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Amy Ryan 'reinvigorated' by her complicated 'Sugar' character

Colin Farrell and Amy Ryan star in "Sugar," premiering Friday. Photo courtesy of Apple TV+
Colin Farrell and Amy Ryan star in "Sugar," premiering Friday. Photo courtesy of Apple TV+

NEW YORK, April 4 (UPI) -- The Office, Only Murders in the Building and Doubt alum Amy Ryan says she was initially interested in working on the new mystery series, Sugar, because Colin Farrell was starring and Fernando Meirelles was directing it.

But it was the complicated character she would be playing that ultimately sealed the deal.

"I know this should be good. Now, what do I do? Oh, I get to do THAT? Yes!" Ryan told UPI in a recent Zoom chat about her first reaction to the script.

"This was a woman I hadn't met before in all of the characters I've played over the years. I was invigorated to just play someone new," she said. "There are contradictions with her and I like that so much. She's not just one thing. There is so much more wiggle room that makes her human. I felt like nothing you could do would be wrong."

Amy Ryan attends the SAG Awards held at The Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, Calif., in 2022. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
Amy Ryan attends the SAG Awards held at The Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, Calif., in 2022. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI

Premiering Friday on Apple TV+, the drama stars Colin Farrell as John Sugar, a private detective investigating the disappearance of Olivia Siegel (Sydney Chandler), the beloved granddaughter of Hollywood producer Jonathan Siegel (James Cromwell).

Sugar was created and executive produced by Mark Protosevich whose credits include Thor, I Am Legend and The Cell.

Amy Ryan arrives for the world premiere of "Beautiful Boy" at Roy Thomson Hall during the Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto, Canada, in 2018. File Photo by Christine Chew/UPI
Amy Ryan arrives for the world premiere of "Beautiful Boy" at Roy Thomson Hall during the Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto, Canada, in 2018. File Photo by Christine Chew/UPI

The series also stars Kirby, Anna Gunn, Dennis Boutsikaris, Nate Corddry, Sydney Chandler and Alex Hernandez.

Ryan plays Melanie, Olivia's alcoholic former stepmother, who forms an unexpected bond with Sugar.

Colin Farrell attends the Oscars nominees luncheon at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif., on February 13, 2023. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
Colin Farrell attends the Oscars nominees luncheon at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif., on February 13, 2023. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI

"I just love that this is a woman who had success early in her life," Ryan said.

"She seems like she is at this good, secure place as an older woman and, yet, she never took the time or had the time or the emotional maturity to figure out some other traps in her life."

Kirby Howell-Baptiste arrives for the SAG Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles in 2019. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
Kirby Howell-Baptiste arrives for the SAG Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles in 2019. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI

Melanie drinks too much and has a pattern of disastrous personal relationships, but finds an unexpected kinship with Sugar.

"She sees he is as messed up as she is in some ways and a bond forms," Ryan said.

"That was intriguing to me -- how there were little snatches of 'Scooby Doo' [sleuthing]," the actress said of her character who frequently tells Sugar, "Here's a tip" and "I know this." The relationship builds as she ends up becoming his confidante and helping him -- not solve the case -- but guide him."

The show's Los Angeles setting, Sugar's classic car, atmospheric music and the rapid-fire banter between Sugar and Melanie are all reminiscent of the classic noir films of the 1930s and '40s.

"it does flow in their conversations," Ryan said. "It was as if they were finishing each other's sentences."

Although they only met on this series, Ryan said she and the "dreamy" Farrell quickly became friends.

"I feel like I've known him. It was just very easy from the get go," she said. "He is a deeply kind, whip-smart, brilliant [man with] good energy all around."

He also has a "really sharp eye," according to Ryan, who said the In Bruges and The Banshees of Inisherin actor raised the bar for excellent performance in every scene.

"We were always working towards: 'How can we make this more believable or more interesting?' Like, 'What's the better choice here?'" she said.

Ryan credited City of God and The Two Popes filmmaker Meirelles' with the unique visual style and camera angles of Sugar.

"The tone and the visuals for this is really a gift, in how they see storytelling, how they make pictures," the actress said, saying the camera crew and cinematographers shot scenes from discreet locations like the rafters or under a table so as not to distract the cast.

One of the biggest challenges was an early scene in which Melanie speaks at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting after some shameful behavior the night before.

Ryan said she usually doesn't mind making herself vulnerable in front of another actor or the crew, but baring her soul in front of a bunch of strangers who were staring at her is a different matter.

Ryan used her discomfort to understand Melanie's heart and mind better.

"It's the shortest route," she said.

"Use your surroundings," Ryan added. "That situation can lead to the character."