Even though the Bills are behind him, he was happy to chat with me about his time in Soaps and what he's been doing since leaving Springfield & Genoa City. And it's pretty impressive!!
Nelson Aspen: Playing two of the most iconic "Bills" in daytime, which one was your favorite?
Ryan Brown: I liked both characters, but I probably enjoyed playing Billy Abbott more. He was a bit of a darker character. Both characters were sort of ‘good boy’ roles. You always want to bring a little darkness to those characters, so they don’t play too one-dimensionally. The Abbott role allowed for more of that.
Nelson Aspen: Both roles were pretty dramatic recasts. How did you land the parts and were there great expectations put upon you?
Ryan Brown: In both instances, I simply landed the job the old fashioned way. My agent got me the audition; I read with the casting director, went back to read for the executive producer, then went back and did a final audition, on set, with characters from the show. --As for taking over a role? I don’t know any actor who wouldn’t rather originate a role than take over one. There is certainly pressure to win over viewers who are so used to another actor playing the role. Having said that, a job is a job, and I was glad to have one. All I could do was play the character the best that I could and hope that the fans would allow me the chance to make it my own.
Nelson Aspen: As a rapidly aged Billy on GL, how were you welcomed by the "Lewis Clan?" Who were your friends on set?
Ryan Brown: The Lewis Clan gave me a tremendous welcome when I joined the cast of GL. I was fresh out of college, new to the city, new to the business, etc. I couldn't have asked for a better group to work with for my first professional job. I quickly got slotted into a storyline with the characters played by Paulo Benedetti, Rebecca Budig, and Tammy Blanchard, so they were definitely my closest friends on set. We also had a number of great times off the set!
Nelson Aspen: How did that job wrap up? And what were your feelings about it?
Ryan Brown: When my contract finished on GL, I felt like trying something new, so I made a move out to LA. It was quite a transitional time as I got married right in the middle of the move. I literally had to start over in LA. It wasn’t easy, but I learned to be resourceful. It was another year before I got the job at Y and R, and it was during that downtime that I wrote the manuscript for my first novel. All told, I spent about three years in LA. I enjoyed it, but definitely prefer New York.
Nelson Aspen: Me, too! Was there an "Abbot Family" dynamic?
Ryan Brown: If there was one Abbott Family dynamic that made an impact on me, it was that no matter what they were up against, no matter what sort of lies, deceit, etc. they were facing or contributing to, they always had a sort of underlying morality. I think it gave us, as actors, something to bump up against. It was like a collective conscience among the family.
Nelson Aspen: What are you best memories of that time?
Ryan Brown: Working with the marvelous Jess Walton, who played my mother. It was both a joy and an education. She’s such a positive, energetic force on the set, which only made me want to raise my game. My worst memory would be, well...leaving the show. I came in during a very transitional time in the way of writers and producers coming and going, which is usually accompanied by casting changes. I can only say that I very much enjoyed my time there...and wish it had been longer.
Nelson Aspen: What do you make of the current state of Daytime?
Ryan Brown: I’m saddened by it...particularly for my friends and colleagues who were still working on GL at the time it went off the air. I understand why things got difficult for the show. It’s a challenge for daytime dramas to keep viewing numbers up with the competition of hundreds of cable channels, Internet, etc. I think daytime is especially hurt by the loss of young viewers who’ve been brought up in the digital/computer age, where television is not necessarily their go-to form of daytime entertainment. The result is that there are less and less people literally growing up with a show.
Nelson Aspen: Are soaps a "goner?"
Ryan Brown: I think soaps could be in real trouble if they continue in their current, three-camera format, which has changed very little since the dawn of television. Nighttime television (and its audience) has become so sophisticated that it sets an almost impossibly high bar for daytime to live up to. I’m disappointed that GL’s experimentation with handheld cameras, outdoor settings, etc. didn’t work out. Maybe it was too drastic of a change...but I’m still not convinced that it wasn’t a courageous step in the right direction toward saving the future of daytime.
Nelson Aspen: As a published author with great reviews and a growing fan base, what do you make of soap writing as you think on it now?
Ryan Brown: I always hated hearing someone say that soap writing is "bad." It's a specific style of writing used for a certain genre in a certain medium. Seeing as this style dates back to radio, and has lasted all these years, it clearly works very well. “Go ahead, make my day.” You put writing like that in Sophie's Choice and it's a disaster. You put it in a hard nosed cop drama and it works beautifully. It’s the right style for the right format. And that’s soap writing. I never thought soap writers got their due.
