“Acting or anything else is about telling a story and communicating an idea. I want to be able to express in a way that gives people some sense of peace, fun, or joy.”
- Ryan Colt Levy
Ryan Colt Levy is an actor, musician, and storyteller who has quickly become a rising star within the voice-over community. He also is providing English dubbed performances for a variety of entertainment mediums. Levy breathes new life into characters by delivering his distinct vocals for live action and anime productions. In his colorful career Levy has portrayed such fan favorites as Squallo in JOJO’s Bizarre Adventure
(2020), Jazz in Demon School Iruma Kun
(2019), as well as providing additional voices in the acclaimed video game: Final Fantasy VII Remake
Levy was born into a family of art lovers. His parents were quick to expose him to the works of Charlie Chaplin and other motion pictures of the silent and modern era. Levy loved the realm of arts and culture and “became obsessed with performing and creating.” Later, he became influenced by videogames and cartoons. He spent his childhood drawing, writing, and filming his own “crazy movies” equipped with nothing more than his toys and a VHS camera. Realizing he could turn his favored pastime into a career, Levy followed in the footsteps of his mother by enrolling at the HB Studio in Manhattan. Although passionate about the performing arts, it became clear to Levy that he didn’t have the connections or resources to be able to continue acting as a practical career. This realization shifted Levy’s creative drive, and he fell sway to the lure of musical composition.
Ryan Colt Levy: “I became obsessed with music because it was so immediate; with music I could pick up a guitar, fumble through it and by the end of the day have a song. We had this cool community where everyone was jumping in each other’s bands, and even though we didn’t know what the hell we were doing, we created momentum for each other.”
Levy experimented with different musicians and musical styles. At fourteen, Levy, along with his colleagues, were financing their own records. After years of performing, He found his home by forming the musical group Braeves. They played together in New York for a couple of years, before Levy and his bandmates embarked on a new chapter. In 2015, they loaded their equipment into a van and moved their lives to Los Angeles. Levy accounted how the L.A. music scene was very welcoming, and Braeves was able to swiftly book shows and even garner some radio play. However, the band was faced with the bitter sea of reality: that although they were finding success as a musical group, they virtually had no money.
Ryan Colt Levy: “It can be so draining and exhausting to survive as a musician. We would do tours where we would drive around the country for two months and we wouldn’t get paid enough to make it to the next town on gas.”
To make ends meet, the members of Braeves found employment wherever they could. Levy worked part-time at a juice-bar where he’d cross paths with producers, who would often inquire if he was an actor. Levy, falling back on his “New York instinct,” didn’t take any of these encounters seriously. Even so, these serendipitous exchanges rekindled his love for the acting profession. Levy was working a full-time position at a stop motion animation studio, when he decided to put himself on acting websites to see if he could “find some student films to work on for fun.” Levy was surprised when he began to find himself cast in commercials and other acting projects. The universe began to course correct and Levy found himself part of a “massive layoff” at his full-time job and was suddenly unemployed. Soon after, Levy and his Braeves bandmates sat down together and “had the talk.” The group was feeling the fatigue of their musical vocation and after performing in LA for “a good three years” the members of Braeves decided to break up. In that moment Levy “had no job, no band, and to some degree, no identity.” Rather than turning to panic, in that surreal moment, Levy realized he was supposed to be acting.
Ryan Colt Levy: “It became evident that as much as we were struggling as a group to survive financially, individually we were all getting these opportunities for our lives to succeed in different ways.”
With his former passion rebirthed, Levy committed himself to recording and submitting auditions full-time. He understood that he was “investing a lot of time and money” into a business venture that he did not have guaranteed coming back. Even so, Levy persevered and while continuing his education in the acting field, He met and befriended fellow actor Talon Warburton. Warburton approached Levy for the opportunity to be cast in a short film that he had co-written with Kurt Morgan entitled ALL IN (2020). Levy was introduced to the film’s director, David Sobolov, and was subsequently cast in the independent picture. By the end of filming, Sobolov had been “championing [Levy] as a performer” and advocated him to pursue a career in voice acting. Levy took this advice to heart and after filming for ALL IN had officially wrapped, he enlisted Sobolov to aid in recording his voice demo.
Ryan Colt Levy: “Our working relationship together is really fluid, and I trust [Sobolov’s] judgement. I like his approach; he knows how to push and challenge me. I knew he would demand the highest quality.”
