Peloton Husband Says Onscreen Wife Monica Ruiz Is 'Overwhelmed' by Negative Backlash to Commercial
The actor now known on the internet as “Peloton husband” has kept in touch with his onscreen wife amid the backlash surrounding their viral commercial for the fitness equipment brand.
“Monica [Ruiz] and I have chatted on the phone a few times,” Sean Hunter, 32, tells PEOPLE. “She’s doing well but is overwhelmed just like myself.”
In November, Peloton released a holiday commercial that centeres on a husband who gifts his wife the expensive exercise bike. Upon receiving the pricey cycling bike from Hunter’s character — who is mostly offscreen in the 30-second commercial — the ad follows his wife’s yearlong fitness journey as she records herself working out. The ad ends with the couple watching a video of the wife’s Peloton journey, in which the woman thanks her husband for changing her life.
The commercial has caused a social media uproar and controversy, with many deeming it sexist. After a week of coverage — and speculation over the actress’ identity — Ruiz appeared in a hilarious response commercial for Ryan Reynolds‘ distilled spirits line Aviation Gin, which was posted on Friday night.
Hunter says while he’s enjoyed addressing the backlash and having his voice heard, Ruiz is more private — despite the Aviation Gin gig.
“She’s not feeling as outspoken as me, whereas I’m happy to share my story,” he tells PEOPLE. “I think it’s important to discuss these issues and address the reasons why people feel this way.”
In addition to acting, Hunter is also a elementary school teacher in Vancouver, British Columbia. He says filming the commercial was a “super positive experience,” and that the cast and crew were “great.”
Hunter says no one on set could have anticipated the controversy, noting, “There was an amazing female presence on set and everyone worked together to create a positive commercial, which I still think it is. I’m fully in support of the power of fitness!”
He says he’s trying to understand the take that the ad is sexist, explaining, “It’s just a narrative I don’t see. Maybe she asked for the Peloton for Christmas? Also, if she didn’t like it we could have returned it! It just seems like a negative narrative that some people are clinging on to.”
Luckily, Hunter hasn’t felt the impact of the internet’s swift Peloton takedown.
“I’ve been sent a few negative messages on Instagram, but the majority has been positive,” he tells PEOPLE. “Just a bit overwhelmed at the moment but my personal life is good and the auditions continue! My staff and the parents at school are also in full support of me. It’s very nice to see.”
As for Ruiz’s new commercial, Hunter is a fan.
“I think it’s great, I’m so happy for Monica,” says Hunter. “She’s a tremendous actor and you can see the truth in her eyes. She’s stressed at the start and wants to get rid of the publicity by finishing her drink and forgetting it all. Wonderful performance and I wish her all the best.”
Despite the flood of criticism, Peloton has stood by their holiday commercial.
“We constantly hear from our members how their lives have been meaningfully and positively impacted after purchasing or being gifted a Peloton Bike or Tread, often in ways that surprise them,” a company spokesperson told PEOPLE in a statement last week.
“Our holiday spot was created to celebrate that fitness and wellness journey,” the spokesperson continued. “While we’re disappointed in how some have misinterpreted this commercial, we are encouraged by — and grateful for — the outpouring of support we’ve received from those who understand what we were trying to communicate.”
Ruiz previously told PEOPLE in a statement of the commercial, “I was happy to accept a job opportunity earlier this year from Peloton and the team was lovely to work with. Although I’m an actress, I am not quite comfortable being in spotlight and I’m terrible on social media. So to say I was shocked and overwhelmed by the attention this week (especially the negative) is an understatement.”