SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW WITH ACTOR, DANNY WATTERS

They say it takes a village to raise a child. We can say the same for a television show.

It’s a cold, wintery Saturday evening in early February when Danny Watters and I meet for an interview on WhatsApp.

Danny’s current work is from the binge-able Netflix series You. He plays a minor role and assists in reading Penn Badgley’s voiceover lines during production (Badgley plays the principal character and anti-hero, Joe Goldberg). Watters has had previous roles on How to Get Away With Murder, Stumptown, American Sniper, and other television projects.

Before the interview begins, materials are set in a rocket-ready place.

A cup of lemon ginger tea is sitting close by. Danny is wearing a vintage PBS T-shirt and sits on the edge of an oversized couch in his living room. Danny’s mind is open to reflective questions.

GROWING UP, PERSONALITY, LIVING IN LOS ANGELES

A California transplant, Danny Lueck Watters, was born on August 30, 1986, in Highland Village, Texas, just outside of Dallas. Watters also grew up with one older brother.

A 2010 graduate of Savannah College of Art & Design, Danny initially studied sound design. However, he had no genuine interest in pursuing Acting; then, the unexpected happened in Danny’s freshman year of college. A friend invited him to be part of her student film. “I fell in love!” Watters shares with enthusiasm.

Following Danny’s role in his friend’s student film, he took an Introduction to Acting course and changed his major a few short months later. He has been part of the Screen Actors Guild since 2011.

Then, the same year Danny graduates, he packs his bags and moves to Los Angeles. Again, he experiences the ebb and flow of being a fresh, aspiring actor in the L.A. acting scene.

“It’s the fabric of this city. It’s the entertainment capital of the world, yet there are still many scams in this town. Fortunately, I haven’t had experience with them, but actors talk. There are phony agents, managers, teachers, workshops, ‘career consultants’ who are trying to get money out of naïve aspiring actors,” he shares.

I ask, “What are five words you would use to describe yourself?” With a touch of wit, he says, “I’m not very good at math.” I laugh and ask for more details. “I’m positive, imaginative, loyal, witty, and curious.”

Inquiring minds want to know what an actor is like when they are out of character. Danny shares; he talks out loud to himself. He then chuckles, explaining, “It probably sounds like I’m having a conversation with an invisible person. I also come up with goofy lyrics and sing to myself. I would probably be good in the commercial jingle business.”

DANNY’S EXPERIENCE AND THOUGHTS ON ACTING

“There is usually an interview process or an audition. You can get stand-in jobs from past shows. It’s a small town and if you’re reliable and a hard worker, you’ll get invited to future jobs. I try to focus on what I can control, which isn’t a lot. Every audition is different, and every job is different,” he says.

A role’s capacity doesn’t always matter to him, as it thrills him to have another experience.

Acting can be competitive and tedious but beautiful and rewarding when he lands a role. Danny nods in agreement, sharing, “Managing yourself with rejection is a big part of this business. Of course, you will get turned down more than you book. But when you get the callbacks, and then you eventually land the role, it makes it that much more enjoyable.”

I then ask, “how do you differentiate yourself from the often congruent competition?”

Watters marinates on his response.

“It can be hard walking into a casting office and seeing five, sometimes ten or even 50 people who look just like me. It is easy to feel just like a number. But in reality, no one is. Each person is special in their own way. The key as an actor is finding what those qualities are. I always ask myself, ‘What can I bring to the role that no one else can?’ No one else has lived my life and has had my experiences. How I love, laugh, cry, live in this world. It’s about the specificities and being in tune with them. Then, applying them to a character and making him my own. If I look at it that way, it’s not a competition with anyone else. It’s about what I can bring to a role and how I can make it interesting in a way that only I can. It’s a constant process of self-reflection and checking into how I am changing as a person.”

Also, Danny knows what fuels his fire once on set. “The first day on the job, that’s the biggest rush for me. On a day-to-day basis? I love the collaboration. There are so many talented and creative people in every department who help put a show together. It is never one person. It takes everyone involved to make a show successful. I love being a part of that success in any way I can.”

