Ryan Malloy is a fictional character from the BBC soap opera EastEnders, played by Neil McDermott. From his arrival on 28 April 2009, the character remained a mystery in the show for a number of months, until he was revealed as the half-brother of established character, Whitney Dean (Shona McGarty). Ryan departed on 26 August 2011, before making a surprise guest appearance on 2 September 2014. Following his former lover, Stacey Branning (Lacey Turner), being sectioned in the episode that aired on 22 January 2016, he then made a surprise return for a short stint to look after his daughter Lily Branning (Aine Garvey).
Ryan first appears on screen on 28 April 2009 when he is seen in the park by Whitney Dean (Shona McGarty) and Shirley Carter (Linda Henry). He asks Whitney if she is all right, but she runs off calling him a “creep”. Weeks later, he helps Whitney and others escape from a fire started in the café by Nick Cotton (John Altman). Whitney then sees Ryan as a mysterious hero. Whitney’s mother, Debra Dean (Ruth Gemmell), turns up at Whitney’s house, saying that a man is after her. Whitney demands to know why, and Debra says she has something belonging to him. They fetch it, but when they return home, Ryan is waiting for them; he is the man who is chasing Debra. Ryan reveals to Whitney he is her half-brother and says he killed someone in self-defence, giving the weapon to Debra to hide. He demands it back from Whitney, but she refuses, and later disposes of it in a canal.
Planning to leave Walford, Ryan spots Ronnie Mitchell (Samantha Womack) and asks Whitney about her. He decides to stay, and moves in with Janine Butcher (Charlie Brooks). Ronnie subsequently offers Ryan a day’s trial at The Queen Victoria public house, during which they kiss and eventually go to Ryan’s flat and have sex—but she stresses that it is just a one-off. Ryan then indulges in petty crime, including stealing from Ian Beale’s (Adam Woodyatt) café and fish and chip shop. When Chelsea Fox (Tiana Benjamin) wins £2,000 on a scratch card, Ryan mugs her. His flatmate Janine finds the cash, and tells Chelsea that Ryan mugged her, so Chelsea’s father Lucas Johnson (Don Gilet) threatens him, and he returns the money. Despite this, Ryan and Janine soon start an on-off fling with each other. At the same time, Janine teams up with Archie Mitchell (Larry Lamb) to try to take over The Vic. She reveals the plans to Ryan, and the pair plot to ultimately take the pub for themselves, double-crossing Archie in the process. Ryan sees Whitney crying in the Square; she is still in love with Tony King (Chris Coghill), her adoptive mother Bianca Jackson (Patsy Palmer)’s onetime boyfriend who is currently in prison for sexually abusing Whitney. Ryan tries to convince Whitney that how Tony had treated her was completely wrong and she storms off; Ryan tells Bianca of Whitney’s revelation. Ryan shows his hatred of Tony during the beginning of his trial by glaring at him from across the room; Tony is shocked. When Whitney’s witness statement is shown in court, Ryan walks out in disgust when she says she was 12 years old when they had sex. He storms back in calling Tony a monster and tells Whitney that Tony is sick and he will get out of prison when he is an old man.
On Christmas Day 2009, Ryan tells Janine that they are over; later he finds her drunk in the car lot. He tells her that Archie has been murdered, then panics when the police arrive to question everyone. When they question Janine, Ryan doesn’t believe that she didn’t kill Archie; he says she should win an award for her acting abilities. Ryan comforts Janine when she only gets a Newton’s cradle in Archie’s will but she says she is not finished. After trying to blackmail Ian, she tells the police that Ian murdered Archie. Ryan is angry with her and says it will draw more attention to herself. He says she makes him sick and storms out. When Janine is arrested after police find Archie’s mother’s engagement ring in her flat, Ryan protests that she has been set up.
