Tell us about the character you play, and how can you relate to him/her. Is there any part of Chess that resonates with you as an actor, or personally?
I play “The Arbiter.” In simple terms, I am the referee of the chess match and the president of the International Chess Federation. I also act as the narrator of the story. With Tim Dang’s encouragement, there was a lot of freedom to make the character my own. I tried my best to make the character unique to me and the result has ended up being a sort of odd, quirky, and funny individual. At least, that’s what I’ve been told. I’ve ended up having a blast playing this very unique character from the vast canon of musical theater.
What challenges, if any, have you faced with playing your character?
The biggest challenge for “The Arbiter” are the vocals. The score is essentially a rock-opera, and musicals like that are never easy. The character is required to sing high and low, and definitely everything in between. Lots of sleep and lots of water helps.
What distinguishes this production or role you have compared to other characters you’ve played in the past?
This is the first time that I’ve been a part of a truly multicultural cast, or even seen one for that matter. I feel like often words are thrown out when billing shows such as “diverse” or “color-blind casting” and I have always been disappointed. Not because of the lack of talent by any means…the talent was definitely there. It has just never been a truly diverse cast like the group that has been assembled for Chess. I do feel like this production is absolutely making a statement that pulling from all sorts of ethnicities for casting purposes can be very effective.
What made you want to pursue acting?
I come from a family of artists – painters, fashion designers, musicians, singers, dancers, and my Aunt was actually a very good actress. She still is, although she doesn’t pursue it as much as she used to. But I remember seeing my first musical when I was 4. She played Miss Hannigan in Annie and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. Whether or not I realized it, I’m pretty sure I decided at that moment what I was going to do with my life.
Have you ever faced adversity in your career, and if so, how?
I have been very lucky throughout this point in my career. I have very few complaints. However, it cannot be denied that being an ethnic actor does not provide a lot of opportunities in the theater. It is simply a fact. With that said, I do feel like I have had to fight so hard for every job that I’ve ever been given. It is very rare for me to walk into an audition and look appropriate for the role. Ten times out of ten I MUST convince the people sitting behind the table that I’m capable. It’s kind of a lovely challenge.
Any advice you’d give to actors just starting out?
There’s way too much. If I could sum it up as best as I can, I’d say work hard. VERY HARD. Every day that you aren’t contributing to your craft someone else is contributing to theirs. Do not give up. Stay humble and maintain an excellent work ethic.
What’s in store for you after Chess?
The day after Chess ends I begin rehearsals for Life Could Be A Dream. I’ve been very fortunate to be an original cast member of the show and I’ve been performing the role of “Wally” for about four years now, off and on. This next reincarnation of it will play at the Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theater at the Pershing Square Signature Center in Manhattan. Later in the year I will traveling with McCoy Rigby Ent. to Macau for a special engagement of Miss Saigon. I couldn’t be more excited for the future.
How can fans stay updated about your projects?
To stay updated on the wildly varying acting endeavours of Ryan, you can keep track at www.ryancastellino.com or you can follow him on Twitter!! @RYANCASTELLINO