THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE
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Thank you for your time Daniel. Our traditional starter question, where are you from?
I was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and grew up in Brooklyn, New York.
How did you first become interested / involved in acting?
I became interested in acting as a teenager. When I entered College, I joined the Theatre department, and in my second year, my favourite professor chose me to play the leading role in a play called A Thousand Clowns, a very funny and sharp comedy which had been a Broadway success starring Jason Robards. It was also made into a film. The college theatre was a beautiful 500-seat house, and it was full every night. It was a great thrill for me to hear the laughter of 500 people responding to my comic performance, and that was it for me, the "epiphany", if you will, wherein I decided this would be the life for me.
I've read that in your early career you worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company - what was that like coming to the UK and performing with such a prestigious group?
Becoming a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company was another great thrill for me. It was an honour for me to be one of the small, select group of American actors to be invited to join the RSC. I had previously been a member of the Half Moon Theatre Company, one of the first and best Fringe Theatre Companies in London, which still exists, and I have very fond memories of that as well.
You've also been involved in film and TV - do you prefer acting in front of the camera or on stage in front of an audience?
Acting on a stage in front of an audience has always been Number One for me. There is nothing like a live performance for the Actor and the audience. Film and TV have their own rewards artistically, as performing in front of a camera is a more subtle, intimate process of inhabiting a character, and I love that as well, but the Theatre is my original Home and I always go back to it.
One of your notable performances was in the James Bond film, A View to a Kill - what was it like being involved in such a storied British film series?
A View to a Kill was a lot of fun. I enjoyed working with Roger Moore, who was a delightful, very funny man. And I think he was a perfect James Bond. We had an enjoyable re-union at the opening night party of the musical Sunset Boulevard in which I played the role of Max Mayerling. It was also an honour for me to be introduced to the great Director Billy Wilder, who of course directed the original film. He sat at the same table as Roger and me, and what a wonderful conversation we had!
You also starred in Murder One, which was a big hit in the UK - do you have good memories of the series?
Murder One was the best experience I had in TV, with the best scripts and I was honoured to receive a Golden Globe Award Nomination for my work.
Turning to your upcoming role as Howard Zinn in the upcoming London staging of The Time Of Our Lies - how did you get involved in the project?
I was invited to participate by the writer Bianca Bagatourian [Ed - See our Q&A with Bianca here]
What is your take on Howard Zinn's role in American history?
Howard Zinn was a very important writer of American History, especially with his powerful book, A People's History of the United States.
How are you feeling preparing to perform on a London stage once more?
I have always loved working on the London stage, and I look forward to continuing to do so.
What do you hope visitors to the play take away from the experience?
I hope people will learn about alternative history that has a radical viewpoint to counter mainstream historical writing, which tends to leave out history that is experienced by the majority of working people around the world.
Finally, what's the best thing about being Daniel Benzali?
Well, I've got to say that what I consider to be the best part of me is my dedication and devotion to being the best artist that I can possibly be. I strongly believe that Artists, of all kinds, are, and have always been, the ones who enrich our lives, show us who we are as human beings, for better or worse, and help us and inspire us to navigate the waters and climb the mountains in our lives.
You can see Daniel Benzali on stage in London starring as Howard Zinn in The Time Of Our Lies, which runs from July 30 to August 10 at Park Theatre, near Finsbury Park. Buy Tickets Here