Ryan Jamaal Swain
Born: March 13, 1994
Birthplace: Birmingham, AL
Zodiac Sign: Pisces
Ryan Jamaal Swain is an American actor and dancer. He is known for his role as Damon Richards-Evangelista, a homeless dancer, in the FX television series Pose.
Swain showed an affinity for the arts at a young age. He began tap dancing lessons at the age of 4 and expanded his repertoire to include ballet, jazz, modern and hip-hop dancing. During his childhood, Swain worked with the Alabama Dance Academy, Alabama Ballet, Red Mountain Theatre Company, Birmingham Children's Theatre and Virginia Samford Theatre.
He began catalog modeling at the age of 8, and did not pursue acting until his freshman year of high school at the Alabama School of Fine Arts. At the time, Swain was initially seeking an internship— as he was training to become a professional tennis player. He would go on to earn his B.F.A. from Howard University in Washington, D.C. and study at the British American Drama Academy in Oxford, U.K. Swain relocated to New York City upon completing his studies.
While attending Howard University, Swain appeared in productions such as Anything Goes. He has also performed in plays including Six Degrees of Separation and Thoughts of a Colored Man, as well as starring in several Off-Broadway productions such as Kill Move Paradise at the National Black Theatre in New York. Despite his small screen debut, Swain still gives back to the theater community. In 2018, it was reported that he hosted an impromptu acting workshop at the Forma Arts + Wellness studio in Birmingham.
In 2017, Swain was cast as Damon Richards in Ryan Murphy's FX television series Pose. The series premiered on June 3, 2018, and attracted critical acclaim. The first season boasted the largest cast of transgender actors ever for a scripted network series, with over 50 transgender characters. On July 12, 2018, it was announced that the series had been renewed for a second season, which is set to premiere sometime in 2019. Due to his Southern background, Swain had never heard of or been exposed to the ball culture depicted in Pose. Swain based his performance on his viewing of the 1990 documentary Paris is Burning during his college years. He also drew upon his experience of moving to New York City with just "50 dollars in his pocket" in order to pursue his dreams.
Swain's first major foray into writing was in 2014 when he wrote and starred in A Negro Writer, a one-man show about the life of American writer Langston Hughes. He announced plans to write a teen fiction book about a Southern teenager.
Although Swain's family has been largely supportive of his artistic endeavors, he has still experienced his share of adversity. During Swain's childhood, his stepfather at the time became physically and emotionally abusive towards Swain due to his sexuality.