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Ryan Powers On That Awkward She-Hulk Date, Working With Tatiana Maslany, And His Musical Work - Exclusive Interview

This article contains spoilers for Episode 4 of "She-Hulk."

The most significant horror moment so far on "She-Hulk" doesn't involve a mourning Wanda Maximoff or Doctor Strange's much darker alter ego. Instead, the most chilling moment in the series comes from a horrific date between Jennifer Walters (Tatiana Maslany) and a pretentious jerk named Alan (Ryan Powers). It's scary because it's real — and everyone's been there. The heavily ad-libbed scene was so intense that it gave head writer Jessica Gao cringe dating flashbacks.

However, "She-Hulk" isn't Powers' first go-around in the Marvel or Disney sphere. The actor appeared on "The Mandalorian" and "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." along with other popular shows like "How I Met Your Mother" and "Victorious." Powers' experience doesn't end with acting, either — he's done writing and directing on several projects along with musical work. He had a cameo during the opening bus scene ballad mashup in the 2012 movie musical "Rock of Ages" alongside Julianne Hough, and that wouldn't be the last time Powers shared a stage with her. He later appeared on "Grease Live!" with Hough and Vanessa Hudgens.

During an exclusive interview with Looper, Powers talked all things "She-Hulk" and what it was like working with Maslany, Gao, and director Kat Coiro. He also went down memory lane to discuss his work on projects like "The Mandalorian," his musical career, and "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."

Bad on-screen dates make great inside jokes

You have a great scene in "She-Hulk" where you play a typical online jerk on a terrible date. Did you and Tatiana Maslany get to play around at all in this scene and channel any of your own terrible date experiences? Or did you typically stick to the script?

It's funny you ask this because it was a little bit of both. Melissa Hunter, I believe, wrote this episode, [and she] makes Alan, my character, the perfect ignorant jerk. But at the beginning and the end of the scene, our director Kat Coiro let us play around with some improv lines. The only sad thing about it was [that] all the improv consisted of insults aimed at Tatiana, because that was the scene, in front of a bar full of people. Every time I heard "Cut," I was profusely apologizing to Tatiana and saying, "None of that was real. That was Alan talking. That was not me. You are an amazing date."

Did any of that [improv] make it into the final cut?

It did, actually. They let us play. [At] the beginning of the scene, they kept in some nonsense talk that we made up. At the end of the scene, I think they kept in me ranking her a 6 out of 10 or something. That was one of many, many takes of insults. As I said, every time they yelled "Cut," I would be like, "No, you are a 13 out of 10."

Was she like, "I know you're not being a d**k to me," or was she appreciative of the clarification?

She was a dream all day, but it was funny because, at the premiere, [after we saw the episode], she was like, "Yeah, you did keep saying those mean things." I was like, "No, I didn't mean it!"

What were some of the highlights of working with Tatiana?

I was already a huge fan of Tatiana, but the week I worked with her, I was literally in my hotel rewatching old "Orphan Black" episodes because I was so excited to work opposite her. She's incredible. We met in the hair and makeup trailer, and before we worked together, right off the bat, she was so kind and funny and friendly. I knew we would have fun together. We would crack up in between takes about how absurd this terrible date was. She made it a really fun day.

Embracing the bad date role

Would you be down to appear on the show again in some capacity? I personally think it would be pretty hilarious if Jennifer had to defend a bad Tinder date at some point in court.

Are you kidding me? You should email the creators of the show after this interview about that idea.

The show has some incredible actors and MCU cameos. Is there anyone or any character from the show that you wish you'd gotten the chance to work with?

This is a hard question to answer because there are 7 million stars in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. [In] "She-Hulk" specifically, I'm nervous I would ruin every single take by laughing if I had to do a scene with Jameela Jamil or Ginger Gonzaga. They're so funny. I would happily watch them read the dictionary all day long. Also, in Episode 4, which is the episode I'm in, Patty Guggenheim is introduced as a character named Madisynn, and I am confident the whole world is about to fall in love with her.

How much did you get to work with Kat Coiro and Jessica Gao?

I met both of these brilliant women during my Zoom callback interview. I originally auditioned for a different bad date, but perhaps they thought I was such a bad date that I could be an even worse date. At my callback, I read for Alan. Kat directed the episode that I was in. She was so nice and fun and let us play around, and she made us feel so comfortable. She's brilliant. At one point, Jessica Gao, the creator of the show, told me that I had given her PTSD, reminding her of past terrible dates she's been on. I suppose that's the highest compliment I could ask for as an actor.

Anybody watching that scene has a slew of horror flashbacks.

Totally. To be honest, I'm no saint. But in real life, I'm worried about what people think in a room. It was fun to play a character who really doesn't care. He just says whatever is on his mind. It was a break for my brain.

Baby Yoda is the best co-star

You've been on a few other major Disney projects as well. Who did you get to work with on "The Mandalorian," and what was it like being on such an iconic "Star Wars" set?

Most importantly, I worked with Baby Yoda, and I worked with three different versions of Baby Yoda. Also, they were somehow even cuter in real life — all of the versions of Yoda. But in my experience on that show, because I was covered head to toe in my alien costume, I couldn't really hear or see. I had to do a lot of nodding, even if I couldn't hear someone's direction. Every time I walked without tripping, it was a huge success. The fact that the scene isn't me falling down on the ground is a success. I [played] a very mean alien worker, [and] I know I was up to no good.

You also appeared on "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." — your first Marvel appearance. How did you react to getting the news that you'd be on the show, and what were some of the highlights of working with that cast?

