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Square Mile Conversations

"I thought I was gonna be a stuntman on a horse." Danny Griffin in conversation with Abigail Cowen

A love of horses almost made Danny Griffin a stuntman before his acting career took off. Now the Brit is starring in the hugely popular Netflix show Fate: The Winx Saga opposite his girlfriend Abigail Cowen

Danny Griffin was 19 years old when he got a piece of advice that he lives by to this day. It came from a fellow actor on his theatre production. “He said to me, ‘You are the tortoise; you’re not the hare in this. It’s not a race; it’s a marathon, so take your time – and what will happen, will happen.’” 

Plenty has happened for Griffin in the subsequent half decade, most notably landing the role of Sky in the hugely popular teen drama Fate: The Winx Saga. Not only did the Netflix show provide Griffin with his breakout role, he met his girlfriend Abigail Cowen on its set. Must have been fate… 

Cowen is not only a brilliant actor herself – she also makes a fine interviewer. We hope you enjoy their conversation. 

Abigail Cowen: Hello. I’m here to interview you and to ask you all of the questions of your past. I’m just kidding. To start off, you are an actor. What would your dream role be?

Danny Griffin: Oh, damn. It’s sort of a combination of things really. I grew up on Lord of the Rings and the fantasy era. And I really enjoyed watching that sort of stuff when I was a kid – and also going down to the woods with a stick and pretending I was Aragon. So I think Aragon. Have you not seen Lord of the Rings?

Abigail: I have. Wasn’t Aragon also a film?

Danny: That’s Eragon. That’s the dragon. But Lord of the Rings just did a spinoff, so if you guys are looking for someone…

Abigail: Here’s your guy! When did you first realise you wanted to be an actor?

Danny: I was about 14, 15. I didn’t know acting really existed. I knew that films obviously were out, but I didn’t realise you could actually be an actor and get paid to do it.

Abigail: I didn’t know actors were a thing. I thought movies were real!

Danny: How terrifying would that be! I was quite into Doctor Who and watching Matt Smith, the Doctor, be this big, charismatic character. And I had an idea – what if I could do that? I was at college at the time. 

I surprised my mum. We were in Specsavers getting our eyes tested – me and my two sisters and my mum. My mum had this optician – she turned around to me and said, “You’re quite a chatty lad. What do you want to do when you’re older?” And I said, “I wanna be an actor.”’ My mum literally just shut her eyes to me and was like, “What? I’ve never heard you say that before in your life!” That was the moment where I said out loud that I wanted to be an actor.

Abigail: But you knew before then?

Danny: Yeah. I knew before then. I was quite an imaginative kid. I grew up on a farm in the middle of nowhere so to get to my friends, I had to go on a bike and cycle to them. We were surrounded by greenery, which was wonderful. We only had four channels on the television. My mum would say, “Just go down to the woods and use your imagination.” So that’s what we did.

Abigail: So aside from acting, you have some other special skills I have come to notice… such as gaming. What makes you love gaming so much, and do you aspire to go pro?

Danny: It’s a weird one. Again, it’s a world – a world which you can go into. The more depth the game has, the more it feels like you’re watching a film. Games these days are basically like film – there are similar budgets for making a game. 

Also, you can talk to everyone on Discord. It’s an app and it allows you to connect with people all over the world. I’ve started playing with people, when I was in the UK I started talking to my friends in America and playing a game called Apex Legends with them. I connected with more people around the world. You know, it’s…

Abigail: Unifying.

Danny: Yeah. And also through lockdown. It sucked because you couldn’t go and see your friends obviously, and you couldn’t hang out with them, but you could still sort of do the same thing but through a computer.

I really enjoyed gaming. I wanna say I almost went pro! I didn’t, but I got really into Apex and I wanted to go for top 750 in the world. I made it to 442. But I couldn’t hold where I was because I was also trying to manage acting as well. I think it’s impossible to balance the two. I think it’s one or the other really. But I enjoy both.

Danny Griffin

Abigail: You are also a big fan of horses. Some might call you a weird horse girl in your previous years. I’m just kidding! You love horses. You’re very experienced with them. What caused your love for them and why?

