Debby Ryan lights up the big screen

“Debby Ryan lights up the big screen”
By Michael Aaron Gallagher of StayFamous.Net

“Debby Ryan is one of Hollywood’s best rising young stars.” StayFamous.Net

Debby Ryan What If Movie
Debby Ryan

As a teenager from Huntsville, Alabama, Debby Ryan has gone from being an extra in the movie “Midnight Clear,” to starring as Bailey on the hit Disney Channel show “The Suite Life on Deck.” This year, she will return to the big screen as a supporting actress alongside Kevin Sorbo, Kristy Swanson and John Ratzenberger, in the new feature film “What If…

The movie tells the story of Ben Walker (played by Kevin Sorbo), a man who made a choice 15 years ago to leave his true calling and is now given the chance to see what his life could have become if he had taken a different path.

In her role as daughter, Kimberly Walker, director Dallas Jenkins wanted Ryan to move away from the comedic theatrics of her ‘Suite Life’ character and explore a more dramatic role.

“We actually changed the role to fit Debby,” Jenkins said, “and the character ended up being one of my favorites.”

I had the chance to ask Ryan about her experience working on the film. From what she enjoys doing in her spare time to her new single, “Hakuna Matata” (released on the Disneymania 7 CD), the multitalented Ryan shares her passion for music and what it was like working on her first major movie role.

Michael Aaron Gallagher: “You’re best known for your role as Bailey on ‘The Suite Life On Deck.’ What’s your favorite part about being on the show?”

Debby Ryan: “My favorite part is never knowing what we will do from one week to the other, what culture we will be rubbing elbows with or who is getting thrown in the hot tub.”

Michael Aaron Gallagher: “How long does it take you to shoot your scenes for a typical episode?”

Debby Ryan: “An entire episode takes a week. We rehearse and have script changes Monday through Wednesday and we shoot every Thursday and Friday for most of the day.”

Michael Aaron Gallagher: “Do you ever have trouble remembering your lines?”

Debby Ryan: “Once in a while I’ll trip over something in a scene. My character is a bit of an intellectual so she tends to have strings of lengthy dialogue, and sometimes in other languages. Lines will sometimes change at the last minute, but that can be fun.”

Michael Aaron Gallagher: “Are there any tricks you use to keep all the dialogue and timing straight?”

Debby Ryan: “I usually associate a line with whatever action I need to do or a specific place I need to be. When I rehearse my lines I imagine the action as well. When I get on set it’s not too hard.”

Michael Aaron Gallagher: “How do you prepare for an audition?”

Debby RyanDebby Ryan: “I stay pretty busy so I don’t have a lot of time to audition. I guess it’s a mixed blessing but I appreciate each audition because it gives me a chance to explore other characters and grow as an actor. I read the breakdown and the whole script (if I have it) to understand my character. I make notes, practice, and sometimes go to a coach if it’s a big role or a difficult character. I prep well so on the way to audition I relax, sing, joke and listen to music.”

Michael Aaron Gallagher: “When you’re not on set, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?”

Debby Ryan: “I live my life to music, so I write a music blog at [], I answer fan mail, I make and edit YouTube videos, ride my bike, I play and write music with my brother, I like crafts, photography, writing, playing Wii, going to the movies, shopping, coffee or dinner with my friends.”

Michael Aaron Gallagher: “‘What if…’ was a more dramatic role for you than you’re probably used to on the Disney Channel. Which is harder for you to play, a character that’s funny or a dramatic part?”

Debby Ryan: “One is really not harder than the other they are just different switching back and forth between animated Disney acting and understated dramatic acting. It takes a little time. You have to trust the people around you and directing you to give you productive feedback. Dallas was nervous that I would be too animated, but I really toned it down for him.”

Michael Aaron Gallagher: “Do you have any special talents or hobbies you would like to play on screen someday?”

Debby Ryan: “I would love to speak German on screen. I would love to play a rock star. It’s not really a talent but I really would like to play a troubled, negative character. It sounds ironic but I think it would be fun and my biggest dream is to play a spy.”

Michael Aaron Gallagher: “I read that you’re a Christian. Do you have any role models that you look up to for inspiration and advice?”

Debby Ryan: “My brother, my friends Shane and Kim and my parents. Jordin Sparks can balance hard work, talent, she is always personable and friendly and doesn’t try to be or act older too fast.”

Michael Aaron Gallagher: “If you could tell people one thing about your relationship with God, what would you want them to know?”

Debby Ryan: “It’s something that I made my own decision about. I don’t feel a need to do for anyone other than myself.”

Michael Aaron Gallagher: “What’s your favorite verse in the Bible?”

Debby Ryan: “1 Timothy 4:12 and 1 Corinthians 12:10.”

[1 Timothy 4:12 – “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” – (New International Version)]

Michael Aaron Gallagher: “A lot of young people look up to Hollywood celebrities and want to be famous too, even though they don’t understand the downsides of being a star. What are some of the challenges you face as a young actress in the entertainment business?”

