For 200 years, the works of Jane Austen have swept millions upon millions of fans off their feet. To have created characters that resonate so richly and deeply with audiences of all ages and from around the globe is extraordinary. So with each new generation, there is yet another adaptation to seduce new fans. Currently, it was the webseries THE LIZZIE BENNET DIARIES. Employing the novelty of a young woman, Lizzie Bennet, capturing moments of her life on video and sharing them with the world at large, THE LIZZIE BENNET DIARIES became an instant addictive rage. In a recent exclusive interview, star Daniel Vincent Gordh shared his reflections on portraying the iconic role of William Darcy, as envisioned for the modern era and how it has swept him away in the past year in his own life.
So what drew you to THE LIZZIE BENNET DIARIES and what made you want to tackle a role as iconic as Mr. Darcy?
DANIEL: First thing that drew me to the series was I had an audition for it. (Laughs) No, my agent sent me the script and that was the first time I was introduced to the story of “Pride & Prejudice.” It wasn’t a story that I knew before the audition. I had heard of it and knew the social significance for it. In college, I remember one of my best friends was always talking about trying to find a Mr. Darcy of her own. She was obsessed with the 1995 mini-series. So I knew the cultural significance of the story, but I had never explored the story myself before the audition. But then once I got into it, it’s such a fertile story. I think one of the main things that I love about it is that it is really a coming-of-age story for Lizzie’s character — about learning those lessons about maturity and what it means to be an adult and what it really means to love someone, and what it really means to empathize. I think it’s such a fertile story in that there’s so much Lizzie is going through. And Darcy, he’s such a weird character. He really is. He’s so misunderstood by everyone at first. So one of the things I loved about getting to play Darcy was that from the beginning I knew that I had to play a character that everyone perceived as one way, but really underneath he was the polar opposite. So he was a character that everyone perceived as haughty and above everyone else, but really that was kind of a defense mechanism for someone who felt like he didn’t understand the social behaviors of other people and he used his class to mask it. So it was a very interesting character for me. It wasn’t a character I had ever played before, but it was something I immediately connected to. Partially just because even though emotionally I think I’m different from the character — like if someone were to meet me, I’m very different from Darcy in that I’m much more open and kind of goofy and performative than Darcy — but really I’m kind of an idealist and that aspect of Darcy is part I connected to. We kind of have an idealism about the way that things should be and the way that people should ideally behave. I think it is a bit of a trap to have too much of that idealism. It kind of keeps you from accepting other people’s flaws. Secretly, both of us are very sensitive. There’s actually a lot that, once I started digging in, I really fell in love with the character.
You also seemed to have imbued Darcy with a lot of humor, which is a different take on the classic character of Mr. Darcy. So that was fun, as well. The entire series is built on some great comedy, but you brought a level to the character that hadn’t been revealed before.
DANIEL: Thank you. Yeah, that came out of the tone of the show. I knew that I had to bring the humor out. THE LIZZIE BENNET DIARIES is kind of unique in “Pride & Prejudice” adaptations in that it is more of a comedy than any other adaptations. So I knew that I had to bring that out. That was something else that drew me to it. I’m very comfortable with comedy and I love to do comedy and I kind of knew what was funny about Darcy. There is actually something very funny about Darcy, and if you watch other “Pride & Prejudice” adaptations the humor is there too — just because he’s such a reclusive person. That kind of robotic quality, it lends itself to comedy.
I noticed particularly as you would portray Darcy in the role-playing sketches. It was quite funny when he’d put on a wig or a hat, and for Darcy to have conceivably have done any of those things was hysterically funny.
DANIEL: At one point as I was doing the fifth impression, I think I was doing it too well and I had to kind of tone it back and make it Darcy doing them ’cause I think I lost a little bit of Darcy doing the impression and I had to kind of find Darcy and then find the level of performance that Darcy’s comfortable with — ’cause obviously I as an actor and generally performative person have less trouble doing that than he would himself. So I had to find a balance of how far he would go into it.
