Oklahoma native Ryan Merriman stays active with indie movies, TV hit “Pretty Little Liars,” home state appearances
From Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman.
Ryan Merriman staying busy with acting career
Choctaw native to help with fundraising efforts this weekend in OKC area
Whether playing a real-life football hero or a sinister charmer, Ryan Merriman enjoys frequent calls to action.
“It’s nice to have a little bit of action in your world. Sometimes us actors go a couple months without working, it gets a little crazy,” Merriman said in a recent phone interview from his home in Burbank, Calif. “It’s good to be busy.”
The Choctaw-born and bred actor, 27, recently won his first best actor award for the independent football film “The 5th Quarter,” has a recurring role in the popular teen drama “Pretty Little Liars” and is busily auditioning for TV parts as pilot season gears up. But he still makes frequent pilgrimages back to Oklahoma. and if he can help a good cause and nosh custom cupcakes during a homecoming jaunt, so much the better.
“Oklahoma’s my home. I love it there. I miss it,” he said.
On Saturday, Merriman will emcee the Roundup Shindig, a “boot-stompin’ good time” benefiting the Children’s Hospital Foundation, an affiliate of Children’s Miracle Network. The event will include a performance by country singer Ty England, raffle and live auction.
“I’m definitely a boot-scootin’ kind of guy,” Merriman said.
And he is a chocolate guy, too. This afternoon, the actor will visit Cuppies and Joe, where proceeds from today’s sale of his two custom cupcakes — a raspberry and chocolate confection called “All That Razz” and a cookies-and-cream flavor dubbed “Shenanigans” — will go to the foundation.
“It’s helping to raise funds and awareness … and it’s always good to get a younger crowd involved,” he said.
Known for his movie roles in “Final Destination 3” and “The Ring Two,” Merriman has been raising his own profile with well-received indie films and high-profile TV appearances. His fact-based football drama “The 5th Quarter” recently opened the 13th annual California Independent Film Festival, and he won the event’s best actor prize.
“This was actually the first time I’ve been nominated for best actor, and I won. It was cool.” It was very cool,” he said.
“The 5th Quarter” is based on the true story of Wake Forest linebacker Jon Abbate (Merriman), whose younger brother Luke was killed in a 2006 car accident just before the start of the elder Abbate’s senior season. Driven by his brother’s memory, Jon led the Demon Deacons to their most successful record in school history. Andie MacDowell and Aidan Quinn play Jon’s parents.
“He wasn’t gonna play anymore, and he battled with alcohol,” Merriman said. “Through his family and his friends he changed his way and actually changed his number to 5 to honor Luke because that was Luke’s number playing football. That year, every fourth quarter he would hold up five fingers to his mom and dad. … and they started winning in like weird (ways), like blocked field goals and punt returns and interceptions. And by the end of the year, everyone was holding up five for Luke, saying this is his quarter. It’s really cool, a beautiful story.”
With its success on the festival circuit, “The 5th Quarter” is opening March 25 in limited release, particularly in Atlantic Coast Conference states like the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida. But he hopes it will eventually reach Oklahoma theaters, too.
“It’s been amazing. It’s a blessing to do movies like this, so to get recognized and for it to hopefully do well, that would be amazing,” he said, adding the Abbate family was on the set every day.
He recently finished two more indie films: In the comedy “My Hometown,” he plays a four-year high-school senior who will finally get to graduate if he makes an extra-credit film about why his Massachusetts town is such a great place to live, even though he doesn’t feel that way. He stars opposite Paige Howard, daughter of Duncan-born Oscar-winning director Ron Howard, as a “wandering hippy” in the coming-of-age tale “Cheesecake Casserole.”
On TV, Merriman recently starred with Lacey Chabert in the Hallmark Original Movie “Elevator Girl.” He also has scored the recurring role of duplicitous Ian Thomas on the hit ABC Family series “Pretty Little Liars,” which recently was renewed for a second season.
“He’s kind of a bad boy. A snake with blue eyes is what we call that,” he said. “It’s great. You know, a lot of the stuff I play is guy next door or jock or whatever. So it’s just cool to play a role I can have a little fun with. Sometimes the things he says don’t really mean what they mean, you know what I mean? The writing on the show is so fun; you know, it’s very tricky to follow it.”
The show’s storylines are a closely guarded secret, so he has the thrill of not knowing where his character is headed.
“I love this. I love my job and just thank God every day that I’m blessed enough to do it. I’m just lucky I get to do what I love,” he said.
What: Ty England performance, live auction, raffle, hosted by Ryan Merriman and benefiting Children’s Hospital Foundation, an affiliate of Children’s Miracle Network.
When: 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Riverwind Casino, 1544 W State Highway 9, Norman.
Cupcakes for Kids
What: Ryan Merriman appearance and sale of two special cupcakes with proceeds benefiting Children’s Hospital Foundation.
When: 2 to 4 p.m. today.
Where: Cuppies and Joe, 727 NW 23.