THE BOLD TYPE’s Dan Jeannotte on Jane, Ryan, and why you should tune in!

Dan Jeannotte photographed by David Leyes

I like to be surprised when I tune into new shows – show me something I don’t see often, and convince me to come back. When I approached THE BOLD TYPE, I went in expecting a snarky, mean-spirited, step on other women to get to the top kind of look at the goings on at a Cosmo-like magazine (Scarlet); to my delight, the show swerved and presented us with breezy-but-not-daft, optimistic-but-not-unattainable, realistic, fashion-forward, and relevant show with leads you root for and friendships you envy.

As the show (which is loosely based on Joanna Coles’ time as EIC at Cosmo) continues to dive deeper into the lives of our trio (Jane, Kat, and Sutton), they’ve introduced a romantic partner in Dan Jeannotte’s Ryan that challenges Jane and doesn’t make her compromise herself.  I spent some time talking with Dan about playing Ryan, enjoying the show as an actor and fan, and why he’s kind of stuck doing this whole acting thing!  Check it out!

Everywhere I turn, I feel like there’s a new, better review of THE BOLD TYPE, saying how great it is. What’s it like to be a part of a show that everybody is loving?
Oh man! It’s so exciting. It’s wonderful. I feel the same way I keep coming across these wonderful reviews pieces in magazines and blogs and also just from people tweeting about it. It’s really fun to be a part of a show that’s connecting with people. It feels like we’re doing something worthwhile and important in some way.

And there is so much to connect to. What was it that made you want to be on this show?
When we as actors audition for roles. We often only get a slice of the script. And that happened for me. I only had a couple of Jane and Ryan scenes and from there. I thought this is really snappy and funny and sexy.  I thought this would just be a fun kind of role to play because of that banter, but then once I got a chance to see the rest of the script and I saw the whole story, I thought, oh man, there’s so much more going on with this show than I realized at first and I think that’s one of the things that’s really surprising and endearing, I guess, to a lot of the audience. You might start watching the show thinking it’s bubbly; it looks nice. It’s fun, but then you get drawn in by these real characters going through actually emotionally heavy moments, and they’re dealing with these like policitcal issues, social issues.  It’s all done in a sort of fast and fun way so you don’t feel like you’re watching a political show, but obviously, we’re tackling some pretty big issues.

So anyway when I finally got a chance to read a full script, I was like, oh I have to do this!  This show is going to kick ass!  It’s like stealth politics. I think they say that in the first episode – they say Scarlet is about stealth-feminism. I’ve always felt like I want to be a part of stories that have something bigger to say; of course, you don’t want to be delivering a lecture. So stealth is the way to go about it. You draw people in with the awesome fashion, and the, you know the humor and the sex, but then you hit them with some really great ideas and some important stuff. That’s the way to do it.

It’s so funny that you say that – when I initially sat down to watch, based on trailers, it was like, ok, they’ve got fast dialogue or they’re trying to be snappy, but then all the sudden, I’m totally caught up in the dialogue. I’m totally caught up in the fast movement and it’s like, wait a minute, I think I love this show! It turns on its head immediately; so funny.
[laughs] Yeah, I think there’s a certain style. I think that the way that people are approaching the show is the way that people approach magazines like Cosmo or Scarlet.  You might think at first that it’s superficial and then you get into it and you realize okay. There is definitely some image conscious stuff; it looks great. It’s got cool music, but it’s got a lot of substance to it as well, and I feel blessed to be a part of something that’s just got a lot going for it.

It’s such a strange time and world that we’re in that we talked about you know we can’t talk about fashion magazines without talking about politics because of things like what Lauren [Duca] is doing with “Teen Vogue” and how these magazines have a voice that maybe they haven’t in a long time.
Yeah, it’s true. And I mean I hopefully that means that the younger generation of today is having more of a voice, or will have more of a voice than they have because that’s what you know teen vogue is plugging into is the growing consciousness of younger people.  That I think is a direct result of social media and the internet making information accessible to everybody. Obviously there’s good and bad that comes from that.  On the negative side, you might feel like you’re just bombarded with all kinds of images, negative images, propagandist images, divisive images, but at the same time, if you want to have a positive, proactive attitude towards it, you have a lot of information accessible to you. Kids who are growing up who have always had the internet and social media be a part of their lives, I think it’s second nature for them to be interested in politics while at the same time being interested in the things kids are interested in!

