More than a decade removed from her Disney Channel breakthrough, Debby Ryan’s career as a post-teenage actor is progressing quite nicely.
The Keller native’s latest indie film project, Spin Me Round, finds Ryan in an ensemble comedy about managers in a restaurant chain who win a corporate retreat to the Italian countryside, where a prized meeting with the chain’s founder leads to a strange set of occurrences.
The film enabled Ryan to reunite with director Jeff Baena and his real-life wife, star Aubrey Plaza, after their collaboration on the 2020 Netflix drama Horse Girl.
“I really enjoyed their way of filmmaking and storytelling. Then we became friends and kept in touch during the pandemic,” Ryan said at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin. “They know me and know my sensibilities.”
An avid traveler, Ryan visited Europe extensively while on tour with her husband, Twenty One Pilots percussionist Josh Dun, but she had never worked there. So filming in Tuscany for a month last summer provided an opportunity to deepen her appreciation for Italian culture and food.
Ryan, 29, comes from a military family. She lived at Fort Hood and in Germany during her childhood but was mostly raised in Keller. She began her acting career like so many other Dallas-Fort Worth kids, on “Barney and Friends.” She recalls the joy of earning her first credit on a “Barney” movie on her 13th birthday.
Ryan gradually became more involved in acting and singing before landing the title role in the Disney Channel sitcom “Jessie,” which ran for five years and 98 episodes.
“It’s been eight years since Disney, but it’s still fresh in people’s minds. I have a lot of respect for the work that I got to do there, and I don’t want to tarnish that by feeling like I need to prove something,” she said. “It’s just been about following what felt right in terms of the people I was working with and the types of characters.”
Recent projects have given Ryan more of an opportunity to showcase her talent and break free from any adolescent pigeonholing. After Horse Girl showed her more introspective dramatic side, she flexed her action muscle in the vampire thriller Night Teeth, also for Netflix.
This year, Ryan has been filming in Puerto Rico opposite Garland native William Jackson Harper in the acclaimed Peacock series “The Resort.” She will also have a recurring role alongside pop star The Weeknd in the upcoming HBO drama “The Idol.” In other words, her star is still brightening.
“I’ve had a pretty remarkable career in terms of opportunities,” Ryan said. “The last eight years have been marked by every project having such a different DNA.”
Spin Me Round is now available on streaming platforms and is showing in select theaters.