Today's interview is with Daniel O'Reilly, an American actor born in New Jersey. From TV to movies, he has a natural ability to process material and make it his own, which allows him to live truthfully in the moment, earning the respect of his creative peer group.
My questions/comments are in bold, Daniel's follow in plain text.
Daniel O'Reilly on Acting
How did you get into acting?
Well, the bug’s always been there, and to be honest, it started the very first time I saw American Psycho when I was much younger. That's where it first hit me where like man, I love that word. Not the world of being a psycho, but just that you can be anything, and not that you can be anything, but you can be anything, and someone sees it, and it changes their day. It improves their mood. It takes their mind off of things that they may be going through. So that's where it was born for me.
What was your start?
Well, the first time I was on camera was being a news anchor.
I was a news anchor for CBS in Colorado, and the on-camera thing was born there. But as far as my first acting credit, I guess you could say there is a fellow filmmaker of mine in Chicago by the name of Danny Rhodes cast me in a series that he was trying to get off the ground called Bad Sides.
I played one of the characters auditioning for the project within the story. I guess if that makes sense. So that was my first gig out in Chicago, but this is long before I moved to LA and pursued the dream, took it seriously if you will.
When did you move to LA?
2011, so December 1st of this year will officially be seven years in Los Angeles.
What has that been like?
Well, I was lucky enough to have a couple of people that had established themselves in LA send me a couple of lengthy emails on what to expect. And to be prepared to be humbled and broken down, and starting all over in that whole big fish little pond, and then you move into the big lake where there are so many people in my demographic … not demographic, but my type, I guess.
So, the whole idea of getting familiar with Hollywood, establishing yourself financially so you can sustain the long haul, or sustaining the ups and downs was kind of what I prepared for. I made establishing myself financially the priority. When I first moved to LA, the first year, I felt like I moved to another planet. I'm like, “What is going on here, this place is just crazy?”
I came from a corporate background before the whole movie. So now I had to be completely reborn as an artist and learn to live & breathe as an artist. There IS plenty of room for business savvy, but I had to think about what I was passionate about. To be quite honest I didn't quite know who I was and what I REALLY wanted for a good two or three years out here in LA.
I wasn't really exposed to Hollywood for a few years, because of the first few years, and probably first five years, I just did the bartending thing. Managed a few bars and all of a sudden four or five years goes by, and I'm like “Did I move here to do this? I could have done that in Chicago and stayed with my family or near my family.”
So, taking all that seriously is just really where it began. A few years ago when I started getting into the networking with various artists, I started collaborating on projects with them, and that's when I got my first real understanding of what's going on out here and what I need to do to make an impact as an actor.
Oh, that's cool.
And so that I can stay and so, yeah, I just … You have to shed the fat, you have to trim the fat, and you have to be disciplined and committed and get rid of all the things that don't align with your dream and your passion. And I'm still doing that, and I still have a lot of work to do with that. But that journey is in full mode right now as I've committed almost all my time to the dream, as I have some projects, films, pilots, what not, in post-production and several in pre-production. But yet I still need to pay the bills, so I have to do what I have to do to do that.
What's a typical day on the set look like?
Well, I guess the first thing you do is your check-in. I like to check in and see where everybody's at. Like how's the vibe, how's the energy, how's everyone feeling, are we all in love with this project as much as I am? Or as they should be, or enough to get this film done correctly?
I like to check in like that. I generally am very concerned with the crew. I believe they are the guts to any production. Making sure the crew's happy, and reminding them that they're more important than the guy that is … He's supposed to come to set, say his lines …
I'm just saying, reiterating the importance of the crew. I think the crew must be excited and respected.
That makes sense.
Take care of them and whatnot. But once you get through hair and makeup, you have a couple of walk-throughs, a couple of conversations with the director. Then it's time to transform if you will into the guy, or girl that's going to be performing.
Is there something that you've learned from success?
The thing that surprised me is how much more in tune I am now with my art and my love to create. It exists so far I have to prove to the rest of the industry, those people in my life as well, that I feel the same way ..and can be fully trusted in that regard.
You have to convince them that this is your end-all, be-all; you believe that you exist for one reason, and that's to be an artist. That's whether it's behind the camera or in front of the camera. Once you convince people of that and let them know as you care, and you're humble, and you work hard, and you grind, and you're not too good for anything. That's when I felt I started to expand, and get a little more attention from people.
I'm not in it for the Malibu beach home and the Ferrari, and all the money. I'm here to impact and be an influencer in a positive way. So I mean that's just my two cents, and so like I said I still consider myself green, I still consider myself on the ground floor trying to work hard and absorb everything and keep my mouth shut until I'm needed until there's a question for me. It’s just promoting hard work, as I tell my friends all the time, “Stay humble, be kind, and grind.”
Do you have any advice for someone starting?
Looking back, I think there are a few things I would have done differently. I think number one, priority number one for any actor, specific actors, is know who you are. Know what your brand is, understand how you are perceived, and how you want to be recognized.
So that when you do take on a role, you're not acting so much as just saying the lines on the paper and making them organic. You don't have to pretend so much because you are these people, you are these characters that you're becoming. Instead of having to perform if that makes sense, or act your way into a role. It's a tough one to explain.
Do you ever forget your lines, do you ever get nervous?
Strangely enough, no. I thought I would, but like again, I'm saying I'm still new, so I guess I feel differently than a veteran actor does. This last production D-Railed, so many things happened when the schedule was affected by items falling through, or things having to be rescheduled where we shot a lot of things out of place.
It was my first lesson in acting out of order if you will. Making sure your wits are all there with you, so you know exactly the energy of the moment, and what's going on around you, and make sure you portray that and know that one scene flows into the next.
