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Ryan Lee Interview: Young Actor Stars in Spielberg's Summer Sci-Fi Blockbuster 'Super 8'

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Ryan Lee

Austin, Texas native Ryan Lee is one of the stars of the highly anticipated J.J. Abrams/Steven Spielberg summer blockbuster Super 8 that was released in theaters June 10, 2011. The film is set in 1979 and follows a group of young children as they lay witness to a catastrophic train wreck which causes unusual disappearances and inexplicable events throughout the town.

In addition to his leading role in Super 8, the budding young actor will appear in the historic drama The Legend of Hell’s Gate: An American Conspiracy alongside Eric Balfour, Summer Glau, and Jenna Dewan-Tatum. His television appearances include Friday Night Lights, Breaking Bad, and My Generation.

“Definitely. We were under confidentialities from the first callback. I didn’t even know the project was called Super 8 until the day I got the part.”

Lee is also involved with the Trevor Romain Foundation and lends his voice to the animated series With You All the Way Deployment Kit. Designed to address the special needs of children who have a deployed family member, the kits will be made available through Military OneSource, an outreach service provided to all military families.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Ryan, how are you today?

Ryan Lee: Pretty good, how are you?

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Good thanks. How long have you been an actor?

Ryan Lee: About 6 years. In 2006 we were looking for a camp for the summer. We went online and were just looking at camps when we found an acting camp. My mom has always been stopped by random people saying, “Oh, your son should be an actor or comedian.” I would go up to people and make them laugh for no reason (laughs). That’s how it started. When we saw the acting camp we naturally wanted to go.

Ryan Lee

Ryan Lee (Photo by Josh Madson)

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Your sister, Lauren, is also an actor. Is she older?

Ryan Lee: Yes she’s 17. Every time I do something wrong she says, “Ryan, you asked me to drive you somewhere tomorrow!” She holds the car against me.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Was Friday Night Lights your first professional job?

Ryan Lee: It was my first really big job. That was a lot of fun and a really really cool experience.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): So you were already familiar with Kyle Chandler (star of Super 8) because you worked with him on Friday Night Lights.

Ryan Lee: Yeah, Kyle and me really got along on set because we already kind of had that little bond.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Super 8 was kept almost entirely under wraps until just before the release. Were the actors sworn to secrecy?

Ryan Lee: Definitely. We were under confidentialities from the first callback. I didn’t even know the project was called Super 8 until the day I got the part.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I’ll bet it was hard not to discuss the film with your friends.

Ryan Lee: Yeah and I just had to say, “Oh, I’m just going to LA to see if I can get any auditions.” All the while I was actually shooting a movie for 3 months (laughs).

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Even in the trailer you cannot tell if it’s a monster or an alien that is chasing everyone.

Ryan Lee: Yeah I know (laughs).

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You are one of the kids in the movie that’s making a film (hence the Super 8 title).

Ryan Lee: Yeah, in the group I’m the pyromaniac. I’m Carey, the kid who likes to have fun. All of the kids are being scared and upset and I’m just sitting in the corner lighting fireworks, you know? That’s my character. He’s like comedic relief and he’s a really fun character to play.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): There are funny moments in the film as well as scary ones.

Ryan Lee: There’s everything. If you want to see a movie that has something about romance, sci-fi. mystery, action, and comedy, just everything you can think of … go see this movie.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): The special effects look awesome. Was there much acting in front of a green screen (CGI) and is that difficult for you?

Ryan Lee: Not as much as I thought we would. At times we did. Whenever I saw the train crash, we were all jumping out of our seats literally throwing our hands in the air going, “Oh my gosh, did you guys just see that?” We were yelling at each other (laughs). I’m kind of used to the green screen, though. It’s really just using your imagination and I have a lot of that.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Elle Fanning is a talented actress.

