This interview originally appeared in the November 28, 2006 issue of Soap Opera Digest
Driven By Her Passions, GL’s Marcy Rylan Takes Off
Marcy Rylan has two tattoos. One is a little star on her foot (her best girlfriends and sisters all have one, too) and the other is so new that the powers-that-be at GUIDING LIGHT, where she has been playing Lizzie for almost a year now, didn’t know about it at the time of this interview. It’s a tiny little heart on her wrist, and looks like something she might have idly doodled with a ballpoint pen. “I wanted to get some symbol for passion, which is my favorite word. And I work a lot and don’t spend a lot of time thinking about love, so this is a reminder,” she says, curling it toward her heart. It’s a guileless gesture from the normally pragmatic actress (she did research on celebrity ink before impulsively hitting the tattoo parlor, after all), who left her small-town safety net the day after high-school graduation to pursue her passions — and hasn’t really stopped since.
“I’m from central Pennsylvania, where there’s a huge GUIDING LIGHT fan base, so I can’t go home anymore,” jokes Rylan, who found that out the hard way when she went home for her first big holiday since winning her soap role. “I went to an amusement park I’ve gone to every Fourth of July since I was born and had to be escorted out by security. Someone asked for an autograph; I turned around and there was a line. I signed a Wal-Mart receipt, toilet paper, clothing, body parts…. It was unbelievable. It was everything I went. I was with my family and didn’t want to be like, ‘Excuse me while I put on a hat and sunglasses.’”
She didn’t always get that kind of reception. Raised in a large family in a small town, Rylan was a self-described nerd, almost stereotypically so: “I’ve had glasses since the first grade. Straight-A student, horrible haircut, pretty chubby. I had to wear an eye-patch in fifth grade because I had double vision. I color-coordinated them to my outfit. It was tragic,” she winces. “My family is really academic, so no one in the house ever said,’ You’re pretty,’ or talked about looks. I had no idea that people were supposed to care about looks at all. I was just talking about that with my friends: how oblivious I was. Right before ninth grade, the braces came off, I lost weight and got contacts; they straightened my hair. Then I got tortured. They would sing, ‘I want to be a supermodel,’ as I walked down the hall.”
It was around that time that she was also discovered, Hollywood fair tale-style, in a mall by a modeling agent. “I grew up doing ballet, tap, jazz and theater, but never ever thinking of it as a career option at all,” she recalls. “My agent asked me if I wanted to go to a competition at Disney World for modeling, so I went door-to-door raising money for it and at the last minute she asked if I wanted to do the acting thing. I still had never thought of acting as a career at all, but I won all of my acting categories. Two weeks later, I was coming to New York for auditions. My father hated it. He wanted me to go to an Ivy League school and become a lawyer, which is actually what my plan was going to be. MY mom didn’t care that that was the career I wanted; she cared that I wanted to go to New York.”
But when the “fresh off the farm” girl headed to the big city, “It was total culture shock, instantly. I stayed home under the covers for the first few months. It was that blocking-out-the-world way of living in a city that was an adjustment,” says the actress, who was so green she forgot to sign in for her very first audition and had to reassure her dad that her “character” in a Trojan condoms commercial was married. “And then I stopped struggling and he was like, ‘Everyone needs to buy Trojan condoms!’ He was really cute.”
Commercials paid the bills for a while, as Rylan completed an acting program, moved to L.A. and landed the second sequel to Bring It On opposite Hayden Panettiere, who of course, played Lizzie from 1996-2000. “I called her the day I found out I got it and she was dying. She said that everybody was really nice and I was about to work my ass off. She loves GUIDING LIGHT, although she was very upset that I turned Lizzie into a whore,” laughs Rylan, who grew up watching GL, but didn’t try to emulate any of her predecessors and knew that fans wouldn’t be as quick to adjust. “I expected it. They first day they hated me, so I went shopping,” she grins.
A few months later, the trip to the amusement park turned chaotic, and Rylan was well on her way. But the ambitious, hard-working actress still has other things to accomplish, namely a college degree. “I’ll probably finish when I’m about 35 at the rate that I’m going,” she shrugs. Her major is sociology, inspired partly by her family’s emphasis on volunteerism. “I was really aware at a young age how many people had nothing,” says Rylan, whose mother even ran a soup kitchen for a time. And it’s about this topic that the bubbly actress gets most passionate. She’s particularly dedicated to working with underprivileged kids and helping women build the confidence and self-esteem they need to find success in life, something she had to do back in junior high. “We get so caught up in — I could keep going on and on about this,” she interrupts herself excitedly, “What we don’t have and what we do have … and then you go and work with homeless kids. I want to take them all home! One day of volunteer work puts your entire life into perspective.”
JUST THE FACTS
Birthday: November 4
Romantic Status: Single, “but going on dates,” she says hopefully
Manly Companion: Her pet dog is named Loki, “after the god of mischief. He’s a Pomeranian, but not a prissy Pomeranian; he’s very tough and masculine.”
Movie She Thinks You Should See: An Inconvenient Truth. “Everyone should see that.”
Last iPod Update: Christina Aguilera’s Back to Basics.
She’s Reading: True and False: Heresy and Common Sense for the Actor by David Mamet
TV For A Girl With No TV: 24, GREY’S ANATOMY, HOUSE, PROJECT RUNWAY. “I found I got so much more done without a television, but I have my friends TiVo things for me. I also have one package of FRIENDS DVDs that I watch on my computer. I know them all by heart.”
Blondes Have More Fun: “The blonder I am, the more work I get, so I wear wigs when I go out with my friends.”