It wasn’t long after Levy finalized his improved voice demo with Sobolov that “the industry started to reach out and give [him] opportunities.” For Levy, recording studios have always been a home, so his return to the booth for his first ADR Dubbing session was akin to a homecoming.
Ryan Colt Levy: “I was oddly more prepared than I realized. I was lucky that I had a whole music career, so when I walked in the studio to record, I knew the room. The very first session worked so well that I walked out of the session thinking that they were either going to fire me because it ran too smoothly or that I had just found the greatest job ever.”
Levy provides vocal performances in distinctly different mediums; notably dubbing live-action roles for Encore Voices and recording for Bang Zoom Entertainment’s anime acquisitions.
Ryan Colt Levy: “For live action dubbing, it’s much more about nuance and being as realistic as possible to fit the body. Whereas, with anime and animation there is a freedom where you can take more ownership and use your voice to fill different gaps you wouldn’t normally do in a live action dub.”
His process for finding a touchstone for the vocal qualities of the characters he portrays is a collaboration. It reminds him of his improv/acting training; its part trusting your gut and part relying on the engineers and directors to give context. Levy’s ideology: “It’s almost like writing a song in a band, except the content is already written and now you just have to play it together.” One of his first roles at Encore Voices was playing the novice drug dealer Chino, in the live-action dub of the Netflix series, Drug Squad: Costa Del Sol (2019).
Ryan Colt Levy: “With Chino, I immediately felt connected to that actor. I understood what he was doing with his portrayal and I wanted it to be as much as an homage to his performance as possible.”
However, his characterization of the mischievous Jazz in the anime series Welcome to Demon-School, Iruma Kun (2019) for Bang Zoom Entertainment differs from the original version.
Ryan Colt Levy: “For Jazz, I don’t use the Japanese performance as a touchstone for how to approach the performance. I think I go in a different direction; I was so sure where it was coming from, that I already knew who Jazz was. When I imagine the misfit class in Demon School, I think of the Breakfast Club.”
Jazz reminds Levy of Jules, a character he dubbed for the live action Netflix series The Hookup Plan (2019). Levy holds The Hookup Plan in high regard for the fact that he got to “record in tandem” with his dubbing costar Alana Gospodnetich, who played his character’s love interest Elsa. Levy also confided: “It was so rewarding to be able to play off each other in the room together.”
Ryan Colt Levy: “To some degree Jules and Jazz are both close to me in personality. I really loved playing Jules because he’s a musician and a romantic at heart but has to put on a façade to survive. He is coming at it from this place of positivity and romance even if it’s in a saturated way.”
Levy considers every project he’s been a part of to be a gift and has enjoyed the obstacle course of playing a wide range of roles. For instance, recording the role of Squalo for JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure which Levy describes as “so adult, bombastic, and violent” and then within the same couple of months, singing Baby Shark: Wash Your Hands for the PinkFong brand.
Ryan Colt Levy: “It’s been incredibly uplifting and inspiring how the industry and the voice-over community have been so welcoming and supportive, it’s reminded me of how it felt like as a kid growing up in a community of musicians.”
Although Levy’s focus is his career as a professional voice actor, he hasn’t limited his talents to this one artistic avenue. Levy, taking a page from the Beat Poetry movement, also creates outside of the recording booth. One noteworthy project is a collaboration with longtime friend and musician Bryan Cho. Levy has been enjoying the reception for the single 02, which he had ghostwritten with Cho and was purchased and recorded by singer SUHO (EXO). He paints his own brand of “crazy abstracts,” and is in the process of writing and producing his own independent comic books.
Ryan Colt Levy: “In the long run, I would love to direct and score a motion picture and just keep telling stories in different ways. But for now, I’m personally so green as a professional voice actor that this is where I need to keep my energy and attention so I can be the best I can.”
For Levy, there is a reason why his band’s website is still intact. Braeves may be on an “indefinite hiatus” but eventually the group will want to make music together again. Spanning from his early years as a struggling musician in New York through his journey to become a professional voice actor in Los Angeles, Levy has realized “there is time.”
To keep up with the life and works of Ryan Colt Levy follow him on his social media platforms @RyanColtLevy on Twitter, Instagram
, and Facebook
. Be sure to visit his website www.ryancoltlevy.com
to see his extensive list of acting credits and artwork. Also be sure to check his music at www.braeves.com