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Interview with The Tribe's Danny James (Zoot) at DragonCon 2004
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See a short clip from this interview here

A = Dreago
D = Danny James or as we like to call him Mumbles - TEASING! He's just very soft-spoken.

A: You know when I was doing research about you for the fandom press conference, you come off as fairly monosyllabic and surly in your interviews…what’s up with that?

D: How do you mean that?

A: Just when people ask you questions you answer in one word sentences….are you secretly shy?

D: I could be. I didn’t notice. You know that’s the first time I’ve been told that?

A: (giggles) You don’t read your own press?

D: No.

A: ooooh.

D: No I never have. I’ve sort of …I don’t like watching anything I’ve filmed either. Umm, ‘cause, I find it really hard to watch stuff I’ve done without picking huge holes in it and things like that. But generally, people mostly tell me that I need to shorten my answers.

A: Really?

D: Yeah.

A; Well maybe you’re being edited.

D: Could be, I don’t know.

A: So, if you don’t watch your own work, how do you progress as an actor?

D: Umm, well I think, an actor told me once that as an actor you’ve got to draw on experiences that you’ve had in your own life. So different characters that you take in and try to create umm, regardless what your specific technique is, what it really comes down to is your ability to transform your emotions and emotional experiences and physical experiences you’ve had in your own life umm, to create the same in the character. If you’ve had a few hard experiences in your life and you need to portray a character that’s had really hard experiences you have to learn to find different ways and to tune out other ones. So I think the only way for an actor to progress is just to I guess, to really, act as much as you can and experience as much as you can.

A: How did you make the transition from in front of the camera to behind the camera?

D: Umm, I kinda just ran into somebody at the company one day and just talked to them about stuff. And said that I really wanted to get involved with behind the scenes work. I think, basically we just came down to an understanding. I didn’t really know a lot of how that side of things work. And I wanted to make it easier for me as an actor, umm to understand how they do it. ‘Cause once you get an eye for the various shots and pictures and how they’re put together by directors doing their job, it makes it a lot easier as an actor to help them make you look good.

A: Okay, so it makes your transition easier?

D: Yeah, I think it would be more difficult if you just came from a background were you just one day out of the blue decided that you wanted to be part of the industry. Starting as an actor made it a lot easier to understand how they worked on set too.

A: Where do you see yourself going in the Industry?

D: I don’t know. Umm, I’ve never really chased my place in the Industry. It is kinda, my life has been a lot of opportunities that just flown past so, if it means I’m going to act in movies, or be a director,[UNINTELLIGBLE] I know what I’m doing this week. (laughs) We’ll see I guess.

A: Are you interested in music at all, because I noticed on the Tribe Soundtrack you do some vocals.

D: Yeah, not officially I don’t think. I play guitar and stuff, but that’s just, umm, my mother was very musical. I sort of got that from her. I don’t know. I just enjoy playing, I suppose.

A: I wondered because on your filmography, or maybe it was a play, you did things like the Magic Flute, Carmen, Faust –

D: Yeah, that was a very long time ago. I was a little kid. And that was kinda like the start of my career, I kinda fell into that. I was in the school choir in grammar school. I ended up doing a sort of Christmas Concert for this guy (NAME UNINTELLIGBLE ) I don’t know if you know him, he’s quite famous in NZ. I ended up in the Aukland Opera Society with the school band. After the class I had an audition. And I say well hey, it beats delivering the papers. And I ended up getting in. And that sort of just carried on from there. My mother sent me on more auditions as I got older.

A: How old are you now?

D: 22

A: 22? How do you feel about being one of the older cast members?

D: Umm, I dunno, I got a little bit of Peter Pan Syndrome, I don’t think about it too much. I’m quite happy just to hang [UNINTELLIGBLE] It’s easier in some ways and it’s hard in others. I think the hardest things is working for the company for so long that it’s hard not to be a Dad. It’s hard not to give kind of, trying to give advice when it’s not wanted.

A: Oh! Okay.

D: (laughs) You know? That kinda tends to be too much.

