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Ryan Lee Interview: "Super 8" Star's Latest Film, "White Rabbit," Explores the Violent Consequences of Bullying

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Image attributed to Ryan Lee

Ryan Lee

Eighteen year old budding film star Ryan Lee is best known for his portrayal of Cary in the 2011 Steven Spielberg/J.J. Abrams science fiction thriller film Super 8 and as Warren Harrison in the ABC sitcom Trophy Wife which also starred Malin Akerman, Bradley Whitford and Marcia Gay Harden.

The Texas native’s television credits include Friday Night Lights, Breaking Bad, Community, Good Luck Charlie and Workaholics, and he has appeared in the films Titans, The Legend of Hell’s Gate: An American Conspiracy, This is 40, Merry Friggin’ Christmas and Grass Stains, just to name a few.

“Harlon’s my best friend in the film. I would say that basically both of us are bullied, but him to a greater extent. We have each other’s backs throughout the film, so that there’s always someone to fall on. I think one of the coolest parts about the dynamic between us is that when Steve’s bullied, he really shows his emotions, and people know that he’s sad, but when Harlon gets bullied, it’s much more … he just keeps it all in. When it hits that boiling point, it all blows up. We definitely handle the bullying in different ways.”

Lee can soon be seen in the intense dramatic thriller White Rabbit (also starring Sam Trammell, Britt Robertson and Nick Krause) that will hit theaters and VOD on February 13, 2015. The film centers on high school bullying, a young man descending into madness from an undiagnosed mental illness, and the effect it has on society.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Ryan, thanks for taking the time today.

Ryan Lee: No problem. Thank you.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): We spoke in 2011 when Super 8 was released, and I can’t believe that you just recently turned eighteen!

Ryan Lee: I know. Time has flown by.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What has been the most exciting part of that age so far?

Ryan Lee: I got to actually celebrate my birthday at ACL which is a music festival in Austin, Texas. That was pretty cool. I enjoyed that. We saw Eminem and Outkast play. It was a really good weekend.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Cool. You told me a few years ago that you’d love to do a TV series, so how was the experience working on Trophy Wife?

Ryan Lee: It was the best experience. With the eight cast members, I think that … we all got so close. Right from the beginning, there was chemistry. Getting to wake up and go to work every day was really a treat. It was one of the coolest six months of my life, to be honest. I loved working on the show.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): It’s a shame it was cancelled. Tell me why you were drawn into White Rabbit.

Ryan Lee: Just reading the script, I kind of realized that there has never really been a movie that has touched on this subject. It was really intriguing. Whenever I’d go on set, the people I got to work with were so cool. It was all good.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): And it certainly deals with topical issues. You play Steve, the best friend of Harlon (Nick Krause), and both of you have dysfunctional families. Describe the dynamic between the two of you.

Ryan Lee: Like you said, Harlon’s my best friend in the film. I would say that basically both of us are bullied, but him to a greater extent. We have each other’s backs throughout the film, so that there’s always someone to fall on. I think one of the coolest parts about the dynamic between us is that when Steve’s bullied, he really shows his emotions, and people know that he’s sad, but when Harlon gets bullied, it’s much more … he just keeps it all in. When it hits that boiling point, it all blows up. We definitely handle the bullying in different ways.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Have you ever had any personal experiences with bullies or ever been bullied?

Ryan Lee: Just because of acting, I was only in public school up until the beginning of the eighth grade. I was never around bullying as much as I would’ve been in high school. When doing this movie, I’d never experienced bullying, but once we did the scenes, and they were so intense, it made me realize that this was just a terrible thing for those kids in school having to go through it.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): The film was shot totally in Louisiana?

Ryan Lee: Correct.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You were probably used to the heat and humidity growing up in Texas (laughs).

Ryan Lee: Yeah (laughs). It’s always fun to film in the South. I enjoy it. I had visited New Orleans before and had the little donut pastries.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Beignets?

Ryan Lee: Yeah, yeah. I got hooked on them and really enjoyed New Orleans.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You were fortunate enough to act in one of Robin Williams’ last films, A Merry Friggin’ Christmas. Had you met him prior to doing the movie?

Ryan Lee: I did not, but it was such a treat to be able to share the screen with him and be in scenes with him. I wish now that I had sort of taken it in more because I had no idea we were going to lose him, and I wouldn’t be able to say goodbye to him. Robin was a great guy, and as an actor, he was one of the best. It was a lot of fun to be able to work with him.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You’ve now worked with JJ Abrams (Super 8) and Judd Apatow (This is 40), two very famous guys in the business. Who’s easier to work with?

Ryan Lee: (laughs) both of them are very cool. The great thing about those two directors is that I’ve never seen either of them yell. They’re both really calm guys, and they create great work environments.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You told me when we last spoke that you didn’t have time for a social life. Do you have a girlfriend now?

Ryan Lee: No, nothing at the moment, but it’s hard switching between Texas and LA, you know. You’ve got to find a girl who wants to do the long distance relationship, but not at the moment (laughs).

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What kind of advice would you give to the young people of today that aspire to have careers in TV and films?

Ryan Lee: My mom and I actually started looking online for auditions on Craigslist and stuff like that, and it ended up working out. We did a bunch of short films for the University of Texas, and that’s basically where I got my foundation and learned how to do most things in front of the camera and behind. I would say that just any experience you can get helps, and it’s something you can put on your resume. Then just try to audition, audition, audition. Hopefully you’ll get lucky because that’s what a lot of this is … luck.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): For you, what is the most enjoyable part of acting?

Ryan Lee: I would say just being on set. You don’t really know anybody on set the first couple of weeks, but the last couple of months, you realize you have created a unique family. That has happened on every set I’ve been on. The worst part is having to leave because you just created that family, and then you have to say goodbye to everybody which stinks. It’s just great getting to make those relationships and having a great time.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What’s coming up for you?

Ryan Lee: I just got off filming a movie with Jack Black called Goosebumps which was super cool. The Goosebumps are a bunch of horror books for kids, and now they’re finally able to make a movie from them. The author came to the set one day and said that the movie had been twenty years in the making, so I’m proud to be a part of it. I think it may be released in the summer of 2016.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What fills your time when you’re off set?

Ryan Lee: Reading scripts, trying to write some stuff, hanging out with friends, seeing movies, just regular teenage boy stuff.

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