Interview: Jay Ryan

by Fiona Rae / 18 February, 2012
The Kiwi actor is across – no, really – three channels this year.

Jay Ryan will achieve a television trifecta this year, appearing on three of the free-to-air channels. He’s in TV1’s Offspring and TV2’s Go Girls and he guest-stars in the new Steven Spielberg-executive-produced big-budget family adventure series Terra Nova on TV3. (Plus, when Prime begins repeats of Sea Patrol, he’s in that, too.) The 30-year-old started acting as a teenager and his credits include Australian film Lou and one-man stage play The Packer, by Dianna Fuemana, which was nominated for best international performance at the Hollywood Fringe Festival.

Was last year the busiest you've ever been? It was a good year, but all up it was maybe 15 weeks’ work. It was nice to do three different projects – one American, one Australian and one Kiwi – and it was nice to do a couple of guestie roles as well, as opposed to being on a core cast. It’s interesting when you come into an already organised team or a cast that’s been together for a while. You do your thing and meet people very quickly and go – so it’s quite a different way of working.

What was it like being on a big-budget set like Terra Nova, as opposed to the small productions of Offspring and Go Girls? More bells and whistles, but at the end of the day it’s the same thing in terms of performance. There’s just more lights, more buildings and more food.

How many episodes did you do? I ended up doing three. I was supposed to do more, but it became too difficult because I was shooting Go Girls at the same time. I was supposed to be eaten by a dinosaur at the end of my first episode, and I was thinking, “Amazing, I can’t wait to see this!”, but we ran out of time to shoot it, because anything with the dinosaurs takes a good half-day to set up. So they said, “Well, look, we’re going to have to bring you back”, and I said, “Great!” I did get to do one scene with a 14-foot komodo dragon, which was painted in later by Steven Spielberg’s team.

Did they have animatronics? Not a lot. They had puppetry sort of things, like if they’re doing a close-up of a dinosaur’s claw. They also do a lot of stuff – which I guess is very Spielbergesque – of what you don’t see, which is more scary. So a lot of glimpses of dinosaurs’ tails, and really fast shadows going past and that old-school Jaws effect.

Was he around? He’s kind of like the Wizard of Oz really. He’s the man behind the curtain, where he makes it all happen, and you just hear his voice boom down. But apparently he had to sign off on the casting, so I know he’s seen me, which is nice to know.

Kev, your character in Go Girls, is very wry. Do you have to consciously play him down? I guess so, but at the same time it’s quite big as well, what I do with Kev. There’s a fine balance I have to find between the expression in his head through the voiceover and what’s being registered on the face and in the eyes. The Go Girls style is quite magazine-y – sharp cuts, very fast – and you’ve got to adapt your performance to work with that.

Have you got some good things coming up? I have a project, which I’m not allowed to talk about. It’s in New Zealand, it’s an international production, but it’s going to be a really different role for me, quite physically different.

Let me guess – you're in The Hobbit? No, not The Hobbit, nothing to do with feet. It’s a mini-series, but that’s about all I can say; it’s shooting down south as well. I’m very excited about it. It’s going to be a great role for me.

OFFSPRING, TV1, Sunday, 9.30pm; GO GIRLS, TV2, Tuesday, 8.30pm; TERRA NOVA, TV3, Saturday, 7.30pm.
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