'Teen Wolf' star grew up as one of 15 kids in Glen Ellyn

  • Actor Ryan Kelley, of Glen Ellyn, now stars on MTV's "Teen Wolf."

    Actor Ryan Kelley, of Glen Ellyn, now stars on MTV's "Teen Wolf." courtesy of Patrick Shipstad

Posted12/29/2015 5:00 AM

On MTV's "Teen Wolf," Ryan Kelley plays a serious sheriff's deputy with supernatural powers.

In real life, the Glen Ellyn native is a regular guy who hates the gym, beelines for Portillo's whenever he's home, posts goofy Instagram photos, listens to Justin Bieber and was mocked by his family and friends for being featured shirtless as InTouch Weekly magazine's "Man Candy of the Week."


"When I came home, I walked in the door and they said, 'Oh, look who it is! It's man candy!'" he said. "You have to make fun of it. It's funny. You can't take anything too seriously in this business, or else you turn into a jerk."

Kelley, 29, has been modeling and acting since he was a toddler. His breakout role came in the 2009 Emmy-nominated TV movie "Prayers for Bobby." He played a gay teen who tries to change to please his mother, played by Sigourney Weaver, but ultimately he kills himself.

Now, he stars as Jordan Parrish on "Teen Wolf," which returns Tuesday, Jan. 5. He will also star in his first horror film, "Lucifer," which he just started filming this month.

It's ironic that Kelley plays so many sad, dark characters on screen, because off-screen, he's upbeat, good-humored and self-effacing.

Kelley is one of 15 children -- nine of whom were adopted from Chicago, Guatemala and Vietnam. His parents were also foster parents, so there are even more people who lived with the family whom Kelley considers brothers and sisters.

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"I loved it. I had built-in best friends," he said. "But I think only one time in my life, I walked in my house and no one was home."

Actor Ryan Kelley, who grew up in Glen Ellyn, stars in MTV's "Teen Wolf."
Actor Ryan Kelley, who grew up in Glen Ellyn, stars in MTV's "Teen Wolf." - courtesy of Greg Gorman

By the time he was in seventh grade, Kelley was spending three months a year in Los Angeles on acting and modeling jobs, including commercials for companies such as Amtrak and McDonald's. A few of his siblings also did commercials.

"They'd put (my siblings and I) on the set because we were well-behaved. We weren't brats. Maybe that's why we got so much work," he said.


Kelley's baby face (he was 24 years old when he played a teenager in "Prayers for Bobby") and ability to make himself cry on demand (he jokes that directors thought of him as "that crying kid") led to more and more work, including parts in the movie "Mean Creek" and on the TV show "Smallville."

He spent two years at Glenbard West High School but missed so much school due to work that he had to finish via an online program. He's lived in Los Angeles since he was 18.

Landing a starring role on "Teen Wolf" meant that Kelley had to do two things he wasn't used to doing: work out a lot, and post photos of himself on Instagram.

"Instagram, to me, is honestly, ridiculous. Everyone wants to see selfies, so I come up with ways to be less (obnoxious). Sometimes they want shirtless pictures. Sometimes they want pictures on set," he said.

He's gotten the hang of it, though, and now has more than 544,000 followers. His goal is 1 million. The gym, however, is more of a struggle.

Glen Ellyn native Ryan Kelley, star of MTV's "Teen Wolf," was recently chosen as "Man Candy of the Week" by InTouch Weekly magazine.
Glen Ellyn native Ryan Kelley, star of MTV's "Teen Wolf," was recently chosen as "Man Candy of the Week" by InTouch Weekly magazine. - Photo from the_ryan_kelly on Instagram

"I hate the gym. Every time I walk into the gym I want to throw up," he said. "It doesn't bring me any pleasure. It's just part of 'Teen Wolf.' I have to consider it part of my job. I mean, there's some eye candy involved in 'Teen Wolf.' If you're not in shape, and you're not keeping up with the other cast members who are also in great shape, you might find yourself being killed."

All that time in the gym has only added to his status as a teen heartthrob. While home a few years ago, Kelley stopped at the Portillo's on Butterfield Road in Downers Grove and was mobbed by a bus full of giddy girls who recognized him from "Smallville."

He takes it all in stride and says he truly enjoys his career and his life.

"Acting is so uncertain, unless you're a megastar and you're like Brad Pitt. It's always up in the air. It's a thing you learn to get good at -- not worrying," he said. "I just love being in front of the camera. I just sorta love working. So wherever my career takes me, I'm OK with it."

-- Jamie Sotonoff

• Dann Gire and Jamie Sotonoff are always looking for people from the suburbs who are now working in showbiz. If you know of someone who would make an interesting feature, email them at dgire@dailyherald.com and jsotonoff@dailyherald.com.

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