Interview With Actor David Haydn-Jones

By Ruth on January 18, 2017 in Interview, movie, television
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For those who religiously follow my interviews, you will not doubt realize my propitious treatment of Hallmark actors. Of course, that is never a requirement in order to appear on my site, but more often than not, if someone in the entertainment industry has at least spent some time on a Hallmark soundstage, I already sense a deep connection due to the nature of the output of projects from this progressive network. In the case of David Haydn-Jones, had it not been for the tireless promotion of this thespian by a singularly devoted viewer and fan (namely Teresa Minutolo), I may have overlooked the actor that often refers to himself as “hidden in plain sight.” For indeed, in the case of this Hallmark viewer, that is how I knew him until recently. Unmasking the darkly handsome and staunchly mannerly David is a feat that not everyone can undertake, as understanding this sensitive, talented man requires attention to detail and intuitiveness (both of which I believe I have been blessed). Evidently, David believes I am up to the task as well since he coined the term “Legend” in reference to me from the beginning, and I only hope I can impart to you the captivating tale of this distinguished, assiduous gentleman’s rise within his chosen profession from his early days through and beyond his Hallmark and Supernatural appearances, as his is a tale that draws heavily on the past but looks expectantly towards the future.

RH: Please tell us a little bit about your beginnings.

DHJ: Oh gracious. How much time do you have? {laughs} I’ll try to give you the Cliff’s Notes version. My dad and mom came from the UK. My dad was first-generation Welsh and met my mom, an ex-Pat, in London.  I describe my cultural heritage as half-British, half-American, all Canadian. My parents did what might be called the grand experiment, where they immigrated to Canada and got what they thought was a two-year contract as teachers in the “Middle-of-Nowhere”, Saskatchewan, otherwise known as the small town of Kyle. It is a town of less than five hundred people, and it’s still very much rural. To this day, it is still a special place to my family. I was brought up on old-school, small-town, Canadian values where you always look out for one another.

As we were growing up, my family didn’t have a lot of money, but my parents were very good to us. My parents were hard-working and aspirational, and they always found a way to save money to regularly take us back to the UK, all around the United States and even the world. On one level, we were small-town, but on another level, we were international travelers.

How did you decide to become an actor?

The arts were always important to our family; we were very musical and placed high value on performance. From birth through high school, we took music, dance and performing arts lessons. Even when in the smallest of towns, we were active with little theater, music festivals, school plays and the arts.

At fifteen, I got my first taste of a professional job when I became a singer and dancer at an amusement park just outside of Calgary, Alberta, called Calaway Park. Everyone else was flipping burgers and digging ditches, and I was singing and dancing five shows a day for Calaway Live. I would say that was what hooked me.

Did you go on to receive formal training in the arts in college?

Well, not exactly. At the age of seventeen, I attended McGill University, but I did not choose a performing arts degree. Instead, I studied architecture, but all my electives were in the arts–performing arts, theater, and literature.  I was doing musicals, Shakespeare, and I even got the lead in Tartuffe all whilst designing buildings and houses.

At the same time,  I was also doing live sketch comedy in the clubs in Montreal. We did an hour of new comedy every other week. I considered myself this weird hybrid who infiltrated the theater department, and I basically cobbled together my own training. I was in the chorus, I did independent plays, and I was performing everywhere and anywhere I could whilst working towards my architecture degree.  During my summers, I also wrote and performed original musicals for the Alberta government as a singing park ranger.

I thought I was going to go into architecture, but there was a mini-recession when I got out of school. So on a somewhat trial basis,  I decided to move to Toronto with one of my best friends. We formed a sketch comedy group and became a part of that special time in Toronto known unofficially as the “grunge rock of comedy.” It was a great time for live stand-up and sketch comedy where there was healthy, collaborative competition. I was still young–I was twenty–and I figured I’d see how this comedy thing went for two or three years.

I was able to key into that and give myself a career.  Because of my sketch comedy in the clubs, I got my first foray into on-camera stuff. One of the groups I worked with got a really nice showcase called “Joe’s Convenience” with Montreal Just For Laughs. The American network saw me at that, flew me to New York, then flew me to Los Angeles. I got an American manager, and all that became a huge game changer for me. I like to say that I got called up to the majors while I was young. LA was saying, “Yeah, come here we may have work for you.”

So how did things change for you in LA?

