My first recollection of witnessing the talent of the superb Daniel Ryan, was when he took over the role of Harry in As Time Goes By. Since then I have seen him maintain a successful career and I particularly enjoyed his portrayal of Bryn Brindsley in Home Fires, which ITV have sadly decided to axe. I had the pleasure of interviewing the man himself, so without further ado….
I’ll start with Home Fires if I may, the last series was brilliant and finished on a fantastic cliff hanger, what have been your favourite memories from being in the show?
Like so many viewers, I was completely shocked to find that Home Fires had not be re-commissioned for a 3rd run, particularly as we had ended it in such an unsatisfying way for an audience. Sadly, that’s the way TV is and you can never know what the destiny of a production will be even when it ticks all of the criteria boxes usually required to greenlight another series.
I will take from it the fact that it was a brilliantly made show and continually surprised me on so many levels how affecting that period was to play. Wonderful camaraderie on set and the most brilliant group of actors who delivered extraordinarily layered performances from a remarkable period in our history. The fact that the viewers took it so strongly to their hearts and are continuing to fight for its return to our screens!
What did you think of the character of Bryn on paper and what did you think of the scripts when you first read them?
If I’m perfectly honest, the script was emailed to me the day before I was going on holiday and I had very little time to self-tape my audition, so skimmed the script and focused on learning the lines for a different character in the show.
The day before I came back from holiday my agent informed me that I hadn’t got the part I had auditioned for and that they wanted to see me the next day in London for Bryn. I have to confess I didn’t know who Bryn was and had to read the script again and the sides they had sent to prepare. When I realised, of course, that he was Welsh, it through another barrier my way, but nevertheless I met for the part the next day and thankfully got it. I didn’t hesitate in accepting as I feel in love with the scripts (once I had properly been able to look at them) and the story of the village butchers and their son. Being cast with Claire and Will consolidated the fact that it was a gorgeous job and I had such a wonderful time working on it.
Moving on to Mount Pleasant, which couldn’t be more different! Tell me about playing the role of Dan and have you a favourite scene or line from among the many series you have appeared in so far?
Mount Pleasant was such an entirely different story to Home Fires as I was cast well before the show was made or even properly commissioned by Sky and therefore is a show that is enormously close to my heart.
I was part of the first table read when it was in half hour sitcom format and we took it to the BBC. Eventually it ended up as the show it is now, and I had to re-audition! I fought tooth and nail to play Dan, I love playing the character, and after 6 years he is very much part of me. The writing goes from strength to strength and you rarely get the chance to dig this far into a character and for this long on TV.
I really couldn’t pick a favourite scene in the whole 52 hours. I think the Christmas Special was a really fun episode to do as we had snow machines in July and there is a scene in this series on now where I get to bring in a character that Dan Johnson likes to play with his wife, called Pedro.
So that’s something to look out for!!
Staying with television and going back in time to As Time Goes By, you notably took over the role of Harry, what was it like to step into that role and take it over? Was it an enjoyable show to be part of for the reunion episodes?
Well yes, great, but a bit daunting too! The show had been off our screens for I think about 6/7 years so I felt sorry for David Michaels , who had originally played Harry, not being able to return. I gladly jumped at the part and to be in something that was so established, popular and well known.
It was a joy to work with Judi Dench again (she had directed me on stage at Regents Park) and Geoffrey Palmer had always been a hero of mine, but then Jenny Funnel and the rest of the cast were so welcoming, as were the live studio audience who had mostly come from the As Time Goes By fan club in America!
Great fun. I would love to do it again!
You’ve also enjoyed many roles on stage during your career, any particular highlights for you?
I’ve been in some wonderful and landmark plays over the years. Fallout and Posh at the Royal Court were memorable experiences, as was Mammals at the Bush and on tour. There is something so thrilling about performing a brand new piece of work as the stakes are so high with no idea if the production will hit the mark.
But…… I still have to say playing Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at RSC in 1999/2000 will forever stand out as being a very special production for me. It was above all, a phenomenal interpretation of the play but also marked a big change for me as an actor when I suppose I started to figure out what kind of a performer I wanted to be, and it marked 10 years of being in the business, having started on that very stage as play-as-cast in 1989.
That part means an awful lot and I also feel one that I would like to revisit it another time!
Do you have a preference between acting on stage and on screen and if so, what’s the reason for your preference?
I can honestly say that I don’t have any preference. To me they are almost like two separate skills and I am still lucky enough to get to do both. I think I’m overdue getting back on stage so I hope something comes my way soon before I get to scared to get back on there!
It does seem to be that if you get into a string of TV jobs there is a perception that you don’t want to do theatre, but that certainly isn’t the case with me.
It’s a very special privilege being able to share a story in a theatre with an audience but also the jigsaw-complexity of threading together a TV character is still a great thrill to get to do.
Give me both!!
Any roles that you have an ambition to play in the future?
I guess I can’t really say what I would like to do in the future. I have worked with great directors and writers in both TV and theatre and its entirely in their hands what I get to do from here on in! I don’t think I have anywhere near done my best work yet and I am still very passionate about the job I get to do.
I’ve always felt that one day I would like to play King Lear but beyond that I hope the variety and the challenges keep coming my way.
What was it that inspired you to become an actor to start with?
Can’t even begin to tell you when or why the madness began! I played Artful Dodger at school when I was about 9 and never wanted to do anything else. It’s not in my family, I didn’t even really go to much theatre, but in terms of wanting to perform, it’s in my DNA somewhere. I had a brief but all-consuming desire to be a rock star when I was around 16/17/18 and my band had quite good potential, but acting was my first love and I was incredibly fortunate to get into LAMDA at 18 so the decision was made for me.
I’m so lucky that it all worked out so well.
Any words of wisdom for budding actors?
I am still impressed by watching people work. I’m still learning. I always feel that it’s above my station to give advice to anyone because the experience and the journey is different for everyone.
If there is simply nothing else that you want to do, if your passion about performance and telling a story is so strong and if you are ready to learn and work every day to get there, and able to take the rejection, then this is for you. The job satisfaction and the excitement is like nothing else.
Do everything and anything you can to achieve your goal but never forget that this is a team game. Beyond that, I’ve known a huge amount of talented people fall by the wayside so never forget that there’s a lot of luck involved. I try never to forget that as hard as I know I’ve grafted, I am still one of the lucky ones.
I’d like to thank Dan for his time, it’s a privilege to be able to include him on the site.
Photo Credits: ITV