Murder in the First

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.

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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.

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