On the eight-episode, half-hour comedy Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes on Television (streaming through the paid membership service YouTube Red), the LAPD has decided to form a task force partnering actors with homicide detectives, so that they can use their “actor skills” to help solve murders. As a result, Ryan Hansen (of course, played by Ryan Hansen) is partnered with the no-nonsense Detective Jessica Mathers (Samira Wiley), who is justifiably pissed off to be paired with someone who just can’t seem to take anything as seriously as she does. From creator/writer/director/executive producer Rawson Marshall Thurber, the hilarious super-meta series also features Joel McHale, Kristen Bell, Jon Cryer, Donald Faison, Eric Christian Olsen and Aly Michalka, among others.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actor Ryan Hansen talked about what his first impression of this show was, how much better the finished product turned out than what he expected, meeting co-star Samira Wiley, his favorite moments from the season, how involved he was in developing himself as a character, wanting to do his own stunts, and what he most enjoys about doing comedy. He also talked about why the cast of Veronica Mars is always so game to return to their characters for more.
Collider: When you started the journey with Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes on Television, what were you hoping for with the show?
RYAN HANSEN: Honestly, when I first read it, I was like, “This is such a weird, different show.” I didn’t even know what it was gonna look like until we started shooting it, just ‘cause it is so different and unique. I was just hopeful to have something that would make me and my friends laugh and that would hopefully make everyone else laugh. I think we did it. I’m really proud of it. It’s one of my most favorite things that I’ve ever done.
Is the finished product anything like what you thought it would be, when you started this journey?
HANSEN: It ended up so much better than I thought it was gonna be. It was such a weird show. And then, Samira [Wiley] jumped on and her performance just really makes it feel like a weird show. She makes it so legit. It’s much better and cooler, and it looks so much better than I ever imagined. I just had to trust (show creator) Rawson [Marshall Thurber] and (executive producer) Beau [Bauman].
I love the pairing of you and Samira Wiley. How did you guys first meet and did you instantly have the fun and easy back-and-forth that you have on the show?
HANSEN: We literally met in the hair and make-up trailer, 10 minutes before we started shooting. I was so nervous because I didn’t know if she was gonna like me. I didn’t know if we’d get along. You just never know, with those situations, and we were gonna spend three months together. But we met and we hit it off, right away. We instantly became best buds, and I love her so much. We sing and dance and play games, all day. I learned so much from her. She’s just an amazing actress.
One of my favorite moments in the season is when you and Samira Wiley sing Paula Abdul’s “Opposites Attract” in the car.
HANSEN: Oh, my god!
What are your favorite moments from the season?
HANSEN: Well, singing “Opposites Attract” with Samira, in the car all day, for sure stands out for me. It was a dream come true to sing that song with Samira. That was awesome! What else stands out? Working with Joel McHale. He’s so funny and he made me laugh so hard. We shot this really cool shot through Canter’s that was a big oner, and that was really challenging and fun. Working with Eric Christian Olsen, I don’t think I’ve laughed harder. We had a couple funny scenes together, and he was just ridiculous. I enjoyed working with all of the guest cast. Kristen Bell jumped on and was amazing. She always just brings it and she’s always so funny. Her saying, “Elsa can suck my dick!,” to a little kid was probably the best thing, ever.
How involved were you, in developing yourself as a character?
HANSEN: You’d think I’d be very heavily involved in this, with my name in the title, but I did not create this show. This is not my weird, sick idea of self. This is all Rawson Marshall Thurber and his portrayal of me, and I think he nailed it. It’s very easy for me to slip into this half-douche, half-lovable actor. It’s not me, but it’s so me. But I wasn’t involved, at all.
When you are sort of playing yourself in something, but it’s also a bit of a heightened version of yourself, do you ever worry about making sure people know that this isn’t exactly you?
HANSEN: I don’t really worry about it. People know that this isn’t actually me. This is just silly me. It doesn’t really bother me. I think it’s a lot of fun and a really cool opportunity to be able to play a character of myself. It’s pretty fun.
This is a show where it seems like nothing is off limits. Were there ever things you tried to get them to let you do?
HANSEN: Any kind of stunt or action bit, even if they have a stunt guy there, I’m always trying to do myself. I get why they would rather have a stunt guy do it, but if I can, I’m like, “I can do that!” I even threw the back flip in, myself. That wasn’t in there. I always throw a back flip in, just to make sure there’s a back flip in the show. I’m on the hoverboard thing. I wanna do stuff like that. And any time singing or dancing comes up, I really try to push that.
What did you learn from doing a season of this show that you think might affect or change things, if you get to do a second season?
HANSEN: I’d do less monologues. That would be dope. I’m used to playing a character that comes in and says, “Dude, what’s up?!,” and then exists. I would have less talking, and more singing and dancing.
What do you most enjoy about working in comedy, and where do you feel your comedy strengths are?
HANSEN: My favorite thing about working in comedy is the vibe on set. In order to be able to play and have fun, the set atmosphere has to be that, for me. I love hanging with the crew, and making everyone laugh and feel comfortable. Being able to keep it light and fun, all day, is what I love about comedy. It’s all about having fun. I like playing a lovable douche, and I really love the physical stuff. Physical comedy is so fun, when it works.
Have you always been the funny guy, or was that something you realized you were good at, somewhere along the way?
HANSEN: It just came, along the way, with the roles I was getting, early on. In Veronica Mars, I played a tough douche guy, and then I got some silly lines, here and there. They kept giving me more and more fun lines, and I just rolled with it. I didn’t get into acting thinking, “I wanna be funny!” It was a natural progression for me. I haven’t done anything else, really. I’ve done a little bit of dramatic stuff on Veronica Mars, and some other little things. And then, being able to be on Party Down was like comedy training for me, working with all those legends and up-and-coming legends. It was ridiculous, being able to watch and work with them, and all of the guest stars on that show. That got me really comfortable with comedy. I’m not a comedian, but I like comedic acting.
There’s been some talk again about bringing back Veronica Mars again and possibly doing a mini-series, or something like that. What do you think it is about that show that not only keeps the fans wanting more, but keeps you guys wanting to return to those characters?
HANSEN: Rob Thomas really created such a beautiful world and a beautiful story. The characters he created are just so awesome. The character of Veronica Mars is such a bad-ass, and it’s so perfect for today. It really resonates for people, even still, just having a powerful, strong woman. I don’t know what it is, but we all love it so much that we want it to continue. For a lot of us, it was our first big gig, so maybe there’s something to that, going back and reliving the beginning, for a lot of us. And I just think the characters are so fun. We all grew up together, on that show. I know it was only for three years, but it was that primetime age for us. We’re buds. We really all bonded on that show, so I think there’s something to that.
Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes on Television is available to stream at YouTube Red.