Ryan Guzman is really starting to hit his stride. Cast as an unknown in the fourth Step Up film,Step Up: Revolution, the Mexican-American Guzman was ready for stardom, but it seems stardom wasn’t quite ready for him. After the film, Guzman kept working on indie projects, but now it seems he’s about to become an even bigger star.
Yes, good things come to those who wait: he nabbed a guest role on Pretty Little Liars, was invited to do another Step Up, and is currently filming alongside Jennifer Lopez for the sexy thriller, The Boy Next Door, which is slated for release in 2015–and might just be the blockbuster that, dare we say it, makes him a bona fide movie star.
We caught up with the charming actor to talk about having chemistry with Jennifer Lopez, playing a villain, flirting on Twitter and more!
The last time we spoke to you, you were gearing up for the opening of Step Up: Revolution–and now you’ve completed an arc on Pretty Little Liars, you’re working on Step Up 5, and are currently filming The Boy Next Door with Jennifer Lopez. What’s been your reaction to everything that’s happened thus far?
Yeah, wow. Just being thankful, feeling really blessed. There was awhile where I wasn’t really working. I wasn’t doing anything of note, really. And I guess there’s that thing in every actor’s mind, especially when they’re not booking anything, where it’s like, “am I doing the right thing?” Luckily, I was chosen for Pretty Little Liars, and at that point my first thought was, “yes, thank God, a job. I’m employed!” But it really was a fantastic role and they ended up making the character stay on longer than expected. My character Jake was really only supposed to be on for one or two episodes, but that changed. It’s a blessing for sure. I just thank God; thank whoever’s up there, for all of this.
Do you think Jake, your character on Pretty Little Liars, will come back?
You never know. They left it very open ended. But yeah, with Ezra being the bad guy and Jake knowing it, I could see how they might want him to come back, get a little vengeance maybe.
How did it feel to join in on such an established show?
They definitely had that family thing going on, but they welcomed me, and it was great. And I got to work with Lucy Hale, who is a good friend, so that was great, too. I loved working with her and it was easy. We had a lot of chemistry.
Is that why you think they kept you on–because you guys had a ton of chemistry?
I really have no idea. I think the producers just liked where that character was going, and they just approached me and were like, “do you mind continuing?” And I was like “of course! Let’s do this!”
So what can fans expect from Step Up 5?
It’s reminiscent of the previous movies, obviously. A lot of the previous characters from other Step Up [movies] will be back, but it’ll show some different things. It’s more about how a dancer, or any performer really, gets to the city and isn’t immediately successful and has to deal with trying to make it. It’s more realistic in that plot aspect. But it’s going to be awesome. These movies are just fun. They’re not supposed to be intellectually challenging. We just want to give people an escape from their life for awhile and have a lot of fun with it.
How are you guys taking the dancing to the next level? Or are you? What we’re really trying to say: will there be twerking?
[laughs] there will be twerking.
No foam fingers. Sorry, Miley. But yeah, the finale is going to be insane. There’s just a ton of different stuff going on. We’re going all out.
So let’s talk about your new project: The Boy Next Door. What was that audition process like?
It was kind of crazy, because I had heard from my manager while I was just about to leave for Vancouver to start filming Step Up 5, and he was like Jen [Jennifer Lopez] wants you to do a table read. I was like, yeah, okay stop joking, and he said, no really, Jen saw your stuff and she wants you to come and read. So I went in and did a cold read and met [director] Rob Cohen, Jennifer Lopez, the writers and the producers. I did my part and did the cold read and then I heard back and he said hey they want you to do an audition for that part again. So I flew myself back to LA, flew back to Vancouver, then got a call again to do a chemistry read. And I flew back, on my birthday, to do this chemistry read.
The read was at Jennifer Lopez’s house and withKristin Chenoweth, and it was something like 10 scenes, which is hard for anyone to memorize that many pages, but luckily I got it down. And we had this read and then I was told I got the part after. I flipped out. It was very surreal. But I’m a big advocate for the belief that everything happens for a reason.
What’s it like to work with Jennifer Lopez?
