Ryan J. Francis has spent over thirty-five years in the entertainment industry as an actor, producer, director, and writer.
He is best known for his role as young Peter Pan in Steven Spielberg's Hook, as well as his six-years as a series regular in NBC’s Sisters. He recently wrapped up work as a lead in the indie horror Stay Out of the F**king Attic for Top Dead Center Films and is continuing work on the cannabis comedy pilot Green Valley, which he wrote, directed, and produced.
We recently caught up with him to discuss growing up in the industry, his career, and upcoming projects.
Maggie Lovitt (ML): For the past ten years, you've been working on your writing and directing career, and you recently signed with Citizen Skull Productions Management. What was it about Hell on the Border that got you back into acting?
Ryan J. Francis (RJF): I always wanted to do a western! So traveling to Alabama, getting into all the western garb, and being on set with all those awesome actors really got me fired up.
ML: You've been in the industry as an actor, director, and writer since you were a kid, what has it been like getting back into the acting side again? What has changed? Are there new challenges?
RJF: Well, I never really left acting. I was still working on projects that I had close connections to. Projects I had worked on with the writer, directors, or producers before. I just stopped auditioning, which obviously limited the opportunities I had. I've found that not much has changed to be quite honest, just that there are more self-tapes. But the business is relatively the same. We still need to be prepared and still need to have the right representation to get you into the room.
ML: You probably get this question a lot, but what was it like growing up as a child actor?
RJF: A dream. It's all I ever wanted to do since I was three years old. I was fortunate enough to have been discovered at the age of 6 at my mom's clothing shop. I've managed to have never had to get another job outside of the industry since.
ML: Going off that, do you have any advice for someone who might want to get their child involved in the industry?
RJF: Just make sure it's what they want to do and not what you want to do. Be sure they can handle lots of rejection and take direction well. Also, be sure you, as a parent or guardian, are prepared for the time commitment.
ML: You voiced several characters in Hitman: Absolution, are you a gamer? If so, have you played any new games lately?
RJF: I've been a gamer since Coleco Vision. And I've had nearly every gaming system since, from Atari to Nintendo to PlayStation. I was never very fond of Xbox; to be honest. I have loved all the Grand Theft Auto games, and I am currently obsessed with Red Dead Redemption. I am nearly 90% complete.
ML: How are you keeping busy during COVID-19? Are you working on writing anything new? Binging anything while you're stuck at home?
RJF: I am currently writing two scripts with my writing partners Jesse Friedman and Jerren Lauder. One is a female-driven action/drama film, and the other is a western. I love love love Succession on HBO. Blew through the 20 episodes last week, and I'm frothing for more.
ML: What inspired you to step behind the camera and start directing?
RJF: It's just always been a goal of mine. It's what I've always wanted to do. Acting was just my foot in the door. It's not like they were going to let a six-year-old direct.
ML: Is there anyone you would love to work with? Either as an actor or a director.
RJF: I've always wanted to work with Quentin Tarantino, David Fincher, Kathryn Bigelow, RJ Coogler, and Christopher Nolan, to name a few. And I've always wanted to act with Johnny Depp, Regina King, Idris Elba, Brad Pitt, Chadwick Boseman, Charlize Theron, Tom Hardy… I could go on for a while.
ML: Which is harder to tackle? Acting, writing, or directing?
RJF: I would say directing has the most responsibilities. They are usually the first to set and last to leave. Acting is certainly the most fun. Writing can be laborious, but very rewarding when you see it brought to life.
ML: You're also an accomplished athlete. Aside from basketball, soccer, and football, you also have a belt buckle from a rodeo? I am very interested in hearing about how you got into rodeo.
RJF: Really just by chance. Both my parents were owners of horses and rode a lot. So I grew up riding. And then I did a celebrity rodeo in North Carolina and did very well. And got roped in after that. Pun intended.
ML: Are there any movies that have really inspired you lately?
RJF: The ones I've worked on. Nothing is more inspiring than being on set watching it all happen, and being a part of it.
ML: People really seem to enjoy hearing about what goes on behind the scenes on a film set. Do you have any memories that really stand out from a set you've been on?
RJF: Ha! Behind the scenes is boring. You're just sitting around waiting for your turn. The fun part is when you're up to bat. That and the off days when you're hanging out and getting twisted with your co-stars.
ML: You've worked with some incredible talent over the years, what's the best piece of advice that's been imparted to you?
RJF: Robin Williams told me to stay focused and humble.
ML: I've got to ask; you worked with the legends Steven Spielberg, Robin Williams, and Dustin Hoffman in Hook, do you have any favorite memories with them?
RJF: Meeting and working with Robin was a gift. One of the nicest, most talented people to ever work in our industry. The man was one of the best comedians who won an Oscar for a dramatic role. My memories of spending time with him off set and talking about life, baseball, and girls, was something I'll never forget.
ML: I always joke that I got into acting because I love a good catered meal on set. What has been one of your favorite meals on set?
RJF: Man, on the big-budget movies, it's friggin gourmet! One of the tastiest things I had was this stuffed vegan eggplant. And some of the breakfast burritos I've had are you super delicious.
ML: What is one thing you have to have at crafty?
RJF: Kit Kat. Definitely Kit Kat.
ML: Speaking of getting the munchies, how are things going with Green Valley? You shot the pilot in 2018. Do you have plans for more episodes?
RJF: I can't talk too much about that as I have a few things pending. But that is the goal!
ML: Stay Out of the F**king Attic is in post-production. What's next for you?
RJF: I play a hilariously deranged character in the feature film Stark Knob which I am also executive producing. We will begin shooting in Nashville as soon as we can. That will be followed up by the yet-untitled female action drama and then the western. I also just developed my first piece of commercial real estate, and I'm looking to acquire more.