Whether you recognize Dan Payne or not, chances are good that you’ve seen at least one of his projects. The film and TV actor’s recent roles include Obsidian in The CW’s Legends of Tomorrow, Wadjet in Star Trek Beyond, King Beast in Disney’s The Descendants, and more! Read on for our interview with this multifaceted actor.
It sounds like it’s been a busy couple of years for you! You recently worked on the films Star Trek Beyond and Devil in the Dark, several TV movies including Disney’s The Descendants, as well as the TV series Legends of Tomorrow and Dead of Summer, on The CW and Freeform, respectively. Among this diverse variety of projects, do you have a favorite character you played or cast and crew you worked with?
Dan Payne: I hope it’s OK if I let out my inner nerd first thing and say in all honesty, I love every single job. Each job is a unique experience that challenges me in a different way. I love that I get to push myself in different ways depending on what each gig demands.
Star Trek Beyond was a fantastic opportunity to learn from watching phenomenal talents do their thing up close and personal. It was a tough shoot [involving] a 5-hour prosthetic application every morning, but what a gift to be able to be part of such a legendary franchise. Devil in the Dark [formerly The Plateau] was the kind of experience that reminded me why I do this job. It was a great character with a rich backstory and history, and the story relied on relationship and environment. All of that was heightened by the intensity of the story we were telling, and I was really grateful to be a part of writer/producer Carey Dickson‘s creation. Legends of Tomorrow gave me the chance to check off the “play a superhero” box on the bucket list, and I had awesome superpowers! Just pure playtime. And Dead of Summer was unique, as the story was set in the late ’70s/early ’80s. I had a heck of a hairdo. The crews in Vancouver are phenomenal; they have a great reputation around the world for a reason.
Did you find it tricky to prepare for and play so many different parts that ran the genre gamut from horror to comedy?
I find it absolutely awesome to get to run the genre gamut! I try to be as prepared as possible for every job. They each present a different challenge and require me to work more on one aspect than another, depending on the gig. I want to spend every moment I’m given getting as prepared as I can. Personally, I love it! I love getting to dive into a new role, character, history, and do that homework. That’s the gift of being an actor. That’s my job!
As an actor, what’s your thought process when deciding whether to audition for (and ultimately accept) a project? Are there certain elements you always look for, or do you evaluate each opportunity on a case-by-case basis?
I definitely take it on a case-by-case basis. I want to look at each opportunity to see what it has to offer – and, equally importantly, what I have to offer it. I’ve been doing this a while now and have the good fortune to be able to pass on an audition or project if it doesn’t “fit.” Early on in my career, I just had to pay the bills and eat! But now I can be more selective and make sure it makes sense for me and my family. Integrity means a lot to me now.
Over the course of your career, you must have learned some important lessons and received valuable advice. Does anything in particular stand out in your mind? What advice would you give to other actors or aspiring actors?
A lot of the advice I’ve received boils down to “Do your homework, be prepared, and then let it go.” The advice I’d give aspiring actors is to put your energy into the things you can control – your preparation, studying your craft – and let the rest of it go. Passion is the fuel that will keep you going in this industry that has a lot of rejection. And we all need to remember it’s not personal!
If you had the opportunity to work with any actor – living or dead – who would you choose and why?
The first answer that came to mind when I read this question is “my friends”! I think making films and indulging in this creative passion would be an even more rewarding experience with friends! But to choose a “name”… Wow, I have a long list that keeps growing! Johnny Depp, Sam Rockwell, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Heath Ledger come to mind as I type, but there are so many more!