Dan Bradford is a Canadian actor and producer who now lives and works out of Prague, Czech Republic. Dan can be seen on our screens in The Alienist (Angel of Darkness), Carnival Row, The Letter for the King, Oktoberfest: Beer & Blood, Berlin Station and more. We had a great conversation about his life’s journey, being a Mountie, working with personal icons such as Donald Sutherland, the allure of Prague, family and much more besides.
Read on to find out lots more about Dan Bradford, actor and producer.
DB: What is your earliest memory?
DAN: I was three years old and playing in my backyard. I don’t recall if the backyard gate was left open, but I do remember pushing on it and getting outside my yard. It was like a little kid walking into a Fantasyland. I had never wandered away from my house before. At the end of the alley, was an old Dairy Queen ice cream shack with a window where they would serve you ice cream. Suddenly little Danny ended up there and I remember I got quite scared. I remember the lady working at the ice cream stand was very nice to me. Then the police came and the policeman was really nice and bought me an ice cream cone. I didn’t know what was going on or where we were going but I remember, I was crying. I don’t know how they found my mom. She was at work, my stepfather was looking after my sister and I. He must have just turned his head for a moment, and I had wandered off. I remember sitting in the police station wearing a big police hat with an ice cream cone in my hand, eating it. I was happy as could be! My mother walked in, she had this panicked look on her face, and then she saw me and just started laughing. It was fun but kind of scary. After that day, my mother used to joke and call me a “little Dennis the Menace”.
DB: Where were you born and spend your initial few years?
DAN: I was born in the city of Edmonton in the province of Alberta, Canada. But we moved to Port Moody, in British Columbia, just outside the city of Vancouver. That’s pretty much where I grew up and where I’ve still got close friends and where I consider my home in Canada. I grew up in the city of Port Moody. It was very blue-collar and just a big enough city that you had stores and amenities but small enough that you still knew everybody. I have some amazing memories and a very great spot in my heart for Port Moody.
DB: Is it a rural area, or near the sea?
DAN: Port Moody is on the shoreline of the Burrard Inlet which comes in from the Pacific Ocean. One way goes up to Indian arm and the other way, where it stops, is Port Moody. We’ve got industrial docks, fishing and a beautiful park and the best fish and chips I have eaten, Pajo’s Fish and Chips. Every time I go home to visit, I stop there for the fish and chips.
DB: What sort of lad were you? What sorts of hobbies and interests did you have?
DAN: I was somewhat mischievous. I was very energetic. I guess you could call me an explorer; I was always wanting to do and try new things. At the age of 10, I had a paper route. The next thing I’m sweeping a warehouse for a submarine factory, called ISE. ISE (International Submarine Engineering) is the same company that eventually found the titanic wreckage. I got involved in sports and started playing baseball and lacrosse. Eventually, I focused on martial arts, Boxing, Hapkido, karate and Jujutsu. Wrestling, rugby, football and lacrosse were my high school sports.
I remember, as a young boy, I had made goals and one of the goals was to be either a policeman or a doctor. My grandfather that told me that as a young man you should work hard, so you don’t have to work hard when you’re older, and start planning to get to where you want to go now. I didn’t understand fully but I remembered this as something important.
I got my junior scuba diver licence at the age of 15-16 and often went hiking, exploring. I also belonged to a kayaking and canoe club. I would take the sea kayak and go out into the Inlet and up Indian Arm on the ocean and sometimes wouldn’t be back for 5-6 hours. I would end up in the ocean watching seals – one time I saw killer whales. I did this between the ages of 14-16. Now that I think about it, I’m sure I gave my mother some grey hairs doing this but I was always very motivated to just “do” stuff.
There were three rules my mom taught me when I was younger and they’ve been very successful for me. I will never forget this because it was not a pleasurable moment in my childhood. We were in Edmonton, Alberta, and it was somewhat racist back then. I remember walking down the street, and people coming out of their house giving Indian war cries, you know, “Whoo! Whoo! Whoo!” My mother was looking around, getting upset and screaming at these people, “You go back inside your house!” I remember my mom turning to me, looking at me, visibly upset. She said to me, “I want you to never forget this. I want you to always believe in yourself. You can do anything you want in your life, never listen to anyone else.” She said, “You’ve got to work hard, nothing is for free and sometimes you might have to make some sacrifices.” All I got out of that was ‘believe in yourself’ and ‘you can do anything’. I’ve held that dear to my heart and it’s made me very successful in everything I’ve done. The more I think about it now I probably did not know what was going on but I remember my mom being visibly upset. I have two sons and now, for me to think about what she went through… I can only imagine what she was thinking.
