- Interview by Thief12 (Carlo Giovannetti)
Dylan Ramsey is a Czech-born Canadian-American actor who appeared in the pilot episode of the new 24 spin-off, 24: Legacy. Born in a racially diverse environment, Ramsey never thought he'd be an actor, studying Computer Science instead. However, fate eventually led him into a career in acting.
Since 2003, Ramsey has appeared in numerous roles in shows like NCIS, Nip/Tuck, and NCIS: Los Angeles. Through those years, Ramsey has also worked as a producer, and this year will release Extinction, a film also written by him. Wiki 24 interviewed Ramsey to know about his life and career, his experience filming 24: Legacy, as well as his future projects.
The following session of questions and answers was done by email, in two parts. The first part of the interview was posted on January 9, 2017. The second part of the interview was posted on February 7, 2017, after the airing of the 24: Legacy pilot.
Wiki 24: You were born in Czech Republic to a Polish-Jewish mother and an Egyptian father, but raised in Canada. How was it growing within such a diverse environment?
Dylan Ramsey: Toronto is a true melting pot, if I ever found one. Loved growing up there. Different cultures, different languages that blended together seamlessly. Having said that, I would be lying if I said there were times I felt like I never "fit in". Not Egyptian enough or Polish enough or whatever enough. Growing up, trying to belong to an identity or a group... I eventually settled on the idea that I belong to the Earth. I fit in everywhere. Most importantly, I am a product of peace.
W24: You studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. What led you to acting in the first place?
DR: I never wanted to be an actor, honest. I was early in my undergrad at York University, in Toronto, studying Computer Science. The university hired me to develop online systems for faculty, staff and students. Then Seneca College hired me to teach Web Development. I was this 22 year old kid, that looked 16, who suddenly found himself preparing and giving lectures. One day, I’ll tell you how I was two hours late for the job, and still landed it.
Anyhow, while working for York University I met my friend, and now mentor, Robin Sen (director, writer). Incredible human being, so damn talented! He said to me, point blank "You should be an actor. You have the look, and the passion for life". I wanted nothing to do with it; he was persistent. So after a year of hearing this, I went to my first audition (to shut him up) and the rest was history, LOL.
W24: How did your family feel about your career decision?
DR: My mom is awesome! She supports me no matter what. Always wants the best for me. My father, being more traditional, is slowly coming around. For him, it's about being a doctor, dentist, lawyer, professor. Well, I could have done any of those, I did the professor thing (kind of), and as much as I enjoyed and excelled in it, this is where I am now.
W24: Since 2003, you’ve been steadily getting more and more roles on films and TV. How would you describe your career overall?
DR: I'm lucky. Blessed. It’s a really hard career path. There are a million and one reasons why anyone won't succeed. However, if you redefine success to your own goals, you will succeed. Put it this way, every day I wake up and think: "40 million people want to do what I want to do. How am I going to compete?" and then I start my day.
W24: How did you get your role on 24: Legacy?
I auditioned, like everyone else. I owe it to Lisa Miller Katz, the casting director, for accepting my team's submission. I went in, prepped, ready. The next day, I was on the elliptical memorizing lines for another production when I received a call from Jeff, Courtney's (my agent's) assistant and he had my manager, Paulo, on the line. Like every actor I thought I was in deep, deep trouble, LOL. After a moment of suspense, they presented the offer. It all happened so fast.
W24: Were you a fan of 24 before working on it?
DR: Don’t kill me man, LOL. I never watched the show. I had no idea what I was getting into. But boy, it was incredible!
W24: How much can you tell us about your character? How did the script describe him?
DR: Rashid, he's a soldier on a mission. He has to do things to get results. Many of the things he does are completely vile. You're all in for a shocking treat! I've seen a good chunk of the episode, and it's phenomenal!
W24: Did you do something to adapt it to your acting style, or did you incorporate any trait that wasn’t necessarily on the script?
DR: I am usually brought in for the villain. I guess it's my dark features, or I enjoy just pushing the boundaries of the dark side. Delving deep into the recesses of ourselves where most people are afraid to peak. For me, it's about the commitment to telling the story that I am about to embark on. When I watched myself in the episode, I didn't recognize me. What Lisa told me before the audition, and my conversations at the table read and on set with director Stephen Hopkins and the showrunners, Manny Coto and Evan Katz really filled in and brought to life what they wanted for Rashid. I am humbled to be in the presence of such talented people, both in front and behind the camera.
W24: You said that you are "usually brought in for the villain". As an actor, do you fear being typecast in certain roles?
DR: To be honest, I am quite versatile, so I am not afraid of being typecast at all. One of my earlier roles was in HBO's award winning film Donny & Ginger, directed by Jon Bush, where I played the leading role of Ginger, a male cross-dressing prostitute. Loved that! The research and spending time in that world... I learned so much. There is so much to life, and feel very lucky get to the opportunities to delve into these other lives/worlds because of my vocation.
