Whatever happened to Ryan Pinkston?
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Actor Ryan Pinkston caught his big break on Ashton Kutcher’s hidden-camera show Punk’d in 2003. At just 15 years old, he insulted and embarrassed celebs at red carpet events while under the guise of an adorable, clean-cut reporter for a children’s show. “It was so much fun, to call it work makes me laugh,” the former prankster later told The Baltimore Sun. “It was a great way to bring someone up here down to here. Everyone needs to be grounded once in awhile.”
Punk’d came in at number five on TV Overmind‘s “Top 20 Original MTV Shows of All-Time” list. While a follow-up deal for his own TV show on the network unfortunately went nowhere, Pinkston immediately nabbed big-screen gigs as the intense gamer Arnold in Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over and — somewhat ironically — as a video game shoplifter in Bad Santa. After moving on from his MTV gig, the charismatic child star jokester continued to work in showbiz. Many of his dozens of on-screen credits may have flown under your radar, but you’ve most likely seen him around. Can’t put your finger on where you’ve seen him? Keep reading to find out whatever happened to Ryan Pinkston.
You’ve definitely seen him on the small screen
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Ryan Pinkston would remain best known for his role in Punk’d, but chances are you’ve seen him on the small screen since then. The actor went on to appear in a number of popular TV shows throughout the 2000s, including the hit sitcom How I Met Your Mother, former Disney starlet Miley Cyrus’ Hannah Montana, and cult favorites like Veronica Mars and Party Down. However, his steadiest gig during this time was on a series you might’ve missed completely.
In 2004, Pinkston landed a lead role on the short-lived Fox sitcom Quintuplets. This Andy Richter-led comedy saw our guy as misfit teen Patton Chase, the youngest and “vertically challenged” member of a group of quintuplet siblings (via Variety). Unfortunately, the low-rated series struggled to find its footing and only lasted one season. According to Variety‘s own review, “The idea must have sounded like a sure-fire hit — revisiting those adorable litters once they hit 15, but alas, that potentially fertile terrain doesn’t yield a particularly funny show.” Ouch. At the very least, Quintuplets‘ cancellation didn’t deter Pinkston from cultivating an impressive acting reel during those early years of his career.
He’s a martial arts champion
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A decade before kicking off his career as a child star, Pinkston took on the martial arts. “I was a wild kid, always flipping off couches and getting in trouble at school for beating people up,” he told The Baltimore Sun in 2007. “My parents threw me into karate more as a discipline.” Calling it his “first love” ahead of performing, the multi-talent went on to say, “I wish I could still compete, but it’s too hard with acting now.”
Still, Pinkston had an undeniably impressive run while it lasted. Scholastic reported that he already had a black belt in kung fu and tae kwon do by his early teens. As noted on his website, Pinkston was also a four-time world champion in team synchronized karate by then, and he won three additional U.S. World Titles. After the team disbanded in 2003, he competed alongside older bro Aaron, who once compared finding success in Hollywood to practicing the martial arts. “It may take a month, it may take 10 years,” Aaron Pinkston told Howard County Times in 2015. “But at some point it will happen as long as you want it bad enough!”
He starred in a string of forgotten teen comedies
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Pinkston returned to the big screen with a series of teen comedies that failed to make much noise in Tinseltown. He kicked things off as the lead in 2007’s Full of It, playing a high school outsider who lies to his classmates to gain popularity opposite future House of Cards star Kate Mara. It grossed just a little over $14,000 in the United States, according to Box Office Mojo, and scored a lowly six percent on Rotten Tomatoes. His follow-up effort was a supporting role in College alongside Drake Bell of Nickelodeon fame, which scored even lower among critics. Perhaps the most surprising flop during this time was Extreme Movie. The creative team and on-screen talent behind this parodic take on the teen sex comedy genre boasted a who’s who of comedy stars on its writing team, including Saturday Night Live alum Will Forte and Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘s Andy Samberg, with Arrested Development star Michael Cera also starring in the project. However, it went straight to DVD in America and didn’t garner enough media attention to get reviewed.
But hey, a gig’s a gig, and Pinkston has never been one to take his work for granted. “I don’t feel like I’ve made it yet,” he told The Baltimore Sun in 2007, but he added, “I get to wake up every morning and do something I love.”
His return to TV looked promising
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Ryan Pinkston’s return to the small screen came with his turn as Gabe Forrest on Cartoon Network’s live-action series Tower Prep. The 2010 sci-fi drama followed a group of teens with special — albeit subtle — powers, who are forced to attend (and can’t seem to escape) their mysterious titular boarding school. Variety gave the show’s pilot a favorable review and noted that Pinkston’s Gabe, who becomes pals with school newbie Ian (played by Drew Van Acker), “possesses inordinate powers of persuasion.” While comparing the series to the likes of Harry Potter, X-Men, and The Prisoner, the media outlet called the show’s premise itself “inherently clever.”
