Bryan attended high school with Will, and was also in Glee Club. He is two years older than Will, and reported to have "got all the good parts." Will also remembers him having got all the girls - except one, Will's ex-wife Terri. After high school, he went on cruise ships and did theme park work. He then became addicted to crack and nine years later realized that the arts and the Glee club were good for nothing. He blamed them for ruining his life and, after becoming a board member, sets out to cut school funding and get rid of Glee club.
He is portrayed by actor and singer, Neil Patrick Harris.
Bryan resurfaces as a member of the school board with the intention of cutting the arts program at William McKinley High School, because Glee Club ruined his life.
Will and Bryan went to school together, and they don't like each other. In a flashback sequence of Will in the Glee club, Will watches on uncomfortably as Bryan sings Daydream Believer and performs conjuring tricks.
First, he addresses the glee club, having them each write down their biggest dream on a piece of paper. He then takes Artie's piece of paper, crumples it up, throws it in the trash, and tells them their dreams will never happen- at this, the kids are crushed. Will tries to stop this, but Bryan simply presents Will as an example of someone, whose dream didn't come true.
Will buys Bryan a beer to convince him that he's wrong about Glee Club. Bryan confesses, that he used to have a crush on Terri, and Will says that things didn't work out when he married Terri. Yet music gave him the strength to move on. Bryan admits that he's miserable since he stopped performing.
Will puts Piano Man on the jukebox and he and Bryan sing it together. Will convinces Bryan to audition for the local community theatre's production of Les Misérables. At the Les Mis auditions, Will and Bryan rekindle old rivalries when they're both up for the same part with the same audition song. The director makes them perform one song as a duet. They have a heated musical battle singing Dream On as each tries to upstage the other.
Bryan meets with Sue to say he's cutting the Cheerios budget in favor of the Glee Club. He brings the glee kids presents with their new budget money—dance wear, bedazzled jean jackets and stacks of Broadway sheet music. Sue comes in and congratulates Will on landing the lead in Les Mis over Bryan.
Disappointed and upset that his dreams were crushed yet again, Bryan takes his gifts back and says that he's cutting the Glee Club. Catching up to Bryan later, Will reminds him what it's like to be in high school - with kids labeled with the various stereotypes of jock, queer, nerd, and others - as soon as they walked through the doors freshman year, and what glee once meant to him. Will then describe what happens when a star dies: not only does it fade, but becomes a black hole that takes any nearby light with it. He then compares the kids of New Directions to stars, and claims that if Bryan cuts glee, he'll have created 13 "black holes," and that the kids will then grow up to be as bitter, angry, and cynical as he is.
Will goes on to state that Bryan has become a "black hole" and needs to remember what it was like to be a star. Will offers to give Bryan his role so that he'll understand how important the arts are to a person's soul. In exchange, Bryan agrees not to axe the Glee Club.
Although Bryan is not exactly in this episode, a flashback is shown in where he shows New Directions jackets in Dream On from the first season.
Bryan appears to be very talented, but also easily put off his dreams and enjoys ruining others. He appears to take joy in revenge (even if it wasn't anyone's fault or if it affects other people as well as the people he's taking revenge on). He is sarcastic and bitter to even his so-called friends, usually causing them to feel some kind of guilt. However, he is a very unpredictable character, who can decide to be friendly to those he dislikes (e.g. Will) and likes talking about himself and his past. He is easily hurt or upset, often feeling paranoid or betrayed. In a one-minute flashback, he also appears to be a bit boastful but it is obvious he can put on a good show and is a great performer. At the end of the episode, it becomes clear that he often feels guilty and does try to do the right thing, even if he has to do the wrong thing first.
- Bryan starred in a production of Les Mis.
- He has only ever sung in duets with Will.
- He runs a show choir awareness group.
- He's the only male character on Glee with a name that rhymes.
- He views Terri as "the one that got away," as stated in Dream On.
- Neil Patrick Harris (the actor that plays Bryan) was mentioned on a broadcast of Sue's corner. Where Sue was talking about sneaky gays, and mentioned him. Ironically when he guest stared on the shows as Bryan Ryan, he and Sue had a short lived relationship, that consisted mainly of anger sex, due to Bryan trying to cut Sue's budget and the sexual tension between them, when they were debating the importance of the Arts, and sports in schools respectively.
- Bryan Ryan drives a Hummer.
- In Will's flashback to high school with Bryan, Bryan performs magic. This is a reference to his portrayer (Neil Patrick Harris) being an accomplished magician.
- He openly acknowledges that he is not very good at taking direction - ironic, given the Glee club's name.
- Bryan is competitive to the point of lying and mudslinging, as is evidenced during his Les Mis audition, in which he tells the director that Will is a sexual predator, solely to gain an edge over him.