HOLDING OUT FOR A HERO. Brett Dalton proves to DA MAN that with hard work, passion and determination, a comic book nerd could be transformed into a Marvel crime-fighting hero.
Outfit by Tom Ford
Wide-eyed and full of life, Brett Dalton moves his hands animatedly while discussing his favorite comic books and superheroes. The dark-haired actor and self-professed comic book nerd’s passion for the graphic novels only accentuates his portrayal of a special agent in the TV adaptation of a Marvel comic, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and lends a richer texture to the role. Now living every little boy’s dream of being a crime-fighting hero, Dalton’s childhood was wholesome and ordinary from the outside, yet even at a young age, beneath the seemingly calm surface of a typical American adolescent life laid an insatiable ambition to become something bigger.
The Californian-born Dalton was one of the fortunate few who discovered his calling early in life. In auditioning for a high school production of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” what first started as a fun project later turned into a life-altering experience, revealing a dormant thirst for acting. The ambitious actor’s professional life unfolded from that particular point of life, moving like a blazing arrow towards an unfaltering mark.
Having passed the “serious actor” test in tackling Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” and “Macbeth” along with the historical TV drama “Killing Lincoln,” the dynamic thespian does not plan on slowing down any time soon. Good old-fashioned hard work and determination are time-tested recipes to Dalton’s success, and while slipping into an immaculate grey suit for the photo shoot, he converses about his role as a black-ops specialist in “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and how he stays grounded amid the overwhelming popularity.
DA MAN: Hi Brett, how are you? Let’s get right into your show, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” You play agent Grant Ward, a black ops specialist who is a bit distant and rough around the edges. How similar are you to your character?
Brett Dalton: Well, I look like him, which is a great start. But other than that, Grant Ward is far from who I am in real life. I’m actually a pretty goofy guy who doesn’t take himself half as seriously as Ward does. But that’s a good thing, because if I were too similar to the guy, I’d be wearing way too much tactical gear for a normal person, getting into far too many fights with baddies, and jumping out of few too many planes trying to save people. So it’s probably best.
DA: The show is adapted from a Marvel comic. Are you a comic buff?
BD: For a good portion of my life, I thought I was going to be an artist. In fact, I majored in Art when I went to college. And the majority of the stuff I drew was superheroes. So, the answer is yes. I’ve been into comics for most of my life and have complete sets of action figures still in their packaging to prove it. Favorite comic? I’d say the “Old Man Logan” series takes the cake.
Blazer and shirt by Burberry Prorsum
“Don’t be afraid to just be you. I wish I had taken my own advice years ago. Starting out in this business is not easy.”
DA: Who is your favorite comic character?
BD: I’ve said The Punisher is one of my favorites in the past. And he still is. But equally as cool are Deadpool, Gambit, Cable and Death’s Head II. How can you possibly decide between these guys? Superhero or supervillain, they’re all my favorites.
DA: With a slew of comic book-adapted films coming up, why do you think there’s such an interest in superhero or comic book-based films and TV shows?
BD: I think on a very basic level, it’s nice to see people who actually get something accomplished. The world today seems so divided, and there’s so much debate, bickering and politics over everything, that nothing actually happens. It’s all talk and no walk. So when someone actually gets something done, I think it is heroic. That’s what you will always get in superhero films, people actually making things happen in very big ways. They don’t talk about it; they do it. And perhaps the more important part to this is that in the comic world, the bad guys actually pay for their crimes, which is not always what happens in the world today.
DA: You’ve also done some serious theater work like Shakespeare. How is working on TV different from acting on stage?
BD: I’m still figuring it out, to be honest. I went to school for theater, and have found that TV/film work really is its own thing. Still, it seems to me that when it all boils down, you’re more or less doing the same work; only you’re adjusting to the size of the room. If you’re in a theater, you have to play for the back row, but when the camera is right in front of you, you don’t need to speak above a whisper. It’s the same instrument. You’re just playing it at different volumes.
DA: You’ve done “Romeo and Juliet” and “Macbeth.” Any other Shakespeare’s plays you wanted to tackle?
BD: “Hamlet.” But that’s the role every actor in the world wants to play. I remember reading it for the first time in high school and thinking, this is Shakespeare? I thought it was all “thee” and “thou” but this Hamlet guy is so real. He gets it. He’s asking himself these big life questions; he doubts himself; he doesn’t know what to do; and he’s asking what’s the point of it all? That’s something that you want to roll up your sleeves and dig into. It’s where all the interesting stuff is hiding.
T-shirt by Calvin Klein Collection
“A lot of people will tell you to change a lot of things about yourself, but hold on to what makes you, you.”
DA: So what are you currently working on?
BD: I have a few things in the works: an indie film coming out, a motion-capture video game, an animated children’s show, a photography book and a couple other things in the fire. I’m not a guy who can sit still for very long. Follow me on Twitter at @IM BrettDalton for more info on my projects and get ready for more puns than you thought possible. Yes, puns.
DA: You were also involved in the National Geographic Channel’s TV film, “Killing Lincoln.” How did you get involved with this project in the first place?
BD: I was auditioning during the day, and cater/waiter with the best of them in the evening. One day, I booked my first job, and it all happened at once. Suddenly, the stoplights were all green and I had no idea what I was doing differently, other than one person said yes to me. And it only takes one! So when I auditioned for this “Killing Lincoln,” it was during this booking streak, which I’d like to think I’m still on. Knock on wood!
DA: You’ve pursued acting academically. When did you start to realize that you wanted to act for a living?
BD: The funny thing is: I think I’ve been an actor all my life, but I just didn’t know it. I mean, I always liked class presentations and getting up in front of people, but I didn’t think anything of it. [During] my senior year in high school, that all changed. I auditioned for “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” because I thought it would look good on my college résumé. And by the time I got offstage after reading for the director, I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. It was this weird moment in time where suddenly everything just clicked.
DA: What word of advice would you give to an aspiring actor?
BD: Don’t be afraid to just be you. I wish I had taken my own advice years ago. Starting out in this business is not easy. Nothing about this business is easy. And a lot of people will tell you to change a lot of things about yourself, but hold on to what makes you, you. You have something unique and valuable to offer the world. The stuff you think makes you weak makes you strong. The stuff you don’t love about yourself makes you more loveable. No one will ever be as good at being you as you. So start there. Perfect is boring.
DA: Who is Brett Dalton, in a nutshell?
BD: I’m just a kid from a humble family who always had big dreams and a big imagination. My parents told me I could be whatever I wanted to be if I just worked hard enough, and I was crazy enough to believe them. I worked and worked and worked until this dream I had actually come true.
Grooming: Kim Verbeck @ The Wall Group using Dr. Hauschka
Styling assistants: Beth Beaird and Mike Solomon
Photography assistant: Mike Solomon