From anti-hero to Canadian superhero, Deadpool's Ryan Reynolds offers hope and help during COVID-19
Reynolds uses social media to connect with fans and friends, including CBC copy editor Amy O'Brian
Ryan Reynolds, perhaps best known for playing salty anti-hero Deadpool on the big screen, has been acting more like a fairy godfather of late.
In addition to donating $1 million US to food banks in Canada and the U.S., and giving a boost to hockey great Hayley Wickenheiser's campaign to deliver medical supplies to Canadian hospitals, the Vancouver-raised actor has been sprinkling cheer and goodwill across Twitter and Instagram.
With quick wit and compassion, he has been responding to comments and questions from people looking for kindness and humour at a time of fear and uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
One of his Twitter shout-outs last week happened to name me, much to my surprise.
Reynolds responded to an interview request from another Vancouver journalist with: "Get me @amyobrian and I'm in."
Get me <a href="https://twitter.com/amyobrian?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@amyobrian</a> and I’m in.—@VancityReynolds
Reynolds and I were classmates in the early '90s at a Vancouver outdoor education program called Trek, where we combined the inherent humiliation of being awkward teenagers with winter camping, hiking and kayaking across southern B.C.
Watch as Ryan Reynolds and Amy O'Brian look through old high school photos:
We stayed in touch through our 20s and early 30s, but hadn't spoken in about 10 years — until Tuesday, when we connected via video chat to discuss his recent philanthropic efforts and his burgeoning reputation as a COVID-19 fairy godfather.
"On the inside, I'm just rat feces and broken glass, I assure you, like every other celebrity in Hollywood," he joked, before adding: "No. These are crazy days and everybody's doing their part … genuinely, I think everybody's doing something to help the situation."
So far, Reynolds and his wife, Blake Lively, have donated $1 million US to be split evenly between Food Banks Canada and Feeding America. They donated $400,000 to be split between the four New York hospitals hardest hit by COVID-19.
They made a $15,000 donation through Reynolds' gin company, Aviation Gin, to the U.S. Bartenders Guild, and a $10,000 donation to its Canadian equivalent, the Canadian Professional Bartenders Association — plus, they're donating 30 per cent of proceeds from every bottle back to bartenders.
Most recently, Reynolds re-posted a social media plea from Wickenheiser, the four-time Olympic gold medallist, asking for masks, gloves, and gowns for Canada's front-line health-care workers.
Within two days of Reynolds re-posting Wickenheiser's message — reaching his 15.7 million Twitter followers and 35.3 million Instagram followers — he said the goal had been met, if not exceeded.
"If there's a will, there's a way," he said.
"[Wickenheiser] is just kind of one of those everyday superheroes. She … is always standing up for the right thing at the right time with every cell of her body."
Reynolds also sang the praises of the many individuals and companies that have stepped up to contribute to the Canadian campaign.
"I mean it's just completely overwhelming. Makes you want to cry," he said. "The way that the Canadian community has circled the wagons around this issue is something that I just think is endlessly inspiring."
The pandemic and the toll it's taking on so many people — particularly those who live paycheque to paycheque — has had an emotional impact on Reynolds.
While he may be able to donate $1 million today without giving it too much thought, he worked stocking grocery store shelves and in restaurants during his pre-Hollywood life.
"If you're 15 minutes late more than once and it's not an emergency, you're fired," he said. "I think that's served me really well in this insane circus of show business over the years."
Similarly, he says, the Trek program where we met provided him with an environmental awareness that has stuck with him.
"It's probably one of the greatest educational programs out there. I think it's one of the most formative things I've ever done," he said.
And, as we scrolled through a few old photos featuring fleece-heavy fashion and lots of metal-filled smiles, he said: "I think Trek seems to produce pretty decent people, if you ask me."
Watch Reynolds answer a series of rapid-fire questions about his hometown: