Read our exclusive interview with up-and-coming actor Parker Young, who’s currently starring on the new hit ABC comedy series ‘Suburgatory.’ The show, which has been picked up for a full first season, follows a single father, George Altman, portrayed by Jeremy Sisto, who decides to move from New York City to the suburbs. George wants to give his 16-year-old daughter, Tessa, played by Jane Levy, a better life. Young plays Ryan Shay, one of the Altman’s new neighbors, who Tessa develops a crush on. The actor discusses with us, among other things, what attracted him to the role of Ryan, and what it’s like working with Sisto and Levy.
ShockYa (SY): ‘Suburgatory’ follows George as he moves Tessa from New York City to the suburbs to give her a better life. What did you find appealing about the show’s premise that compelled you to audition for the role of Ryan Shay?
Parker Young (PY): You know, I read the script, and I thought it was a creative, new take on comedy. I thought it was something that would really do great on television. My role, in particular, I thought would be a total blast to sink my teeth into. Originally, the character was written as not so dumb, just an arrogant, typical high school jock. It was a fun role, and I played football in high school. I was surrounded by these types of people.
SY: Jane Levy and Jeremy Sisto portray Tessa and George on the series. What is it like working with both of them?
PY: Oh, they’re amazing. They’re such brilliant actors, but at the same time, just truly great people. I found Jeremy especially such a pleasure to work with. He’s so seasoned, I guess would be the right word, and I learn so much from him all the time. I think our trip to Vegas last weekend really kind of solidified our relationship, just in time for some scenes that we have coming up between me and him for this next episode.
SY: Jane has expressed some romantic interest in Ryan. Is there any chance of expanding the romantic relationship between Jane and Ryan?
PY: (laughs) I think Ryan sure would like to hope so. Ryan still definitely has a place in his heart for Tessa, and I think there’s a chance that he might pursue that a little bit.
SY: ‘Suburgatory’ has been met with mostly positive reviews, and the pilot episode was seen by 9.8 million viewers. What is the feeling like, knowing that the series is being embraced by critics and fans?
PY: It’s a new feeling for me. It’s my first time on a show like this, and I think the biggest feeling I’ve been experiencing has been gratitude. I feel so appreciative, it doesn’t really feel real. You know, there’s so many amazing shows that go into production, and a lot of them don’t even make it onto television. The fact that ours not only made it to television, and it got a great slot and then get the full season pick-up, it just seems unreal. So I’m just really trying to enjoy every moment of it, and learn as much as I can. I think that’s really the best attitude I can take.
SY: ‘Suburgatory’ is included in ABC’s Wednesday night comedy line-up, which also features such shows as ‘Modern Family’ and ‘The Middle.’ Are you a fan of these series as well?
PY: You know, I never previously watched ‘The Middle’ a lot, but I’m a huge fan of ‘Modern Family’ though. (laughs) I think ‘Modern Family’ is genius. I feel very fortunate to be sandwiched between these two great shows. I have started watching ‘The Middle’ since I’ve gotten ‘Suburgatory.’ I think it’s a great little trio that we’ve got here.
SY: Linda Keenan wrote the satire book ‘Suburgatory: Twisted Tales from Darkest Suburbia,’ which the show is based on. Have you read the book to help prepare for your role of Ryan?
PY: Oh no, I had no clue. I didn’t read the book, nor was I even aware that it was based on this novel.
SY: Linda’s book chronicles her own move from New York City, where she was a writer/producer at CNN and Bloomberg TV, to become a stay-at-home mom in the suburbs. Even though you didn’t read the book, do you think basing the show on her experiences helped bring an authenticity to the series?
PY: Um…yeah! Even though I didn’t read the book, I think what makes the show appealing to audiences is that in addition to the comedy, it has the in-your-face characters. It definitely has a very true storyline and substance to the story. I think it’s because it’s really rooted in real situations and real obstacles that people face growing up in these types of towns. Just in general, moving to these foreign communities.
SY: Even though ‘Suburgatory’ is a comedy, it still targets America’s obsession with creating the perfect child. Why do you think Americans are so passionate about creating the perfect lifestyle for their children?
PY: (laughs) You know, I think that’s an interesting theme. I mean, my only experience with parenting is with a dog. I find that we’re humans, we’re protectors, we want to take care of others. We want to make sure that the people that we love are taken care of, and grow up in a perfect society. You know, see no evil, feel no pain. I think ‘Suburgatory’ explored the comedy of this type of environment. But it’s definitely a real thing, I think parents want their children to grow up in perfect lifestyles. I think there’s even an obsession with ‘The Real Housewives,’ and all of these seemingly perfect lives and people. It’s fascinating.
SY: Before appearing on ‘Suburgatory,’ you guest starred on several different shows, including ‘Days of Our Lives’ and ‘CSI: New York.’ What is the experience like between guest starring and a recurring role?
PY: Oh, I’ve just done a couple shows, since the airing of ‘Suburgatory’ as well. It’s just a totally different feel. I feel likes such a part of a team or family with ‘Suburgatory.’ I’m so excited to show up on set everyday. There’s familiar faces and inside jokes. We function like a well-oiled machine, I guess. When I book as a guest-star on shows, it’s a lot of fun, and I enjoy it, but it lacks the camaraderie that we have at ‘Suburgatory,’ a show that I’m consistently on. I prefer the recurring role over the one-day guest star.
SY: You have also appeared in several movies, including ‘Tainted Rose’ and ‘Cupid’s Arrow.’ Are you interested in appearing in more films in the future, and do you have a preference of appearing in television or movies?
PY: You know, right now, I’m really enjoying television. I enjoy a lot of things about showing up to a familiar set, and having more consistent work. But I love films, and I would to sink my teeth into films, and work at a slower pace, and have a little more creative input on a film, rather than just on television. But right now, I’m loving ‘Suburgatory,’ and I’m loving on being on TV. It’s a tough choice to make right now, if I had to decide between a film and television. But yes, I definitely look forward to films in the future.
SY: Do you have any comedy idols that you look up to when preparing for your roles?
PY: I have a lot of comedy idols. When I was preparing for this particular role, I did a lot of research on other stereotypically dumb characters from the past, such as Vinnie Barbarino (played by John Travolta on ‘Welcome Back, Kotter’), Joey (portrayed by Matt LeBlanc) from ‘Friends,’ the kid (Ryan Kwanten) who plays Jason Stackhouse on ‘True Blood,’ Ashton Kutcher from ‘That ’70s Show.’ These types of dumb characters. I think it’s a blast to play this innocent, truthful, honest, not-so-smart character. But other comedic geniuses, Steve Martin, Jim Carrey. (laughs) They’ve put smiles on my face since I was little. But I didn’t focus so much on them for this role. Will Ferrell, I gotta throw Will Ferrell in there, I love Will Ferrell.
SY: Do you have any current projects that you can talk about, besides ‘Suburgatory?’
PY: No. There’s one that I just finished, that I can’t talk to much about. But no, I have nothing lined up right now that I’m working on besides ‘Suburgatory.’
Written by: Karen Benardello