If you are a millennial who grew up watching Nickelodeon or Disney Channel, chances are, Ryan Ochoa was a fixture on your TV screen during your Saturday night watch parties. Whether it was on iCarly as Chuck, the pain-in-the-neck prankster and math tutoring student of Carly Shay, or on Pair of Kings as Prince Lanny Parker, the would-be King who could not get over losing the throne to his two cousins, Ryan was all over some of the biggest shows on kids TV — and he’s been moving onward and upward ever since. With four new films set for release this year, including a drama starring Hal Linden (The Samuel Project), and a Joseph Kahn-written-and-directed dramedy starring Anthony Michael Hall (Bodied), Ryan has his eyes set on the future, and we caught up with him for the first time since 2013 to hear all he’s been up to. Our phone conversation took place on a late April Monday afternoon, with us in our New York dorm room and him across the country at his home in Los Angeles. From the moment he picks up, Ryan is warm, casual, and candid — everything that you’d expect from someone who has spent the better part of his nearly 21 years entertaining and inspiring fans. Listen in…
Cailin: It’s so funny, because over the past couple of years of following you on social media, we would always see your posts and actually say to each other, “He just seems so incredibly positive all the time.” And then a couple days ago you actually made a post where you dubbed yourself Mr. Positive.
Ryan: I just want to spread a good message. I mean…I heard that you guys have talked about how you’ve seen my inspirational posts and that really intrigued me, because that’s what I’m aiming for. Just growing up in the business, I mean — I can actually say that now, you know? I can say “growing up in the business”. I was a little boy when I started, and now I’m gonna be a legal adult in less than a month. As I transition … I want to have a certain message that I can always live by. In my own life, and my family’s life, and with my fans. That’s important to me — anything I can do, anything I can say, or post, or create…something good. That’s what I want it to be about. I’ve always been positive and inspired … Now I want people to know, and people to follow it, you know?
Cailin: Absolutely. So, Ryan, what’s the first thing you think about when you wake up every morning?
Ryan: Oh, goodness…honestly, what my next post on Instagram is gonna be! [all laugh] Either that, or the next thing I’m gonna buy for my camera equipment.
Cailin: You’re into production? I didn’t know that!
Ryan: Oh my gosh, I’m obsessed actually. That’s all I do. I just buy camera stuff, and cameras and lenses. That’s really what I’m always thinking about. I woke up thinking about it today. Last year, starting in mid-January, me and my brothers, me and all the boys, had a YouTube channel and every Friday we released a new video. The whole year. We kind of slowed down a little bit, not because we were being lazy, but you know, we wanted to try other outlets. And now, we want to take it to the next level. We want to make our content really, really good. Me and Bobby are actually shooting a new video that we’re very happy with.
Hannah: You guys do it all yourself! I had no idea.
Ryan: We do everything. We started shooting at around 10PM last night, we shot until 3 in the morning…woke up at like 7 and were already back at it. We write them, direct them, shoot them, edit them, act in them. And we do all of the camera work. Bobby is really good with sound, Dad is…whatever I need, he does it all for us. [pause]
That’s another thing that people don’t really know … That’s kind of where I’m aiming to, really becoming a filmmaker.
Cailin: Look at all these things we didn’t know about you!
Ryan: [laughs] Well, it’s only been five years! [all laugh]
Hannah: So, back to Mr. Positive…I’m wondering, does the “glass half full” mentality come naturally to you? Do you have to seek good in every situation, or do you always find that your mind goes right to the positive?
Ryan: You know what’s funny, actually…people always ask me, “Are you always looking on the bright side?” And I really am. But the thing is that I also tell people, “Look, I’m a regular human being, too.” I go through my own problems, I’ve posted my ups and downs before. I just really believe that if something bad happens, there’s a reason, and you gotta look at the bright side because of that. It’s hard, and I will admit…it’s hard for a lot of people. But, for me, it’s become my lifestyle now. I’m just really grateful that I don’t let stuff really get to me or bring me down, because I am always looking for the next thing. I live by the saying, “God never shuts one door without opening another.” It really helps me drive this mentality that I have.
Cailin: I think it’s so great that you’re sharing the good and the bad with your fans, because that’s…
Hannah: …How they get to know you better.
