Just Friends is one of my favorite romcom’s of all time. Ryan Reynolds’ personality just oozes through his character. It’s like his Van Wilder character as an adult.
I think we all love Ryan because he manages to balance that perfect mix of goofy, cool, and ridiculously handsome. Charm is all about balance. If you have a childish, screwy sense of humor, look like a trillion dollars in a suit while still being a sweetheart on the inside, there’s a likelihood you’re a charming motherfucker.
Most men have problems with this balance. They either sway too serious and “GQ” and not display anything unique and self-deprecating about themselves, or they are total jokers. It’s when you can balance both of those things like spinning plates while dancing on a barrel with a monkey on your back do you actually reach that POW! in-your-face who-is-this-guy? level of charming.
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Ryan does it. Again, it’s why we all love the motherfucker despite the fact that you really probably only saw like two or three of his movies in the past twenty years. He acts in mostly dramas, by the way.
And that’s why I was so teed-up to get started on this newest installment of Classic Charm. So I did what I always do: I watch an unhealthy amount of Youtube interviews with the subject until I get to “the guy behind the guy—behind the guy.” And I usually find something I never saw before. Something that I wasn’t looking for that ends up being the key to my analysis. The overarching thesis to my write-up.
And as I began diving into his interviews, I noticed something peculiar. Ryan wasn’t being his usual charming self. It almost felt like he was anxious in all of these interviews. And it looked like he was masking his anxiety with jokes—kind of as self-medicated therapy instead of as his naturally fun self. Ten interviews, twenty, thirty. Save for a couple random segments, the recurring theme came to be that Ryan Reynolds is—um—uhhh—shy?
Van Wilder is shy? Deadpool is shy?
Yes, I know that actors are acting. But often there are actors who tend to act as extensions of themselves. And I think I can safely say that most people assume Ryan Reynolds fits inside that boat.
So I started diving into Ryan’s older interviews. Van Wilder, Waiting, Buried, etc. He diverts eye contact, squirms in his chair, speaks with his guard up, and intermittently throws in some perfectly-timed jokes as if he was a completely different person for three seconds.
And that’s when I found this: A New York Times article on Ryan’s long battle with social anxiety. I was blown away, because I seriously thought that after thirty or so interviews, I was still just looking at the wrong stuff.
“He is […] much more contained and low-key than his many outsize screen personae suggest, a contrast that he said has long surprised people he meets. After he starred in “National Lampoon’s Van Wilder” (2002), about a seventh-year college student, ebullient 20-somethings approached him in bars offering Jägermeister shots, only to discover, crestfallen, that he was “this incredibly boring version of a guy who looked like their hero,” he said.”
It was then that I realized that my perception of the amazing Ryan Reynolds was way off. I thought he was the character in Just Friends. Well, he is—surrounded by pretty big social anxiety. Now I realize something:
Ryan, whether he likes it or not, is first and foremost a comedian. He got his start doing improv at The Groundlings, and eventually headlining at that improv theater after years of taking improv classes. This is where he gets his lightning-fast zingers from. He’s a veteran at taking anything someone throws at him and making it entertaining.
And when you think about it, most comedians are just like this. When on stage, they’ve learned to harness their talents and become a star. But off-stage, they’re usually anti-social, awkward, and sometimes depressed. Not to say that Ryan is exactly that, but I do believe there’s a smatter of truth to that. It’s just hard to notice because unlike almost all comedians, he is—let’s face it—one of the most good-looking men who’s ever lived.
And because of those looks, we see him as a movie star instead of what he really is—a comedian who makes his money by acting.
That’s when I realized why he loves playing the character of Deadpool so much. Because Deadpool shares the same issue: Masking his insecurities with humor. Ryan even talks about it.
And it brings me to the lesson of the day here. I want you to learn a little something from our beloved Mr. Reynolds. One, having a background in improv is in my opinion the absolute best resource in learning how to be social despite a lack of confidence. And two, it’s not about hiding your anxieties in social situations. It’s about learning to accept and embrace these vulnerabilities and still have fun despite how you might feel or be perceived.
Ryan Reynolds, you deserve a spot in the ranks of classic charmers and a big Bugs Bunny smooch on the mouth for your perseverance in your acting career while being someone who suffers from anxiety. I salute you, my guy. Can’t wait for what else you have to bring to the table—and many more Deadpool sequels to come.
He ends his New York Times interview saying:
“When the curtain opens, I turn on this knucklehead, and he kind of takes over and goes away again once I walk off set. That’s that great self-defense mechanism. I figure if you’re going to jump off a cliff, you might as well fly.”