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Suburgatory’s Parker Young on the Finale, Crazy Ryan Shay, and ‘Old’ Carmen Electra

Parker Young. Photo: Patrick McMullan

It’s hard to believe that Parker Young was never a series regular on Suburgatory. Never before has a high-school jock on TV been as sweet and simple-minded and shirtless and super emotional as Ryan “The Body” Shay. But now that Ryan’s broken up with Tessa and headed to college, it looks like we might not see much more of him. Further complicating matters: Young’s been cast in the Fox comedy pilot Enlisted, from Cougar Town co-creator Kevin Biegel. What gives? Vulture got a hold of Young to find out.

Hi. How are you?
Good! How are you?

Upset! Ryan’s going to college far, far away from Chatswin.
You know what? I completely agree. I don’t know. He’s going to Florida but … yeah, I’m equally disappointed. But I think he can come home whenever he wants! There are so many holidays. Halloween, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Mother’s Day. All that shit. Maybe he doesn’t like it there and decides to go to school closer to home?

Lay it out for me. You were auditioning for pilots, so there was always a chance you might have to leave the show.
It’s been a weird process. Up until I booked Enlisted, Ryan hadn’t really been around. There were, like, four episodes in a row he wasn’t in. I sort of realized that if they choose to not have me around for a month, I still need to be able to work and make a living, so I guess it was important to my team that we were out auditioning and not putting all our eggs in one basket. I mean, I was overly paranoid.

I wasn’t aware until recently that you werent a series regular on Suburgatory. I think most people would have assumed you were.
Yeah, yeah. And they definitely wanted to have Ryan back; they just had to focus on other story lines during that period of time. So it was me being sad because I missed my Suburgatory family. Then I booked the pilot and I had such mixed emotions because I love Suburgatory. At the same time, it was really awesome to be wanted in that capacity, to be one of three leads, guaranteed to work every episode. What made it cooler was that it’s a pilot about guys in the army and I grew up doing every Halloween as an army man or a ninja. So anyway, I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about all of it. It’s also just a pilot — it could go nowhere. I’m trying not to get too excited.

Ryan was first seen on Suburgatory humping a locker and sensually washing a car in his driveway. Did you imagine then the part would last as long as it has?
Back then, I was just so excited to be on the show. I wasn’t overly concerned with how much they were gonna use me. I felt like a part of the show. “I’m Lisa’s brother! I’m gonna give it everything!” I wasn’t fearful of getting kicked out. And they gave me more to do. At the beginning, I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing with this guy, and then I started to sink my teeth into who I thought Ryan was and stray from the dumb and dig deeper into his more endearing qualities. The more I fell in love with that side of him, I think the more real he became. I found what worked best with him is innocence. He’s always completely truthful and unfiltered and naïve and just … young. If it was an 8-year-old saying the stuff he does, it would be fine! [Laughs.] He always means well. When I auditioned, he was the guy who’d throw a can of Red Bull at Tessa’s head or call his sister a lesbian, and then when we started shooting, it just became the complete opposite of that. I’m so thankful it did.

Do you have a favorite Ryan moment? I like the Shay cats and “Shhhhut up. Shhhhut up.
There are so many. The one that stands out to me is when he finds out he’s adopted, jumping on the hood of the car. It’s a huge moment for Ryan. I remember being a little nervous that it wasn’t going to come off funny because it’s painful news, but it ended up working out great. When you’ve got Chris Parnell in the front seat screaming, “He’s gonna tear our flesh off!” …

Carmen Electra guest-starred as your pretend birth mom. What did you learn about her?
She’s a sweetheart. That was such a fun day to shoot. So mean to Ryan, though!

What do you know about her now that no one else knows?
Well, she’s got a mole on her inner-left thigh. No, I’m just kidding. I was surprised to find out — this sounds horrible — but I remember growing up watching her, she was so hot. And I was so surprised to find out, for lack of better words, how old she is. She’s really kind of old! But she looks the same. Not old, that sounds horrible. But she’s 40 or something! I still think of her as a young sex symbol with a mole on her inner thigh.

I watched the season finale in advance, and I gotta say — without spoiling anything — it made me sad.
I was probably personally happier than most at that last table read because, as far as I was aware, I was supposed to be gone. I thought that episode with Carmen Electra was it, so I was thinking, Thank God that’s not the way Tessa and Ryan leave it! We get better closure in the finale. So I was actually really happy about that.

How was your last day of filming?
It was so confusing. I had just found out about the pilot, and so I didn’t know how to feel. But everyone was so supportive and congratulatory. On the last day, you know, you act like it’s not the last day, you go through and have fun. But then you hear, “That’s a season wrap on Parker,” and I didn’t want to believe it. I didn’t want to leave.

If Enlisted is picked up by Fox, would they let you go back to Suburgatory at all?
There are provisions. Fox will let me go back as long as schedule permits. They’ll let me shoot a handful of episodes. I’m not sure of the exact number, but I know I can do at least three.

Tell me more about Enlisted. Who are you playing?
I play Randy, the youngest of three brothers. He loves the army, he loves his brothers, he’s so in touch with his emotions. If something scares him, he gets nauseous, and if he likes something, he’s super enthusiastic. He’s very similar to Ryan in that sense. He’s kind of a more grown-up version of him.

Suburgatory’s Parker Young on Carmen Electra