From Broadway to the UK- with Ryan Watkinson

Ryan WatkinsonWhat has been the coolest thing about living in London?

RW: The history is amazing. Studying acting in the city where Shakespeare created his work, seeing performances at The Globe—it's like a glimpse into the past.

How did your time at Penn State shape who you are?

RW: There are so many programs that try to put you in a box. Penn State gave me time to figure out who I was, to try everything. Versatility is key in this business. You have to be able to adapt and be up for anything. From Xanadu, where I was wearing a dress, to Hair, where I was wearing nothing, I was ready to take on the challenge.

I am also incredibly grateful for the community at Penn State. You have the rest of your career to be competitive, but at Penn State you are building an ensemble, a team of people you can depend on.

Why did you choose to attend Penn State?

RW: I loved the small class sizes. Being in a class of 11 was incredibly appealing to me. It’s not possible to get lost in the shuffle. I felt incredibly close to my faculty. They were there every step of the way, for each of our individual journeys. If you got off track, they were there to guide you. That doesn’t happen in a class of 50.

What do you believe is the secret to a successful career?

RW: Everyone likes to work with people they enjoy, people that work hard. You don’t have to try and be someone else. There will always be someone who can act the scene better than you, sing it better than you, dance it better, but if a director can get a sense of who YOU are, and they know they can count on you... You’re talking eight shows a week—they need someone they can depend on.

Any advice for when you’re in the audition room?

RW: Confidence is everything. Casting directors want YOU to be the person they will hire. If you don’t go in believing in yourself, or at least faking it, they don’t have time to boost you up. Have fun. Ask yourself, “If I was a director, what kind of energy would I want in the room?” Probably not the person who is rigid and trying to get every line right, but rather, someone who will enjoy the work and work hard. Allow space to breathe and to be present with them.

What would you tell your freshman self – or the incoming class of 2019?

RW: I was always so worried about being the best, wanted to get it right instantly, never allowed time for things to fall into place. My advice is to trust the faculty. They’ve guided so many students to lead incredible careers. It’s not going to happen overnight. Now I know to allow things to fall into place, day by day. Trust your work and that you’re doing the best you can at this moment. The work will pay off.

What gets you through tough times in your career?

RW: Believe that if you work hard enough, it will lead to something. No one has time to pick you back up; you have to do it for yourself. Go home and scream, but then get up and keep going. 

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