The minute you think about anything other than the character of the moment, the camera is like a microscope, it will expose you, and therefore you will seem unprepared and unprofessional, and I think to affect you moving forward.
My acting coach always tells me even if there's a little bit of concern about something you're doing, right or wrong. Just commit to one or the other 100%. So maybe it's wrong, but you're all in, and it's believable.
That's good advice.
So, there's no hesitation.
You mentioned networking a few different times. Are you active on social media?
I am, but I don't know, I'm not savvy as far as the algorithms and how to promote myself, and how to go from 1,500 followers to 20-30,000, it's a sad truth that is sometimes more important than being the right talent for the role. It's this guy is automatically filling seats because he's already got 50,000 people that are going to watch this.
I don't want to assume that that's why people are working, and other people aren't. I know that it impacts the business, but it's part of the business, so you either get on board, or you get out. So, I don't have self-pity. I could upset about it, but there's also something to be said about doing something about it. You have to play along if that makes sense.
Do you see social medial playing more of a role in casting?
It's huge, you'll get a lot of YouTuber's, and look at all the cross-platform people come in from whether they're a musical artist or athletes, and boom, they put them right to work because they know there are five million people that are dying to see that guy or girl in a movie.
So, there's some truth to that, and it’s a tough business decision to say, “Man I love this guy, great look, very talented, or girls whichever, but I don't know if I can risk this production or that money in this investment on an absolute no name, and hope that everyone loves them.” God forbid we dig up some horrible past, I'm not sure where all the pro's and con's between choosing the names and no names, it's like I said it's something I'm just trying to learn about, and go along.
Tell us a little bit about D-Railed. I saw some info online, and it looks fantastic.
I'm excited because I love the story, and as much as you need a name or two to get a movie off the ground.
He's in the film, so he's attached, which is incredible. I love him. I'm so excited to be in the same film as him. Suzanne DeLaurentiis had this fantastic story idea of a murder mystery on a train, and the train derails, I love it!
So, she approached Dale Fabrigar, who's the director and co-writer, and Everette Wallin who plays one of the leads in the film. They just over the years put together this crazy story about a train, it's set in the 1920s, and it's like a murder mystery, so it's appealing, so appealing and fun in that regard. And then all heck breaks loose…
Then the survivors, there's only about six or seven of us. We wake up in the wreckage, and this thing is half-submerged in the water, and we're wondering what the heck happened, what's going on, where are we? We've got people that are injured and bloody, and we don't know what to do.
As they figure things out and try to escape, and figure out where to go, something else is in the water. There's something in the water, so all of a sudden, we've got a creature involved, and so this thing is action, horror, it's a thriller, it's a murder mystery, and it's just a wild story. And I think these guys did a beautiful job in telling that story, so I'm excited about it.
It's just everyone is so beautiful in this project. We came together as a passionate family and crew and overcame all the little hiccups, I guess, so to speak in production. And everyone worked so hard, everyone behind the scenes. That's who I give most props to because those people had to deal with way more than an actor must show up on set. And I think that the film, a shot, a scene can only be as good as what the crew put together.
They make it easy for actors, in my opinion. So, I mean everybody collectively just hunkered in and just accomplished something magnificent!
Moving to Hollywood, did you meet anyone you were a big fan of?
I have one in particular that I almost met that I was just near inches from, Billy Bob Thornton. I had the chance of working on Goliath season two and the scene work that I was doing at the time where I saw him. Our trailers were next to one another at Raleigh Studios in Hollywood. Here, he was on his way out, and I was standing by waiting to go to set, and in this particular scene, I'm wearing underwear.
So, I'm in a robe and underwear, and Billy Bob is walking by, he's having a cigarette talking to a woman. I wanted so badly to run out there and talk to him, and I thought about it long and hard but I just couldn't in my underwear.
I didn't want to run out of my trailer and sitting there in a robe and underwear and, “Hey Bob. Billy Bob, it's excellent to meet you,” and this is awkward and I wish I had some more clothes on so I wouldn't have felt so weird in going out there and approaching him and talking to him and expressing admiration, respect, and whatnot.
It's just one of those moments where I only should have done it and said: “I don't care that I'm sitting here in underwear, I need to meet Billy Bob.” That was the closest I've come since I was sitting there in the trailer staring out the window. I'm like, “do I do this? Do I go up to Billy Bob?” I mean, I'm sure he's been in more exciting situations than having someone come up to him in their underwear, but that was an awkward moment, and I regret not running out. I've heard how cool of a cat he is but … maybe I will meet him again.
Was there anybody that you wanted to meet that you got an opportunity to meet?
I worked on a film called 100 Yards and the name that they hired for the film, was Sean Patrick Flannery who is in one of my most favorite movies ever, The Boondock Saints, and he was one of the MacManus brothers in that film.
So, we took some photos together, we were talking, it just happened to be during the 2016 presidential debate, so I got a chance to like just to sit and talk with him for quite a long time, and we were watching the debate on his cell phone and whatnot, and it was only one of those moments.
I had maybe met briefly a couple of actors that have done some big things, but just to sit there and chit chat with him and realize that these are just working people too and perfectly capable of great conversation and being great people, and they appreciate being treated the same way, so that was just a fun week for me.
Thank you, Daniel, for sharing your stories and telling us about your upcoming movie, D-Railed. Next time, go for the introduction, robe and all! ,
Please check out D-Railed and you can follow Danny on Twitter here.
Michael launched Your Money Geek to make personal finance fun. He has worked in personal finance for over 20 years, helping families reduce taxes, increase their income, and save for retirement. Michael is passionate about personal finance, side hustles, and all things geeky.