Do you love Debby Ryan? Ever since I saw her video from the Camp Ronald McDonald fundraiser, I have become her biggest fan. She is in the Disney show, Jessie, where she plays a nanny for 4 kids. In this interview, she talks about her role, and how she deals with being an introvert. (Her advice: “Own it!” even if people think you’re shy and nerdy.) Reading this interview makes me love her even more!
Q: Describe what Jessie is like.
Debby: Jessie is strong. She’s kind of funny and easygoing. She’s not super uptight about things, but she grew up in a military family and her dad was in Special Ops, so she’s got this strength about her. She can be militant but she can also be really easygoing, and she’s a typical teenager in a lot of ways. But what I like about her is she’s resourceful. She moved around a lot. She’s been the new girl a lot. So she knows how to make things work. I definitely moved around a lot, so I relate to her in that sense. We’re very, very different as people, but her sense of humor is a bit like mine. I mean she’s a goofball, and I like goofballs, you know? But she’s also very sincere, and she’s a caring person but she doesn’t have to be mushy and gushy to be caring.
Q: You were the new kid a lot of times. What advice would you give to a kid who might feel a little bit different?
Debby: I moved around a lot, but I knew that I was different and I knew that I was a little bit bizarre and that my mind would come up with random jokes that other people were not going to find amusing. I was sort of random.
But beyond that, I am somewhat of an introvert. I recharge much better when I’m just alone or maybe with one person. I was not. . . you know, there’s shy and then there’s introverted. There’s shy – you’re like afraid to speak out and speak your mind. And introverted is just you get fulfillment from being alone or in small groups. That’s how I was. I was not as much shy as introverted, but everyone thought I was shy. So the way that I would deal with it is when I started acting I would go and completely be unafraid and just open – be myself as if I was best friends with the entire world. I kind of ended up having two different worlds. You know, it’s like performer, entertainer, fearless Debby, and then introverted Debby.
So what I would say to you is find a place where you can be you. Either it’s writing or cleaning your room or whatever it is – something that you like to do that makes you feel fulfilled and that you’re releasing everything within yourself and also intaking everything you need to grow and digest. But then also have a mode where you’re not afraid to walk up to people and introduce yourself, or if someone walks by and you’re looking at their shoes, you’re like, “Oh, I like your shoes,” you know. Things like that. Make a shift and make a conscious effort. Really the only way to be comfortable is to know who you are. Just say like, “Oh cool. This is who I am and this is why I’m different and there will be people who don’t get it and think it’s really weird, and that’s ok. And there will be people who totally will get it one day.” As you grow up, people are more understanding with your differences and with you being confident in who you are. Four years ago, people called me a nerd and took my books out of my hands in school and didn’t talk to me. Now people are coming up to me and they’re like, “Wow, I really like this about you.” So just know it’s going to get better. Just own it, you know?
Q: When you came to New York with some of the kids in your cast, you sort of mentored them. Did anybody mentor you?
Debby: Chelsea Kane Staub has always been a complete doll to me. Just by studying and being around her balance and her being like, “Debby, I believe in you,” and like, “This is great about you,” and like, “Stay true to this,” that I really am confident in certain things. She’s precious. I really wanted to be that for these kids. And it wasn’t even my cast kids, but it was, you know, China McClain from A.N.T. Farm and Bella and Zendaya from Shake It Up. I was like, “You know what? I know what it’s like to not feel comfortable and I’m going to make this environment.”
Isn’t she so nice? She’s like the older sister I never had!
Interview by Marie Morreale
Photos courtesy Disney Channel