When I moved to Los Angeles, I made that my home, and that’s been the case for the last sixteen years, give or take. I got my first TV credit in America on Melrose Place. You don’t get more Los Angeles than booking your first guest spot on Melrose Place. When I went back to Toronto for the summer to shoot this comedy series, all of a sudden my cachet had gone up. I really think that if I hadn’t gone to LA and booked those first few jobs like Buffy the Vampire Slayer (playing a Brit, incidentally), King of Queens, and Melrose Place, I don’t think I would have done as well back in Canada.  The big advantage for me is that while a lot of actors go to LA without anything set up, I was invited to LA and instead of going blind, I was following the momentum.

What was the first thing that you did with Hallmark?

I had done a Christmas movie called Dear Santa for Lifetime in 2010, and so that wasn’t technically Hallmark, but it put me on the radar. That was my first real lead in a holiday movie. It was a fun experience. I love Jason {Priestly} and  Amy Acker, but I didn’t expect many people to watch it. But every year now, even internationally, Dear Santa is “the little movie that could,” I call it. People reach out to me all the time for that one.

With Miranda Frigon and Erin Krakow in A Cookie Cutter Christmas
Picture Credit: Hallmark

My first Hallmark one was A Cookie Cutter Christmas three years ago, which was nice ’cause Erin {Krakow} has a huge Hallmark following and amazing fan base. She was wonderful to work with on that film. She was there as I was getting exposed to that world, and she steered people my way. It was such a lovely time. Oh, I love that woman. We had such a great time, and we laughed and laughed all the time.

In light of Alan Thicke’s passing, what was it like working with him on A Cookie Cutter Christmas?

First of all, you’re sort of starstruck because you grew up watching him, and you know him as a very famous Canadian. I don’t get starstruck that much. He was very tall. He had a real presence and an amazing voice. I think he only worked on the movie maybe two days out of the around fifteen days we shot. I think that I only had three scenes with him, but again, you’re looking at this man. He’s seen it all. He’s done it all. He’s showing up on this Christmas movie. He’s lovely, charming, easygoing, and professional. He’s there to work and have some fun and have some laughs. Very generous. Introduced himself and said, “Hi, I’m Alan,” like we didn’t already know. I love it when “names” do that ’cause it takes all the hype away. You’re just two actors working on a show together. I think it’s a very honorable and gracious thing to do. As opposed to, “Who are you?!” We had scenes together. We improv-ed some jokes. We made each other laugh, and it was a lovely day at work with a real pro.

That is just great. I have talked with other people who say that same thing about him. Unfortunately, not everyone leaves behind a positive legacy like Alan did.

I would add that in this business, you have some people who believe their own persona, and it’s always nice to show up on a set where the persona gets tossed away, and it’s just the person again. It’s always nice when you meet these talented, legacy performers…the same with Deidra Hall. Just a lovely, gracious, hard-working woman and a generous actor.

And that is so often what I hear about Hallmark in general.

I think Hallmark is very smart in hiring the right kind of people for their brand. Obviously, the Hallmark brand is about kindness, compassion, values, family. I think that they know their audience well enough to know the kind of people they want to hire and bring into the Hallmark family.

I have heard this same message so many times from people who say it is a joy to work for Hallmark. They say the sets are very welcoming. Not that there aren’t other sets that are equally welcoming, but there are some sets that are not as nice as Hallmark.

Your point is well-taken. I know people who are on big hit shows who are miserable because of the work environment. That absolutely exists in Hollywood. And again, the culture comes from the top. Obviously, Bill {Abbott}, Pam Slay, all of the executives–they know what their brand is. They believe in it. It’s not a fake thing. And I think that they understand that the more authentic the feeling is on set, the more that will come through on camera. I think they hire well for that reason.

I remember you were also on Bridal Wave. How did you get the role for that film?

I was in LA and I got this call from my agent, and they were like, “Walter Mirisch wants to meet you in his office at Universal Studios to discuss Bridal Wave.” And I was like, “What? Walter Mirisch?? THE Walter Mirisch?!” I thought, “No, there has to be two Walter Mirisches.” So I went to IMDB and I was like, ” Okay, what?? Walter Mirisch is what??” He was doing a Hallmark movie that shoots in Victoria. I really loved the script. I thought it had a lot of great moments in it. And the lead character was an architect, and I’m an architect.

