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Exclusive Interview with Ryan Merriman : Part 2

Interviewed by Daniel Chia . Researched by Fair and Daniel Chia


How did you come to land the role of Matt Morrison in "Home of the Giants"?

Ryan : I was actually just finishing Final Destination 3, and I was in Vancouver, and I was going to go home, but my agents told me "No, come to L.A., you've just got off a movie, go on the momentum…". So I told them "Alright, I'll come out there. " So, I wasn't even going to go out there, and it was actually my first audition in L.A., I booked it, and it was great. I went in for Rusty the first time, then they brought me back to read with Haley, and then I did a Gym Test, you know, just shooting free throws and layouts and stuff like that, and that's all she wrote.

Was there anything in particular about the script or the character that really caught your interest about the role?

Ryan : Well, the things that the character went through. There's comedy, there's drama, there's intensity, there's the sports aspect, there's the difficulty with the family, with the father being an alcoholic and the brother being a screw-up. It was just a great role for any young actor to be in, it was an amazing role, and it was written really well, you know.

Can you tell us more, without spoilers, about the character you play, and how you prepared for it?

Ryan : He's a hero, but he's not, he doesn't want to be. He lives life by the seat of his pants, and he really doesn't let too much get to him. He's a lot like me, I'm an easy going guy, and I also like to have fun, but obviously some of the aspects of the character weren't like me. [laughs] I had to do 2 to 3 weeks preparing for the basketball scenes, and you look for physical things that you can practice to help you get even more into character. That was another great part about it, the whole basketball aspect, because I got into shape, I started shooting hoops every day, I started hanging out with the basketball players who went to school there, and you just kinda get sucked in, you know. And Rusty was great about working with ideas that we had, and as you get into making the movie, you learn your character more, and the scene, and all of a sudden you start throwing out ideas, and sometimes they work, and sometimes they don't. But one of the things that I made sure that I did was to keep my mind open to Rusty, and he was great about it, and so was Haley. We did a lot of adlibbing, and honestly it was fun. It was a great experience.

How much then, of Matt Morrison would you say was your personal input, as opposed to what was written about the character by Rusty Gorman?

Ryan : Well, I mean, the script was great already. I'd say, maybe 20-30%? The script was awesome, he's a great writer, and a lot of it was on the page, a lot of it was already there, but as we got shooting, we got more comfortable, and we started throwing out ideas.

It's interesting, because Rusty Gorman was both scriptwriter as well as director, and you would expect him to be possessive about his own script and his characters , but it's interesting that he allowed you so much room to develop the character on your own, as opposed to what he originally envisioned the character to be.

Ryan : That's what's so great about Rusty, he's a writer, but he's a great director. I mean, he's an Actor's Director. There are movie directors who focus on shots and camera angles and crane shots and all that, and there are Actor's Directors who really work with the actors and make sure that we get the best performance, which is what I love.

It's the collaboration with him that's important ….

Ryan : Right!

Director Rusty Gorman spoke quite highly of your performance as Matt Morrison. Having worked with so many directors throughout your career, how did you find him as a director, especially since this was the first feature film that he was directing?

Ryan : Personally, at the age that I am now, and I'm getting a little older, I'm not actually a young guy, but just how much fun we had working together, I would say this was probably the most fun I've had working with a director. We were family, you know. That's why I like doing Independents too, you really focus on the movie, all the B.S. doesn't get wrapped up in making it.

Rusty Gorman said this of you, "It was really fun to just watch him work, I think he kind of became that character and remained that character on and off the set the whole time we were down there. Whether we were working or whether we were out to dinner afterwards or whatever we were up to, I think he really became Matt Morrison for 7-8 weeks." Were you conscious of the fact that you had become the character of Matt Morrison and that you were inhabiting the role?

Ryan : Yeah, as you get older and as you start taking your acting more seriously, you try different things, and while I was down there with the basketball, and hanging out with the other players and working all day, I just tried to stay in that. I didn't fly my family down, I just stayed in it, and that's what I'm going to start doing, I think. It's really when I'm working , to really focus on that character and doing the work, not treating it like a job, like a nine to fiver, like I go on set, I do my job, I go home. After doing Home of the Giants, I learned that it was way more fun to stay connected to that role. If you're playing a psycho killer or a depressed guy, obviously, you wouldn't want to do that, but whenever you're playing a role like I did in Home of Giants, it sure is a lot more fun staying in character.

