Theatre Alumnus Hits The Big Time

Ryan Woodle

November 8th, 2009


November 8, 2009
BSU Daily News

2002 grad moves to New York City, finds success in film

Students hope that after graduation they will be able to meet their career dreams. While that may not always happen, for some, persistence and hard work do pay off.

Ryan Woodle, a 2002 Ball State University alumnus with a bachelor’s degree in acting, plays Jeffrey Carnes in “The Box,” which opens nationwide Friday.

Woodle began his acting career after graduation by spending time doing the Illinois Shakespeare Festival, where he acted in plays such as “As You Like It,” “Merchant of Venice” and “A Midsummer Nights Dream.” But it was with the first Ball State student theater showcase in New York City that Woodle achieved an actor’s initial aim: He got an agent out of it.

He then moved to New York around the fall of 2003.

“It pretty much made up my mind for me,” Woodle said. “It’s so difficult to get an agent in this industry that when I had an agent that was interested in me out in New York, I decided to go to New York instead of to Los Angeles.”

Since moving to New York City, Woodle has been in at least 15 national commercials. After he was in a Foot Locker/Adidas advertisement during the Super Bowl, he got a “legit agent.” Because of his success with the commercial agency Atlas Talent Agency, which oversees print, voice and commercial acting, he then signed with Independent Artists Agency and broke into television, some film and some stage acting. Woodle has recently had guest spots on “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit,” “Gossip Girl,” “As the World Turns,” “Important Things with Demetri Martin” and “Law and Order.”

“I’ve been lucky enough to be able to dip my beak into several different facets of the acting world,” he said. “A lot of people end up getting kind of caught up in just one, but I’ve been lucky I’ve able to spread out and hit all spaces.”

Department of Theatre Chairman Bill Jenkins said he remembers Woodle as a talented actor, inventive performer and strong comedian, as well as personable, making him a fit for multiple areas of the acting business.

“He will always be one of my favorite students that I have had the opportunity to teach and I am very proud of him,” he said.

Catching a break

In the acting business, casting agents submit “breakdowns” of the roles they are trying to fill to talent agencies, who then submit information about their clients whom they think would fit those roles back to the casting agents. When the casting agents respond back about a specific client, the actor then receives a call to go and read for the part.

“I’ve been doing this for a while and met quite a few casting agents so, I’ve been lucky enough now to skip some of the process,” Woodle said. “I get called in more frequently to meet for the final rounds with the directors, instead of having to go through several rounds like I used to.”

After casting for the movie was finalized, filming for “The Box” took place in Boston and Newport News, Va. The Virginia scenes were shot mostly in the NASA Langley Research Center. He said going through security every day at Langley and working on a larger production were surreal experiences.

“It was pretty amazing. I’ve had some experience working on some independent films, and you’re going from changing in a small closet and having five or six extras, to having your own trailer with your name on the side, and having personal assistants and having a thousand extras,” he said. “All of those things are the obvious differences, but there are a lot more people to answer to.”

Set in 1976 “The Box” revolves around a couple, Norma and Arthur Lewis, as well as their young son, who receive a mysterious box from a man with a disfigured face. The box contains a button, which, if pushed, will kill an unknown person but will also bring the one who pushed the button $1 million. Whoever pushes the button has 24 hours to decide whether or not to push the button.

The movie is based upon the short story “Button, Button” by Richard Matheson. Woodle did most of his scenes in the movie, which he calls dark, intriguing and twisty, with actors James Marsden (Arthur) and Frank Langella (disfigured mystery man).

He was supposed to have one scene with actress Cameron Diaz, who plays Norma, but it ended up being cut in rewrites before he had a chance to film with her.

“I was a little bummed when they cut our scene, but that stuff happens. I was cast in ‘Law Abiding Citizen’ that just came out with Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler, and they actually killed my character in rewrites before I got to shoot it, and that was a larger bummer than not getting to work with Cameron,” he said. “From my understanding, that kind of thing happens all the time, and it’s just something you get used to.”

He said the great part of working on this film with writer and director Richard Kelly, who also directed cult classic “Donnie Darko,” was that is wasn’t the “typical cookie-cutter movie from Hollywood.” He said the moral issues and layers of movies are important parts that aren’t always explored.

“A Richard Kelly film makes you think. It makes you think about ‘What would you do if you were in this same situation?’” Woodle said. “Sometimes people just don’t get it. That’s the great thing about his movies. People take one side or the other; they either hate him or they love him. There’s never anybody who goes ‘Oh, that’s OK.’”

An Education Foundation

The acting education Woodle received at Ball State is something he knows helped prepare him for the business.

“The experience that I got at Ball State is irreplaceable. It was an incredible base … It is so versatile, and there are so many options and so many great professors there,” he said. “To maximize my education, I took what worked for me from each of them and got rid of what didn’t and kind of melded my own thing.”

Jenkins said any theatre student who is ambitious can achieve the same success as Woodle.

“Students who hope to make acting a career must be patient, relentless, driven, professional and — perhaps most importantly — kind,” he said. “The entertainment business is small, and it is important to remember that being a warm and generous person is as important as being a talented actor.”

And while the acting business may be tough to break into, Woodle said students should remember that they are doing something they love.

“Always take a step forward in your passions,” he said. “If you take a step back, or you take a step to the side, you’re never gaining anything.”

Ryan Woodle

Inspired by:

Phillip Seymour Hoffman, John C. Reilly, Robert DeNiro, Denzel Washington

Huge fan of movies:

“The Jerk,” “Stripes,” “The Godfather” trilogy, “The Usual Suspects”


“I’ve always kind of tried to take pieces from everything that I’ve learned and everybody that I’ve seen and watched and kind of put them into whatever I’m working on.”

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