Interview: Ryan Sands of Marvel’s Runaways on Hulu

DC native, Ryan Sands, is a man of many talents from acting to drawing to his selfless endeavors giving back to the inner city. After his first break on “The Wire,” it has been nothing but forward progress for this seasoned veteran. Ryan is now one of the stars of the Hulu series “Marvel: Runaways” and has a movie of his own on the way!

Considering you’re a DC native, did you realize how big of a deal “The Wire” was at the time and how special is the show to you, especially since it was your first big break?
No, not at all. Not at all. I think when I got cast I was just really getting started with my career, so you know we’re talking a starving artist mode. I didn’t even have HBO. I was hearing that “The Wire” was a good show but I wasn’t watching it. So when I got on I didn’t know what to expect. And then time went it just grew. First of all of the scripts were amazing. And so from that standpoint, I’m like “oh man this is deep, this is so good.” So then as we went on and started hearing the critical acclaim we realized this is really something special. It’s really cool being a part of TV history in a way.

It’s pretty incredible to think about “The Wire” as a launch pad to a career. Since then you’ve been on the screen with everyone from Will Smith to Channing Tatum. What’s the best piece of advice that has kept you motivated?
It probably from Andre Braugher. I met him on the set of the CBS show back in 04. And he was just incredibly cool that day and he was somebody who I looked up to from his time on Homicide, which was also shot in Baltimore. I just went up to him and just thanked him for being so incredibly cool. And I just told him that he was definitely an actor that I admired and really inspired me to work hard at my craft. And I had tremendous respect for him because of the way that he treated me that day, I was just I was a guest star.
He just stressed how important it was not to get lost in this show business thing to remember who you are and to be good to people and it sounds easy. This seems like common sense but that’s some great advice. And it’s always refreshing to see somebody who likes Andre who doesn’t have to be so humble and open. So I just try to take that with me and keep that foremost in my thoughts when I’m on the set.

Even with all the accolades and credits, we all know that Hollywood is a brutal game. How do you stay focused and on track even when things might not go as planned?
Man, I’ve been blessed with a great foundation since a child. As you know, I love to draw and I’ve always been allowed to express myself freely, Thanks to my Parents. Even chasing my dream as an actor, is a credit to them. So when casting calls don’t go right, I release in other creative ways like drawing where I can’t be wrong.
I remember as a kid there was a short list of Dream Jobs; a wrestler, Michael Jordan or a Super Hero; and you now get to be the latter. What was it like when you got the call that you were a part of the Hulu series “Marvels: Runaways”. I’m just glad there weren’t cameras on me when I got the call. You need to understand how deep my love for Marvel goes and now to be a Marvel Super Hero, is surreal. I honestly don’t even know what happened once I snapped back to my senses. The contract was signed and the rest is history.

One thing I noticed on the cast is that it’s incredibly diverse. Is that something that you knew going in and how important was that to you?
When you get to the audition, it doesn’t say “Runaways”, It was just an untitled Marvel project. None of the characters have names or anything like that but my comic book I.Q is so high that I instantly had an idea of what I was getting into. And now being on the show, it’s literally a dream come true. To be able to look at the cast and even the extras and see faces that look like mine and other minorities is something I’ve wanted to see my whole life.

How is “Runaways” different than other roles in the past, especially considering you are one of the more tenured actors on set?
Just the whole process for this role was different. The character himself, Geoffrey Wilder, is something like I’ve never experienced before. Everything about Geoffrey is challenging because he is so nuanced. There’s a lot of things that are going on in Jeffrey’s mind and I think I’m ready at this point in my career to play that kind of a role. Who knows if this all came to me years earlier if I would have felt as comfortable as an actor to take this on and to be honest I’m looking forward to moving on with the series. With every episode and with every new script I’m kind of learning who Geoffrey is a little bit more. I’m just really excited to move forward with this character. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for Season 2.

