share with everyone later this year.
If you had to pick the TOP 3 people you’d want to meet that could take your career (or business) to the next level…who would those 3 people be?
That’s a tough question, because there are so many people that I admire and respect in the entertainment industry. But if I had to pick the top 3 people that I’d want to meet that could take my career or business to the next level, they would be:
– Steven Spielberg: He is one of the most influential and successful filmmakers of all time, and he has created some of the most iconic and memorable movies in history. He is a master storyteller and visionary, and I would love to work with him or learn from him.
– Clint Eastwood: He is another legendary filmmaker and actor, who has also excelled in the western genre. He is a very versatile and talented artist, who has directed and starred in some of the most acclaimed and award-winning films of the past decades. He is also a very inspiring and admirable person, who has a lot of wisdom and experience to share.
– Dwayne Johnson: He is one of the most popular and charismatic actors and producers in the world, who has a very impressive and diverse resume. He has starred in and produced some of the biggest and most successful movies and franchises in recent years, and he has also branched out into other ventures and platforms. He is a very hard-working and driven person, who has a lot of passion and energy for what he does. He is also very humble and generous, and he has a great sense of humor and personality.