Cailin: Right. And that’s everybody’s real life…they have good and bad days. I think it’s nice how you don’t just show, as they say, your “highlights reel”. You’re letting people in on how, like you said, you are just like everyone else in that way — that you do deal with those obstacles.
Ryan: Absolutely. You know, I’m not just, like, posting about, oh, I’m doing this, oh, I’m doing that.” [I’m like] Hey, look, I may be doing this, but I just had a heartbreak. Or…whatever, you know? I didn’t get the job that I really wanted. Or we had a loss in our family. It’s hard, but we still stay focused and look on the bright side. We are very faith-based, so that’s another conversation, but another reason that we’re so positive — because we do have God on our side.
Hannah: I can tell from social media that you are, as you mentioned, very family and faith-focused, which is refreshing to see from a young actor like yourself. How does your family influence your outlook on life?
Ryan: They’re my everything. They’re my biggest support system…they’re almost like the reason I am so strong, because I want to be a good person for them. I don’t want to let them down. I always want to do something better, one more extra thing to make them happy or make them smile and laugh. They support me so much. My brothers are my best friends, my little sister is my everything, my parents are the biggest supporters that us boys and Destiny have had. This is me giving back to them…that’s why I do keep the mentality. If I crumble, I feel like I’d be letting them down.
Cailin: What is the best piece of advice anyone’s ever given you?
Ryan: Oh, I have so many things! I have a list of advice that people have given me. I think that’s the most important thing. That’s a very tough one, because I kind of live by all of them, I incorporate all of that to make me who I am. I said that God never shuts one door without opening another. My aunt, my Auntie Jessie actually gave me a key with that saying — no one really knows this — when I was going through a hard time in my career … I bring this key everywhere with me, no matter where I am. Whether I’m on stage, on set, in an audition, in a meeting, traveling on tour…right now, it’s always with me.
Cailin: Not only is your aunt always with you, so is her message, which is also your life motto.
Ryan: It’s a little bit of everything. It’s her, it’s the saying, it’s God. It’s about looking forward to the next thing. I’m very thankful for that.
Hannah: You’ve been acting almost your entire life. When you think back to your days growing up on TV sets, what is the first memory that comes to you?
Hannah: I’m sure there’s a lot of them!
Ryan: Oh, here’s so many…I mean the highlights, I would say…the whole Pair of Kings series. I always think about that, probably every day. Today is actually Doc Shaw’s birthday — Happy birthday to him! And my little sister loves Pair of Kings. It’s her favorite show. Literally, she goes to bed watching it, she comes downstairs when I’m home and she’s like, “Ry Ry, can we watch Pair of Kings?” That’s all she wants to watch with me. It’s definitely still in my life, so I’m always reminiscing about memories. I’ll kind of tell her stories. And… definitely working with Jim Carey on A Christmas Carol, becoming good friends with everyone on The Perfect Game. That was such a fun shoot because we shot it in the summer. I think about that, and how we were just like, nine kids just getting to hang out and play baseball and shoot a movie for the whole summer … Oh, and iCarly! I’ll never forget the first time I worked on iCarly, and how everyone reacted to me jumping over the counter. The rest is history, because after that, I went back so many times. I loved the people over there, too. I was very happy every time I got to go to a table read knowing I was gonna do another iCarly episode, causing havoc! And now, [I’m doing] The Samuel Project with Hal Linden, who’s a legend … We were talking about advice — I got amazing advice from him, too.
Hannah: What advice did he give you?
Ryan: Just about storytelling, and, you know, not letting this business get to you, and what to do when you’re in transition of jobs … He has done countless Broadway and off-Broadway plays, he has so much knowledge about this business. He told me that if I ever get the chance, I really need to do something like that, and now I really want to! Because I never really envisioned myself doing a play like that, but I mean, after hearing him, and to see how talented he is — he’s a legend, you know? He’s kind of changed my perspective. Hopefully one day I’ll be doing a play.
Cailin: You know, a lot of people say that the transition from child star to adult actor can be a rough one. Why do you think it is such a notorious struggle, that transition?
