As the second season of Mary Kills People came to a shocking end, fans were left to wonder if Ben Wesley (Jay Ryan) would be returning for Season 3. As the season premiered, it was finally revealed that the presumed dead Ben is in fact alive and is a father-to-be! We got a chance to sit down with Jay Ryan himself to talk about his experience filming Mary Kills People as well as future projects.
Q: What about your experience on Mary Kills People did you enjoy the most? And what will you miss?
A: I think the experience of working with a strong female creative team. They were incredible and they had this great collaborative spirit from the start, which I never really experienced before in a project. I’ll really cherish that because that was the first time I worked across the board with creatives- the star of the show, the execs were all these amazing power driven women and really talented. This was before the #MeToo movement as well so we felt like we were pioneering towards that goal and I was one of the males going along for the ride. I cherish that and I’ll miss that dynamic of that creative team because it’s not often that you get to move into such a powerful female creative team like that.
Q: What was it like shooting in Toronto, Ontario?
A: It was great. I had spent almost five years here on a show called Beauty and the Beast in Toronto and New York but mostly Toronto so the city was very familiar to me. When I started on Mary Kills People, a lot of the sets and locations we went to I had worked in before so a lot of the local actors were like ‘how’d you know all these places in Toronto, we grew up here, you’ve only just arrived’. In Season 1, the kind of visuals were set so that water was a big part of the series and it kind of represented the beginning of life and the murkiness of looking down in life and what’s at the bottom and what’s at the end. We shot a lot around the lakes, which was beautiful, up North, a lot in Hamilton around more of the polluted water and some of the prettier parts of Ontario. Holly Dale, who led the series as a director, was a real driving force in all of these visuals and I think she captured Canada in a visually unique way.
Q: You’ve portrayed a number of roles, from Neighbours to Top of the Lake to Mary Kills People. Out of all of them, which was the most challenging to play?
A: Each one of them has a challenging aspect to it, which is why I’m drawn to them because they scare me and I try to overcome my fears as a person through my characters a lot. It’s kind of like free therapy. Top of the Lake was extremely challenging because it felt like another level of TV and it was a very heightened world but Jane Campion wanted to place it in this real grounded place. But here I was visually with half my head shaved and this huge hawk tattoo coming down so it was very foreign for me to look in the mirror and see that person and fall into that in a natural way. That was challenging and it was also filmed over 6 months so I’d be in maybe 15 minutes of a 1 hour episode so I would shoot maybe 1 week every month, so I would come and go. It was challenging in the aspect that I would live my real life for weeks in the world and come into this very strange world that was created for the series. So flipping in and out of that was challenging. Also with Mary Kills People, it was challenging in the first season to play the undercover cop but also someone that crosses those boundaries. When I was doing my research with some undercover detectives and cops, they found that idea of crossing the line romantically with someone you’re trying to take down very unbelievable so I had to find a grounded way to make that work.
Q: Now that Mary Kills People has wrapped, fans can look forward to seeing you in IT Chapter 2 as another Ben. What was most exciting about the role?
A: Just being cast in that role was pretty exciting, it’s such an iconic story and book. Stephen King has this kind of impression on many people from a very young age whether it’s through the visuals of what those characters were or reading the books themselves. I really loved the first movie that Andres Muschietti directed although I’m not a horror fan in the respect that I get scared very easily and it’s ingrained in me in my dreams. I tend to stay away from those kinds of movies. I watched It Chapter 2 because for some reason that clown is imprinted in me in my brain as a child. I guess it was through the miniseries, which I don’t know how I saw it because I definitely would not be able to watch that as a kid. It was pretty cool and just to work with Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy and Bill Hader who was such a joy to work with everyday because he’s as funny in real life as he is on Saturday Night Live. There were many elements to the film that made it altogether a great time. Even though it’s a scary movie to film, it was more fun than being scared.
Q: Many people have phobias of clowns. Do you have any phobias?
A: I don’t have phobias of clowns, I actually was a clown for one of my first jobs. I was employed as a clown in a super market and I got like $15 an hour and at the time that was big money. I did the full makeup, I made animal balloons and I did magic tricks. So I did not have a phobia of clowns but I may have given other children a phobias just though my first outings in performance.
Q: What is something fans would be surprised to learn about you?
A: That’s a hard one. I try to surprise myself everyday but it’s difficult as you get older. I think a lot of people don’t even know I’m from New Zealand because quite often they see me on a show and I’m playing someone from North America. Even when I’m working on set I stay in my North American accent, so quite often some of my costars or the guest actors or even the drivers that pick me up from set don’t even hear me in this accent because as soon as I walk out the door I’m in the accent from top to bottom of the day. A few people would be surprised to know that I’m not actually from North America. One time when I was doing Beauty and the Beast at the wrap party when we finished the series, I got up, did a speech, and thanked everybody and there was this big kind of like gasp in the crowd of the crew because they never heard my real accent before so they all felt a little bit deceived.
Q: What was your favourite thing about growing up in New Zealand?
A: It’s the land of milk and honey. Probably really similar to what Canadians would align with growing up here is the freedom and sense of space. A lot of the houses were once farmland or orchards so even if you grew up poor you would have fruit trees around you in your backyard or somewhere you could just grab fruit. You would always be able to eat or provide so I love that about New Zealand. It’s kind of an island of plenty.
Q: Is there a role you have not played but would like to someday?
A: Sure, there’s many different roles I’d love to play. It’s hard to pinpoint who they are or what they are until I see them on a page and connect with them. However, I would love to delve more into period drama. I love that notion of reliving history and trying to emulate what it would have been like back then. It was just such a different world and such a different time and I really love that idea of playing with the essence of your ancestors.
Q: If you weren’t an actor, what would you be doing instead?
A: I would still be in the business because I know nothing else. But I would want to be in design. I would want to be doing set design, creature design or creature makeup – something crafty. I really enjoy that side of things. As an actor, I still get to delve into things in terms of what I wear, my costume and my props. Also, if the makeup’s quite elaborate you get to collaborate on that too so it would definitely be in that realm for sure.
Want to learn more facts about Jay Ryan? Check out the Global TV Twitter page to hear him answer some fan questions!