Ryan Dorsey Says Son Josey Is 'a Happy Kid' and Talks 'Magnum P.I.' Role (Exclusive)
Ryan Dorsey is back on TV with a new role on NBC's Magnum P.I. and also sharing an update on how his 7-year-old son, Josey, is doing.
The 39-year-old actor has been open about sharing his journey raising his son, whom he shares with his late ex Naya Rivera, on Instagram. He acknowledged that he still has ups and downs as he navigates single parenthood, though the proud dad said that in spite of it all, Josey is "overall, a happy kid" with ambitious interests and hobbies.
"I usually do a Christmas or a holiday post [on Instagram], but this was the first year on the East Coast and it was just different. It's always kind of sad around the holidays and this year was no exception," Dorsey told ET in an interview Wednesday. "Some days are harder than the others and some days... I'm optimistic and some days I'm sad. I guess that's for everybody in life, but it's hard for me when Josey will say certain things and if he misses his mom or whatever it is or he'll bring up certain moments that obviously he'll never forget from the worst day of his life."
"And there's not much for me to say except I just say, 'I know buddy and I love you,' and I just give him a hug. Just some human dad to son contact and rub his head and squeeze him because it's all I can do because I don't really have any answers," Dorsey continued. "I'm not one of those, 'Everything happens for a reason,' type of people. When I was younger I was, but then you get older and you see what's going on in the world, it's hard for me to get behind... that kind of mantra."
"I'm doing the best I can," he added, before speaking glowingly about his son. "He's, overall, a happy kid and I'm trying to keep it together and provide a safe and happy life for him. He's doing really well in school and he has a lot of friends. He's such a social kid. Everybody loves Josey and he's funny."
Dorsey shared that Josey recently participated in his first talent show, where he and his friends "did a little stand-up act." "They were telling jokes and he was such a ham. I don't know if he's going to end up doing what we do for a living or what, but he definitely has a natural ability or a knack to be on stage it seems."
According to Dorsey, Josey has a desire to start a YouTube channel, "so I think that's the next thing I'm doing." "He's been practicing and he's got all these videos. You'll hear him say, 'Smash that like button, subscribe and comment below!' He's almost 8, so it's about that time if he really wants to do it," Dorsey said. "He is reading, he is writing; he's doing all these things, so he'll be editing on his own soon enough. I'm just trying to help him."
But Dorsey noted his son has "seen very little of [his] work," understandable considering the characters he tends to play, though he's aware now of what he does for a living.
"He's seen a lot of my auditions because he'll just be sitting... and watch me do stuff. He's even given me a note or two over the last couple years," he fondly recalled. "I think one time he saw... I did the season finale of 9-1-1 and I think Angela Bassett's character shoots me and he's like, 'That's not real though, right?' I'm like, 'Obviously I'm right here, buddy. No, it's all fake,' but there was a look of concern on his face. It probably was a little alarming to see your dad go through a thing like that on television."
"It's one thing he understands now. He fully understands that it's all pretend and make believe, so he loves pretending. We do a lot of pretending on our own. He creates with his superheroes and all that good stuff," Dorsey shared.
As for his latest gig, Dorsey appears in Sunday's episode of Magnum P.I., playing wanted bad guy Nixon, who's caught in the middle of an elaborate scheme involving a valuable necklace. The actor was originally slated for a guest spot on the show in 2021, but had booked a multi-episode arc on Big Sky, where he played Rand, and was unable to do both jobs. It worked out to his benefit as Dorsey was able to spend more time in Hawaii filming this episode as a result.
"Nixon, in my mind, he had a bad childhood and there's a reason a lot of people in real life go down these certain avenues," Dorsey said of his character's motives. "You don't want them to just be one-dimensional and being bad for the sake of bad. You want to have backstory that makes them empathize or you want to be able to see some kind of reason why this person may have went down this path, whether or not in an episode you could make that obvious to the audience. You want to do the job and do the work as to why... to make it make sense, so they're not someone being an a**hole for no reason."
He's made a career out of roles on popular TV shows, such as Station 19, 9-1-1, Yellowstone, Ray Donovan and Bosch, often taking up space as the the guy on the wrong side of the law. His first job was on Parks and Recreation, and he recently posted about his time on the beloved comedy and praised Chris Pratt for reaching out to a young, aspiring actor at the time.
"This is 10 years in now, and I'm just lucky to still be able to be working and do something that doesn't feel like work for me. It's just kind of like being the ultimate kid of just pretending and just really fortunate, anyone that can continue to work in this business," Dorsey reflected. "My family's always like, 'Why don't you get on a romantic comedy?' I'm not content, but I'm happy to... I always joke and say, 'I got a good face for crime,' and I tell my parents, 'Wouldn't you rather have your kid do pretend crime than to actually do crime?' Most of the characters I play, justice and karma takes care of itself. They either end up in jail or dead. So it's a reminder, if you play stupid games, you win stupid prizes. So I have fun with those kind of roles of the darker side."
Dorsey said filming in Honolulu, a city he had never been to, was something he couldn't pass up. He also credited Magnum P.I. stars Jay Hernandez and Perdita Weeks, with whom he shares a fun, action-packed scene involving a mini car chase in the episode, for being consummate professionals.
"Jay and Perdita, they were great. They were so nice and Tim Kang," he said. "Funny enough, one of my first handful of jobs nine years ago, I worked with him on the final season of The Mentalist. So we had a good chat talking about the old times but it's always good when you're seeing someone that you haven't seen in a long time and you're like, 'Oh yeah, I remember you.' That was probably the highlight, just working in Honolulu and the crew... The pineapple's probably the highlight, to be honest!"
And Dorsey has high hopes for the future when it comes to his career in front of the camera. In the short term, he shared he will be appearing in an upcoming episode of Chicago P.D.
"I always thought I wanted to do movies and obviously most of my resume is television, and that's fine because television is where the best stories are but always, in my mind, I'm still looking for that big break, some consistency where I'm not always having to do what I've been doing and popping in and out of all these different shows," he said openly. "It would be nice to have a place to call home for at least a year or two and really sink my teeth into something. They say it takes 10 years for an overnight success, so I'm hoping that 2023 is the time for me."
For now, he's staying busy taking care of Josey, gradually renovating his house alongside his father and working on a new podcast project, which Dorsey said he hopes will serve as "a video journal of sorts that my son can look back when he gets older and grows up, just talking about my life and how I got into this."
"Most of it I like for it to be funny and pretty light, but also real and a look at what it's like to be a single dad doing what we do. And to have Josey on there and friends," he continued. "I'm not going to say the title yet, but it's actually a saying that everyone says in the South or the Midwest-Southern region that's pretty funny. That's pretty much all I got coming up, just working on working as they say."
Magnum P.I. airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.
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