Ryan Lee: She’s a really fun person to hang out with. She’s one of our best friends and just like one of the guys. Well, not like one of the guys but she’s not like a girly girl, you know? She’s not like the stereotyped girl actor who’s like, “Oh, don’t touch me.” She’s not like the prissy kind of girl, but she’s really funny and an amazing actor.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): How was it working with J.J. Abrams?

Ryan Lee: He was cool. He is the only big-time director I’ve ever heard of that hasn’t ever yelled. I think that was pretty amazing with 6 kids to not yell once. Once we were getting overworked or too angry, he would always just crack jokes. Have you ever seen that joke where there are boxes in front of you and it looks like you’re going downstairs? That’s what he does. Little jokes like that and it just makes you feel so much better if you’re having a hard day. As soon as he did that it was so amazing because the next take you’d get the scene.

Super 8

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): He makes everyone feel comfortable.

Ryan Lee: Yeah. He’s really good at that.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Did you form any friendships with the other kids while filming?

Ryan Lee: We were all best friends. I spent more time with those kids than any of my friends in Austin that I’ve known since pre-school. I spent like 70 days with all of them on the film. I know everything about each one of them.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You’re also appearing in The Legend of Hell’s Gate: An American Conspiracy.

Ryan Lee: Yeah, I’m a kid who stumbles upon a tracker that’s trying to track down all of these criminals that stole from him. I get stopped by him and he’s like 7 feet tall and he picks me up by my collar. I’m kind of a short kid and me standing next to that guy … well it looks like he could just swallow me. He picks me up by my neck and asks me where his stuff is. He thought we stole from him. We act really scared and tell him we don’t have it and he drops us. Then I stumble upon the bandits later and do the same thing with them.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I interviewed another star of the film, Brendan Wayne, a few weeks ago. Did you have any scenes with him?

Ryan Lee: I don’t think I did, but I wish I would have. It would be a really cool experience to meet him.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You also have Meeting Evil coming up.

Ryan Lee: Yeah, with Samuel Jackson and Luke Wilson. I have one scene in it but to do a film with those guys was just really amazing. I get to point a gun at Samuel Jackson’s head because he was stealing from us. That was not a smart idea because later on in the film he finds me and hangs me upside down by my feet. Not a fun time for my character, but it was a really fun time filming.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you enjoy being on television?

Ryan Lee: Yeah that’s really fun.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Would you like to be a regular on a TV series?

Ryan Lee: That would be amazing! I would really like to do that.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Your Facebook page says actor/director.

Ryan Lee: I think all of ours says actor/director, but one day I’d like to direct if that chance ever came my way. I think whenever I go to college I’m going to study film.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Definitely sounds like a good plan. Let’s talk about the Trevor Romain Foundation.

Ryan Lee: That’s something that’s really dear to our hearts. It’s a really hard subject because it’s talking about how kids can deal with their parents being deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. It’s really a hard subject for kids. We do it in a way where we are cartoon characters. It’s like watching a cartoon that helps you. We do it in a way that it has comedy in it so it’s not only like being serious. It tells jokes about how they can get past it and how to make it more of a fun time, you know?

One day when we were doing the voiceovers for the characters my grandpa came in and he’s a Vietnam veteran. I had never seen my grandpa cry but he started telling us stories about how he didn’t have anybody to talk to and how this was going to help so many kids. He said that all he could do when he was in the war was sit down in the corner and have a beer with somebody else who was there. The charity is a really good thing and I’m proud to be a part of it.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Sounds like a very good cause. What are your hobbies, Ryan?

Ryan Lee: I love playing all sports: baseball, basketball, football, soccer, tennis, everything. I love skateboarding and longboarding. I surfed when I was out in California and that’s really fun. I go to the movies with my friends. I love spending time with them because I’m homeschooled and don’t get to see them as much so when I do it’s really special and fun.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Any girlfriends yet?

Ryan Lee: Oh, not right now (laughs).

© 2011 Smashing Interviews Magazine. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the express written consent of the publisher.

 

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