For his part, Pinkston was equally excited about the series’ potential, telling The Flickcast that, in addition to mystery, “There’s a little bit of comedy, there’s a little bit of romance, a little bit of suspense. I mean, there’s everything, which is what’s so intriguing about the show.” Unfortunately, Tower Prep‘s lifespan was cut short and ended on a cliffhanger after just one season. The network itself strangely failed to make an official announcement on its cancellation, which creator Paul Dini confirmed on Twitter in August 2012.
Clipped was cut short
It took Pinkston years to outgrow playing teen roles well into adulthood. “I have to prove myself, going up against experienced veterans,” he told Howard County Times in 2015. Explaining that growing up in the industry was actually a double-edged sword when it came time to playing characters his own age, Pinkston said the situation often came with understandably unwanted criticism, with him often being told he was “not funny, not clever, not good enough.” Geez.
However, this changed that same year when Pinkston portrayed a Boston barbershop owner opposite leads Ashley Tisdale and Mike Castle on Clipped. While the part marked a distinct shift in his career, the show itself unfortunately lasted just one ten-episode season before facing cancellation, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Luckily for Pinkston, Clipped led to another acting spot the following year, when he reunited with pal Tisdale in an episode of Young & Hungry.
His career took a dramatic turn
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While he’s most known for his comedic roles, Pinkston seemed to catch the drama bug with his turn in Tower Prep, his guest-starring role on the crime drama The Defenders in 2011, and his gig in 2015’s suspense-thriller Toxin. “It’s completely different from anything I’ve ever worked on,” he said of the latter (then called Infected) to Media Mikes in 2011, “which is why I was so excited to be [a part] of it. Never had to scream and cry so much.”
With this dramatic experience under his belt, Pinkston was prepared to take on two new film genres when he appeared in the 2016 sports dramedy Undrafted and 2018’s horror flick Delirium. However, both unfortunately fell largely under the radar and did little to boost his career. Critics didn’t quite know what to make of Undrafted. According to the Los Angeles Times, it was “an amiable if aimless ensemble comedy that’s unable to overcome its amateur status.” Meanwhile, Delirium actually scored zero percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Yeesh. At the very least, both movies further expanded the scope of the Pinkston’s resume.
He found love
In March 2018, Pinkston began dating lifestyle blogger Justine Garcia. During a joint appearance on The Freddie & Alyssa Show podcast that same year, the cute pair revealed that they actually first met through a group of mutual friends years earlier but kept things platonic until one fateful “friend date” — Garcia’s words, not ours — changed it all. “We went out and got dinner and drinks and … the hearts never left my eyes,” Pinkston explained. He added, “This is the longest I’ve known someone and was friends with someone before I started dating. And the great thing, I would say, about that is that there were no surprises. I kind of knew who she was as a person already.”
These two are also known to gush over one another on social media. “One year down. One hundred to go! Happy Anniversary my love,” Garcia, who also founded the sarcoma cancer awareness foundation the Olivia Project, wrote on Instagram in March 2019. Weeks later, Pinkston shared, “As long as you’ll have me, you’ll never be alone, I promise. You are my heart, you are my everything. I love you. So. Much.” Go ahead and let out an “aww” — we definitely did!
Will Pinkston Productions become a reality?
While he’s spent nearly two decades crossing countless acting endeavors off the list, Ryan Pinkston has long dreamed of launching a production company with older brother Aaron, an Emmy Award-winning producer for The Ellen DeGeneres Show. It was even mentioned in his early 2000s Scholastic profile, which read that his long-term goal since childhood was “to start a production company with his brother and call it ‘Pinkston Productions.'” For her part, mom Linda has also kept her fingers crossed for the company to become a reality, telling Howard County Times in 2015, “This has been Ryan’s destiny — he always loved to perform. And Aaron loved the atmosphere. They’re on opposite ends of the same business — Ryan in front of the camera, Aaron behind it. My wish is that someday they’ll work together!”
At the time of this writing, these close bros have yet to announce any official plans for Pinkston Productions. However, they seemed to be heading in that direction back in 2011, when they collaborated on shooting a trailer for an NBC pilot pitch. Naturally, it was filmed by Aaron, it starred Ryan, and it was even edited by dad Mark. The Pinkstons are keeping it all in their talented family.
Turning it around
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Ryan Pinkston has come a long way since his days pranking celebs on Punk’d. With over 40 on-screen credits to his name, he’s mastered the realms of comedy, drama, sci-fi, and more, and has even earned a reported net worth of $500,000 to boot. And he’s showing no signs of slowing down.
In 2018, the actor reunited with the creative team behind Clipped to take on a recurring role on a little sitcom known as Will & Grace. (No big deal.) Following a three-episode story arc as NYPD officer Drew — who’s notably an on-and-off love interest for Sean Hayes’ Jack — during the second season of the beloved reboot, Pinkston reprised the role in March 2019. He’s also appeared in the short Fanboy, but he is ultimately looking toward the future. “I’m so grateful for everyone who stuck around during the rollercoaster that was 2018,” Pinkston tweeted just before the world rung in 2019. “I’ve lost, but mostly I’ve loved. And I can’t wait to see what 2019 has in store!” For this talented actor, neither can we!