3 things you likely don’t know about actor Ryan Reynolds


When I sat down to interview actor Ryan Reynolds for CBC’s The National, I wondered: is there anything about him that I didn’t already know. Anything that hadn’t already been written about.

Just look at the past few weeks. From a stealthy appearance in a Super Bowl ad, to promoting the new Netflix movie The Adam Project, to he and his wife Blake Lively matching donations of up to $1 million for Ukrainian refugees, a lot of people are paying attention to 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 unveiled a few surprises.

  • WATCH | The interview with actor Ryan Reynolds 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 on CBC Gem.

Actor Ryan Reynolds, left, chats with CBC The National’s host Ian Hanomansing recently in Toronto. (Perlita Stroh/CBC)

A star encounter at the supermarket

I knew the teenage Ryan Reynolds worked at a Vancouver supermarket, and not just any supermarket. It was actually my neighbourhood store, and I shopped there so often I probably walked by while he was stocking shelves.

But what I didn’t know, until we chatted, was he had his own celebrity-spotting moment there. 

Before I get to that, Reynolds told me he “loved” working at the supermarket — usually on the overnight shift — and said a few of his co-workers were, “the funniest people on Earth. Some of the biggest impressions on me, actually, like as a performer, were the people, the folks I was working with at night.”

Occasionally he worked the checkout, and that’s where the lives of two Vancouver stars crossed paths.

“I used to bag Sarah McLachlan’s groceries, and I always noted that she was incredibly kind to everybody that she met in that store. Didn’t have to be. No-one even knew it was her, half the time she had a toque pulled down. But yeah, it was her. She was awesome.”

He didn’t make the comparison, but it wasn’t lost on me. Two pretty big Vancouver stars, well known for being very kind to fans.

WATCH | Actor Ryan Reynolds reminisces about working the night shift at a local grocery store in Vancouver as a teen:

What actor Ryan Reynolds learned and who he met bagging groceries as a teen

Actor Ryan Reynolds talks to CBC The National host Ian Hanomansing about how working in his neighbourhood supermarket in Vancouver as a teen influenced his career, and how he bagged groceries for another Canadian superstar. 0:35

How a city traffic overpass saved his (creative) life

If you’ve done much driving in downtown Vancouver, you’ve probably crossed the Georgia Viaduct, an overpass flanked by the home rink for the Vancouver Canucks and BC Place Stadium.

In 2015, it was closed for two weeks to film Deadpool, an unusual kind of superhero movie. Reynolds’ Deadpool was funny and vulgar and very appealing to audiences. 

But apparently the studio was much less confident.

Reynolds says Deadpool was his “first foray into producing,” and it came with a big challenge. The budget was so tight, “we had to turn every dollar into what felt like a hundred dollars.”

The result, Reynolds says, changed his approach to movie making.

“That Georgia Viaduct saved our lives. It really did. Because we needed to cut all these huge action sequences and replace spectacle with character.”

WATCH | What actor Ryan Reynolds learned at Vancouver’s Georgia Viaduct:

What actor Ryan Reynolds learned at Vancouver’s Georgia Viaduct

Actor Ryan Reynolds talks to CBC The National host Ian Hanomansing about shooting Hollywood blockbuster Deadpool at a Vancouver landmark, and the valuable lessons that taught him about movie-making. 0:30

And what he learned making Deadpool has had an impact on his other projects, including the advertising company he created and then sold, Maximum Effort.

“Later in my life [it] became an enormous lession in marketing, and every other business I would pursue, that ‘necessity being the mother of invention’ is the greatest creative tool you could ever have,” Reynolds said.

“A lot of those lessons were forged in 2015 as I sat on that Georgia Viaduct, trying to figure out how the hell I’m going to get through this movie on the paltry amount of money they’ve given us to shoot it.”

Deadpool and Deadpool 2 are the second- and third-top-grossing R-rated movies of all time. I wondered how Reynolds felt about being so high on that list?

With a smile, he said it felt pretty good. 

“I’m not wagging my finger at anyone, but it was 10 years of them saying ‘no, it will never work, and here’s why it’ll never work.’ There’s some, you know, vindication.”

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 an introvert and “terrified” sometimes to go to school. 

That seems hard to believe, seeing how relaxed and confident he  appears in interviews. But he told a story about how anxious he was backstage at David Letterman’s show, wondering if he would literally fall down or throw up. (That didn’t happen.)

I’ve heard introverts talk about their transformation on camera or on stage, but never quite this way. Reynold said, “I’ve noted that this sort of little guy takes over. And this little guy is confident, and [he] can kind of throw a joke around here and there, and all that stuff. And then I realized that this is the same guy that is responsible for my career, responsible for a lot of the things that I get to do. He’s not necessarily the real me, but he keeps me safe and protects me. 

“So that guy has been around since high school. And I turned him on and off a lot better as I got older.”

WATCH | The ‘little guy’ who helps Ryan Reynolds overcome stage fright:

‘little guy’ who helps Ryan Reynolds cope with stage fright

Actor Ryan Reynolds talks to CBC The National’s host Ian Hanomansing about how he overcomes his stage fright with the help of his inner alter-ego. 0:52

There is one other thing I learned about Reynolds. We only spent a half-hour together, but he really does seem to be, in person, the guy he appears to be on video. Listening to questions, generous with his answers, and funny. 

Full disclosure, though. He’s the only person I’ve spoken to who said he was going to angrily knock over the cameras as he left the room. Don’t worry — as seen in our interview on CBC’s The National airing March 6, it was classic Ryan Reynolds. That “little guy” helping him find just the right line to end on.

WATCH | After CBC’s Ian Hanomansing remarks about how level-headed the actor is, Reynolds jokes about how he could explode at any time:

Ryan Reynolds clowns around during CBC interview

After CBC The National host Ian Hanomansing remarks on how level-headed actor Ryan Reynolds is during their interview, Reynolds jokes about how he could explode at any time. 0:21

Watch full episodes of The National on CBC Gem, the CBC’s streaming service.

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