From the interview archive.
How important do you think it is for new actors to go to acting school? Would you recommend it to them, and why?
Personally for me it was essential. I was terrified to pursue the career I dreamed of simply because (back then) it wasn’t hugely accessible or accepted at home on the south coast. For me, coming from a small town to a huge city like London enabled me to experience a whole world of diversity, opportunity and acceptance. Going to Drama school allowed me limitless exploration of myself, my thoughts, my emotions and most of all my abilities. All whilst surrounded by others doing exactly the same. Some are incredibly fortunate and get an early break which allows them to learn on the job but ‘The Industry’ is scary and if you can find what works for you before diving headfirst into it then it gives you real substance as an artist.
What was the biggest challenge you faced on Strictly Come Dancing?
I really struggled with being ‘Danny Mac’. My drive to pursue acting was never to be myself. Believe it or not, I’m really not a fan of being center of attention. From being called on in class, to Birthday parties, to Karaoke! It’s not my game. I guess that’s why I had avoided saying yes to the show for 4 years. Opening up as myself on camera was a big challenge. I’m a very private person but the BBC were great and respected that throughout the series.
What was the best piece of advice or lesson you received from your partner Oti?
Thinking back, I was actually hitting a real low point in self confidence around the time I agreed to take part in the show. Everything I wanted to do suddenly terrified me and I was beginning to talk myself out of even considering various opportunities that I’d worked my whole life for. Then Strictly came knocking again. I took the leap and was partnered with Oti. Oti is an incredibly talented lady. She is as strong mentally as she is physically and there is a lot about her that people don’t know. She pushed me beyond what I thought possible because she believed in me and, more importantly, she believed in herself. That drive was definitely something I took on from my time with her. My perspective on things changed massively thanks to Oti and the show and I have achieved so much more since because of that.
Tell us about On The Town. What interested you about this project?
So when the opportunity came along to work with an Olivier Award-Winning team, at one of the West End’s greatest venues, on a Broadway and Hollywood classic…. I actually passed! My confidence had taken a knock, I didn’t feel ready and, in all honesty, I was scared. Some things are meant to be however. A few months later I was finally getting my head together. Another job I was set to start had just been shelved so I became available and they were still searching for ‘Gabey’. Following a meeting with the team to go through the material, I was offered this gift of a role. Working at Regents Park has actually been a dream of mine since drama school and to have this opportunity whilst also working with the remarkable Drew McOnie was the biggest draw for me. It has been an absolute dream from the beginning. The team and creatives are truly sensational and the cast they put together are the most outstandingly talented, hardworking, resilient and positive group of people I have ever met. The Regents Park Open Air Theatre itself is, in my opinion, the most beautiful theatre experience in london. The way reality merges with imagination and creativity is truly magical. I have been in the audience here for years and it feels very special to finally play on the other side.
On The Town is of course, already a legendary musical. Do you worry about people comparing your adaption to the original?
Not really. We hope that people’s love for the original 1944 Theatre production or the 1949 movie bring them to the open air theatre and see our version in a new and exciting environment. The most special thing about the OAT is that any production becomes very site-specific and you already know you’re in for a very different experience. Drew (McOnie) and Tom (Deering) our Director/Choreographer and Musical Director are two young men with a very similar spirit and passion to both Robbins and Bernstein, who created the show originally, so our show was definitely built with incredible respect for the original however ours certainly has its own heart and soul. We’ve had a lot of fun developing that and it’s been great seeing that resonate with our wonderful audiences so far.
When people leave the Regent’s Park Theatre, what do you hope they feel after watching your performance?
There’s a line in our show: “Unless there’s love the world’s an empty place.” And it feels like that is the most important message. Every day I say those words and it still chokes me up. Especially in our current climate. You only have to turn on the news to see how important those words are. Our company and our show has a beautiful responsibility to share that message. It’s a 24 hour adventure in New York City for 3 men in the middle of a war. It’s the ultimate live-for-the-day musical and we want people to leave having escaped for a couple hours, feeling positive about themselves and optimistic about how they may face the next day.
In the case of live theatre where you’re replaying the same role, same lines and same costumes for weeks on end, how do you keep it fresh and remain excited to perform, or is the simple nature of it being live for a fresh audience each night enough?
In most cases you have to find your triggers that allow you to be spontaneous. Every time you go for a take in television you want it to be the first time you thought the thought and said those words so you reset yourself in various ways. Everyone is different. In theatre it’s even more difficult because everything becomes so routine.
For me on this gig the most magical thing is to be able to look up and see a different sky, a different cloud, the moon in different place, a bird singing or flying overhead and then I am suddenly in a moment that never existed before and will never exist in the same way again. You can’t get more spontaneous than that. That moment is shared between you and the audience and you truly feel that you’re all in it together.
What’s one thing you can’t go without on the day of a live performance?
A warm up: Physical, vocal and sung (if required).
Do you see yourself getting a bit more experience behind the scenes in the future, directing or producing perhaps?
I actually began writing since I had an idea for a series last year. Sometimes you need to take things into your own hands and that’s been a great outlet for me. I’ve also always had a secret passion for directing and would love to do that one day. I adore being around talented people, collaborating and creating. People talk about being a ‘w*nky actor’ in reference to talking ‘shop’ but essentially that’s exactly what one should be in this game. I don’t think there’s any shame in that. I’m always in awe of other actors’ processes and respect them, whatever they may be. One day I would love to explore a piece with passionate actors, from the other side of the table.
When you’ve had a particularly great show, how do you like to celebrate it?
Ha. I don’t think I’ve ever celebrated a ‘great show’. That’s just what you strive for each night, right? It’s always nice to find time for company bonding though, so any special occasion or free bar is always welcomed with open arms!