It's My Life PBS Kids Go!
Celeb Scoop: Dan Benson

By It's My Life on August 5, 2011 8:22 AM | No TrackBacks

Dan Online Smile Pic.jpgWhen a popular TV show ends, it's always interesting to see what the cast members do next. Now that "The Wizards of Waverly Place" has finished its final season, we were glad to have a chance to talk to Dan Benson, better known as "cool nerd" Zeke Beakerman.

Dan can be seen in the upcoming DVD and Blu-ray release "Hanna's Gold," starring Luke Perry (coming August 16), and has big plans for his future!

IML: How's your summer going?

Dan: Fantastic! I've been running and riding my bike and surfing and doing all the fun things I didn't have time to do when I was working full steam. "Wizards" is officially done and I'm going on to new adventures and projects.

IML: Can you tell us a little about "Hanna's Gold"?

Box Art.jpgDan: I play a character named Luke who is a ranch hand, and I meet these two young girls who are at the ranch to spend time with their father, who I work for. After a while they get into some trouble when they find some maps that might lead to buried treasure. The girls go on this crazy adventure in the mountains to find the gold and we run into some robbers who are after the gold as well. It's a really fun adventure and there's some romance in there too.

IML: Have you ever been in a situation like that yourself...Where you were forced to be somewhere and you didn't want to be, then ended up having a cool time of it in the end?

Dan: Definitely. My parents always forced me to out and have new adventures. I love going outdoors so they made me go to summer camp. I didn't want to go at first but I ended up having the most fun. You never know what's going to happen, you have to go out there and explore and challenge yourself.

IML: Zeke, your character on "Wizards," became such a fixture on the show. Do you feel sad to say goodbye to him?

Dan: A little bit. It was such an adventure. My character started off as "friend #1" with one line, and that grew to two lines and then a few episodes later, four or five lines...then by the end of three years I got to know the cast really well. They were all so welcoming and I felt like I was really part of the family.

IML: Did you help make Zeke...Zeke?

Dan: I did have a part in creating him. I would take a line like "Zeke dances" and it was fun to think about what kind of dancing, what ridiculous style it would be -- they left it up to me to fill in the blanks. There was a lot of stuff I made up on the spot and the writers would let me do that, and that's when the best moments would come out. Physical comics like Jim Carrey and Chris Farley really inspire me and you can probably see that.

IML: Do you have a favorite backstage memory from the show?

Dan: When Zeke found out about magic, it really opened the door for my character and changed things. For that moment, they just let me freak out as much as I possibly could, being in the character. There was 20 or 30 minutes of takes of Zeke reacting in different crazy ways, and it was all just hysterical. It was a non-stop laughing party!

IML: So, we love to ask this because most IML'ers are in middle school: What were you like back then?

Dan: I was a dork...Oh, man, was I a dork! I loved science and I loved learning, and I was really good with people, very social. Everyone liked me but I wasn't the cool popular kid...I would act strange and out there. Most kids try to hide who they are in middle school because of the social pressures, being afraid of getting made fun of. So it's tough to stay true to who you are and that was the hardest part. You have to get rid of the idea that "cool kids don't care about anything". Caring about school and your friends and family -- it is cool to do that stuff! You just have to explore what you like to do and not be afraid of being made fun of for it. When I became an actor when I was 15 years old, it really helped me shape my personality and find what I truly enjoyed, which was performing. Once I found that I felt a whole lot better.

IML: We heard that you were also a competitive gymnast...

Dan: For nine years! In Missouri, before I got into the whole world of acting. I was tumbling and doing back flips off the couch and my mom would yell at me to she threw me in a gymnasium and I got on a competitive team. I was the 1994 Missouri vault champion! It was a skill that helped me develop all the skills I needed later on in other was great as a foundation. It also really helped me in my physical comedy later on. You never know where these skills will come into play later in your life.

IML: How does the world of competitive gymnastics compare to the acting world?

Dan: It's very similar. The main similarity is that you're competing against yourself. You're challenging yourself every day to be your best and do the best job that you possibly can. Yes, there are other people out there but they're also competing against themselves. When you go out on auditions, you can't pay attention to the other people focus on just your performance. If you prepare, you'll go out there and do your best and do exactly what you're trained to do. Gymnastics really helped me understand that whole world. It's really tough as an actor to hear no all the time, and you have to keep up your confidence and know that you are good. And that applies to pretty much anything. If you decide that you're gonna do something...guess what? You're gonna do it.

IML: That is great advice! So what's the next thing you're focused on doing?

Dan: I've been taking classes at The Groundlings improv comedy workshop and working my way up through their ranks. It's been an incredible experience and I think will really take me to the next stage in my career. I plan to be in this business for the rest of my life!

IML: Good luck with everything, Dan!

Dan: Thank you!

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