Do you want to play a game?

Minnetonka grad goes to a dark place in ‘Truth or Dare’

Ryan Kiser on the set of 2013 horror film “Truth or Dare.” (Submitted photo)

There’s a few things you should know about Ryan Kiser: he’s a Minnetonka High School graduate, in 2009 he played Charles Manson on screen and in the 2013 film “Truth or Dare” he’s responsible for the deaths of several people.

Don’t worry, that’s not a spoiler … the filmmakers don’t try to hide the fact that Derik Smith (portrayed by Kiser) is the bad guy.

The horror film, which was a part of the 2013 Twin Cities Film Fest, tells the story of the Truth of Daredevils – a group of college kids that get famous for making violent Truth or Dare-style videos and posting them to the internet. Things go wrong for the group when its No. 1 fan decides the rules of the game need to change.

Jessica Cameron, who co-wrote, directed, co-produced and co-starred in the film, said choosing Kiser to play the villain was an easy decision. She’d previously worked with him on the 2011 film “Potpourri.”

“He was who I initially envisioned for the role,” she said of writing the character. “We had reached out to him to get his thoughts and he seemed really intrigued by the twisted villain that we had wanted him to play.”

Once the script was complete it was sent off to Kiser for his approval. He said ‘yes,’ which is something Cameron called “a blessing.”

Kiser, too, was excited about the project.

“I’d never done a full-on horror film before,” he said. “As an actor this is just an amazing role.”

As filming grew closer, the meetings continued and Cameron and her production team grew even more excited.

“We would meet with Ryan many times to review the character and work through the layers,” she said. “With every meeting I grew more and more excited to see him portray the character that we had worked so hard to bring to life on the page.”

That excitement continued as “Truth or Dare” went into production.

“It was breathtaking to watch him on set, bouncing off the other actors and really going to those dark places that we needed him to for the role,” Cameron said.

Cameron added that it wasn’t only important for the actor that played Derik to be dynamic on screen, but he had to be someone the filmmakers would want to work with more in the future.

Minnetonka High School graduate Ryan Kiser (right) plays a game of “Truth or Dare” with his castmates Devanny Pinn and fellow Minnesotan Brandon Van Vliet. (Submitted photo)

“We have plans for at least one sequel, possibly more,” she said. “The actor who plays him had to be someone that we wanted to spend a lot of time with, since the intention has always been to keep his character as the center of the franchise … we could not be more thrilled with how the film and Ryan’s performance turned out.”

Kiser’s path to the big screen wasn’t exactly what one would call typical.

“I grew up acting through grade school,” he said. “In sixth grade our teacher gave some of us time to every day to write a play that we performed for the school.”

The play, which he believes was called “The Magic Cookie Jar,” would prove to be one of his final performances for quite some time.

“I quit because it wasn’t cool to be the ‘drama kid,’” he said.

Kiser graduated from the University of Minnesota and took up a career in financial advising, working alongside his father.

“I had the job I thought I was supposed to have,” he said.

Unhappy with the way things were going, Kiser started taking acting classes at the Guthrie Theater, where he said he “fell back into” acting. He started working in the Minneapolis independent film scene.

Around that time a friend of his in California contacted him with an offer: remain in Minnesota and be a big indie film star or move to Los Angeles, live with him for a while and make a real go of being an actor.

Kiser made the move, leaving an established career and the family business behind – a decision that wasn’t initially a popular one with his parents, Mike and Barb.

“My parents weren’t upset, but it was sort of deflating, I think,” he said. “It was my dad’s dream for me to take over the business.

“But then they saw me on TV and got on board with it.”

Since rediscovering acting, Kiser has remained busy in the industry. Since 2009 he has 25 credited acting roles, according to the Internet Movie Database. In addition, he’s served as a producer on several projects and has served as a casting assistant on other projects.

And things don’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. The short list of projects Kiser is currently involved in includes the feature film “Dead Sea,” which also stars his “Truth or Dare” co-star Devanny Pinn and early next year he’ll appear in “Bigger Than the Beatles,” which tells the story of the relationship between Beach Boys founding member and drummer Dennis Wilson and Charles Manson. Kiser will also serve as a producer on the film. He also has other short films and features planned and is working on other projects in behind-the-scenes roles.

“You have to be more than a one-trick pony,” Kiser said. “You have to be an asset to people to keep getting work.”

 Truth or Dare

Currently “Truth or Dare” is on the festival circuit. You can pre-order the DVD or Blu-ray through the film’s website. Those copies will ship once the film has completed the festival circuit.

The website also includes biographies of each cast and crew member, as well as social media information.

Warning: the film is graphic in nature.

Contact Jared Huizenga at [email protected]