DB: How come the move to British Columbia?
DAN: A couple of reasons. My mom was a single mom for many years and we didn’t grow up with a lot of money. My stepfather and she split up and she spent many years as a single parent. The winters in Edmonton were so cold that I would get so sick with bronchitis and pneumonia and, without fail, every year, I’d be in hospital. We needed to move to somewhere warmer. Moving to warmer weather helped me not get sick every winter.
DB: I don’t think people will necessarily know how cold Alberta gets!
DAN: Let me tell you. I was in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and went to training in Regina, Saskatchewan – right next to Edmonton, the same climate for the most part. I went home to B.C. for Christmas then I came back to the academy and I had a suit bag with my suits in and my shoes and ties in the bottom. I threw the suit bag over my shoulder, just after I signed in at the office. I’m running into the barracks because at that time, it was -55 Celsius. I got about two blocks, took the suit bag off my shoulder only to discover it had broken in half. My shoes, my ties were somewhere between me, the office, and my barracks. You think I was going back to find them? No way!
DB: Do you have any siblings?
DAN: I have a younger sister. She’s a year-and-a-half younger than me and still lives in Vancouver close to my mom. She’s got five girls and one boy. She’s got her hands full but a great lady!
DB: You mentioned that you were doing martial arts, for how long did that carry on?
DAN: I started boxing when I was 10. As a young boy, I remember watching a couple of Muhammad Ali bouts. I was a pretty big kid, but the kids I was sparring against were 12-13 year olds, and I was getting my butt handed to me every time, so it got a little frustrating. I pretty much learned to box the hard way. Experienced my first broken nose at the age of ten from boxing, broke it twice more in jujitsu years later.
In school, I got into my first martial art, Hapkido. We had a teacher there, a Korean War vet, Mr Samson. He was a black belt instructor. Then I went into wrestling, karate, and eventually jujitsu.
DB: Did you do some representative wrestling?
DAN: I started wrestling in grade eight. Eventually I won two gold medals in the BC Winter Games in 1984. I also won the gold medal for the BC Provincial championship in 1984. Then I won a silver medal in the Western Open Canadian competition with Simon Fraser University.
DB: What did you study at university?
DAN: I was looking to study criminology and psychology. I did switch my minor to economics later but I didn’t stay to get my full degree. In my senior high school year, I got Athlete of the Year, a scholarship and some bursaries for playing North American football for University. I wanted to become a doctor or law enforcement, unfortunately I didn’t go as far as I wanted to in university but that’s how I eventually got into acting.
DB: What sort of acting did you do?
Once I left university, I was in the military for 3 years and eventually got into the police force. I didn’t pursue acting. It just seemed like everywhere I went, there were acting opportunities, that would fall onto my lap. Several times I turned down roles just because I didn’t like the script and since it wasn’t my main focus, I could be picky. Eventually, I was posted to Banff in Alberta. Beautiful mountains, grizzlies, wolves etc. Absolutely beautiful place. A film star, Hardy Krüger, came to Banff, filming a television series, an episode called “September in the Rockies”.
The boss called me into his office, “Listen, we got this guy. I don’t know who he is, but he wants you.”. “I want you to show him around. He wants a Mountie in his show.” So I got paid to show this guy around and be in his TV Series. After that, I believe I got the bug. I pursued my law enforcement career and I was acting part-time, commercials and a couple of films, here and there.
One day we were doing a corporate video in our jail cell with a lady, on the difference between dealing with an intoxicated person and somebody who has diabetes. I was playing the police officer. She said, “You’ve acted before, do you have an agent?” I didn’t. “Listen, let me get you an agent because I believe you will act a lot more.” I got an amazing agent in Edmonton, Darryl Mork, who helped me tremendously and lots of opportunities came my way after that. The universe pulled me in towards acting, I never pursued it, it found me.
DB: How long were you in law enforcement?
DAN: 25 years. 25 is a long time but it was an amazing career. I enjoyed it. I think I’ve always been somebody that is motivated with helping people. I believe I went into it for the right reasons, and that was to “make a difference”. I retired at 25 years, as a sergeant, because I wanted to do other things. I always knew I was not a “lifer”, as we say but I wanted to hit 25 for my full pension. After I retired, I did a bunch of things that I always wanted to do but mostly focused on acting.