So I went to my meeting thinking, “No, it can’t be.” But I did my research anyway. I wanted to be prepared in case this was the real Walter Mirisch, even though I couldn’t see how it would be. But it was a Universal corner office. It had to be. I went up to this nice, big corner office overlooking the Universal lot. His personal secretary, who was very classy,  said, “Hello Mr. Haydn-Jones, it’s so nice to meet you. We’ve enjoyed your reel so much.”  I was impressed. They had really done their homework on me! I was like, “Thank you, that’s very flattering.” And she was like, “Walter will be with you in five minutes.”

It’s literally like out of old Hollywood. I went through this double wooden door entrance, and at the far end of the room at this big desk with Academy Awards and certificates all around him–there he was. He had this big, strong handshake, and he told me to have a seat. Without trying to be too sycophantic, he has made some of my favorite movies and even some of my dad’s favorite movies. I had to say, “I can’t even believe I’m here. Will you allow me to sing your praises?” He responded very well to it. He went into fifteen minutes of war stories about getting all those movies made. Like In the Heat of the Night, The Pink Panther.. and I was like, “I can’t believe Walter Mirisch is telling me war stories right now.”

In Bridal Wave
Photo Credit: Copyright 2014 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer:Duane Prentice

So then he asked, “So what do you think of the script?” And I was like, “I think it’s great. I love it. I’m an architect.” Then he was like, “I think you’re the other guy, though.” And I was like, “I can be the other guy. Whatever you want, Mr. Mirisch. I–yes–I’m the other guy. You’re right. ” So when in those situations, you should always say yes.  He had that great, old Hollywood way of talking. He called these movies “pictures.” Like, “What do you think of the picture?” And I was like, “Yes! I feel like I’m in a scene from Hail Ceasar.” He said he liked me for the other guy, and a week and a half later, I was the other guy. That was a story for the ages. I will not forget that. That is as good as old Hollywood gets.

And he said something great to me. At the end of the conversation, I said, “If you don’t mind me asking and if it’s not too gauche, why are you involved with this at all?” He was like, “I love the script! And they don’t do romantic comedies in the cinema anymore.” That’s true. They’ve all gone to TV. They don’t do Sleepless in Seattle or Splash or You’ve Got Mail in the cinema anymore. They’ve all gone basically to Hallmark and Lifetime. And he goes, “You know what, David? You know why I still make pictures?” I was like, “Because you just love it?” And he said, “No. ‘Cause it’s a disease! It’s a disease you can’t cure!” {laughs} It was said with a wink in his eye, but he’s  that artist that wants to make the next best one. We performing artists are sort of masochists when we do this work. We’re always like, “Ooh, we almost got it! It could have been better. That was pretty good. I want to do another.” It’s like a painting. It’s never done. You just walk away.

Your most recent work was My Christmas Dream. What was neat about that was I got to interview Christian (Convery} who played your character’s son.

He’s a really sweet kid.

And you got to work with Danica McKellar, and she’s one of the Hallmark ladies.

Very much. She’s definitely becoming part of that family big time.

With Danica McKellar in My Christmas Dream
Photo Credit: Hallmark

Was this one you auditioned for?

I did audition for this one. It was one of the first things I went out for after I did my summer hiatus from LA in Vancouver. Danica told me she had been looking for someone to take the more subtle or dry comedic moments and try to milk them, and I was more than willing to oblige her. Hallmark actually had me pinned for Erin Krakow’s Christmas film, so I was already in the mix. Then they were like, “Well, let’s put him with Danica this time instead of with Erin again.”  I went in and did my thing in the audition. Then I forgot about it. Then lo and behold, we were shooting. Lots of crazy nights. Sort of a bit bleary-eyed and wonky, but we tried to keep it light and fun. I think Danica and I were laughing nonstop on that picture.

My memory is failing me here. This wasn’t the first time you had worked with a kid, was it?

No, I have worked with many, many kids. Dear Santa, a widowed dad. A Cookie Cutter Christmas, another widowed dad. Then I was also a dad on a kids sitcom. I was married in that one. I played a cop. So goofy dad is kind of in my wheelhouse.

That makes sense then. You guys certainly had the rhythm down in this movie. Everything seemed to work well between you and Christian and between you and Danica.

