Ryan Reynolds Says He Hired 'Peloton Wife' as He Can 'Relate' to 'Alienating' Criticism

"We don't want to make the situation any worse for her," the actor said about including Monica Ruiz in his new ad

Ryan Reynolds is opening up about his decision to cast the “Peloton wife” in his hilarious new ad, admitting that he empathized with the actress after she faced recent backlash for Peloton’s controversial Christmas commercial.

On Dec. 6, the Deadpool actor — who revealed a new commercial for his distilled spirits brand, Aviation Gin, poking fun at the viral Peloton ad — told The New York Times that he understood what “Peloton wife” Monica Ruiz had been going through when it came to being harshly criticized for the viral ad she was featured in.

“As an actor, I can certainly relate to creating a piece of content or being part of something that’s not well received, and how alienating that can feel,” Reynolds, 43, said. “We had immense respect for any reservations she might have had. We don’t want to make the situation any worse for her.”

While the actor provided Ruiz with a way to make light of the situation, he also told the outlet he knew it would be a way to make his ad stand out.

“Ads are generally disposable pieces of content,” he told the outlet. “If you’re going to do something like this, you have to jump on the zeitgeist-y moment as it happens.”

Ruiz told PEOPLE in a statement that she appreciated Reynolds and his company for reaching out to her.

“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,” she explained.

“When Ryan and his production team called about Aviation Gin, they helped me find some humor in the situation. I am grateful to both Peloton and now Aviation Gin for the work and giving me the opportunity to do what I love to do,” she said.

In Reynolds’ ad, an exhausted-looking Ruiz is seen staring blankly, dead-on at the camera while seated at a bar with two friends. After coming out of her long daze, she tells her pals, “This gin is really smooth.”

Her friends agree as one offers, “We can get you another one.”

The other friend then says, “You’re safe here.”

“To new beginnings,” Ruiz responds back, raising her glass before quickly gulping the cocktail in one breath.

“There you go, take this too,” her friend says to her before adding, “You look great by the way!” The admiration comment seeming to reference the many hours Ruiz’s commercial character spent on the Peloton bike her husband got her for Christmas.

The clip then transitions to show a bottle of Aviation Gin.

Fans shared rave comments on Reynold’s decision to cast Ruiz in the gin commercial, one writing, “OMG brilliant.”

“Peloton actress!!!” another wrote.

Last week, Peloton released the holiday ad in support of their high-end fitness equipment — and instead of convincing consumers to shop, the commercial spun up some controversy.

In the 30-second commercial, actor Sean Hunter — who stars as “Peloton husband” in the ad — gifts his wife, played by Ruiz, the brand’s $2,245 (and up) stationary bike on Christmas morning.

Upon receiving the pricey cycling bike from Hunter’s character — who only utters one line in the 30-second commercial — the ad follows Ruiz’s yearlong fitness journey as she records herself working out. The commercial ends with the couple watching a video of the wife’s Peloton journey, in which the woman thanks her husband for changing her life.

“A year ago, I didn’t realize how much this would change me,” she says at the end of the commercial, as she and her husband sit on a couch and watch video footage of her workouts from the past year. “Thank you.”

Peloton Commercial
Sean Hunter and Monica Ruiz. Peloton

Twitter users were quick to mock the ad, calling out its supposed message of a husband wanting his fit wife to lose weight and her being “nervous” about riding an indoor bike.

But Hunter said upset social media critics turned the ad “into a nasty thing.”

“People turned down a pretty dark path and it turned into a nasty thing,” the actor and teacher told Good Morning America in an interview on Dec. 6.

“Once something goes viral, and it turns viral, people jump on that negative bandwagon and start to create any dialogue they want. My image is being associated with sexism, with the patriarchy, with abuse, with these words that I am seeing people write about me — that’s not who I am,” Hunter said, adding that the negative response to the ad makes him question the effects of social media on today’s society.

As for Ruiz’s new commercial, Hunter is a fan.

“I think it’s great, I’m so happy for Monica,” he told PEOPLE. “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 social media criticism, Peloton is standing by the 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.

“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.”

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