"S.H.I.E.L.D." was a big deal. It's very rare as an actor to hear that you booked a job, at least for me. I had auditioned for that show before, and the casting [office] — Sarah Finn, Jason Stamey, Hannah Cooper, Tamara Hunter, [and others] — had all been so good to me. When this was the episode I ended up booking, I couldn't have been happier. 

Sometimes it works out that it's better you didn't get all those things in the past that you wanted, because it was all leading to this. That might sound cheesy, but sometimes it does feel that way that it works out for the best. I ended up having a role where I had the life sucked out of me by Dichen Lachman, one of the villains on the show, and I'm not sure it could get much better than that. I'm very, very grateful for that.

What was that experience like working with her?

Oh, my God, it was amazing. I don't know. It all sounds cheesy and too good to be true, but she was lovely. The director was amazing. Everyone on set was very respectful and kind and fun. It felt like a fun day.

Musicals are just like paradise

You've also done a bit of musical work. Did you get to work with Vanessa Hudgens and Julianne Hough on "Grease Live!"? How much more nerve-wracking is it to do a musical filmed live rather than a filmed TV show?

Incredibly nerve-wracking. I was the rehearsal swing for all male roles in "Grease Live!" For a couple of months, I rehearsed with the entire cast. We started [around] the end of November, and it aired at the end of January. Every day, I was filling in for a different role in the cast. It was one of the most unique experiences I've ever had.

Those women are ultimate professionals. Watching Julianne Hough dance and perform in person every day is a very special experience. I used to sneak backstage every rehearsal to watch Vanessa sing, "There Are Worse Things I Could Do." I think it was the morning we filmed the live show [that] there was a cast meeting, and we all found out that her father had passed away. I will never forget watching her give the performance she gave that same day when someone else might have backed out. She is a true pro and a lovely person. I'm really glad I got to be part of that.

Speaking of Julianne Hough, you had a scene in "Rock of Ages," which is probably my favorite movie musical of all time. You have a role during the bus scene with the mashup of "Sister Christian" and "Just Like Paradise." How fun was it getting to jam out to classic rock with Julianne, and how long did that compilation take to film?

First of all, you have a good memory. Second of all, when I first moved to LA, I would work as a background actor, and that's all that job was. I was an extra, but because they used our voices in the film, our roles were upgraded. 

One funny and embarrassing story from shooting that day with Julianne was that I fell asleep while the bus was driving out to the filming location. I woke up and saw a "Welcome to New Mexico" sign on the highway. I thought, "Wow, we traveled really far." But it turned out it was a fake sign for the movie, and I had only been asleep for about 20 minutes.

Did [Julianne] have a reaction to that?

No, we were a few seats away from each other. But similarly to in "Grease Live!" she was so kind and gracious to everyone around her on set.

Did that take a full day to film? Multiple days?

"Rock of Ages"? Yeah. We were on that bus for a while. I think I drove home at 4:00 a.m. — it was one very long day.

Did your work with Julianne help you get the role on "Grease," or was that by coincidence?

Total lucky coincidence. I'm sorry it's not juicier than that — total coincidence.

Behind the scenes of background acting

One of your earliest credits is on the "How I Met Your Mother" episode "Baby Talk." What was it like kicking off your acting career on such an iconic show, and who did you get to work with on that set?

My friends Payson Lewis and Bruce Merkle and I all had the same agent at the time, and we made this ridiculous boy band-style audition video. Getting the call that we booked the job was truly something I'll never forget because it's how I got into SAG, the actors union. We worked with Jason Segel and Neil Patrick Harris, and Laura Bell Bundy was a guest on that episode that week. It was so much fun.

You had a role in the Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, and Matt Bomer movie "The Nice Guys." What was it like being on set with those guys, and are they, in fact, nice guys in the traditional sense?

My role in that movie actually didn't make it into the final cut of the movie, but that is Hollywood. Therefore, I was extra excited when "She-Hulk" kept me in. But as far as on set — again, this is sadly not very juicy — but Ryan and Russell were both hilarious talking to 50 background actors on set, very friendly. It was a great experience. Sadly, I was not in a scene with Matt Bomer, but hopefully, that [will happen] in the future.

Have the sets and actors that you've worked with generally been nice and welcoming to guest stars, or do you have any horror stories?

Again, I fear I'm going to be boring. Every set I've been on has been welcoming and generous and makes me think people in Hollywood really do love making movies together. If I'm lucky enough to be on a grumpy set one day, it'll just mean that I've been hired again. I'll try to take that in stride. But in the big picture, we're all making movies and TV, and that's a very privileged position to be in.

Do you have any dream actors or directors that you'd love to work with?

How much time do you have? Can't beat Jake Gyllenhaal. I love Natalie Portman. I love Ellen Burstyn. I am obsessed with Ellen Pompeo. As far as up-and-coming actors, Sydney Sweeney and Timothée Chalamet are brilliant and have taken my breath away with the work they do. I could go on and on.

Is there a role that's either been done before or hasn't been done that you'd like to take on?

There are no films in the world that have affected me as much as the "Scream" series. That and "The Wizard of Oz" are quite literally the reason I'm a writer, actor, and producer. I would happily do a one-line role in a "Scream" movie. Also, I have a really good idea for a scene in a future "Scream" film. To the new directors, Matt [Bettinelli-Olpin] and Tyler [Gillett] — this is me shooting my shot. Call me.

Would you rather be a victim, a Final Girl, or Ghostface himself?

Just kill me.

New episodes of "She-Hulk" stream Thursdays on Disney+.

This interview was edited for clarity.