Mia And The White Lion looks wonderful and we were lucky enough to get the opportunity to talk to Ryan Mac Lennan, who plays Mick in the film. Take a look at the wonderful interview below and stay tuned to see what Ryan has coming in the future.
Ryan was born in 2003 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Mia and the White Lion was his first silver-screen experience. Ryan has played many different roles in school plays. His talent saw him awarded several prizes, including the Best Newcomer prize for his 2012 performance in Rumpelstiltskin and the Best Male Actor prize in 2014.
He also featured in a commercial for international clothing brand WE Fashion. As well as his passion for acting, drama and delving into the minds of new characters, he loves nature and is a talented wildlife photographer. His love of animals meant he found it hard to say goodbye to the bush-based filming that gave him his first major silver-screen break.
BSCKids: Tell us a bit about your character in MIA AND THE WHITE LION.
Ryan Mac Lennan: I portray Mick Owen in the film. Mick is a very soft, sensitive and fragile kid, he is easily hurt.
He doesn’t have such a strong bond with his father but more so with his mother, Alice, who can understand him better.
Mick is autistic. When I acquired the role, I had to practice autistic behavior and tendencies with acting coach Toinette Laquière. We are very good friends and she was amazing at helping me prepare for the role. I did lessons with her about 4 days a week lasting up to 2 hours, so there was a good deal of development into Mick’s character.
BSCKids: How did you get the part for the movie and how did it feel working so long on a film?
Ryan Mac Lennan: I joined a drama school called Helen O’ Grady Drama Academy to further my interest in drama and television. I was advised to join an agent to find me acting jobs. I was with my agent for about two months before I got called for the audition.
I met Gilles at my second audition (the call back) and then Kevin Richardson (famous “Lion Whisper” and wildlife preservationist) at the third call back. After the fourth and final one, I was told I got the part of Mick!
Filming a movie over the period of nearly four years sounds crazy! But, it was vital to see Mick, Mia, Charlie (the lion) and the rest of the families grow as the film was shot.
BSCKids: How did it feel working with Thor (who plays “Charlie”) and the other animals?
Ryan Mac Lennan: I cannot even begin to describe the feeling. When you are there, standing in the middle of nowhere, out in the bush with a lion chilling next to you, you just think to yourself, “oh my god it’s a LION!” I felt quite nervous and edgy at the beginning of filming because I was still getting to know the lion behavior and to learn how they think and work. When you work with a lion, you’ve got to think like a lion. But after a few months, I started to see how things actually work and learn from Kevin, the “Lion Whisperer”.
I went into the lion interactions nice and clean with a clear mind, and I’d come out dirty, with my mind running at the speed of light. In the beginning, I’d rush home to jot down everything that Kevin taught us during the interaction so I wouldn’t forget. As we worked more and more with Kevin and Thor, I felt comfortable with an immense trust in Kevin. To sum it all up, he turned us into mini “lion whisperers”!
BSCKids: Was there anything exciting that happened when the cameras were off?
Ryan Mac Lennan: Parties! There was a party for everything and it was nice to interact with the rest of the cast and crew outside of work during social events. Just being on set and getting ready to film and all the preparation was exciting. Travelling to the different locations to film was also cool!
At the end of the filming, when I had finished my scenes, I still continued to go to set every day and help Kevin and Daniah wrangle Thor. The scene where Mia is leading “Charlie” through the shopping mall was a once in a lifetime experience, I mean it’s a lion in a shopping mall!
Also, helping out with the film production itself, changing camera batteries and lenses and boom swinging on set for sound. It was quite an education experience!
BSCKids: What do you miss the most about being on set with all those animals and besides Thor, who was a favorite animal of yours to work with?
Ryan Mac Lennan: First of all, it’s not just the animals I miss on set, it’s the people and just the overall good vibe!
There were so many animals on set at the same time it was unlike anything you’ve ever seen. From snakes, spiders, lizards, chickens to porcupines, there were even warthogs on the set.
