Ryder McLaughlin taught himself magic while listening to DEVO
From his appearances in ‘mid90s,’ ‘North Hollywood’ and more to his work as a skater and designer with Illegal Civilization, Ryder McLaughlin is a multitalented individual.August 30, 2021
Skateboarding has left a deep impact on popular culture. One of the most significant impressions of the art form in recent years is felt in the success of Mikey Alfred’s North Hollywood. The film, starring Vince Vaughn and Miranda Cosgrove, brought contemporary skateboarding onto the screen and won the attention of Pharrell Williams. It was the film’s lead, Ryder McLaughlin, who truly turned the project into a serious depiction of skate culture. A longtime skater, McLaughlin perfectly embodies the lifestyle and creativity that surrounds the community. He’s an organic talent and a natural creative, someone who fluidly moves from project to project and represents a new generation of independently formed actors who are starting to leave their mark on the world of film.
What is your background as an actor? Did you take acting classes or participate in the theater program, anything like that when you were in high school?
No, I didn’t do anything in school. The only thing I did was art class. Technically, you’re supposed to take art class. But no, my friend Mikey Alfred that does Illegal Civ just wanted to start making shorts. He asked me to be in one and then the next one, the next one and the next one.
Then, he met Jonah [Hill]. I had done one job before. My dad does stunt work on movies. He’s like a cowboy stunt guy. So every time one of his stunt coordinator friends needs a skateboarder, he’d always hit my dad up and be like, “How old is your son? Is he 18 yet?” And then finally, when I was 18, I had my first job. And then after that, Mikey met Jonah, and that’s how mid90s happened. I fell into acting. I haven’t really gone to any classes or done any of the normal stuff you do.
Now that you’re establishing yourself, does that change how you think of yourself? When you meet people, do you introduce yourself as an actor?
No! It’s my least favorite thing. It’s like, “Oh, what do you do?” I usually just say what I actually do. I watch fucking YouTube every day and play video games. I hate that, like, “Oh, I’m in a band.” I just can’t. I physically cannot do that.
Do you enjoy acting, though?
Yeah. Acting was definitely something I never planned to do. It was, “Be a pro skater, maybe I want to do art stuff.” Then I started doing music stuff. [Acting is] new to me, but it’s one of those things where I get nervous and get anxious, and it’s not a great feeling, but it’s like, it is a good feeling that I haven’t had that in other stuff. Skating got, not boring, but I stopped feeling that pit in my stomach. I think that’s what acting gives me, just that ability to not be myself and feel nervous and feel excited to do something.
How does art fit into your career? Have you thought about doing an art show?
I do it for fun. I’ve never really thought about doing an art show. I had a couple of paintings… Mikey used to throw an Illegal Civ art show. I think he did two of them. I think the second one, I had like three paintings in it just because I was new to that crew. But no, I don’t know. I like doing stuff. I was a bored kid. I’d be into sculpting, or I wanted to make masks or special effects. I got into so much shit. And I think that just solidified how I function now where I just have to keep doing new stuff or else I’m going to go crazy.
As far as skating, do you want to go pro? Do you have any sponsors?
I just skate for Illegal Civ. I used to have some other sponsors, mainly just shoe sponsors. I haven’t skated in a while. Especially with the whole pandemic, skating alone. I’m not trying to do that. I can’t do anything alone. Even when I play video games now, I don’t play shit by myself. It’s really only to hang out with my friends. I’ve given up on going pro and doing the pro-skating thing just because I cannot mentally be like, “All right, I’m going to jump down this 20 stair for a clip, and maybe I break a bone, maybe I don’t.”
What about music? Where do you see yourself going with music, especially given that you’re establishing yourself as an actor?
That’s another thing. Music is one of those things I’ve consistently been doing for, what, five years? It’s definitely a harder thing to put out, especially that I have some sort of following already. Like, jumping into that space and being like, “Here, I make music, too. I’ve been making it for a while, but now you know about it.” So it’s just scary, almost, to put shit out there.
Because you’re considering what people’s opinions will be like?
It’s more just like I feel like I’m in a box super classically. People want to see me be a skateboarder. They want to see me be a certain type of person, or that’s what they started following me or [started] being a fan. Jumping into that new realm, it’s scary.
When you were a kid, did you have any expectations that you’d be where you are now?