Yeah, I think the reason that works is just being available, being honest, being friendly, being there to work. And also I think I’m just a big, goofy kid in a lot of ways myself. I have a very good way of disarming kids and really being their best friend pretty quick. I don’t talk down to them. We concentrate on being focused, but also having fun at the same time. I always try to befriend the parent or parents as well. Bring them all in and try to make it a really warm, inviting, safe place to play.

It comes off very well. Of course, what’s the old adage? You should never work with children or animals.

{laughs} That’s right. And technically, to be fair, kids don’t hit the mark the same way adults do. They’re still growing. It’s hard enough for adults to do this technical stuff. There’s so many technical requirements, and to have a kid do it is miraculous. My philosophy always is that if you want to help get the best performance, especially for these movies, just be their new best friend as quick as you can. And hopefully, that will come through like you say.

Oh it did. But I think Christian upstaged both of you in that movie.

That’s fine. That’s what I hear. He can have all the credit.

I think that’s why some actors get really insecure. They don’t want to work with kids or animals because they have the cuteness factor and may steal the limelight from the actors.

Oh, that’s fine. That’s all the ego game which I really don’t try to participate in. I’m just so grateful to have these jobs whenever they come along.

Now you’ve got this recurring role on Supernatural.

That’s right. I’m officially allowed to talk about it after all of this time. I told Danica that I had a third callback for the role. We had been filming in the fancy mall downtown shooting for My Christmas Dream, and they wanted me at 10:30 in the morning for this final producer callback. I had to go from scruffy artist single dad to tuxedo James Bond. I had about an hour and a half turnaround. I think I was so loose and just running on fumes and had done enough studying. I was exhausted, but I literally went into adrenaline mode. I went in and did one of the best auditions of my life ’cause I knew there was a lot riding on it.  About three weeks later, I had booked the role. It’s a real dream role.

Even though you might not think that this show and Hallmark have a lot of overlap ’cause it’s more fantasy, monster, sci-fi, the values of the show are–believe it or not–really wholesome and family-related. Loyalty and fighting against evil. A lot of Biblical themes actually which is quite interesting. They’re sometimes outlandish and fantastical places, which may not be everyone’s cuppa tea. But having said that, the charity work this community does around the world with their loyal fan base has been absolutely gob-smacking to me. To see how kind this world is, believe it or not. You might on the surface go, “Ew, that weird monster show. The blood and the gore and the machetes.” But it’s such a loving environment, and they really consider themselves a big, extended family, and that’s important to key into even if I’m playing a not-so-nice guy.

I see my character, Mr. Ketch, as an old-fashioned dandy, kind of a throwback to 1930’s/1940’s Hollywood. Also, as any actor will say–you never play evil, you never play a bad guy, you never play a sociopath. I don’t think my guy’s a sociopath. Rule number one is that you never judge the character. We find rapport with what they want. This guy knows what he wants. He goes and gets it. He likes a very tidy office. What can I say?

The show also has an on-set atmosphere which is very welcoming. The leadership comes from the top–Jared {Padalecki} and Jensen {Ackles}. You don’t hold onto a crew of over fifty plus who have been there since the beginning if the culture is not kind and creative and a pleasant place to work. I’ve been blessed with these very lovely work environments–knock on wood. Hope I can keep the streak running ’cause believe you me, there are horror stories out there.

Are you allowed to tell us how many episodes you will be on?

That’s a sticky wicket. Even though I have appeared, I’m not allowed to say how many are coming up for my character or when. That gives too many spoilers away, and they’re very tight-lipped about that at the studio and the network. I’m allowed to talk about my character. I’m allowed to say I’m on the show. I’ve only been revealed at the mid-season finale. There’s more to come. Much more fun to come. Let’s put it that way.

As I was looking through your credits, it looks like way back when, you did some writing.

Yes, back with my sketch comedy. That was when I was doing all of my comedy writing. The group “Joe’s Convenience”did some CBC work. And then I have had scripts in development here and there, turned down and around–the story of Hollywood. I still have a few in the drawer that I will pitch every once in awhile. I always have about three on the go at any given time.

Are you interested in eventually directing?

Absolutely. So that will hopefully be where I can have work and structure, work and freedom, where I can eventually hope to start directing episodes and then some stuff on my own.

When you have free time, what do you like to do?

