HitFix Interview: Ryan Hansen talks 'Rockville CA,' 'Party Down' and 'Gossip Girl'
The busy 'Veronica Mars' veteran proves there's more than one way to play unsavory
He may, in fact, be the industry's most prolific depicter of the species.
Best known as the lovably hatable, rarely redeemable Dick Casablancas on "Veronica Mars," Hansen is having a season to remember.
The 27-year-old actor began his spring with a turn in "Friday the 13th." Not to spoil anything, but characters like the sort Hansen specializes in rarely last long in slasher movies.
Hansen has a lower mortality rate on the small screen, where he actually seems to be multiplying. He can currently be seen on TheWB.com's Josh Schwartz-created "Rockville CA" playing Chambers, a musician and spoiled gadfly so unseemly his actual name has been replaced with the sobriquet The Douche. Simultaneously, he's co-staring as aspiring actor, relentless networker and occasional douche Kyle on Starz' "Party Down," one of the year's best new comedies.
Friday (May 8) is the season's third-to-last episode of "Party Down," while "Rockville CA" completes its first season next Tuesday. As if that isn't enough, Hansen appears on Monday's "Gossip Girl," which serves as a backdoor pilot for a possible spinoff series. We know very little about his character, but you get know points for guessing that the guy may possibly have douche-y tendencies.
With all of that on his plate, Hansen and I had plenty to talk about...
[Extended Q&A, covering "Rockville CA," "Party Down," "Gossip Girl" and various gradations of douchiness after the break...]
HitFix: So I'm not crazy, right? You're pretty much everywhere right now.
Ryan Hansen: That is just you. No, I've been very lucky this year to be working on all sorts of media, on the web, on Starz, in movies and stuff. It's been great.
HitFix: Is this one of those things where you were working steadily on things and it's all snowballing now, or have you been doing two or three things at once?
RH: Kinda both, actually. A few things I started last year happened to come out all around the same time, but a couple of them piled up on each other. Like "Rockville," I was finished and then a day later I started on "Party Down" and then those came out at the same time.
HitFix: When you get scripts, do you even pay attention anymore to whether they're web-based or cable or network or movies?
RH: When stuff is sent to me, I usually check to see if it's going to be a feature or a show, especially where it shoots, because a lot of times it's going to be a crazy location. But as far as what it is, sometimes it doesn't even matter, it's more who's attached to it or who's doing it. If you know it's going to be a good product, it doesn't even matter what it is anymore. I feel like you can do TV still and movies. A while ago, it was like you were either one or the other and now everyone's doing everything. It's kinda fun.
HitFix: When you look at all of the things you've had coming out this spring, are you able to stand back and view this as potentially a pivotal time in your career?
RH: A little bit. It feels like a pivotal time, but at the same time, it feels like it's just steady work, which is kind of the goal for me. It's not like, "This time, I'm gonna be a star!" It's nothing like that, but it's awesome that to keep doing this work, so I'll keep doing more work. That's what it feels like to me, that getting more work and wanting to get more work gets more work. I don't made if that makes any sense...
HitFix: Absolutely. So are you feeling like the last month or two have brought more things in your direction?
RH: It does feel that way, yeah. It feels like I'm starting to get to know a lot more people and the more you work, the smaller this town gets. I know people say that, but it's true, because everyone works with everyone. When you work with people and you get along with them and you create these relationships and they keep wanting to work with you, that's the fun part too, because then they become your friends and you just want to work with your friends. That's what I feel like.
HitFix: With so many things to discuss, I feel like I have to take everything one-at-a-time. So what drew you to "Rockville" in the first place?
RH: For sure it was that Josh Schwartz was doing it. I'd seen some of the stuff he'd done. I'd never been like a huge fan, well, I'd never followed it so closely, every week watching "The O.C." or "Gossip Girl" or "Chuck," but I'd seen them and the style of it. So knowing that Schwartz was doing it and the fact that it was about music and a new outlet for bands to promote themselves and be seen that way, I thought that was a really badass idea. And the character, I read the script and it was so funny and so weird and knew I could have a lot of fun with that. It was a new thing, this really good webseries. I'd seen some webseries and they were kinda crappy, you know? But this, knowing Schwartz was going to do it, I thought it'd be kinda cool to have a really good webseries.
