Jay Ryan is big in Australia. Prior to landing in Hollywood, the 30-year-old New Zealand-born actor (who’s also one of our Primetime studs) dominated televisions down under by starring in a variety of hit shows, including the popular Australian soap opera Neighbours. For his first foray into stateside stardom, Ryan plays a troubled doctor with a terrifying alter ego in Beauty and the Beast—The CW’s reboot of the popular 1980s series of the same name. He stars alongside actress Kristin Kreuk (of Smallville fame) and openly admits to us that he’s jealous of her supreme martial arts skills. He also admits that he used to be a professional clown. True story.
I’m a big fan of the original version of the series that starred Linda Hamilton.
Yeah, I used to watch it with my grandmother every time I came home from school. I’ve pretty much seen every episode.
The main difference that I notice between the old series and the new version is that the beast’s makeup isn’t as intense.
In our version, the beast is part of a military experiment that’s gone awry. This one is very different because in the original, Vincent Keller is that lioness kind of man and in this one it’s more of a chemical build-up within that accelerates with his anger. I think the beast’s look is even more menacing than the original. He’s a killer, so that’s his demon that he’s trying to work against.
His anger gets the best of him.
He’s this normal guy but when things go wrong and he’s on the fence, he turns into this awful killer. At any moment he could get back into his beast form and hurt Catherine Chandler that’s why he never wants to get too close to her. He never knows how he’s going to react. But he saved her from being killed when her mother was killed, so there’s that connection. There’s that unsaid apology that is going on between them because he didn’t save her mother in time because it was too late. He’s got a lot going on inside him and, at the same time, he’s trying to find the cure to become human again, to regain humanity.
Do you share any personality traits with Vincent Keller?
Although I’m normally a very chilled-out person, I do have temper on me. It’s one of those tempers that, as I’ve gotten older, it rarely comes out but when it does its quite fierce and lethal. So, in that respect it’s similar to Vincent because he is quite a calm kind of guy, but has to deal with this chemical build-up inside of him. When he snaps, he really snaps. But it’s nowhere near as strong as Vincent’s kind of rage—thank goodness! Otherwise I don’t think Kristin would want to work with me very much.
Kristin’s gorgeous. Do you like working with her?
She’s really hard to look at. [Laughs] She’s great. Actually, I was really impressed by her work ethic on set—she’s extremely professional. She’s a great leader of the cast. Her character is a very strong female character, both emotionally and physically. Kristin’s got a purple belt in karate or something. I remember the stunt coordinator was just singing her praises and I was like “Damn, now I have to really prove myself!” [Laughs] The beast’s fight sequences are rough movements, while hers are very choreographed and very sharp because of her martial arts background. He’s got this strength that he can’t control but as the series progresses I think you’ll see more of his demonic state. As both the audience and Catherine discover more about him, we’ll see if that pulls her closer or pushes her away.
Do you find strength in a woman sexy?
Absolutely—it’s very sexy. I like a girl who could kick ass. I think it’s great that we’re seeing more strong, female characters in media and entertainment. The female has always been secondhand but now it’s all about the female protagonist. It’s about time! I like a woman who is strong, knows what she wants, and is creative.
And what don’t you like?
Someone who is always fussy. I’m not talking about high maintenance, if it’s for a good cause, but I just can’t stand fussiness and complaining for no reason. You know, “first world problems.” That really gets me.
Do you have a girlfriend?
I do. We’ve been dating for a couple of years now. She’s a writer, so it’s great because she can take her work anywhere with her, which means that can travel with me when I have a movie in Toronto, Australia, or wherever.
You’re from New Zealand but live in Australia. Do you think men are more romantic down under or in America?
I’d probably say American men are more romantic, but that’s just a generalization. I just think that in America the whole culture of Valentine’s Day and special celebrations are a bit more focused on than back home.
Australians are subtler about it.
I think so, but that’s also a generalization. I’m sure there are some very romantic Australian men out there, too.
Like me! [Laughs]
Is it true that you used to be a professional clown?
I wouldn’t say professional…
Well, were you ever a clown for pay?
[Laughs] Yes, I was. When I was 16, I had no work so there was this ad in the newspaper for becoming a clown. That’s a really odd job to see in the paper and I didn’t know if it was legit or not so I just called out of curiosity, and it was! I met this random guy who was both a magician and clown. I had done a lot of theatre at the time, so I found his work kind of interesting. The art of clowning goes a long way back, you know. The guy took me in and showed me all kinds of magic tricks and revealed how they worked. I used to always ask magicians how they did tricks and they never gave it up, so it was cool to be on the other side. I did it for about six months until I realized that I hated Sunday mornings with little kids. Kids can be very challenging; some of them appreciate the tricks, but some ask too many questions or are never satisfied. I found that a little stressful, so I went back to being a teenager and sleeping in. [Laughs]
Have you ever used your magic tricks to impress a girl?
I have! But I don’t know if it really impressed her—it probably drove her away. But I learned how to make animal balloons. I got really good and knew how to make a poodle, bouquets of flowers, motorcycles, swans…it became quite a creation.
Could you bust out your balloon tricks at any given moment?
Yeah! It’s a good party trick.
Do you dance?
I’m a bit of a dancer. I actually trained in contemporary dance when I was doing my theatre and performing training. I can bust a move. I also trained in physical theatre, which is sort of like this fierce, free, crazy movement type of theatre.
So you’re an all-around entertainer?
Yeah, I trained in a lot of different performance types. It’s great; it makes you more versatile. I also like to create. My girlfriend and I create film and theatre together as well. I think that’s a big part of our relationship as well—being collaborative. I make it and she writes it. Collaborating can be sexy because we have all these ideas and we’re bouncing them off of one another. Creativity can also lead to the bedroom.
Are you creative there?
Yes. Very, very creative.
What’s your favorite body part?
Well, in terms of first glance, it’s the eyes. In terms of touching, I’m really into legs.
Who has the best legs in Hollywood?
Jessica Alba has nice legs.
What about scent? You smell really good.
It’s actually deodorant! Everyone always thinks I’m wearing cologne, but it’s actually just a spray-on deodorant from Australia called Nivea. It’s a big brand, but for some reason they only have the spray-on deodorant in Australia and New Zealand, so I brought over a case to the state. I’ve used it for years.
Is there a women’s fragrance that you really like?
Yes, but I don’t know the name of it. I really like the Comme des Garçons—their scents are great. There’s just something about them that smells amazing on a woman. I tried to use one of their unisex fragrances once but it just made me feel ill.
What’s your idea of the perfect date?
We don’t get to go on actual dates much because we’re so busy, so we like to cook and stuff like that. But when I do plan a date, I like it to be grand and expensive. I love hiring really unique properties for the weekend. There is a site called Airbnb.com; whenever we’re traveling, we always find a great place to stay on there, like a little treehouse or something. The last one we got was in my homeland of New Zealand; it was for Christmas. It was this place called Piha, which is a beautiful black sand and volcanic beach. We got this beach shack right on the beach, on the sand and the water. See, I like to make a date an event, not an awkward dinner or movie night. You can do that anytime.
Photography by Nicolas Moore