DR: The majority of my scenes were with Corey. He's awesome. I enjoyed working with him quite a bit. We built up a fun rapport. There are some pics I am dying to share, but can't, until the episode airs.
I got to meet both Jimmy and Miranda during the table read. By the way, best table read I have ever participated in. It was electric! The energy! Wow! During the wrap party we all shared our "war stories" together. What a powerful ensemble and a great group of wonderful people.
W24: Any scene that you thought was particularly demanding, whether it was physically or dramatically?
DR: I stepped onto [director] Stephen Hopkins' set and found myself swimming in the deep end! He shoots long takes. Meaning, you film a three page scene in one take. Every actor, crew member has to have all their timing right. It was like performing theatre but on a TV set! I adapt quickly. Stephen doesn't pull punches. Everyone gets their instructions once and you're expected to deliver. Period. After working with Stephen and his extraordinary filmmaking style, that is all I ever want to do! Imagine that, marrying theatre with television.
W24: How would you describe the overall experience of filming 24: Legacy?
DR: Magical! You have all these talented people coming together to reboot a hit franchise. The energy was positive and inspiring. You wanted to be at work every day. You wanted to deliver the best you could. For the story. For the fans.
W24: Any funny anecdote or memorable moment during your time on the show?
DR: Yeah, a couple. Unfortunately I can't really say. There are some really cool pics I can't wait to share too.
W24: We might have to follow up with you after the show airs!
DR: Follow up as much as you like. You are really cool people. I appreciate this.
W24: Do you think the cast and crew of 24: Legacy had an additional burden during filming on trying to follow up the series without Kiefer Sutherland? How do you think that you and the rest of the people involved faced that challenge?
DR: I don’t really have an answer. Without a doubt, Kiefer (a fellow Canadian, woot woot) is 24. However, like everything, there is an evolution. I mean, fans are set on their favorites, be it as who plays Batman or Superman, or even the Joker. Then you have another actor step into the role and (hopefully) do a great job and all the bickering just goes away. This isn't the same for theatre. In theatre people are not only open but excited to see a new rendition of, for example, Hamlet. Excited to see what the new production births, what the new actors bring to the roles, etc. Not sure why this continues to be trying for film or television.
Manny and Evan spent a lot of time getting the new script/franchise to a solid place with all the right players attached. I spent a little time talking to them about this very thing. It really challenges the writers to find a new innovative way to tell a story from an established franchise. Evan and Manny did a phenomenal job.
W24: How would you want audiences to approach this new series? What do you want the audience to take from it?
DR: See the show for what it is, for the story that it is continuing to tell.
W24: What is the next step in your career?
DR: Earlier [last] year, I wrote Extinction, a film about the last Muslim on Earth, and together with Iram Parveen Bilal (director), Joy Ganes (producer) and Tim Loden (co-producer) we brought it to life. I star in the film opposite Golden Globe Winner and Academy Award Nominee Sally Kirkland, Mathew St. Patrick (from the hit HBO series Six Feet Under, and the final season of FX's Sons of Anarchy) and Nicole Steinwedell (who worked on CBS' The Unit). Everyone really gravitated to this timely story and put our hearts and souls into it.
W24: Interesting topic! With the current political landscape in the US, and the recent surge in Anti-Muslim sentiments both in the US and Europe, how appropriate or timely do you think the film is? how do you think audiences will receive it?
DR: Extinction is the first Western film with a Muslim protagonist/hero in the leading role. It will be interesting to see how the audiences connect with that as most Muslims are depicted as bad guys, or if a good-guy the role is supporting to an All-American character who is usually the hero. I hope the audiences receive it well. Every racial, cultural, religious group has it's extreme people with their radical point of view. I hope that my work can change the perception of people, letting them know that regardless of how Islam and Muslims are regularly being depicted.
W24: How is it doing in festivals?
DR: [It] is being considered for festivals this coming year. We finished post-production a little later than expected. All the acceptance letters will be coming in during the next few months. Fingers crossed.
W24: What projects you have worked recently, and what projects do you have in the near future?
DR: [Last year], InHouse Theatre Company's production of Donald Margulies Pulitzer Prize winning play Dinner with Friends ran for six sold-out weeks! I was cast as "Gabe" one of the four leading roles opposite talented actors Tim Redmon (Tom), Caroline Morahan (Karen), Renee Threatte (Beth), and was directed by Drew Rausch. It was such an incredible experience, with immense artistic and personal growth. There is always a magical element about theatre that you cannot similarly experience when working in film or television. Here are some official reviews: Cultural Weekly and FVM Global Magazine.
As for other projects, there are a few in the works, but as you know, one can only speak about them after they've been announced.
W24: Finally, any particular director, actor or actress that you dream of working with?