DB: What sort of things did you do?
DAN: I worked in the oil industry, as a contract manager for a large security company, as a sales manager for a large worldwide car company and an online stock brokerage some sales for a large international company and some film production. Some construction, building houses, helping people I know. When I was a policeman, I used to buy a “project house”, fix it up and then flip it and put some of the money in the bank and some into the next, slightly better, house.
DB: When you were doing those jobs, were you still acting?
DAN: Yes, I acted only part-time. I looked at acting, back when I actually had another career, more as a hobby. It was fun. I did a bunch of commercials, a ton of corporate videos, training films and some TV shows. Some of them make me laugh, now, when I think back. I did a commercial for a furniture store where I was laying in a bed waiting for my “wife” to come in. We just couldn’t get that scene right. I remember doing about 50 takes because I couldn’t stop laughing. I was laying on a bed with flannel pajamas and a house coat on, and every time the other actress would walk in, she would look at me funny which made me laugh. I don’t know what the look was about but it would make me laugh. To this date, I still laugh when I think about this commercial which was for bedroom furniture.
DB: What was the trigger for going full-time?
DAN: I worked on a couple of productions, where I would leave the set and couldn’t wait to get back. My grandfather told me as a young boy, “Find something that you love to do, so that way it never feels like work.” I had one director who really believed in me (probably more than I believed in myself). They said, “You know what? I’m gonna make you famous. You’re really talented!” I started realising, maybe this was something I was supposed to do, so I didn’t just dip my toe in, I jumped all the way in!
I’ve always had the idea, a job is what I do, it’s not who I am. Even as a policeman, I don’t think I ever had a challenge with that. I’ve always known who I was. I had a great coach. My mom. And I’ve always looked at everything as a new opportunity to learn. It wasn’t scary, it was exciting!
DB: I suppose, having done so much sport, there’s that apprehension but you know you’re going to dive in with full commitment.
DAN: I think what gave me a lot of confidence is I’ve had some good people in my life as a young lad: really good sports coaches, my mother, teachers, and mentors. One thing that really helped me was getting selected for RCMP [Royal Canadian Mounted Police] training. If you look at the stats, only 11% of the people who applied, made it through screening, completed Academy training and the probationary period afterwards to become full-time law enforcement officers. The RCMP really taught me a lot about life from an agile perspective.
DB: That must be helpful when looking at certain roles.
DAN: I had a lot of experiences over the 25 years with the RCMP that I can draw on. I usually draw on my personal experience. Some actors try to become the character, and I do to a certain degree, but I try to incorporate that character into me.
I’m also an expert in firearms, small arms and rifles and I have military experience with a vast array of different weapons. I now teach actors here how to properly hold and use a firearm, and then how to do it on a film set.
DB: You have been in movies such as Unlocked with Noomi Rapace. Are there any standout films that you have worked on?
DAN: Every film that I’ve worked on brings me a really good memory. I go into it being truly grateful that I’m on that set because I know there are many actors that could take my place. And it’s my classroom: I look, listen and try to observe everything so I can become better.
The first film I was in, as a background actor, was Rocky lV and I had the opportunity to meet Stallone, who was amazing! He would take the time to sit and talk with me and other actors. Another actor that impressed me was Dolph Lundgren. I was just a young guy at 19 and he took the time to sit and talk to me while on set and he would truly listen to what you had to say. It was like talking with an older brother. The coolest guy ever!
Another production I enjoyed a lot, was working on set with Donald Sutherland in Crossing Lines. We were working in a penthouse suite in Prague, just a German actor, myself, and Donald. That scene was magical: to watch someone like him work is like golfing with Tiger Woods. It helped me step up my game. Here was an amazing actor, Canadian, who I admired and always wanted to work with and suddenly I’m in this Penthouse Suite working with him, in the most beautiful city in the world, Prague. I remember him saying, “Wow, you’ve got really good English! Where are you from?” I replied, “I’m from Vancouver.” Suddenly we had that bond as Canadians like we were long lost friends. Donald was a true gentleman.
DB: As a Canadian, you are a rarity in Prague, how come you ended up there?
