HBO: So tell us about Ryan.
DEAN: Oh yeah, my alter ego!
HBO: Is he really, totally opposite of you? No similarities?
DEAN: There's actually a lot of Ryan in me, which is one reason why I got the role. So umm... believe me. I mean, I wasn't feeding people glass or killing anybody.
HBO: Ha ha, right! Or, like, playing both sides against the middle.
DEAN: Well I've actually done that before [laughs], but sure, what do you wanna know about Ryan?
HBO: To start, tell us what most appealed to you about Ryan the character -- the part, how'd you get the part etc. you know standard stuff.
DEAN: I was doing a movie in L.A., CONSPIRACY THEORY, you know that one?
DEAN: Which if you look really hard you can barely find me in it [laughs], but while I was out there shooting it, Barry Levinson was shooting WAG THE DOG across the street, and I had worked on HOMICIDE a few times. Tom Fontana saw me on the set and said he and Barry were doing this OZ project for HBO and that they have this character, this Irish guy they wanted me to play and would I do it. And I was like "would I do it? What are you, crazy? Of course,I'll do it!" I was thrilled to take the part. However, the most appealing thing about Ryan to me was his basic survival instincts and how he's able to survive all kinds of situations 'cause you know he's a dirt bag, he's a cockroach, a manipulator...
HBO: [laughs] Yeah, that's true!
DEAN: [laughs] I mean, you know how it is, but let's not lose sight of what we're dealing with here. I mean we are in a prison environment, not a prep school, so the fact that Ryan's always able to stay one step ahead of everybody by doing everything he thinks is necessary and damn the consequences -- I mean who wouldn't want to play that? I've said this before, you know, I try to go through life being a pretty good person, but to be able to play somebody like Ryan is a dream because... I mean everyone at some point in their life gets pushed to the point of wanting to feed someone glass, or... [he laughs]
HBO: I hear you, I know exactly how you feel, you get mad enough to consider doing that...
DEAN: ...Or something similar, like hang someone from the rafters, or also as in this case, protect your brother. And being able to play an older brother to my real life brother... now that's a real gift.
HBO: So that answers another question, you two are related.
DEAN: Yeah we're real brothers.
HBO: He's older?
DEAN: Actually, I'm older. He's a year and two weeks younger than I am. It's a trip having him on the show.
HBO: Do you think the chemistry between Cyril and Ryan is because you two are great actors or more because of the familiarity that comes with being brothers?
DEAN: Well, I wanna say its because we're great actors [laughs]. He's my brother and I love him more than anything, so, that was the one thing we really didn't have to act, you know. The feeling for each other we really didn't have to work on. In real life I would never have my brother go out and kill someone you know [laughs)]. That's where the acting comes into play there. He's actually one of my favorite actors on the planet.
HBO: Now Dean, you know you've got lots female fans.
DEAN: Really? [laughs] Nah, you're kidding.
HBO: Oh yeah and I mean they send LOADS of questions. Especially stuff about how much they love Ryan, how hot he is... you know the deal. Why do you think they have such love for this character who's obviously, as you say a cockroach, a scumbag?
DEAN: I just think it goes back to the... a... a... kind of a brute, caveman mentality about him. And I'm not saying that that's anything to be admired, but I think there is something interesting and appealing about that, especially now when everyone is so politically correct and so afraid to show how they really are or feel. I think when they see Ryan, they see some of the most basic "male" qualities, and there is something kind of attractive about that; maybe I'm reaching, I don't know. But I think, like when the whole thing went down with Dr. Nathan, I know it's a dark thing to say but, I mean would you fantasize about someone so in love with you that they'd do anything for you?
HBO: Yeah, I can see a person confessing their love for you so strongly but...
DEAN: ...But not to kill anyone! Don't get me wrong! Just to have someone feel love that strongly is incredible. I mean, as perverse as it seems, there is something appealing there. Even though Ryan did completely screw his brother over, it was because he was so blinded by the love for Dr. Nathan. And in the end, I think that the viewers really saw how much Ryan really cared for Cyril by wanting to protect him, and I think the women could be attracted to that.
HBO: You think Ryan and Dr. Nathan could get together?
DEAN: Naah, I don't think so. [laughing]
HBO: No chance at all huh.
DEAN: Not unless she has a lobotomy [laughs]. Hey, I would love nothing more than to explore that story line. Lauren Velez is such a beautiful and great actress; it would be a pleasure to explore that story. They haven't really told us what's going to happen, so its hard to say. Which is the beauty of the show: You don't ever find out what's up until you open the script and you say, "woah, what the hell is this? Can I really pull this off?" But because the whole OZ team and cast are so great, you get that push that let's you know you can pull it off.