DR: Who doesn't dream, right? In no particular order: [Martin] Scorsese, [Steven] Spielberg, JJ Abrams, [Clint] Eastwood. Then we got [Leonardo] DiCaprio, [Al] Pacino, [Johnny] Depp, [James] Franco, [Tom] Hardy, [Gary] Oldman and [Colin] Farrell. Heck, I'd love to go pound for pound vs. Andrew Lincoln (Rick) in The Walking Dead (I got close once). Females, definitely Eva Green. I love her work in Penny Dreadful. Actually, I loved everyone's work on that show.
W24: Thank you so much for the time. We wish you the best in your career, and we'll be in touch soon, once 24: Legacy airs!
DR: At the end of the day, I am lucky to have you reach out to me. Without an audience, there is no work. So thank YOU, sir.
Wiki 24 got back with Dylan Ramsey after the premiere of 24: Legacy to ask him a few more questions about his role in the show. This second part of the interview was posted on February 7, 2017.
Wiki 24: Now that the episode has aired, is there any anecdote you would like to share about your scenes or your interactions with Corey Hawkins?
Dylan Ramsey: Everything was filmed using long takes, which made for some really interesting experiences. The scene where Carter (Corey) spits in Rashid's (my) face, we did that several times. At one point, Corey just fired a massive glob and I could barely see for the rest of the scene. We ended up cutting, he apologized, we laughed it off, and did a few more. Less gobs, lol.
The scene where Rashid (me) backhands Carter (Corey) across the face, the first strike. We did a couple of those as well. In one of the takes, I felt the very tip of his nose. I saw my career end, right before my eyes; stayed in the moment, miraculously. When that take was done, we both looked at each other and I was apologizing profusely. We ended up laughing it off, whew! I've never hit someone while working, so this was a shock for me. We both chalked up the gob of spit as payback for almost striking him.
W24: What language was Rashid speaking to his brother, Malik?
DR: I was speaking in Arabic.
W24: Are you fluent in it, or was it something you learned for the part?
DR: I am Egyptian and Polish, and I speak to my dad in Arabic and mom in Polish. I am not fluent in the languages; my Arabic is stronger, but I can hold my own. There have been many times for other roles where I've learned to speak a language foreign to me. Italian, German, Russian, Pashto, French, Spanish. With my universal look, I get cast all over and with that comes foreign languages.
W24: Did you and Corey do your own stunts, or did you use doubles?
DR: Corey and I did a lot of our own minor stunts. The only time we used doubles in our scene was when Carter pushes his chair back and smashes Rashid into the glass cabinet. We had two talented fellas who doubled us. Then we got back in on the ground and struggled until the bullet was fired.
W24: Where in LA were your scenes filmed? Did you do any work in studio?
DR: All of our scenes for the pilot were filmed in LA. None of my scenes were in a studio. We were on a location.
W24: Several newspaper and online articles were quick to criticize the portrayal of Muslims and violence in the episode. A NY Times article called it "a 1-hour Super Bowl ad for Islamophobia", while a Huffington Post article titled "the Islamophobic episode of 24" called it "unacceptable". Since your character was the perpetrator of most of the violence of the episode, I would like to know how you feel about your role and the perception that people like the writers of those articles might get from it, or even the perception that the show might give Islamophobes to "justify" their fears and actions.
DR: This is a great question and I have to agree with a lot of the press. I am an American-Canadian-Egyptian Muslim and I've been very selective with these kinds of roles. I look for a silver lining. There are so many shows out there that demonize Muslims, you never see a leading role/protagonist who is Muslim played by a Muslim. Most of us are always either supporting characters, if good guys, or easily the bad guy.
However, with 24 what really attracted me to the part was the Ben Grimes subplot. It talks about how the US Government pretty much abandons our vets after they've returned from combat. Be it due to PTSD/mental or physical trauma. So many are uncared for, or homeless. That was the storyline that caught me. We need to do a lot better with taking care of our heroes.
I am really happy the media is speaking out against this common trend of demonizing Muslims. This is why I wrote and produced Extinction. For the first time in the Western world, a commercial film was created that has a Muslim character, played by a Muslim, who is the protagonist. Hopefully the push back from the media will convince Hollywood to try more. There are plenty of talented people that can easily create content that showcase Islam and its people, culture in a positive light. The religion is truly peaceful and so beautiful. Unfortunately we, Muslims, have a long way to go to try and reverse the damage that has been done.
W24: Let's hope for more unity and tolerance in the world! Again, and I can't say this enough, we'd like to thank you for your time and contribution to the show and to our site. We really, really appreciate it and wish you the best in your life and career.
DR: Thank you and Wiki 24 so much!
- ↑ Poniewozik, James (February 6, 2017). 24: Legacy, a One-Hour Super Bowl Ad for Islamophobia. NY Times.
- ↑ Delbyck, Cole (February 6, 2017). The Islamophobic Episode of 24: Legacy after the Super Bowl Was Unacceptable. Huffington Post.