Gosh, that’s such a good question because free time is at such a minimum right now. The way I counterbalance this career, reading scripts and being inside and driving around Los Angeles and flying and being on sets for all hours of the night and being with my family…after that is all handled, I really just love to walk into the woods. Get up a mountain and go to see a lake and all that stuff. That really fills my time. Resetting the hustle and bustle of the business with God’s creation and a hefty dose of nature. It always resets my bar. I always say that if you can’t be relaxed at the top of a mountain, you’ll never be. I’m still a country boy at heart.

One final question. I’ve heard that you call the development of your career your “genesis.”  How do you classify where you are right now where you’re getting more prominent roles and your career is escalating?

I’ve had enough ups and downs in this career as any actor has. The question for me was always–can I make a living doing just this? And I had what I call that rollover moment about ten years into living in Los Angeles. I’ve basically been a working actor for the last ten, eleven years. That to me is success. That to me is “I made it.” Everything else is gravy. I’ve had pilots that have failed just like George Clooney and any actor. I’m enough of a veteran now where I try not to analyze where this is going to lead or where I’m at perceptively or how people view my career. All I can do is show up day to day on this show right now, which is the biggest show I’ve ever been on and the best role I’ve ever had, possibly the most high profile and just go moment to moment, day to day, role to role. It could lead to nothing… I don’t know. Anytime you think you’re on the crest of something, usually the universe goes, “Nope, you’re not.” Then other times I think, “Well, that show’s not gonna go anywhere,” and all of a sudden you’re like, “Whoa! People love that show!” I would be the worst person to ask about where my career is heading. I just try to keep it simple. Just grateful for the job, do my best work, be on time. Just small town values.

Very rarely do I come in contact with a talent who is so immensely grounded, immeasurably kind, categorically gifted, and with a delightful sense of humor to boot! While David has been underrated throughout much of his career, he has been taking things one day at a time–sometimes even one hour or one minute at a time–and he has not permitted this sometimes brutal and critical world to annihilate his positivity, his old world charm, and his unfathomable altruism. As I ponder his versatility, his suave demeanor, his boundless ability, and his throwback persona, I concur with his publicist (Holly Carcini) that he does remind one of the classic Hollywood gentlemen leading men of yore, especially Cary Grant. While I never came in contact with Cary Grant on any personal level, I am grateful that the digital age has given David’s fans and supporters the supreme joy of connecting instantly with this man via social media. While he may often be otherwise occupied that he barely has a moment to breathe, he has recognized that the personal touch is vital, especially in this day and age where the internet brings us closer to one another than ever before, but genuine connections are so few and far between. When I count my numerous blessings in this business of supporting actors–one I unwittingly threw myself into over two years ago–I never dreamed that people like David existed. While I have come in contact with a virtual smorgasbord of industry professionals, David is one who has impressed me more than my meager words can ever state. I always feel duty-bound to support and promote those with whom I have connected, and sometimes, that becomes an exhausting chore. In the case of David, my support of his soaring career is almost as easy as drawing my next breath. That is how authentic and real he is. If you have not watched Supernatural, I encourage you to join me on Thursday, Janaury 26, on the WB (be sure to check local listings for the time as the show has a new time slow). I’m not a regular viewer of the show by any means, but because of David, I am willing to give it a go. Notwithstanding, be sure that you check out David’s links below and follow him where applicable because this is a man whose star is rising so rapidly, it would be wise to jump on the bandwagon now lest you get left behind!

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About the Author

RuthView all posts by Ruth
43-year-old single mother of an active 14-year-old girl Born in Tacoma, WA; lives in Yelm, WA Entertainment Writer Available For Interviews and Reviews Substitute Teacher

4 Comments

  1. Mercy January 19, 2017 Reply

    Great interview! First saw him on Cookie Cutter Christmas with Erin Krakow and then watched Bridal Wave with my sister a few months ago and realized he was on it. 🙂
    Mercy recently posted…Moments With Mercy – Interview With Rachel BostonMy Profile

    • Author
      Ruth January 19, 2017 Reply

      So cool Mercy! Glad you enjoyed him & the interview

  2. Sue January 19, 2017 Reply

    Loved the interview! Thanks so much for sharing and I highly agree with everything you said about the Hallmark Channel. I also love the Hallmark Movies and Mysteries channel as well.

    • Author
      Ruth January 19, 2017 Reply

      Thanks Sue. I’m sure we’ll be seeing him again soon!

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