I sat down with local actor Dan Franko last week. He’s made appearances on “The Wire”, “The West Wing”, and most recently, “VEEP.”
Q: Where were you born?
A: In Ohio. We were here before I was a year old, so I grew up in Maryland.
Q: When did you know you wanted to be an actor?
A: We lived in Edgewood when I was young, and they took me to a drive-in theater to see “Star Wars.” I said I wanted to do THAT. I wanted to be a Jedi. They had to explain to me that “those were actors”; so I said “Well I want to do that then!”
Q: What was your first role?
A: Ever? I landed a role in the musical “Mame” in my freshman year. Babcock, I think was my characters name.
Q: Was “The Wire” your first local gig?
A: No, I had done a lot of “48 Hours” films and independent films around. There was a movie studio down in Virginia that produced recreation “movie of the week” stuff. “The Wire” was the first that made it to air.
Q: What season did you appear in?
A: I was in Season 4. That was the election/school season. A friend of mine, Dan DeLuca, had a season long arc on that show. He was one of the teachers in the school they were in. I’m one of the cops that Carcetti rides around with to get a lay of the land.
Q: How was it working with the cast of “VEEP?”
A: It was…the most amazing thing I’ve ever done. It was amazing from the beginning.. it was unreal…
***At this point we were interrupted by one of the writers from “The Wire.” Yup, you read it write. He had overheard us talking about the show, and went to his car to get us copies of his book. Shout out to Rafael Alvarez!***
A: ..it had been six years between “The Wire” and “Veep.” I had done a lot of stuff in that time, but this “Veep” was the boost I needed. Because of the physical gag, they brought me in to do a table read and blocking rehearsal. I got there early, and there were actors who weren’t in town yet, so they asked me “Hey, do you mind reading for these other scenes for us?” “Of course!” In my scenes I didn’t overlap with Matt Walsh or Reid Scott. I was reading for that Washington Post reporter in the yogurt shop..such a great opportunity.
Most people think the show is improv, but it’s not. They work REALLY hard in the rehearsals, so they go back and make changes in the script. It’s literally like watching Gretzky practice. Julia Louis Dreyfus, Matt Walsh, and Tony Hale..they’re the best at what they do. That day on set they welcomed me with open arms. I was the only guy from the area in the room. The other day players were from New Orleans or Chicago. I was on shot one, day one of Episode 2. A lot of them have even stayed in contact..you couldn’t find a nicer group of people. They’re very welcoming.
I was standing in the hallway during a take, and just stepped back and said to myself “..I have a scene with Julia Louis Dreyfus!”
Q: How many times did you have to sneeze?
A: A lot! The nose blow after the fact was the worst. It was more of a throat hock. I felt bad for the sound guy because I had the mic in my tie, and I’m just doing it all day long. I did that all day long. About 30-40 times. When we rehearsed that the first time, the background didn’t know my character sneezed on her. So when I did, and Tony Hale dove in front of her, they were pretty shocked. Afterward they asked “Were you supposed to sneeze on her?!”
Q: You recently shot a film called “On The Wing.” Who do you play?”
A: Corbin Bernsen plays a candidate for President, and his kid is trying to stop another Senator from killing off a group of bald eagles, so he can get to oil. My scenes takes place in the 1880’s. I play the fourth great grandfather of Corbin Bernsen’s character. The family has money because I hit oil back in the 1880’s. I was a lousy farmer, so I was trying to find water for his crops, but I ended up hitting oil.
Q: How did you get involved in the Actor’s Club?
A: I co-founded it with my friend, Ken Arnold. We wanted to create a situation where we would have an ongoing workshop, but instead of shelling out $300 for an 8 week workshop, you pay when you come. We have this really great core group of actors, and growing together. We don’t “teach” the class, we share and facilitate ideas to each other. There are actors who are brand new, to actors who have been doing it for 30-40 years.
Q: Would you like to see more productions filmed here in Maryland?
A: Absolutely! We all would. When I first got into acting, this area had the biggest amount of incentives we’ve ever had. “The Replacements” were here, “Cecil B. Demented”, “A Dirty Shame”, “The Invasion”, “Die Hard.”
“The West Wing” filmed scenes in D.C., and that’s where I met my good friend, Ken Arnold. I love the relationship that HBO has here..HBO trusts the region and trusts the region. They can get the actors and locations they need; they can get casting locally as well.
Q: What was it like playing a vampire in “The Night Watchmen” trailer?
A: It was great! I loved the scene where I get pulled into the darkness by the un-seen baddie..that was wicked. They rigged a high tension wire, and since I was lying on my stomach, they just hooked it on to my zipper. I went for a ride, it was so cool.
Q: Have you done any other stunts?
A: I just did a short called “The Recursion Theorem” where I had to fall off a ladder. It looked simple..but then you work your way up from rung 1, rung 2, rung 3..and you hit that middle rung, your head is 10 feet in the air but you’re technically only three to four feet off the ground.
Q: Are there any directors or actors you’ve love to work with?
A: All of them..haha! George Clooney = “Oceans 14.” I’m all set. I would love to work on one of Ben Affleck’s movies; Clint Eastwood is a great director. David O’ Russell..I’d love to work with Mark Ruffalo. He’s very sincere, and that’s kind of what I shoot for. Scorsese..obviously because I drink.
Of course, I would LOVE to be in the new “Stars Wars” film..that’s why I’m doing this in the first place! Joss Whedon would be another. Zach Braff would be someone interesting to work with. So would Matthew McConaughey..”Alright Alright Alright!!”
Visit Dan’s website here: http://danfranko.com/