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While Ryan Kelley made a strong first impression when he starred alongside Sigourney Weaver as the suicidal Bobby Griffith in the heartbreaking TV movie Prayers For Bobby, he stirred us up in an entirely different way from his first appearance last season on MTV’s werewolf drama, Teen Wolf.
And for those of you who said last year that you wanted to see more of Kelley’s Deputy Parrish, the fourth season, which kicks off tonight, is going to deliver just that. Not only is Parrish going to be more involved with the adventures of Scott (Tyler Posey), Stiles (Dylan O’Brien), Derek (Tyler Hoechlin), Lydia (Holland Roden) and new series regulars Kira (Arden Cho) and Malia (Shelley Hennig), but the young Deputy may also find himself with a love interest of his own.
Kelley’s road to Teen Wolf is a long one, as he’ll tell us, but out series creator Jeff Davis, told us via email for this story that casting Kelley as Parrish was a no-brainer. “[Ryan] and I have been friends for several years,” Davis said, “and I’ve actually been trying to find the right part for him. When Deputy Parrish came along, I knew he’d be a great fit for it. But even after playing some great roles like Bobby in Prayers For Bobby (also directed byRussell Mulcahy) he still had to audition and win the part. Which he did beautifully.” And, of just how integral Kelley is going to be in the new season, Davis offered, “We’re definitely going to see more of Parrish in Season 4, especially in regards to the mysteries of Beacon Hills. It’s also been great for us, the writers, to be able to give Sheriff Stilinski a partner in crime solving.”
We sat down with the charming and friendly Kelley recently to talk about his experience on the show as well what he learned from his part in Prayers For Bobby and from growing up as one of fifteen children.
Tell us how Teen Wolf came along for you.
Ryan Kelley: Actually, Teen Wolf has been a long process. Russell, who you know is theTeen Wolf executive producer and also directs a bunch. He did Prayers For Bobby. So, when it first started, I auditioned for Scott’s role. Granted, I weighed a hundred and twenty five pounds. I was teeny.
So, when I went into the audition room, I think Jeff was being nice but he was like, ‘Can you gain 20 to 25 pounds in like a month or two?’ Normally actors would lie and I’d be like, ‘Of course I can’ but in this case, I was like, ‘Honestly, no. I can try my best but I don’t think so.’ And I couldn’t. There was no way. So, I actually auditioned a couple of times for that and never went anywhere. I was too small.
And then the second season was the role for Isaac. I dabbled in that as well and got pretty close but just wasn’t right for the role. They got Daniel [Sharman], who is amazing and then luckily this, Parrish, came around and Jeff threw it my way and here I am.
Can you talk about who you’re interacting with in the new season more? I’m guessing it’s a lot around the station and with Sheriff Stilinski.
RK: Last season it was always with Linden [Ashby, who plays Sheriff Stilinski] and if I was around the other kids, it was more in the background or like a side thing, but this season I definitely get in the mix a lot more. Definitely this coming season there’s way more Parrish to come.
I’ve been hearing from the guys [in the cast] since the first season about the Teen Wolf diet. Are you on this diet?
RK: I thought they were joking. I had heard about this, but I thought it was a joke until I actually got on set and I was like, ‘You guys weren’t kidding.’ They have a whole gym! I’ve been on sets before where like actors have the basic essentials of what you need so in between sets you can just pump up your arms.
They have a full gym. And I was like, ‘This is crazy.’ But it’s Teen Wolf. It’s good looking guys in shape so it’s kicked my butt into gear just because I don’t want to be the one in the background. I don’t want to be left behind, so I’ve been eating right, hitting the gym way more than a person should, but it’s paid off. So it’s definitely a good thing.
The most important question I’m going to ask you, has your shirt been off in this season?
RK: No. Not yet. It’s coming, but they haven’t gotten to it just yet.
All that said, what’s your Achilles heel as far as snacks or food you have a hard time saying no to?
RK: To be honest, I’m pretty lucky that I’m like my father. I eat just because I have to. Food has never been a huge thing for me. If it’s in front of me, I’ll eat it, but as long as it’s out of sight, out of mind, I don’t have a big problem. The only thing that is my weakness, that I crave, is pasta. Carbs, carbs, carbs. Pasta’s like my favorite thing in the world and it’s just not the best thing for your abs, the definition. So, I definitely have to cut back on my love for pasta but it’s not as bad as some…I have friends who are obsessed with chocolate and sweets and I don’t have that sweet tooth, so luckily I don’t have to fight that urge because that would be rough.
Once you actually started shooting the show last season, what was your biggest misconception that had been wiped away?
RK: There weren’t that many surprises. One thing I will say is just from knowing Jeff, I know one of his top priorities is making the work environment fun and that everyone get along and everyone be nice and just no egos on set. I know every actor says this, but it really is just the easiest set I’ve ever worked on. Everyone is nice. Everyone is friendly. No one ever gets upset.
