Cast as the lead in "The Bionic Woman," (NBC, 2007- ), a decidedly darker and edgier re-imagining of the campy 1970s original action series, British actress Michelle Ryan was poised to become a states...
Joined the stage production of "Who's the Daddy" at the King's Head Theater in London
Played troubled teen Zoe Slater on the British Soap Opera "EastEnders" (BBC1)
Cast in the lead role of Jaime Sommers in a remake of cult 70s show, "The Bionic Woman" (NBC)
Had a small role in the British made-for-television movie "Marple" (ITV)
Joined the local theatre group at age 10
Co-starred with Carmen Electra in the British film, "I Want Candy"
Appeared in British romantic comedy "Cashback"
Had a recurring role in the BBC series, "Jekyll," playing psychiatric nurse Katherine Reimer
Cast as Maria in a new adaptation of "Mansfield Park" (ITV) opposite Billie Piper
Landed first acting role at age 14 on the children's show, "The Worst Witch"
Cast as the lead in "The Bionic Woman," (NBC, 2007- ), a decidedly darker and edgier re-imagining of the campy 1970s original action series, British actress Michelle Ryan was poised to become a stateside sensation after years of winning over hearts in the popular British soap opera, "EastEnders" (BBC, 1985-2005) and the thriller series, "Jekyll" (BBC One, 2006- ). A virtual unknown in the United States, Ryan was lucky to be picked by producers of the updated series, who supposedly passed on bona fide stars like Jennifer Aniston for the role. Meanwhile, Ryan found a welcome change of pace from soap operas to primetime television on a major American network - a nearly impossible transition for most actresses to make, particularly across the Atlantic.
Born on Apr. 22, 1984, Ryan grew up in Middlesex, England, in the town of Enfield. Her father was a firefighter and her mother was a makeup artist for a beauty company, both of whom provided a happy and comfortable home for their children. After seeing a performance of "Grease" in the West End when she was 10, Ryan that she wanted to be an actress. She joined a local theater group and landed a part on the children's show, "The Worst Witch" (1998-2001) when she was just 14. Following an appearance on "Burnside" (2000), Ryan landed the role of perpetually sweet and tearful Zoe Slater on "EastEnders" (BBC, 1984-2005), the popular British soap opera following the lives and loves of working class residents living in England's Albert Square. The show, which aired in the U.S. on some PBS affiliates, remained a perennial favorite among fellow Brits, even gaining a small following in the Hollywood community.
Ryan would later insist that, despite the whirlwind of stardom, her life remained essentially the same - she continued to go out for the occasional pint, sing karaoke and date a footballer, all the while managing to avoid the tabloid spotlight that has plagued most beautiful teen stars. The highly focused actress was able to concentrate on her work, even pushing "EastEnders" writers to develop her character more deeply. By 2005, after five years on the show, Ryan decided to call it quits in order to pursue other options in film and on television, while turning down several offers to appear in reality shows and shed her clothes for magazines. But despite regularly earning "sexiest female" rankings in magazines like FHM, Ryan elected to stay covered, appearing instead onstage in "Who's the Daddy" at the popular King's Head Theater in London. She then tried for a supporting role on the popular British sci-fi show, "Doctor Who," but was ultimately turned down. Her fans were also disappointed to learn that she also lost out on the role of Bond girl Vespa in "Casino Royale" (2006) to Eva Green.
Undeterred, Ryan kept at it, landing small roles in the British made-for-television movie "Marple," (ITV, 2006): in an episode of the long-running mystery series "Poirot," (ITV, 1989- ); and in a television version of the Jane Austen drama, "Mansfield Park" (ITV, 2007). She also appeared in the films "Cash Back" (2006) and "I Want Candy," (2007), before performing opposite Rowan Atkinson in a Mr. Bean sketch in the BBC's "Comic Relief 2007: The Big One." Her next recurring role was in the series, "Jekyll," a modern take on the classic Robert Louis Stevenson horror novel, playing psychiatric nurse Katherine Reimer, who helps a Dr. Tom Jackman, share a body with his hideous alter ego, Mr. Hyde. The sassy and sophisticated Reimer was a welcome departure for Ryan and her fans, many of whom embraced the show's erotic subtext.
Despite her success in British television, Ryan remained unknown to American audiences - exactly what network executives wanted when combing through a thousand hopefuls in casting Jaime Sommers for "The Bionic Woman" (NBC, 2007- ). Ryan inherited the title role from Lindsay Wagner, who starred in the original "Bionic Woman" (ABC/NBC, 1976-78), a spin-off of the enormously popular "Six Million Dollar Man," (ABC/NBC, 1974-78) starring Lee Majors. Both shows revolved around ordinary people who suffer life-threatening accidents and are rebuilt with bionic body parts, giving them superhuman abilities to be used when called upon as secret operatives. NBC hoped to capitalize on recent successful remakes of other nostalgic favorites, including "Battlestar Galactica" (Sci-Fi, 2004- ), which was produced by "Bionic Woman" showrunner David Eick.
Thanks to dated production values, including slow motion and cheesy sound effects, the original "Bionic Woman" was known mostly for its camp appeal, while the new version promised darker themes and much more action. Ryan had to train accordingly, taking up Krav Maga and learning sign language to coincide with a running subplot involving her character's deaf sister (Lucy Hale). Whereas the original bionic woman was a pro tennis player injured in a skydiving accident and all-too-willing to work for the government as a special agent, Ryan's character was a lowly bartender who gets in a car crash and seeks to avoid her new-found fate. As befitting the complexities of modern-day television, her government-sanctioned electronic add-ons come with pitfalls for her everyday life, as well as their own mysterious baggage. While somewhat leery of appearing again on television because of the long time commitment, Ryan welcomed the chance to star in a series that - with all its pre-season hype - held the most promise and highest expectations for the 2007-08 season.
played with non-league outfit St. Albans City; engaged in 2005; split in February 2007 after five years together
In 2002, Ryan was was forced to take a break from acting after suffering a breakdown.
"This year I've been living away from home for the first time. It was a surprise to people that I still lived with my parents. But it's being close to my family that's kept me grounded."---Ryan on moving to L.A. for her role as Jamie Sommers in "Bionic Woman" (NBC) Interview magazine, October 2007.