Its 12:49 pm
Welcome to “8 Questions With…….”
The story behind my meeting actor Daniel R. Hill is because of Paladin,my cheetah. Now how does a meeting like that take place and I’m glad you asked because its a pretty different kind of carpet ride.
A couple of years ago,the cheetah and I were introduced to the crazy world of film maker Joe Lynch when we watched a film of his called “The Knights Of Badassdom” and thought it was one the best films ever!! But what made it really cool was seeing just how down to earth Joe was in real life,the man loves films and having fun and so we followed Joe on Twitter.
Joe is very interactive with his fans on his account and he will talk about his films with anyone as we found out. When he annouced the making of “Mayhem”,I sent him a tweet and asked him if there was room for a cheetah in it,he said “No,not this time around but you never know in the future”.
Soon (in film speak) “Mayhem” came out and it was an amazing and frentic ride about an out of control virus (hmmmmm) that caused people to go all Republican on each other and we thought it was pretty awesome.
Being a busy film director is in Joe Lynch’s blood and soon enough he announced his next project which was called “Point Blank”. So once again I sent him a tweet and asked him if there was room for a cheetah and he tweeted back…..”Funny you should mention that because we do have a character named Cheetah in “Point Blank”. Of course what can one do but start laughing,now to be perfectly honest,I don’t know of Joe took the crazy tweets of a fan as an inspiration to naming a charater “Cheetah” but it did open the door to meeting the man who not played Cheetah but also has a connection to one of my favorite directors and film companies.
When I looked at Daniel’s IMDb page,what leaped out was his co-starring in a film released by IFC Midnight called “Rust Creek” which was directed by Jen McGowan,another fantastic film maker we had met on Twitter after getting a copy of “Rust Creek” and have become friends with. Between the IFC Midnight movie and playing “Cheetah”,it was only right and proper that we interview this wonderful actor.
So I reached out to Daniel,told him our story and hoped that he wouldn’t think of us as weird,I don’t know about the not being weird part but I do know I am very glad Daniel agreed to answer 8 Questions with us……..so let’s get to it,shall we?
Please introduce yourself and tell about your current project.
My name is Daniel R. Hill. I am a professional actor based in Los Angeles, originally from Louisville. Most recently, my Lionsgate film Hunter’s Moon was released in March, starring Thomas Jane, Katrina Bowden, myself and a great cast. And in January we wrapped the Russo Brothers new film Cherry; with some incredible actors that include Tom Holland, Bill Skarsgard, Forrest Goodluck, Michael Gandolfini, and too many more to name. Had a great time working with Joe & Anthony on that one.
How are you handling this Covid-19 lockdown? What are you doing to stay busy?
I am handling it a lot better than I thought I would. I’ve been focused on my health & fitness in 2020. And I’ve been successful to keep on track during the rona. My reps have gotten me a good amount of auditions during this time too. Nobody is sure when filming with start back up, but I love auditioning and it is a great way to keep the acting muscles strong. Other than working out and cooking every meal, I have been working toward finishing my first screenplay. Looking to start shopping it around this Fall. So, trying to stay productive and positive.
What was it like growing up in the Hill house? What are your three fondest memories growing up?
I grew up in the very modest Southend of Louisville. I was the youngest of 3 boys (my poor mother). And we were all very immersed in sports from a very young age through college. We all played a different collegiate sport: football, baseball, & soccer. And my father was a successful football coach for 30 years. Most of my fondest memories revolve around sports and all of the friends I made through football and in school. Louisville is a funny place in that when you meet someone new, you always ask – “Where did you go to school?” – and even as an adult Louisvillians know the answer being searched relates to what high school and grade school you attended. I’ve always said Louisville’s slogan should be “Just enough city.” It’s a fun vibrant city full of art, theatre, food, bourbon, and sports. But still has that southern hometown appeal.
What led you into becoming an actor? Was there a defining moment when you knew that was what you wanted to do?
I had transferred universities after my freshman year. And while meeting with my advisor at the new school, he asked what I wanted to do after football. It was a question I had thought of a lot. So I blurted out, “Professional Wrestling.” I didn’t know if I wanted to be a wrestler, a manager, or a backstage creative, but I knew a lot about the business, followed it closely, and was friends with a bunch of wrestlers. The advisor did nit laugh at me. He looked at me and said, “Well you need to take an acting class.” And I thought – Hell yeah I do. I was such a jock tht I did not even know that theatre or acting was something you could even major in or pursue in college. And within the first week of Acting 1 I caught the bug. My teacher began to have discussions with me after class as she was impressed that I had a lot of natural talent and zero training. And quite frankly I hated school. And acting was, challenging, engaging, and involved a ton of teamwork. A lot of the same traits of sports. So I dove in head first. I never went back to the football field or wrestling ring, and here I am now in LA doing exactly what I set out to do full time. It has been a long journey, and there is plenty more to go.