Yesterday I was there over 12 hours and it just never felt like work. It’s a long day, but it’s just fun. It’s just like a whole Teen Wolf world over there and everyone’s nice, everyone’s friendly and it’s just a family.
Who haven’t you worked much with or at all that you would like to on the show? Anybody you really haven’t had much to do with?
RK: Posey. I’ve done a couple smaller things with him and a lot of the times I have worked with him and we’re on opposite ends. There are two scenes going on and I’m in this part and he’s in the bullpen going on, and so I’d never get to directly work with him. From what I’ve been able to see, he’s just a blast to work with. He’s young. He’s full of energy. He’s kind of a goofy kid, but he makes it fun and I would love to have a whole day of just working with him and getting to just goof around.
Any chance that Parrish will have a love life in this season?
RK: This season they’re tossing around ideas. I’m not going to give anything away but it’s coming. So, it’s a possibility. I don’t know if they’re actually going to get into it anytime soon but I know it’s coming. That’s the only thing I can say about that.
Playing a gay role isn’t a new thing for you but what if Jeff said, ‘we’re going to have Parrish be a gay character.’ What would your reaction be?
RK: It’s no different than me playing a police officer. You’re an actor. There’s never been a role that I wouldn’t want to do. I mean, unless it was like some horrible monster that just swore and used profanity and killed people for no reason where there’s no point to that. But that’s what I am as an actor. It’s stranger to me to play a cop. It’s a much bigger challenge for me to play a cop than anything so it’s just part of acting. That’s how I always look at it.
Let’s talk about Prayers from Bobby. How did that role change you as an actor working with Sigourney Weaver and just the challenges in it. You definitely set the bar high for yourself with that project!
RK: I love to act and I’ll do all sorts of things, but being a part of a project that had such a grasp and such a reach on people and also the timing was amazing and everything about it was magical for me. I hope more than anything I do another project that has half the importance as that film had in my life and other people’s lives. But it doesn’t come around that often. It really doesn’t.
People might really love Parrish [on Teen Wolf], but I’ve met kids and parents [who sawPrayers for Bobby and said] that their lives were truly completely changed. It’s just such a special project that has changed me forever and I only hope I get to do another thing like that. But you’re right, it definitely set the bar high, but in a good way. It’s not a bad thing to have set the bar that high.
Did that project change your perception of what young gay people sometimes go through?
RK: That’s a good question. I knew there were people out there that are ignorant towards all things, color, race, sexual preference. I have a large family of all sorts of nationalities so I was lucky enough to be raised by two parents who are very open. Their thing is just be happy with who you are and we’ll love you no matter what. So, I knew there were families out there that weren’t accepting or this or that, but I guess I just wasn’t aware of how severe it was for some kids and the concept of taking my life over something was just not in my head.
And then meeting kids where this is an everyday struggle, it’s just mind blowing. It, at times, was really hard to even just deal with. There’s only so much I can do when you meet a young male who’s seriously considering taking his life just like Bobby did. There’s only so much you can say, and it gets pretty emotional and sad and you just want to give this kid a hug. But like I said, there’s only so much you can do. So, it definitely opened up my world like that.
I had no idea, some struggles out there. But that was also the magical thing about it was being able to hopefully change some of those kids’ perceptions and let them know that they’re not alone and let them know that it gets better and that you’re not the only one to go through that. But yeah, it definitely opened my eyes more.
Tell me about your family life, because I know it’s a little unique.
RK: My family is definitely unique. So, there’s 15 of us. Black, Asian, White, Hispanic just like a melting pot and my parents also foster parented a lot when I was younger, too. Up until we had a certain amount of kids…there are laws of ‘you can’t have X amount of kids under a certain age’ which was horrible to my mom, but probably for the better. If it was up to my mom, she would have 100 kids by now. My dad is more on the logical side and would hope to retire before he’s 90. But I never knew different growing up but the older I get, the more I realize how lucky I was to be a part of that.
It’s shaped my life completely. I’m able to be in situations that other people might be uncomfortable. You can put me with anyone whether it’s someone, a horrible person or a great person or whatever. I can always find a way to handle the situation just from my crazy upbringing because it was definitely a blessing. My parents are amazing. My siblings are crazy. I’m crazy but we got along somehow and yeah, I loved it. Christmases were crazy.
So there are 15 of you and you’re all close in age?
RK: Pretty close. So, Katie, my oldest sis is 34 or 35 and the youngest two are 13. My oldest three sisters and my brother’s wife are all pregnant at the same time and they’re all due within the next month which is crazy, but awesome for my mom. I’ve never seen my mom happier but, yeah, my family’s unique and it’s made me who I am. I think that’s why I’m so accepting towards everything because of my parents and my upbringing.
How does that influence your own thoughts about having children when that time comes?
RK: I don’t want 15. I would love to, if I could afford it, l would love to have some sort of hand in a foster agency or something to help the kids, because I was in that world and saw how awful it is. It’s not good, but I want a handful and I want to adopt. That’s the most important thing. It’s definitely changed my perception and I get it.