It’s a Saturday night in Hollywood, CA at the Arclight Cinemas for the ‘Hollywood Film Festival’ screening of ‘Songs for Amy,’ a romantic comedy and musical drama filmed in the gorgeous backdrop of Galway, Ireland and New York. We’re at The Sayer Club for the after party and I am getting ready to interview Kevin Ryan. We have to step outside because Alabama 3 has the place rocking. Kevin plays the role of JJ, a self-absorbed no talent pop star with an interesting past and a bright future. Kevin is a very interesting man whom I enjoyed interviewing.
Aprilyn: Welcome to Movie Vine, Kevin Ryan! How did you prepare for your role as JJ in Songs for Amy?
Kevin: I played JJ in the closet. I played him gay. I took every side of myself, every fear of success, every part of jealousy, and every part of insecurity that I would have and I utilized that in my character. That was the basis for my character. We’re dealing with a musician who has no talent. In this particular case, this was someone who has made it to the top and who is the number one pop star in the world. But, he has no talent. He doesn’t write his own songs, he can’t play any instruments and he’s like the mecca of what American Idol could be, like complete manufactured talent and that was my basis for the approach for the role.
Aprilyn: I picked up on that. Throughout the film, they talked about different things, including how JJ told Amy he wrote the song for her after he met her, but you find out in the film that he has a lyricist who writes all of his songs for him.
Kevin: Yeah, and that happens in the music industry and that’s the Ying and the Yang to Sean Maguire’s character. It’s that everything he is doing is from his heart, from a place of love. Whereas JJ is in a place in the industry where he is being fueled by the industry. You see that happen with artists: that their path is on commercialism. As an artist, I understand the industry but I don’t fully agree with it. I would rather listen to artists who are pure and true to what they really believe in and what they want to sing, write, act or direct about.
Aprilyn: I agree!
Kevin: I’m an artist also!
Aprilyn: You are? What else do you do?
Kevin: I’m a sculptor!
Aprilyn: Really! What do you sculpt?
Kevin: My family is eighth generation stone cutters. So as a kid I grew up as a stone cutter. I sculpt marble, travertine & granite. I write as well.
Aprilyn: Have you thought about writing a script?
Kevin: I’ve done a couple of film shorts and I have a feature film in development right now so I will probably produce that this year or early into next year. It’s my first feature film.
Aprilyn: What is the movie about?
Kevin: It’s like a mix of Heat, The Town, and Good Will Hunting. We’re working with a very high level team. Actually the guy we’re working with produced Good Will Hunting and brought it to the screen. That’s what attracted him to it. But that’s sort of where I’m going. I will produce and probably act in a lot of my projects further down the line and when I feel I’m ready, I will probably direct.
Aprilyn: That was actually my next question, would you consider directing?
Kevin: Yea, I come from a dance background and I used to teach choreography a lot and I think it’s similar to acting. But the great thing about seeing actors work is you get someone who’s in the balance of a medium for a role and you can adjust that and translate it into the story you want to tell. And that intrigues me! I think the Irish are natural born story tellers. We have some fantastic writers, poets and musicians. But everything is a story and that is something that is sort of embedded into my culture, heritage and life. Yeah, definitely, I would love to direct!
Aprilyn: I’m looking forward to your projects. What is your favorite genre of movie that you like to be a part of?
Kevin: I like going in on the heavy dramatic side and really flushing out the character and living the part. I hate acting, but I like living, so any character I approach is always from a real basis. What it’s fueled by and driven by is raw emotions that we all deal with. It’s like the break phrase of ‘acting is bad acting’ and ‘living is great acting’. And that’s something I try to achieve with every role. I try to get to the core of what someone wants, needs, desires and the objectives in life and what is fueled by the relationship. I take every aspect in when I break down the script. I really go full haul into it and take my time to live it and feel the pain and get into it. That’s what drives me for each role. It’s being an individual between the character, and also creating something real and being present and connected. It’s not just the exterior of the character being acted.
Aprilyn: Very well spoken! I read that you were into Shakespearean work. Are you still involved?
Kevin: I’m still involved but a lot of my time is taken up by a lot the material I’m sent on a daily basis. I view an enormous amount of scripts and it’s always a foundation. The reason I got into Shakespeare is that I had a great English teacher in school who sort of turned what English was for me around. The first thing he had us do was ‘The Merchant of Venice.’ Our first homework he had us do was break down the script: break down the parts and break down the character. This is what I was learning at the method of Stanislavsky. So he had the same approach and that’s what interested me in English. Shakespeare was a great teacher. I think that about the schooling system as well. I think if you get inspiration towards a certain area, kids will go with it the rest of their lives and I got that. I was writing plays at 12 years of age and I was casting my friends to perform in front of the school and their parents. But it was when I had a great English teacher that said, “You’re not a wanker, I need to give you more work to do.” When I got into the character breakdown of Shakespeare, that’s when I said this is homework, I love this shit, this is homework, this is fun. For me personally, as an actor, I think getting a job is the work, because being employed is the fun.
Aprilyn: Right, you get to put your all into it.
Kevin: Well yeah, the preparation as an actor is the fun part of it. When I did ‘Copper,’ it was learning about the Civil War, learning about the Irish, the famine, the immigration over to the states, the war and racism. Every part of that was relevant in my approach to playing Maguire. When you have great material that has a depth to it, you’re attracted to it. I read the first page of ‘Copper’ and it was about survival and hope and that’s what drove me to that piece.
Aprilyn: Being an actor you have the opportunity to take what you’ve learned and portray it in a character with each script you have in front of you.
Kevin: Yeah, but I followed the course of what I wanted to do, not what I was forced into. So when I was like twelve years old and writing plays and performing them, that was having fun. Then I was doing drama and I was doing dance study and all of that and that was its own beast as well. But when I look back at that, it’s what I wanted to do. That’s just the formula for what I’m doing now. So when I went and studied seriously and worked with Stanislavsky on that method, it all made sense. I was like, oh, this is what we were doing when we used to break down events when we read Shakespeare when I was in school. In a sense, I had a great teacher in school that made English interesting to me. I was attracted to what he was saying like create a character, break down the character, what’s the plot and that was our homework and that’s what I do for fun. I read a script and say this is the plot, this is the objective. So it worked full circle for what I was doing.
Aprilyn: What is your next project?
Kevin: Contractually, I can’t talk about it yet.
Aprilyn: So when you’re ready to talk let me know.
Kevin: I will!
Aprilyn: Thank you for taking the time to speak to Movie Vine.
Below is the trailer for Songs for Amy: