His perfect six-pack. His unmatched athletic prowess. His utter stupidity. It was always clear that Ryan (Parker Young) and Lisa Shay (Allie Grant) were not biologically related, but Suburgatory viewers were stunned at the end of last season when it was revealed that it was Sheila and Fred's beloved son — not their outcast daughter — who was adopted.
No one was more surprised so than Young himself. "Honestly, when I read it, it really made me sad. I didn't really see it coming," Young tells TVGuide.com. "At the same time, I think it's what Ryan needs. When it is ultimately revealed, it's going to open his eyes to life a little more. He's a bit closed off and protected. For him to find that out and reassess his life and where he's going will hopefully ultimately be good for him."
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Although the cat is out of the bag off-camera, Ryan is still as oblivious as ever to Lisa's big discovery when Suburgatory returns for its second season Wednesday (9:30/8:30c on ABC.) This will give Lisa some major leverage with her parents, particularly her controlling mom, Sheila (Ana Gasteyer). "It's not all about Ryan. There's this person that Sheila has completely ignored for most of her life who suddenly has a huge amount of authority in the household because she's holding this secret," Gasteyer says. "There's already a ton of emotional blackmailing. It's given Lisa a lot of power in their relationship, which is really threatening."
Look for Lisa to embrace lots of Sheila-like tactics now that Lisa must embrace the fact that she's really a Shay. "She realizes, 'I'm going to be a Shay. I have to figure out how to be a Shay, how to make these rules apply to me and how to bend these rules to apply to me,'" Grant says. "One of them is becoming Sheila Shay's puppet master."
Although she may threaten otherwise, Lisa will have a very big reason not to show Ryan her cards. "The thought of Ryan leaving to find his biological parents means that Lisa would be home alone with their parents and nothing's worse than being home alone with Sheila and Fred Shay," Young says.
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Adds Grant: "He really is the walking, talking human buffer, so I think that she knows — regardless of how she uses it to play against her parents — she can't do that to him because she needs him."
That means viewers will see a very different side of Lisa when she sucks up to the brother she once loathed — a change of heart that will have bigger ramifications. "Ryan legitimately believes that he's dying because Lisa is being super nice to him," Young says. "The first thing that comes to mind when he believes he's dying is Tessa. He wants to go tell the woman that he loves how he feels. That's top on his bucket list."
How will Tessa (Jane Levy) take the news? She's been in denial about her attraction to Ryan ever since their make-out session behind the bleachers in Episode 2. "Ryan is not giving up and Tessa can see that he's a good guy and he means well and that he cares about her," Young says. "A lot of what she doesn't like about him is what he's going to work on with himself as a result of discovering that he is adopted and that his life isn't what he thinks it is. I think there's a chance for him."
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As the truth unfolds about Ryan's adoption and his feelings for Tessa, Young is hopeful to also change people's perceptions about Chatswin High's favorite dumb jock. "When I originally auditioned for the role, I had a completely different perception of the kid," he says. "He was a smart kid in my mind, got straight As. And then come Episode 2, he's saying stuff like, 'Avatar is a foreign film.' It kind of freaked me out a bit at first like, 'Oh my God, this is not who I thought he was. But ultimately I'm happier with it. I think it gives me a lot more freedom."
It also helps that Ryan has evolved into a much more likeable character since he was first introduced to viewers while mock-humping his school locker. "Ryan was supposed to be a bit more of a tool, but he morphed into this innocent guy who just maybe doesn't say the right things, but he means well," Young says. "He lives in this false utopia and that's his only downfall — that he's naïve. The perception of him being this douchebag or this superficial guy — he's just not that to me."
Suburgatory's new season premieres on Wednesday, Oct. 17 at 9:30/8:30c on ABC.