Ryan Kwanten, the “Reluctant Sex Symbol” who plays Jason Stackhouse alongside Anna Paquin, tells us all about True Blood Season 3 and True Blood Season 4 while getting dressed up in some high-fashion clothing and dress shoes from American Apparel, Burberry, Calvin Klein, Emporio Armani, Giorgio Armani, John Varvatos, Salvatore Ferragamo and The Tie Bar.
Ryan Kwanten stars as Jason Stackhouse on the hugely popular TV series True Blood, but he first became a sensation as Vinnie Patterson in the late 1990s and early 2000s on the successful Australian series Home and Away.
Now Kwanten is nearing full-on global A-List status and, here, he models high-fashion attire exclusively for DA MAN. By Ronald Liem
He’s played an American footballer, a lifeguard and a werepanther-dating ladies’ man, but that’s to be expected of this guy, because, quite frankly, Ryan Kwanten is a man of many talents. As has come to be expected from young Australians, he grew up excelling at a number of sports including boxing, for which he won an age-group championship in his home state of New South Wales. He also was active in a variety of other beach and country club sports, including triathloning, tennis, golf, surfing and even snow skiing.
The story goes that he had no intention of becoming an actor when he was younger, but inadvertently “got pulled into it” at the age of 15 when he went to pick up a brother, who was doing an audition at a local studio in their home city of Sydney. Since then, there has been no stopping this likable young Aussie. He left Australia, as well as Home and Away, in 2002, bound for the bright lights and big city of Los Angeles, California. There he ended up getting a co-starring role on the short-lived TV series Summerland (2004). He then nailed down bigger roles in the films Flicka (2006) and Dead Silence (2007).
Shortly after Dead Silence was shown, Kwanten earned a shot at a leading role in True Blood, which began in 2008. In addition, he has played alongside Tom Berenger in the Paul “Bear” Bryant biopic, The Junction Boys, a true story about the legendary coach and his brutal training regime with the Texas A and M university football team.
Interestingly, that was shot in 2001 in Australia, so most of the cast, including Kwanten, were young Australian actors putting on American (specifically, Texan) accents. That was actually Kwanten’s first up-close brush with Hollywood and if you look at his career trajectory, one could surmise that it was the turning point in his career.
Nowadays, though, the 34-year-old actor has taken the testosterone-fueled Jason Stackhouse and made him part of his persona—to a degree. Outside of True Blood, the in-demand superstar actor has several projects coming to fruition. The year 2010 was a very busy year for Kwanten, with five major projects that hit screens.
These included his role in Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, where he played (in voice) the character Kludd; a role in Australian comedy Griff the Invisible playing the lead character Griff; a major part in the dramatic Australian outback crime movie Red Hill playing the young and tough police constable Shane Cooper; and in the drama Don’t Fade Away playing alongside Mischa Barton and Beau Bridges.
In 2011, in addition to his full plate of sex, blood and merriment in True Blood’s Season 4, scheduled to begin on June 26 in the U.S., Kwanten also has a trifecta of projects slated, but most are not finalized. One project may involve a role as Charles Manson with a screenplay by Scott Kosar (The Machinist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre).
Meanwhile, Ryan Kwanten took some time to sit down with us for an exclusive discussion recently. Here’s what he had to say.
DA MAN: With your hit TV show True Blood, what do you think about the whole phenomenon over the last few years with all the werewolf and vampire movie?
Ryan Kwanten: It was always a phenomenon that was hard to conceive, because it was never quite in the mainstream. Yet, these are the shows that brought all these fans together from what used to be considered as a cult, more of a minority, out into public view. And it has become pretty much a mainstream force. I think it’s now in the hands of the audience to demand the trend as it goes now, so I’m happy to be a part of a show like True Blood, which constantly lives up to the expectations of the audience.
DA MAN: After a long career of doing soaps like Home and Away and now being in Hollywood shooting shows like True Blood, how has that journey been?
Ryan Kwanten: The feeling is really great. I’m going to places I’ve never been and I work in the very places that I would only dream of in films and see in films and I’m now very much a part of that world. Confronting that fact is invigorating and exciting. I still love that time on Home and Away. To me, it was my stepping-stone, the place where I could make mistakes and learn to grow as a person and as an actor, and personally, I feel as if my feet may have left but my heart is still firmly there in Australia.
DA MAN: You’re based in L.A. now, but how often do you go back to Australia?
Ryan Kwanten: The shooting of the show takes six months and then it has six months off. In those six months off, I try to do between two or three films and with one of those films I try to go back and support the local Australian film industry. I’m going back there again this year to do another film, and I’ve done that every year.
DA MAN: So tell us about some of your recent films.
Ryan Kwanten: One Australian film I did was Red Hill, which was later bought by Sony worldwide. That was shot on a very small budget and we premiered in Berlin and it was sold to every country, literally, the next day after that. And then, the next one we premiered in Berlin the next year was called Griff the Invisible, which was sort of like an anti-superhero film. And it was very well received, and I was very lucky in terms of the story that I was aligned with it. I always wanted and hoped that it would resonate with the audience as much as it resonated with me.
DA MAN: With the role you’ve been doing in True Blood as this sex-crazed playboy in the TV show, do you ever feel like you are being typecast?
Ryan Kwanten: I was actually pleasantly surprised at the range of offers that have been coming in. Very few, if any, offers anything like the character [Jason Stackhouse] I’m playing. For me, I guess it means—I hope it means—that they see sort of the fact that it’s not me and it’s actually quite far from who I am. Nothing pleases me more than breaking outside of the box that people want to put me in.
