It’s hard to come up with a single adjective to sum up Mark Ryan; he’s an actor, yes, but also a sword master, director, singer, writer, and fight choreographer. He does archery, horseback riding, and was in the British Navy. I haven’t seen his business card, but it should read: “Mark Ryan: Unstoppable Force.”

“For me, it’s not difficult to get enthusiastic about any creative endeavor,” Ryan said. “So I’ve been extremely fortunate in my career to have the range of things that have come along.”

A history buff at heart, Ryan grew up in Doncaster, which, to him, is so much more than a quaint English town in the countryside. For the jovial actor, the picturesque town of Doncaster and the surrounding Yorkshire area are the epicenter of legend, ancient cultures, magic and myth. Yorkshire is where the story of Robin Hood was born; where Sir Walter Scott wrote Ivanhoe (the famous historical novel about 12th century England); and where the Romans, Vikings, and eventually Normans planted the first seeds of English culture.

“I absorbed a lot of this imagery and layers of different cultural, esoteric ideas as a boy,” Ryan said. “It ended up seeping into my subconscious.”

Yorkshire’s rich imagery is woven into Ryan’s successes as a performer, director and writer. He grew up learning swordplay and archery, which eventually translated into directing fight scenes in the movie, King Arthur (2004), and choreographing sword fights on Robin of Sherwood (1984-1986). Yorkshire esotericism also pops up in both The Pilgrim (his graphic novel series about World War II Nazi occultism) and The Greenwood Tarot (a tarot deck that Ryan created with illustrator Chesca Potter).

“Tarot was something which was an accessible form of putting it into a framework where you had the iconography, the imagery, the concepts, the archetypes,” Ryan said, “and I just threw in the concepts of quantum physics and quantum mechanics because I was fascinated by how science and magic seemed to be getting closer and closer to the way we think.”

Accompanying such profound observations are Ryan’s lilting Yorkshire accent, an easy laugh, and a proclivity for new adventures and creative endeavors.

“That to me is what feeds the machine, if you like, and keeps you going on to the next project,” Ryan said, who likes to quote “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost to explain the reason for his impressive resume.

“In my career, I’ve often gone, ‘Oh, that’s the obvious path to follow. But this one over here doesn’t seem like many people have gone down that one. Maybe I should wander down that one and see what happens.’ And usually, I don’t regret it,” he added.

Today, most Americans would recognize Ryan’s deep booming voice more quickly than his face; he stars as the voice of Bumblebee in the epic Transformers movies. But the accomplished performer had established himself long before he met film director Michael Bay. He has also starred in Evita in London’s famous West End theater district and Eric Idle: Exploits Monty Python. Most recently, he appeared as Gates in the first season of Starz’s new pirate series, Black Sails.

When asked how he has accomplished so much, Ryan is quick to say that he has been very fortunate, and then quotes friend and fellow actor Ray Winstone, who also starred in Robin of Sherwood.

“[Winstone] went, ‘The difference is, Markie, there are barriers, except you and I didn’t see them. So for us, they didn’t exist.’ I’ve always kind of lived my life that way,” Ryan said, who is something of a treasure trove of celebrity anecdotes, historical references and allusions himself.

GALO recently had the chance to talk with Ryan about choreographing fight scenes with Keira Knightley and Stellan Skarsgård, his philosophy of success, and the true history of pirates.

GALO: From stage acting, to film, to voice acting, to directing, to singing, to writing, to fight choreography, you’ve done pretty much everything. What drives you to learn something new? And how do you have the time and energy to take on additional creative endeavors?

Mark Ryan: I think it’s actually just an open approach. The most important thing is that I enjoy the whole process, being a creative person, whether it’s acting or live directing, or directing or singing; it’s all part of the same process, the same source. For me, it’s not difficult to get enthusiastic about any creative endeavor. I’ve been extremely fortunate in my career to have the range of things that have come along. It’s about applying yourself. Like anything else.

GALO: In 1997, you moved from England to Los Angeles. What would you say is the most palpable difference between the Hollywood movie industry and London’s musical theater?

MR: There were various little cultural shocks, but I was prepared for it. I knew it was going to be difficult. I knew it was going to be a different way of working. There wasn’t anything that really shocked me per se; it was just a question of adapting to it. Enough to say L.A. stands for “Lunatic Asylum.” And I just became an inmate. The funny thing was, in terms of making the switch, it wasn’t that difficult. I think that says a lot about me. I’m now an inmate in the Los Angeles Lunatic Asylum.

GALO: What was it like being in the middle of London’s West End theater district, one of the most famous places in the world to see a musical? Did you get tired of the tourists or did you enjoy the constant stream of energy?

MR: Getting into the West End was one of those happenstances where I was doing pantomime in Manchester but was recommended to a stage school in London, which I spent some time at. Met there a man called Ronnie Cass, who has sadly passed away now, a generous, kind and honest musician, and he decided he wanted to manage me and he wanted me to go for Dean, about the life of James Dean. That was my first West End show in 1977.

Then they were mounting a production of Evita. He wanted to get me in front of Harold Prince, the Broadway director and producer. This is going to sound terrible, but I wasn’t really that sure who Harold Prince was at that point. It was just in my head that this is Harold Prince. So I went along and auditioned for Evita for the part of Magaldi and we did an arrangement of “Old Man River.” Essentially, Harold Prince stood up in the stall and went, “You are my Magaldi!” So that was how I ended up moving into the West End with Evita. When a vacancy came for me to take over the role of Che, I was sort of politely told, “Look, you’re playing Magaldi, no one can see who is playing Che, so don’t embarrass yourself.” So I got Jenn in makeup to get me a wig, and I got a false beard, and I auditioned as somebody else. I was halfway through “Oh What a Circus” before [Prince] stood up in the stalls and went, “It’s you, you cheeky…” Anyway, they gave me the job, so I spent two years playing Che Guevara. The barriers were there, I just didn’t see them.

GALO: Maybe it is better not to see the barriers in life, since it allows you to take more risks.

MR: I don’t know. It’s a double-edged sword because sometimes you end up falling into things and down avenues less trod. I use that little poem a lot: “Two paths diverged in a wood and I chose the one less traveled.” That made all the difference. In my career, I’ve often gone, “oh, that’s the obvious path to follow. But this one over here doesn’t seem like many people have gone down that one. Maybe I should wander down that one and see what happens.” And usually, I don’t regret it.