After briefly sharing drama camp experiences from childhood, I ask Danny how Acting has helped him. Danny lets on, “Acting can help you find your voice. It did it for me. I have learned so much about myself, and by doing so, I built self-confidence. Growing up, I sought acceptance from everyone and cared more about being social all the time. Nowadays, I’m content with myself and enjoy hanging out with my wife and dog, with the occasional night out with good friends.”

Further, Danny sways his interest in dramatic character roles. Yet casting often brings Danny in to play a cop, the boyfriend, or the good guy. Finally, he drops a wide-eyed hint, “I’d enjoy playing the villain!”

Throughout Danny’s television and movie experiences, Danny has had remarkable opportunities to work with a few of Hollywood’s best in the acting community, such as Clint Eastwood in J. Edgar, American Sniper and Jersey, Tom Hanks in The Circle, Penn Badgley in You, Cobie Smulders in Stumptown, Denzel Washington, Leonardo DiCaprio, Bradley Cooper, and numerous others.

In How to Get Away With Murder with Viola Davis, Danny plays a rookie cop who steps into the middle of a crime scene and creates trouble for others.

At the moment, Danny is Jake Johnson’s stand-in for a new ABC television series, Stumptown. “I jumped onto Stumptown for the final six weeks of shooting. It’s a standard stand-in job. We’ll watch the rehearsal and mimic the actions of the actors so that the crew can properly light the scene and set up the cameras for each shot.” What Danny knows is which job he wouldn’t enjoy. “I don’t think I’d have the stomach to be a surgeon. I get queasy around the fake blood and organs on set. I would be balled up in a corner if it was real.”

PERSONAL Q&As

I ask, “How do you view mental health today? How do you handle problems that come hurdling your direction?”

He pauses, then says that “mental health is a big issue for many people. Fortunately, it’s been brought to the forefront in recent years, but there is a lot more work to be done. I think the biggest step is asking for help and commend anyone who does. It could be easy to let that negatively overtake you, especially in my career, where there can be constant rejection. I feel fortunate that I have the personality to separate those instances from the bigger picture and stay positive. Then, I move onto the next opportunity. A mentor taught me that if you carry that baggage with you to your next audition, it will show through, so I try to avoid that self-sabotage.”

I share a Heath Ledger quote with him. “Everyone you meet always asks if you have a career, are married, or own a house as if life is some sort of grocery list. But no one ever asks you if you are happy.”

I ask Danny if he is genuinely happy or if he feels he is continually chasing happiness.

Danny shares, “I fluctuate with how my gigs are going. I am very matter of fact. If I’m busy career-wise, I am happier. As I have spent more years in the business, I’ve gotten more comfortable with the unknown after a job ends. However, I can improve it, not affecting other aspects of my life.” It will probably not surprise locals to hear that his favorite place for quiet time and reflection is in his car. “That’s the only positive thing about traffic in Los Angeles. It allows me to gather my thoughts and have a moment to myself. I can always count on traffic to allow me that space.”

Danny divulges, “I support the #MeToo movement. It’s repulsive that a man in a power position would use it to manipulate women who might just be trying to get a role or do their job on set. That’s flat wrong and immoral. That it has been happening under the radar for so long is devastating. It makes me sick to my stomach. I hope we can find solidarity and flush out more of these men hiding behind positions of power who have used it to manipulate or hurt women.”

MOST RECENT TELEVISION PROJECTS

As noted above, Danny’s current work is from Netflix’s You. The producers accomplish an infinite number of scenes in You season 2 without script lines heard. When this occurred during the filming and production, Danny fills in the awkward gaps to reveal the lead character Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley). Additionally, Danny’s stand-in voiceover work occurred when the physical actions were also taking place.

Stand-in voiceovers appear few yet play a necessary part of this series. “There wasn’t much downtime for me. If I wasn’t rehearsing the scene with the actors and director, I set up the shots with the crew as a typical stand-in. Then I had to read the thoughts aloud for the actual performance right after. It was a lot of work, but it was rewarding for me. Your season 2 was an experience I’ll never forget.”

