Interview: Actor Dan Cade Talks ‘Carnival Row’, ‘Knightfall’, & The Pain Of Learning To Ride A Horse
Recently, we had the chance to sit down for a chat with actor Dan Cade, who you can see right now, appearing as Sykes in new Amazon fantasy drama ‘Carnival Row‘, with Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevingne.
‘Carnival Row’ is set in a Victorian fantasy world filled with mythological immigrant creatures whose exotic homelands were invaded by the empires of man. This growing population struggles to coexist with humans – forbidden to live, love, or fly with freedom. But even in darkness, hope lives, as a human detective, Rycroft Philostrate (Bloom), and a refugee faerie named Vignette Stonemoss (Delevingne) rekindle a dangerous affair despite an increasingly intolerant society. Vignette harbours a secret that endangers Philo’s world during his most important case yet: a string of gruesome murders threatening the uneasy peace of the Row.
Dan has worked on a whole host of shows including ‘Absentia’ with Stana Katic, ‘Legends’ with Sean Bean, History drama ‘Knightfall’, and movies such as ‘Extinction’ with Michael Peña, ‘The Hard Way’ with Michael Jai White, and upcoming thriller ‘Doorman’ starring Ruby Rose. However, with the release of ‘Carnival Row’ today, that seemed like a good place to start.
Geektown: It’s nice to chat, and we have lots of things we can talk about, along with ‘Carnival Row’, because I bet you can’t say a huge amount about the show…
Dan: [Laughs] Yeah, I was thinking about what I could say. I don’t want to give any spoilers away, but it’s going to be a really good, exciting fantasy show.
Geektown: Yeah, you’ve got a great cast and two great leads in Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevingne. Can you say anything about the character that you play, Sykes?
Dan: I go to war with Orlando Bloom’s character and a few others. It’s a flashback sequence in a war with Cara Delevingne’s lot. I come back again in later episodes, in a slightly different storyline… It all interweaves with each other, these different storylines and flashbacks, and flash-forwards. I appear in Episode 4, and you see my character then. That’s a brilliant episode, and you can actually see some of it on the trailer.
Geektown: You’ve got a background in martial arts. You don’t think of a show with fairies in it as something that would necessarily have a martial artist in it!
Dan: No, I do have a background in martial arts, but I mainly do dramatic, or fantasy shows, mediaeval shows. I was in ‘Knightfall’ and various shows like that. I’m shooting a show at the moment, a spy thriller, a Berlin spy thriller for Studio Canal called ‘Shadowplay’. It’s got Michael C. Hall in it, so that will be a good one!
Geektown: How did you end up getting into acting in the first place?
Dan: When I started out, I made showreels with my martial arts skills, and I sent them out to producers and directors to try and get into the action films. I went out to Hong Kong for a little bit. I learned that, unless you’re Chinese, or you’ve got certain look, it’s quite difficult to get a good part out there. I went to drama school and started doing television. I started off in the ‘My Family’, the BBC comedy, and then ‘Dead Ringers’, so I started off a bit of comedy. Then I went on to shows like ‘Borgia’, which is on Netflix for Canal+. It just went from there really, so taping, auditioning, and getting these shows like ‘World Without End’, the Ridley Scott series. I was in ‘Sinbad’. Actually quite a few movies. I just shot a film with Jean Reno and Ruby Rose, which was pretty cool.
Geektown: Yeah, I was going to say, you’re almost circling the edge of the Arrowverse, because you’ve just done a movie with Ruby Rose, and you also just did a movie with Michael Jai White, who both have been Arrowverse characters.
Dan: That’s right! In ‘The Hard Way’, it’s on Netflix right now. It’s a gangster action film, but again, I did no martial arts and that, playing a guy called Tony Zito in Italian Mafia.
Geektown: What’s the balance of that martial arts background to actually doing dramatic roles? It sounds like you’re much more into the dramatic stuff these days, which is good.
Dan: Yeah, I’d rather be doing straight acting. I’ve got the martial arts skills, they come up, and it helps me with any physical dramatic roles. Like ‘Knightfall’ has a horse ride and sword fight. It helps me with the physical roles, and my roles are fairly physical, but yeah, I’d much rather the sort of dramatic, high quality TV drama, which is the path I wanted to go down initially, I just thought martial arts might be a way into it.