No, I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. In middle school, that’s when skating became more like something that I wanted to do, and that was my main focus for a long time. I also grew up on a ranch in the boonies, where I’m not in the suburbs where I can just go to the homie’s house. I did magic. I was really into Rubik’s Cubes for a while. I would literally do anything to pass the time. That’s another thing with the music stuff. I’m definitely someone that I have to do everything myself if I want something. Even in quarantine, I thought it would be really funny if I had a puppet version of myself, like a Muppet. I bought all this shit to just make a puppet for no reason. I was just like, “It would be really cool to have a puppet version of myself just sitting in the corner of my room.”
Your work is impressive. The rugs are awesome. I don’t think I could do that.
You could do that. It’s just a machine that you trace. I just project an image, trace it and then you’re just sitting there. It’s just more tedious. That’s why I stopped doing it. And everybody started doing it. When I started doing it, I only knew two people that were making rugs. And I was like, “Oh, this is sick.”
Mark Mothersbaugh, [the] singer of DEVO, put out a book. He used to make his little drawings into rugs. I was like, “Dude, this is so cool.” And then I started seeing my homie from New York that I went to high school with. He started making rugs. I was like, “Dude how the hell do you do this?” Once quarantine started, my whole TikTok feed was just like hand-tufting your own rug. Here’s an anime rug. Here’s another anime rug. It’s like, “Oh that was fun.”
When it comes to film, who are your major influences? Are there actors you particularly admire?
I don’t know. Every time I do an interview, they ask, “Who do you want to work with, who’s your favorite…” Even with music. With music, a little more. I’m one of those people that I really just like to do stuff. I don’t really have a favorite actor, director [or] movie. I really enjoy just doing it. That’s definitely not how it should be. I should be a student, know all that shit. I used to draw Dragon Ball Z just because I liked what they looked like. I liked drawing them. I had never watched Dragon Ball Z. You know, I play soccer, but I don’t like watching sports. But I like playing sports.
Do you think it makes it easier to be a little bit of an outsider in film? Considering you’re not totally in that ocean?
Yeah. If you stop treating people like they’re people, it’s hard to just be around them in general. The only thing that makes me nervous about people that are established actors is that they’ve worked a lot. Just know that I haven’t worked as much as them. I know their craft is dialed in. You know, I’m working with Vince Vaughn, and he has his looks that he does. He knows what looks good. He knows how he looks on a camera. And he knows how to act very well. So that’s the one thing that intimidates me. But then again, it’s a job. And I can’t think like that. I’m just there to do my best.
Who was your favorite skater growing up?
I mean, especially when you’re a kid, I went through phases. For a long time, it was P-Rod [Paul Rodriguez]. He did that Nike commercial with Ice Cube. I loved that. I started rocking chinos, Dickies. I was going to Famous Footwear, which is like a fucking bootleg shoe store in the middle of nowhere. But they had Nikes that were made of foam. I would just go to the skate park and listen to Ice Cube. I’ll just listen to [“It Was A Good Day”] all day and just pretend like I was Paul Rodriguez skating out in L.A. Definitely at least my most memorable phase.
Is there anything off the table for you as far as film goes, like a Marvel movie or being a young Indiana Jones? Would you do a Romeo And Juliet like the one they did with Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes?
For sure, I’d be down for that. I think superhero movies are, maybe not off the table, but they’re definitely like… I don’t know if I could see myself being a Tom Holland or some shit like that. That’s such a crazy world.
Well, what are the films you love or the roles you’d love to do?
I love pretty much anything A24 does, the Safdie brothers or Wes Anderson, that kind of world of movies. The huge blockbusters… The show I’m working on right now is a bigger production. And it’s the craziest shit. It’s such a different world than just going to an actual location. You’re on the studio lot. It’s just crazy. It’s such a different world, and I couldn’t imagine being a Marvel superhero. That’s like a life choice. It’s like, your life is going to be different. Shit’s going to change, and maybe not for the better.
What music are you listening to?
I’ve been listening to a lot of hyperpop, the new hip genre of the kids. There’s this person called underscores. They make almost like indie music, but [it’s] dubstep. So it has this electronic element to it that makes it super unique and cool.
I like hyperpop. How would you say that genre influences your own music?
Everything I’ve made over the years has been whatever I’m listening to for the most part. Logan [Rice] used to play [the 1975] when I would be at his house. Then, I slowly started listening to them. Especially in this day and age, nobody really listens to albums anymore. An album playthrough isn’t really a thing, and I love that they’re just like, “Oh yeah, I like this band. So we just made a song that sounds like this one band.” But then the next song is like a full dancehall-type beat. I think that’s why I like hyperpop, too. One song’s like super dubstep kind of drops, and then the next one is like an acoustic guitar that’s glitchy. I think it’s so cool.