Disney staple Debby Ryan used to star on the cable network’s beloved but dearly departed show The Suite Life on Deck, playing Kansas belle Bailey Pickett alongside Zach (Dylan Sprouse) and Cody (Cole Sprouse). But now Ryan’s got her own, starring gig with Jessie, which EW recently said was one of the top TV shows for kids aged 7 to 9. By day, Ryan plays the titular Jessie, a Texas girl who leaves her military family behind to be a nanny for four (rather rambunctious) children in the big city.
We’ve all see Ryan on screen quite a lot, but what’s she all about off screen? EW recently chatted with Disney staple Ryan, in an effort to find out more about her. The main topic? Pop culture, of course! (This is EW, anyway.) On the eve of Jessie’s second season premiere – the sitcom returns Friday, Oct. 5, at 8:30 p.m. – let’s see how Ryan handles being grilled with an EW Pop Culture Personality Test.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Name a TV show that, if there is one, that makes you cry or has made you cry in the past.
DEBBY RYAN: Actually, this is so funny and shameless, so feel free to tell me this doesn’t count. When my show The Suite Life on Deck ended, certainly and obviously there were tears. It was such a great experience, but I didn’t know that it was going to be such a huge ordeal when it ended, having a 100,000 viewers tweet me and just bawling their eyes out and showing me photos of just all the Kleenexes all over the living room table and that whole thing. That was a little bit shocking.
Name a cancelled TV show would you bring back if you could.
Absolutely, Friends, right? No but really, Laverne and Shirley, I would like to bring back a lot. I loved that it kind of, not only pioneered sitcoms with female protagonists in its day, but just how it was gutsy to portray women who…well, Laverne was like a little bit loose. It was like a mess. They’re a little bit ditsy, you know what I mean? It wasn’t like the perfect kind of woman, it wasn’t like the woman who was trying to be that homemaker – it was a woman trying to live out her dreams with another woman who was trying to live out her dreams in this crazy big wide world. So that sort of thing is a really great concept, and there’s enough aspirational quality to it that makes you want to be in on it, but it’s not so aspirational that it’s not relatable. It also has great comedic timing. Their physical comedy was unreal. They were the first woman to really do that.
What’s the worst-case scenario of a show your DVR could forget to tape?
I’m a really big How I Met Your Mother fan. That would do it.
What show are you planning to marathon next?
Dexter, but also I’ve heard that Breaking Bad is insane. My friends and I have Doctor Who marathons. They come over and watch hours of Doctor Who at a time. It’s like tragic but awesome.
When do you yell at the TV?
First of all, I was raised in the South, so if you mark me as the one who doesn’t yell, you are incorrect. [Laughs.] I yell at Pretty Little Liars. It’s that typical type of thing: “Don’t go in the closet! But why are you walking where you know the murderer has a den all alone?! You don’t have a cell phone? Call somebody!” You’d think that those girls by this point would have learned.
Name an R-rated movie you saw too young.
It was always like with my dad, so it was always like The Patriot – that might be PG-13. But there was always kind of like those. The Band of Brothers series? I remember being eight and watching the Band of Brothers series and being like, “Oh my God.”
What’s your most prized pop culture possession?
I have – I would say if I had to estimate a number – probably about a 180 records. Vinyl records. When I was seven years old, I found a tiny little record player and I became obsessed with it, and there was a little red book full of records, and I literally felt like I struck gold. It played music and it was not a Walkman. I was so excited. I have tons of actually a lot of Aretha and Beatles vinyls. And, like, Hair, the original cast recording. And The Heartbreakers, which was one of the first actual CDs that I got. My favorite record, Goodbye Blues by The Hush Sound, sounds even better on vinyl. I didn’t think the record could get better, but I listened to it on vinyl and I swooned all over again.
What’s something that you’ve stolen from a set?
I did this movie – it was like my first starring role on a movie and it was called 16 Wishes. It was about this girl with her birthday wish list. I took a copy of this list, and it’s been hanging on my wall ever since I got back from the set, and it makes me so happy. It’s like my little wish list. It’s like a reminder that my wishes came true. One of her wishes is: “I’ll have the cutest clothes ever.” That’s definitely a Debby Ryan wish. And also, there’s everything I took from The Suite Life, like the prom dresses and every really, big major moment dress. Like, all of the dresses. I’m holding on to them. I have some outfits that I would be interested in auctioning for charity eventually, but currently I’m holding on to them and they’re here.
What comedy star do you most identify with?
There’s Emma Stone and Amanda Bynes and Tina Fey – Tina Fey because she was a TV star and she was also in charge. She was a writer, a producer, and she told her stories. She was so culturally relevant and she also had the classic sitcom vibe to her and classic comedy, so I just think that she’s amazing. I love Gilda Radner, when you go back a little bit more, and as far as this generation, Emma Stone. When I saw her in Ghost of Girlfriends Past, I was like: “That’s what I want to do.”
What’s the most embarrassing song on your iPod?
I do have an adequate amount of Phil Collins and a little bit of… I actually have a lot of movie scores. I listen to a lot of movie scores. For instance, the score to Amelie, the French film with Audrey Tatou, is possibly the best. Yann Tierson did it. It’s amazing and I’ve learned to play it a little bit on piano. It’s unreal.
What music helps get you into character?
I make playlists for the makeup room, and it’s really just what we’re kind of listening to or what the season is at the time. I just did a “Pumpkin Spice” playlist, which is all things kind of transitioning into fall, and it’s like every song has a bit of warmth to it, which is brilliant. I did a stint on Private Practice, and I had made a playlist about that, where I put songs of people at their lowest point, really trying to build themselves up again, and what it’s like to struggle with addiction and not know who you are and sell yourself to addiction. Music is just the spaceship, it can take you to anywhere in the universe and it can take you places in your soul that you didn’t know existed.
Tanner on Twitter: @EWTanStransky