HitFix: Within three pages, everybody's calling your character The Douche. Does that make your job easier, having that sort of core idea of who the character is?
RH: Yeah. Being labeled "The Douche" and the character knowing that he's The Douche, it opens it up so that you can do anything weird and it's fine, because, "Eh, he's just The Douche." That makes it a lot of fun, a lot of goofing of on my part, for sure.
HitFix: There's so much we don't know about Chambers. Does he actually own part of the club? Where does his money come from? What does he do with his days?
RH: I think we know that he does own part of it, that his dad is a big deal, like a big record producer guy. He and Shawn, I guess she used to babysit him back in the day and so he gets a little piece of it. His dad probably bought some of it for him or invested in it for him, or maybe his dad even really owns and not him, but it's in the family. He's a privileged kid who's just a goof-off and wants to be LA Socialite Guy in a band and thinks he's a little rock star.
HitFix: This guy and your character on "Party Down," how much are they based on people you've seen or met or been friends with over the years?
RH: I went to this little party last night in Los Angeles and I saw plenty of my characters. I'm not judging anyone, I'm just saying that people are funny and take themselves a little too seriously and there's a lot of these characters in Los Angeles. They mean well, I'm sure. They're just kinda douche-y. I'm not judging, just observing. Everyone's gotta have their douche-y time, I guess, until they figure it out. But yeah, there's a lot of people I've met in Los Angeles who are exactly like both of these characters, some of them combined.
HitFix: So do you view yourself as playing an extreme version of those kinds of people or is this just what some people are like?
RH: Yeah, I think of it as definitely like a cartoon of these people. There are some people who are exactly like this, but for the most part, it's a cartoon of the Los Angeles wannabe.
HitFix: When you look at Chambers, when you look at your "Party Down" character, when you look at your "Veronica Mars" character, how do you view the gradations of douch-y-ness? The seem like they could be brothers, but they're not the same person...
RH: Yeah, totally. I think it has a lot to do with the writing of the character and the background character. I try to switch it up a little bit, hopefully. Each of them has their own funny quirks and all that good stuff and different qualities and things you hate differently about each of them, but hey, I play a good dick, I guess.
HitFix: I guess I have to ask... What do you think it says about the vibe you give off when you go to an audition and do you take it as a compliment that casting directors see you this way?
RH: I do take it as a compliment, because I think I go in there being a very nice gentleman, as I like to be, and then I get into character and get to be a complete dick and a jerk and hopefully they can see like, "Oh, he's acting! He's not really that guy." Hopefully. I don't know. But I've made a lot of friends at being a dick in the casting room.
HitFix: Has it colored the way people view you when they first meet you?
RH: Yeah, a lot of people are taken aback when they introduce themselves or we meet and they'll say later, "Wow. You're kinda a nice guy. You're not really a douchebag." But that's a good thing, I think. Right?
HitFix: Do you have a secret desire to play the Nice Guy at some point?
RH: No way! What's the fun in that?
HitFix: Going back to "Rockville," as a webseries, did it feel notably more limited in production scope?
RH: It actually felt like we were making an indie film or something like that, because we shot all of them out-of-sequence and we shot 20 episodes. It was cool, because because we had a lot of freedom with it. We didn't have a studio breathing down our back or anything. Josh was there a lot just helping us be creative and the director, Norm [Buckley] was awesome letting us see what worked. It felt really good. Getting to interact with the bands was a blast. They're all so cool and a lot of them had never really done anything like that either, not that they had to act or anything.
HitFix: What percentage of the acts on the show did you know beforehand?
RH: I probably knew maybe 40 percent of the acts and the other percentage, I'm a big fan of now. I'm a big fan of White Lies for sure, they became pretty awesome. Passion Pit, I love them. Frightened Rabbit... Anya Marina, I'd heard of before, because she's from San Diego, but I'd never really heard her stuff, so she became one of my favorites and she's beautiful and funny and so cool.
