Jay Ryan lands plum role as The Beast
James Croot asks the NZ actor about his major new role on an American dramatic series.
Jay Ryan is a man on the go. The 21-year-old former Go Girls star has traded Takapuna for Toronto, having landed the male lead on a new version of Beauty and the Beast, which airs on a major United States network. It won a 2012 People’s Choice Award for Favorite New TV Drama.
How are you coping with your newfound fame?
It’s been funny. Because we’re shooting the series up here, we’re away from some of the hype.
That’s kind of nice because it means we can focus on making the show which has some very ambitious scripts.
A friend sent me a photo of a big billboard with my face on it on Hollywood Boulevard right near Madame Tussauds. I can tick that off my bucket list now.
How did you land this massive part?
I’ve been auditioning in the Los Angeles market for a while now, getting close but to no avail because of the red tape of visas and work permits.
I was going to take a year off and had just got a role in Top of the Lake with Jane Campion. She had me shave half my head, so I had this big mohawk thing.
I looked quite a character, but thought no-one in America was going to cast me like this.
Then, my agent called and said they were making Beauty and the Beast, based on the 1980s series, and they had seen a tape of me I put down two years ago for a film and they liked it and wanted to see me for the role of the Beast/ Vincent Keller.
They flew me to Los Angeles for 24 hours, and made me audition in front of about 30 studio, network and production people for about half an hour.
I probably looked like a wreck. I still had half my head shaved, had just got off the plane and was mumbling my words.
It wasn’t until I got back home to Auckland that I got the message that they’d like me to come straight back and do a ‘‘chemistry reading’’ with Kristin Kreuk.
So it was back on the plane and straight into makeup, where they put a wig on me for the reading.
‘‘You’ll know in another hour,’’ they said, but it was two weeks before they told me I had the part. So they really dragged it out and nearly gave me a heart attack.
What sort of ordeal do you have to undergo to become the Beast?
There are two forms of the Beast. The pre-formed Beast uses CGI (computer generated imagery) – they simply put blue dots over my face and away we go.
The actual prosthetics take up to five hours. There are eight pieces that cover half my torso, neck and face, as well as contacts, a wig and some teeth.
Once I’m in it, I’m in it for 10 to 12 hours, then it takes half an hour to get off. Usually, I’m in it once or twice a week.
How would you describe the show?
The first few episodes are a traditional cop drama with mythology weaved through it. After episode five, though, it becomes very mythology based.
The cast were pushing for that a lot. The mythology is kind of more interesting – the Beast’s backstory and his and Catherine’s romance.
What are the differences between working in New Zealand and the US?
Back home, it is all very team based. Here, it’s very unionised, very much a hierarchy.
There are a lot more rules about how things are done, which you have to stick to like a bible.
Ordeal: It can take up to five hours for Jay Ryan to don all the prosthetics and makeup for his role in Beauty and the Beast.