How easy was it, when shooting finally wrapped, to return to being Ryan Merriman? How long did the character of Matt Morrison stay with you?

Ryan : Well, I mean, you know, like I said, in a lot of ways, me and Matt were kinda similar, so I just go back home, and I got back to my family, hopped on my four wheeler, went fishing, and I was back being me. It's sad though, you miss that every day, you miss the camaraderie, and seeing those people every day, but usually it takes a week to get back into your groove.

After filming had wrapped in North Carolina in late 2005, there was more than a six month break before you returned for completion of principal filming in August 2006. Was it difficult getting back in character after such a long break?

Ryan : It was, a little bit, but again, those were all scenes that we were supposed to do anyway. And as I prepared for the role and for shooting, I already had all those scenes in my head and knew what I wanted to do. So it was difficult to do, but we were all excited to do it, we were all excited to get back in there and do it.

Had you done any other project in between?

Ryan : Yeah, I had done Comanche Moon in between, the Western I did with Val Kilmer, Steven Zahn and Rachel Griffith. It will be out end of October on CBS, actually.

That must have been a completely different role from that in Home of the Giants. How did you make that transition back from being in a Western to something much more contemporary?

Ryan : It's just what I love to do. Some people like to put on a suit and tie and go to work. I just love to act. For me, it was just fun. I had a beard with long hair, and I was riding a horse all day. And then I cut my hair, shaved, and I was back in High School! [laughs]

What can you tell us about what it was like working with the other two lead actors, Haley and Danielle, in the film? Do you have any anecdotes that you would like to share?

Ryan : Oh yeah. I mean, Haley, he's a Pro, man. We got along really well, which was kinda weird, because we had never really met before. We just had a great chemistry, and I think you'll see that when you watch the movie. We just meshed, as best friends, in the movie .Even now, we don't really talk on the phone, but whenever we hang out, it's just like we hang out every day, almost, you know what I mean. He's a good guy, a sweet guy and we're both easy going guys, so we just kinda get along. You know, we always meet people we become friends with, and that's kinda how we are, we became friends as soon as we began shooting together. It was great working with Haley. And Danielle is just so awesome, so natural. She's a very natural actress, and she's very beautiful and just so sweet. That's what made the movie so much fun, you know, people….there's no ego, everybody was just so into making the movie great, so awesome.

If I asked you what will remain with you the most about working on this project, and with the people involved, what would you say? How rewarding or fulfilling was the experience for you?

Ryan : Working on Home of the Giants was one of the proudest things that I've done, partly because of Rusty who allowed me to keep my ideas going, and you know, just the amount of stuff I got to do. Like I said, the character, the role, the different types of emotions I got to show. It was definitely my most favorite thing that I've done. From a learning process, I learned to just never be scared to take chances, and to just work hard, man , because we did, we worked some late hours [laughs]. That's what separates the people who want to make money, and actors. The late hours when they say, "Do you mind staying another 2 hours, so that we can get that shot?" and although you really want to go to bed, you say "Yes, of course! Give me some food and I'll work!" [laughs]

You and Haley Joel Osment seemed to develop a good friendship both on and off the set, especially with the passion you both share for the sport of golf... just how intense was the rivalry out on the links?

Ryan : [laughs] We're both good, I mean, he's really good. I'm pretty good too. I'd say if we played 10 times, he'd probably beat me, maybe 5-6 times. He's probably a little better than me, but I don't know, depends on whether or not I'm playing good. If I'm playing well … but we don't get too competitive, we just like to play golf.

And if it's for charity, it would be even better.

Ryan : Oh yeah! Oh yeah!

You attended the May 9th special screening of the film, how well do you think the film was received, and what was your impression of the finished film?

Ryan : Oh man, I was so excited. I can't wait for people to see it. My impression of actually seeing it with all the people watching it was great. It was a packed house, people were laughing, people were scared, they were excited, they were cheering, and I think it's going to do really well, man, I don't see how it can fail. It's just a great movie. If you see it, you'll know what I mean. It's got a bit of everything, and whatever you are looking for in a film, you can find it in there…

Do you think audiences should expect something so much more from "Home of the Giants" than it being just another sports movie?