DAN: The first time I came to Prague, I just came to visit and I fell in love with the city. Long story short, the second time I came was because I met a Czech girl in Canada and you could say she was the motivation for me to come to Prague. There were many reasons why I stayed but she was definitely the reason why I came.
DB: A lot of filming goes on in Prague and the Czech Republic, more than many people realise. Carnival Row is filmed there, could you tell me a bit about working on this show?
DAN: It was amazing and an incredible storyline! I was very fortunate being in the first season. In season 2, my role expanded more. Hopefully in season 3, I get to come back. I’m the bodyguard that guards the Chancellor. I know some really good people on the set and have acted with some phenomenal actors on this series. The director and the producers are fantastic to work with. It’s first-class, very professional and they treat you so well. I’m excited to see the final product of season 2.
DB: It’s a great show, beautiful costumes, strong messages.
DAN: When you’re on those sets they are made so amazingly that it’s not hard to be in character. It’s like shooting in a time machine and just magical. It’s not hard to be in that moment, because everything is taken care of to help you do your best.
DB: There’s that fantasy element as well, in The Letter for the King (Netflix). What was it like working on that?
DAN: It was really fun. The majority of the cast were quite young. To watch these young actors, act, and interact on set, it was very empowering for me. It was brilliant working with them, because they came in, knew their lines and got everything correct AND HAVING AN ABSOLUTE BLAST! The chemistry amongst them was great, they’re always positive, laughing and having fun and it made everybody enjoy working on this production.
There is a scene where I get hit on the head. I’m wearing a real helmet. The one female lead came up to me and asked, “How hard do you want me to hit you?” I said, “Well, I got a helmet. Let me have it.” She was using a real metal prop and eventually, the helmet started to cave in. Near the end of our takes, I had to say, “Listen. Can I ask a favour? Can you not hit me so hard?” The last two takes the prop was smashing through the helmet and smacking me right in the head! (Laughs)
DB: What was your experience working on Oktoberfest: Beer & Blood?
DAN: It was really well done. We ran into a situation where it was so hot that part of the set caught on fire. This was the hottest day of that year. We thought we were going to have to shut it down but the set was immediately rebuilt and we carried on as nothing had happened. Anyways they had a crew of people that were incredible and managed to bring it together in a minimal amount of time.
The director of this [Hannu Salonen] is brilliant and I hope to work with him again. He knew exactly the vision he wanted. He let you bring what you had prepared to the table; I knew what I wanted to do and he gave me that opportunity to do it. He would direct you only if there was something else he wanted. Some directors just come on the set and instantly tell you what to do; I find sometimes it doesn’t leave a lot for active creativity. What I loved about Hannu is he would tell you about the scene and his vision of it, but he wouldn’t tell you how to act. He expected you knew your job as a professional actor. He made my job as an actor easier because knew how to work with actors. I honestly hope to work with him again. I didn’t feel stressed at all.
This driven production did not waste any time. They were so precise on everything. Everything was well planned and executed, like being part of a well-oiled machine. There was not a lot of sitting around, waiting. They filmed in Prague but the scenes by the river were filmed near Munich, in Germany.
The biggest challenge of that whole series was the entrance parade. Gosh, it was amazing! If you were on that set and saw how many props, crew, actors and extras, and how many cameras and drones… We did it over, over and over maybe 20 or 30 times. We were wearing sandals and the whole area is nothing but gritty gravel and sand. By the end of the day my feet were just torn up because they had to spray it with water as it was just so hot. We would stop and be in the “sauna” because you don’t have any tents there – though they had people with umbrellas. It definitely was work, but enjoyable none the less.
The Director wanted me to put on weight. At the time, I was like, “Okay, no problem.” Where it hits you is losing that weight. That was a huge challenge and as you get older, it’s a lot harder. To drop weight for a film role, it’s hard, but I would rather go that direction. Putting on muscle mass, you know if you want to work out, sure, but not get yourself a bit chubbier because taking it off was absolutely painful! I was eating garbage, then changed that and your body goes through withdrawal. I don’t think I’ll ever put on non-muscle mass for any role again unless it had really good pay, it’s just not healthy.
DB: How important is costuming for you in creating a character?
DAN: It definitely helps as I tend to get a lot of roles now that are more character acting. I’ve got something I’m working on (I can’t say the name, unfortunately due to signing a NDA) and I play this big, nasty, tough guy and my costume definitely helped. When you are acting, it’s training and being in “the moment” that brings the best performance. For me, acting is more reacting and creating then bringing something and giving it to the director.