How much is Geoffrey inside of you as a person?
Well, I think the family dynamic is absolutely there. I don’t think that there are too many things more important than family. I’ve always felt that way, so that is a really cool dynamic that family values are such a big part of the character. Every decision Geoffrey makes is with keeping his family safe.

One thing that separates “Runaways” from a lot of other superhero movies and series is the fact that the storyline is dynamic and relatable. Each family has different things that happen but each thing in turn affects each other family involved. Does that bring the cast closer because you all are now waiting in anticipation for the new scripts?
Absolutely it does. The show has so many dynamics that we are literally all just as excited as the fans for the next episodes. We all want to see what is coming next and it keeps us all on the set sharp and wanting to bring our best.

Earlier you spoke about being a kid and never seeing yourself represented and always wanting to see a face like yours as a superhero. How does it feel knowing that you are now one of the faces that has changed the game? You have given a whole generation of kid’s proof that they can, in fact, be Super Heroes.
It’s crazy and it’s kind of hard to put into words. In my office a home, I’ve got two important pictures on my shelf and one of them is a picture of the Sensational Spiderman comic book with Iron Fist on the front of it and I colored Iron Fist brown because that was a time when I was a kid and I just wanted more and I wanted to see more characters like me. And the other picture is of me drawing a brown superhero while wearing my Hulk shirt. So when I look at those pictures and think about the journey I’m floored. And now I am a Marvel character my character’s son is a Black genius kid, who’s kind of the leader of this group.
I mean it’s just like wow. With all the madness going on in the world, characters like these are changing a whole generation of children potentially. We are giving hope and making it attainable for little black kids all over the world. I used to have to really research and ask older cousins about black superheroes because there was just not enough. And now we have Geoffrey Wilder, Luke Cage, Black Panther and so many more on the horizon. Plus comic books and superheroes teach children invaluable lessons so it’s nice to finally see those lessons being voiced by Black Excellence.

Can you tell us about your interaction with Big Brothers/Big Sisters of LA?
I was always someone that wanted to help but always equated helping with money, so I would always say I’m not financially stable enough to give back but after becoming a “Big” my whole life changed. I’ve been blessed with a great family foundation; I was allowed to draw and act and always had my parent blessing to chase my dreams and a lot of kids have nothing. And that’s when I realized that money meant nothing to a child. Sometimes a simple 30-minute car ride or a stop at the amusement park can literally change a child outlook on life. A lot of kids make bad decisions because they have no direction and quite honestly don’t feel worth it not because they are bad kids.

What’s next for you?
I’m working on finally getting my movies, When Autumn Leaves, fully developed and on the big screen. It’s a love story based in my hometown of DC. And I really want to show people a different side of DC that is often overlooked. We either get put under the political umbrella or every light shined on my hometown is negative. We have a flourishing, sophisticated urban scene that needs to be displayed. And I am doing everything in my power to make it happen.
My goal is to be shooting by mid-2018 and I’m just excited. You can find all the information and stay up to date at or on IG and Twitter @WALFilm. What’s crazy is that I didn’t have a title but I always had a vibe in mind for the soundtrack, which is a neo-soul/jazz concept. So as I’m writing and listening to my playlist a Nancy Wilson record came on called “Autumn Leaves” and it all made sense to me. When she said “I miss you most when autumn leaves start to fall” I knew that was it.

Sounds like we are in for a treat. An updated “Love Jones” maybe, which definitely has my interest piqued.
Man, it’s crazy that you say that because “Love Jones” is the movie that made me want to act. Everything about “Love Jones” was a breath of fresh air at the time. It showed that deeper, smoother, educated Black side that was never represented, especially in a city like Chicago. So I’m definitely honored that you would even compare my idea to one of my favorite films of all time.
Now that the business is out of the way; have you tried to sneak any drawing into the Marvel bigwigs suitcases? I mean everyone loves a double threat; you could be actor/illustrator for them.
It didn’t take long for the producers and cast to find out that I was the “Resident Nerd” and was the one who loved comic books and drawing, so you never know! I’m just going to keep chasing all my dreams!

– Beads Z. Wider


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