Ryan is a New Zealand born actor who moved to the UK in 2014 to complete a Master of Arts at Guildford School of Acting and has called the UK home ever since.
He’s starred in indie feature films (Zoe; Misplaced, Our Little Haven) and was in his first TV series when he was just 16 (but no chance you’re getting the name of that one)! Ryan also writes and directs his own short films that have nabbed a few accolades along the way.
On stage, he’s worked in venues all over the world – from the Sydney Opera House in Nightbook to a main stage at the Edinburgh Fringe with The Factory – a new musical. From Dubai Opera to Beijing as Bob Crewe in the international tour of Jersey Boys and then back to Sydney in a replica of Shakespeare’s Globe to play in Comedy of Errors and Macbeth.
Most recently, Ryan has added Cirencester to his list, performing as the titular character in Daddy Long Legs for The Barn Theatre, and then returning to play five roles in an adaptation of The Importance of Being Earnest.
As a teacher, Ryan has worked for the Guildford School of Acting, Sylvia Young Theatre School, Emil Dale Academy along with other international institutions. His passion for teaching acting equals his love of acting. He thrills in refining his experience into classroom tools that can find practical application and real satisfaction in his students.
Read below to find out how Ryan Bennett made it in the arts industry.
When did you start acting?
I started acting when I was eight years old, I think my parents needed something for me to do after school and so they enrolled me in a musical theatre for kids for staging musicals. I think the first show I did was Big River and there’s some embarrassing footage of me running in circles, picking my nose and doing not much else. But it was when I played Oliver when I was eight years old that I caught the bug, so then I always knew that I wanted to do that and didn’t move from there. But I was born in New Zealand so I’ve come all the way to London and sort of zig-zagged through Australia where I did my initial training and have circled the world a few times doing a few different shows.
What’s been the hardest part of your acting career?
I suppose in a way the hardest part has been the journey. Starting in New Zealand, comparable to British actors starting here, I started two hundred metres before the start line. And then I had to find my way to a place in a market where theatre work was more vibrant and more present. No disrespect to my fellow New Zealand actors who are at home! It’s just that I wanted to be playing on the bigger world stage so there was quite a journey into relocating and finding my footing in a new environment that was important before I could even get the work.
What are your thoughts on drama school?
These days drama school is the understood platform from which to be introduced to agents via showcase. It’s great for facilitating your learning and gives you a strong framework and structure with which to explore. I’d say if you were doing musical theatre as your passion or vocation then it’s such a well condensed thing to do at drama school. Because you’ll get the dance classes, the singing classes – there’s a sort of fitness element that you’ll get from the intensity of the course that’s really beneficial but working more specifically as an actor, it doesn’t have to be the way. If you’re not doing drama school I would highly recommend classes, the likes that are on iampro because there is a language and process that could be really useful for acting. Everybody ultimately finds their own process and their own way so drama school is the path for some but not for all. Everybody finds their own way in this industry.
What are the key elements to success?
Finding what you do well is really important. So what is your casting, what do people want to see you do and how can you maximise your ability to do that? That will be the most important thing to get in the foothold. A lot of young actors think that they want to characterise, they want to do everything, they think that it’s within them to play all roles, and heck a lot of that might be true. But you’ve got to find that which people see in you, which can find the different permutations and different characterisations, so find what you can offer. If you can stumble upon that then away you’ll go.
What’s the truth about ‘making it’?
The truth about ‘making it’ is there’s really no definitive moment. I think you’ll know you’ve made it. If you’re anything like me there’s always higher benchmarks, more you can do, so I think an important thing to remember about making it to actually take stock of that which you’ve achieved – as you achieve it and when you achieve it, celebrate your victories. It’s a bit of a relentless game in that it’s quite a lot of hard work that pays off in these little blips of moments as an actor so really celebrate those moments and acknowledge always that which you’ve achieved. Making it comes in phases so it’s going to be a case of enjoying each moment as it comes and then there’s more and more.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to make it in the industry?
Always protect your sense of joy and your sense of play and fun about what you do. Don’t let the impression of the industry and what it might want, and the mechanisms diminish your spark, joy and passion for the art of acting. Stay connected to that. Effectively, be an amateur always! Understand the joy that brought you to performance. What would I say to young Ryan? “Young Ryan needs to not worry so much. To learn that it’s a process and that you can’t be perfect, there is no such thing as perfection.” Even today I’m a recovery perfectionist. There’s no such thing as perfect as an actor, there’s just choices, better choices and a myriad of options and interpretations. So that relentlessness of my appetite as a young actor means that I’m quite hard on myself and I would strongly recommend being a bit more forgiving of yourself and knowing that wherever you’re at and whatever you have at this moment is what you’ll be cast for, so not to worry about that of which you’re not. Things come with time, you mature as an actor – I will be a better actor in ten years time than I am now as I grow through my experience and that’s okay. A bit of acceptance and a bit of self-congratulation I think Young Ryan could appreciate!
Learn to act with Ryan
Join Ryan in our Foundations of Acting Course where you can learn all about ‘Activating Monologues’ as well as ‘Improv and Devising’. The Drama Foundation Course is a new 32-week, live, interactive, part-time training course which enables you to hone your craft and improve your acting skills. In this intensive training course you will you develop your stage and screen acting and experience practical classes lead by industry pros.