That Stagey Blog
Ryan Anderson: Rising Star
For once, I was early. As with every interview in my ‘That Stagey Blog Meets’ series I had done my research and made my notes before hand. An actor always prepares, and as much as I’m striving to be as natural and candid in my interviews, I’m still finding my feet and see my job as an interviewer, for now, as a new role. Something I want to do well and get better at.
Until now I had purposely only interviewed people I knew. Joel Harper Jackson, Steph Perry, and Charlotte Wakefield. People who are my friends. People who I could trust I would have a rapport with.
At the Off-West End Awards afterparty, I had managed to sit down with previous winner T’Shan Williams and this year’s winner Gemma Sutton, and scooped all the gossip about the new Heathers The Musical soundtrack, and the rehearsal process for the new production of Follies. Although quite a coup to land a chat with these two incredible ladies. The truth was, I already knew them both and they were happy to talk to me, and made it entirely comfortable.
Today’s interview was different.
For the first time in making this series, I was apprehensive and nervous. I felt out of me depth. I could no longer blag it. I was entering uncharted territory. I was about to interview somebody I didn’t know. Somebody I had never met.
It was someone who I only knew of. Someone I had personally begun to admire. Someone who I was excited to interview but anxious to meet for the first time.
It was also the first time that I had been approached and asked by them to be interviewed.
Ryan Anderson had reached out to me saying “So I’m doing this gig. And I’m just trying to get it out there as much as possible. I was wondering if we could have a chat together like an interview thing? Completely understand if u don’t want to! I also don’t want you to feel like I’m using you xx”
I was actually flattered to have been asked. In the interests of balance I had wanted to interview a boy next, and had actually already asked another friend of mine who was about to start a new show. Staying firmly within my comfort zone.
But something had happened earlier that week that made me realise I really needed to take the plunge, and branch out into that uncharted territory of interviewing strangers.
I had received an email confirming an offer to interview an incredible and world renowned actress who I have watched on television since I was five years old. The interview won’t take place until June, but I am already nervous about meeting and interviewing someone I revere, someone of this magnitude and calibre.
I need to get better at this. I thought.
I need to prepare, and so the opportunity to interview Ryan at this juncture in my trajectory as an interviewer felt serendipitous.
As I do before every interview, I position and set up the chairs. Framing the shot. I unpack and assemble my lighting ring and mount that holds my phone which I film all my interviews on. I then plug in the extension microphone cable. All of which I bought before Christmas from EBay.
Steph Parry had complimented my kit, saying “Where did you get it? This would be great for self tapes”.
For anyone wanting one, you can get a ‘Studio 400W 34cm Photo Video Ring Light + Camera iPhone Holder + 185cm Stand’ for £49.99 + Free postage.
Ryan was running late, and as I changed into my ‘That Stagey Blog’ T-shirt. I noticed I had missed a bit whilst shaving. I quickly grabbed my razor from my gym bag and ran to the toilet to fix this. When I returned Ryan had arrived.
Wearing black leather trousers, DM’s and his streaked blond hair freshly washed, I was flattered that he had made the effort. Until I remembered Ryan was attending a special performance from Ian McKellen at Above the Stag that evening, and as much as I’d like to believe that Ryan had dressed to impress me, it was obviously for Mr McKellen, or Sir Ian McKellen as Ryan corrects me as he mentions him several times during our conversation.
We started the interview and the flirty banter began. I made no bones of the fact I had already been swept up by Ryan’s magnetism two weeks before when he performed at the ‘Guys Sing Dolls’ cabaret at the Space.
In my blog that week ‘The Future of Cabaret’ I had described Ryan as having “a quirky charm and charisma that he showcased along with his rich vocals.” He had a very enigmatic presence.
I had then immediately text my friend who produced Bat Out of Hell to ask “Is he gay?” before systematically adding Ryan on every social media platform I could find him on once it was confirmed he is.
As we continued, the interview it took a turn that I was not expecting or prepared for.
Ryan took a deep breath. He then said, “Now this is my thing. I’m being very honest. But I think that’s what I want to do. I want to be truthful. I started off that year being in not a very good mind set.”
What followed was a frank and honest discussion about mental health and Ryan’s own admission to his struggles.
As I sat and listened, I felt overwhelmed by Ryan’s out pouring and courage to talk so candidly about the topic. But then what occurred to me more, was that I had no idea that this was even something Ryan had gone through.
As I had said, when I had seen Ryan perform I had been blown away by his confidence and how self assured and comfortable on stage he seemed.
Trying to hold the interview together, Ryan could probably sense that I was now thoroughly out of my comfort zone. In my hand I held my cards with my notes on. They listed all the jobs he had done, as I had only really prepared to talk about the shows that he had been in. I had no idea we were going to be talking about mental health.
Mental health is something I have talked about before in my blog, and knowing first hand from friends and young men in particular within the industry, I am very aware of the epidemic our generation now face.
I noticed from glancing at my card that Ryan had started drama school at 16, and by 19 was playing Galileo in We Will Rock You on the ‘Anthem of the Sea’ cruise liner.
The sudden parallels with other performers I knew, were becoming clear.
I kinda wanted to give Ryan a huge hug as I felt this turning into a healing circle. Struggling to think what to ask next, I cringed at my Piers Morgan line of questioning when I asked “What were you like as a child?”.
The interview became more jovial once we talked about his pride in working at Above the Stag who had this week just won Best Musical at the Offies for the production of Grindr the Opera where he is currently performing, and about his admiration for Oliver Tompett who then tweeted in response to the interview “Wow! I’m so flattered and honoured and proud. Bless you! Thankyou! & I am sure you are doing the same for up and coming artists“.
I then wrapped the interview up with my trademark round of questions testing his lyrical knowledge.
I gave Ryan a hug after the interview and he asked “Can I watch the interview back before you post it”. Normally I’m completed trusted to edit these interviews myself, but Ryan seemed nervous about how he came across.
I assure him that I think he came off wonderfully, and that yes of course I’d show him the footage before I do anything with it.
Ryan had messaged me after I initially wrote about him in my blog saying thank you and to say that he was overwhelmed by what I had said.
What struck me later that evening when I was watching the interview back, was that I had unknowingly done something pretty incredible for someone that probably really needed it.
The truth is, I had no idea when I wrote it that Ryan had ever felt any insecurities or struggled with anxiety.
With the close friends I have who battle with their mental health, part of what I try to do as a friend is bolster them and reassure them that they’re doing fine.
I had no agenda when I wrote my initial article about Ryan, I was just responding to what I saw, an incredibly talented performer with an incredible gift, and it’s incredible to think that I might not have ever seen how incredible and talented Ryan is had he succumb to his insecurities.
The fact that Ryan has a grasp of his mental health and the courage to combat it as well as the bravery to talk about it and raise awareness demonstrates just how special and incredible he is.
He is a twenty-four year old leading man and without doubt a rising star.
Photo by Will Allen.
Ryan can be seen in ‘Grindr The Opera’ until 23rd February at Above the Stag.
His debut solo show ‘Songs from Musical Theatre Legends with Ryan Anderson’ at the Pianoworks West End on 4th March at 7pm.
My original blog ‘The Future of Cabaret’ that features Ryan can be found here:
And my ‘That Stagey Blog Meets Ryan Anderson’ interview can be found here: