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Image Source: Instagram user ryanphillippe

Ryan Phillippe POPSUGAR Interview July 2017

There Are Levels to Ryan Phillippe

Ryan Phillippe, while good-looking, isn't your average good-looking Hollywood star. Yes, it has always been a delight to ogle his shirtless physique and dissect all the swag that he possesses, but the 42-year-old actor, writer, and director has — in addition to a steady, decades-long film and TV career — a true passion for doing right by others. In mid-June, Ryan spoke before the Senate Special Committee on Aging during a hearing on Military Caregivers: Families Serving for the Long Run. He joined former Senator Elizabeth Dole to lobby for legislation that would increase the number of caregivers who have access to Department of Veterans Affairs services on behalf of Hidden Heroes, a campaign that's part of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation. It's an initiative close to his heart; his father and grandfather were both servicemen, and he has a history of playing them on screen — Ryan currently portrays a former Marine sniper on the USA series Shooter, which is in its second season.

There's quite a bit about Ryan to love and admire (I should know, as I've had a thing for him for the better part of two decades). I got the chance to chat with him recently, and let's just say that my longtime crush has been leveled up — his concern for veterans and the people who care for them is evident even over the phone, as is his love for his kids Ava, 17 and Deacon, 13. He is at once easygoing, sincere, pensive, and frank; it felt completely natural to go from talking about his work advocating for military caregivers to his thoughts on '90s movie nostalgia and the albums he's got in rotation right now (hint: if you want to hear him light up, just mention Kendrick Lamar). Here we go.
Ryan Phillippe speaks before the Senate Special Committee on Aging in Washington DC.
Image Source: Getty / Leigh Vogel
Image Source: Getty / USA Network

POPSUGAR: How is Shooter going?

Ryan Phillippe: It's going great. This season is a bigger story, a lot more moving parts, and, you know, it's a tough show to shoot. The last two weeks we've been in the desert, Palmdale [California], you know, in degrees over 110. And it's a physical show, and I do all of my own stunts.

PS: Oh, damn.

RP: Yeah. I mean, listen, you do a sitcom or, you know, another type of show, and you're just on a cool soundstage every day. We kind of really push it to the limits. But I love it at the same time. It's exhausting. I've got bruises. But it's going really well, and I'm excited about people seeing this new season. The cool thing about the way our show functions is, because there are eight books about this character I play, each season we can use a different novel as the basis for our story.

PS: Kind of on that same note, I'm really excited about the work that you're doing with Hidden Heroes. My grandfather was a Korean War vet and my mom was his caregiver until he passed last year. What inspired you to start working with that organization?

RP: There was a connection made between USA Network and Senator Dole. I have a history of working with veterans organizations like Got Your 6 and Fisher House throughout my career because I've played a lot of soldiers, and I've worked with a lot of enlisted men and women. It's so underpublicized; the caretakers of vets who return are most of the time unprepared to handle people with traumatic brain injuries and extreme PTSD — those issues that you can't see visibly.

What I would think about so often are these young couples. The man or woman comes back and neither of them is ready for what is involved in taking care of someone who's been through what our enlisted men and women have been through. When there is no caretaker, it's even more significant. We're trying to keep families together and combat the stress and strain of dealing with someone who's quite different than the person you first fell in love with. If we don't provide resources and support groups and ways in which people can share those difficulties, then a lot of these relationships don't work out. Oftentimes, the caretaker has to put their life on hold, the hopes and dreams they had of either going to school or pursuing a profession that's time-consuming. So, I think what we really want to do is try to offset all of those difficulties and stresses as much as possible — because if we don't take care of our caretakers, who's taking care of our veterans?

Image Source: Everett Collection

PS: Exactly. That's great, and so necessary. Switching gears, I know you have a movie coming out [supernatural horror film Wish Upon, in theaters July 14], but you've also starred in some very iconic films over the years. I was just watching Cruel Intentions the other day, actually. There is so much '90s nostalgia right now, people talking about reboots and movie anniversaries . . . how does it feel to be at the center of all that?

RP: It's fun, once I got over the fact that it made me feel a little bit like a dinosaur [laughs], especially because they're remaking I Know What You Did Last Summer. But I am proud of the fact and grateful for the fact that I've made a few films in my career that hold up over time and get played on certain holidays. I just found out recently that watching I Know What You Did Last Summer on Fourth of July is a thing?

PS: I've heard that too, although I watched Cruel Intentions instead.

RP: [Laughs] Cruel Intentions is going on 20 years old, and it's still on TV all the time. It finds new fans all the time, and early in my career, it was a hope of mine to do a seminal teen movie, because I grew up watching The Breakfast Club, and these things that were so re-watchable, and that if you turned it on at any given point, you'd just settle in and enjoy it. So I love that.

PS: It seems like Wish Upon has that potential, too.

