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Jay Ryan Biography

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Birth Name: Jay Ryan

Jay Ryan was born Jay Bunyan in Auckland, New Zealand on Aug. 29, 1981. A hyperactive child, Ryan's parents encouraged him to try theater at a young age as a way of channeling his energy. He also gained some early acting experience while working as a clown who entertained children at parties. By his late teens, Ryan had caught the interest of casting directors and began to amass a solid list of television credits. The incredible scenery of New Zealand was utilized by the producers of the American TV series "Xena: Warrior Princess" (syndicated, 1995-2001) and "Young Hercules" (syndicated, 1998-99), and Ryan made his first TV appearances on those period fantasy adventure programs. Americans who did not see him in those assignments also had a chance to catch Ryan via his role on the New Zealand teen dramedy "Being Eve" (TV3, 2001-02), which aired in the United States on Nickelodeon, or in the TV-movie "Superfire" (ABC, 2002).

However, it was in Australia where Ryan first made his name, thanks to his run as a cast member of the popular long-running soap opera "Neighbours" (Seven Network/Network Ten/Eleven, 1985- ). Syndicated to several countries, "Neighbours" proved to be especially popular in England. During this period, he stopped using his birth name and switched to Jay Ryan, which was how he was billed on the Australian series "Sea Patrol" (Nine Network, 2007-2011) where he played Seaman Billy "Spider" Webb. His television fame was further solidified by the successful Australian comedy/drama "Go Girls" (TVNZ, 2009- ).

In addition to his television work, Ryan continued to act on the stage, appearing at the University of Auckland's Maidment Theatre in such productions as "Still Speeding" and "Legacy," and in an Auckland Theatre Company staging of "A Streetcar Named Desire" under the direction of ATC founder, Simon Prast. He was also a cast member of John Cleese's comedy show "Seven Ways to Skin an Ocelot" and enjoyed a star turn in Dianna Fuemana's play "The Packer," which was first performed in Sydney and then again at the Hollywood Fringe Festival in 2010. His profile in the United States was further increased by his appearances on the Steven Spielberg-produced sci-fi program "Terra Nova" (Fox, 2011). Like many performers of Kiwi, Australian or British heritage, Ryan demonstrated that he was able to affect a perfectly convincing American accent when called upon to do so.

While in Hollywood, Ryan tested for a role in the romantic feature comedy "Something Borrowed" (2011). He failed to land the job, but his audition tape made the rounds and was instrumental in him being cast on a new television incarnation of "Beauty and the Beast." The 1980s version (CBS, 1987-1990) developed a loyal cult following, based in part on star Ron Perlman's ability to convey strong emotion and passion under a heavy make-up job that obscured everything but his eyes. When early publicity photos suggested that the young and unusually handsome Ryan would only sport some facial scars on the new show, there was an outcry from some diehard fans who decried that hardly made him a "beast." However, later episodes revealed a transformation that was more extensive.

On the CW series, Ryan played Dr. Vincent Keller, whose beastly alter-ego was the result of a military experiment designed to create a new breed of supersoldiers. When the program ended in disaster, the other subjects were eradicated as part of a lethal government cover-up, but Ryan escaped to New York City in search of a cure to the monstrous transformations that occurred whenever he was angered. Kristin Kreuk supplied the other half of the romantic duo as a detective who aided Vincent in his quest. In addition to his duties on "Beauty and the Beast," Ryan also appeared alongside Holly Hunter in the seven-part dramatic miniseries "Top of the Lake" (Sundance Channel, 2013), a U.K./Australia co-production directed by Jane Campion and Garth Davis.

By John Charles