Catching up with Disney Channel’s Debby Ryan in Chicago

Debby Ryan of the Disney Channels’ The Suite Life on Deck was in Chicago this weekend, leading a class of fifth-graders in a Lake Michigan beach cleanup and appearing at the Shedd Aquarium. The events were part of Disney’s Friends for Change: Project Green and World Oceans Month, which began June 1.


Photo courtesy of Disney

Debby Ryan, star of “The Suite Life on Deck,” spent Sunday cleaning up the Lake Michigan beach with a class of fifth-graders from Palos East Elementary School before an appearance at the Shedd Aquarium.


Photo courtesy of Disney

Debby Ryan is part of Friends for Change: Project Green, Disney’s environmental initiative.

We caught up with the 17-year-old star to talk about keeping our waterways clean, how she liked her stay in Chicago, and what we can expect from Season 3 of The Suite Life.

  • Water has been a pretty big part of your career since joining “TheSuite Life on Deck.” What prompted you to get involved in promoting water cleanup?

    Growing up in Texas andGermany, I wasn’t super close to any beach, so visiting one was a treat. I always felt a sincere connection to nautical life, and when I found out about all of the trash polluting our waterways and shores, I had to help. That’s one reason I love the Big Clean- H2O style, and Project Green in general. No matter where you live, how much time you have, your access to resources, there are tons of things you can do, in your everyday life.

    I’m a very big believer in the power of our youth, and when Disney approached me with the initial opportunity to be a part of Disney’s Friends For Change, I jumped at it. I love that they’re taking this giant entity of Disney Channel actors, and connecting us with tangible ways of making a difference. After the first campaign, I actually approached them about wanting to do more: wanting to physically go around and walk the talk.

  • What have you learned from going around and promoting the Friends for Change project?

    I’ve learned just how serious this issue is. I’ve seen the amount of broken glass, plastic bags, rusted nails there are on our beaches. I’ve experienced just how wondrous and personal our marine wildlife is, and I’ve discovered just how simple it can be to make a difference.

  • What message would you like to share with kids about getting involved in protecting our oceans?

    No matter where you are, you have the power to help or the power to hurt. If you don’t make a conscious effort to affect things for the positive, things can continue sliding into a hurting environment. In the same way that our litter affects the beaches and waterways, our choices to make sure it makes it to a garbage bin also affects them. The choice is yours, and you can make it as small or large as you’d like. You can spend every weekend with your friends cleaning up the beach, or you can just pick up a piece or two near you as you’re walking. Every choice is important, and every choice makes a difference.

  • What was your favorite part about visiting Chicago? I understand you got to hang out with our baby beluga?

    I went to theShedd Aquarium, which was unbelievable. I got to hold penguins, splash around with thebeluga whales, I even got to pet the baby beluga! It was amazing to be so close to the marine life I love learning about. It’s hard to explain, but when you see them listen to you, interact with their families, respond to things you do, you realize exactly how real they are. They really are our neighbors, and it makes it feel so much more personal to want to keep their homes clean.

  • Tell us about your new movie “16 Wishes” – what do you think kids will enjoy about the movie, and why should they tune in?

    When I read the script for “16 Wishes,” I knew it was a story that I had to tell. Mostly, I lovethat anyone who watches it will see something they like. We’ve got fast cars, gorgeous clothes, rockstar dreams, sports, romance, teenage politics and a magical birthday. It’s a story about growing up and staying young, being careful what you wish for and not realizing what you’ve got until it’s gone. It’s a lot of what you want to see in a movie, wrapped in the Disney sparkle. I hope people like it.

  • Word is that there’s a third season of “The Suite Life on Deck” in production now. What can we expect from the gang in Season 3?

    Woohoo! Well, the second season actually ends with a major, major change for my character, Bailey, and Cody. So our newest season obviously kind of kicks off with us dealing with it. It’s definitely a sitcom, but because of the relationships and such, Season 3 is starting to kind of feel like a young episodic. You can always pick up in the middle and get what’s going on, but I find it super fun to watch the episodes week to week in sequence as things are growing. The teenage years are where everything’s changing: our mannerisms, likes and dislikes, how we relate to people, and our characters are traveling and learning so much too. It’s cool to be able to watch our characters evolve in a fun and subtle way.

    And of course we’re traveling to new places, have some super cool people visiting/living on the boat, and we’re just having fun being young.

You can catch “The Suite Life on Deck” on the Disney Channel on Friday at 7 p.m. Central. “16 Wishes” premieres June 25 on the Disney Channel.

Liz Hoffman is the web editor at Chicago Parent.

Contact Liz at

See more of Liz’s stories here.

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