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Meet Nick Ryan

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nick Ryan.

Nick, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I am an actor-songwriter living in Hollywood. I’m from a small town in Illinois where I grew up riding horses. Five days a week, my sister and I rode and took care of them, accompanied by our grandparents who supported the venture. We started with pleasure riding and eventually competed on the ‘AA’ circuit in hunter jumping/ equitation. I spent most of my youth outdoors. My grandma would pack sandwiches, freeze pops, some sodas and take our cousins and us to the local pool or skatepark. I loved going on adventures in the woods and on the lake with my Dad. My Mom and I loved crafting Halloween costumes every year, she struggled working nights as a psych nurse, so my sister and I spent a lot of time with our grandparents. My first job was for a traveling petting zoo at age 12, ‘Peg’s Pony Express’. Yeah, there were ups and downs, but I had a great childhood.

I knew I was meant to be an actor from a young age. My grandma and I watched the Oscars religiously and my other grandma and I thrived on golden age films, she often told me the world was my stage. I have a memory of my mom taking my photo with a disposable camera, not telling me what it was for. She was signing me up for one of those radio advertised commercial classes that promised to make your kid a ‘Star’, because she knew it was my dream. Turned out to be a sham but I love her for that. I have so many friends whose families don’t support them. Mine always did.

I was severely bullied from about 6th grade to sophomore year. I didn’t really know who I was and obsessed with being popular. One semester I volunteered in the Treasurer’s Office during lunch because I had nowhere to sit. When I finally said screw this, I ended up making a lot of friends and people left me alone. In fact, the last two years of high school were magical. The people who bullied me ended up wanting to be my friend. I think it’s because I stopped apologizing for being different and owned exactly who I was. High school is such a strange place, I don’t blame them. I would love to gain a platform so I can advocate for teen bullying, drug use and tell kids ‘IT GETS BETTER, I PROMISE, THIS WILL BE OVER SOON. YOU CAN BE WHOEVER YOU WANT TO BE’.

I left high school, moved downtown, fell into a pretty rad friend group, got into some acting classes and onto set as a background actor. I must’ve logged close to a thousand hours on those sets. Some days went up to 18 hours or it would be 20 below zero and we’d be out there dusk till dawn freezing our asses off for 64 bucks. I still have flashbacks of this makeup lady holding onto the rails of the 18th street bridge so she wouldn’t fly away while shooting in a torrential downpour. LOL. Those experiences did something for me though, they taught me responsibility, a work ethic and the importance of a good attitude on set. I watched every actor’s performance with intent. I studied the crew members. Soon I moved up to being a stand-in, thanks to my friend Rachel. At the time, she was standing in for Emmy Rossum on Shameless and got me the gig to stand in for Cameron Monaghan who played Ian. If you don’t know, a stand in is someone who replicates the action of the actor so the crew can set up lighting and camera angles. The job required me to be on the front lines at all times and I was privy to watching the actors rehearse. It was so exciting. Quite literally, the coolest thing in the world. From there, I would go to stand in on shows like Chicago PD, Empire, Sense 8, and eventually 13 Reasons Why and American Horror Story when I moved to California. My first actual ‘acting’ role was an independent short film based on the troubled life of socialite and Andy Warhol ‘Superstar’ Edie Sedgewick. I got to smoke fake pot and pop sugar pills. It was a great time.

Flash forward, a friend asked me to move to San Francisco. Without thinking we Loaded up the car drove cross country. In San Francisco, my career really started really coming together.

Within a month, I found my way onto the set of ABC’s mini-series ‘When We Rise’ as a hippie featured background in a five thousand dollar wig. Then came a stand-in gig on the pilot of 13 Reasons Why which led to many friends and a recurring background role as a barista at the show’s iconic coffee shop ‘Monet’s’. I worked on the show for four years. I owe a lot to 13. I soon joined an acting school that would change my life. I started to really understand acting. My teachers led me down a path I didn’t know existed. In October 2017, I booked my first ‘Real’ role in feature film ‘The Ride’ which has already picked up awards on major festival circuits including Newport Beach, Boston and Napa Valley and is soon to be released. The film is based on the extraordinary life of John Buultjens. A heartwarming story of perseverance. I played a young skinhead part of an Aryan gang. My first day on set, I remember being rushed by the AD to get my head shaved, Nazi tattoos applied and being told not to address Ludacris as Ludacris but rather his first name, Chris. That night we filmed a gang fight scene where we kicked the shit out of someone. I had four more days of shooting.

About this time, I started exploring. I produced, wardrobed and marketed two theater plays with friend and mentor, Byron Haigh. We did ‘Macbeth’, directed by the Stanislavsky trained Alexander Liznenkov. The play was later directed as a feature film by Christopher Coppola. We shot the film under the full moon in four grueling nights at the legendary SFAI Building. Next, we celebrated a sold-out run of ‘The Mother F***er with the Hat’ written by Stephen Adly Guirgis and directed by Peter Allas at the Mojo Theater in San Francisco’s Mission District which was featured in the entertainment section of the San Francisco Chronicle as ‘pick of the week’.

