Dan Gordon is an actor both on-screen and in the sound booth. He attended Emerson College where he studied acting and theater education. He is best known for starring in, “The Olivia Experiment” an indie rom-com and an official selection of the Los Angeles Dancing with Films Festival. Dan’s additional film and video credits include roles in “Predator Island”, “The Way of Walking Alone”, “Chronic”, and “Cesar Chavez”.
Dan’s TV credits read like a who’s who of great television and even if you don’t recognize his name the chances that you’ve seen him on one of your favorite shows are really pretty high. He has guest starred on “Grey’s Anatomy”, “Scandal” and “Two and a Half Men” among others.
Norm of the North, Dan’s latest project, is an animated adventure starring the talents of Rob Schneider, Heather Graham and Ken Jeong. Norm of the North is the story of a displaced polar bear and his three lemming friends who wind up in New York while trying to save their arctic habitat. Dan plays the role of Nigel.
We talked a bit about the snow that was falling here in Chicago and Dan mentioned that he was in Chicago recently studying acting at Black Box Acting.
You decided to pursue a career in entertainment kind of early in your life. Will you tell me a little about that?
When I was a kid I had a huge list, because I love lists, I had a big list of all these different things I wanted to do as an adult for work. The list included things like professional baseball player. My grandfather brought up a good point when he asked me what I was going to do in the off-season because it’s not a year round job. I decided that I could be a snow plow driver, it was a very realistic list, and over time things like baseball player fell away because when I switched from tee ball to baseball I struck out every time and I was also kinda afraid of the ball, so that didn’t work out. As the list dwindled down, acting was one of the few things that I originally had on there that I was still doing and still really enjoyed.
Was there one event or person who seemed to ‘tip the balance’ for you?
Yeah, pretty much everyone in my family in their own way conspired to support me in my pursuit (of acting). My mom pointed out to me, when I was doing my umpteenth impression of the genie from Aladdin, she would say “you know Danny”, everyone in my family calls me Danny. “You know Danny, you could do voices like that” and this light bulb went off as I realized that all these cartoons I watched as a kid were really voice actors.
I didn’t know their names at the time, but there were some voices that I’d hear in all these different shows and it all of a sudden it kind of lit up for me that that was actually a job, being the voice of cartoon characters! My dad along with my mom would always come to my performances, my school plays and I think, my dad’s a physician, and he grew up in a time when…. he was the son of small business owners. My grandparents owned a glass shop in north-east Philly and so you know, he came from a generation where his parents were blue-collar workers who worked really hard and so it was his job to be his own boss and get a nicer job. I think what he wanted for his kids that he didn’t have was the freedom of choice in your career.
It is so nice, so very cool to hear how supportive your whole family was of you.
It’s really incredible and I would not be here without them. I could never imagine, I mean, you know, being an actor is challenging all by itself. To add to that the weight of a family that doesn’t have your back… I can’t imagine the trials that someone who is in that situation has to deal with, I got so lucky. I am so blessed.
So let’s say acting didn’t really work out for you, is there anything else you can see yourself doing? We know it’s not professional baseball…. (laughs)
Maybe if I tried a little harder! (laughs) Or maybe, if there was professional tee ball playing. Hmm, if I wasn’t an actor… you know, I love teaching. I went to Emerson College where I majored in acting and theater education and I, yeah, I’d be a teacher. I’d be a history teacher because I love history, I love the stories, I love that everything just adds to my understanding of our world and how I am here and why everything is the way that it is. Yeah, probably a history teacher.
You’ve worked in front of the camera as well as in the voice over booth, do you have a favorite between the two?
Mondays and Wednesdays I prefer voiceover and Thursdays and Fridays on camera. (laughs) It really kind of depends, each one offers me the ability to do something that is specific to that medium. I love voiceover because it gives me such freedom to play and kind of throw the third eye that I always keep on myself when I’m doing on camera work out the window. It’s a little more like… voiceover now reminds me of doing theater when I was a kid. So it’s very playful and no one really cares physically what you’re doing as long as you sound the way you’re supposed to sound.
But then I also love (being) on camera because I love being part of telling a story and using my full body to do it, so yeah, I love them both.
In Norm of the North you play the role of Nigel who is listed in the credits as a henchman. Are you allowed to give us a little background on Nigel?
