Gregg Daniel has been busy. The accomplished actor has been a fixture in the entertainment world for close to 25 years and has over TV and film credits to his name, including the role of Reverend Daniels on the HBO hit series True Blood. Recently he put on the director and finished up directing not one, but two plays, both receiving much critical acclaim.
The first play was the drama Fences. Set in the 1950s, it is one of the 10 plays by August Wilson and each one chronicling a decade in 20th-century African-American family life. It was produced at The International City Theatre in Long Beach, CA. The second play Lombardi is based on David Maraniss' biography When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi. Written by Eric Simonson, it is about a football coach that is anxiously preparing for his team's season penultimate game and was produced at the Group Repertory Theatre in North Hollywood, CA.
"Both projects were an embarrassment of riches." Daniel explains. "I have a close creative relationship with the Artistic Directors of both theatre companies. We routinely discuss projects I'm interested in directing and presenting material which would be stimulating to their audiences." He states.
Each play was appealing to Daniel in different ways. "In the case of Fences, it was an opportunity to work with a two time Pulitzer Prize winning writer." He states. "Wilson is also regarded as one of the great playwrights of the 20th century." He reiterates. With Lombardi, Daniel was interested in examining the nature of "greatness." "Vince Lombardi inﬂuenced the face of modern day football as we know it, but was also a hugely ﬂawed human being. I was interested in exploring the qualities that make an individual great." He explains
Both productions received much critical acclaim and praise. Daniel was recently named, "Best Director of The Year" by Stage Scene LA. Also six actors from two productions he directed have received nominations for L.A.'s 2015 Ovation Awards. The ceremony is at the Ahmanson Theatre on November 9th. This recognition is on top of the "Best Director" nomination he received from the NAACP Theatre Awards back in 2013.
Daniel admits he initially wanted to only be an actor. However after spending his early years working in regional theaters across the country, he was slowly gravitated into the directing world. "I began asking questions of various directors that had more to do with the entirety of the production rather than solely focusing on my role. Thank goodness, I worked with very generous directors who acknowledged my interest and encouraged me to pursue it."
Still, in a society where busy careers can often take a toll on family and personal life, I was curious to know how Daniel was able to juggle and maintain both aspects of his life in-check and more importantly if he any advice to others regarding this:. "In order to juggle my personal life which really translates in my family's life, I would say suggest having a signiﬁcant other who understands, supports and most importantly, can be ﬂexible. The most challenging aspect of handling a career in the entertainment industry is the mercurial nature of the business." He explains. "I could be free for a month, then completely tied up for several. I might plan a family vacation in August and two weeks (or less) prior to leaving receive an offer to do a project." He also credits his wife (who is also an actress) for working along with him to achieve a sense of balance and stability in their lives.
Since both plays have wrapped, Daniel has kept busy. He recently appeared in an episode of Grey's Anatomy and will also appear in the Jerico, a civil rights era ﬁlm that examines relationships in a small southern town between Caucasians and African Americans. He also recently played the role of "Jacob Marley" in the South Coast Repertory's The Christmas Carol, a role he has played for 6 years. Daniel also has a theatre company which will be producing a Main Stage production in the summer of 2016. The name of our theatre company is Lower Depth Theatre Ensemble and their website be found here.
While answering the question I gave him regarding advice he had to actors just starting out, I was struck by his last piece of advice. "Learn everything there is to know about the craft you hope to practice for the rest of your life." This is very true, not just in the entertainment field. It is important to continue to learn what we can the profession or professions we choose. Even though Gregg Daniel has acted for decades, he realizes that even he is not done learning and growing as an actor, director, or whatever direction he decides to go next. It is this motivation and spirit that will continue to guide him for years to come.