Actor and Director Gregg T. Daniel: “Let’s work to eradicate hunger in our world.”

I find it appalling that people go hungry day after day in our society or for that matter in the world. The need for food is a basic human necessity. To think that there are thousands upon thousands of human beings who don’t have enough to eat or maybe in danger of starvation is incredibly […]

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I find it appalling that people go hungry day after day in our society or for that matter in the world. The need for food is a basic human necessity. To think that there are thousands upon thousands of human beings who don’t have enough to eat or maybe in danger of starvation is incredibly sad and humbling. Why can’t we create and share enough of our resources as a society to ensure hungry people have something to eat? Now more than ever we during this coronavirus pandemic we’re experiencing, we’re witnessing families whose members have lost their jobs standing in lines in order to accept donated food. No one should have to go hungry. Let’s work to eradicate hunger in our world.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Actor/Director Gregg T. Daniel who is best known for his role as Reverend Daniels on HBO’s True Blood. With over 100 credits in film and television, Gregg’s roles span the spectrum from comedy (Curb Your Enthusiasm, Weeds) to drama (The West Wing, Castle, Desperate Housewives) to procedurals (NCIS), science fiction (Star Trek: Voyager) and children’s shows (Austin & Ally, Kickin’ It). Big screen credits include Spiderman 3, Hancock, Mars Attacks, Evan Almighty, Pump Up The Volume, and White Men Can’t Jump. Currently, Gregg has been in True Detective (2015), will appear in the 12th season of ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy and will star in the upcoming Civil Rights film Jerico. An accomplished theatre director, Gregg is the Artistic Director of the Los Angeles-based Lower Depth Theatre Ensemble, and was nominated for a 2013 NAACP Image Award for helming the Los Angeles production of Kwame Kwei-Armah’s Elmina’s Kitchen, which also won the NAACP Award for Best Ensemble for 2103. Prior to that, his stage direction included 2009’s acclaimed production of Tom Stoppard’s Heroes, Sybyl Walker’s Beneath Rippling Waters, Lee Blessing’s Cobb, and Frank McGuinness’s Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me. Recently, he directed Alice Childress’ The Wedding Band (ovation recommended play) Fences and Lombardi (based off of the life of Vince Lombardi.)

A trained theatre actor from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Gregg stars as Lord Montague in Shakespeare Center of L.A.’s production of Romeo & Juliet this summer. Previous stage acting credits include the Williamstown Theatre Festival (Back Country Crimes, Gogol), The Mark Taper Forum (Joe Turner’s Come and Gone), the Pasadena Playhouse (Jitney), Actors Theatre of Louisville (Master Harold), Hartford Stage Company (Peer Gynt), and South Coast Repertory (Fences, Death Of A Salesman).

A native of Brooklyn, NY, Gregg Daniel resides with his family in Los Angeles. He is passionately attached to Cage Free Canine that advocates for dogs to not be locked up in breeding centers. On his spare time, he plays jazz guitar.

Thank you so much for doing this with us Gregg! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I’m the son of a Caribbean immigrant Father (who became a naturalized citizen) & an American Mom from the South. Both parents traveled to New York City for greater opportunities where they met, married and had my Brother & I. Growing up in one of the most exciting cities in the world gave me exposure to the Arts in all its many forms (dance, music, acting, etc.). New York had a strong influence on me. I initially wanted to be a Jazz musician & still play Jazz guitar. However, once the acting bug bit me, there was no turning back. I studied Acting at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts where I graduated & have been working ever since. My wife is also an actress with a similar background, our daughter attends USC majoring in communications & minoring in Dance.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

It was the love of language which first drew me into acting. My family had a volume of Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets sitting around our house. I remember when I first opened it and began to say the words. I had no idea what they meant but it was something about the poetry that thrilled me. Later on, when I heard a trained speaker reciting classical language, I was hooked. I wanted to be able to sound like that and on reflection, be that character as well.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

It would be probably how I became a series regular cast on the HBO series, “True Blood.” I knew creator/writer Alan Ball’s work as he had started out writing plays in New York City, plays some of which I had seen and enjoyed. I heard he was creating a series for HBO, in fact, a dear friend of mine joined the cast of the show. I would tune in just to watch her remarkable work on it. By the time the shows’ 3rd season came around, I was cast in a play in New Jersey. I left town for six weeks to work on the play.

One day, my agent called to say the Casting Director from True Blood” wanted me to audition for a role. Because I was out of town, they asked if I would put myself on tape. Well, I knew they would never cast me from a tape. I felt I did my best auditions when I was in a room live with the Producer, Director or whoever else might be associated with the project present. These days, self-taping an auditioning is becoming the norm, however, just a few years ago, you were called into an audition room. I came close to telling my Agent to pass on the auditor since I was convinced I’d never get it. However, I went ahead and found someone in the local community who could tape the audition for me and sent it in. Needless to say, not only did they cast me from the self-tape as a guest star but that led to me becoming a recurring Guest Start and eventually a Series Lead. Thank Goodness, something told me to go for it in spite of my nay-saying.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you first started your career? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I first relocated to Los Angeles, I soon booked my first Guest Starring role on a one hour episodic. The shoot went well and I loved being paid more for that one job than I had in weeks of doing stage work.