Nigel is not a henchman, he’s a director. He’s hired by the evil Mr. Green (Kim Jeong) and Nigel, a British director whose ego is far larger than his resume, is hired to produce a commercial advertising these luxury condos that Mr. Green wants to sell in the arctic and they are shooting on location.
What kind of interaction does Nigel have with Norm?
He does, it happens later in the movie, but I can’t give it away.
Will you do your Nigel voice for me?
(laughs) Sure. So Nigel is unapologetically narcissistic so there’s a lot of screaming – I don’t want to blow out your ear. When he’s on set he’d say, “Who said action? I didn’t say action! Only I can say action! I’m the director!”
(You are going to have to see the film to hear the voice…. sorry, not sorry.)
Just reading the synopsis and looking at the trailer, I get the feeling that this movie just might possibly have a message for us about invading pristine wilderness areas that should stay the way that they are.
Oooh, I like that! I think there is certainly a message there about protecting our wilderness and appreciating it for what it is. You can get as deep into it as you want because there’s eco-tourism and just by visiting it you may be changing it. I don’t have a whole lot of experience on that so don’t know much about it.
I also see the story as being about the characters. There’s this idea of Norm being a David and Goliath story where someone is trying to… that sees a wrong in the world and I think feels powerless to make any change or to make a difference. So Norm’s journey is finding his voice, finding a way that he can make a difference and there’s also the lesson that he doesn’t have to do this by himself. That he has friends, he has support. We don’t have to fight all of our battles alone.
Going back to your family supporting you in your career choice, isn’t that really what life is? That if we remember that we don’t have to struggle alone every day thing then become easier and better?
(laughs) My therapist likes to remind of that all the time. That is well said. I think that there’s a quote that I’m not going to remember verbatim, but somebody said something to the effect of “be kind to strangers; everyone’s fighting their own battle”.
It’s something that I know I struggle with, just the ongoing dialog in my mind and the ongoing struggle that I create for myself. I find that in conversations with friends and people I meet, that we’re all kind of dealing with this. It’s so nice when we can just kind of – in a hippy dippy way – but just of be like a little more courteous, more helpful, you know, make those little kind gestures that can help someone out. It’s those little kind gestures that can really make someone’s day.
I think things like that can actually make someone’s day. I know I can be my own worst critic.
I think a lot of us are. I think there’s that sense of community that quiets down that battle we have with ourselves. When you’re reminded… when I’m reminded that I am something greater than just whatever’s going on in my head it really does reduce that anxiety and I enjoy myself more. I think that this is something that people can get out of going to yoga class or for people who are religious…. just having any community where you can feel like you’re something larger than yourself is so important.
I loved Norm. The cartoon bear is drawn really well and is very cute. Do you think that this could catch on like the Ice Age franchise did?
I think it definitely has that possibility. Norm’s a funny, relatable, loveable guy and of course the lemmings are really funny.
I think that the story will appeal to a broad range of ages. There are layers of the story here, like Ice Age, that will get picked up by the adults while the kids are just laughing at the animals.
Absolutely! I think Norm of the North has a lot of family appeal. I think that any time you have loveable characters that are going through real and relatable struggles you have ingredients for a fun story that people are going to keep coming back to in order to follow the characters on their next journey
What would you like to say to people who are on the fence about whether or not to take their children to see this film?
I would say, go see Norm of the North for a fun and funny escape where you can sit back and laugh and enjoy Norm’s wild ride from the arctic to New York City and back… question mark?
We call ourselves Talk Nerdy With Us and we all fly our Nerd flags high! Can you share with us something that you have done or still do that might be considered kind of nerdy?
I recently re-entered the video game world. I got a Playstation 4 and my game of choice is Star Wars Battle Front. Oh my gosh, I can’t get enough of Star Wars Battle Front. My biggest accomplishment, there’s like 40 people who play in a match, in one match – of the hundreds that I’ve played – in one match I made it to one of the top three slots at the end. Where you get like the most kills or most points defended or highest objective score, and I made it into one of those slots which meant that 39 people saw my name on their screen!
Those players are really good. I’m not nearly as good as some of them. However, I challenge anyone with a Super Nintendo to a game of Super Mario Cart! None of that Nintendo 64 crap, I’m talking original Super Mario Cart.
Norm of the North is a Lionsgate film and opens on Friday, January 15.
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