Geektown: Yeah, and you’ve landed some pretty good shows on the dramatic side. You mention ‘Knightfall’ there. It’s Season 2 you’re in isn’t it?
Dan: Yeah, Season 2, Episode 4. It’s kind of like a cameo, but I play a guy called Sir Henry. He’s a pompous arrogant knight, and I get into a sword fight with one of the main characters… He takes me out [Laughs]
Geektown: ‘Emerald City’ you were in as well.
Dan: Yeah, that was a really cool series to be in. That was NBC. Another fantasy drama. That was a good character, good scenes to play, and a great show to be in. I love that sort of genre, fantasy dramas and high-quality television. I was in ‘Legends’ as well.
Geektown: Yes, I was going to say, working with Sean Bean, that must have been fun.
Dan: Yeah. Sean Bean was awesome. He’s a really good actor, and when I found out all my scenes were with him… I did 5 episodes in that show throughout Season 2, so yeah, that was a really exciting gig! Brilliant working with him!
Geektown: I really liked that series. It was a shame it didn’t go on for longer, it was really interesting.
Dan: We thought it would just go to Season 3, but unfortunately TNT didn’t agree…
Geektown: Yeah, it’s a real shame. You were on ‘Absentia’ as well, which is a show we’ve talked about quite a bit, the Stana Katic series.
Dan: Yeah, that was shot in Bulgaria. Did that a couple years ago. That was an interesting show to work on. An Israeli director did a really good show in Israel called ‘False Flag’.
Geektown: Yeah, that’s on FOX over here.
Dan: Yeah, so that was great to work with him, and the creator of ‘False Flag’ as well. I didn’t know his work before I started working with him, and then I watched ‘False Flag’, and he has all these great shows coming out of Israel. That was another good angle to get experience working.
Geektown: You’ve done a few movies. Do you have a preference for working on TV or film?
Dan: TV. TV’s great if you can get multiple episodes, because the work, it drags out. You can have quite a few months filming different episodes. It’s just a lot more work, whereas movies tend to be maybe a three to four-month shoot, and they’re over fairly quick. It depends what role you’ve got in it, and what kind of film it is. I mean, if it’s a big movie, and you’ve got a good part, that’s a really good launchpad, but I think more people gravitate towards television now, because of the new streaming platforms on Netflix and Amazon. For example, ‘Carnival Row’, each episode is like a movie. The budget they spend on it, and the sets, and the quality of directors. One of the directors I was working with was Anna Foerster who directed ‘Underworld’, and was the director of photography on ‘Independence Day’, so yeah. TV is like good movies now.
Geektown: Yeah, they are merging so much at this point. You mentioned shooting in Bulgaria there for ‘Absentia’. Where was ‘Carnival Row’ shot?
Dan: ‘Carnival Row’ is shot in Prague, which is a great place to shoot. You can make it into anything, really, with the architecture around there. It’s quite cheap for the Americans to come over and shoot there, and they get tax breaks. A lot of the stuff I shot has been in Prague. ‘Legends’ was in Prague, and I just shot a really good quality Norwegian series called ‘Atlantic Crossing’, with Kyle MacLachlan, and Sofia Helin from ‘The Bridge’. Now I’m shooting ‘Shadowplay’ in Prague with the creator of ‘The Bridge’. I guess ‘Carnival Row’ is coming back to Prague as well. So, yeah, a lot of shows shot around eastern Europe. When I shot the movie with Ruby Rose, that was in Romania, so it’s all these countries that have got these studios, and they’re great to film.
Geektown: Yeah, those sort of areas seem to be taking off quite a lot because they are a lot cheaper to film.
Dan: Yeah, exactly. They shoot in Belgrade a lot as well, actually. I’ve shot a couple of times out there. That’s a pretty cool place to shoot.
Geektown: Out of all the stuff you’ve done, have you got one particular scene that you are most proud of what you did?
Dan: I mean, I’m looking forward to seeing my scenes in ‘Carnival Row’. There was one particular scene, which I thought wow, that’s really good. I watched the playback and was like, yeah, that’s really cool. Got a great close up, and the atmosphere was pretty awesome in that scene. But of the ones that have been released, this scene in ‘The Hard Way’, opposite Michael Jai White, that was a really fun scene to play. I end up getting kicked out a window. [Laughs] That was awesome going in there like a boss, trying to threaten Michael Jai White, and he’s quite a big guy, but my character didn’t care. That was a pretty fun scene to play. ‘Borgia’ was pretty cool, really intense scenes, and ‘Knightfall’ was fun. I’d not really ridden horses before, and to ride one and sword fight at the same time, those were two skills that were quite difficult to nail, but that was very good.
