Although his IMDb resume is packed with impressive appearances in numerous noteworthy television series, horror fans will recognize Gregg Daniel from his role as Reverend Daniels in the HBO hit series, True Blood. More recently, Daniel has taken on the role of a sympathetic detective in Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare. PopHorror had the pleasure of speaking with this humble, kind and enthusiastic actor to discuss Shakespeare, True Blood, Truth or Dare and more of his latest work.
PopHorror: Hi, Gregg! Thank you for taking the time to speak with me.
Gregg Daniel: Thank you for the invitation to chat! I appreciate it.
PopHorror: To start, have you always known you wanted a career in the entertainment industry?
Gregg Daniel: That’s a good question. My father is originally from the West Indies and his island was a colony of the British. I say that because British homes often have at least one volume of Shakespeare. So, when I was young, I remember finding my father’s volume of Shakespeare and reading these words and I had no idea what they meant. But I really loved language. I just fell in love with the language of Shakespeare. Then I started hearing of actors doing classical Shakespearean performances. By the time I saw my first classical piece, I was hooked. They looked different, they sounded different. The clothing they wore was different. There was something about being able to play a whole different character. And when I saw my first professional stage performance, I knew that was what I wanted to do.
PopHorror: That’s great that you realized this at a young age! Are you a fan of the horror genre?
Gregg Daniel: I am very much! I have always loved horror, especially suspenseful horror. There are gore horror films, and there are suspenseful horror films. For me, the more suspense, the better. I want to be kept in the dark as to who did it, when they did it, why they did it and who’s going to get it next (laughs). So, I lean a bit more on the suspenseful side.
PopHorror: Films that have mystery while keeping you on the edge of your seat are always great! Your latest film, Truth or Dare, recently hit theaters. For those who have not had a chance to see the film, can you tell me a little bit about it, as well as the role you play?
Gregg Daniel: Sure! This film definitely falls into the suspenseful horror genre. The story centers on a number of college students that take a spring break trip to Mexico, and they get lured into these ancient, cavernous ruins where they play a game of Truth or Dare. Little do they know that the game is a demonic possession version of Truth or Dare. When they get back to their town, eerie things begin to happen to them. They start hearing voices that say, “Truth or dare,” forcing them to play the game on a supernatural level. And there’s some risk. If you don’t tell the truth or don’t carry out the dare, then you die. And you can be dispatched in some pretty horrid ways (laughs).
So, it takes these college students almost half of the film to realize that this game has taken on a life of its own, and they have to play it seriously. When this realization hits, they seek out a way to prevent the game from continuing. As I previously mentioned, once you’re asked, “Truth or dare,” you have to say one, and if you don’t carry it out, you are dispatched out of this life with some level of speed.[In Truth or Dare] I play Detective Kranis, a guy who knows that something is going on because the bodies of these college kids keep turning up. So, I try to get Lucy Hale, who plays Olivia Barron, to confide in me, to tell me, as a detective, what is going on or how can I help them. I literally am trying to save their lives. Each step along the way, I am trying to earn her trust. I like to think of myself as one of the few sympathetic adult characters. There are many adult characters, but Detective Kranis is one of the few who offers some sort of support as someone they can trust and authentically wishes to help them. I do end up inadvertently helping them in a completely innocent way. But in terms of my asking and plea, as far as what is going on and what this game of truth or dare really is, I just can’t get them to confide in me. But I come off, hopefully, as a sympathetic authority figure, someone that you, as the viewing audience, would say to the characters on screen “Yes! Tell him! He’s going to help you!”
There are some twists and turns along the way, and the Truth or Dare game does become more complicated after awhile. It doesn’t stay on the same level of simply carrying out the truth or the dare. The level of difficulty increases as this game becomes more tricky.
PopHorror: That sounds like a fun, suspenseful film! How did you become involved in this production?
Gregg Daniel: It was really my manager. My manager saw that a new Blumhouse film was being made and, of course, we have tremendous respect for Jason Blum and Blumhouse after Get Out and other terrific films they have done. So, we figured this would be a great opportunity. I met with the director, Jeff Wadlow, and I could see that he really knew what he was looking for. So I tried my best and read a couple of times. Soon after, I was cast in the film, and I was really pleased! It’s Blumhouse and, again, they do great work there. So, this was one of those auditions that came along that was very highly advised that I do. And I’m thrilled to have been given this opportunity.
PopHorror: That’s incredible! What was your favorite part in filming Truth or Dare?
