Interview with Bumblebee voice actor Mark Ryan on Transformers: Age of Extinction

mark ryan lockdown transformers

Mark Ryan can be seen this Friday, June 27th, on Transformers: Age of Extinction, playing as a Decepticon named Lockdown. He’s somewhat of a regular on the set, as he’s also voiced Bumblebee and Jetfire. You may also have seen him in the recent Black Sails TV series on Starz as the likable pirate, Gates.

We had the chance to chat with Mark Ryan on his role in Transformers: Age of Extinction, Black Sails, musicals and more.

John “Spartan” Nguyen (Nerd Reactor): 2014 has been a good year for you.

Mark Ryan: It’s been a good year so far. Black Sails has been doing very well earlier in the year and I think this one’s [Transformers: Age of Extinction] going to do quite well as well.

Nerd Reactor: I know you can’t reveal much, but tell us about the movie and your role as Lockdown in Transformers: Age of Extinction?

Mark Ryan: I think Michael [Bay] has already said publicly that it’s an interesting character. It’s a very interesting spin for Transformers. I think the audience will find this as a different take – the morality between Transformers and the way they view humanity and the rest of the universe.

The amazing things to me about these films are the artists of ILM and Scott Farrar’s team. They take something that isn’t there. It’s just in the imagination of Michael and the artists and they turn all that information into beings that an audience can relate to and get emotionally involved with, particularly Bumblebee. Wherever I go in the world, people love the character of Bumblebee. He’s one of those characters with all of the qualities you would expect. For me, that is the artistry and the beauty of these films.

Lockdown is a villainous character with a very, very interesting view of the universe. He’s an interesting character. It was a big departure for me. Like all of these things, it comes out as the organic workings on the set. I was on the set of Detroit, I believe. I did the voice and Michael went to me. I knew immediately that I was on the right track with it. That’s how a lot of these things evolve, from trying things out on the set. Michael is brilliant at that; letting people try different things, delivering lines differently, letting them bring stuff to the characters that make it real. Yeah, Lockdown is very interesting.

Nerd Reactor: Did you get to do motion capture in the movie?

Mark Ryan: We don’t really need to do that anymore. There’s no real motion capture involved. I’m not wearing a black suit with bubbles on it. I have done it on other projects, but not on this one because I actually stood behind the camera usually with Michael on one side with his monitor and the DP on the other side. So I can see both monitors and hear from the sound crew. I have a microphone so that I can deliver the lines to the actors on the set, but I can see the closeups and know their train of thought. I can also watch where the camera comes to rest at a point so I can deliver the line. Depending on where we’re at in the dialogue, I can see the reaction on the actor’s face. It’s quite technical. I don’t just stand in the corner in a booth somewhere and just say the line. I’m monitoring Michael’s monitor, Amir’s [cinematographer] monitor, the camera boom, the sound guy, and the actors. Sometimes I’m doing three or four different voices in one scene with three or four different actors.

Nerd Reactor: I bet the experience you had with Transformers is very different than Black Sails.

Mark Ryan: [laughs] Very different. I really, really enjoyed Black Sails. Gates was a fantastic character to be able to flesh out. It was like stepping into a well-worn pair of old boots. He was comfortable to wear, and it was easy to walk in. I understood the background and relationship of his character. Toby Stephens, Zach McGowan, Hannah, and all of the cast were great to work with. We had a lot of laughs with the extras and actors. I got some great speeches – I mean, some of the best speeches that have ever been written on a TV show. You know, the monologue about the relationship between pirates and the ocean.

Nerd Reactor: Your character was one of my favorites on the show.

Mark Ryan: Thank you. There’s a whole thing online at the moment about [Spoiler] Gates’ ghost and bringing him back [end spoiler]. They just wrapped shooting the second season I believe, so most of the guys are already back. I spoke to most of the guys, and they’re in post-production right now. I’m very happy and grateful to be a part of that first season.

Nerd Reactor: Aside from movies and TV, you also do musical theatre. Would you go back to that or are you set on film and TV?

Mark Ryan: I would love to go back. It’s one of my life’s ambition to do a Broadway show. I’ve toured with Eric Idle in Eric Idle Exploits Monty Python, and we ended up doing two nights at Carnegie Hall, which was an amazing experience. We did all the major theatres in America and I enjoyed the touring experience tremendously. We came back and finally did a special gig at the Hollywood Bowl with Bonnie Raitt and Stevie Wonder to honor Eric.

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John Nguyen
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