DA MAN: Which one was harder to maintain in the show, your abs or your Louisiana accent?
Ryan Kwanten: To be honest, the physical side of things has always been a part of who I am as a person. My dad is a white-collar worker by day, but as soon as he’s home, he’s out surfing and he’s a very physical father, so I sort of very much follow in his footsteps. The physical side of things is always there, it is not something I do out of vanity, but I do it just to maintain my own sanity—to be honest. And the Louisiana accent, I don’t have too many talents, but being able to do voices and accents seems to be one of them, so it’s pretty easy. I would love to say that I work extremely hard at it, but it’s really not that hard.
DA MAN: Can I ask about your casting for the show True Blood? Any interesting stories?
Ryan Kwanten: It’s funny … Alan Ball, the show’s creator, had heard of and seen a film that I was in called Flicka, which was very much a family film. In that, my character, or so he thought, was like a G-rated version of Jason Stackhouse. So, he sort of made a bee-line to me from very early on. In fact, I ended up being the first one cast on the show by a good couple of months and helped with the casting of Anna Paquin.
DA MAN: What can we expect in this upcoming season from Jason Stackhouse?
Ryan Kwanten: He’s one of those guys who started so low on the evolutionary totem pole that he’s got so much further to come compared to anyone else. So, everything is a constant learning process and discovery for him. In this particular upcoming season, he’s trying to work his way to the police force. I spent a lot of the season with Andy Bellefleur—played by Chris Bauer—and I love working with him, because I think between Jason Stackhouse and Andy you could not get two more polar opposites in terms of the character. I think when you put those two characters together, some very interesting and hopefully funny things happen.
DA MAN: When did you finish shooting for True Blood Season 4? Or is there more to go?
Ryan Kwanten: We’re shooting episode 10 now of 12, so we only get really just over a month to be done. And then we premiere [Season 4] in the United States on June 26.
DA MAN: You’re actually a yoga instructor, right?
Ryan Kwanten: Yeah … I’m a qualified instructor. The thing is, I grew up playing very aggressive sports. Everything from football and kick-boxing to the triathlon. You know, pushing your body to the very limit. And then, I discovered yoga, I guess, a little too late in life. I have only been doing it for seven, eight years. It really changed the way I—not just look at myself—but my view of the world … particularly for a guy like me that couldn’t take the ego out of the equation. Even if it’s just for an hour and a half when you’re doing the class, it’s actually really refreshing. It took me a while to get caught up with the other masters; in fact, you never quite do, it’s all a learning process, but I’m still happy that I did discover it.
DA MAN: There are several other Australian actors in L.A./Hollywood, like the Hemsworths and others. What is it like to be living in L.A./Hollywood and working with these multitalented people, also from very diverse backgrounds: English, New Zealand, Australians. Do you also hang out with a lot of Aussie groups in L.A.?
Ryan Kwanten: It’s funny because L.A./Hollywood has a reputation and it is still very much a transient place. People sort of come and go, and there are people from all walks of life. They’re not sure what they’re gonna get, whether they’ll be sticking around, but I’ve been fortunate enough to find really good friends from very diverse backgrounds in a very diverse working environment. I’ve found a really happy home here in L.A./Hollywood.
DA MAN: Which of the cast members do you hang out with the most? And why?
Ryan Kwanten: I guess I will probably say Chris [Bauer] from working with him so much. He plays Andy on the show. And there’s Jim Parrack as well, who plays Hoyt, one of my friends on the show. But, I like practically all of them. There is never a bad day on the show. I feel very fortunate to be part of the show that has been working in a certain bond and has little egos and no facade.
DA MAN: You’re the original sex symbol from the show before the other characters were introduced. How do you feel to be regarded as the sex symbol; GQ (Australia) even named you “Man of the Year.” What’s your take on that?
Ryan Kwanten: It’s hard to fully accept the title with complete and utter humility. It’s obviously not my goal to have this title, but if someone wants to give it, hey I’m all for it, you know. But, at the end of the day, I’m an actor and if that’s what comes out of it, that’s great; that’s more of a byproduct of something that I’m trying to achieve.
DA MAN: How would your friends describe you?
Ryan Kwanten: I think they would say loyal. I think they would say unassuming. I think they would say adventurous and a free spirit.
DA MAN: Do you travel much?
Ryan Kwanten: I do actually. Being an Australian, it’s very much a rite of passage that before you go to college, you gotta go and see the world a little bit. I’ve traveled on pretty much nothing around the world.
DA MAN: Have you had a chance to visit Indonesia?
Ryan Kwanten: I was in Bali when I was 12 years old; 20 years ago now! We were basically staying in Kuta. Didn’t really get too much farther than that.
DA MAN: You haven’t been to Bali since?
Ryan Kwanten: I have not, no, but I think Indonesian people have an invigorated spirit, I would call it. What they value in life is very much the core of human beings as opposed to ethereal things. And that, to me, is why it’s very good to go there and experience it. I feel it’s getting back to basics in the best possible way.
DA MAN: Where do you see yourself in the next year or two?
Ryan Kwanten: We will do a fifth and probably sixth seasons of True Blood, so I’ll be at least, in the next two or three years, working on that for six months each year. And then, outside of that, there are quite a few projects that I want to put my hands into; producing is one of them, so I’m starting by producing one of the films that I’m in and I really want to get going on that side of things, too.
DA MAN: Any special message to DA MAN’s Indonesian readers?
Ryan Kwanten: Keep loving work. Keep doing what you do! I think life is just there to be taken.
Mitchell Nguyen McCormack
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