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Past/Present/Future for … Lee Ryan

Singer, songwriter, actor and filmmaker Lee Ryan is best known as a former member of the boy band Blue. Since leaving the band, he’s launched a solo pop career and has also turned his hand to cooking in Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen, acted alongside Sadie Frost and Christopher Lee in the upcoming film The Heavy and written his own screenplay which begins shooting in Italy next year. This month, he gets ready to make his stage debut in brand new straight play The Pretender Agenda at the West End’s New Players Theatre.

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PAST: Being in Blue was a case of being in the right place at the right time with the right attitude and devotion. Sometimes with things like that, you just sort of count your lucky stars for whatever comes along. We all still talk and everyone is doing great. Everyone is just happy doing their own thing. I’ve never ruled out a reunion. I have said before that maybe it wouldn’t be a good idea or maybe it would. You go through different stages. When something comes up that is a legitimate offer, I’ll think about it. Until then, I’m happy to just carry on doing what I’m doing.

I have a reputation for being a wild child. I think being a wild child is better than being boring, isn’t it? I’ve always been known to be a bit outspoken and to not really conform to the world of “I am a celebrity, I love everyone”. There are a lot of idiots in this industry. Not just people that are in front of the camera, but people behind the camera as well. You have to be yourself and treat everyone with the same respect you would like to be treated with. People don’t like anything a bit outside of the box, I suppose. That’s just human nature.

I went to drama school and I thought it was the most amazing experience. Even if you don’t want to be in theatre, it’s still a great thing to do. It’s great for your confidence and you can take that confidence into any situation in life.

PRESENT: I think The Pretender Agenda is like a crossover between Friends and The Office. It’s about a group of people who all work together. They meet up out of work, and through the night, things happen. Relationships go sour, and at the end of it, it all crumbles and goes wrong. It’s a different challenge for me, but it’s always good to put yourself out of your comfort zone and adapt. It’s great for me to be trying different avenues in my career.

Even before I read the play, I really wanted to do a part in the West End. I’ve been offered a few musicals because of my connection to music. I think people would assume I would go straight into a musical rather than a straight play. I did audition for a few and I did really well. I got offered a few parts, I won’t say which ones, but I thought about it and I wanted to do something that was just totally acting instead of combining it with singing. I wanted to keep it separate for now.

I’ve just finished a film which is coming out in two months and I’m going to be doing some other films as well, but I wanted to do something in theatre because it’s so different from film and I wanted to learn.

That’s when The Pretender Agenda came up and I met Christoper Manoe, who is the writer and director. I sat down and talked to him and explained to him what I wanted to achieve from theatre. I read the script and I thought it was a great part for my debut in the West End. The character, Stuart, is an Essex boy, he’s quite ambitious and young and he has a nervous energy about him that I like. He has a few little quick-witted lines that are chucked into the play, and I kind of like that because there’s a bit of comical relief. There are loads of really funny little quips. But I don’t want to give too much away, you’ll have to come and see it. It isn’t too serious or demanding for my first West End role.

Everyone in the cast is really cool and they help me a lot. It’s lovely to be with such great people. During rehearsals, we found out that there is a ghost in the New Players theatre. I think I’ll ghost-hunting later and see if I can find it. It could cue me if I forget my lines on stage.

FUTURE: Straight after I finish The Pretender Agenda, I’m going to America to shoot a movie with Milla Jovovich and Harry Connick Jr. I think it’ll be a great experience. I love film. I also like writing. I have a few scripts that I’m working on myself. I have got a film coming out in September which is exciting. It’s called The Heavy and is written and directed by Marcus Warren. Gary Stretch plays the main part, and it also features Christopher Lee, Shannyn Sossamon, Stephen Rea, Vinnie Jones, and Sadie Frost, so it was really interesting to work on that.

I would love to do more theatre in future. It keeps your wits sharpened. Actually, I have already got something coming up. It’s a production that I’m putting together myself, it’s going to be fantastic. It’s not a musical either. Music is always going to be there. The thing is, I am still only 25 and, as my mum always says, the world is your oyster. You might as well just test the waters.

I’m doing another film next year called The Orange Tree, which we’re shooting in Italy. It’s an Italian love story. It is so beautiful, with a very sad ending. I am so happy with it. I actually wrote it with a lady called Kelly Marcel. She’s an absolute genius at what she does and she’s a good friend of mine. She also worked on The Heavy and will be doing a new TV series that’s coming out next year called Candy Chops, which I’m acting in as well. I am still doing my music, but the fact is that the acting is going so well and I’m really enjoying it so I might as well just carry on with it for now.

- Lee Ryan was talking to Kate Jackson

The Pretender Agenda, which is written and directed by Chrisopher Manoe, opens on 28 August 2008 (previews from 26 August) at the New Players Theatre, where it continues until 27 September 2008. The cast also features Emily Aston, Lucy Benjamin, Sue Devaney, Scott Hinds, Ben Jones and Vincenzo Pellegrino.


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