Acting newcomer Ryan Pierce claims to “not really be an actorly actor” and with that in mind we stumbled along with many great laughs and detours during our conversation. I managed to pin him down with a few questions, and Ryan earned a gold star for his answers about both his time with Aberdeen and Kilmarnock in the Scottish Premiere League and his transition to acting in CBC’s 21 Thunder.
You bridged two worlds, the world of professional soccer and acting with your character Davey Gunn. What have you been doing since filming to continue that process?
Ryan Pierce: My main project is myself right now. I took some time out to do some travelling, and some soul searching. I have only just recently gotten back into things. I took a couple of commercials this last month, but apart from that theatrically, I have just been interested to see how this show [21 Thunder] went. I guess I have been working on furthering my career internally, to see if this is the path that I should be on.
When coming from playing soccer to becoming an actor and playing a soccer player, that is a very different transition but is something that I definitely connect to and I can see a future in. But I am just taking my time. I have adopted the mantra from The Tortoise and the Hare and just taking my time.
You have travelled a unique path to get to where you are today. Can you share a bit about this journey?
This is definitely an area that I have been into for some time now; preconditioning, and why you are the way you are. But I got to the point where I had to choose between being a soccer player and continuing my education. My dad was a former professional soccer player as was my uncle. My mum wanted me to stay on in school but my dad had this dream for me and was also my coach from when I was very young. I guess I was his project and I wasn’t very big on school. I was happy to make the jump and move to Aberdeen, which was three hours from my home in Glasgow, and live there. But my parents were very supportive. For me, it wasn’t so much about playing soccer as it was about leaving school. I guess the rest is history. Soccer was very up and down for me personally, but the experience made me who I am now and I can reflect upon that and use that as a way to grow. These hardships that I put myself through because we all put ourselves through all of these things, I have managed to learn a lot about myself, so I can only be thankful for all of these experiences that I have had in the past.
Your character, Davey Gunn, has had a life of privilege having played professional soccer, and he is now having to carve out a new niche for himself in both a new country and in a new role as a coach, something very you yourself are also doing with your own transition. Can you tell me a bit about that process for Davey?
I guess with Davey, being such a high profile and successful soccer player with a lot of baggage, he is a protagonist with soccer in his blood. I guess the transition is easier for him going from soccer player to soccer coach, than for me to an actor. I mean Davey and I, we are the same people basically. We are so so different and yet we are so similar at the same time. I have had my troubles off the fields as has Davey, as you will see throughout the show. But Davey has a god complex and being this public figure for such a long period of time because being a soccer player, you leave school, especially in Britain where you leave at a young age, and you are thrown all of this money. It must be very easy to feel this superiority. And then coming over to MLS, and not to do a disservice, but a lot of professionals from the past and present have came, as they wind down their careers, for the lifestyle and the weather. Davey kind of hopes that this is a way for a fresh start for himself. But obviously having to coach the under-21’s is a bit of a pain for him. And for being such an animated character on the field and off the field I think that ultimately it is an easy transition for Davey Gunn because it [soccer] is his life and has only ever been his life. It is life outside of soccer that catches up with him, and this is where you will see his life kind of unfold.
I have to ask. How much of what goes on in 21 Thunder representative of what life is like in a professional soccer league?
Well in terms of Andres Joseph’s character Alex, being transferred when his life is so intertwined with this club, these things happen all the time. People signing a three-year contract, and then all of a sudden the manager doesn’t like them as a football player, or in perhaps as in many cases, as a person, because it can be so personal, your life can just be uprooted out of nowhere and you have to start again. So all of these issues that they are going through are real because they are human beings who deal with real problems.
In the case of match fixing, that is, unfortunately, a thing in the world of soccer. All of these things that are happening in the show in some way shape or form are all there or are at least relatable to real life outside of the show. I am sure a lot of players out there have a lot of demons.
There is a player in the UK by the name of Joey Barton and I think he was banned or suspended for betting on games. He was not fixing games but he was betting on games. There were claims he had some sort of information about certain players being unavailable for matches or what not.
But back to your question which was about how much of the TV show is basically legit and along the same story lines off the field, I would say that they are all very similar.
Finally, I am curious about this on screen relationship between Davy Gunn and Grace Cook.
That is a fun one! I [Davey] just understand her. For me as a person, I am familiar with that character and the hard mum. The parent being hard on her daughter. I can see through it and I can see the psychology of the situation. I can relate. She likes a bit of alcohol, I like a bit of alcohol.
My thanks to Ryan for taking some time away from his stroll on Venice Beach to have a chat with me. Slàinte!
21 Thunder airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on CBC.