Before the Scene with Ian Anthony Dale

by AJ Buckley on May 14, 2015

IAD-web

Ian Anthony Dale is a veteran actor from St. Paul, Minnesota. His recent work includes Hawaii Five-0, The Event, Tekken and Mortal Kombat: Rebirth. His next project is the Steven Bochco drama Murder in the First, where he’ll star as Jim Koto.

What made you want to become an actor?

I think in a way I’ve always been an actor and can remember as far back as high school playing the part of this quite confident guy when in fact I was actually just a painfully shy chubby kid. I guess you could say that long before I ever discovered acting, I was already trying to outwardly convey something very different from what was happening on the inside. I would always look enviously upon my friends, who were the most gregarious, wanting desperately to know what it felt like to be that free and uninhibited. It was right around that time that I discovered the theater. Here was this place where I could be whoever I wanted to be and no one would judge me. A place where I could confront my fears and start to define who I was and what turned me on. The theater provided a safe environment for me to ultimately discover the person I wanted to be both inside and out. I’m not sure what the hell I would be doing today had I not wandered into the theater all those years ago. Might just be the best dumb luck that’s ever happened to me.

What was your biggest fear?

When I first started working consistently, even though I was training and learning as much as I could at the time, I still felt like I was doing a considerable amount of “faking it” and feared that at any moment, I would be labeled as a talentless hack and become unhireable. I think that fear, and never wanting to disappoint those who believe in me, has motivated me to work harder and place an emphasis on always trying to get better. Some people are just born with a God-given talent, while others have to work really hard at it. I’ve had to work really hard at it, but I believe that through hard work, anything is possible.

What was your lowest point?

I spent my first two years in LA working as a set builder. After saving a little bit of money, I hung up my tool belt and rededicated all my time to my acting pursuits. After booking a couple guest stars and a pilot, I was finally making just enough to live exclusively off of the money generated from acting. But before I knew it, that money had run dry and I was one charge away from being maxed out on all three of my credit cards. I needed a job, badly. And there was little room left in the world of construction for an actor/carpenter who hadn’t paid his union dues in over a year. I was desperate. A friend of mine told me of a new restaurant in Los Feliz called The Vermont that was hiring, so I swallowed my pride and went in for an interview. They were kind enough to offer me a job and my first shift was scheduled for a couple days later.

It made me remember my days as a waiter the summer before my senior year of college, working at two restaurants in Madison, Wisconsin. The first was at a mom and pop Italian restaurant called Portabella. The second was at the local Red Lobster. Yup, that’s right. I wore those short-sleeved button downs emblazoned with little colorful fish, and served cheddar bay biscuits and all-you-can-eat crab legs to eager bib-wearing patrons. I would always be the one waiter who conveniently disappeared whenever it was time for us to embarrass one of our customers (and ourselves) with a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday.” Needless to say, it wasn’t my favorite job, and at the end of that summer, I vowed never to work as a waiter ever again.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got a tremendous amount of respect for people in the food and beverage service industry, I just didn’t love it myself. I remember feeling so defeated as I prepared to don an apron once again. Then the most amazing thing happened. Literally four hours before my shift was scheduled to begin, I get a call from my agent telling me that I booked a Disney film and would be on a plane to New Orleans in twenty-four hours. Amazing how quickly your luck can change in this business.

Ian-Anthony-Dale-in-Car-web

What kept you from walking away?

Before I left home and headed to LA in 2000 to pursue acting, my father told me, “Son, give it ten years.”  He somehow understood just how challenging it could be and knew how long it might take. He wanted me to be able to really give it my very best effort. It was some of the greatest advice he could’ve given me.  This helped me to learn patience, always take the time to prepare, never get ahead of myself, and develop a thick skin and become resilient. Too many people make the mistake of coming to town overly confident and end up dejected and discouraged when things don’t happen for them right away. With time on my side, I was able to take every small victory and trust that I was moving in the right direction. That ten-year benchmark came in 2010 while I was filming The Event for NBC. It’s now 2015 and I’m still here, still feeling extremely lucky to be part of this business and still loving what I do.

What did you walk away from?