Overdue with the rent, Ryan and Janine use Bianca’s son Morgan Jackson-King (Devon Higgs) to raise money, pretending to be collecting for charity, but when Whitney discovers what they’ve done, she takes the money from them. Janine tells Ryan they should come up with a plan to get Archie’s daughter Roxy Mitchell’s (Rita Simons) inheritance from her, so Janine urges Ryan to get close to Roxy. However, he decides to end the plan when he tells Janine they should admit their true feelings to each other, and says he is in love with her even though she is the most horrendous human being he has ever known. Janine remains silent, so Ryan walks away. The next day, Ryan packs his bags but Janine tries to tell him he can’t leave as he owes six weeks’ rent. As he leaves on the tube, she regrets letting him go, follows him onto the train and tells him she loves him. He then finds employment as assistant manager of the bookmakers. However, Janine worries that Ryan will leave when she finds his passport with £500, and as he has no material possessions, she buys him a large television, telling him it is too large to fit in one of his bags so he will be unable to leave.
Ryan and Janine make a bet: Janine must kiss Lucas and Ryan must kiss Stacey Branning (Lacey Turner), and whoever does it first wins. Janine eventually kisses Lucas, much to his surprise and she takes Ryan’s “going-away” money as her prize. After Ryan kisses Stacey, Janine reveals it was for a bet, leaving Stacey upset. Disgusted by Janine’s cruelty, Ryan splits with her. However, they reunite soon after and go on holiday together. When they return, the couple decide to get married. Janine’s brother Ricky Butcher (Sid Owen) throws Ryan a stag party where they get drunk and bond. The next day, Ryan attends his wedding, but Janine stops the service, and admits to Ryan that she almost had an affair as she is scared of commitment. Ryan assures her that he is scared too, and the pair marry anyway. They then attend their reception at The Vic, where Stacey attempts to tell Ryan about his paternity to her daughter, Lily Branning. However, Pat Evans (Pam St. Clement) stops her from telling him, just minutes before a fire erupts in the pub (see Queen Vic Fire Week). Everyone leaves safely, except for Stacey and Lily. Ryan rescues the baby and an unconscious Stacey before the pub explodes. Upon seeing her daughter unharmed, Stacey admits to Ryan he is Lily’s father. Ryan goes to see Stacey in the hospital when she and Lily recover from the fire, and Stacey tells Ryan she is not asking for anything and offers to let Ryan hold Lily, but Ryan declines and walks out. Then he goes on honeymoon with Janine.
When they return, Stacey tells Max Branning (Jake Wood) that Ryan is Lily’s father and has been acting like he does not care. Max confronts Ryan, revealing to Janine that Ryan is the father. He then confronts Stacey saying that he wants nothing to do with his daughter. Stacey then tells Ryan to look at Lily, and he is visibly saddened. Janine later calls social services, saying Stacey is neglecting Lily. The allegation is proved to be false and Stacey attacks Janine. Ryan discovers what happened and stops Janine going to the police, saying she would not get away with it. The next day, Janine assumes Ryan has left her but they later reconcile and agree to forget about the recent events. While Stacey and Janine are in R&R nightclub and then arrested, Ryan is left to look after Lily for the first time. He struggles at first but the next morning tells Janine and Stacey he wants to be a father to Lily. Stacey does not want to let him but Ryan later agrees to pay maintenance and gets a job stealing cars for Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden), so Stacey lets him hold Lily. On Janine’s birthday, Ryan tells her he is getting her a surprise gift but finds out that he is with Stacey, having Lily’s birth certificate changed, and Ryan later lies about where he was. They attend a party at the Slaters’ house and Janine takes Lily, packs her and Ryan’s things and takes Ryan on a trip, saying she wants to celebrate her birthday. Ryan hears Lily in the back of the car and orders Janine to stop but she says she is planning on going to France and never returning. They argue and eventually she stops on a level crossing, refusing to start the car until Ryan admits he cares more about Stacey. However, the barriers then lower and Janine is unable to start the car until the last second and the train just misses the car. Ryan takes Lily and Janine home and explains to Stacey that Janine heard Lily crying so took her to look after her but promises to Stacey he did not know Janine took Lily.