DB: You were in the show Berlin Station as well, what was that like?
DAN: We filmed in Budapest and Croatia. That was probably one of my favourite locations to film. Although… funny story. The director tells me that I’m going to be in a bathing suit. At this point, I’m like, “Damn, I wish I would have worked more on my abs!” I got shown this tiny, black bikini-type bathing suit and I’m looking at this going, “Oh my God! No!” There was another blue boxer-style one, which was nice-looking and looked good on me. So the day of filming, I’m on the beach, in my dressing room, getting ready to film, and I discover the director wants me in the tiny black swim suit. My job was to swim up onto the beach and come to the chair and deliver a jump drive which contained secrets to another person. I did that for pretty much the whole afternoon. It was probably one of the nicest sets that I’ve ever done, on a beach and in the ocean in Split, Croatia. There was a lot of fun, and it was very refreshing. I did feel a bit bad watching all the others in the background… sweating.
DB: How do you prepare for any particular role?
DAN: I mostly do method acting and I get right into my character. It’s like a pendulum: I’m going to start in the middle, then I’m going to go over to this side and engulf myself, then I come back and go away from it a bit, and then I come back again – until I can feel something that feels real and believable. I incorporate my actual personality and variances into the role. But if I’m going to have to play a really bad guy, or a role that I might not be familiar with, then I investigate and research.
DB: Which are the roles that appeal to you the most?
DAN: I think any role where the character goes through adversity or tells a story of somebody that ends up giving people hope. If I read a script and I’m going, “Oh, my God, here is a character who is transforming and becoming a different person, maybe for the better,” those are the roles. I love doing something that challenges me. In the beginning, I did a lot of police roles, lawyer roles and, quite honestly, I just showed up and wasn’t really acting. I like playing bad guys because there are no boundaries. You can dive into that deep, dark area and say, “Okay, do I want to incorporate this?” Whereas, a good guy, you have to walk that line of good and evil and stay on the good side.
If I am telling the story of a real person, I’m also paying tribute to that person and that gives me a responsibility to tell it correctly. I would spend time with that person and try to know what that person was feeling and what they’re going through. With that responsibility attached to it, I feel you have to do it right. That is the ultimate. I love doing roles like that.
DB: Who are your acting idols and who would you love to get a chance to work with, acting or directing?
DAN: Honestly, as a young kid, Donald Sutherland was one of my idols. I have always wanted to act with Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, but also Robert Downey Jr. I like him as an actor.
I thoroughly enjoyed working with Eric Schweig, who became a friend, in Blackstone – he was in The Last of the Mohicans. He’s a little bit like his character types but a gentle soul. Not a man of a lot of words, but the words he spoke… there was no nonsense.
There are so many good directors that I would absolutely love to work with. I’m going to say Tom Hanks, I like him as a director; he’s directed films I enjoy. But also Martin Scorsese, he’s done some amazing films!
DB: What would your advice be for anybody considering a career in acting?
DAN: My advice is: know yourself, be confident in yourself because this is an industry that says “NO” to you more times than it says “YES”. If you come with hopes of being a big Hollywood movie star, and you have a gentle soul, it can beat you down and fast. You have to know your value. Find your niche, don’t do what everyone else is doing. Do something different, something that’s going to get you noticed. Most important, be positive and know the value of your word. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.
One of the things I do for my auditions I learned from a fairly big name after we worked together, he always prepares opposite ends. So if the role says that you have to be a big, tough guy, he prepares, but then the opposite, somebody gentle, meek and mild. Something the director wouldn’t expect, because oftentimes they don’t know what they’re looking for and being prepared like this has helped me in auditions.
Be humble. Work hard. The number one advice I give anybody, in any kind of job, the most important thing is relationships. And it’s always harder to cross a bridge if it’s been burned. Be a positive person. Come in. Have fun. Focus on the positivity, not the negativity. 90% of the times they’re looking for a look and there’s nothing wrong with who you are and what you have. In fact, your acting may be amazing and you still don’t get the role. So never second guess yourself, because there are so many factors involved when getting a role, that the actor is unaware of.
All casting directors I know want actors to be successful and want actors to get the role they are auditioning for. Oftentimes it is the director that selects who they want, except sometimes the money people are involved, and they may have the final say also. Now that I’m doing some production, I see how much influence an executive producer has.
