THE WHIMSICAL ALTRUIST – Daniel Gillies from “The Vampire Diaries” and “The Originals” turns on the charm, self-deprecating humor and compassion for his interview with DAMAN
Born in Canada and debuting in New Zealand, Daniel Gillies then moved to the United States where he soon found himself playing in movies like “Bride and Prejudice” and “Spider-Man 2.” His bestknown role, however, is as the suave and level-headed vampire Elijah Mikaelson in hit TV series “The Vampire Diaries.” While the show ended in 2014, he then reprised the role in the equally popular (if not more) spin-off titled “The Originals.” Beyond acting, however, Gillies is also known as a philanthropist and genuine family-man. And, as you’ll see below, he has a solid sense of humor and a sharp wit.
DAMAN: Hi, Daniel. Awesome to have you with us. How are you doing right now?
Daniel Gillies: Delicious. Thanks.
DA: So, right around now, the final episode of the final season of “The Originals” has just started airing. How do you feel about the show reaching its finale?
DG: Liberated. Heartbroken. A little hungry.
DA: Do you still remember how you reacted when it was announced that this, season five of “The Originals,” would be the show’s last?
DG: I thought the fourth season was definitely the last. So, i was delighted i was still employed.
DA: Counting “The Vampire Diaries” from which “The Originals” is spun off, you’ve been with the series since 2010. What will you miss the most from being part of these shows?
DG: A. The catering. Splendid work from all concerned. B. Sabotaging the scenes of my cohorts whilst they nobly tried to do their job. C. [co-star] Joseph Morgan’s silky lady-palms.
DA: “The Vampire Diaries” was widely acclaimed, and “The Originals” is also highly regarded. What would you say is the key to the series’ continued success? Especially considering the glut of fantasy and vampire series we have on TV nowadays…
DG: Yusuf Gatewood, Phoebe Tonkin, Steven krueger, Charles Michael Davis, Riley Voelkel, Danielle Rose Russell, Leah Pipes, Claire Holt, Nathaniel Buzolic, Danielle Campbell and Joseph Morgan.
DA: You’ve also directed two episodes of “The Originals.” Is this something that you’ll be doing more of in the future?
DG: Fingers crossed.
DA: What was it like seeing an episode come together but from the perspective of both an actor and director?
DG: Exhausting. Terrifying. Challenging. Beautiful. Directing myself was the worst. I can be so defiant. I found reverse psychology helpful. When giving myself a note in particular. Also treats. I was rarely on set without a large Tupperware container of Reese’s Pieces. Gillies, the actor, would reliably acquiesce after administration of said-snack.
DA: Do you have any other series or movies lined up for the rest of the year?
DG: No. although I’m writing my own TV show.
DA: What is it that usually look for when you’re considering a potential role?
DG: I’ll get back to you on that. My position has changed somewhat.
DA: How about your absolute dream project? What would that be?
DG: The series I am writing now. Who knows? It might not get bought. But, yes: My material.
DA: Your journey as an actor involved moving half across the globe. Where did this passion and determination come from?
DG: I’m a New Zealander. We’re tough. We’re taught that the goal is to be good. Nowhere on the globe can you make money as an actor like you do in the States. Nor do you receive the same kind of recognition. Where I come from, failure is taught and embraced; celebrated even. They don’t do that enough here. It builds resilience and prepares the artist for war.
DA: Today, what do you see as the most rewarding part of your chosen career?
DG: The scenes themselves. It’s the only time I feel normal.
DA: You’re also known for your humanitarian work, particularly in collaboration with Oxfam. How did your involvement with the charity start?
DG: I have a wonderful publicist called Lisa Perkins. She had already established a relationship with a tremendous human being called Jackie Nelson. From the moment I spoke with Jackie, I was in.
DA: Can you share with us some of the more memorable experiences from your work with Oxfam throughout the years?
DG: There are many. The experience that immediately leaps to mind is when we interviewed a woman at the Imvepi refugee settlement in North-Western Uganda. This woman described a story to us of being rounded up like livestock to the center of her village by soldiers. Most of the men were slaughtered. The women raped. When the soldiers began shooting those that remained, they fled for the forest nearby.
For many weeks this woman and a handful of survivors hid from the military in South Sudan until they were able to make it to the Ugandan borders.
DA: It’s all too easy to be a bit cynical about humanitarian work, especially when it’s about helping people who are far away from home where there’s no foreseeable end to conflict and the hardship it brings with it. How do you stay motivated?
DG: To be honest with you, I haven’t been doing enough. This year I became occupied with a host of other distractions and i haven’t given myself to the cause. The human mind is kind in a cruel way, I think. It’s easier not to think of the situation I saw. Particularly because of the magnitude of the issue. There is a dangerous illusion that the problem is too great in South Sudan. This is completely false. We can do something. Jeff Bezos can do a lot.
Around 16 thousand US dollars can supply a fresh water pump to a village and provide for tens of thousands. By my calculations you could irrigate … give me a sec, carry the 4… most of the continent of Africa. When I think of the incredible efforts of organizations like Oxfam, it’s not difficult to find motivation again.
I think of Jackie Nelson. I think of Noah Gottschalk. These people are tireless. They are real heroes. And they’re fighting for the underprivileged every single day. They’re treading the incredibly unenviable position of observing local government protocol in order to be respectful—they do this magnificently—as well as trying to summon the attention of the world to the horrific plight these individuals face.
I haven’t been helpful lately. I need to re-engage. We all do.
DA: On the closer-to-home front, you’re also known as a family man. How do you juggle your time between work, family and everything else?
DG: Well, it’s been much simpler this year. I’m unemployed! Loving it. [Laughs] Whenever I spend any time away from my children, I really feel it, though. Like most parents, I just want to be around them all the time. At least I have the luxury of being able to support them and be a father. Not many are so fortunate.
DA: And when you simply want to relax after a long day on set, unwind, maybe get away from it all for a while, what do you usually end up doing?
DG: I usually try to bug Jeff Bezos regarding issues in the underprivileged world.
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