Did it take a lot of prep to portray characters within characters?
DANIEL: Yeah, it’s an odd thing. Like I was just saying, I am comfortable finding a new character and performing that character and bringing that character to life. But the character I’m playing is not. So I had to look at it as, “Darcy operates this way.” He’s not performative; he’s more of an introvert. But at the same time, he loves Lizzie and he wants to play along and try to see things from her point-of-view. So he had to fight against his old habits in order to bring that side to life. It does take a good amount of prep. But it was great because I got to work with everyone on set and do a number of takes and see how far to go. Bernie would always pull me back if I went too far or pushed me if I wasn’t going far enough.
Was there something you were just itching to do as Darcy that they just couldn’t let you do?
DANIEL: I think the main thing I was itching to do was all the stuff before I got on the show. Just ’cause that stuff is so fun. I really wish I had gotten to do the stuff that made Lizzie say, “God, what a douche bag. What a pretentious dick.” (Laughs) I wish I had gotten to do all that stuff. They brought me in halfway through the story, which confounded me when I got the audition ’cause I had heard of the project for a long time before and was shocked once I got the audition. Like I thought it had been going on for a while and it seem inconceivable that Darcy had not appeared earlier. But they did it very cleverly and they did it very tortuously.
It helped build up expectations to when the audience finally gets to meet Darcy.
DANIEL: It really did build up that anticipation for people and I think it was a smart decision. It was smart in building hype and having these kind of story moments that allowed people to really get engaged and chomping at the the bit for what was going to happen next. But also it was necessary for this format for telling this story because Lizzie wasn’t going to — well, it didn’t make sense in this tone of the story where Lizzie’s privately recording these and for Darcy to come in and talk to her. I think they could have potentially brought him in at Netherfield, but I think they chose to have that kind of be the Bing moment instead of Darcy.
Your college friend, how did she react when she found out that you had been cast in THE LIZZIE BENNET DIARIES as Mr. Darcy?
DANIEL: I haven’t told her yet. I actually keep meaning to tell her. I haven’t talked to her that much since we were in school together, but I keep meaning to reach out to her and say, “by the way, so who is Mr. Darcy now?” (Laughs) I’ve just been building that moment up ’cause I know how much fun it is going to be.
Now that THE LIZZIE BENNET DIARIES series is concluded, there’s all these little spinoffs. Are you going to be featured on the spinoffs as well?
DANIEL: Really what those were, for our story anyway — and I don’t know if Bernie would call them this — but I think of them as “choose your own adventures.” Meaning they are companions to THE LIZZIE BENNET DIARIES series. They are spinoffs that allow you to get a fleshing out of another part of the story, if you want to. I think all the spinoffs are done. Except that Bernie and the team are going right into “Welcome to Sanditon,” which is their next project. I know Allison Paige, who plays Gigi, is going to be doing that one. At this point, I don’t know if I’ll be involved. I wouldn’t rule it out. But I can’t really say either way. I think because they are currently working on getting the DVD together and Bernie’s been doing another series called, “Look Book” — they’re all busy working people. As far as “Welcome to Sanditon,” I don’t see why it would be impossible for me to be back, but I don’t know if it will make sense just because I don’t know the story yet.
So what other plans do you have for your career right now? What projects are you working on?