A: I see, alright. Alright. Well, on the subject of advice, if your character were to give you advice, what kind of advice would your character give you?

D: To be honest, I don’t know if I would want to hear any of Zoot’s advice!

A: You don’t think it would be useful in any way, shape or form?

D: No, I think he’s uuh, he’s a fairly intelligent person who’s just been warped through experience. He took the death of his father very, very badly. Umm, and through the course of the storyline, a lot of people didn’t quite understand or realize the full scope of the situation when the Virus first hit. Zoot, who was originally Martin, was one of the first characters to stand up and go ‘look man, this is pretty serious. We’re all being told to calm down but everyone is dying, everyone is dying. Do you not realize that the whole world is going to be different in a short amount of time? Umm, so, he used that to his advantage to take control, so to give himself this position of power.

A: Do you think he’s irredeemable?

D: I don’t think anyone is irredeemable. I think that everyone is born with a good soul. What you do with it, how you go as a person through life is both up to you and up to the people around you. So, umm, yeah, Martin, I think he, especially in the series before he actually died he was getting to a point when he was getting ready to maybe leave the anarchy behind a little bit.

A: Really? How so?

D: Well, I think um, seeing his child softened him a lot. He went from ‘Power and Chaos’ to ‘oh my God, okay the world is a bit different but it’s still enough for my kid’. And I think that was the reason he came out to face Lex. [UNINTELLIGBLE]Even though there were a lot of people there who weren’t keen on him. He had no back up whatsoever. So I think that was like his Darth Vadar picking up the Evil Emperor moment, you know?

A: Right, Uh huh,

D: It was like okay cool, he became that and wanted to be better for him. He had a chance.

A: All right, thank you.

(is informed that due to a delay with the next cast member, interview will be extended)

A: Excellent! That’s exciting. I get a Danny James exclusive. Now we can do some of the fun questions, not so serious. What question are you tired of answering?

D: Umm (long silence) I think the hardest one to answer is ‘what’s it like to be famous’. I don’t know how to answer that because I don’t think I’ve worked out how to answer that properly. Umm, ‘Cause I just don’t think I am famous. Heh, heh, you know? And this is all a bit far out, isn’t it? You know like I said to those folks over there, after I finish here and I go home, I’ll be lucky if get a ride [UNINTELLIGBLE]sometime, So yeah, umm, I just really don’t know what to tell people when they ask me something like that.

A: What do you wish people would ask you?

D: Wow, umm. I haven’t really, I can never, I can never put any thought into what I’d want to, I dunno, I suppose the question or something that I kind of hope the person was asking would be something the person wants to know for himself.

A: Is there a part of your personality or a part of your life that you are wanting to reveal or hoping to reveal, maybe something that you don’t feel has been highlighted?

D: Really, I don’t really hide a lot. I just answer questions that just come my way. Umm, I dunno, I don’t know if I’m an introvert. But I wouldn’t say by any stretch that I’m an exhibitionist. I would be kind of quite happy if none of my life was highlighted, heh heh! It doesn’t really bother me. If someone wants to come along and make it up, that’s cool.

A: You seem really laid back, is there a certain type of spirituality that you ascribe to?

D: Whew. You know what? Religion, to me, is an amazing idea that was turned into a belief. As soon as that happened, it all went downhill. And umm, I’m quite a spiritual person, I’m ahhh, I kinda believe in karma. I think that what you put out into the world-as in the way you treat other people- the way you react to different situation, the way you deal and the way you hold yourself in life, is going to have to have a big effect on the way you are dealt with in life. And I think that you can only be a wanker for so long before the rest of the world is going to be a wanker to you. Umm, I dunno know. I’ve met some pretty spiritual people in my life. First time I ran into the Dalai Lama was a few years ago, I could have checked in even though he’s a pretty bizarre character, but umm, as to one religion, I just think that, that ….well, the reason I said that it’s an idea turned into a belief that turned bad is that an idea is kind like an opinion. People get roused up about their opinions as it is you know, whether or not you like it or not. But as soon as you turn it into a belief and you get a lot of people believing in one thing, even though when you really break it down 90% of religions say the same thing. Love the people around you, love yourself, love this, don’t be- you know, don’t sleep with your mate’s wife or whatever. In essence, they’re saying the same thing. They’ve got their little differences. One of them you can’t eat pork on Sunday, the other one you can’t do this, this one you can’t do that. Other than that, there is very little difference in what they’re saying. But throughout history it’s like as long as there has been religion, everybody’s been killing each other for it. Which is to me, the hugest contradiction in the whole…thing! I just don’t get that. You’ve got these guys, you know, saying, love thy neighbor, don’t cut off Judas’ ear or whatever! And uh, then you go out and bomb a bunch of people because they believe in something else! But they’ve got their God saying the same thing but, it’s a different God. But you know the name of it doesn’t matter.

