[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]
When Virgin River dropped its second season on Netflix last month, several of the ensemble characters, including Ricky, played by Grayson Maxwell Gurnsey, benefitted from expanded storylines. The actor was upped to a series regular and we followed his character as he began a romance with LA-transplant, Lizzie (Sarah Dugdale). This week, I chatted with Gurnsey about the role and the new season.
Gurnsey says he was fortunate to be cast at all. “I was quite lucky, in several aspects. I had auditioned for the role and really thought I messed it up,” he recalls. “I said a lot of lines wrong. I felt I wasn’t really in the moment. I walked away and promptly called my mom and told her that it was the worst audition I’d had in months.”
“She told me to calm down and she was right. It turns out that the producers were the same on a project I had just worked on a few weeks before I auditioned for this one. So I was extraordinarily lucky [because] they already knew what I was capable of and could brush off the bad line delivery.”
One of the surprising, and positive spins on the “wild child” trope is that Ricky affects Lizzie more than he affects her, helping her get over her initial anger about being moved away from the city and her friends. “The writers and the directors always would talk about this…it was kind of a give and take. [Ricky and Lizzie] both brought different things out of each other. He brings her down to earth a bit and she gives him a bit more confidence, and he tries to become more of an adult through the season,” he explains.
“Sarah was worried that she was just going to play this nonstop, crazy girlfriend, and she was quite happy that she didn’t have to, and the writers thought ahead and [were committed to writing] three-dimensional characters.”
“[As the season began], I thought that’s how it was going to go, too, because they tell us the broad aspects of what’s going to happen, ‘You start the season here. This happens to you in the middle of the season. And this happens too at the end.’ And you don’t really know about other people’s plots [until] you read them when you get the scripts.”
“When I found out that Ricky was keeping a sense of self and was learning to become an adult and deal with [big] changes, it really surprised me, honestly. It’s such low-hanging fruit [to have him go bad], and then you find out that maybe she’s okay, too.”
“They have to go through this toxic sort of relationship first. They both have their own faults in a way, but it [won’t prevent them from] growing in the relationship. And I thought that was realistic and quite heartfelt.”
There is one scene, where Ricky takes Lizzie out in his grandma Lydie’s car, where we worry that he’s literally about to derail his future (spoiler alert: he doesn’t), and Gurnsey says that was a ball to shoot. “It was just so much fun. I can’t even remember the last time we did one of those things where your car is actually on a trailer and they’re pulling it around town in North Vancouver,” he shares.
“And you’re just trying to remember your dialogue and you’re trying to have a funny moment and she’s putting gummi bears in your mouth, and you’re trying to remember to do the scared face. It was challenging and 10:30 at night and we were all quite tired because we’d filmed a few scenes before. The mood was low, but everyone was excited to finish the day. That was a fun day.”
“I think my favorite scene would actually be the last Ricky and Lydie scene of the season, where we’re making the cake together. That was a lot of fun for me personally. It was a very wholesome scene. It was one of my favorite scenes to do. I was so relaxed and just having a fun time on set and seeing it come together, it looked great,” he recalls.
“I love Christina [Jastrzembska]. She’s so funny. Every time I get to be in a scene with her, even if it’s not for very long, [or] we’re just in the same room together, I’ll always gravitate towards her. When we’re not filming, we’ll sit and talk and she’s just got some of the most excellent stories. She’s wonderful.”
Gurnsey has written and directed a few short films, and welcomes the opportunity to learn from the Virgin River creative team. He’d eventually love to shadow some of the series directors. “I was really throwing my hat in the ring for Season 2 shadowing, but other people already had called dibs. So hopefully for a Season 3, I get to shadow,” he says.
“Some of the most talented directors in Vancouver and Canada have worked on this show. Watching them all work, they have their own styles and everything. I would love to shadow every single one of them if they let me. It’s such an interesting show because there is a lot going on. It seems very simple, but there are so many little details and there’s a lot of crew. It’s pretty intense.”
Looking ahead to a potential third season, Gurnsey would like to see more of the growth in Ricky that we saw this year. “I would love to see him continue on the arc that we set nicely for Season 2, becoming older and more wise and making his own decisions,” he shares. “And if it’s a bad decision, well, it’s his decision. It’s a decision he’s going to have to live with. To really start to flesh out his relationship with Lizzie, I’d love that. Keep it rolling.”
Photos courtesy of Netflix.
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