About Daniel R. Hill
Kentucky native Daniel R. Hill is a classically trained actor living in Los Angeles. In addition to portraying Buck Pritchert in Lunacy Productions’ 2019 release, Rust Creek, Daniel plays Chad Anderson in the FOX medical drama The Resident and also has several features in various stages of production.
Lunacy Productions: Let’s talk about what brought you into the profession of acting.
Daniel R. Hill: I was a jock my whole life growing up in Louisville, Kentucky and really didn’t know what I was going to do with my life. The only two things that I had any interest in were football and professional wrestling. As a college freshman I played Division-II football at a school that I just really wasn’t that fond of.
I transferred to another school over the summer which meant, of course, I had missed summer training for football. What I had to do was spend the first semester getting acclimated, then I could join the team in the spring. I go to my advisor a couple weeks before school starts, and he’s like, “What are you interested in other than football?” Since I got out of high school I had been trying to be a writer for professional wrestling. For those of you who don’t know, spoiler alert: it’s staged.
DH: Yes! At the time, Vincent Mann and the WWE’s minor leagues were in Louisville; it was called OVW (Ohio Valley Wrestling). Even when I was in college, three hours away, I would drive in to Louisville after football practice one night a week and hand in these scripts that I wrote to try to work my way into the business.
I told my advisor, “Well, I’m probably going to go into professional wrestling.” He did the best thing that anybody ever could have done for me at that point in my life. He didn’t laugh at me. He just looked at me and said, “Oh, well, you need to take an acting class.” I sat there and I said, “Hell yeah I do!” So that’s how it started. It just seems natural to me.
After graduation, I spent three years auditioning for grad schools. I had some really good older actors who went to grad school, constantly telling me, “Don’t just go to any place because you want to go to grad school, make sure it’s the right place or else you’re going to get there and you’re going to hate it. You’re going to resent it, and then it’s counterproductive.”
Finally, I settled on going to the Professional Actor Training Program at the University of South Carolina. I liked that in those three years I would get intensive training in things like Shakespeare and Chekhov, as well as a full year of film training.
After grad school I spent two years at a Tony Award-winning theater called the Utah Shakespeare Festival, and had a blast. Eventually I worked my way back to the east coast, and then people started hiring me nonstop to direct shows. I got to direct Hamlet, I got to direct Othello, I’m performing Shakespeare, I’m starting to get auditions for TV and film, and people are hiring me to teach classes. So I was teaching grad school at a university, and preparing students to be professional actors while also having my own career.
After about three years of that, I decided that the teaching and directing stuff—although it was great, and it was work—overall, I didn’t feel like I was spending enough time on me and on my career. So, in the summer of 2015, I pushed all my chips in the middle again, like I did when I got out of grad school, and said, “You know what, I’m just going to go back in acting full-time.
Daniel R. Hill in costume as his Rust Creek character Buck Pritchert.
LP: Where were you living at that point?
DH: Louisville. I had an apartment in Chicago, and depending on where my auditions were for the week, or where I was needed, I was just bouncing back up and down I-65 between Chicago and Louisville. My directing and teaching responsibilities had been getting in the way of me being able to actually accept work, so I went to my agents, looked them right in the eye, and I said, “I know that I have been difficult to work with because of time constraints, not because of my talent or my professionalism. I know that I haven’t been available as much as I should be, but I just quit yesterday, and I will be there for every single audition you get me—off-book, ready to go. If you get me auditions, I will book work.”
Two months after I made that bet on myself, I get my first role in a film, and it’s a lead role.
I’ve been acting for 18 years now—it’s my only job—so I’m living proof that you don’t have to be one of those people that started when you were seven years old, or that you went to YPAS or something like that. There’s nothing wrong with that route either, but you can also do it this way.
LP: So when did you make the leap from that smaller market to Los Angeles?
DH: I did a movie with Jon Voight and James Caan, a Hallmark movie of the week of all things, and Jon took a liking to me. He knew that I was trained and we talked a bit. This is February of 2016. And he goes, “When are you moving to LA?”
I said, “It’s in the works.”
And he says to me, “Daniel, people that are six foot two, 300 pounds, that played college football, that have a big beard and look like you, don’t have seven years’ training and a Master’s Degree in acting. You’re gonna go into rooms and they’re gonna think, ‘Here’s another bouncer that thinks he can act,’ and then they’re gonna look at your resume and be like, ‘Holy shit, who is this guy?’ And then you’re gonna act, and then they’re gonna be like, ‘Oh, and he’s good!? Where have you been?’”
And to hear one of my favorite actors and an Oscar winner say that to me, I think that gave me the nudge over the edge that I needed.
Daniel chats with crew members during some down time on set.
LP: And then you move to LA and immediately get offered a role in Kentucky.
DH: Well the funny thing is, two weeks before I move to LA I get a call at random. The famous director, Phillip Noyce, was shooting a movie in eastern Kentucky, starring Emilia Clarke of Game of Thrones. I had been asked to audition for three different roles, and I got a callback for two roles. And then I got cast in a fourth role that I didn’t even audition for!
I got a call one day from Devin Bundrent at Heyman (one of my agents) who says, “When are you leaving for LA?” I said, “About two weeks.” And he goes, “Well, how would you like to have sex with a Khaleesi this week?” And I’m like, “Whaddaya mean?” He tells me, “There’s a role in the film where Emilia’s character meets a big, burly guy in a bar, and there’s a sex scene, and they want you to do it.”
Now, doing nudity and doing a sex scene in front of a live audience in theater, or on camera on a set, it’s not fun or comfortable. My friends are all jealous and I’m like, “Yeah, I’m butt naked in nothing but a cock sock, and 80 people are standing around watching me.” It’s not what people think it is, you know?
At that point I’d done enough and been trained enough to know that you don’t walk up to someone who’s well-known and bug them. But Emilia Clarke came up to me in the trailer, and she said, “You must be Daniel. I really loved your audition.” And I was like, “You saw my audition?” She said, “Yeah, I wanted a real actor to do this scene with me. I know it’s not any of the roles that you wanted, and it’s not as much time in the script and everything, but I feel like we made a choice that makes me comfortable.” And I told her, “If you’re uncomfortable, I’m gonna be uncomfortable, and the audience is gonna be uncomfortable. So the most important thing to me is that you are comfortable.”
So, yeah, she was great. We’d be in between takes, and she would ask me, “So, what’s your favorite Shakespeare play?” I could tell she appreciated that I was a guy there to work, and I wasn’t asking her, “So, what’s gonna happen on Game of Thrones?”