Ryan: I think there are many factors that play into that…But the first one is that I’d probably just say the roles are different, you know? For example, you see on these teen shows — Nick, Disney, that I’ve been a part of — these teen characters are over-the-top, and fun and … It’s not like you’re in a film like The Revenant, where you’re shooting arrows and you’re in the middle of the woods, and Indians are shooting at you. The roles are so different. You’re not playing over a death sequence in a teen show, you know? Especially for a child actor, when people see you in a role or in a series for so long, people see you in that role. They can’t picture you in anything else. I think it’s a transition where you have to get that one role, then it’s like “Oh my gosh! This isn’t Lanny [From Pair of Kings] anymore!” You know?
Cailin: I know a lot of people describe it as being like frozen in time when they’re a kid actor, and they kind of have to break away from that and mature.
Ryan: A lot of teen actors take time away, or do other stuff. I couldn’t, because I didn’t want to. It wasn’t me! The business is what I want to do — make more movies, and make more shows. Do what I love. Why am I going to do something else?
Hannah: It seems like a lot of people feel the need to do a complete…I guess one way to put it would be image overhaul — not just in the roles they choose, but how they portray themselves on social media, et cetera. They do this because they want people to see them the way they want to be seen as they mature. Do you ever feel this pressure?
Ryan: I think it was something that I knew was coming, eventually, you know? I didn’t want to… I kind of didn’t want to accept it, but I knew it was going to come eventually. I knew I was going to have to face it. So it was like, look, this is either…you either do it and you continue doing what you love or you just stop and you give up. And it’s like no, I’m not going to give up! I knew that this is what I wanted to do, I stick to it, and eventually, [I knew] something would help me transition. The cool part for me is that I didn’t really feel the pressure because it kind of happened gradually … I got Mostly Ghostly, which still ended up being on Disney Channel, but it was my first starring role where people could see me in a leading role. But it wasn’t Leonardo DiCaprio. And then I did some other stuff that’s coming out soon … People are going to see me in all different types of genres and all different types of things. I just shot The Samuel Project, which shows a whole new side of me. The transition wasn’t overnight for me. It’s kind of slowly happening, and I think that’s cool. It’s not so much pressure on me to change overnight. It’s still happening. I just get to do what I love and and when it happens, it happens. That’s how I feel.
Cailin: Ryan, I have to say, I saw you’re doing a film with Anthony Michael Hall, and as a huge Brat Pack fan I kind of freaked out a little.
Cailin: Do you ever still have those moments where you’re doing a film or taking on a new project and you kind of have a fan moment where you’re like, “Oh, my God, I get to work with this person?”
Ryan: [laughs] I think…this is going to be funny, but for me it’s more, I get more excited for other people. Like, [I’ll say to] my parents or my brothers, “I’m going to get to work with this person, you’re gonna love this!” Anthony Michael Hall is in classic movies…he’s in one of our favorites, The Breakfast Club. For my parents, that was like a huge deal. I was like, “Hey mom and dad, how awesome is that?” Just being a part of that movie … We didn’t have scenes together, but it’s just cool being able to say that we’re in the same movie.
Hannah and Cailin: Of course!
Hannah: Are you one of those people who likes to have a five or ten year plan or you just kind of take it day by day and see where it all takes you?
Ryan: I think it’s in the middle. I’m not saying I take it day by day, but I also am not like, “Oh, my life has to do this, I have to be doing this by that time.” But then again, if I didn’t, I’d have no goals. I do have some goals, but I’m not like, “It has to be happening by then.” Then I wouldn’t be living. Then it would go back to our other question of do I feel the pressure … That’s why I’m just like, this is what I want to happen, I’ll be doing this by this time, hopefully, but in the meantime, let me do my own stuff. Let me have fun. Let me shoot my own content. Just do what I love, no matter if it’s a big Universal production or in my house.
Hannah: As long as you’re doing what you want to be doing!
Cailin: Goals and inspiration rather than a plan.
Ryan: Everyone should be doing that. Make sure you’re doing what you love. Don’t let someone tell you you can’t do it … We shoot all of our videos, me and the boys. We shoot whatever we want, whenever we want … It’s just fun for me.
Cailin: Last question for you: who is Ryan Ochoa?
Hannah: [clarifying] Twenty years down the line, how do you hope people will speak of you?
Ryan: [he hesitates, searching carefully for his words] … Ryan Ochoa is an inspiring individual who is going to change people’s lives in so many different ways.
Cailin: And that you will.