The Evolution Of NCIS: Los Angeles Star Daniela Ruah

Daniela Ruah, an American actor raised in Portugal, has a distinctive birthmark called nevus of Ota that separates her from the rest. She told Esquire, "It covers the whole white of my eye and darkens it. The square of the eye, the white part, is completely dark on my right eye, not just the iris."

As unique as this physical trait may be, people mostly recognize Ruah for her role as Special Agent Kensi Blye on "NCIS: Los Angeles." She has been a part of the show since 2009, acting on several episodes and directing a few. The show is responsible for a few changes in her life: her marriage and her accent. "There's this accent that I think everybody has when they grow up going to an international school. It's a mix of not quite English, not quite American. When I moved to L. A., it just went completely American."

From starting in telenovelas to hosting one of the biggest events in Europe, Daniela Ruah's career has a bit of everything ... and so does her life.

She grew up in Portugal

In Hollywood, many stars come from different countries, cultures, and upbringings. Daniela Ruah is the combination of it all as she was born in Boston to Jewish parents, raised in Portugal, and went to college in the U.K. and the U.S. "We had an unbelievable empire, and so many maritime discoveries, and how is it that we are now reduced to this? But I still love the country," she told Esquire about Portugal.

Although in the same interview she denied being the face of Portugal, that is where her career started and people still recognize her when she walks down the street. She has had some very exciting and emotional encounters while being there. "I had a four-year-old kid run up to me and wrap his arms around my neck once, and I melted." She takes pride in her culture and mentioned to Esquire that even though Portuguese people can be loud, they aren't aggressive. "A Portuguese is not going to punch you for no reason."

She started her acting career in telenovelas

Some celebrities start their careers in theater or commercials. But that wasn't the route Daniela Ruah took. "I started working on telenovelas there [Portugal] when I was sixteen," she shared with Esquire. The actress was still in school when she began her acting journey and had no idea what would come next.

Although she was very young, Ruah was able to pursue her dreams because she had, as she told Yahoo, her parents' support. "The school itself was wonderfully supportive ... It was an English school, an international school, which also allowed me to maintain my English."

In 2012, as she celebrated the success of "NCIS: LA," Ruah looked back on her past as part of telenovelas and discussed it with Backstage. "It was a teeny tiny paycheck and working almost six days a week and hours on end, and there was kind of no support as a kid in high school. We had no tutors on set with us or anything like that, so I was literally fighting for my grades and fighting for a job that I loved." It seems like she was able to succeed because of her talent and her parents' and school's support.

She studied both in London and New York

"If you don't aim for the stars, you won't even make the clouds," is a well-known phrase, and according to what Ruah shared with Up Magazine (via The Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute), it is her life motto. This is probably what encouraged her to pursue a degree in acting even when she was already working as an actor.

She started at the London Metropolitan University, where one of her teachers remembers her as engaged, dedicated, loyal, and generous. "I cannot tell you how valuable my education at London Met was as the beginning of my journey to where I am now. It is the perfect balance between academic and practical work," she recalled.

"I thought I was prepared to work in a bigger film market and improve myself as an actress," she said after receiving her degree (via The Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute). She made the jump across the pond to continue her education and expand her career. She attended The Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute before landing the role that would change her life.

She was in Dancing With The Stars Portugal

"Dancing With The Stars" is a popular show regardless of which version you decide to watch. Each country has their own, inviting some of the most popular local celebrities. That is how Daniela Ruah ended up being a contestant in the Portuguese version of the competition show.

"I think my mom put me in tap classes when I was three, which I never pursued. I don't know how to tap. Then we moved to Portugal when I was five, and, I think, she put me in ballet classes immediately," she told Parade about her dancing background. "Then when I went to college, I ended up majoring in dance."

She was a part of the show in 2007 and, as her background in dancing promised, she took home the trophy. However, when she looks back on her time on the show, she remembers a few things that didn't make her too happy. "I was so damn skinny at that point in my life. It wasn't on purpose — it was just the way I was and I hate it. It's so flimsy when I move my arms around," she told Esquire.

Her first job in America was NCIS: Los Angeles

When "NCIS: Los Angeles" is mentioned to Daniela Ruah in any interview, the first thing she reminds everyone is "It's my first job here in the States" (via Yahoo). The best way to start your career in a new country is definitely by joining such a popular franchise and Ruah recognizes this.

However, it wasn't the popularity that attracted her to the show she's been on for over a decade. It was the role. "She had everything to do with me in terms of speaking languages and being well-traveled. Kensi's a Navy brat, so she lived in different places in the world. There was something about the character that connected with me," she told Backstage.