Months after, I received another check for the same acting job. I was mortified someone had made a mistake and paid me for a job I had already done. I thought, “Oh no, this error could get the accountant in trouble or they might possibly lose their job over this.”

When I relayed all this to a friend, I was told it was a residual check. The episode I worked on was broadcast again and I was entitled to be paid again. Having spent much of my time doing live theatre, the concept of getting paid twice (or more ) for the same job was absolutely foreign to me. I was totally embarrassed but secretly jumping for joy. If my friend hadn’t schooled me about residual payments, I would have tried to return the check.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I’m currently doing a recurring role in the new ABC drama, “For Life” which stars Nicholas Pinnock. It’s a project inspired by the real-life story of Issac Wright, Jr. who was unjustly incarcerated for many years. While in Prison, Mr. Wright began to study law which enabled him to explore the inequities in his own case, represent himself in a court of law & eventually win his freedom. With the mass incarceration of African Americans in the U.S. Prison system, any TV show, Feature Film or Play which sheds light on injustice perpetrated against people of color is important. I was enormously proud of being a part of the show.

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

If you examine statistics from 2019, 40% of the US population is Black and 35% of the population is Hispanic, therefore it should come as no surprise that the presence of Black & Brown people in America has increased. It only makes sense to showcase that diversity in film and television. As we move about our daily lives, we encounter all types of ethnic and racial diversity in the people we interact with. Isn’t it short-sighted not to showcase the multiplicity of people on film and television?

Secondly, we all gain as a society and as a nation by embracing diversity. There is no one culture or gender which has a lock on ingenuity, innovation, creativity or originality. Who knows where the next genius might come from? We limit ourselves by reinforcing racial, gender and cultural stereotypes. By not embracing diversity, we do a major disservice to our fellow human beings and sleight ourselves of an opportunity to enhance our learning.

Lastly, the impact of American film and television internationally is undeniable. Citizens of many nations embrace the content we create in the films and shows we produce. I believe one of the ways to break down or challenge perceived racial, social and gender barriers is by showing a diverse number of individuals in all types of positions. In growing up, it was when I saw people who looked like me on screen playing an assortment of roles such as Judges, Lawyers, Doctors, Politicians did I begin to believe I belonged in and could have access to those professions as well. In some ways, Film and Television offers a visual confirmation that people can transcend stereotypes and fully exist in every facet of our society.

What do you love most about working in television?

I love the challenge of delivering a centered and compelling performance in front of a camera. Being on a Television set can feel pretty unnatural, you have wires, cable, carts and people everywhere. However, when you get in front of that camera, you leave all of the present circumstances and focus on the character and his needs. It’s a little like being in the zone if you’re someone who likes sports. All of the distractions fall away and it’s just you, your scene partner (s) and you fully inhabiting a character’s skin. It’s a little scary but also the most exhilarating experience in the world.

If you could work with another TV actor you never worked with before, who would it be and why?

I admire the work of TV actor Jeffrey Wright. I’ve never seen him give a bad or mundane performance. His focus, concentration and creativity keeps me enthralled. It may sound cliché, however, the truth is always revealed in his eyes. I would love to share scenes with an actor so present, centered and available in their work.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

I wish someone told me when I first started that asking questions of individuals who may be in a position you desire is alright. Yes, those individuals who have attained a level of success are probably quite busy, however, if you can get to them and politely ask pertinent questions regarding their career trajectory, more than likely, they will respond in kind. I’ll go as far as to say many individuals in the entertainment industry appreciate an opportunity to “give back” and possibly mentor a young person with the same dream as they once had. We often think individuals who have “made it” are unapproachable. Yet, I’ve found some of the most generous people can be those who have succeeded in our industry and want to extend a hand to someone trying to build a career.

I wish someone told me when I first started the outcome of auditioning for a project isn’t always based on talent alone. I’ve had instances where I’ve felt I’ve walked into a casting session and wowed everyone in the room. There have actually been times when the Casting Director pulled me aside and personally relayed to me. how strong my audition was. Naturally, you’ll walk away from the audition firmly believing you’ll book the job. And then, you don’t get the job. It took me a while to understand I didn’t book the job because I had done something wrong or someone with more talent was cast instead of me. It might have been the Producers had another “type” in mind. It’s entirely possible someone closer to that time got the role. Specifications on characters in scripts change all the time. On a television show, the writers go through a number of drafts, even when a show is shooting, scenes are being rewritten, added or deleted.