Ryan : Oh yeah. It's very character driven, and like I said, it's very funny, and it's got twists and turns that you don't see coming. Yeah, it's not really a sports movie, I mean, it is, but that's not what it's based on. There's a lot more going on than just jump shots.

Well, you mentioned "Comanche Moon", which will be airing in October on CBS, and you did another project called "Gravity". Is there anything that you can tell us about either of them?

Ryan : Comanche Moon is a Western with Val Kilmer, Steve Zahn and Rachel Griffiths, it's the prequel to Lonesome Dove actually, set 20 years before the one you guys saw with Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones. I play young Jake Spoon, young Robert Urich. As for Gravity, it got cancelled before we even shot the pilot, but it's still listed on IMDB, so we didn't even do that.

Oh that's sad.

Ryan : Yeah, it's sad, but, whatever. [laughs]

How about "The Hard Ride"?

Ryan : Yeah, that's another Western. It's the story of Wild Bill Hickok, and it's got a really great cast. If we actually get it made this summer, or this fall hopefully that's a great cast that's hatched. I play the guy who assassinated Wild Bill, which is a true event, the whole aces and eights and "Dead Man's Hand", that comes from Wild Bill, because he was shot while playing poker, and he had aces and eights.

You seem to have a well established global following with fans in many countries, what does it mean to you knowing that your work and the projects you have been involved are able to cross language and cultural barriers, which allows for that kind of support and appreciation?

Ryan : I think it's amazing. I think it's so cool. I haven't even traveled, I mean, I've did a movie in New Zealand, and Australia, but that's it. I've never been to half these places that my fans come from, and I think it's just a blessing, man, to have such people that support your work, and hopefully, it's also because of the choices in projects I make, and hopefully I keep picking the right one, and people will keep enjoying them.

I've been on your website, and I see that you support quite a number of different charities. Can you tell me more about some of them, and about how your fans can help you in the support of these charities?

Ryan : Yeah, Infant Crisis Services, Inc is a local charity here in Oklahoma, and if you actually go on their website, you can find out more about what they do, they help young mothers and young children who don't have the means, for things like diapers and food, and it helps families. And then there's Eagle Mount up in Bozeman, Montana, and it works with paraplegics and kids with special needs through using horses, like horse riding. They have a special facility that helps kids who can't even walk to ride these horses. You see their mood changes when they get around the horses, and it's really cool. I'm actually going to start getting into Operation Smile, which is another charity that I was looking at, who help people around the world with cleft palates and young kids and stuff like that, who need that smile. Every kid should be able to smile, but they don't because they feel insecure, in some ways. So I try to give the most that I can, you know what I mean? I think people who are fortunate enough to have some money to spare should always help out. I just spent nine hundred bucks on fireworks for the 4th of July, and it was great seeing the kids and the families come out and "ooh" and "aww" . It's nice to make other people happy, I think.

Well, Ryan, you are young, you are an extremely talented actor, and I think the fans respect you very greatly because family is important to you , you hold on to traditional values, you have a good marriage, a lovely wife, and you are giving back to the community as much as the fans are giving you their support and I think if we can do our small part as fans to help you in your support of those charities, that would be great. You have our respect, and I wanted you to know that.

Ryan : Well, thank you very much! I also want to work more, because obviously the more I work , the bigger the paychecks I'm going to get, and the more I can chip in, so….[laughs]

Well, we wish you well in that too!

Ryan : I appreciate it.

It's great to see you keep on working and doing those marvelous roles that your fans love you for. We really look forward to seeing you in Home of the Giants especially.

Ryan : I think everybody is going to be really excited to see it. I mean, you say basketball movie with me and Haley in it, and they think it's going to be …. I mean, the movie is just so great, and all the fans all over the world are really going to be so impressed to see what Rusty is doing as a first time director. I mean, if he had directed 20 films before this one, I don't think anybody would be surprised, the film is so great. It is to Rusty's credit, that's how good he is, but if you were to see the film, you'd never guess that he was a first time director. And hopefully, you will all see it, in theatres and DVDs every where! [laughs]

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