Colby Ryan has always been destined to be a performer. The Lancaster, Pennsylvania native has participated in theater since the fifth grade. Performing in various South Central Pennsylvania theaters over the years before moving to New York City to act. While in New York he spent more than a decade working in the fashion industry before going back into acting. Currently he is the head writer, co-executive producer and one of the lead actors on a new webseries called Grosse Misconduct. Colby took some time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions about his career and his new show.
Stacey Maynard: Tell me about your show Grosse Misconduct and the character that you play.
Colby Ryan: It’s a six-part digital series that depicts a Human Resources team navigating personal and professional challenges under the leadership of their director, Mitch Grosse, played by me. Mitch is a handful! He struggles with feelings of insecurity and inadequacy, he’s very sensitive, childish at times, and is naively self-centered. He does have a heart though! Mitch is great fun to play, that’s for sure.
SM: After you moved to NYC you transitioned from acting to the fashion industry, what led you back into the acting arena?
CR: I missed acting too much, and after spending over a decade trying to find happiness without it, I realized it’s too much a part of my core to not make it my life’s pursuit. I’m grateful for all of the experiences I’ve had, and friends I’ve made outside the acting world. I find that it all coalesces and helps to inform my choices as an actor; there’s less “acting” to do and more just letting the wisdom and memory of your life experiences lead you on a journey. I feel so much more grounded and secure when I enter a casting office now.
SM: Do you think that there is better representation on platforms like YouTube than on network and cable television?
CR: Yes, because in network and cable television, you have executives who are looking at financial incentives and “what-worked-before” when they curate their programming. This can limit their views of the potential for impact when considering fresh product that may be coming from the fringes, which includes LGBT+ material. Grosse Misconduct has something for everybody, and the more viewers can experience it, the better!
SM: Do you feel that with other shows like Pose that representation is getting better on those formats?
CR: Yes, I think so, though I also read recently that LGBT+ representation has actually remained stagnant in the last few years when you look at statistics. Social media is helping to keep the message of diversity and inclusion top of mind, so that will fuel a continued focus on the importance of representation. It can’t just be a buzzword for a particular season – it needs to become business as usual, and we are not there yet. The success of Pose is notable, but it’s really just the beginning.
SM: Take us into your writing process, where do your ideas come from?
CR: In the case of Grosse Misconduct, many of my ideas came from my years of experience working in Human Resources departments. The challenge was to present legitimate HR situations in the series’ work environment, but also to make them as funny and engaging as possible. Anne Schroeder, who plays Sarah and is my writing/producer partner, has a strong sketch/improv background, so her voice was invaluable in finding some left-field humor and dimension to the narrative. Henrietta’s story is her baby!
SM: Was it a conscious idea to not have coming out stories within Grosse Misconduct or something that just worked out that way in the writing?
CR: Yes, it was conscious on my part, and it’s something Pooya Mohseni (Alicia) and I have discussed. LGBT+ stories are so frequently focused on a gay character’s coming out story and struggle for acceptance, or a trans character being treated horribly by family and society. Those kinds of stories reflect reality and will always be important for us to see, but I’d also like to see LGBT+ characters in leading roles who are past those stages of their lives – they’ve overcome major obstacles and are now living their lives on the other side. I want to see more stories showing what that could look like……so I wrote one!
SM: Are you planning more episodes of Grosse Misconduct? Or even extending the episodes for those with longer attention spans.
CR: Yes, we’re currently in the planning stages for season 2 of Grosse Misconduct, and have been so pleased that viewers really want to see what happens next with these characters. I think we’ll likely stay with the same format, for now, brief “bite-sized” episodes that are easy to consume, but ideally, I’d love to expand the episode length and really dig deeper into the world of Mitch and his team. We are eager to see where this journey leads us.
SM: Is there anything else that you are working on now?
CR: Besides writing season 2 of the series, I’m also auditioning, taking classes, and I finished filming a couple of indie projects that are now in post-production.
SM: What shows are you watching at the moment? Are you a binge watcher or do you like to space out your shows a little bit more?
CR: Oh, there are so many! I’m a binge watcher of certain shows, especially comedies. For example – I watched the new season of Santa Clarita Diet in 2 days – couldn’t stop. For dramas, I’m happy to watch once a week. My tastes are quite diverse – The Handmaid’s Tale, The Crown, Black-ish, Silicon Valley, Game of Thrones, This Is Us, The Good Place, plus I enjoy some of the singing/dancing competition shows and game shows. I absolutely love television.
SM: Who are your inspirations both in and outside the industry?
CR: Within the industry, I admire the work Ryan Murphy has done, and continues to do, in TV. I have great respect for Joe Mantello’s incredible successes on Broadway, and I’ve always had my eye on David Hyde Pierce’s career trajectory. Outside the industry, my biggest inspiration was my high school drama teacher, Pat Kautter. Pat just passed away this week, actually. I’ve found comfort in my memories of how she encouraged me, believed in my talent, and provided a beautiful example of how to live your life as an artist. She was a very special person.
Thanks so much to Colby Ryan to taking time to answer our questions, check out Grosse Misconduct either on their website (here) or on the Grosse Misconduct YouTube channel. Check out Colby on his website (here) or on social media: Twitter and Instagram