Gregg Daniel: I would say that would be the late night conversations. We would sometimes shoot long hours. It was just nice to be on set supporting one another. You could tell that everybody was very pleased to be there and wanted to bring their A game. So in between takes of these one-on-one interrogations became a chance for us to chat and talk about our lives. It was great just to get to know one another so that when the camera went on, whatever trust and bond we formed made me care more! When we were shooting, I thought of Lucy Hale as a daughter. It felt like I was a father figure or uncle figure, someone who wanted to help them. Having time to speak with co-stars like Lucy in between takes really helped our relationship on screen. That was one of my favorite parts. In the midst of all the killing going on, there was just this moment to where we connected as individuals that translated onto the screen.
PopHorror: That sounds like it would help the authenticity of those character arcs, for sure. What would you say was the biggest challenge?
Gregg Daniel: Probably finding a middle ground in my character. I’m an authority figure, but I didn’t want to come off as a cop who is bullying her or barely believes what she is saying. I really wanted to come off as a cop who can also be seen as a father figure. someone who Lucy’s character and the other kids could confide in. I didn’t want to play the standard tough guy cop. I wanted to portray Detective Kranis as someone the audience would feel the character is making the right move by telling him their story, because all he wants to do is save the rest of them while they are still alive (laughs). I wanted to stay away from portraying the type of cop who brushes you off like you’re a waste of time. I wanted to portray someone who probably has some kids of his own who might also be going to college. So, to Detective Kranis, it is a real tragedy that these young people are dying.
PopHorror: It sounds like you put quite a bit of thought into your character, and that’s great! What was it like working with Blumhouse on this project?
Gregg Daniel: It was great! And it was also intense! Jeff has a lot of energy. I mean, a lot of energy. On late night shoots, Jeff would come and talk to me about the characters, and I really appreciated that… the fact that he cared about your performance and he knew exactly how he wanted to craft the story. He also gave you the space and the time to do it. He didn’t rush through take after take. It was more about the value of each scene and how to make our characters and characters’ relationships better. When you know a director will take care of your performance, you can let go. Knowing that they care makes you try to reward them from your end by giving the best performance possible. I really feel like Blumhouse created this atmosphere for us as actors on the set.
PopHorror: That sounds like a great experience! So, theoretically, if you got wrapped up into a real-life version of the supernatural game of Truth or Dare that’s depicted in the film, what would you choose? Truth or Dare?
Gregg Daniel: (pauses)…I’d probably go truth. Because I feel like I’m a wuss (laughs). It’s hard for me to be deceitful, and I’d rather be stuck into telling the truth. Because a dare is also a little more dangerous. A dare might be more interesting. But hey, I’m an actor. So when I can play it safe, I do. Because we take so many risks as it is. I would be interested and tempted to doing a dare, but I would be a coward and pick truth (laughs).
PopHorror: I won’t lie. I would likely pick the same thing if my ability to continue to breathe depended on it (laughs). What would you say some of your favorite productions are that you have been involved in?
Gregg Daniel: As far as television series go, I would probably say True Blood. I was on that show for awhile portraying Reverend Daniels. It was a very imaginative show and it was just incredible. One of my favorite experiences was when they wrote a monologue for my character in the middle of an episode. They also put a lot of trust in that I knew my character and allowed me to change a thing or two during takes. And, of course, HBO treated us very well. They really know how to encourage ideas like that show and they were very good to our production.
PopHorror: I remember True Blood pretty well, and it was a great show! Do you have any upcoming projects that you would like to talk about?
Gregg Daniel: Sure! I just shot a pilot episode in Vancouver for a series that is a cross between Mork & Mindy and Men in Black. It’s a comedy, and I think it’s very funny. We’re hoping the network will pick it up. It was a lot of fun. Terrific writers and a great cast. I also have a feature that just went to DVD called Jerico. It’s a period piece about the Jim Crow South and two friends who help each other to escape racism. But there’s also a lot of laughs along the way. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 passed and what unfolds is what happens when African Americans in a small Jim Crow town suddenly have the right to vote. And there’s humor in it. When I first got the script, I wondered how they were going to incorporate the Jim Crow South, Civil Rights and racism and make it funny. But they did it! It just released and is now available through multiple major retailers.
PopHorror: I will definitely have to check that out! Again, Gregg, thank you for taking the time to speak with me.
Gregg Daniel: Thank you for the opportunity!
Putting everything you have into a performance is what makes a great actor. Gregg is obviously one such person who truly cares about his craft, all while staying down to earth and humble. We, at PopHorror, wish Gregg the best of luck and hope to see more of his work, not only with Blumhouse, but with the horror genre in general. See Truth or Dare currently screening at a movie theater near you!