It is her connection to the character that has made her a fan-favorite in the franchise. But what shines through the most through the screen is the chemistry between the different characters. As she told TV Fanatic, "We've become a family that's been cemented throughout the years. Us being together for so long as a cast has brought people comfort. Being in people's homes every week for 14 years is a big deal."

She was in the play Proof

Although Daniela Ruah is mostly known for her work on TV, she once said, "As clichéd as it sounds, I always knew I wanted to be on stage" (via The Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute). On "Dancing With The Stars," she was able to combine her dancing passion and performing on a stage, but it wasn't enough to satisfy the theater bug.

In 2013, she scratched that itch by being cast as part of the play "Proof." According to Harker Jones's review for Edge Media Network, "Ruah gives a nuanced performance navigating romantic feelings for Hal, thoughts of her own failure ... frustration at the sexism in the world of mathematics, and terror at being uprooted from the only home she's known. She's both introverted and outspokenly straightforward, the two of which are each masking her pain." The review is proof that her desire to be on stage was backed by talent.

The reviewers and the audience weren't the only ones to enjoy Ruah's run in the theater. She also discussed the experience with KTLA5, "It's been an incredible experience because not only do I get to feel what the audience is feeling live ... and then the actual character itself" (via Daily Motion).

She married her co-star's stunt double and brother

The cast of "NCIS: Los Angeles" appears to have created a bond beyond the screen. However, Daniela Ruah is closest to co-star Eric Christian Olsen as she is married to his stunt double and brother, David Paul Olsen. Eric Christian Olsen told Queen Latifah that right before the couple got together, that they were both dating awful people. "He came on to do stunts, I would say something nice about her to him and then say something to him about her. That was enough to kinda get them started in conversation and it became this wonderful relationship."

In 2014, the actor announced her marriage in a tweet: "Just lived the best week of my life; I married my best friend. Our son was with us. We were surrounded by our favourite people."

One of the beautiful things fans highlight from this relationship is their interfaith, which was present at their wedding. "Our fathers married us. Dave's father was ordained, and my father isn't a rabbi, but you just have to have a minyan, ten men, to make it valid. We got married under a chuppah, and Dave broke the glass. We had the wine ceremony and drank out of the Kiddush cup. Dave's father recited a beautiful homily," she shared with 18 Doors.

She is the mother of two

Ruah and her husband had a son before they tied the knot, but that isn't where the family stopped growing. At the time of this writing, they are a happy family of four after their daughter joined the team.

As a working mom, Ruah highlighted her show's support through motherhood in an interview with 18 Doors. However, this journey comes with its challenges, and Ruah doesn't forget to remind her followers on Instagram by sharing details of her personal life with her children. "In this pic I was home alone with the kiddos going through the morning routine (my hubby is the most present incredible dad, but on this day he left for work early) I was and am a very happy mom but there is no doubt that the first year of motherhood was CHALLENGING – emotionally, mentally & physically."

As an interfaith marriage raising two kids, Ruah shares with 18 Doors advice that she learned from watching other family members in interfaith marriages. "To make sure that everything is discussed before you have the baby. Otherwise, there will be complications. Unless one person is like, 'Do whatever you want, I'm OK with it.'"

She hosted Eurovision in 2018

For those who may not know, Eurovision is a song contest that takes place in Europe, and hosting it is a pretty big deal. In 2018, Ruah joined three other Portuguese celebrities (Silvia Alberto, Catarina Furtado, and Filomena Cautela) as hosts.

After Portugal's 2017 win, it was Daniela Ruah's husband who encouraged her to put her name on the list to become the host. Although she thought it was improbable, she gave her agent a call. She told Billboard, "My agent said, 'That's a great idea. As soon as everything settles down, we are going to look into that and see what we can make happen.' And within a few months, it happened."

Even though Ruah knows how important Eurovision is, in America, it might be harder for people to grasp its reach as not many are familiar with the competition. "People who work in television ask me, 'What are the viewer numbers?' When I tell them over 200 million people have watched the live broadcast, that makes people say, 'Oh! Oh! Okay.'"

She made her directorial debut on NCIS: Los Angeles

Dancing, hosting, and being on screen and on a stage weren't where Daniela Ruah wanted to see her career reaching its peak. She knew there was more she could offer with her talent and experience, so she took on the director role. In 2022, she directed five episodes of "NCIS: Los Angeles."

"She's great. She's handling everything really well. She's exceeding all expectations," her co-star and brother-in-law Eric Christian Olsen told ET Online. Olsen shared these details with his wife who asked about her sister-in-law's directorial debut in the series.

Even though Olsen praised her, Ruah didn't shy away from telling The Herald News how challenging this experience was for her. "Doing it for the first time is interesting because I have many parameters to work with, which helps me. I feel really excited and I'm loving it. It's a passion I've had for a long time, but I never gave it a try out of fear."