In the end, I do believe good work wins. The ability to excite producers and directors through your audition is vital, it puts you in the game, however, understand there are other factors entirely out of your control which influences whether you get the job or not.

I wish someone told me when I first started that when you’re auditioning for a project, you’re not just auditioning for the one job. Ofttimes, Casting Directors are handling multiple projects simultaneously, you might not be entirely right for the current role you’re being seen for, however, you might be right for a different project the same Casting Directing is working on. And they’ll be other shows in the future the Casting Director will be working on. The ability to make a strong impression through your work will remain in the minds of those in casting. You always want to exhibit your best work so you’ll continue to be requested and considered for roles.

I wish someone had told me when I first started that for a career to happen, be prepared to be in it for the long haul. Very few of us start out in the industry by booking a major feature or landing a series lead on a television show. Success in the entertainment industry is usually a process of years and years of practicing your craft and steadily building credits. The tenacity and resiliency it takes to be a working actor is a product of focus, patience and drive. There’s a funny line spoken by a character from a John Guare play, “I’m too old to be an overnight success.”

Which tips would you recommend to aspiring actors in your industry to help them to thrive?

First and foremost, learn your craft. Make no mistake, acting is a craft and the more you learn about the technical means of using those skills, the stronger your work will be. And learning your craft doesn’t mean just studying in a classroom or workshop situation. You must read books, see movies, go to plays, talk to professionals when you can who are doing what you want to deal. Secondly, surround yourself with individuals who believe in and support you, emotionally, psychologically, etc. Having a support system is key to surviving the ups and downs inherent in this industry. Your support system can consist of family, friends, colleagues, and whoever can have a positive effect on you. Lastly and this might sound obvious but bears stating, learn how to take care of yourself and be good to yourself. You must manage your life and health with extreme care. Engage in those activities which are positive and help sustain you, as an actor you’re in it for the long haul, so care for your instrument (meaning you) in every way.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I find it appalling that people go hungry day after day in our society or for that matter in the world. The need for food is a basic human necessity. To think that there are thousands upon thousands of human beings who don’t have enough to eat or maybe in danger of starvation is incredibly sad and humbling. Why can’t we create and share enough of our resources as a society to ensure hungry people have something to eat? Now more than ever we during this coronavirus pandemic we’re experiencing, we’re witnessing families whose members have lost their jobs standing in lines in order to accept donated food. No one should have to go hungry. Let’s work to eradicate hunger in our world.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I’ve been lucky to have received unwavering support and encouragement on my journey as an actor from many sources. Beginning with my parents and continuing on to teachers, fellow actors & directors I’ve worked with, the advice has always been the same, “pursue your dreams.” My Father was no doubt one of my biggest advocates. Having emigrated to the U.S from a small, impoverished Caribbean country, he truly held the belief that in America you could become anything you set your mind on becoming. This was put to the test in our family when I declared I wanted to be an Actor. He couldn’t quite get his mind wrapped around how an actor lived or to be ore specific how an actor made a living. The thought that you want from one job to another and were never promised consistent employment baffled him. Yet, in site of that, my Dad never said anything disparaging about my dream or did anything to stand in my way. Both he & my mom supported me in any way they could through those tough years of a conservatory training program and the early times in my career. They appreciated that acting was my passion and if I wanted it that badly, they were there to assist me in making it happen.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

James Baldwin, the American essayist, novelist, playwright and social critic once said, “The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions that have been hidden by the answers.”

I’ve always believed the application and practice of Art has the uncanny ability to reveal the human condition in all its’ wonder, pain, insufficiency and triumph. As a performing artist, acting has led me to experience some of the most insightful, challenging and fulfilling relationships of my life. I’ve had audience members approach me after a show and want to share some of the most tragic or beautiful circumstances of their lives. In those instances, I understand their need to share is based on something they may have glimpsed in my performance or in the given circumstances which crossed a barrier and touched them deeply. we have as human beings such a marvelous capacity for empathy, understanding and generosity. Art induces in us a reaction from the heart rather the head (or the intellect.) It’s a culture’s Art that reveals who the people are more than anything because it provides not just one identifiable answer but multiple ones.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?

I would love to have met and had a private breakfast (or any other meal) with South African activist, Nelson Mandela. The amount of love, forgiveness and mercy Mandela held in his heart greatly inspires me. In the face of overwhelming oppression and brutality, Mandela remained an uncanny force for social justice and equality. Mandela spent decades in prison in support of ideals he never abandoned, even when they cost him his personal freedom. The ideals he espoused was for the right of every individual to be treated with dignity, respect and compassion That to me is the definition of courage and grace.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I can be reached through my Facebook Fan Page, Instagram and Twitter.

Instagram: officialgreggdaniel


This was very meaningful, thank you so much!

It’s been a pleasure, please tell everyone to remain safe and practice social distancing, we’ll get through this together.

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