Trevor, the Meerkat, whose real name is Elvis, was so fun to work with. He is quite comical and all he wanted to do was jump on Thor, as if he thought he was way bigger and tougher than him.
BSCKids: Tell us something that people would be surprised to learn about you.
Ryan Mac Lennan: This is a difficult one, there is so much! I have 3 older sisters: Sadie, Hannah and Brittany. I am an uncle to all of their children, an uncle of 7 in fact! 5 girls, 1 boy and one on the way!
To be able to film the movie over the course of 4 years, I of course had to pursue home schooling. So, I left school in 2015 and I have been homeschooled ever since.
BSCKids: If you could guest star on any television show, which one would it be and why?
Ryan Mac Lennan: The Ellen DeGeneres Show, definitely!
I watch her show every day and I just love her kindness and what she does for people and just the overall fun vibe of everything. The hilarious games are the best. I just dream of sitting on the white sofa drinking from the Ellen mug and obviously wearing the Ellen underwear and answering her questions about the film and my involvement in everything.
BSCKids: Why should everyone go out and watch MIA AND THE WHITE LION?
Ryan Mac Lennan: Everyone should go out and watch this amazing film when it arrives in theaters on April 12th. It teaches us about what is going on with the lions in captivity and the wild in plain sight. Canned hunting, a legal practice in South Africa, is a horrible industry. We take lions, the environment and all the animals in this world for granted, but once the lions are gone, they are gone, and all that we will have to show future generations is photos and stories to tell.
BSCKids: How much did you learn from Kevin Richardson about animals and tell us a bit about your roll being an animal activist?
Ryan Mac Lennan: Do you have 2 days for me to answer this? Haha! I learned so much from Kevin, and I still learn from Kevin today. He taught me about the lion behavior and how to handle certain situations.
If I could write a “How to wrangle lions” handbook, it would be bigger than the world encyclopedia.
Kevin always gave me scenarios as if I were a pilot, if something goes wrong on your aircraft, you run through steps to deflect or resolve the issue, and the same goes for working with lions.
Same as a pilot, your day is only over once your aircraft is parked safely back in the hangar, same goes with lions, your duties are completed once the lion is safe back in his enclosure.
Kevin always taught us to be calm but in an assertive way. He could never stress that enough.
We were taught that, Thor and the rest of the lions are not adapting to how we as humans work, but we must adapt to how the lions work.
I am proudly an ambassador of the Kevin Richardson Foundation raising awareness for canned hunting. I want to further my activist career as I get older. I try to raise as much awareness on social media as I can, I feel that it is the youth that need to be educated on this matter, because they are the only ones that can make a difference.
I want to use my acting career as a way to raise awareness not just for lions but for all animals and the environment of course.
BSCKids: Where do you see your career in the next few years?
Ryan Mac Lennan: Oh, it’s very bright! I want to further my career in acting, but not just acting, I really enjoy everything to do with film industry. I love being behind the camera as well, so anything involving film, I’ll do it!
BSCKids: Can you tell us any new projects you have coming up?
Ryan Mac Lennan: A few things in the works but nothing I can share right now. As I said, I want to get as many jobs as I can and just further my knowledge in animal preservation.
BSCKids: Tell us a bit about your work with the clothing brand WE Fashion.
I worked a bit with WEFashion on their WE get together FW14 clothing line, it was all about winter clothing and wools. And one word “Hot!” We had to wear these big puffy wool jackets in the middle of summer for the TV ad, but it was great fun. I hope to be collaborating again with them soon.
BSCKids: What is your favorite camera and lens when you are doing wildlife photography? Do you have a special picture on social media that you have taken?
Ryan Mac Lennan: Haha! I’m not so advanced in the photography yet, but I am looking to further my camera knowledge. I don’t really take photos for social media, it’s more for having photos around my home and for my family members who didn’t always have the opportunity to come out into the bush and experience for themselves. I suppose I should showcase some of my work on social media!
Thanks goes out to Ryan Mac Lennan for talking about Mia And The White Lion and his career.