Monday, May 16, 2011

Debby Ryan's Interview In Paper Magazine

 You might recognize Debby Ryan as the bubbly, lovable Kansas-born Bailey Pickett from The Suite Life on Deck, which ran on the Disney channel for three years and had its finale last week. Doing her time in an afternoon slot has finally paid off: Her own show, Jessie, premieres this fall. Ryan plays a Southern belle who moves to the Upper East Side to become an au pair for a very Brangelina-esque family. We chatted with the 17-year-old starlet.

For those unfamiliar, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hi. My name is Debby, and I am a storyteller. I don't think of myself as an actress. I am more like a face that takes words on a page, and puts them in front of your eyes. I also don't call myself a singer; I'm a voice, lent to music. I've been writing since I can remember, but I'm not really a writer. I'm a kid, with a pen. But isn't that all anyone is? Someone who takes what is in their hand, and uses it to decorate what they see? That's me.... I'm a mind and a soul and an artist and a kid and a storyteller.

What is something most people don't know about you?
I went through a few phrases of finding myself: I dabbled in musical theater, chess club,dance troupe, splatter-painting, school mascot (go Wildcats], babysitter, photojournalist, drill team girl, emo kid -- and not one of them defined me, but every single one will always plays a part in who I am. I'm also a fan of proper written English, but I don't like to capitalize my name.

If you could have any three people at your slumber party, who would they be and why?
Emma Stone, Freddie Mercury, and CS Lewis.

What are your three favorite websites?
Twitter, YouTube, and

Your three most-treasured possessions?
My mascot head, this jazzy upright piano from the 30s that I adopted and my notepad that holds some of my lowest lows and my highest highs, knitted and contorted into lyrics, sketches, reflections, collages, quotes, etc..

In addition to TV, you've been in some movies -- 16 Wishes and The Suite Life Movie. What is the biggest difference between acting for a 30 minute sitcom and a full length movie?
With a movie, you know what you're in for. You know where the character comes from, what they're going through, and where they'll end up by the time the credits roll. When you work on a TV show, you don't know what your character will be up to next year, next month, next week... you work with each installment as they're in front of you. Fortunately with Suite Life, we had such a great team of writers who embraced us as we changed as actors and as kids, and incorporated that into our characters.

What is one of your favorite memories from your three-plus years on The Suite Life?
One of my favorite memories of the show was when Bailey was possessed by the spirit of an old Mayan princess. Snapping back and forth between two roles at once, a la Steve Martin in All Of Me, was such a challenge, but also so empowering and unforgettable. Also, in the Rome episode, Bailey pretended to be the pop star named "Naomi Wyoming." I got to improvise a lot of the banter with Phill Lewis, who plays Mr. Moseby. I look up to him so much as a comedian, and I think I grew a lot through experiences like that.

Your character Bailey Pickett seem to be very bubbly and over the top. How do you gather all the energy to always be up-beat and so friendly?
I adore Bailey, but to be honest, she was a bit tiring to play! It became a running joke with my family and friends; I'd love having people over, going to the movies, or out to dinner after work... but after playing Bailey for a bit, I'd wrap out of filming, put on my black jeans and combat boots, cuddle my dog, and fall asleep. When I'm playing a role for a long time, I tend to balance my character out in my personal life.

Suite Life on Deck is set on a cruise ship. What's the perfect cruising outfit?
A bikini with high-waisted shorts and Toms for daytime, with a loose shirt to throw overtop, and a sundress and wedges for cruise nights. And, a giant floppy hat.

So tell me about your new show, Jessie.
Jessie follows a girl who moves to New York City after high school graduation. She ends up becoming a nanny for four kids of a high-profile couple. They're a range of ages and a few of them are adopted from foreign countries, so she's dealing with some culture shock, while trying to keep this wacky family afloat, with no help from the butler, Bertram. It's a pretty sweet deal though, as she's living in the nicest high rise on the Upper East Side, that actually
happens to have a super cute 20-year-old doorman.

Who do you connect more with -- Jessie or Bailey?
Probably Jessie. We both moved around a lot growing up, saw the world, whereas Bailey was born and raised in a tiny town.

What's your method for getting into a new character?
When I work on a sitcom, I feed on sitcoms: Friends, Laverne & Shirley, Family Matters. I'm watching a lot of The Nanny right now, even though it's a very different balance. For Jessie, she grew up in a military family, so I'm watching a lot of strong female characters, and she's taking care of these kids, so I'm studying things like Step By Step.

Who is someone you've unexpectedly run into on the Disney lot?
We filmed close to a few different Disney shows, so that's where I randomly met the Jonas family for the first time a few years ago. Plus Jaden Smith, who is still one of the coolest dudes ever.

I know you write and produce songs with your brother Chase Ryan. What are you guys working on?
I tend to write bluesy, alt music, or throwback rock, so I really wanted to do something different and expand myself, play around with all of our cool electronic options. Chase has a heart for producing good pop so he and I are working on a very 2011, zeitgeisty, top 40 summer song! Right now, we have stutters in the chorus, Dr. Luke-style laser transitions, a catchy vocal hook, a dynamic pre-chorus and fun, fast rap verses. It's actually gonna be a collaboration with a buddy of mine who's an insanely talented young rapper, that's quickly gaining some recognition in young Hollywood, so I couldn't be more excited.

Who are some of your musical influences?
Grace Potter, The Hush Sound & Greta Salpeter's other project, Gold Motel. Nate Ruess of Fun and Jon Foreman (also in Switchfoot & Fiction Family), Ryan Tedder (of OneRepublic) -- I like that they're involved in writing, production, tour structure, the art, but also the science of it all. Foundation wise, I dig Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, Freddie Mercury and Debbie Harry.

Do you have a celebrity crush?
Peter Pan

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