Born in Sydney, Australia, Ryan Kwanten was an athletic teenager when he was spotted dropping his brother off at an acting audition. First appearing on an Australian TV show, it wasn't long before Kwanten became an international star. Kwanten has become famous worldwide for playing Jason Stackhouse, the loveable, muscular brother of main character Sookie Stackhouse on the hit HBO vampire drama True Blood.
Actor. Born November 28, 1976 in Sydney, Australia. Ryan Kwanten's father, Eddie, is a Dutch-born immigrant who worked for NSW Maritime, the Australian regulatory body for maritime safety, and was also a champion paddleboarder. Ryan's mother, Kris, worked for the Australian crisis-support organization Lifeline coordinating "op-shops," secondhand stores set up by charities as fundraisers.
Influenced by his father, Kwanten was an athletic child who excelled at golf, tennis, biathlons and—especially—surfing. At the age of 12, his love of surfing almost cost him his life when he was the victim of a shark attack. "I was surfing on my local break and was at the top of the wave and fell and went to pull my arm out and it didn't come out, so I yanked it out and blood spurted everywhere," Kwanten recalls. "I felt something between my legs and got on my board and paddled in, and I see the life guard running down. It made the local paper." What might have been a deeply traumatizing experience for most 12-year-old boys did not keep Kwanten out of the water for long. "I was swimming again the next day," he recalls.
Kwanten's mother described her son as a "very unassuming" and "very focused" child. Kwanten himself, however, paints a rather different picture of his youth. "I was a little shit growing up," he says. "Rebellious. It was beyond the usual teen angst, and I really don't know why. There was no rhyme or reason or motives in my aggression. But I got it out of my system around 21 and have been a very happy boy since."
Kwanten stumbled into acting accidentally at the age of 15. His mother was dropping off his little brother (who aspired to be an actor) at an audition at an acting agency. Kwanten was in the car too, headed to swim practice. The woman running the audition mistakenly grabbed him and told him to audition. "I just wanted to go swimming. I was so scared," Kwanten remembers. "But I ended up getting into the agency and my brother didn't. It was the right place. The right time." A year later, in 1992, Kwanten landed his first acting gig, a recurring role on the Australian TV series A Country Practice.
From Australia to Hollywood
Upon graduating from high school, Kwanten enrolled at the University of Sydney to study business. He also continued to pursue acting, and the age of 21, while still a student, he landed his breakthrough role as Vinnie Patterson on the enormously popular Australian soap opera Home and Away. He remained on the show for five years, from 1997-2002, before deciding to pack his bags and move to Los Angeles with hopes of making it big in Hollywood.
Kwanten struggled to find work during his first months in California. Broke and dejected, he strongly considered returning home. However, with a sudden burst of inspiration fueled by desperation, Kwanten walked up to the owner of the hotel where he had been staying and declared, "'Look, I've stayed at the hotel for the last three nights. I've paid. I don't have any more money. But what I'm going to offer you is this: you're going to let me stay at the hotel for free, for three months. You can put me in the store room, you can put me on the stairs, I don't care. I just need a place to put my minimal luggage. At the end of that three months, I'm going to pay you back every red cent and I'm going to recommend the hotel every single time after that.' He said sure. And that was the start of something."
Those three months proved ample time for Kwanten to get his Hollywood acting career off the ground. He landed several guest spots on television shows, and in 2004 he landed a key role on the WB drama series Summerland. Kwanten then landed his most prominent role to date in 2008, when he was cast in the Alan Ball-created HBO drama True Blood, a show adapted from The Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris. Kwanten plays Jason Stackhouse, the show's resident playboy and younger brother of main character Sookie Stackhouse.
True Blood has become a huge hit, elevating Ryan Kwanten (along with the rest of the cast) to the status of international celebrity. Kwanten's frequent shirtless scenes in True Blood have introduced his rippling muscles to adoring fans across the globe.
Ryan Kwanten remains unmarried and, based on his observations of the domestic lives of his married friends, he insists that he is not yet ready to settle down. "I'm the friend they leave the kids or baby or dog with, then I hand them back. I enjoy doing that," he says.
While Kwanten is generally very humble, on one subject he his unabashedly proud: his work ethic. He pours his heart into his auditions and his roles, and he works out for more than two hours every day to remain in peak physical condition. Kwanten attributes his extraordinary drive to succeed to his background as a competitive athlete. "I have that sporting background where I want to be the best," he says. "I want to be the champion. If I'm knocked down, you're damn sure I'm getting back up again. A lot of actors who may very well be more talented than me don't have that kind of tenacity in the face of rejection. That resilience gives me a distinct advantage."
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