Danny: It kind of led back to Lord of the Rings again. I remember my friends liked football and rugby, and I saw characters in this movie riding horses into battle. And I was like, wait, you can do that, too? And obviously we lived in the middle of nowhere with loads of greenery around us and there were stables like ten minutes down the road. So aged ten, I got onto horseback.

Abigail: You thought that you could ride horses into battle?

Danny: I was 10, man – I was a kid! I think I was going there for Pony Club. I was going there for Pony Club, but in my head I was going there for training for battle.

Abigail: So that crushed your dreams. What led you to more horseship?

Danny: I did another job. It was my first ‘big job’, but I was playing a very small role on it. I was in Free Rein on Netflix. The concept of that show has a lot to do with horses. And they had about ten on set at all times.

And when I was on set to shoot my scenes, I had explained that I can do horse riding and that was one of the reasons why I got the part. And I met the horse team there, I was about 18, 19 at the time. And I had nothing else on at the time after I was finished with this show so I said, “Can I come work for you? I’ll work for you for free. Let me just get experience because I wanna do this.”

So for three months, I got on the tube every day and I went to work for them. They would pay me in lessons to ride and would teach me horse combat and would teach me vaulting and everything. And I got a lot of experience through that.

Abigail: Your dreams did come true in a way: horse combat!

Danny: In a way. I did that for three, four months and then I got offered a job and I worked as a stable hand. I think I worked for them for about nine months. I went onto several movie sets and I watched how it all worked. I got a major understanding of how hard everyone works behind the camera compared to the people who work in front of the camera – it’s also hard as well but the amount of work that goes on behind it is incredible and those guys are amazing. For a time, I thought I was gonna go into being a stuntman on a horse and that was what I wanted to do.

Danny Griffin
Danny Griffin
Danny Griffin

Abigail: Questions now into more personal matters. What is your favourite thing about your mum?

Danny: She’s just always been there, really. She’s just always been there. She’s a very good listener. If I have an issue or a problem, she’s pretty good at helping me. So many people just need to talk and let it all out and then they come to a conclusion by the time they’ve expressed how they feel. They’re not looking for an answer but expressing how they feel. Saying, ‘this is what’s going on right now’ and then getting to a conclusion by the end of it – sort of answering your own question. And my mum is really good at just listening. I’m a chatterbox and I don’t want anyone to say anything while I just talk for ten minutes and then I come to the conclusion at the end, whatever it may be.

Abigail: What has she taught you?

Danny: That’s a lovely question. The family motto was: treat others the way you’d like to be treated yourself. That was a big one because I had four younger sisters and lots of bullying happened so it wasn’t very fun. Treat others the way you like to be treated is a good one. Just in general in life.

Abigail: Favourite thing about your sisters?

Danny: They’re all very unique. My eldest sister is a midwife, just graduated three days ago. When she was a kid, she used to push around a pram with a baby in it all the time. There’s my second oldest – Elizabeth or Beth. She is finding her own way right now in the world. She’s been a chef, she’s been a pointer which is basically almost like a builder. She fills in the cracks and fills in cement, almost like a stone mason. She’s at the age where she’s trying to figure out what she wants to do.

And there’s my two younger ones. The eldest younger one, Ella, is still in school. The youngest sister Lily is a bookworm who just reads and reads and reads. I think it’s wonderful in this day and age. Technology has united us so much but it also sort of distances people from each other because they get so sucked into their phones. And she is incredible because every time I’ve been around her, she’s always got a book. I’m excited to see what they all do. They’re very diverse and unique. And then there’s me.

Danny Griffin
Danny Griffin

Abigail: And then there’s you. What’s your favourite childhood memory?

Danny: I really enjoyed catching my first fish with my stepdad Harry. I really enjoyed that. We had a really old boat. It wasn’t glamorous. It was quite beaten up. But it was fun. It was great fun and in the mornings we used to get up really early and go fishing and that was really enjoyable. I was about nine or ten.

Abigail: What is one thing you would tell your younger self?

Danny: I’m still telling myself this now: patience. I got taught that so much as a kid. It’s really difficult hearing it as a kid, or hearing, ‘You’ve got time’. I hear it from everyone still. Because everyone always thinks, ‘No – I haven’t got time. I’m trying to either play catch up or I’m trying to get where I want to be now. Time is running out and I want to be right here at this point in my life.’ And I think I would echo it to my younger self that you actually do have time, slow down.

