ZACK RYAN talks about his edgy role in "Beautiful Something"

An in-depth exclusive interview with "Beautiful Something" lead Zack Ryan

by Oliver Carnay

Zack Ryan stars in the hot, sexy new feature "Beautiful Something," currently doing rounds in several LGBT film festivals. After interviewing writer/director Joseph Graham (read the interview here), I caught up with Ryan during the movie's OUTFEST screening. Outfest is Los Angeles' largest and longest LGBT film festival in California, now on its 33rd year. .. .. please scroll down and read on:

Photos during OUTFEST sold out screening at the Directors Guild of America on July 14, 2015.

HOLLYWOODFLIP: How did you land the role of "Jim"? 

ZR: “They actually found me from an abandoned Backstage profile that I had online. Thank God I had left that up! From that I was invited to audition. I was immediately struck by the writing, and found an easy way into the scene as Jim as I had experienced very similar heartbreaks.”

HOLLYWOODFLIP: Can you tell me a little background about yourself?  Where are you from, originally?

ZR: “I was born in Cape Coral, Florida, but moved to Jersey when I was 10 after my parents got divorced. I fell in love with acting when I fell in love in with movies at age 6. My mom was an actress and landed quite a few plays in her day and I would run lines with her. I loved watching her work and enjoyed imagining the characters I was reading. My first real acting experience came at age 8, when when my mom had to take me on a blind date. She said “Now Zachary, if I give you this signal *scratches nose*, pretend you have a stomach ache so we can get the hell out of there”. Essentially it came to a point where my own mother started to believe I was really ill. It was only when I smiled through my tears, that she realized it was all an act.”

HOLLYWOODFLIP: When you read the script what's the first thing you thought about? The material is sexy and provocative and requires very intimate scenes, especially the one with Colman Domingo.  Was there any hesitation from you or your family doing this film, considering it is a little, or might have been too edgy?  How did you relate to the role?  How did you prepare for the role?

ZR: “When I first read the script, I thought the story was amazing, and the writing was top notch. There was definitely some hesitation and fear at first considering the intimate content because I am not gay. I come from a very open-minded family and they were all supportive. I was able to relate to the role because of the asexual nature of relationships in general. Straight, or gay, we all deal with the same love, heartbreaks and drama of relationships. Joe was definitely a huge influence on my preparation for the role as the film is centered around his personal experiences.”

HOLLYWOODFLIP: One thing I noticed is that the camera loves you and you know how to use your face and body movement to project and complement what is asked for you to do.  What sort of training or motivation you think helped you in getting "in the moment" or "in character"?  Tell me about your scenes with your co-stars.  How did you talk about and prepare your scenes with them (Colman, Brian, and John)?

ZR: “With minimal formal training, I let my creative juices flow and and was guided by my intuition and the help of my amazingly talented co-stars. Brian gave me a lot of advice on deciphering Shakespeare’s cryptic messages. John and I would run lines together and help each other fine tune the characters and highlight the critical moments. Colman, having tons of experience on set and in front of camera helped me stay focused, professional, and giving me the courage to take risks. Of course Joe, being an acting coach and teacher in his own right helped me stay on track and really find the character. When you’re working with a highly experienced cast, you aspire to be the best you can be. That was my motivation.”

Photos: A scene with co-star Colman Domingo who plays Drew.

HOLLYWOODFLIP: This is your first feature film.  How is it working with a big crew for the first time? Any technical issues you first learn and did not expect to the way you thought it will be?  What was the biggest challenge for you in taking this role?

ZR: “When if first stepped on set, I was mind blown. I knew right then and there that acting was something that I wanted to do for the rest of my life. It was such a surreal experience to watch this project come alive and to see everyone doing their part. It’s like watching a mini city thrive. I think the only real technical challenge was the frigid weather conditions during winter in Philly. Shooting out of sequence and being aware of the scenes that follow before and after is a technical issue all actors encounter, but the 2 month gap in filming definitely added to the pressure.
Portraying intimacy on film is challenging enough, let alone being intimate with a member of the same sex when you are not gay, but that’s acting. As newbie actor, I was hoping to show my range by take on a role that is multi faceted and enabled me to go outside of my comfort zone and ultimately help me grow as an actor and as a human being.”

HOLLYWOODFLIP: Do you have any favorite scene or scenes from the movie?

ZR: “I think my favorite scene from the movie is when Brian is spilling his guts to his best friend and ex-lover after climbing through his window. The scene has amazing performances from both Brian Sheppard and Grant Lancaster.”

HOLLYWOODFLIP: How is it working with Joseph Graham, your director?  Was there any improvisation allowed during shooting?  How did he prepare you in getting into a delicate scene?

ZR: “On my first feature film, I couldn’t have asked for a better director than Joseph Graham. He always made sure everyone was comfortable, especially with the intimate scenes where he’d close the set for privacy. He openly worked with me on character development and script analysis, and really made it easy to ask questions and take risks. He was always open to improv and encouraged it and allowed us poetic license to try new things which in turn gave birth to some beautiful pieces of work. Joe is not only a director, but a mentor, a guide, and an amazing friend whose taught me so much about acting, art, and the industry. I really have Joe to thank for everything and for making my acting career possible.”

HOLLYWOODFLIP: What is it that you want the film audience take them with regards to this movie?  Is there anything personal you want share your audience or fans, information that is not out there?

ZR: “Jim’s story focuses on attempting to overcome a fear of rejection by feeding his addiction to attention and later understanding that art is an expression of love. I hope the audience can take that from this is that the expression of art imitates the expression of love.”

HOLLYWOODFLIP: Do you have any dream role you want to play?

ZR: “I have so many dream roles, it’s hard to pick just one! I would love to play some sort of super-human role like a vampire, werewolf, spiderman, middle-earth swordsman, secret agent (like Jason Bourne) or Jack Sparrow’s son (if he has one). I also always wanted to play a serial killer with some sort of mental disorder. The beauty of acting is that it gives you the ability to be anyone you want to be, and portraying any character outside the realm of our society would be such an exciting experience!”

HOLLYWOODFLIP: What is your next goal?

ZR: “I believe movies are the evolution of stories taken from the 2D pages of black and white to a three dimensional colored physical world, to the fourth dimensional speechless emotion that cannot be ascertained through simply reading between the lines. The look on someone’s face says a lot about them. What they’re thinking, what they’ve been through, their future, their past. My goal is to help bring that story to the fourth dimension through fine tuning my craft, building my actor’s tool box and and becoming the best actor I can be!”

HOLLYWOODFLIP: Well done, Zack .. good luck!