Earlier today I got a chance to speak with the wonderful AMY RYAN with whom we have all fallen in love as Holly in The Office. And with the nominations for the 61st Primetime Emmy Awards around the corner (they will be announced on July 16), we’re all hoping she gets a nod.
Amy Ryan talked about the potential future for Holly and Michael, as well as her career and the secret that makes her such a good actress, and much more. So enjoy the interview below!
Will you be back as Holly in the next season of “The Office”?
Amy Ryan: Oh, my God, that would be great, but there are no plans, no concrete plans as of yet. I suppose there’s always the possibility. It feels to me like it was left open.
I’m sure a lot of people will be disappointed if they don’t see her anymore.
Amy Ryan: They’re good together, those two. They deserve to be together.
Do you think that Holly is still in love with Michael or would he have to work at it, if she was to come back?
Amy Ryan: I think she’s really realistic, but yeah, of course I think she still holds a torch for him in some way. You can’t deny they’re repartee and their connections. I do feel that, yes. I do feel that she still has a thing for him.
You seem to fit right in with the cast of ‘The Office’. How was it coming on to a show that was already established?
Amy Ryan: Before you arrive it was quite intimidating. I knew a couple of them socially. Rashida Jones is a good friend of mine and so I had called her before and asked, ‘What’s it like?’ So she gave me the rundown before I actually arrived and everything she said was true. They’re all so welcoming and I even just asked that of Ellie [Kemper], Erin who’s the new secretary. I said, ‘Isn’t it crazy how nice they are?’ And it’s true. They’re so welcoming. That really makes it easy.
How did you create the character of Holly? Did you base some of that on Michael since she’s kind of the female Michael?
Amy Ryan: I mean, from the beginning everything was really so much provided in the script, but I think that one of the key elements was when they said that the character was pretty much the first person he’s ever met who thinks that he’s funny. That was such a saving grace because it’s hard to keep a straight face around Steve Carell. So the fact that I had permission to laugh at his jokes and his character’s antics was such a joy. So that was kind of the springboard for it. Then the writers just kept throwing things, I think, out to me that were mildly humiliating which puts her in line with Michael.
You guys have to do some pretty crazy stuff with Michael. Do you always feel comfortable doing it or is it awkward doing it?
Amy Ryan: When we did that last episode, on paper the show that they put on for the company picnic is intentionally bad, but we had to do it there for that group of people and the first time through I was like, ‘Steve, they’re not laughing.’ Well, they’re not supposed to be laughing, but the actor in you still expects the show to go really well. That part was humiliating. He said, ‘I know. I feel awful.’ You suffer through it because you know it’ll pay off, but sometimes the process can be so painful. Or the one episode where we’re in our exercise gear giving tips, dancing to ‘Lets Get Physical’. There’s that moment where you go, ‘Oh, my God. I can’t believe I’m going on national TV like this.’ But that show earns it so much.
Holly has probably been one of the best guest characters on the show. Did you think people would love her so much?
Amy Ryan: I had no idea that there would be that reaction to the character. You just sign on and you’re such a fan of the show and they’re like, ‘Would you like to come and do a guest spot?’ and I was like, ‘Absolutely.’ I don’t think that any of us knew or anticipated how much the character would take off. I’m not quite sure why. Maybe it’s because finally Michael found a match and people had been privately rooting for him. So it is a surprise to me as well.
How does that feel then as a performer, having people embrace your work?
Amy Ryan: Oh, fantastic. It’s always nice to know that you’re reaching the audience in some way, whether you’re moving them to tears or making them laugh. That’s a great joy. My friend who works in an office gives me updates of all the people in her office and how nuts they are for the show and these characters. It’s fun and it makes me giggle.
Can you talk about what originally drew you to acting?
