When I sat down to interview actor Ryan Reynolds for CBC’s The National, I wondered: is there something about him that I don’t already know. Everything that had not yet been written.
Look at the last few weeks. From a sneaky appearance in a Super Bowl ad to promoting the new Netflix movie The Adam Project, to him and his wife Blake Lively matching donations of up to $1 million for Ukrainian refugees, many people are paying attention and talking about the actor/entrepreneur/philanthropist.
But for a guy whose Twitter handle is @vancityreynolds, it turns out asking him about his connection to his hometown uncovered a few surprises.
WATCH | The interview with actor Ryan Reynolds on Sunday March 6 on The National at 9 p.m. ET on CBC News Network and 10 p.m. local time on your CBC television station. You can also catch The National online at Gem of Radio-Canada.
A star encounter at the supermarket
I knew the teenager Ryan Reynolds worked in a supermarket in Vancouver, and not just any. It was actually my neighborhood store, and I shopped there so often that I probably walked past it while it was filling the shelves.
But what I didn’t know, until we were chatting, was that he was having his own celebrity spotting moment there.
Before I got to that, Reynolds told me he “loves” working at the supermarket – usually at night – and said a few of his co-workers are “the funniest people on Earth”. Some of the biggest impressions on me, actually, as a performer, were the people, the people I worked with at night.”
He occasionally worked at the cash register, and it was there that the lives of two Vancouver stars crossed.
“I used to pack Sarah McLachlan’s groceries, and I always noticed that she was incredibly nice to everyone she met in that store. It wasn’t necessary. Nobody even knew that it was her, half the time she had a hat pulled down. But yeah, it was her. She was awesome.
He didn’t make the comparison, but it didn’t escape me. Two pretty big stars from Vancouver, well known for being really nice to the fans.
WATCH | Actor Ryan Reynolds recalls working the night shift at a local grocery store in Vancouver as a teenager:
How a City Traffic Overpass Saved His (Creative) Life
If you’ve driven a lot in downtown Vancouver, you’ve probably driven through the Georgia Viaduct, an overpass flanked by the Vancouver Canucks ice rink and BC Place stadium.
In 2015 it was closed for two weeks to film dead Pool, an unusual genre of superhero film. Reynolds dead Pool was funny and vulgar and very appealing to the public.
But apparently the studio was far less confident.
says Reynolds dead Pool was his “first foray into production”, and it came with a big challenge. The budget was so tight that “we had to turn every dollar into what felt like a hundred dollars.”
The result, Reynolds says, changed his approach to filmmaking.
“That Georgia overpass saved our lives. It really does. Because we had to cut all those huge action sequences and replace spectacle with character.”
WATCH | What actor Ryan Reynolds learned at the Georgia Viaduct in Vancouver:
And what he learned to do dead Pool had an impact on his other projects, including the advertising company he created and then sold, Maximum Effort.
“Later in my life [it] became a huge lesson in marketing, and every other business I would pursue, that “necessity being the mother of invention” is the best creative tool you could have,” Reynolds said.
“A lot of those lessons were forged in 2015 as I sat on that overpass in Georgia trying to figure out how the hell I’m going to get through this movie with the pittance they gave us to shoot it.”
dead Pool and Deadpool 2 are the second and third highest-grossing R-rated films of all time. I was wondering how Reynolds felt about being so high on this list?
With a smile, he said it felt good.
“I don’t move my finger on anyone, but for 10 years they said ‘no, it’s never going to work, and here’s why it’s never going to work.’ There’s, you know, a rationale.”
The little guy responsible for his success
I asked Reynolds about his time in high school in Vancouver, and he said it was a struggle. He was introverted and sometimes “terrified” about going to school.
It seems hard to believe, considering how relaxed and confident he appears in interviews. But he told how anxious he was backstage at the David Letterman show, wondering if he was literally going to fall over or throw up. (This does not happen.)
I’ve heard introverts talk about their transformation on camera or on stage, but never quite that way. Reynold said: “I’ve noticed this kind of little guy taking over. And this little guy is confident, and [he] can kind of throw a joke here and there, and all that. And then I realized it’s the same guy who’s responsible for my career, responsible for a lot of things that I can do. He’s not necessarily the real me, but he keeps me safe and protects me.
“So this guy’s been around since high school. And I’ve turned it on and off a lot better as I got older.”
WATCH | The “little guy” who helps Ryan Reynolds overcome stage fright:
There’s another thing I learned about Reynolds. We only spent half an hour together, but he really seems to be, in person, the guy he seems to be on the video. Listening to questions, generous with his answers, and funny.
Full disclosure, however. He was the only person I spoke to who said he was going to angrily knock over the cameras as he left the room. Don’t worry – as seen in our CBC interview The National airing on March 6, it was the Ryan Reynolds classic. This “little guy” helped him find the right line to finish.
WATCH | Following CBC’s Ian Hanomansing’s remarks about the actor’s weighting, Reynolds jokes that he could explode at any moment:
Watch full episodes of The National on CBC Gem, CBC’s streaming service.