“In the Moment” Interview with Teen Actor Spencer Daniels
With the pending release of his Co star role in the Warner Brothers Blockbuster “THUNDERSTRUCK” as well as his role in Judd Apatow’s promising hit “THIS IS FORTY”, Spencer Daniels’ star is certainly on the rise. It is a miracle that this young actor had the time for my “In The Moment” interview, yet here he is, and this interview is his first, of many to come. I am so thrilled. His story is inspiring and you heard it here first.
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to live the Life of a Child Actor under the best of circumstances in Hollywood? So often, we immerse ourselves in Media stories of “Young talent gone wrong”, and there are plenty of horror stories spewing from every Media outlet imaginable. Yet, there are many untold “healthy” young actor stories filled with integrity, loyalty, perseverance and success. Spencer’s story is one of them. Diane Christiansen’s exclusive interview with him is here.
DIANE: When did you know that you wanted to be an Actor?
SPENCER: I knew that I wanted to be an Actor when I saw the movie “Jingle All the Way.” Arnold Schwarzenegger was in it, Sinbad was in it, and Phil Hartman was in it. I was a Christmas Movie. I remember that I used to watch it all of the time at one of my Grandparent’s house. I remember thinking specifically that, it wasn’t a great movie, but being a kid a feeling like “Oh my God! This new world!” I remember Sinbad was this bad protagonist that really got in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s way and to me it was like, “Oh my God, they’re super heroes. They’re in this different world.” And I really wanted to be a part of this world. That was the first time I thought, “I think I could do that. I think I could kind of pretend to be in a different world.” I don’t know what that says about me at the time, but I definitely was sparked by something at that time.
DIANE: When and how did you begin to pursue your career as an Actor?
SPENCER: I went to my first camp and I think it was with some guy named Jonathan? He directed the first camp. The next time you directed me, you said to my Mom, “You should go do extra work and see if he really likes film and television work” And I did really like it apparently. I remember specifically doing ‘Judging Amy’ and I was there from like 6 in the morning till like 9:30 at night, whatever the rules are for children. It was a long day and I remember just loving it!
DIANE: What would you say has been your greatest challenge?
SPENCER: What I learned when I used to go to auditions is that because I come from a very athletic background, specifically playing baseball growing up, when you hit a ball in Baseball you know if you’re going to get a single. You know that you hit it, you got a double. You’re there, you succeeded. In Acting, you do something good or at least you think it’s good and you don’t know. It’s so much of a guessing game. It’s so much luck. My biggest achievement was knowing that I could just let it go. At some point you just gotta do it and let it go because for so long I would audition and be worried, “Did they think I was good? Because I thought I was good.” That messed me up for other things. It’s all a real head game. It helped when I was finally able to feel like, ‘I did it. It’s fine. It’s over.’ Kind of move on. That was the biggest thing.
DIANE: You moved on pretty quickly because shortly after that I think you booked your first guest star? On “Cold Case”?
SPENCER: Yeah, on “Cold Case.” I played a military cadet and they had to shave my hair. That was the first real ‘Oh my gosh!’ huge production and trailers. I didn’t even know what a trailer was. I remember either my Dad or my Mom were on set and they were like, ‘You got a trailer!’ and I remember being like, ‘a trailer for me? Just for me?’ I remember going in there and just being wide-eyed. It was a little Honey Wagon. It was literally a little slice of nothing, but I remember walking in and thinking ‘Oh my God it says my name on there!’ It didn’t even say my name, it said my character’s name, but I was in awe of everything. It was an amazing experience.
DIANE: Then your next role was on “The Office”?
SPENCER: That was another amazing thing! I was ten at the time and I remember going in there and reading the script and thinking, ‘is this a comedy?’ Because on the page it’s very direct and flat and I read it kind of like a drama and they ended up really liking it. It was an amazing experience. To be able to work with anyone that amazing at comedy and Improv; it was like going to school every day in comedy. It was amazing.
DIANE: Shortly after that you booked your first major Feature Film.
SPENCER: Shortly after that I booked “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” That was an interesting way that came about. I read for it on a Friday and the next day I had baseball practice. I went to practice and I was very in ‘game mode’; I’m practicing with my friends and I see my Mom park her car about 100 yards away from the field, you can see the whole thing because it’s all chain link. I thought ‘It’s only been a half hour, there’s no way practice is over.’ She was coming towards the field at a steady pace and I thought ‘this isn’t good.’ She yells at me ‘Spencer! We need to go!’ I am 150% mortified that my mom is pulling me off the baseball field and my mom said, ’Deborah said you booked this thing, and we have to go to New Orleans and I think you’re playing a young Brad Pitt, but I don’t know. We have to go now.’ And long story short I was on plane that night to New Orleans.