RP: Part of my connection to Wish Upon, when I first read the script, was that I thought there would be something kind of cool about me playing a father in a movie that was reminiscent of those '90s thrillers and horror movies. Because it does very much have a tone that's not so dissimilar from The Craft and Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer, and I just enjoyed the hell out of the script. And I love Joey King; I think she's got a tremendous career ahead of her. I also saw an opportunity to do a movie that my kids [Ava and Deacon] could watch and that I think they'll love.

PS: That was actually my next question! Are there any of your older movies that your kids have seen? Or is it like . . . I mean, maybe not Cruel Intentions, but . . .

RP: You know, no [laughs]. I'm not ready for them to see that yet. Most of the movies that I've done in my career have been R-rated — but they've watched White Squall, which is one of the first movies I did, with Jeff Bridges. Deacon now watches Shooter, and I think they've seen a couple of things, but yeah, I mostly have done adult stuff.

"If we don't take care of our caretakers, who's taking care of our veterans?"

PS: And speaking of movies, what's next for you? I mostly need to know if you've heard back about starring in this Rihanna and Lupita Nyong'o scam artist film, because I think that would be pretty amazing.

RP: Yeah. I don't know. I don't think they're looking for me [laughs]! But I thought [asking for a role on Twitter] was a funny joke.

PS: It was . . . I could definitely see it, though.

RP: I love how people [on social media] are, though — you'll say, "Oh, this could be a funny thing to say." And then people's response is, "Oh, look at you, desperate [laughter]!" By the way, I'm doing OK.

PS: Granted, the movie itself came from someone joking about it on Twitter so I don't think it's so far-fetched for you to ask for a role. It's good to put yourself out there.

RP: Most of what I do on social media . . . none of it is meant to be taken seriously. I try to have fun with it. But the thing I like most about it is when I know I've said or done something that makes people laugh, that I can tell, based on the responses or the notifications. Someone saying, "I needed that laugh."

PS: It's really a joy to follow you. I also love Ava's Instagram presence. She seems very artistic and introspective. Do you think your kids will go into the family business or do something out of the spotlight?

RP: It's a little too early to tell. My instincts are that one of them may be curious and the other isn't. I don't need to specify which, but, when I was younger and I thought about having kids in this industry, when Reese [Witherspoon, his ex-wife] and I were together, I was really adamant about not wanting our kids to become active in Hollywood. But your views change, and you realize that things aren't as black and white as you get older. I see now that you can have a really quality life and effect change — I ended up on the Senate floor, on behalf of a cause I care about, only because I'm in entertainment. So I don't dismiss it; there's good and bad in every single industry. They're going to end up in some kind of industry . . . I wouldn't fight them being part of this one. That being said, you have to be ready. You have to have thick skin. You have to be prepared and be on guard, and you have to accept that privacy is not really . . .

PS: A thing?

RP: Anymore.

Image Source: Instagram user ryanphillippe

PS: I definitely got sidetracked with the Rihanna and Lupita thing, but I'd still really love to know what's next for you.

RP: When the season [of Shooter] ends, I'm going to go on a bit of a break and heal [laughs]. And then I'm looking to direct my second film this Fall; we're close to securing financing. And then the other big thing I have is releasing a healthy fitness app this Summer called Become that I've been developing for two years. I feel like it could have a great benefit for a lot of people.

PS: That's really exciting. I mean, I saw the Men's Fitness shoot, so obviously you know what you're talking about where healthy living is concerned. OK, so I understand that you're a big hip-hop fan, and I'd personally like to know which albums are in heavy rotation for you right now.

RP: The Kendrick Lamar album [Damn] has been in heavy rotation for me. And then JAY-Z's album 4:44 — I'm closer in age to him, and a lot of my younger friends who are hip-hop fans are like, "I like it, but it's a little bit . . . " It's mature, and it's personal. And to me, it's his answer to Lemonade and the fact that he is copping to things and baring his soul . . . I'm loving that. I've listened to it five times now. Then there's this new group called Brockhampton that I'll put people onto because they're about to blow up; they released their first album a couple weeks ago. Five guys from Virginia, and they're all different, really diverse, and their music is incredible. I think they're going to be huge.

PS: I'll have to check them out! I also love the new JAY-Z album, especially because of how open and unguarded he's being. It's kind of wild to listen to.

RP: I was anticipating this, and it was exactly what I was hoping it would be. There aren't a lot of radio records on it; I don't think he cares so much about that anymore. It's educating. I feel like what he's trying to do on that album is show people a path that they might not be on at the moment, which is cool. That's the way to give back too. And it's so great for me to see Kendrick have the success he does, because he's about substance, too.

PS: I love seeing Kendrick finally getting his shine. He really deserves it.

RP: I'm going to take my son [Deacon] to his show. My son's only 13, and that's a hip-hop show that I want to take him to. I find Kendrick inspiring. I think he's got shades of Tupac in terms of the social justice and cultural awareness he talks about. And I think it's a good sign when somebody like him, with that kind of content, succeeds the way he is. It gives me hope.