Debby Ryan: “I don’t really like to complain or focus on the negatives in my life because I am so blessed. Work nights for me are just like school nights. I can’t go out unless it’s a work event. Since I work a lot during the week my friends can’t be first priority. That’s hard for a teenager. There is a hierarchy and so people want to be associated with power and names. You never know if you are being liked because you are the biggest star in the room. It’s disappointing when the same people will ignore you when a bigger star walks in. It’s also a good thing because you can see the fakes. My career uprooted my entire family even though they are super supportive and don’t mention it, I see them go through struggles. I live knowing that whenever I see my family struggling with something that is related to our move that it was because of me. I face peer pressure just like every kid in school although things are probably more accessible and socially acceptable here.”

Michael Aaron Gallagher: “Do you think there’s a lot of pressure in Hollywood for young stars to fit in by acting or dressing a certain way?”

Debby Ryan: “Yes, a lot of the fashions are short, tight or low cut. Even before all this when I was shopping for school clothes we were always frustrated because the fashionable things were too revealing. A lot of those didn’t even pass school dress codes. This is where I got the courage to do my own thing and dress according to my tastes and not do what society dictates. I think Hollywood has the power to change and influence style. I wish Hollywood would use that power to help teenagers, pre-teens and kids dress appropriately for their age and not grow up too fast.”

Michael Aaron Gallagher: “Is it hard to stay grounded and still be yourself?”

Debby Ryan: “My family keeps me pretty grounded, I still get in trouble for not cleaning my room, I have to do dishes and take out the trash, etc. I hang around friends that are grounded as well. My mother reminds me that it can be gone in a minute and to focus on what is important in life. I remind myself that I should be willing to give it all up at any moment. It would be so hard for me to quit acting but I would be okay without it.”

Michael Aaron Gallagher: “Why did you decide to be a part of the movie ‘What If…’?”

Debby Ryan: “The script was awesome, the character I got to play was different than what I normally play and it was a small enough time commitment it fit around my schedule. I loved to have the opportunity to work with Dallas again.”

Michael Aaron Gallagher: “What was it like working with director Dallas Jenkins?”

Debby Ryan: “He is so great to work with! He is very creative, but practical and has a fantastic sense of humor. He is so much fun, encourages dialog and input, he communicates clearly and treats his actors with respect. I would love to work with him again.”

Michael Aaron Gallagher: “Dallas said that he wanted you to be ‘small’ and to avoid the typical theatrics of a Disney actor. You seem like you’re naturally outgoing and friendly, so was it hard for you to tone it down and have an attitude in some of your scenes with Kevin Sorbo?”

Debby Ryan: “Dallas kept me in check. I just listened to him and did what he told me. It was fun. Kevin Sorbo was a pro. It was awesome to have him as my onscreen dad and Kristy as my onscreen mom.”

Michael Aaron Gallagher: “I had the chance to photograph Savannah Outen’s Radio Disney concert for StayFamous.Net when she was in New York, and I read that you were scheduled to make your musical debut with her, but that it was cancelled. Are you still planning to release an album at some point?”

Debby Ryan: “Honestly, I have no intentions of releasing an album this year. I’m in love with learning about music, blogging about it, seeing the production and performance side of things. I’m always writing or singing something and I’ve gotten a couple chances to go in studio, once on ‘Hakuna Matata’ for Disneymania 7 and once for the opening song for ‘16 Wishes,’ called ‘A Wish Comes True Everyday.’ I think the recording process should be a personal one; I’d only pursue a music career with songs I write, and I would have a say in the production/instrumentation side of things, as well as the marketing… I think right now, I’m so busy with acting that I don’t have the time it takes to do all of the work that music deserves. Every day I’m writing, working out melodies, or jamming with my brother Chase Ryan, who is a singer/songwriter and music producer. I’d love to do an album and live performances one day, but for now, I’m leaving that to Chase.”

Michael Aaron Gallagher: “Are there any actors or actresses that you would really like to work with?”

Debby Ryan: “Sandra Bullock seems so cool. I love Zooey Deschanel, Rachael McAdams is great, and I just love the entire cast of the Big Bang Theory.”

Michael Aaron Gallagher: “Are there any charities that are important to you?”

Debby Ryan: “I am in the process of finding my charity focus. I care about so many causes and support many charities. I do work with City of Hope, Ronald McDonald Foundation, Starlight Foundation… I am still finding my way and looking for one I can throw my focus and support behind 100 percent and really make a difference. It’ll probably be something that helps children or women.”

Michael Aaron Gallagher: “What’s next for you? Are there any plans to be in a Disney Channel movie?”

16 WishesDebby Ryan: “I just finished filming the made-for-TV movie entitled ‘Sixteen Wishes.’ It will be on the Disney Channel at the end of June. It was the most amazing experience and my first starring role! Everyone from wardrobe, set, props, decorations, the cast, crew, director, dp were all phenomenal. I think we ended up with an amazing film to show for everyone’s hard work! The script was brilliant it had such a good message but it wasn’t preachy. The message was an organic part of the script. I love it when writers can pull that off. I would love for it to become a classic coming-of-age film.”

For more information about Debby Ryan visit her official Web site And be sure to add her on the following sites:

The Suite Life On Deck” airs at 8:30/7:30c on the Disney Channel. For a behind-the-scenes look at the new movie “What If…” read the production blog at Click here to buyWhat If…” on DVD.

“Debby Ryan lights up the big screen”
Copyright © 2010 by Michael Aaron Gallagher
Photographs Courtesy of Dallas Jenkins

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