DB: How very different is production? Are there things you enjoy about it or sometimes you don’t like?
DAN: I love doing production work. I started in Canada producing a TV show and co-producing a feature film. What I love about producing is the creative process, bringing all of these people together to create something amazing. Now is it different than acting in some ways? Yes. Because acting I’m coming on set, I might have one or two moving parts I need to focus on. Whereas, as a producer, you’re a cross between a project manager and used car salesman and keeping track of many moving parts. You have to have the people skills to be able to keep everything running, budgets on track, casting directors happy and actors and extras happy. As a producer, you’ve got so many moving parts but as an actor you’ve just got to know your lines, show up on time and don’t bump into the furniture.
The most frustrating thing about being a producer is if you’re independent and freelance, you’re not getting paid until projects get picked up. You will be paying a lot of money out of your own pocket to make this stuff happen, which I have done because I’m not with a big production company. I’m a newer producer still starting off and I have no doubt one day I will produce a TV series.
DB: Have you done any writing?
DAN: Yes. I’m currently writing and it’s a horror film based on facts. It’s pretty scary. I’ve got two credits on IMDB as a writer. In my opinion, the most important thing there is, when it comes to any kind of film or series, is you need to have a good writer. I remember meeting with a CEO, a nice gentleman, and the first thing he said was, “Tell me about the writer.” I worked on The Alienist and when I read that script I was like, “Oh, my God, this is amazing!” The writer for this series is my bench mark for quality for anything I do now.
DB: You were a priest in that weren’t you?
DAN: Yes, an Italian priest. I was speaking Italian with a language coach sitting right next to me during filming. We worked day and night. I got a language coach and everywhere I went, he was with me. We would do a little bit here, a little bit there, go to the cafeteria and, as we’re walking, it was like we’re having a conversation, but I was just rehearsing the lines.
It was quite funny because I’m going over my lines in Italian – I’m not a native Italian speaker – and Skyping a well-known actor, and one of my good friends, in Vancouver; he’s Italian and a high school buddy of mine, Faustino Di Bauda. I’m in Budapest and he’s helping me with the dialect. It must be midnight, and I am filming the next day. All of a sudden, I hear a knock on my hotel door. I didn’t realise how loud we were talking and the lady next door to us was trying to sleep, “Oh, I’m so sorry,” I said, “I’m on set tomorrow.” She goes, “You’re on set too?” So there’s a fellow actress next door and we’re actually on the same set and scenes together.
DB: Do you enjoy travelling? What countries do you have particularly fond memories of?
DAN: I do enjoy travelling, going to different countries, embracing their culture, exploring their customs. My favourite country so far though is the Czech Republic. This is a country with over 200 castles and amazing architecture. It’s like walking into a history book.
Anytime I travel, I like to see outside of the tourist area. I do like going to Cuba, it’s my favourite to go to when I want to relax and enjoy the beach, and it is a very safe country. I go out to see the locals, walk along the beach, watch the fisherman and participate in that lifestyle. One other place I still love going to is England – it’s got a special spot in my heart because my grandfather (one of my mentors) was English. There’s just something there, it’s got an energy very much like Prague. When I go to London, “Wow, I could see myself living here!”
I love British accents. My maternal grandfather, Daniel Charles Sutton, was born in Fulham. I actually went there for an audition for the film Backdraft 2 in the casting director’s house. Beautiful place.
Prague reminds me in a lot of ways of older Vancouver. Prague’s a very reasonable place to live expense-wise. It’s so cosmopolitan here and it’s still got that old school flavour. You can’t help but fall in love with Prague. It’s a magical city. Beautiful. I love the culture. There’s just something about it, that energy I can’t explain. It’s very seductive and romantic and it pulls you in. If you stay too long, you will not leave.
I love European countries. I’ve travelled all over Poland and that’s an amazing country too, Hungary, Slovakia, Germany, UK, all so rich in their own culture, so different, so beautiful. I love travelling and wish I could do more.
DB: When you are travelling, do you tend to read or listen to a music playlist?
DAN: When I travel, my first day is just relaxing on the beach, if there is one, and having a refreshment of some sort, going in the ocean but I can only do that for so long. I will explore and go on a tour or just go and walk. A couple of times I went into Havana, Cuba and then up into the jungle where Fidel Castro used to live. I like to explore and understand the history. I believe this brings you closer to the people.
