Currently [April 2017] working on Catalyst – a feature length version of the short film Remembering Amy – he has recently filmed scenes for season 3 of the TV hit Outlander.
Described as a “fun and inventive performer with endless energy”, it was a delight that Ryan took time to devote some of that energy to answering my questions.
How did you get into acting?
As a child I was lucky enough to go abroad quite frequently with family and unlike my sister, Laura, who was quite reserved as a child, I possessed a lot of confidence and so I would talk with the hotel manager and performers, to organise a way in which I could be involved with their shows! I must’ve been about four or five at the time, but I remember vividly – at a bar in Benidorm – watching a man named Martin Kemp perform his one-man show of impersonations.
For me, the idea that one man was making a room of 100 or so people laugh or cry was magical. I think from that moment on, my flame of ambition to become a performer was lit and it still ultimately drives me forward to this day. I think being abroad frequently as I was growing up influenced my career path. I would mostly be engrossed by the hotel entertainment or the traveling troupes of performers that would bar-crawl their shows throughout the strip.
The characters in the shows I’d seen growing up were very flamboyant, grotesque and filled with comedic elements – impersonating celebrities and filled with slapstick, a mirror of what I’m currently doing. When I was very young, an advert for the Glasgow Academy of Musical Theatre and Arts [GAMTA] was shown to my parents who told me about the school and asked if I wanted to audition. Of course, I said yes and turned up, not really knowing what ‘musical theatre’ entailed at the age of nine. The audition was a process of acting, singing and dancing; it was fairly intense and unlike anything I’d ever done.
It was over in a blur and I was told I got in. What a boost of confidence that gave me! As someone who got frequently bullied in school, this gave me something to look forward to and excel in outside of the negative educational environment. The intense, rigorous training involved at GAMTA really changed me in many ways: it set me up for being a high achiever, it taught me skills such as puctuality and professionalism – as-well-as giving me a springboard into the world of music and dance. Overall, my three-year run at GAMTA gave me the drive to continue in the business and let me find what it was I wanted to do – acting for stage and screen.
I guess Outlander is your most high-profile project so far? How did your involvement come about? And which of your acting work so far makes you most proud?
When I was first starting out, I joined an extras agency in hope of getting a glimpse of what life was like on a professional television or film set. Being an extra on Outlander way back on season one, was probably the highlight of my time as a ‘background artist’ – my experience there really opened my eyes and injected a craving for success into me which has never left. The show itself has been part of my life for a long time. My mother is a huge fan of the novels and so I knew all about Outlander before my time there began.
After my job finished on season 1, I had a year and a bit off where I focused on getting my Diploma in Acting. However, the show never left my thoughts, and I became obsessed with watching the show. I would constantly remind my agent to look out for roles (as I knew there were characters coming up that I would be suitable for) and one day, during a meal with friends in London, I heard word back that I had been cast. The laid-back meal with friends turned into a night of celebration!
Transitioning from extra to cast member was simply fantastic. When arriving at Unit Base, I saw so many familiar faces from the most dedicated crew I’ve ever worked with; from ADs [assistant directors] to costume and of course the cast. I had the pleasure of working with Sam Heughan and the hilariously funny Grant O’Rourke – both men who are genuinely humble, approachable completely grounded. Like I mentioned in one of my tweets, Outlander is like a family and I was accepted back instantly.
I would say that, although short, the work I did on set makes me feel extremely proud – I’m only at the beginning of what hopefully is a long and successful career for me but when I take a moment to see how far I’ve come, from Benidorm to battlefield – I can’t help but feel a sense of pride.
Like any other actor in the business will know, you need to stay motivated and find things that inspire you to continue. I am at the very start of my career, still finding lots of classical plays that are so well known, but not yet to me. Reading and learning more about your profession is key to being inspired. I’m going through a phase just now where Shakespeare is the best thing since sliced bread and I just want to perform it everyday. The language, the imagery and the deeply detailed characters just engross me the more I read. For me, It’s really about constantly learning and knowing your craft so that you can develop your skills further – I am nowhere near finished. I spend my days looking for auditions and networking with people who I can collaborate with. There’s only one word that I find defines my profession – crazy. I have absolutely no idea where I’m going on this journey to success – traveling into the unknown is completely petrifying but incredibly exciting.
