Interview with actor Gregg Daniel about his new movie 'Jerico' and upcoming appearance on 'True Detective'

Actor Gregg Daniel has been appearing in television and movies for more than two decades. He first appeared on the TV series Mancuso, FBI in 1990 and later landed a reoccurring role as Deputy Mayor Lofton on the drama Knots Landing. Daniel also played Dean Whitmore on Beverly Hills, 90210, Judge Marland on the soap opera General Hospital and Reverend Daniels on the HBO series True Blood.

Not only is Daniel an accomplished screen actor, but he is also a trained stage actor and theatre director for critically acclaimed plays including the Wedding Band and War Stories.

Daniel was born in New York City and currently resides in Los Angeles. caught up with him to talk about his love for acting, what actors he would like to work with, his guest appearance on True Detective, his new movie Jerico and more. You have more than 100 credits in film and television. When did you decide you wanted to be an actor?

Gregg Daniel : It happened relatively early which I think helped me a lot. I was in middle school and was on a class trip to see a play and I remember going to the theatre and I was just mesmerized. I saw those actors appear in costume and I was stunned. The costumes, the set, the lights, it’s just something that just wow, what powerful effect it had on me. I was just so taken by that moment and thought that was the most noble thing anyone could do; being able to be up there on that stage and communicating with an audience. I just was so taken by it and after that I knew that had to be my vocation. As I began to learn more and more about it, I thought it was just amazing.

Plus, I fell in love with language at an early age too. My father was Caribbean. He was schooled under the British school system and of course one of the things they had to study was Shakespeare. So we happened to have the complete works of Shakespeare around when I was young. I began looking at it and reading it and I absolutely loved the language. I don't think I understood it very well or what they were talking about, but I would recite it and do parts of it. By the time I saw the play in middle school I knew between language, between the power, the magic that happens between a performer and the audience on stage, the chemistry, the outcome, I just knew I had to do it. From then on I geared everything I was doing toward how I could learn more and get trained. Thankfully, I was in New York where the arts, particularly theatre, sort of leads the pack. So I wound up going to New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts to study. Then after that, I started doing regional theatre around the country for about 12 years with an agency. At that time, the agency had a sister agency in Los Angeles and a lot of actors, directors, writers, were coming out to LA to begin working in the industry. Hollywood was pretty much pursuing New York actors and I have to admit I was a little tired of living here and living there. So I went out and visited the LA office of the agency and got along well with them. Then, I thought that I was really interested in film and television even though I had been doing mostly theatre and figured I’d take a chance and move out there. And it’s been really, really good for me.

TCC: Many fans know you from playing Reverend Daniels on True Blood as well as your other television and film appearances, but you also direct and have done theatre. Can you talk about the theatre company you started?

GB: Sure. Veterans had been out in LA doing theatre and even though those actors had been doing work in film and television, they still maintained theatre companies. So I figured I’d love to be able to do the kind writers, the kind of actors, the kind of designers that I want to work without wait for a call from the large companies. So it was one of those if you want it, make it happen. With a colleague of mine we opened and theatre company and been very successful. We just finished doing two co-productions with another company in LA that went very, very well. Even though I am an actor in film and television I can still work in theatre and work with a lot of other actors in film and television, who still love doing theatre. It just nice, necessary, and keeps us all sharp.

TCC: Having worked with so many other great actors throughout your career is there anyone that you would like to work with that you haven’t had a chance to yet?

GD: Yes, I’d love to work with Kevin Spacey. I think he’s really such and interesting and dynamic actor. For years, even when he was doing film and television Kevin was an artistic director of a company and there is something about his work where I can see a real seasoned and wonderful actor there. I can see someone who is not just sliding by and delivering the same type of performance form character to character. He really understands the craft of acting.

And Denzel Washington. I’d also love to work with him. He started out in theatre. I used to see him over the years in New York and he understands the craft and uses it to create a different, new character each time.

TCC: You are set to guest star on HBO’s True Detective. When can fans expect to see you on there?

GD: We shot it a few weeks ago. It’s for the new season. They are shooting for their second season now. Everyone knows there is a new cast this season with Colin Farrell, Taylor Kitsch and Vince Vaughn. After seeing that first season that starred Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey, wow, just the writing, directing, everything it was just so fascinating to me as a whole. And now even with a new cast it’s terrific. They’re terrific.

Again, when you’re working with actors at the top of their game in terms of what they’re doing, it’s all about how can we make this scene better. When you’re working with a bunch of thoroughbreds like that they’re going to bring something different every time and you got to be on your toes. So that was a delightful experience and it’s going to be a good season.

TCC: In the upcoming movie Jerico you play Thomas Cook Sr. Can you tell us a little bit about the film and the character you play?

GD: Absolutely. It’s written by husband and wife team Brandon and Seckeita Lewis. They sent me the script and I fell in love with it. It’s a dramatic comedy during a very painful time in American life with segregation and Jim Crow laws. It is about life in a small southern town and the relationships that go on there. What’s nice about it is rather than bludgeoning you over the head with a lesson, it really does celebrate a time when people did their best to get along. By trying engage in each other’s lives and advance from where they were to another state of consciousness. In other words, it’s kind of a coming of age movie. Not just of people, individuals, but of our nation. So the film showed not only the characters who live in the small southern town and how they interact with each other, but how we as a nation evolved.

The character, Cook, has certainly felt prejudice and bigotry, he’s trying to protect his family and move ahead for them. He’s a strong character, but also a gentle character. Like any parent would do he is trying to advance a career for his family and his son, but living under this system. So how do you balance the two? Well, he pays a terrible price for it. I’m not giving more away than that. He does pay a terrible price, but there is a payoff in terms of the struggles they had. I really enjoyed and really appreciated the comedy in it. When you are talking about a subject that is just terrible, comedy is a real effective tool to teach people about something without bludgeoning them over the head with it. So I down to Dallas in May to start shooting Jerico.

TCC: Finally, are there any other future projects you are working on?

GC: Well I just finished shooting a pilot. I was a guest on a pilot that Rob Lowe has that FOX ordered called The Grinder. It’s pretty funny. I shot that last week and it was wonderful to work on that. Again, being able to step into a different genres for me has been the most rewarding part of my job. Something I tell younger actors is getting all the training, whatever you need, but be able to be versatile. Versatility is the key. If you can walk into any kind of show or movie, then you’ll have a long career. To be able to say I’ve done more than one thing from action to comedy to whatever, that is the most gratifying thing about my career.

You can catch Daniel in Jerico when it hits theaters in 2016 and later this year in the upcoming season of True Detective on HBO. You can also follow him on Twitter at @RealGreggDaniel.

Image courtesy of Mayhem Publicity

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Michelle Kapusta

At Large Senior Editor, Temple University graduate, Philadelphia resident and avid sports fan.

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