Shawn Ryan Reflects on TV Writing Career, Rockford, IL, Roots


ROCKFORD — Shawn Ryan’s career as a screenwriter and television producer isn’t an overnight success.

In fact, far from it.

The Rockford native and Keith Country Day School alum pursued his Hollywood dreams soon after graduating from Middlebury College in Vermont in 1988, but struggled for a long time.

“I moved to Los Angeles when I was 23 and it wasn’t until four or four and a half years after moving there that I started earning a steady income as a writer,” said said Ryan on a recent visit to His hometown. “Before that, I called myself a writer, but I was actually a math tutor, a guy who answered the phone at a law firm or any number of odd jobs.”

Ryan eventually found success as a screenwriter on the show “Nash Bridges” before striking gold when he created and served as head writer for the Emmy-nominated television drama “The Shield” on FX from 2002 to 2008.

Shawn Ryan:Famed TV writer returns to Keith School in Rockford with graduation message

Ryan has also written for shows such as ‘The Chicago Code’, ‘The Last Resort’ and ‘Timeless’. His remake of the 1970s SWAT drama will return for a sixth season this fall on CBS.

Despite his success, Ryan said he stopped reading reviews of his work 15 years ago.

“What I learned was that good reviews didn’t really make me feel good and bad reviews hurt me,” Ryan said. “So if I’m happy with the show, that’s enough for me.”

Ryan is currently working on a new action thriller that will hit Netflix next year called “The Night Agent,” based on the 2019 New York Times bestseller by author Matthew Quirk.

Rockford native Shawn Ryan poses for a photo Friday, June 3, 2022 at the Rockford University Maddox Theater in Rockford.

What awaits the TV industry in the era of multiple streaming platforms?

“All of a sudden, you’re adding up the prices of all these streaming sites and you’re paying the same or even more than your cable bill,” Ryan said. “I think we’re going to see fewer shows (in the future), but probably better shows once we consolidate a bit and the talent accumulates around fewer shows.”

Ryan returned to Rockford last week to be the keynote speaker at Keith Country Day graduation and was more than happy to reflect on his roots.

“What I always say when people find out that I went to such a small school, they conclude there wasn’t much to do,” he said. “I always thought otherwise because I played on the football team, the basketball team and the tennis team. I have to be in school plays. I have to really do it all.

Ryan and his wife, Cathy, have been married for 24 years and have two children.

While his recent visit was his first trip to Rockford in seven years, Ryan remains proud of his hometown.

“I always want to remember where I come from because Hollywood can drive you crazy in so many ways if you’re not careful,” he said. “I still think of Rockford as the people I found to be incredibly generous, kind and the neighbors who will help you when things go wrong.”

Ken DeCoster: [email protected]; @DeCosterKen


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