Ryan works as a barman at the newly refurbished The Vic, and when alone with Stacey, they kiss. However, Stacey tells Ryan to forget it happened. Stacey goes missing and Janine stops him visiting her by locking him in The Vic’s walk-in fridge. Although Ryan thinks it was accidental and Janine saved him, Pat inadvertently reveals it was deliberate. After Kat Moon (Jessie Wallace) allows Ryan to visit Stacey, he realises she is planning to leave and stops her. He reveals he wants to be with Stacey, not Janine and they start an affair. Pat discovers it and tells Janine, who starts to poison Ryan with pills. Eventually he escapes the flat and Stacey finds him as he collapses. Ryan is hospitalised and when he wakes up, Janine admits to overdosing him on sedatives and says she knows about his affair. She says if he loves her, he will not let her go to prison for her actions. Ryan allows Janine to believe he still loves her but then publicly declares his love for Stacey in The Vic. Janine then walks in to see them kissing. She fears she has lost him until she discovers Stacey was Archie’s real killer after receiving a taped confession from Lauren Branning (Jacqueline Jossa). Although the recording is wiped, Janine reveals the truth. Ryan wants to be with Stacey regardless and they plan to flee. However, Stacey is unsure of her feelings for Ryan and takes Lily, leaving without him. Ryan visits Janine in hospital, because she stabbed herself in an attempt to frame Stacey. Janine forgives Ryan but he is unable to forgive her so he removes her oxygen tubes and walks out as she struggles to breathe. Pat discovers this and tells Ryan to end the feud. He then gives his wedding ring to Whitney.
When Janine returns to the Square, Whitney moves in with her. Ryan tries to convince Whitney that Janine is not her friend but to no avail. Later, Ryan tells Whitney he is leaving Walford for a short time to do some work up North. Before he leaves, Ryan asks Kat to give Whitney a job in The Vic, which she agrees to. When Ryan returns, he is horrified to discover that Whitney has been sexually exploited by Rob Grayson (Jody Latham). He gets Whitney a job at The Vic but she turns it down. He urges her to get tested for sexually transmitted infections, which she agrees to, and to go to the police, which she says she is not yet ready to do.
Ryan starts working as a doorman at R&R. He turns down Lauren when she develops a crush on him and sneaks into his bedroom. She later tries to impress him by dressing up but he rejects her advances. Ryan then starts drug dealing and is sacked by Roxy, but then Phil reinstates him. Ryan misses Lily and realises he is in trouble because of the drugs and when Lauren later comforts him, he kisses her. Weeks later, Lauren’s mother Tanya Jessop (Jo Joyner) finds out that Ryan and Lauren are having sex and disapproves of the relationship. When a drugs raid is carried out at The Vic, Ryan is arrested by the police due to Janine alerting them of the drug activities and is later fired from his barman job. Next day later Ryan tries to break up with Lauren for Whitney’s sake, but she wishes to carry on in secret. Ryan gets a phonecall from Fatboy (Ricky Norwood), who tells him Rob has found Whitney. Ryan goes to Southend-on-Sea and tracks down Rob. They fight on the pier and they both fall into the sea. The next day, the police pull Rob’s body from the sea and Whitney thinks Ryan might be dead until he appears. Having killed Rob during the fight, realising Whitney has told the police the entire story and fearing he will go to prison, Ryan insists that he has to leave, so they say an emotional goodbye and he goes on the run.
When Stacey is in prison for murdering Archie, Kat allows Stacey to see Lily, and Whitney talks to Lily about Ryan. Stacey is released and tells Whitney that she wants Lily to have nothing to do with Ryan. Stacey then agrees that Lily needs to meet her father at some point, so Whitney arranges for them to meet at a playground. Ryan arrives late, and Stacey and Lily have already left, so he does not reveal himself.
Two years later, Whitney contacts Ryan to inform him that Stacey has been sectioned at the hospital after suffering from postpartum psychosis. He arrives at The Vic, where Whitney is looking after Lily, and assures a sleeping Lily that he will be there for her. The following day, Ryan is determined to be a father figure in Lily’s life, however Whitney desperately tries to persuade him not to tell her. Whitney later takes Lily to the park to meet Ryan, where Lily states that Ryan is not her father, however he reveals the truth to her. He then arrives at Stacey’s house and tells Stacey’s boyfriend Martin Fowler (James Bye) that he is taking Lily away. After being talked down by Martin and Whitney, Ryan reluctantly hands Lily back over to Martin, but promises Lily that he will return to see her again. Whitney later asks her boyfriend Lee Carter (Danny-Boy Hatchard) and his sister Nancy Carter (Maddy Hill) if Ryan can stay the night at The Vic and the pair reluctantly agree. However, after Whitney and Ryan argue when Whitney suggests that Ryan hands himself into the police, Ryan steals the money from the safe and flees. This causes a catfight between Whitney and Nancy, as Nancy attempts to call the police on Ryan. The next morning, Whitney contacts Ryan and he asks to meet in the park. Lee and Nancy’s father, Mick Carter (Danny Dyer) accompanies Whitney and assures a scared Ryan that he can trust him. It then emerges that Whitney told Mick that Ryan killed Rob, so Whitney and Mick convince Ryan to return the money and hand himself to the police for a lesser charge of manslaughter, to which Ryan agrees on the condition that Whitney and Lily visit him regularly. Whitney shares an emotional goodbye with Ryan as he heads into the police station. Whitney later visits Ryan in prison.