Usually, I’ll bring a book but I usually only play music on the plane. I like to listen to the local music. I’m not the kind of guy to put on headphones and just walk around listening to my own music, because then I don’t really feel like I’m opening myself up to the culture.
As for music, I love music and listening to new music and their songs in whatever country I am in. For me, music is a stress relief and escape. I have a guitar right behind me here and I like to sit down and just play and be in that moment with the music. All music, no matter what it is, I will enjoy. I am kind of a rocker though because I grew up in Vancouver – Vancouver is a rock and roll city.
DB: How has being a father changed your approach towards your career and life in general?
DAN: Before I became a father, I think it was probably the scariest concept for me. You got this little life and you don’t want to mess it up. Being a father, in my opinion, is the best job in the world. If I could do it full-time, I would. When you have a child it changes your perspective on everything, it makes you less selfish. My boys made me want to spend more and more time with them. As much as I love acting, and doing things in life, nothing pleases me more than to spend time with my sons.
I have two sons, one here in the Czech Republic, and my oldest son is 14, in Canada. I love talking to him now because he’s a young man. We talk a lot on Skype and he comes and sees me. When I’m in Canada, I spend my time with him and my family. My five-year-old, it’s all about trying to be the example because he copies everything I do. The coolest thing about having kids is that it really makes you want to be a better person because they’re looking up to their hero, you.
DB: How has living in Europe changed and added to your experience?
DAN: I do encourage anyone and everyone to travel the world, to see what it’s like and how other people live. Living in North America we tend to think the world revolves around us. Moving here really expanded my understanding and it made me a lot more humble. I think the Czech Republic is a freer country than even Canada. We say we’re free in Canada, but we get taxed to death and there are so many little fines and so many things you can’t do. Coming here there is such a relaxed attitude, it’s a very different way of living. I enjoy living here more, it has really taught me a lot and helped me grow as a person.
I think a little bit has to do with isolation of the North America continent, that makes us think the world evolves around us. Whereas here in Czech, you can travel a short distance and then you’re in Austria, Germany, Poland, or Hungary. The cultures are so similar and, at the same time, they can be so different. In fact, I just got my (shows Czech passport). I’ve still got my Canadian passport, also.
DB: What does your Indigenous heritage mean to you?
DAN: When I grew up and as a young guy, it really didn’t mean anything to me, because I grew up in the city, not on a reserve, so not truly knowing my heritage. Vancouver is truly a cultural melting pot. I don’t ever remember growing up with any kind of racism living in Port Moody.
The first time I really started to engage in my culture was when I was in the Mounties. I was working in a lot of Indigenous communities and met some amazing people and elders. I started doing ceremonies and learning about the history and my history. The history and the culture are so beautiful. Some of the history is very sad. I can tell you this, regardless, every Indigenous community I’ve been to, the underlying root is humour. They love to laugh. And if you come in there, and want to learn about their culture, and connect with them… next thing you know, they’re going to be teasing you.
I love what my heritage is, Cree. My paternal great-grandmother was a Sioux Indian from the US. She came up north to Canada as a little girl during the Battle of Kicking Horse – when the women and children came to Canada to escape being slaughtered by the U.S. Cavalry. She ended up marrying a Cree man in Alberta. I’m very proud to be Cree.
My English grandfather [maternal] was an orphan. This is a sad story: his dad dropped him and his sister off to an orphanage in London, in the early 1900s. He was seven years old. His mom died when he was a young boy and his dad couldn’t afford to keep them, so he took him off to a sister’s place in Scotland. She couldn’t keep my grandfather either, because she couldn’t afford it. Eventually they ended up at the orphanage. My grandmother told me he remembered his dad walking away, as he dropped them off at the orphanage, crying. They split up my grandfather and his sister. Before my grandfather died I remember him saying that she lives in Jerusalem and he wished he would have found her. He was one of the kids that got taken over to Canada by the Salvation Army.
I look at my parents’ generation, and I think that life was a lot harder then. I grew up in a poor family, so I know what it’s like to appreciate money. There were times when we were living really tough conditions because it was just my mom, my sister and I. There were times where we barely had enough to eat. I think times are different now and we have built a better society in a lot of ways but there’s still areas to improve: people, kids are still living in poverty. I was one of those kids and maybe that’s one of the reasons why I always want to be a helper. No person, especially a child, should go hungry.