I once walked away from an opportunity to work with JJ Abrams. It’s one of a few regrets I’ve had in my career. Back in 2004, I had the good fortune to get to choose between a pair of offers. One was for a guest star on Alias playing the bad guy of the week, and the other was for a potential recur on a short-lived UPM sitcom called Second Time Around playing a young father. I had just come off of playing a couple bad guys in a row and wanted to switch things up so I chose Second Time Around.  Well, Second Time Around got canned after one season and we all know what amazing success JJ has gone on to have in his career. Hey, you win some, you lose some. I’m hopeful I’ll get another opportunity to work with JJ someday.

Who was your closest ally?

When it comes to the business, my closest ally has been my manager Charlton Blackburne. This is a tough, tough business, and it’s ever so difficult to find people you can trust. Charlton is one of those rare gems. He’s intelligent, savvy, genuine, honest, generous and he’ll stop at nothing to see me reach my full potential. We’ve worked together for almost eight years now. He’s my closest confidant and friend. My only complaint is that I didn’t meet him earlier in my career. There have been a number of other people who have contributed greatly to my success that I would be remiss if I didn’t mention including friends and collaborators Jeffery Reiner, Steven Bochco, Peter Lenkov, Brian Spicer and Kyle Harimoto. These guys are all studs and I owe them all a big thank you.

What were you doing the morning before the audition that changed your life?

I don’t recall what I did on the morning before my first big network pilot test but I definitely remember what happened afterwards. I had just finished with the test and hadn’t eaten in several hours, so I stopped at a café to grab a bite. There I am, sitting on the patio of this café eating my sandwich when all the sudden a bird decides to take a giant s*** all over me. I’m talking on my head, on my shoulders, even on my sandwich! I mean, I’m just covered! So as I’m cleaning myself up, I call my buddy and I’m like, “I’m definitely not getting this pilot.” He asks, “Why not?” I say, “Because a bird just s*** on my head, clearly it’s a bad omen!” After having a good laugh at my expense, he says to me, “Didn’t you know that when a bird s***s on you it’s good luck?” Before I even have a chance to respond, my agent rings in and tells me I got the job. Unbelievable! Who knew getting s*** on could feel so good.

What were the words that kept you going?

There have been so many moments throughout my life when someone I’ve looked up to shared a kind word of encouragement with me. I remember one time I was working opposite Anthony LaPaglia on Without A Trace and after the scene, as we’re sharing a smoke, he says to me, “Ian, you should be working every day.” That was the nicest complement he could’ve given me, and it definitely left an impression. It is amazing how powerful simple words of encouragement can be. They motivate you to believe in yourself and believe in the journey you are on. I try to pay it forward as much as I can, because I know what a positive impact it can have. In this business, you need as much of that as you can get.

How have you changed?

I’ve grown up. I’ve become less selfish, more responsible. I’ve learned that it’s not enough just to chase after self-satisfying endeavors. The richest sense of satisfaction comes from helping others. I realize now that there is a bigger picture for me to focus on, and I look forward to dedicating the next chapter of my life and career to being of service to those who are desperate to have a voice of their own.

What words do you have to inspire others?

Far too often in this business, we see people being rewarded for bad behavior. Don’t let that influence you.  The path to success can be a lonely one if you step on everyone else along the way. Be a good person, work hard, be patient, be honest, be genuine and treat others with kindness and respect. Make the most of the opportunities you are given and don’t take anything for granted.

  • Amy Denton

    What a nice, pleasant gentleman. I’ve loved watching him in Hawaii 5-0 and Murder in the First.

  • awatiti

    Ravaler sa fierté
    Pour une vie à gagner
    En toute honnêteté
    C’est de toute Beauté.
    Porterez-vous la ceinture de chasteté
    Pour, qu’aux autres, vous vous consacrerez ?
    Simplement merveilleux ! J’ai apprécié la franchise et l’humilité 🙂 (y)

  • awatiti

    Ravaler sa fierté
    Pour une vie à gagner
    En toute honnêteté
    C’est de toute Beauté.
    Porterez-vous la ceinture de chasteté
    Pour, qu’aux autres, vous vous consacrerez ?
    Simplement merveilleux ! J’ai apprécié la franchise et l’humilité 🙂 (y)

  • awatiti

    Ravaler sa fierté
    Pour une vie à gagner
    En toute honnêteté
    C’est de toute Beauté.
    Porterez-vous la ceinture de chasteté
    Pour, qu’aux autres, vous vous consacrerez ?
    Simplement merveilleux ! J’ai apprécié la franchise et l’humilité 🙂 (y)