Jen’s treated me the same since day one, just with a ton of support. We’ve had a good time working with each other, and she really is super involved in everything. She knows what she wants, and knows what she’s doing. So she’ll be able to stop a scene and say, “no that’s not feeling right.” She’ll call it out right away, saying “let’s do it again,” and Rob [Cohen] really trusts her. I only hope I’ll be able to reach a point where I have that type of relationship with a director later on. I’m still earning my stripes.
Can you tell us more about the character? The premise [a woman is stalked by her young next door neighbor after having an affair together and she ends it] seems one part seductive, three parts terrifying.
Definitely. It’s kind of crazy to be honest. My character, Noah, well, he’s the boy next door [laughs] and lives next to Jen’s character and her son. In the beginning it’s all about kind of him falling in love with this girl and trying to woo her in life, and it takes a turn for the crazy, where he becomes this jealous little kid. His mindset seems to be, “If I can’t have you, then no one can have you. But, I’m going to have you.” It’s definitely a weird outlook to have when playing this character. When we wrap [a scene] I’m always like, oh man guys, sorry about that… This character is completely different from anything I’ve ever done. I do a lot of things I didn’t think I’d ever do in this movie.
Oh really? Like what?
Well, I never thought I’d be naked in front of the camera. You see a lot of Ryan Guzman in this film. And I never thought I’d be trying to kill people, especially Jennifer Lopez. It’s very crazy.
With such a crazy character, how did you prepare?
Honestly, I just kind of took a dive right in. I took it to a place where I’m so into the character that everything feels real. Everything is how Noah would react. I don’t completely lose myself, I’m not a method actor at all, but I took it to where you don’t see an inkling of Ryan Guzman.
What’s the common thing that attracts you to projects or characters?
In The Boy Next Door, it was really that I had never played a character like that before. I’m always the happy go lucky guy. But this is a lot more challenging because it’s so different from myself. It’s hopefully something that shows that I have more of a range in my acting than just being that good guy. And playing the bad guy is a lot more fun.
With Step Up 5, it was more like a reunion with family. Honestly, it’s just so fun to do. They gave me my start, and I’m always going to remember that. And in Pretty Little Liars, that gave me a chance to see how TV works, which was awesome. This idea that you’re working with no real end in mind. I’ve really learned the most, I think, from The Boy Next Door so far when it comes to acting and film. Rob Cohen is just an amazing director. I’m forever thankful for working and doing the things I do.
Who would you love to work with that you haven’t yet?
I would love to work with Tom Hardy. Maybe do something crazy or dramatic that is different for me.
Are you looking forward to the holidays?
I actually can’t wait for the holidays! This is our last week filming, and for five months I’ve pretty much had no time off, so I’m excited to go back to Sacramento and spend some time with family and relax with the people I love.
Any special family traditions?
Really, we just focus on getting together. My family makes tamales and everybody gets together at my mom and dad’s house. We catch each other up on stories.
Last time we talked to you, you said you were into shy girls. Do you still consider that your type?
I think it’s an ever-evolving deal. I feel like until you’re with the person, the person you end up marrying, you don’t ever really know what you’re looking for. I’m just into a girl with a really good personality, something that goes beyond looks. I want to be able to joke around, be respectful of each other… there are a lot of things that go into compatibility.
What’s your dating status?
I’m kind of talking to someone; we’re seeing where it’s going.
Well, here at Latina, we’re not only fans of you but also of Girl Code star Melanie Iglesias. We noticed some Twitter banter between you two. What are those winky faces about Ryan?
Oh you caught that, huh? [laughs]
We do our research.
[laughs] I see that! She’s a friend. We keep in contact. I’ll leave it at that.
OK, we’ll take it. What are your New Year’s Eve plans?
Well, I definitely want to go see the UFC Fight on December 28, but I’m not sure about New Year’s. Some buddies of mine have been talking about going to New York, and I’ve actually never been, so we’ll see. That may happen. Otherwise, I’ll be in Sacramento.
What’s something that no one knows about you?
I’m kind of a neat freak. My place is really organized. My socks are even organized, colors and sizes. But when you’re coming back from set, you want everything to be organized. If nothing is, your brain goes crazy.
What’s in store for 2014?
Right now I’m working with my production company, and we’re in the process of working with a studio and trying to film our own studio film. There are a few things moving forward, but I can’t talk about them yet. Hopefully it’s going to be a great year.