Geektown: Is that one of those situations where you go to the audition and say, “of course I can ride a horse!”
Dan: [Laughs] Yeah, exactly. Exactly, and then as soon as I got the role, I went out and had a few horse riding lessons, and then sword fighting lessons! Oddly enough, the sword fighting [in the show] was completely different to what I actually learned, but the horse riding was interesting.
Geektown: Did you stumble across Mark Hamill while you were out there, as he is in Season 2?
Dan: No, unfortunately not. I didn’t have any scenes with him. All my scenes were with Gawain (Pádraic Delaney), so I didn’t get to fight Luke Skywalker. [Laughs]
Geektown: Would have been awesome! What’s the most fun thing to do about your job?
Dan: When you get these roles, you get to travel to all these cool locations that you would never normally go to. They pick amazing locations for these movies and these TV shows. That, and meeting the people that you’ve grown up watching, and you admire their work. That’s pretty awesome. I actually worked with Robert De Niro briefly in this moving called ‘The Family’, and that was a moment where I was like, wow, I’m actually improvising a scene with one of the greatest actors on earth. It was pretty nuts. It’s things like that. Just working with your idols that you’ve grown up watching and stuff, and being really creative, and travelling to these insane places. It’s amazing.
Geektown: Have you had other occasions where you’ve struggled to hold your fandom in when you meet people?
Dan: Yeah, I mean, De Niro was the main one. I could barely talk to be honest with you, and Michelle Pfeiffer was on the same set! When I went on the set and I saw Michelle Pfeiffer, and then De Niro, and then out comes Luc Besson on a crane, I was like, wow, where am I today? [Laughs] Literally, I got De Niro to my right, and Michelle Pfeiffer to my left, and Luc Besson’s in the middle. This is really odd. That was a pretty cool moment.
Geektown: What’s been the most interesting experience you’ve had so far in your career do you think?
Dan: It’s probably the weapons training on these films. I did something called ‘Air Force One’ in Luxembourg, and there I had to learn how to shoot M-16’s and these special forces weapons, so that’s pretty cool when you get to learn to shoot these military weapons. I got to shoot it for real. They were obviously blanks, but that is really interesting and exciting. Just to get new skills like that, and obviously learning horse riding and sword fighting. That’s interesting, but yeah, my favourite skill to learn is the weapons training, because the horse riding’s a bit painful. [Laughs]
Geektown: learning those sort of skills is really handy because you get to keep them and take them to the next thing. And if somebody needs an actor shooting an M-16 off the back of a horse…
Dan: [Laughs] Yeah, exactly! I probably would never have gone out of my way to learn sword fighting and horse riding, but in ‘Knightfall’ they wanted me to do that, so the next time I can say I horse ride, and I can sword fight. It adds to my skills. Yeah, it’s great.
Geektown: What are you doing next?
Dan: Well, currently I’ve got ‘The Doorman’ coming up with Ruby Rose, but I’m in the middle of shooting ‘Shadowplay’, so I’m going back to Prague soon to shoot in the next episode. I’m looking forward to that because that’s a bit of a meaty scene I’ve got. Going to get loads of makeup on me. You can read between the lines… that’s all I can say. [Laughs]
Geektown: Now to our traditional last couple of questions we ask everyone. First question – What TV shows are you watching at the moment?
Dan: What the TV shows are I watch at the moment which I really love, is ‘Gomorrah’, the Italian drug cartel series based in Naples. It’s subtitled, which I’ve never been into, but this one, you get so into it, and you forget there are subtitles. It’s so gripping. That is one of my favourite shows.
Geektown: The last question, if you had the opportunity to work on any TV show past, present, or future, not one you’ve already been in, which show would it be?
Dan: ‘Homeland’ would be great. That’s an excellent quality show, which would have been amazing to work on that.
‘Carnival Row‘ Season 1 premieres today on Amazon Prime, and has already been renewed for Season 2.
Dave has over 20 years experience in the digital industry, and is founder and editor of Geektown. Obviously a huge geek himself, he can often be found in front of the latest tv show or movie, on various video games, or with his head in a comic book.