Which actors do you most admire?
I’m heavily influenced by Catherine Tate – who dispensed nothing but wisdom upon meeting her. However, there is one man that deserves unconditional praise from me – Robin Williams. Never before have I watched someone on screen that has taken me through an emotional journey from start to finish. For me, he was a rare star that, in the span of a film, was able to make me laugh hysterically and then well-up with a glint of sadness in his eye. His talent was simply incredible. His ability to perform a range of completely different roles on screen baffled me each and every time. I believe that his performance in Mrs Doubtfire really lit my flame of ambition to proceed in this industry. The news of his shock death genuinely left me heartbroken – I felt like he was unfinished and had so much more to share with the world. However, the legacy he left is something I find myself referring back to. He truly was my hero.
So what’s happening now and what’s next for you?
Back in 2015, I attended a short two week course in London called the National Youth Film Academy – the agenda was to be put into a team, write, shoot and edit a short film in 10 days, which would then be shown at a renowned cinema in London to family, friends and industry professionals.
The film I was involved in was called Remembering Amy, which received thunderous applause at the end of the screening. Many audience members and online fans demanded more from the team and so a select few of us decided to turn the short into a feature. Elizabeth J. Cassidy, who produced the short has now become the writer/director of Catalyst, produced by Lady Colin Campbell’s son, Dima Ziadie.
Luckily, we have some of the original cast returning to the feature, Jade-Marie Joseph [Life Through Our Lens, BBC Three], Lily Mae McGregor [Tu Si Que Vales], Emma Harvey [Doctors, BBC], as well as a fantastic line up including Antonia Tootill [previously profiled on Piece of Pink Pie], Zak Russell-Jones and of course myself, returning in the role of Tom.
We are now in the stages of crowdfunding the project which is set to film this summer in London, due for release in 2018. Anyone who wishes to be part of the film and contribute to get some amazing perks!
I have also just wrapped on a short film by Matthew Howie for MuckyPup Productions – it was so fantastic to work with him and an incredibly talented DoP [director of photography] again, who just happens to be his sister, Laura Howie. The film was called Roxy Smiles and I played the role of Hunter, a mentally damaged stalker who seeks revenge.
In the coming months I’m also set to shoot a short film for the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland with one of the best cinematographers I’ve seen in a long time called Martin MacLoed and also another feature called The Second Life Club by Simon Jake at Haggis Western Films.
Are there any roles in film, TV or on stage that you would love to play? And what are your ambitions as an actor?
I would absolutely love to be involved in a period drama piece – whether that be a reimagining of Shakespeare or a revival of Downton Abbey in the future. The history behind these types of shows interests me incredibly and I’ve always wanted to see what it’s like to live in the past. I think, luckily, I have a look where I can play both classical and contemporary, and so being typecast isn’t really something that worries me. Of course, It’s great to expand your range and play things outwith your comfort zone, but being put in a pigeonhole is something that comes with this career – it’s not really in my control. There’s no point in fighting against your casting type – you’d never get any work.
Another big aspiration for me is to be part of a drama – I find that genre to really be growing on me at the moment. A few of my favourite shows include Broadchurch, Happy Valley, Doctor Foster and The Replacement. I want to be part of a show that keeps the audience gripped week after week – of course the ideal role would to be the person who committed the crime in a whodunnit. Gritty British drama has the top place in my list of priorities for sure.
When I think into the future, I just hope to be doing exactly what I’m doing now – constantly auditioning for projects, learning more about my craft and testing my limitations in performance. I do see myself moving into either producing or directing at one point in my career path.
And if you’re involved in indie film, take a look here.