Cody Linley is perhaps best known for his role as Jake Ryan (Miley Cyrus’ boyfriend) on the Disney Channel’s hit TV series “Hannah Montana.”
However, now 30, in addition to “Hannah Montana,” Linley has many film and TV credits to his name. The Texas native, who lives in California, danced his way to the Final Four on the seventh season of ABC’s “Dancing With The Stars” with partner Julianne Hough. He guest-starred on ABC Family’s “Melissa & Joey,” Disney Channel’s “That’s So Raven” and CBS’s “Walker, Texas Ranger.” Linley’s movies include “My Dog Skip,” “Cheaper By The Dozen,” “Miss Congeniality,” “Where The Heart Is,” “Hoot” and “Hoovey.”
How did your interest in acting begin?
Acting found me as my mom is an acting coach. My older brother was an actor, too, and my first audition seemed to be a way to prove to my mom that I wasn’t shy. I was four, and I booked a commercial gig. It was so much fun that I kept auditioning. Acting is such a beautiful art as it forces you to become sympathetic to every person and to imagine a story for each person. It’s a gift where we get to play together as a team and create something magical for ourselves and hopefully the audience as well.
When did you start having aspirations to be an actor?
When I was seven, I had to work on a movie, and it was Halloween time. I had to skip trick or treating and go to work. Clint Black gave me a bunch of candy on set that day, and taught me how to skip rocks in the lake. I realized that sometimes you have to sacrifice something you want now and then to end up getting an even greater reward later. I got to play the same role as my brother, and it was the first and last film that I worked with him on. I saw myself on TV later, and was so sensitive about my performance that when I saw it I ran into my room and wouldn’t come out.
What kind of acting do you prefer, TV or film?
I love acting no matter the genre or platform. I love to be silly on stage and improv, to do Shakespeare, and do intense dramas as well as crazy comedies. My favorite roles are ones that are wild, risky and physical.
Your mom, Cathryn Sullivan, is a renowned acting coach. How did you tell her about your desire to act?
The first acting gig I got was when I was four years old. My mom was picking up a check for her acting teaching job at an office building in Tennessee and a casting director saw me and thought I could be good for a Ruby Tuesday’s commercial she was casting. I was hiding behind my mom’s leg and my mom said, “He’s too shy.” I came out from behind my mom and said, “No, I’m not. I can do it!” I auditioned later that week and filmed and booked it.
Was there ever another life choice you wanted to pursue besides acting?
I wanted to be a basketball player, an artist, an astronaut and an animal trainer and an actor. As an actor, I feel like I get to be whomever I choose in a way. Similar to the joker in a deck of cards. I can become anybody in a playful way and that’s what’s so enriching about acting is that it’s constantly new and changing and allows you to empathize with everyone you have the honor of playing on screen, stage or in class or at home.
What would you say to someone who has a desire to act?
Listen to your heart and follow your dream. We all have a unique voice and important story to share with the world. The more personal a piece of art, the more universal it is. I love acting, writing and directing and I have been teaching acting professionally for over 15 years. I mostly teach kids, teens and young adults, but have all ages of students. If you are interested in taking a class or private lesson, check out ActingWithCody.com.
What was it like acting with Miley Cyrus as her boyfriend for 12 episodes on Disney’s Hannah Montana?
It was a lot of fun, doing the show. Hannah Montana changed my life in a very positive way, and I’m proud of the work we did and the relationships and experiences that came from it. We were all pretty young when it started and would joke around in between takes and play guitar and video games on break when we weren’t doing school work.
I’m grateful to have been in over a dozen feature films and many TV shows. I’m honored to have a career as an artist. I hope that my work inspires others as much as it inspires me!
Cover: Cody Linley in the 2015 feature film Hoovey in which he stars as a basketball player. Courtesy photo
Bob Valleau is a freelance writer living in McKinney, Texas.