Amy Ryan: Originally. I was interested at a very, very young age. I grew up in New York and my parents would take me to the theater as much as they could. I suppose that it was just escaping into other worlds. The world that I grew up in was really fun as well and so it wasn’t like escaping any trauma in my life, but I just loved the idea of being other people and more so having that excuse or that freedom to tell stories that way. It was thrilling to me. So from there I went to the High School of Performing Arts in New York City which is now called La Guardia. I just started working out of high school mostly in theater. I think it was just growing up in New York and being surrounded by it that really drew me in.
I really hated the character of Helene in ‘Gone Baby Gone’ because she was such a bad person. But I love Holly. It’s still hard to think that you’re playing both character. I think that’s the mark of a great actor. So what’s your secret?
Amy Ryan: Oh, my gosh. I don’t know if it’s a secret. I don’t know if it’s something that I’ve consciously thought about. I do think that in some cases there are actors who go through the material and put the material first and I like to think I’m that kind of actor, as opposed to maybe a celebrity type of actor who morphs the material around them and who they are. I would much prefer to change the way that I look and to change the way I hold my body or style my hair to go into other words because I think it’s important that if I’m going to tell a story…it’s the whole point of a story to take people to another place. Then you go to any place to do that. If it means not being the good guy along the way you do that because otherwise they’ll know that you’re fooling them along the way. I’ve always wanted to do that. I’ve wanted to take people to a different place as I go there myself.
Do you ever actually take things from the characters you play home with you? Has a character ever taught you something that you use today?
Amy Ryan: When I came back from ‘The Office’ I said to a group of friends of mine, ‘I feel like there’s this big secret that people have kept from me in the business all these years.’ It’s that you can go be a part of a comedy and laugh your head off and have the best time all day and feel filled. That’s a great feeling. Doing all these heavy dramas all these years you spend your day crying over your child that’s missing or whatever, which has a great reward too, but I feel it’s lightened me up a bit more in life and that I’ve had a nice laugh along the way, being around the people on ‘The Office’. But it’s all different. When that gets too light I’ll want to go see what the dark side is like again.
Do you have a preference between comedy and drama?
Amy Ryan: I don’t have a preference, but I do feel like it’s so elusive. My opinion, because I’m not a writer at all, people ask, ‘What do you want to do next?’ And I never really know until I read it, whether it’s a play or a screenplay or a TV show. If I feel myself constantly thinking of the character in that world or I start to see people on the street that remind me of them then I know I’m honing in on what I want to do next or if I feel my body being competitive in a good way, wanting to make that happen, wanting that job or whatever it is then I know I’m in the right world.
Is there one writer that you’d love to work with that you haven’t had a chance to work with yet?
Amy Ryan: Yeah. Oh, my God, there are tons. One is a dear friend of mine so it’s kind of odd, but some day I’d like to work with Martin McDonagh. I think he’s an extraordinary storyteller. I’d love to do one of his plays. That’s kind of a no brainer. That’s the person that comes to mind.
And what about an actor that you’d love to work with?
Amy Ryan: I really, really, really want to work with Meryl Streep. I really would. That to me would be beyond thrilling. Just the little bit that I’ve talked to Phil Hoffman about her you get in there and you’re forced to work, forced to keep up. It must be really scary, what I would bring to it myself, my fears and insecurities, like, ‘Oh, my God, it’s Meryl Streep.’ But I bet it’s a sublime experience and one that only makes you a better actor.
Can you talk about the projects that you have coming up?
Amy Ryan: Yeah. I finished a movie last month called ‘Jack Goes Boating’ that Phillip Seymour Hoffman directed. It’s his directing debut and he also stars in it. He and I play love interests opposite each other. I think that comes out at the beginning of next year or at the very end of this year. Then this other project that I made a while ago will be out this fall is a big action thriller called ‘Green Zone’ with Matt Damon. I think that’ll be out by the end of Christmas or sometime around there.
Any plans to do more comedy work in the future, another TV show or a movie?
Amy Ryan: I would love to. I have absolutely no plans right now except for summer, summer plans ahead of me which is pretty much just kicking back and having a barbecue. But no, I’m so intrigued by this world of comedy now. It’s new to me again, all over again. It’s really fun and freeing. I would love to see what comes next in that area.