The writer, actor and producer, Ryan Walker-Edwards, talks to us about his latest project, Boys Who Cry
Ryan describes himself as a normal guy from Brum. Hardly! Appearances in the Archers, Line of Duty, Doctors, Bfi short films among other projects – not to mention co-founding an electronic music platform – is not our idea of normal. Ryan has also been picked as one of only 11 budding writers out of 750 applicants for the Sky Comedy Rep scheme – a partnership between Birmingham Rep and Sky Studios to discover and nurture new regional comedy talent from across the UK.
Ryan cut it fine, applying to the scheme just the day before the deadline. The application process entailed the submission of a one-act play set around the simple premise of a meeting on a park bench. The successful writers are at the business end of a six-month paid programme of workshops and mentoring to develop their stories ready for performance at the three-day Sky Comedy Rep Festival at the Rep.
Anil Gupta, creative director of comedy at Sky Studios, said: “We were overwhelmed by the response to this scheme and the strength of talent we saw in the applications. We have found 11 truly exceptional writers who hail from all over the UK, and whose unique voices tap into the humour of where they are from. They have exciting futures ahead of them and Sky Studios are proud to be helping them on their path.” Mentors include Simon Blackwell, Danny Brocklehurst, Guz Khan, Meera Syal and Holly Walsh, among other big names. The patron of Sky Comedy Rep is Julie Walters.
Ryan’s story, Boys Who Cry, will be directed by Iqbal Khan and is set in Birmingham which was important to him and features four mates who’ve been friends since childhood. It’s about growing up, changing, moving away, coming home and the sort of shorthand way of communicating you only really have with lifelong friends or siblings. As the festival gets closer, Ryan is nervous but excited to see his work come alive and he’s been thrilled with the process and learned loads from his mentors. It’s a bit of a ‘pinch me’ moment.
Ryan’s first foray into acting was at a TV workshop at Mac mentored by Ross Simpson. Now living in London, Ryan loves coming home. On the difference between the two cities in terms of work, he says: “There’s a glass ceiling in Birmingham almost. You have to go out and forge opportunities. In London there’s more going on, so it enables you to dip your toes into different things.”
In March last year, Ryan starred in independent film Demon which premiered at the Cinequest Film Festival in the US. Directed by a school friend of Ryan, fellow Brummie George Louis Bartlett and co-written by Theo Macdonald, Demon tells the story of Ralph played by Ryan who flees London after an unpaid train fine comes back to haunt him and hides out in a forest motel which soon becomes a weird purgatory. The film’s small budget meant employing some creative filming techniques as well as being shot in black and white giving it a cool, edgy vibe. Also starring Jemma Redgrave, the Millennial Noir project was a no-brainer for Ryan.
ONE TO WATCH
When the pandemic struck, Ryan began writing and successfully had a short story called Safari commissioned for BBC Arts. Set in Brum, the drama highlights how race and class can be gatekeepers for understanding culture and is based on situations Ryan experienced growing up. You can find it on BBC Sounds.
It feels like there’s so much to come from Ryan both writing and acting and probably beyond. He’s determined and resourceful as well as obviously talented, so he feels fresh, exciting and definitely one of our Young, Gifted and Brummie interviewees to watch.