I want to talk about Jane and Ryan, and this relationship that we’re watching grow. Is this a relationship that we should be rooting for; are we in it for the long haul?
That’s a good question. I definitely think that we should be rooting for them.  [laughs] I know I’m rooting for them. What’s fun about the two of them together is they push each other to challenge each other, kind of a meeting of the minds. Also in a way, they both underestimate each other. They underestimate the power that they are going to have on one another. They start off thinking or hoping that it will start off as a simple, flirty, sexy kind of thing but then I think we’ll see as the episodes go on, they more emotionally invested in it than they anticipated and that’s cool to watch. I think! I hope that it comes across that these are certain people who are a little bit taken aback by how much they actually care about each other. It’s not a simple straightforward thing for them.  To the immense credit of the show, they don’t position the relationship as crucial to Jane’s happiness.  The relationships, the rest of the relationships in the show, they’re framed as a thing to strive for, but it’s not the only thing to strive for.  It’s obviously more Jane’s story than Ryan’s. Jane is trying to figure out what she wants in a relationship. Does she want a committed thing, does she want a friends with benefits kind of thing, and that’s very relatable, I think especially for people who are also very busy with their careers, as these women in THE BOLD TYPE are – how much time do I want to spend on this, and what do I want to get out of it?

That’s really important, too, because then Jane is making that decision. It’s not a decision that’s thrust on her. She’s not compromising who she is for a relationship. Which is different than we see a lot.
Yeah, exactly, exactly!!  It’s something that we need to see more of in our pop culture. We need to see women putting themselves first putting their own dreams first, their own desires, as opposed to going along with this kind clichéd and antiquated idea of needing to find a man in order to have a fulfilling life!

What else can you tease about what we’ll see as this season takes off?
Yeah, we’re going to see, you know, Jane and Ryan’s thing, whatever it is [laughs]. We’re going to see it come to a head, because they’re going to need to make decisions about what they want. And I do. I hope the people are rooting for them, and I think it’s going to be interesting to see how it plays out.  Without giving too much away, all of my scenes are with Katie Stevens, the Ryan & Jane scenes, but there is an episode a bit later on where Ryan finally gets to interact with some of the other characters and that was great fun to shoot.  It’s going to be a really fun episode, I think. Otherwise, I think the whole arc of the show has taken off now.  We have multiple storylines happening and it’s even more of a roller coaster in the last few episodes. Even more big issues are tackled in a way that I think is sensitive and with a light touch. It’s a really exciting show to be a part of, and I’m excited to see what people think about it.

Dan Jeannotte photographed by David Leyes

Why should people make some time to check out THE BOLD TYPE?
Well, I think, it goes without saying, we’re living in crazy times. There’s different ways to approach that craziness. I don’t think that most people want to stick their heads in the sand, but at the same time, it’s difficult to tackle everything all at once so a show like THE BOLD TYPE, to me, is entertainment that’s also socially conscious, but it’s all positive and I think that’s a key thing about why this show is enjoyable. It’s not cynical, it’s not pessimistic, nor is it naïve. It understands the world as it is, but it’s saying, here are some ways that we can tackle this together.  I think that’s the big part of it. Together. The friendship of these women is the heart of the show. Broader than that, this idea of women helping women and even beyond that, it’s people helping each other, as opposed to succumbing to the craziness around us. It’s a fun show with a smart mind and a good heart. Why wouldn’t you want to watch it?

What else have you been working on?
Now that the show is finished, we were shooting in Montreal for a few months, which is my home town. It was great to be back there. Now I’ve come back to Toronto, where I live.  I am, like many other actors, trying to figure out what the next move [laughs].

I marvel at actors – you have to take a wait and see approach to life.  That’s such an interesting world to live in!
It is! It is bizarre. I wouldn’t have it any other way. We’re really lucky that we get to move from project to project, we get to work with different people. We get to inhabit different worlds and different characters.  It’s very exciting but then yes, there is the weird part in-between jobs where we don’t really know what comes next. There’s a bit of scariness with that, but there’s also a huge amount of exciting possibility. “What’s next?” is an exciting thought!

Was acting something you always wanted to do or was there a moment where you realized “This is what I should be doing?”
I didn’t always know that I wanted to be an actor. Probably the moment it really clicked for me was the first time I did improv comedy in front of a crowd. A friend of mine had sort of convinced me to be a part of this improv troupe that he was putting together. The first time we performed as a part of a competition, it was in front of like a couple hundred people. We went out on stage and started making stuff up, as you do in improv. The crowd reaction was just exhilarating to me, electrifying, and I thought, “OK this is pretty much amazing, this is maybe the best thing I’ve ever felt [laughs]. Maybe I could do this???” It took a long time to figure out how to turn that kind of, the fun and looseness of improv comedy, how to turn that into a career, but there was basically connecting with people, getting a reaction out of an audience is just a really exciting and gratifying thing. And now that I’ve started doing it, I could never stop. Plus I have no other skills, so…

You kind of have to do this now!
Yes! [laughs]

Find Dan online @dan_jeannotte.
THE BOLD TYPE airs new episodes Tuesday nights at 9/8c on Freeform.