Australian actor Ryan Kwanten is best known by American audiences for his role as Jason Stackhouse, on the successful HBO series, True Blood. In the rest of the world, he is known as Vinnie Patterson on the popular Aussie soap opera Home and Away.
In the new movie Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, he voices the character of Kludd, a young owl who yearns to hunt, fly and steal his father’s favor from his younger sibling, Soren (Jim Sturgess). His jealousy puts both he and his brother is danger, when they are captured by an evil band of owls known as the Pure Ones.
Soren manages to escape, but when Kludd is praised by Nyra (Helen Mirren), the Queen of the Pure Ones, he decides to become a warrior in their army.
Can you tell us a little about your character?
Kludd is sort of a tortured individual. He’s the oldest sibling, but he doesn’t have the natural abilities of his younger brother; he feels like he’s not living up to expectations. When he’s approached by the Pure Ones’ queen, Nyra, who praises him just for being a tyto owl, he’s vulnerable and easily manipulated into joining their efforts.
Do you have brothers and is there a rivalry for your dad’s attention? Or was there one when you were younger?
I am, actually, an older brother. And, like Kludd, I too suffer from what I have diagnosed as OSS, which is Older Sibling Syndrome, where you feel the need to set a fine example and you don’t necessarily posses the natural gifts of your younger brothers. I know I didn’t, and Kludd certainly doesn’t. I think older brothers suffer from the need to be overly-ambitious. I try and use that for good. Kludd, on the other hand, was easily persuaded to the darker side.
What animation did you grow up watching?
It was three boys and we were kicked out of the house pretty much at any moment. It was easier for us to be dealt with outside the house than inside. So we were forced to use our imaginations and play outside. We must have come up with twenty or thirty different games using our imaginations, just taking over our backyard and the neighborhood.
Our neighbors were well and truly versed in our mad ways. We’d be running through with masks, diving over hedges; all sorts of things. So it was pretty much games inside my head. I wasn’t much of a TV animation junkie growing up.
You didn’t watch a lot of TV but was there an animated feature film that made a big impression on you as a kid or teen?
I always liked Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and the way it amalgamated the live action and the animation; that transcended everything else I saw then. I was between 10 and 13 I think.
What appealed to you about playing this character?
There is more than one dimension in terms of acting. I’ve felt that a lot of the animated films don’t have character development. They’re sort of one-dimensional characters, They don’t have a specific arc. And I think even the smaller characters in this have at least one thing to play, and there’s a journey that they go through.
Particularly, for my character, that was a really appealing thing for me that he starts off as this misunderstood, misguided owl and it’s this one single decision that changes the course of his life and that tells more about who he is than the whole lifetime of moments before; how he chooses to react in that moment.
This was filmed over the last three years. Did you go in on your time off from True Blood and do your part? Was it a relief from the action on True Blood to be just using your voice?
Yes, it was a nice escape but this was also incredibly hard; the amount of times that I left the three hour recording sessions with sweat pouring off because you’re doing all the huffing an puffing and the flying. (he flaps his arms like owl wings) Various levels of exertion too.
There’s the happy, joyful exertion and then more exasperation with Kludd being not so eloquent with the way he flies. So, there weren’t too many times when I left with an abundance of energy after.
It was a nice relief from playing Jason. I love playing that character but when I’m not shooting, that’s the last thing I want to dive into.
Do you see an emotional comparison between Jason Stackhouse and Kludd?
I think there’s a vulnerability to them both and an innocence, but I think Kludd has more willpower and perhaps more mental capacity. [he laughs)