Tag Archives: Ryan Pierce

21 Thunder: Scoring a bit of a “tell all” with acting newcomer Ryan Pierce

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.


21 Thunder: Diversity

A “show about soccer,” they say. “Lots of sex and violence,” they say. OK, it is summertime and not much is going on. I will check it out. Admittedly, I know next to nothing about the game. I never played it in my youth. My kids never played soccer either; hockey and basketball were their choices. A lack of soccer in your life is fine because unless things change, the premiere episode of 21 Thunder on CBC actually showed much less soccer than it did the lives of the players involved with the franchise.

And this just may work. With the influx of new Canadians, and the popularity of players like Messi, Neymar and Agüero, soccer is gaining a strong foothold in the public’s consciousness—particularly our youth—and so what better foil to tell the story of diverse backgrounds than a football pitch? Toss in storylines that appeal to millennials, and we have 21 Thunder. CBC’s newest drama explores the diversity that is so prevalent in urban Canada through the storytelling of co-creators Riley Adams (Flashpoint), Kenneth Hirsch, and Adrian Wills.

The opening scenes in the premiere episode of CBC’s 21 Thunder  welcomed viewers to the Thunder family and introduce viewers to Christy Cook (Stephanie Bennett, The Romeo Section) turned coach, unwanted and ignored by the coaching staff but nonetheless slotted into the coaching team by upper management; Davey Gunn (Ryan Pierce/Ryan O’Leary, a former professional Scottish footballer) a soccer superstar on the run from his past; former gang member Nolan Gallard (RJ Fetherstonhaugh, Wayward Pines) struggling to resist his wayward habits of youth; Ivory Coast midfielder Junior Lolo (Emmanuel Kabongo, Hemlock Grove); and team captain, goalie and academic prodigy Alex el Haddadi (Andres Joseph, The Flash) who all play under the leadership of head coach  Albert Rocas (Conrad Pla, 19-2). They’re all part of the struggling U-21 Montreal Thunder soccer franchise. Yes, there are big egos here, but you just know that with hubris comes gigantic falls and that spells drama!

Following the introductions—as much backstory as you can cram into 15 mins—the pace quickened the moment Nolan ran into a former friend/gang member from his youth: “Special K” (Kyle Mac). The call of Nolan’s past rang deep and with barely a second thought he jumped headlong back into his criminal ways. Nolan followed Special K and the rest of the Point Soldiers as they tried to recoup their losses from a drug deal gone bad. The gig quickly went sideways and ended in bloodshed. Nolan narrowly escaped capture by the police—good thing he is such a fine soccer player! However, the Point Soldiers have Nolan’s participation recorded on video, and “K” found Nolan’s missing medallion which was lost at the scene of the crime. Seems our pretty boy Nolan has a whole lot of ugly coming down!

And just in case you didn’t think Nolan had enough going against him in this opening episode, we learned about his father, Declan Gallard (Colm Feore, whom I had the privilege to see play Romeo at Stratford in 1984!) currently serving time at the same facility where “Special K” served out his sentence. I suppose we have to wait to learn how far-reaching Declan’s past will interfere with his son’s future. Or in a twist, will Declan’s connections be what saves Nolan from his impulsiveness? In any case, Nolan’s play on the pitch was affected by his extra curriculars and the coaching staff took notice.

Other questions that remain as we await next week’s episode: how will Christy and her brother, Peter (Chris Cavener), manage to care for their ailing mother, and how will that affect Christy’s coaching responsibilities? How are Junior Lolo (Emmanuel Kabongo) and his younger brother coping as they adjust to life in Montreal? And how is Assistant Coach Davey Gunn going to influence all of the various players on the team as the season plays out?

Overall, I found this episode visually appealing, looking more akin to the productions we see coming from BBC. I was also reminded of the cult-favourite Dream Team, which appeared in the late 90s to 2006 on SKY; the football drama featured an underage team in the English Premiership, chockablock with crazy storylines, lots of sex and gratuitous violence. It remains to be seen if 21 Thunder intends to follow that same path, or if it will generate the same fan following that Dream Team did two decades ago.

A couple of little things did niggle at me. Coach Cook’s little “header hack” was a bit too amateur for pro soccer, and actor RJ Fetherstonaugh is just too pretty and clean to portray a former gang member—yes, I know, I am falling for the archetypes here. Both were distractions for me as I watched. However, those aside, I am very curious to see how the show evolves and I am quite interested to see how both newcomer Pierce and veteran Feore’s characters develop through the season.

What were your initial thoughts following tonight’s premiere? Let me know in the comments below!

21 Thunder airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on CBC.