Nelson Aspen: Tell us about your novels.
Ryan Brown: I have published two novels since I left daytime television. My first book PLAY DEAD is like a cross between Friday Night Lights and Dawn of the Dead. It’s about a high school football team in Texas that is killed in a vicious act of sabotage. The players return to the gridiron as zombies, and only victory on the field can save their souls. Basically, the zombies are the good guys, the team to cheer for. My second book THAWED OUT AND FED UP is a modern-day take on the classic western. It involves a re-animated John Wayne - frozen at the time of his death thirty years before – who wakes up in a lawless Texas town. His memory is such that he believes himself to be a character from one of his classic films, not the famous screen actor. He serves as a gun-slinging mentor for the story’s reluctant hero, a man seeking redemption for a murder he has no memory of committing.
Nelson Aspen: That's got you some fans at Comic Con. How do they compare with soap fans??
Ryan Brown: I’d say that Comic Con fans and soap fans are pretty equal in their fanaticism. I don’t know which was scarier, signing a book for a woman with a foam latex chainsaw wound glistening fake blood at her neck, or signing an 8 x 10 glossy of myself for an elderly woman after she planted a big wet kiss on my mouth. I can only say I was extremely grateful to sign for both of them, and am certainly appreciative of anyone interested in my work.
Nelson Aspen: And your family life here in NYC?
Ryan Brown: Yes, I’m no longer the boy next door...I am a husband and father. My wife of ten years is a television journalist, and we have a nine-year-old son. My wife was actually pregnant during my time on Y and R. By day I was playing an eighteen-year-old kid, just out of high school, with girlfriend trouble. By night I was a guy pushing thirty, taking lamaze, and building cribs. It was a crazy time, but lots of fun.
Nelson Aspen: Well you're the boy next door to me! Literally! I run into you on the street every time I step outside! What's an average day like?
Ryan Brown: Like this: take my son to school, get in some form of exercise (usually tennis, cycling, or swimming), then go to the library and write until say four-thirty or five. It works. My basic work hours revolve around my son’s school hours, so I don’t miss much with him. For that I am very grateful.
Nelson Aspen: Do you have the acting bug?
Ryan Brown: I don’t so much miss acting as much as I miss the production environment. My degree is in film making, so I’ve always loved the process of taking things from script to screen. I really love the behind-the-scenes stuff, and often miss that aspect of it, the rehearsal process, etc. I certainly haven’t closed the door on that type of work forever, be it in front of the camera or behind. I’m just going to go what interests me at any given time. Right now, I’m really enjoying doing what I’m doing.
Nelson Aspen: Okay...off the top of your head. Very few people are as equipped as you are to answer some GUIDING LIGHT versus YOUNG & RESTLESS question. Get ready!!
(Ryan takes a deep breath....)
Nelson Aspen: Who'd win in a Cat fight between Reva or Jill?
Ryan Brown: Great question! Can’t say that I could pick a winner...but would give anything to see it!
Nelson Aspen: Who's the meaner drunk, your dad Billy Lewis or your (then) grandma Katherine?
Ryan Brown: Gotta go with Katherine. Jordan Clark is just too much damn fun to be that mean.
Nelson Aspen: Who's the better kisser, Michelle or Mac?
Ryan Brown: Gotta go with Michelle...but only because she is not, in fact, my cousin!
Nelson Aspen: What's the better party? A Bauer BBQ or an Abbot pool party?
Ryan Brown: Abbott Pool Party is a better memory...but only because the Bauer BBQ came on my second day on GL, my second ever day on a working set...and the entire cast - past and present - was there. It was a little daunting. By the time I made the Abbott Pool Party, I had a few year’s experience behind me.
Nelson Aspen: Who's the sexy sister you most wish wasn't blood-related, Dinah or Ashley!?
Ryan Brown: (laughs) Must say Dinah. She was nuts!
To find out more about Ryan, visit www.ryanbrownauthor.com
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International entertainment journalist NELSON ASPEN got his start in Daytime TV and still keeps tabs on all things soaps! The author of several books, including DINNER AT NELSON'S and HOLLYWOOD INSIDER: EXPOSED!, he broadcasts the latest showbiz news and celebrity interviews around the world daily. You may visit him at www.nelsonaspen.com