That was a bit of advice I got from an actor when I was about 19, doing some theatre. He said to me, ‘you are the tortoise; you’re not the hare in this. It’s not a race; it’s a marathon, so take your time with everything and what will happen, will happen.’ I wanna ask you the same question. What would you tell yourself?

Abigail: I would say the same thing. Patience. It’s not that serious. Calm down. What’s been your worst LA experience – and what’s been your best?

Danny: I’ve got quite a few. LA is LA and I’m slowly adjusting to it. I recently moved there, transitioned there for a time being. There’s a lot of parties that you can go to, there’s a lot of events that you can attend. I have met some people who think they’re the coolest human being in the world. They want to let you know that they’re better than you in every way.  I just wanted to say hello and get to know you – I don’t really care about how great you think you are. There’s quite a bit of that that I’ve run into, especially at events, and it’s been from people in our age group as well. 

But then again, I’ve met some really wonderful people in our age group in LA. People who are really characterful and are very diverse and have very unique stories and are very wonderful people and give a lot of time. And do listen and do care. So it’s a double-edged sword really. What about you, missy? You’ve been there for six years…

Abigail: That stuff too. That crowd can be interesting, yeah. Or when you’re talking to someone and they just walk away…

Danny: They’re talking to you but they’re looking off, trying to find someone else to talk to because you are not fulfilling their needs.

Abigail: Yeah. That’s always interesting. Always fun. Who inspires you?

Danny: There are people in film and TV who inspire me, who are very creative and different. Taika Waititi I find is just madly good at his job and I like what he’s doing with his films. I like what he did with a lot of his earlier things before he did Thor: Ragnarok and it blew up and everyone was like, ‘Oh, this guy’s amazing.’ His earlier work, like What We Do In The Shadows is hilarious. He’s a lovely bit of inspiration.

There are lots of actors as well. There’s Christoph Waltz who I adore and I think is incredible. Matt Damon, Christian Bale – Christian Bale’s transformations where he can go from being 150 pounds and then 250 pounds for Batman is incredible. 

I can also say my mum. My mum’s great. She’s helped me out a bunch with regards to giving me confidence to do this job. Cos it constantly slaps you in the face.

There are loads of people that you can take inspiration from. I take inspiration from you as well. I take inspiration from my fellow castmates – Ken Duke who plays my dad is just a massive inspiration to me. We had dinner together most nights when we were shooting season two. I could talk to him forever. He’s such a nice guy. He’s got all the time in the world to talk about his life, and how he messed up in his life and now he’s trying to correct it.

Abigail: You’re making him sound like he went to prison or something! Like, he made so many mistakes in his life and now he’s spending all his time trying to make up for it!

Danny: I made him sound like he’s literally a convict. No – he’s a great inspiration.

Abigail: Yeah, for sure. Favourite food?

Danny: Sushi. A poke bowl. Or a tomahawk steak the size of a plate. 

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Abigail: Red or white wine?

Danny: Red. You’re white wine, aren’t you?

Abigail: I like white wine. Who is a director you would love to end up working with?

Danny: There’s quite a few. Taika would be someone I’d love to work with one day. Because I feel like his set would be very relaxed and he would let you feel out what you think is right and give you good notes.

And then there’s like opposite end of the spectrum: David Fincher is someone I’d love to work with. His films are quite dark and gritty and grotesque. Seven is an incredible film but you wanna shower after it. But his films are amazing and I’ve heard he’s a very interesting person to work with. James Cameron for his early work, like Avatar and Aliens and The Terminator. The amount of films he’s done where the scale of them are huge.

Quentin Tarantino. Who wouldn’t wanna work with Quentin Tarantino? He seems like an absolute genius and someone who feels like detail is so important and I love that as an actor. I love having details and little tiny nuances that are really important. I feel like being on his sets would be like a masterclass. It would be incredible.

Abigail: One last question for you. It’s very serious. Have you ever had a crush on a cartoon character or an animated character?

Danny: Nala from The Lion King

Abigail: Good answer. My friend had a crush on the Fox from Zootopia. He was so suave. Thank you for your time and I can’t wait to see where your career goes and all of the wonderful things that are in store for you.

Danny: Likewise to yourself

Abigail: Thank you. Now get out of my office. 

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Fate: The Winx Saga is on Netflix

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