Ryan Reid is a professional actor and singer based in London.
His expertise in musical theatre has led him to be part of various shows, such as Blues In The Night, Puss In Boots, Shrek, In The Heights, and Dreamgirls at the Savoy Theatre, playing in theatres and touring the nation.
Now Ryan is making West End History as the first Black Fiyero in the hit musical Wicked which follows the origins of Glinda the Good Witch and Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West.
We spoke to Ryan Reid to find out more…
Please introduce yourself…
My Name is Ryan Reid. I am a 29-year-old black British Actor.
Please share a word or sentence which best describes your life right now.
Only Good Vibes Allowed…
You studied Musical Theatre at Arts Ed, what inspired you to go to drama school?
I had always been told by school teachers and youth theatre group teachers from a young age that if you wanted to get into the industry you had to go to drama school as that is where you will get an agent! I was fortunate enough to get a scholarship at Arts Ed, otherwise, my parents wouldn’t have been able to afford for me to go.
You were part of the swing team for In the Heights and also an understudy in Dreamgirls. How has being a part of the swing team and ensemble roles prepared you for taking on a lead role?
Being a Cover and Swing definitely prepared me for taking on a leading role. I think everyone should experience swinging or being an understudy as it teaches you first-hand that those roles are a MAJOR part of KEEPING the show running. It taught me what I was capable of and to trust my technique, as you have to be ready to jump into any role/track at any time.
With Ariana DeBose’s recent Oscar win, it seems people are finally waking up to the talent in ensembles, what are your hopes and dreams for your career?
My dream would be to be able to work across the board from theatre to television and film consistently. There is a stigma facing actors that do musical theatre when it comes to trying to break into TV and film. We are told we are “Too Musical Theatre” or “Too Big”. However, actors like Ariana Debose and Hannah Waddingham have shown that if we are given the chance we can show what is needed/asked of us, and even win major awards!
You are the first Black actor to play Fiyero in the London production of Wicked and it is your first major lead role, how does it feel?
I feel honoured and humbled to be cast as the first black actor to play this role in London, as I know what it means to other black performers and aspiring black performers. I know what it is like to be an aspiring black performer watching a show and actually feeling represented on stage and especially in musical theatre. I remember watching Memphis on Broadway and until that point I hadn’t personally seen that number of black performers dancing the way they did with such technique and raw emotion! After seeing that show I felt like I could actually do this as a career and it gave me a new drive which I took into my training and has stayed with me after graduating.
What drew you to the role of Fiyero?
I knew that Fiyero was a pretty iconic part in musical theatre as the show has been running in the West End for over 15 years, so that was definitely a draw, to begin with. Another draw was that Fiyero is a Prince (Royalty) and the part is not race-specific in the script. As a black actor, it’s refreshing to play roles that aren’t race-specific in musical theatre and also to be playing a high-status character that doesn’t have any negative cultural associations.
What did you find most difficult about portraying Fiyero?
Fiyero in Act 1 is very rebellious and carefree which is really fun to play but different to me personally.
What would your dream role be?
I would love to create my own dream role, be that in a musical, theatre, TV or film! If it was a TV role I would love to do what Kerry Washington did with Scandal or what Viola Davis did with How to Get Away With Murder. Can you tell I would like to work with Shonda Rhimes?!
What artists do you look up to/inspire you?
I have so many artists that I look up to and who inspire me..! I really admire Sharon D Clarke whom I have been lucky enough to work with a fair few times. I love how she shaped her career through many different roles and has managed to work consistently in theatre, radio, and television while not being limited to just one. I am also inspired by the life of Andre Leon Talley – the fashion journalist, Stylist, Editor and Chief of Vogue. He was incredibly clever, loved his work and the artistry of it and left behind an incredible legacy. He was a trailblazer in his creative industry and a lot can be learnt from his legacy.
The world and skills of musical theatre are so diverse, despite the variety of disciplines, is there a particular theme or idea, or desire that drives the work you pursue?
Having trained in the three disciplines of musical theatre (Acting, Singing, and Dancing), I would like to try and use all three of these disciplines in my career. However, I don’t mean always having to use them all at the same time. I want to keep learning about my craft throughout my career. I have found that the saying “you learn on the job” is very true and I think it is exciting that you never stop learning. Recently I have also followed the mantra of “if it scares me I should probably do it!” That goes for life as well as my career!
GETTING TO KNOW YOU…
A book you have to have in your collection? I love autobiographies so either Becoming by Michelle Obama, or In the Chiffon Trenches by Andre Leon Talley.
A song/album that defines the soundtrack of your life to date? Oh, that’s hard, to be honest, that changes all the time! I match my Apple Music playlist with my mood day-to-day!!
A Film / TV show that you can watch/have watched repeatedly? I could watch Sister Act 2 on repeat, I probably know all the lines. It is such a classic, my Nan bought it for me at a car boot sale on VHS (showing my age) and I still have it! I also love to watch Family Guy to wind down after a show.
The first stage production you saw and what it meant to you (play, dance or concert)? I can’t remember the very first production I saw but my family would take me to the Wimbledon and Croydon every year, which was always a festive treat and something I always looked forward to. I remember that from the age of 9 or 10 I would go and see a musical every year for my birthday, and that was when my love of musical theatre started. I particularly remember seeing The Lion King and being sat in an aisle seat in the stalls… (No spoilers)!
What’s made you sad, mad, and glad this week? Any kind of Injustice in the world makes me sad and mad. Seeing and sharing time with my friends and family makes me glad. The pandemic reaffirmed how incredible my loved ones are!!
WICKED is playing at The Apollo Victoria Theatre, London, tickets are available at www.WickedtheMusical.co.uk