Interestingly enough, Watters also photo-doubled for Penn Badgley during season 2 more than a handful of times. Danny shares, “Most of the shots that show Penn’s hands are actually mine. An amazing shot is when Joe’s hands are covered in blood while tripping in episode 8. Penn texted me when the season 2 trailer dropped and said my hands were all over the internet.” Laughter ensues.

Although Danny’s “groom” shows up only once in season two, his experience with the series has the potential to catapult him to more prominent roles. Playing the groom was undoubtedly his favorite memory from this season. “It was so great to have a role on the show. The cast and crew were all happy for me,” Watters proudly says. Danny’s time working on the You series was a motivating and refreshing experience for him.

Danny mentions how “Penn steered the ship” during the production of Season 2. Also, Danny felt he was in good hands with the cast and crew.

Later, I ask Danny about the real-life takeaways from You. “In an ever-changing world, what do you feel are the key ingredients to an authentic relationship?”

He shares, “I’ve been with my wife for almost eight years now. I didn’t have to deal with Tinder and Bumble. I would be terrible at dating nowadays. The best part of a relationship is helping build another person up to the best they can be. That’s when you know you’ve found someone. The person I was when I first met Kate is half the man I am now. Kate has helped me grow. I know I always have someone in my corner, wanting the best for me. That’s the best part of an authentic relationship.”

INSPIRATION & GRATITUDE

Motivation is magnificent and plays an integral part in our lives; the human condition continuously inspires Danny. “So many stories still need to be told, voices which need to be heard, and a myriad of faces need to be seen and acknowledged. I am inspired by masters in something and have a genuine passion for whatever they do. I love seeing the focus, intensity, and attention to detail.”

Danny doesn’t have one specific actor who motivates him. However, his inspiration stems from a combination of subtleties from other actors. Watters says, “I get inspired by the nuances and what makes each actor unique. I try to learn from everything I see, whether praised as good, bad, or indifferent. I try to dig deeper and question, Why? What choices did they make? What worked? What didn’t?”

Also, gratitude is essential to Danny’s core, having had more than just one person to be grateful for. Danny replies, “I have to thank my parents for always having their support growing up. They never steered me away from going after my dreams, whether it was music or later acting. My mother is my biggest inspiration. She takes life head-on, and she is strong and fearless. Also, my father taught me a work ethic. I was an athlete growing up, and my dad would take me to practices both before and after school, often four to five days a week.”

CLOSING THOUGHTS & DANNY’S FUTURE WORK

I wonder, at last, is acting worth it? Danny shows transparency in his response: “I will not pretend to be an actor is an almighty career. There are a million more jobs that are way more important than what I’ve decided to do with my life. It’s silly.” Danny pauses, then proceeds. “But I believe I found my calling, and this is what I am meant to do. I’ve sacrificed for it, but it is worth the trials and tribulations. The feeling I get when I am on a film set, Acting, telling a story, is unmatched.”

On a top note, Danny received a call a month ago to return for You season 3.

Danny continues to make strides to where he would like to be on his career path. Briefly touching on the subject of fame, he says, “I am not at the point where strangers recognize me, but that’s okay; I don’t care about that. What brings me joy is when friends from childhood or college reach out and say they saw me in such-and-such a show. It gives us a chance to reconnect. I’ve had smaller roles, which I am very thankful for, but I think everyone wants to move up in their field of work. I’m ready to take on that responsibility.”

When sandwiched between the competitive entertainment industry and his persistence, Danny finds moments in his life to experience pure joy. “Pure joy is living the life I want, meaning going after my passion and not having to conform to an unwanted career path or a 9–5, I hate. I’m fortunate for that. I love to spend time with my wife, Kate. I enjoy making her laugh. I don’t know where I’d be without her. She has turned me into the person I am today, and I am so grateful to have her in my life.”

Further, he energetically shares, “I’m big on physical exertion. I become restless if I’m not active. I also travel when I can. We went to Africa for our honeymoon, and it was life-changing. We’re going to Greece this summer and Italy the following year.”

It takes a beautiful and diverse village to create a riveting television series like You. Danny reminds all of us of this and insists, as a parting gift, “Keep pressing on.”

Writer, Inspirer, and Dreamer