Photo courtesy of Bridgid Ryan
Lounging at a Culver City coffee shop's outdoor tables, the cool spring breeze whishes towards the umbrella situated between actress Bridgid Ryan and I. Yet the first topic we bring up is unrelated to the art of the thespian; we talk about the new recording device I'm using to document the conversation: What's the brand called? How does it work, and more importantly, how well does it work? It's no surprise that since she was a kid, Bridgid Ryan was into commercials.
"I remember when I wanted ice cream, I was like, "Do I want it in a cone like those people do in the Breyers commercial, or do I want a spoon like they do in those frozen yogurt commercials?"
Ryan's omnivorous approach to commercial acting landed her in national adverts for IHOP, Dell, the NFL, among many others. Ryan admits that her enjoyment of the medium is partly driven by her ego.
"Commercials are satisfying to me because I'm chosen out of 800 people with the same bangs and glasses as me," she says.
Her resume more sundry than the miscellaneous thirty-second ads she appeared in, Ryan has received accolades for her humorous solo show Grind Time, which premiered at UCB Theatre in New York on March 14th. According to its creator, Grind Time is a comprehensive first-person survey of the insufferable nature of coffee culture, based on the writer's own relatable and frustrating experiences as a barista in Brooklyn.
"First there was Folgers. Then there was Starbucks. Now, America has entered a third wave of coffee, and it's pretty unbearable. This solo sketch comedy show lampoons every awful soul you've stood behind to get a cup of coffee," reads the press release.
On the flip side of her experience in adverts and comedy, Ryan shares an illuminating experience working with one of the most distinguished duos in cinema history, the Coen Brothers, during the filming of the Academy Award-nominated comedy-drama Inside Llewyn Davis.
"It was just one day of work," she says, mindful of the movie's fictionalized retrospective of a folk scene in 1961. "You had to audition looking like someone from the '60s," she says as she strokes her brown bangs, which personify a modern approach to the chic of the Nixon years.
After acing the audition and fruitfully filming a background scene, the agency called Ryan back to act in an interior scene, which took place in a café.
"So the set directors ask, "will you smoke?" I say, "absolutely." They give me a pack of cigarettes. I'm supposed to be reading a menu, which looks so anachronistic and pixelated, obviously printed within the last year."
Then, her eyes widen as she recalls Joel Coen walking over to her. "So, are you going to be reading that menu there?" he inquires.
"That's what I was instructed to do. Yes, yes," she tells the top billing director.
"No way; no way. We're going to make you a writer," declares Coen, handing Ryan a pad, paper and a pencil.
"I put my head in my hand as I was beginning to 'write,' Ryan explains to me, "and again, Coen was like, 'No, no, no. "He arranged my fingers in the way he wanted them to go when I was sitting and writing."
Like Coen, Ryan has a gift for observing small details -- such as her knack for memorizing snippets of marketing video clips and keen eye for the subtle loathsomeness within java-sipping culture. Bridgid Ryan's ability to remember little attributes could catalyze her next major move, one beyond the red light of a camera, and into the limelight.
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