Which do you perfer,doing live theater or doing films? What are the three biggest challenges between the two?
So I came up through the theatre. Theatre will always be my first love. The first 15 years of my career was exclusively in theatre. Everything from Shakespeare to Hip-Hop Theatre to Chekhov to African American Theatre. And I was able to work for some of the best theatre companies in America,. I received my MFA in Acting at the Professional Actor Training Program (University of South Carolina), and that place made me into the man & artist I am today. I owe so much to them. I was still very green after undergrad and wanted more training at a place that could put me on the professional path. So, I have a LOT of love for theatre. It shaped me into the actor I am today. My love for film & television is much more than financial. I really love that when I complete a film or series that it lives on forever. It is archival evidence of what my purpose was on earth long after I am gone. And I love that people across the world can experience & enjoy my work at the same time people here in the States can. Whereas the special thing about theatre is it is a shared experience in the moment that night with whoever is there. And the shows changes from night to night the same way the audience does. The one take, no second chances of theatre will really test an actor; and I love the challenge. On the flip side, the challenge of film/tv is there are 50 or so people running around, sweating, tired, working so that you can do your job. And all of a sudden it is GO TIME. And everyone stops. And everything gets quiet. And everyone stares at you. And there is millions of dollars on the line. And everyone is expecting you to deliver. Now THAT is a challenge! A much different challenge, but still a very difficult thing to do. I have the highest respect for all actors, and the highest love & gratitude for both storytelling mediums.
How do you prepare yourself for a new role?
One thing I learned from my mentor (and very well known acting teachers) Steve Pearson & Robyn Hunt, was how to develop a Process. I think actors who just “wing-it” are foolish and that will only get you so far. At the end of the day we are tasked to take paper & ink and bring it to life. So I teach private lessons to young actors in LA and I ask them all of the time, “So great, you got hired. The role is yours. They send you the script, and you start shooting in 2 weeks. (I lay the scene in front of them) Now show me how you work. How do you bring this paper & ink to life and make it a character and not just someone regurgitating lines they memorized.” And unfortunately 90% of the time they have no clue. To me it ALL starts with script analysis. I read the script many times looking for clues about my character. What do Is say about my character? What do others say about my character? What do I say about other characters? And so on… I could write a whole book on the Process. That is why I am a firm believer that training is crucial. And not everyone needs to study the same techniques. Different methods exist because different things work for different actors. But for me it all starts with in-depth script analysis. And then I use the tools I have learned to bring my character to life: how do they think, talk, breathe, walk different than Daniel the actor? To me creating YOUR version of the character is the most exciting part of the process. I could go on and on, but I won’t. LOL
You’re at an audition and a fellow actor who is trying for the same role,asks you for help. Would you help or not and why?
No I would not. I am there to win the job. Now if someone asks something simple like, “Hey have you seen the sign-in sheet?” then I won’t be an asshole. But in an audition setting I am focused on MY work. Nothing aggravates me more than someone who is trying to have small talk in a casting office. That is not the time and place for that. That is what I was taught, that is what works for me, and that is what I believe. I am not gonna be a prick, but I am not there to meet any new friends either. I am there to earn my next job.
” “Daniel has a playfulness in his work that’s energizing. Committed, professional and invested. And on top of being a great actor he’s a really lovely guy. Best of both worlds!”
– Director Jen McGowan (Rust Creek)
What was shooting “Rust Creek” like? Can you share a funny story about your experience? What did you take away from this film that helped you as an actor?
Rust Creek was and still is a wild experience. Our film was just named Top 20 Films of 2019 by Forbes. Our theatrical run was very successful and we kept getting extended in many cities. We did very good on the festival circuit before that. And now we are in rotation & streaming on Showtime. People love the film and for good reason. Jen McGowan directed a beautiful dark story and compiled an outstanding cast who all delivered really strong work across the board. We filmed in the Winter. Some days it was 10 degrees outside. And most of the film takes place outside in the elements. So there is no faking the frost on a mustache or cold breathe when someone speaks. It was the strongest camaraderie I had felt on any project. We all knew we had a great script to work with, and we were all still proving ourselves to various degrees as forces to be reckoned with in the business. And we knew the elements were going to be brutal. But if we banded together and fought and stayed positive always that there was a bright light at the end. That film showed me firsthand that you don’t always need massive studio budget to pull off a special piece of cinema.