HBO: Yeah, tell us about that, because fans wonder if the cast does influence how you approach playing Ryan.
DEAN: Oh yeah, definitely. Its like anything: You're only as good as the people you're working with -- and believe me, these I'm with (Lauren Velez, Terry Kinney, Ernie Hudson, etc.) are the damn best. I take such pride in being a part of this group of amazing actors. And working with them actually raises my performance level so I've gotta go in there and give the 200 percent to make Ryan as real as possible, especially since he's such a bad-ass and a complex character.
HBO: Well, you've convinced a lot of viewers. I mean OZ fans are on some serious dedication. They're all over our BBS about how pissed they are that the show's off, when will it be back, what's gonna happen to the characters, who should kick who's butt.
DEAN: Really? I can believe it though. The show just grabs you and keeps you watching. Like last night. Episode 7 from the first season was on, and I just got sucked into the show while watching it. And while I'm watching, I see Ryan O'Reily and I don't recognize myself. I mean I'm sitting there watching and I'm like "hey I know that guy!" I mean isn't that crazy?
HBO: You're so crazy but it's true. One fan, said he loves Ryan's cockiness, like he's in control. Does Ryan really believe he runs the place, or is he frontin' and really just trying to watch his back?
DEAN: I think if he ever thought he ran the place, then he'd be in trouble. I think it's all about giving that impression of being in control, so he's gotta play that role. And it seems to be working 'cause OZ inmates believe him.
HBO: In the second season, Ryan got breast cancer. Tell us about that. What did you do to make it believable without being too corny or over the top?
DEAN: The possibilities were endless, and I was thrilled to do it. I mean think about it, Ryan goes through all this crap to establish himself up in this prison to where he's sort of becoming the man and then he gets this "women's" disease you know. I mean, on top of being afraid of dying, he has to be even more careful because he doesn't want the inmates to think he's weak. And we know what that gets you in prison! I actually spoke with some male breast cancer victims, and I'll tell you, it's tough as hell to have this life threatening disease and then have to go through the stigma and embarrassment of going to women's doctors, getting mammograms, and all. I mean it's so rough. As tough as it was, I was still thrilled to play the part and did everything I could to make Ryan ring true. That's why I shaved my head, lost all the weight and stuff. I'm not sure if the story has run it's course or not, I mean you never know, remission, and all.
HBO: So what's up with you now? Gonna stay here in NYC? Any new projects?
DEAN: Well yeah. You know I was born here in NY. I was born on the east side, lived in Harlem when I was a kid.
HBO: Where in Harlem?
DEAN: 125th Street near Riverside Drive. I've lived everywhere in the city. I love this city. This city is my life's breath, but most of the work in this business is in California -- TV and all.
HBO: Think you'd do a sitcom?
DEAN: Hey, I'd love to do a sitcom. People aren't gonna watch me on OZ and then easily believe, "oh that guy's funny he could be a comedic actor" you know but yeah, a sitcom could work for me.
HBO: So you're not into getting typecast. Do you worry about that?
DEAN: Oh definitely, which is one of the reasons why I did this independent feature over the summer. This is a real nice family movie where I play this young dad, you know. I was just trying to see if I could pull one of those off, because it was so opposite of Ryan O' Reily. Yeah you do worry about that, but I think I can pull it off. Tom (Fontana) and Barry (Levinson) are developing a TV show, so I'm gonna do that, I'll be playing a lawyer. So yeah, I'm working on playing a variety of roles so I don't get too typecast.
HBO: Any guesses on what Ryan's gonna be up to next season?
DEAN: Well the first season just came out of nowhere, you know; no-one knew what to expect. And the second season just rocked with these fantastic stories. I suspect the third season to keep the pace going and be filled with some surprises. Of course, if I did know what was up I couldn't tell you here! [laughs]
HBO: Yeah, I figured that. [laughs]
DEAN: I will say this, I expect it to blow people away.
HBO: Even more than last season?
DEAN: Yeah, plus the fact that we only do about eight episodes a season, which I'm sure some of the fans don't like.
HBO: Oh yeah, they constantly yell for more episodes.
DEAN: Well, I think we can consistently give fans the impact they like OZ for with the eight episodes. To do a 15-to 20-episode season could take away from the strength of the stories.
HBO: Thanks again for the time Dean.
DEAN: No problem, my pleasure!
HBO: So tell us about Ryan.