A: And here you are on Tribe playing someone who’s very God-like.

D: Right, the only reason he’s God-like is because umm, they’ve made him. Without people like the Guardian, without people ummm, picking up or sort of carrying that character’s legacy through, you don’t get a person that’s remembered or believed without people remembering or believing that person.

A: All right, fun questions. Uhhhh (slyly) Do you have a girlfriend?

D: I dunno.

A: You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to, but we do try to pander to the fandom.

D: Okay. I uh, uh, actually don’t know at the moment it is kind of up in the air.

A: oooh! (sly laughter)

D: I don’t want to get in trouble, yeah uuuhh, I dunno. It’s all good!

A: You seem like a fairly laid back person, so does the Drama come to you or do you create Drama in other people’s lives?

D: You know what? When I work that one out, I’ll let you know!

A: All right.

D: I think sometimes I have the ability to create it, ummm, generally I try to avoid it. But it seems to kind of follow me around a bit. So, I’m getting to the point where I think it’s my fault.

A: Maybe you have been a wanker in a past life!

D: I think in a past life, I was a real wanker and I’m trying to get past that but it is quite possible. Heh heh!

A: Hee! As an actor and as a guy on the Tribe, I feel like there are certain requirements that you wouldn’t- that we are just now getting here in the United States- I notice that the guys on the Tribe are always taking off their shirts for whatever reason.

D: Yeah.

A: And not so much the girls. What do you think that’s about? (D. simultaneously: ‘Why are they doing that?’)

D: I don’t know. You know (pause) like-

A: You don’t think that you’d be a sex symbol on The Tribe?

D: I find it very hard to believe that I could be a sex symbol.

A: So you haven’t been on the Internet is what you’re saying.

D: I uh, I haven’t, I dunno, I haven’t…Why?

A: (knowingly)Ahhhhh.

D: (laughs) Ha ha ha!

A: (sly laughter). I don’t think that now is the place for me to educate you about fanfiction or slash.

D: Okay. Hee hee! You know about me and computers, that little round button with the line, I know what that does. That sort of gets stuff to happen? That’s why I got a Playstation because it’s just “on” and go.

A: So are you more into reading or outdoors or what are your hobbies?

D: I like outdoors, you know. New Zealand is a pretty outdoorsy kind of place. It’s pretty hard to spend a lot of time indoors. Umm, we get a lot of different weather all the time, you know, so you get used to being rained on then it is boiling hot ten minutes later.

A: How hot is boiling hot?

D: Ah, it’s definitely hot. Yeah, ha ha! In Auckland reaches 24 degrees Celsius. (75.2 degrees Fahrenheit for all the U.S. readers). It’s just like one minute it will be really dry and then it will be really warm, so you know most of the time it is like 20 some degrees.

A: Is it really as beautiful as it seems, like in the movies?

D: It’s better!

A: It’s better?

D: Yeah. It’s hard to describe. New Zealand is….(looks sheepish) I’m biased I suppose. I think it’s perfect.

A: Certainly everyone we’ve met as been very low key and down to earth. Wouldn’t you say so?

D: Yeah.

A: So, what produces the people? Maybe something in the water?

D: Could be.

A: Yeah.

D & A: (laughter)

A: Thank you.

D: You’re welcome.

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