I’m glad I was so young because it was such a huge, massive undertaking; Everything was so big, there was just so much of it. When I got there it was like, ‘This is David Fincher.’ I didn’t know who that was at the time and I’m glad I didn’t because I probably would have frozen up or something. It was an amazing time and I am so happy to have been a part of it.
DIANE: How was it working with David Fincher?
SPENCER: We did about one hundred and fifty million takes. I don’t know that exact number, but there were so many takes. It was very taxing, but it was amazing! He would do this thing where he would come over, think about it, and then say ‘say this differently’ or ‘here’s a different line.’ He was very collaborative. He was working on this huge movie with these huge Actors and here he was taking the time to work with this little kid to get everything right. It was awesome as a young performer to have someone that was very supportive. He was an absolute joy to work with.
DIANE: Right after that you booked “Star Trek”.
SPENCER: It was pretty quick. I went in to read for April Webster. It was super secret. I would normally have sides really early, but my Agent or Manager said ‘there are no sides, you have to just go in.’ I was freaking out! I thought, ‘There are no sides? Why’s that? What’s going on here?’ We went to the audition and we had some random scene that we had to read. We couldn’t leave the room and we had to give the sides back right when we left the audition room. I don’t know if you know this but originally I was cast as Kirk’s brother. There were a bunch of scenes with me and Kirk as a young kid with the Uncle, arguing. We filmed a bunch of stuff with me as Kirk’s brother. There was this whole side conflict between the Brother and the Uncle, which forces the brother to leave which kind of shapes Kirk as a young kid. Then my Mom saw the movie and I have like 3 frames in it. They cut all of that stuff out and renamed my character Johnny.
That was another project that was so massive and I really didn’t get a grasp on how massive until after, which I’m thankful for. When you know that something is so huge in the moment, you can’t help but be a little bit flustered. I’m glad I didn’t have that feeling.
DIANE: Who’s been the most help to you and why?
SPENCER: My folks. When I started I was 8 or 9 and it was all them getting me everywhere. All of the Acting stuff was me because I wanted to do it, but I didn’t have them to get me to my auditions, or your house to coach, or here or there, nothing would have happened. I wouldn’t have done anything. Both of them work full time so they really put their necks out there for me. I can’t appreciate it enough.
My manager Deborah, she’s done so much for me. You! I mean, it all started with you!
I really haven’t come in to contact with anyone that hasn’t been helpful. I’ve had an amazing time. It’s like a dream job, it really is.
DIANE: What advice would you give to young Actors just starting out?
SPENCER: I would say try everything. A lot of times I will run into Actors who say ‘I got this audition, but I don’t really like it. I don’t know.’ It seems so beside the point to me because I will literally go and audition for anything! I just want to work. You have to audition and do as much as you can because that’s how you learn what you can do, what you can’t do, what you like. It hones your skills. You can’t become a good Actor by reading sides into the mirror. It’s also hard to become a good Actor just from auditioning. You have to get jobs and be on sets to really know what you’re doing. So I would say: try everything, go on every audition. Just do everything. You really have to treat it as much as you can like a job. If you go in cavalier about things, people can see that. If you go in and you know things, you know your sides, you have ideas, it’s a little extra that people can see and think ‘they at least worked on it.’
DIANE: Is there anything else about your career you’d like to share?
SPENCER: Acting is the most amazing job in the world. Aside from the acting part which is what happens between ‘action’ and ‘cut,’ it can really open you up to so much. I’ve been able to travel to amazing places that I never would have been to without acting. That’s another amazing part that I think people over look. You get to travel to so many amazing places. You really have to appreciate everything about it. Even the smallest job, you really have to appreciate it because it’s the best job ever.
DIANE: Is there anyone else who inspires you?
SPENCER: I love Sean Penn. I really enjoy Denzel Washington. Those two are my favorite Actors. It’s mostly because they’re just so fun to watch. I think great Actors have something about them that when you watch them you feel like you just want to watch more. You want to see more of them. It’s usually because of the great writing, but Actors, when they’re good, can really hold people’s attention. Denzel Washington holds my attention for any movie. Same with Sean Penn. I admire them both.
DIANE: What’s next?
SPENCER: I just finished and Indie horror film in Connecticut. It was really fun to make. It was a really good time, the cast and the crew were incredible. That should be out sometime next year. I was in Baton Rouge last year filming a kids movie for Warner Bros. called “Thunderstruck.” It’s kind of a new version of “Like Mike,” with Kevin Durant from the Oklahoma City Thunder. He switches talents with this kid played by Taylor Gray. The kid’s high school team goes on this amazing winning streak and the Oklahoma City Thunder end up losing a bunch of games and they try to figure out how to switch their talents back. It was a blast! I play the bully to the kid. It’s a fun, family movie. It was an absolute joy to work on.
You can follow Spencer Daniels’ career on IMDb and at www.DianeChristiansen.com.