Next came projects like a short film for the Stonewall Fund where I starred as teenage boy struggling with sexuality, ‘She Meant Little to Me’ where I was challenged with raising the child of my overdosed girlfriend, a quippy know-it-all in the indie feature ‘Bathroom Stalls and Parking Lots’, rookie cop in horror indie feature ‘The Pining’ which I’m also credited as a production designer, a reimagined scene from ‘My Own Private Idaho’ as a young hustler, lead in a tech nerd commercial, lead role in the short award-winning crime thriller ‘Imminent Night’ as a young serial killer targeting gay men, I also produced and did wardrobe on that film. A quick marketing photography job for Shelton Theater’s production of ‘Baby Doll’, some production assistant jobs on commercials, a Disney feature and an indie.  Then I became a volunteer photographer for ‘Our Town Magazine’ (an LGBT nonprofit). Next, I was cast as a teenage American serial killer, John Wayne Gacy, for a two-part special on the Reelz Network, followed by a live performance at the San Francisco dive bar, ‘El Rio’, where I closed the show with my original songwriting. At this point, I felt it was time to move to LA.

I quickly signed with my manager, Joshua Revives of Dream Talent Management who has been getting me some pretty impressive auditions. In LA, I shot a few short films and have had photoshoots with photographers like the ultra-artistic Cassie Hunter and esteemed Damon Casarez. Right now, I’m training on camera with Joshua LeBar Studios and scene study with Robert Zimmerman, Lisa Pescia and Peter Allas of ZA Studios as well as taking piano lessons on the side. Recently I performed an acoustic set at The Children’s Hospital of LA with songwriter Kelly Nickels and interned for a casting company in NYC during New York Fashion Week. I assisted with signing in models, photographing castings/ fittings, printing comp cards and working backstage during two high profile fashion shows. I love grainy film, poetry, photoshoots and jam sessions with like-minded friends. My best friend is a recording artist and when we are together it is a full-on creative nirvana. We share a sun and moon sign and are kind of like yin and yang. I adore him. If I had it my way, I would make art videos while spewing off rhymes and running through fields of daisies- on the daily. Over the past year, I’ve spent a month traveling around Europe exploring the streets and museums which opened my eyes so much. Informing my art, values, life and spirituality.

If you look to the past, you can understand the future. Film is a time capsule and I plan to be a part of that. A dream of mine is to star in a film based on the Chelsea Hotel. When I was in New York, I snuck into the building which is undergoing renovations and sat in an ancient dust-filled cushioned chair. I sat till I got kicked out, listening to Leonard Cohen’s iconic ballad. That was one of the best moments of my life.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
No, things haven’t always been easy. Soon after moving to California, I fell into a really dark place for the first time in my life. Being away from home, running into walls. I didn’t know what to make of it. I never felt that way before. I didn’t have many friends out here and absolutely no family. I was alone and scared to put myself out there. For a while, I lost complete trust in people. I went from being the bubbliest-most eccentric – free spirited person to someone, who at times, forgot to breathe. One night I had a moment of clarity which turned everything upside down. One thing I will say about that time is that it helped flip the switch on my perspective, perception of reality, values and I realized how precious life and the people in it are. I questioned if a career in film was what I really wanted, also changed what I wanted it for. I went from wanting to be ‘famous’ to someone who really fell in love with acting and the ability to make people feel. My goal is to help people through tough times with my work or simply make them laugh, tell the stories of those who can’t and inspire people to dream again. Too many people don’t think they’re good enough. Too many people are overlooked or don’t have the same opportunities as others and that honestly breaks my heart. I plan to be part of the change. I struggle with constructive criticism and being hard on myself and sometimes have trouble staying focused but have a willingness to be better.

Another struggle was losing my grandmother in 2019. She taught me glamour and strength. The last time I saw her, we listened to Johnny Cash and Saturday Night Fever records and talked all night. She looked me in the eye and told me no matter what to never give up. That in order to be a successful actor, I had to dig deep and light a fire in my soul, never letting it go, never letting anyone bring me down, never giving a damn what anyone has to say. She came to America during WW2, liberated by American troops on her 6th birthday. She had an offer to join the Civic Opera Ballet of Chicago at a young age as a dancer but her parents didn’t allow her to follow her dreams, which is why she believed so much in mine. Losing her was tough, but she is always with me. I know that.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
Currently in quarantine I am focused on writing my first album titled “Coldwater Canyon”. I’m also learning the piano and shooting for my creative archives. Part of my process is to get outside and take large amounts of video footage that reflects my core brand and style. Incorporating nature, urban decay, glamour, architecture and a juxtaposition on wealth. I catalog it so I have something to pull from for art videos and my music. I’m also focused on virtual acting class, self tape auditions and poetry.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I would say luck plays a 50% role in my life and business. Sometimes I see homeless people sleeping in the dirt and I think ‘why them and not me’? Why do I have so many opportunities when so many have none? I feel very lucky to live in Hollywood pursuing my dreams. These thoughts give me perspective and a responsibility to stay healthy and focus on the work. So one day, I can use my voice for change. I don’t know exactly why I’ve been blessed with such good luck but I’m going to run with it. I am lucky for my ability to feel pain and learn from it. I am lucky to have the gratitude I do, I am lucky that every day I get to wake up and be alive. I am extremely lucky to have met such creative people and lucky to have the family I was born with. The experiences I’ve had, places I’ve been and people I’ve met make me feel like a pretty lucky guy and I am excited to see what’s next.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Sasha Genenfeld, Cassie Hunter, Nick Baker, Allison Cadrette, Ben Decastro, Christopher Upham, Guinevere Ray, Josel Salalima, Hoff Productions, Imminent Night

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