DANIEL: I’m very excited about the audio book I just recorded. That was a first for me in terms of doing something that was all voice work. I did this audio book, “The House of Secrets,” which was written by Chris Columbus and Ned Vizzini, who are both very accomplished and legendary writers and filmmakers. It’s kind of a “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” kind of story in that it’s about three kids that get pulled into a mystical world. They get pulled into the books of this novelist Denver Kristoff, who is a Ray Bradbury kind of writer and they are stuck in these stories and they are slowly unraveling the secrets of the house that they were in and of these intermingling stories. It’s a very epic story. It’s a long book and there’s a lot of characters. I just had a great time getting to play all these different characters at the same time. It was challenging to do voice work like that. I can’t even count how many characters I had to create. So I’m very excited about that and getting to see how that’s received. My mom is also a huge audio book fan, so I’m excited for her to get a chance to hear it. Then I recently finished shooting another webseries called “Hipsterhood,” with Julia Cho — who I worked with on THE LIZZIE BENNET DIARIES and who is a great friend, actress, producer and just lovely to work with. So I recently just finished shooting that and it will be on BlipTV. And there’s been a few other projects. It’s been really nice to end THE LIZZIE BENNET DIARIES and have things lined up. ‘Cause I’m getting offers for other web projects, which I’m looking at now. Then there’s another big web project that I’m very excited about that should hopefully be happening around summer that will feature me as a superhero. So as more information about that comes up, I will share it. But that project is going to be a very exciting one that I’m looking forward to working on.
Have you found that after being on THE LIZZIE BENNET DIARIES that it has opened up more doors for you?
DANIEL: Absolutely. There’s so many actors. It’s such a big community of people, so anything that brings attention to your work is what you want. It’s such a tough career, so working on a show like THE LIZZIE BENNET DIARIES that has found such a unique and dedicated fan-base, and also getting to work on something that is such good quality and that fits me really well, I felt good about being able to bring it to life. It’s been such a great showcase for me just because (1) how many people have seen the show and (2) how much interest that work has brought to me as an actor and to my other projects. It’s definitely given all of us on the show a big leg up. I mean we’re all suddenly being recognized and a lot of new opportunities have come up. The web and TV world are getting closer to each other; especially with shows like HOUSE OF CARDS and some of the stuff Hulu does like BATTLEGROUND. So people are starting to watch more TV shows on the web and even web shows are starting to be on Netflix and people are watching them on their TV. It’s all becoming more of a hybrid. The web stuff is mattering more and more to people than traditional media than it ever has in the past.
It definitely is expanding rapidly, which is very exciting.
DANIEL: I think people love THE LIZZIE BENNET DIARIES largely because of the story, but the format is very convenient for people. People are on their computers all day anyway. And it’s got a great narrative. It’s not like watching a cat jumping up and down. It’s more impactful — and you have the option of watching a bunch in a row and having it be a more substantial experience. People are on their computers where they can follow our characters and it’s like part of people’s routine. Also, it’s crazy ’cause the show’s over now, but people are still discovering it. Subscribers and views are still growing. So it’s going to be interesting to see the life of the show now — now that the live portion of the show is over.
It seems to be gaining momentum with the recent Streamy Award recognition and the recent Kickstarter campaign. The number of views have just gone up exponentially. So it seems the publicity around the show is just growing.
DANIEL: It’s actually weird ’cause I expected myself to be less busy now that the show’s over. But in a certain way because the end of the series caused such an explosion, it’s made me more busy. There’s a lot of people who want to talk about it. There’s people who want to talk to me about other projects. And our Kickstarter campaign launched just as we were ending, so it became a bigger phenomenon than anyone expected. I don’t think they knew how well-timed it was. Then we’re going to LeakyCon in June and we have more appearances at conventions and things like that to go to. But the astounding thing is: the show is over. I think when I joined there was only 8 million views and now its at over 32 million views — not including the spinoff material. We’ve gotten a lot of great publicity. The 200th anniversary of “Pride & Prejudice” was a big day for us. People are always discovering the show. The word-of-mouth buzz related to our show has been huge. It’s all very gratifying.
Clearly Daniel’s life has been changed forever simply by the opportunity to portray one of the most beloved characters in all fictional history — and in such a positive way that he has no regrets and will be eternally grateful. For those curious to check out THE LIZZIE BENNET DIARIES, all one hundred episodes are currently posted for viewing at its website. Then be sure to keep an eye out for Daniel’s future projects with the audio book “The House of Cards” and the webseries “Hipsterhood,” which will air on BlipTV.
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