Growing up surrounded by the entertainment industry, Sefanie Ryan-Manhim was greatly inspired by her mother, Ursula Ryan, who found success as a beauty queen in Germany and eventually rose in fame to sing alongside Elvis. Ms. Ryan-Manhim and her sister spent many hours as children at their mother’s shoots. Initially thinking to pursue a career in pediatric oncology out of a notion to avoid the family business, she realized in college that she did actually enjoy acting and achieved her first role as an actress with the television show “Wonderama” in 1976. As she furthered her career, she sought more specific education and earned a bachelor’s degree in theater arts from Pace University in Manhattan in 1992.
In 1995, Ms. Ryan-Manhim became the president and chief executive officer of Weist-Barron-Ryan, the oldest on-camera acting school and talent agency in the United States. Founded by Dwight Weist, the announcer for “Search for Tomorrow,” and Bob Barron, a well-known commercial actor, Weist-Barron-Ryan provides everything from acting workshops to casting directors. As president and chief executive officer, Ms. Ryan-Manhim is responsible for overseeing operations for the entire company as well as writing tax credits for the Office of the Governor in New Jersey. Working alongside her son, Quinn, and with the support of Gov. Phil Murphy, they have been able to return a 32% tax credit to the state.
Additionally, Ms. Ryan-Manhim offers her skills as one of Weist-Barron-Ryan’s casting directors and has notably worked with such celebrities as Halle Barry and Kevin Smith. Most notable among her casting credits is the 2020 film “Bruised,” directed by and starring Halle Barry, which has received several film awards. Her ongoing casting projects include “Clerks III,” the “48 Blocks” episode “Edge of the Ocean,” and “Nightstalker.” Furthermore, she continues to act herself and is presently providing her talents to Comcast for their international commercials.
Holding considerable expertise in teaching acting and communication skills, Ms. Ryan-Manhim is licensed through the state of New Jersey’s Division of Developmental Disabilities to teach acting to developmentally disabled individuals. She feels strongly that there is a need for equality when it comes to the acting profession and finds it incredibly rewarding to be able to help nurture and support a painfully underserved population. In addition, she has made a name for herself through treating every actor she works with the same, from her “star babies” to young actors just starting out. Noting that it is easy for an actor to get lost when they are always playing a character, Ms. Ryan-Manhim strives to help her actors stay grounded and not forget who they are.
Attributing much of her success to her strong sense of empathy, which has allowed her to connect with individuals from all walks of life, Ms. Ryan-Manhim has been widely active in her community and in various other professional endeavors. A board member for Atlantic City Cinefest, she also served on the diversity and inclusion advisory board for the Garden State Film Festival and holds membership with the Better Business Bureau and the Greater Atlantic City Chamber. She has also been a staunch advocate for the inclusion of disabled individuals and veterans in the New Jersey Diversity Clause for Films. Other community activities of hers include seven years volunteering as an emergency medical technician, working in animal rescue, and volunteering with a local orphanage.
In recognition of her excellence, Ms. Ryan-Manhim has been the recipient of several Telly Awards for her accomplishments in the entertainment industry. Looking toward the future, she hopes to be able to cast more local individuals and create more casting opportunities for her community. To young and aspiring professionals, Ms. Ryan-Manhim would advise “Do your research.” It doesn’t matter where you study or what type of career you want, if you aren’t sure about a company or group, reach out and contact them. This is particularly important for young women, she notes, because being connected with good people is the number one thing that will help keep you safe.