Ryan was introduced to the show as a mystery character, who was credited simply as “Man” to keep his identity hidden. The show’s executive producer, Diederick Santer, remained tight-lipped about the character, saying “I’m not saying too much about him. He’s a character played by an actor… All I’ll say at this point is that he seems to want to talk to Whitney…” The character’s identity was revealed in July 2009 as Whitney Dean’s half brother and the son of Debra Dean (Ruth Gemmell), and he was credited as “Ryan” for the first time on 21 July 2009. Santer then described the character as “intriguing and complex”, adding, “While incognito, he made a big impression on EastEnders viewers. Now they know who he actually is, I’m sure things will get even more exciting.” McDermott auditioned for the part, not knowing the character’s relationship to Whitney, but admits he was “very excited”, adding, “Sometimes you just really want to get a part and for me, this was one of those occasions.”
The character is nine years older than his half sister, and is described as having “something of a dark past”. He is also said to be very moody, with an interest in women, setting his sights on Ronnie Mitchell (Samantha Womack). The character was involved in gangs, although McDermott said “Ryan’s not a really aggressive or violent man, but he’s a thief. He ended up moving away from that, though. He’d love to live a normal life, but he’s never had the opportunity to.” He has been compared to the character of Sean Slater, who was played by Robert Kazinsky, as their scenario and personalities are similar in certain ways. McDermott commented that he sees the character as having a big heart, but scared to show his emotions, saying, “That’s where his aggression comes from — he doesn’t want to get hurt. […] All Ryan needs is a good woman, some sort of mother or father figure, and a good psychiatrist and he’ll be alright!” He also said that the character has lots of secrets that will be revealed over time.
In July 2009, it emerges that the character is looking for his mother as he was involved in a gang and killed a gang member with a knife in self-defence. He asks Debra to hide the knife, but she uses it against him. McDermott revealed that one scene, where Ryan and Debra are constantly talking over each other, had to be filmed in several takes. Another scene features McDermott barechested, which prompted him to attend a gym: “I opened up a script after not being here very long and I just thought ‘ah ok… I need to get down to the gym’, Everyone’s a bit vain when they’ve got to take their clothes off on screen!”
In December 2009, Santer teased about upcoming storylines involving Ryan and his flatmate Janine Butcher (Charlie Brooks), saying: “There’s something really interesting with Ryan and Janine […]. They’re both people who don’t know how to love. So will they fall in love? And if they do, can they cope with it? Will they understand the alien feelings coursing through their bodies?” McDermott stated in March 2010 that he believed Ryan was the right man for Janine, and that they could be perfect for each other, saying: “Janine’s never loved any of the men she’s been with before. She has only ever been in it for the money. Ryan understands her and knows why she does the things she does. They both forgive one another’s mistakes very easily, and that’s why their partnership works.”
On 19 June 2011, it was announced that McDermott had quit EastEnders and that his character would exit in a dramatic storyline later in the year. An EastEnders spokesperson said, “We can confirm Neil is leaving EastEnders. It was a mutual decision that was made before Christmas when Neil’s contract came up for renewal and we wish him all the best for the future.”
Ryan made a brief appearance in the episode broadcast on 2 September 2014.
McDermott was nominated for the Most Popular Newcomer award at the 2010 National Television Awards for his portrayal of Ryan. In 2011, Ryan’s love triangle with Stacey and Janine was nominated at the All About Soap Bubble Awards in the category “Best Love Triangle”.