Interview — Ryan Kelley Reflects on ‘Prayers for Bobby’ 15 Years Later

Ryan Kelley headshot

Many people today will recognize Ryan Kelley for his role on Teen Wolf as the hellhound Deputy Jordan Parrish. However, the role that really put him on the map is one that some might’ve actually missed.

In January 2009, Lifetime released a film on their network about the life and legacy of Bobby Griffith — a young man who committed suicide due to his family rejecting him for being gay on the grounds of religious beliefs — titled Prayers for Bobby. Ryan Kelley was cast in the role of Bobby, while Sigourney Weaver was cast as his mother, Mary.

In honor of the 15th Anniversary of the release of this film, I sat down with Ryan Kelley to discuss why this film should still be viewed and the legacy he hopes it continues to have. (You can watch the full interview below.)

Prayers for Bobby 2009
Ryan Kelley as Bobby Griffith – Prayers for Bobby

From the start, Ryan Kelley was eager to discuss how the release of this film would’ve been different if it had been created in 2024 instead of 2009. Lifetime was the perfect vessel for this film initially, but in today’s world, thanks to social media platforms, it might’ve gotten a wider audience.

“Imagine if it came out during COVID, you know, popped on one of the streaming services, [one of] the big ones. Because that’s another way that stuff just blows up, and then you add social media into it,” Ryan Kelley excitedly stated.

While the movie itself made waves back in 2009 and earned a GLAAD Award for Outstanding TV Movie or Miniseries in 2010, its TV release definitely minimized its widespread impact. Therefore, if released today on streaming, Bobby’s story would be a major conversation starter across a variety of audiences and social platforms.

“With TikTok, Instagram, things like that. I think it would have, you know, would have been even bigger than it already was,” Kelley added.

Watch the full interview with Ryan Kelley

Kelley believes that this film would still have a large impact if released today. No matter what year it is, the story of Bobby Griffith needs to be told.

“The message is so powerful. There’s a lot of great movies and a lot of stuff in entertainment with great messages, but Prayers is next level. I mean, it was a great time back then, and it definitely needed to come out, but you know, we’re still not where we’d like to be in a lot of aspects in life. Especially in the LGBTQ community. So yes, I think if it came out now, it still would be as impactful.” Kelley asserted.

It isn’t lost on Ryan Kelley the impact he has on audiences by playing Bobby Griffith. In fact, during filming, he had to stay in the zone because the emotions he was portraying were so intense that they couldn’t be reached easily.

“Everyone on the set was fun, but because I was supposed to play a character who was in such a dark state of mind, and it’s a true story, you know, his diary was around, you could read that, and it just made it [real] for me as an actor.” Kelley talked about his experiences playing Bobby.

Prayers for Bobby 2009
Ryan Kelley and Sigourney Weaver in Prayers for Bobby 2009

He continued, “I can’t go in and out. I can’t go in the shadows and then come out to the sunlight. Some actors can by snapping their fingers. If I come into the sunlight, I’m in the sunlight. It’s hard for me to get back in. So, I would stay in the shadows.”

In 2024, more audiences are pushing for queer stories to be positive and loving, but there is still a place for a film like Prayers for Bobby. There are still families out there who look at their religious beliefs and their queer children and believe that their child needs to be changed or discredited because of their identity.

“Something that would have helped Bobby a lot, the internet. For as terrible as the internet can be, it can also be amazing. Bringing people together. Letting people know, ‘Hey, you’re in a rough time right now, but I promise you, it’s gonna get better. And at some point in your life, you’re gonna be around people that understand you, that love you, and accept you for who you are, no matter what,'” Kelley pointed out.

At the end of the day, Ryan Kelley just hopes that this film will help people open their hearts and minds a bit more.

“I really hope people watch it that are on the verge and it at least makes them think. Even if it doesn’t change their mind, it at least makes them think. Then, the hope would be it does change their mind. I think the film has done that a lot. I know it has because I’ve talked with a lot of people. And so, my hope is it just continues to do that.”

Prayers for Bobby is available to stream on Hulu.

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Mads is a part-time entertainment journalist and full-time marketing content creator. They love reading the latest in Queer novels -- especially romance ones and watching the latest dramas, sci-fi/fantasy, Star Wars, and romcom films/TV shows. You can join the conversation by following them on Twitter: @dorothynyc89.

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