By Sondra Barr
Ryan Reynolds is about as American as they come, except for the fact he’s Canadian. The irony is not lost when you consider the actor’s most popular role to date is Deadpool, aka Wade Wilson, a Marvel superhero born in Canada, but who grew up to become the least Canadian person ever. Reynolds shares another thing in common with Deadpool, he’s one of the most relentlessly wisecracking heroes in the universe (aka Instagram).
If you’ve been passing time during the Covid-19 quarantine following the 43-year-old Reynolds on Instagram, where he entertains his 35.8 million followers with frequent bon mots and hilarious swipes at equally “Insta” funny wife Blake Lively, it’s clear that he uses his wit for forces of good.
“We live in really weird––really weird––times right now, he told Digital Spy and other media outlets. “You’re like watching the news and they’re like, ‘The top story today is the end of the world…Now to find out what’s really happening between Kylie Jenner and Tyga.’”
It’s this strange reality that compelled him to utilize his considerable celebrity and resources to make a real impact. And, because “I think we can all agree, Covid-19 is an a-hole,” he said. So, interspersed among his hilarious Instagram posts carrying on a ‘rivalry’ with fellow actor Hugh Jackman and the ones trolling his glamourous wife, he’s used Instagram to announce the couple’s $400,000 pledge to New York City hospitals and a $1 million donation to food bank charities in the United States and Canada, while urging his sizable audience to also donate.
The owner of Aviation Gin, Reynolds additionally used the platform to announce that 30% of all sales would go to the Canadian Professional Bartender’s Association “Tip Your Bartenders” program through May 1. Aiming to help bartenders who’ve been laid off during the pandemic, his company donated $10,000 to get the initiative started.
Meanwhile, holed up at home alongside Lively, the pair’s three daughters, and his mother-in-law, he’s adjusted to quarantine with his signature wry humor. “Men tend to be the architect of someone’s demise,” Reynolds explained during an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at Home in April. “So it’s fine. I like just being here with the girls. I like doing the girl stuff. This morning I made dresses out of tissue paper for them.”
“We’re lucky enough to have a little, tiny garden, so we’re learning a little bit about gardening. We’re trying to make this an education experience, but I’m mostly drinking,” Reynolds also divulged to Colbert before getting serious. “Pneumonia is very serious,” said the actor, whose father died from pneumonia. “It can take out the toughest of us. It certainly got my dad. So coronavirus is a serious thing.”
On the subject of Reynolds’ dad, it’s a relationship that he’s openly shared with multiple media outlets as being extremely complicated. Born in 1976 in Vancouver, Canada, the youngest of four brothers, Reynolds was raised in a volatile environment. He told Cara Buckley of the New York Times that to head off screaming matches or tumult, he would try to fix anything that might set his former police officer-turned-food wholesaler father off, be it by keeping the house immaculately clean or mowing the lawn.
“This is not meant to be some sob story––everyone carries their own bag of rocks around and I am no different in that regard––but growing up in my house, it was never relaxing or easy and I know that, throughout my life, I’ve dealt with anxiety in different ways,” explained the actor to the Independent’s Sabrina Barr.
Acting provided an outlet for Reynold’s talent for playing a character and diffusing tough situations. At 13, he landed his first part and instantly felt an affinity for stepping into someone else’s shoes. “I almost knew right then,” he described to Megan Conner at the Guardian. “It played to my strong point. They gave me a role.”
Reynolds eventually ended up in Hollywood in a sitcom before appearing in an assortment of films including National Lampoon’s Van Wilder, Blade: Trinity, The Proposal, and Buried.
It was his much mocked first outing as a superhero, in the film Green Lantern, that offered Reynolds the opportunity to meet his future wife Blake Lively. At the time, Reynolds was married to actress Scarlett Johansson and Lively was dating her Gossip Girl costar Penn Badgley. It wasn’t long before both pairs had broken up.
“We were buddies then,” Reynolds explained to Entertainment Weekly’s SiriusXM show. “I remember it was funny because for about a year after Green Lantern had come and gone and we were both single. We went on a double date. She was on a date with another guy and I was on a date with another girl.”
It was that date where it became apparent Lively and Reynolds were meant for each other. “That was the most awkward date because we were just like fireworks coming across,” described Reynolds. “It was weird at first, but we were buddies for a long time. I think the best way to have a relationship is to start as friends.”
“They’re the loveliest people, Ryan and Blake,” says actor Stanley Tucci, a former neighbor of the couple. “When we first met, we went over and I think we saw them practically every other day; for a week my kids were staying over at their house. They love cooking and their home life. They’re just two of the most generous people I’ve ever met.”
Since marrying Lively, Reynolds invigorated his career and even took another crack at playing a superhero. In 2016, he approached the Marvel character Deadpool from a comedic perspective. The film went on to become a runaway success. Drawing upon his comedic chops, he reprised the role in Deadpool 2. That film and its predecessor catapulted Reynolds into the Hollywood stratosphere. The second film generated $784 million at the worldwide box office to become the highest-grossing X-Men movie, it also served as the ideal role to finally channel and express his struggles with the paralyzing anxiety he’s felt throughout his life.
It was during the press junket for Deadpool 2 that Reynolds shared with fans his struggle with mental illness. He’s said that he carried out many interviews in the character of Deadpool to alleviate his fears.
“I have anxiety, I’ve always had anxiety,” he told the New York Times in 2018. “Both in the lighthearted ‘I’m anxious about this’ kind of think, and I’ve been to the depths of the darker end of the spectrum, which is not fun.”
He says that humor has always been a way to handle the anxiety that grips him tightly. “I’ll look for the joke in things so that I don’t look for the sadness and the grief,” he’s said.
Reynolds also manages his feelings of anxiety and depression through lifting weights and running daily. “Exercise is a means of expelling those demons,” he told the Independent.
With the future of movie release dates uncertain due to the pandemic, fans may have to wait awhile to see a new Ryan Reynolds film. It’ll be worth the delay. In the wings is the movie Free Guy, an action comedy in which Reynolds plays “a background character who realizes he’s living in a video game. With the help of an avatar, he tries to prevent the makers of the game from shutting down his world.” Sound familiar?
Until then, no doubt, Reynolds will keep us entertained on Instagram. Having been recently naturalized in the United States, now that Reynolds holds two passports and is a dual citizen, he can finally be officially recognized as the world’s most treasured Canadian/American hero.