DB: My dad was born into a really poor family in the East End of London. He was one of 10.
DAN: As a kid, I listened to my grandfather saying, “When I was a kid, we had to walk five miles to the store through six feet of snow!” I think I’ve become one of those people now! I do believe society is getting better and better for the most part.
I think my biggest disappointment in today’s society is how some people go too far with politics and it seems to be a huge division, which is, in my opinion, really sad. I think that the loss of polite discourse needs to be dealt with. We need people to be able to treat each other with respect and dignity, regardless of different opinions.
DB: Who is the person or persons who have been the most influential on you?
DAN: My mother. Without her, I wouldn’t be where I am today. She came through a lot of adversity in her younger years. She’s a social worker in Downtown Vancouver, at Coventry House. She helps youth get off the street, develop life skills, open bank accounts and learn how to apply for jobs and get a living. She won a big Global TV Award, it was called ‘The Courage to Come Back’. I didn’t know a lot of what she wrote in about her stories as a little girl, what she went through, and where she’s at now until that day I read her story. Her story really choked me up! They gave her a big glass statue, engraved, as her award. It is sitting in the living room. There is no doubt at all, my mom is my hero.
DB: When she spoke to you about how you could be anything you wanted to be, you need someone like that in your life.
DAN: She was really important. She is a strong woman. And I’m grateful for that. As a young boy, you’re very influenced by your parents. We don’t get a chance to choose our parents. If we have good parents that are trying to point us in the right direction, I think that we are very lucky. We didn’t have a lot of money but we’ve always had a lot of love in our house. She’s an amazing woman. I’m a very lucky guy. I just wish, and hope, that I can be at least half close to the parent she was.
DB: You must miss her.
DAN: Every day. She’s getting older. She remarried and I called him Dad. He passed away after about six years, of cancer. He was a social worker also. They met each other and you know, the coolest thing was watching how happy he made my mom. I told him that I never really had a positive male figure in my life. So I did have a stepfather from about the age of 19. My mom’s now a widow in Vancouver with my sister connected to her. I miss her a lot and we try Skyping. When I get the opportunity, when these restrictions lift, I have no doubt in my mind, I’m going to Vancouver to visit my family again. Hopefully in the Spring of 2021.
DB: Just go, see your mom and give her a hug. What are your hobbies and pastimes?
DAN: When I am in Canada I love to go fishing. I used to go salmon fishing with friends, we usually rent a boat to go on the ocean. That to me is the best, just to get away on a boat and be on the ocean. That is where I love to be. I also enjoyed camping; I haven’t done that here yet.
Here, I love playing my guitar. I love reading. Right now I’m creating a couple of things: one is a film and a good idea for a TV series. I do love to just go spend time with my son. I’m teaching him how to ride a bicycle right now. He already knows how to ride a bike – in his mind – it’s just his body hasn’t caught up yet. And if I can get a good book…
DB: What are you reading at the moment?
DAN: I like reading true crime mostly, however, I go through phases with books. The book that I’m reading right now is called Treacherous by Paul Derry – amazing and heart wrenching story!
My two favourite books would be The Angels’ Claw by Paul Sveen (he’s a Canadian comedian) which I have just finished reading, and The Feather Men, by Ranulph Fiennes. The Angels Claw is about Karma and the end times. Absolutely fantastic book and an amazing story. Paul is a friend of mine and we used to hang out and he used to tell me a lot about the story line of this book. The end result is amazing.
The best way to explain The Feather Men is that it’s based on actual facts about an assassin who is targeting ex-SAS soldiers. The Feather Men are the people who actually protect the SAS soldiers once they retire. It is probably one of the most amazing true crime books I have read because how all this came together was mind-blowing.
DB: What could you not live without?
DAN: Hope. I will say that if I had to live without something my top two answers would be: I would never want to live without love, but more importantly, hope. Because if I did not live with any love in my life, at least I would hope that one day I would. I think you kill a human spirit without hope.
DB: If you could have one wish, right now, what would it be?
DAN: I would wish that I could give unlimited wishes to whoever needed them, not including myself. If you could have that wish then you could do so much in this world that would be for the greater good. You could help people that live in poverty, you could cure cancer, you could help make this world a better place.
[Edited by Grace Rainbow]
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