HitFix: So how was production different on "Party Down"? What was the different feeling of doing a show for Starz?
RH: Being able to work with this cast and the group of writers and producers was a dream come true. I don't want to sound dumb, but it's coolest cast. Everyone is so awesome and so thankfully to be working together, so the vibe on set was amazing, with everyone just goofing off. Ken Marino is the funniest person in the world and Jane Lynch and everyone... Adam Scott and Martin Starr... I'm gonna say all of them... Lizzy Caplan. We all became pals and everyone's just making each other laugh the whole day. Plus, we only shot four days out of the week, we had nice long weekends, so no one was really overworked and we had pretty great hours. It was a blast.
HitFix: And you got to do plenty of improv?
RH: Totally. Martin Starr, especially, is hilarious and so good at improv. Everyone is. I feel like I've learned a lot working with this group. Tons of improv. A lot of stuff we try doesn't even fit, which frustrating, but at the same time probably good, because a lot of the improv's really weird, but really funny. The editors and stuff, they know what works. The writing is already amazing, so getting to work off of that is awesome.
HitFix: When you say the improv gets "weird" does that just mean R-rated?
RH: Yeah. Language and dirty things at all times and being as gross as you can be, all of that stuff. Being on Starz, we were able to do that and it makes it really fun and also real. That's how real people talk.
HitFix: When you were new to Los Angeles and trying to make it as an actor, what jobs did you have to make ends meet?
RH: In LA, I worked as a bagger at a Ralphs for about two weeks. And I said, "I just can't do that." Not that it's a bad job. I would put the bread down and then the cans down on the bread, so I got fired. Or I just left. I'm not really sure which one happened. Then I worked at the Hard Rock Cafe. I wasn't a waiter. I worked at the merch counter, so I would sell t-shirts and pins and that was pretty gnarly. And I also worked as a clothing company rep and I'd go around and sell t-shirts and all that stuff for a company called Jedidiah and that was good, because I got to make my own hours so that I could go on auditions and stuff.
HitFix: The "Party Down" finale leaves plenty of room for another season. What are you guys hearing?
RH: I have heard really great thing and I've heard almost a definite Yes on the possibility of another season. I think they're just trying to work out dates and stuff, so I'm very excited."
HitFix: And on to Show #3, what's the story with your character on the "Gossip Girl" backdoor pilot?
RH: His name's Shep. I think the full name's "Walter Shepherd" or something like that. I play an '80s rocker guy in the Valley, kind of a scenester in '83 or '84, kinda into punk, a little New Wave. He has a band as well and I think they're pretty badass. And he is in love with Lily's sister Carol, who's played by Krysten Ritter. And it's another great cast. I got to see it last night and it's pretty awesome.
HitFix: That makes three straight characters with musical ambitions. Do you have any yourself?
RH: I grew up doing musical theater and church choir and plays, so as far as singing and a little bit of dancing? Yes. As far as actually being a real rocker? Complete poser. Yeah. I can play Guitar Hero, most of the songs on Medium and some of the songs on Hard. No Expert.
HitFix: And what is the future for that character if the backdoor pilot goes to series?
RH: I'm not sure yet. I think they're still trying to work that out and hopefully everything works out with "Party Down," but I don't we know know yet.
HitFix: And what about another season of "Rockville"?
RH: I've heard they want to do another one, but I think that was all rumor. I would totally do it, though.
HitFix: Sounds like a lot of uncertainty and just a bit of chaos. Do you thrive off of this way of working?
RH: I think it's nice having a steady job, but, at the same time, it's so fun being able to jump into different groups and different grooves. It's really exciting! Though there is something nice about knowing you have a job for a while, but then you hear about the people who complain so much about that, that they're stuck on a show. But isn't that kinda the goal, to be stuck on a show? I don't know. Maybe it's some people's goal.
"Party Down" airs Friday nights at 10:30 p.m. on Starz.
Hansen's episode of "Gossip Girl" airs on The CW on Monday, May 11.
"Rockville CA" has its finale on TheWB.com on Tuesday, May 12.
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