Talk to us about playing “Cheetah” in “Point Blank”….what was it like working with director Joe Lynch? Is he really that nice as he comes across?
How do you keep yourself sharp if you’re not on set shooting scenes?
Cheetah was one of the funnest roles I have played to date. I grew up around many people like that character. And I was a rapper early in my career before ever getting into acting. So I had plenty to pull from. And most people in Hollywood would not expect me to be able to pull off such a role by looking at me now. So that intrigued me. I hit it off with Joe from mt first callback. He liked my take on Cheetah, and we had some great discussions like how Cheetah makes a vocal appearance in Wheelman with Frank Grillo but is never seen on camera. So I had some research to do in matching my Cheetah voice with that one. But early on I loved Joe’s energy and vision for the film. I thought he killed it. What a fun set that was. Cannot say enough good things about everyone involved including Joe Lynch, Producer Joe Carnahan, star Frank Grillo, and everyone at WarParty films. Adam Simon’s script was brilliant. Ans my boy Markice Moore as Big D was brilliant. I hope to work with many of those guys again in the near future. It was blazing hot in Cincinnati where we filmed. Luckily Cheetah had cornrows, so they kept my head cool. But I was swearing through wardrobe shirts like crazy. Haha. When I am not shooting scenes I like to sit in video village and learn from directors, producers, & cinematographers. There is a TON that goes on behind the camera that I think helps a film actor become even better the more they become aware of it.
What are three things about teaching that you enjoy the most?
1 – I love paying it forward. I was once that really young eager lid who wanted to get better. And if not for great teachers I would not be where I am today. 2- I love seeing that lightbulb moment happen for actors when they finally “get” something. And then you see them connect the dots and begin to grow. It is very rewarding to help them realize things that will make their work stronger. 3 – It makes me a better actor and keeps me sharp. All of my best teachers were the ones who could also do. And who continued to work. The challenge of effectively communicating what I know so that someone else truly absorbs it – that keeps me on my game.
Is there any role that you would turn down and why?
As long as it makes sense, and I believe in the project, then I’m game for most roles. But I am going to ask a lot of questions if I am going to take a risk with a role. At the end of the day it is not al about money. Most actors, myself included, want to make meaningful art. And there are different genres, and they all have merit, but I always need to know why this story and this character are important. And does what is happening over all make sense?
What do you like to do on your down time?
I study a ton of film & tv series. We have so much content these days we are in the Platinum Era of TV, especially with the rise of streaming services. You cannot watch everything. But things that I think I would be good for, or that I am being pitched for, I watch at least a few episodes. You never want to audition for a series blind not knowing anything about it. If it already exists you need to do your research.
Which five actors/actresses would you like to do a scene with and why?
Meryl Streep – she is fearless. She makes BOLD choices and does not apologize about it. Those are my favorite types of actors.
Daniel Day Lewis – Daniel vs Daniel on screen. What’s not to like? A “character actor” in the truest sense of the word. Most of the truly great actors know how to become the character.
Denzel Washington – He is an icon. And I like how he is evolving as an actor. He keeps getting better with age. His work gets deeper & richer every time. I think Roman J Isreal was his best work.
Jeffrey Wright – for the same reasons I mentioned in ALL 3 of the above actors. This man has never phoned it in. I have loved his work from Basquiat to Cadillac Records to everything in between. I don’t think he gets the credit he deserves. A Master at work on film.
Laura Dern – I think she is one of the greatest actors of all time. Powerful, connected, and full of conviction. She seems like an actor that would keep me on my toes, and I like that.
The cheetah and I are flying over to watch your latest film but we are a day early and now you are playing tour guide,what are we doing?
In LA we would have to get Mexican food at one of the many great restaurants or taco trucks, then we’ll walk it off on the Venice Boardwalk and head down to the Santa Monica Pier for some prime people watchin & scenery. End the day meeting with a bunch of friends at Angel City Brewing followed by Wurst Kuche for late night artisan bratwurst, beer, & a live dj while coloring with crayons on the tables. Sounds weird cause it is.
I like to thank Daniel for taking the time to chat with us. His new film “Hunter’s Moon” is now out and you can pick it up at places like Walmart and Best Buy. We’re still waiting and hoping for a home release of “Point Blank” sometime this year. You can get “Rust Creek” on the IFC Films website.
To keep up with Daniel’s fast rising career,you can follow him through various ways.
Follow Daniel on his InstaGram page.
You can also follow him on his Twitter page.
You can see what films and TV shows Daniel will be on via is IMDb page.
If you are new to the blog and my interview series,you can catch up by going here.