Tonight we had a special guest, actor Daniyah Ysrayl who plays Ricky on the TNT/Dreamworks TV hit summer series Falling Skies. He was abducted by the aliens and rescued by his father, only to want to rejoin the aliens and give up his life as a human. The interview tonight was a joint interview with Sharon from The Fright Channel. Listen to the interview below:[audio:http://www.threeifbyspace.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/daninterview.mp3|titles=Dan Interview]
Also do not miss out on DaniYah’s weekly video chats on Sundays and Connor’s: Learn More
Here is a bit more about The Fright Channel.
The Fright Channel is not only a 24-hour online classic horror & sci-fi movie & show channel but a site providing fans with news, reviews and interviews on just about anything fantasy, horror and sci-fi including comic books, movies, television shows and events like conventions and festivals.
Text from interview:
RP: Tonight is a special night as we are speaking with actor Daniyah Ysrayl, but before we move on tonight’s interview is a joint venture between Three If By Space and The Fright Channel. Tonight we welcome Sharon with The Fright Channel. Hello, Sharon.
SW: Hello, Robert.
RP: For those listeners and readers who have yet to discover our sites, Three If By Space is a Falling Skies and sci-fi fan site dedicated to bringing you interviews, behind-the-scene photos, up-to-date information about your favorite shows, actors and cast members.
SW: The Fright Channel is not only a twenty-four hour online classic horror and sci-fi movie and show channel – that’s a lot of words there – but a site providing fans with news, reviews and interviews on just about anything fantasy, horror and sci-fi, including comic books, movies, television shows and events like conventions and festivals.
RP: It’s great to have you with us tonight Sharon and we’re going to go ahead and get Dan connected here, so just hold on a second and let me add him to Skype and we’ll get it going.
RP: We’ve got a very special guest with us here tonight. He plays Ricky on the TNT /Dreamworks TV hit summer series, Falling Skies. He was abducted by the aliens and rescued by his father only to want to rejoin the aliens and give up his life as a human. Welcome everyone tonight the talented Daniyah Ysrayl.
DY: Hey everybody!
SW: Well, I’m going to start off. You’ve had roles in Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, Da Kink in My Hair and Moby Dick, what did you experience in your first acting ventures both in the audition process and being on set?
DY: The first ever audition that I made? Or just the first one I received?
SW: Just your first roles that you’ve ever auditioned for and that you’ve landed.
DY: Well, I remember going to the audition and it took a bit because I was going on auditions and I wasn’t really nailing them because I was new to everything, right? So I didn’t really know the flow of things, but as I got into it, I landed a commercial, Bop It Blast. I was one of the dancers in it and I can remember myself being extremely nervous up until the point where they asked me to dance because I remember back when I was a bit younger, I was a lot more into dance than I am now and it was a lot of fun. I wasn’t as nervous, but when I got on set it was just weird because I didn’t know where to go. I didn’t know where to stand. I didn’t know who was who, you know? The only people I recognized was some of the people that auditioned in the auditioning and that was about it. Yeah, but it was fun, Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, Jump-In, those movies. After Jump-In, I received Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, and that was a lot of fun. Watching the stunt guys go off and the room, I’m in the room with a whole bunch of toys and whatnot it was a lot of fun because it was real, so I had a lot of fun. It was cool. I liked it. It was nerve-racking, of course, because you need those nerves to be cautious as to what you’re doing, you know? Yeah, I liked it. It was cool.
RP: One of your first roles in Nurse Fighter Boy and then you were cast as Ricky in Falling Skies, what was your feelings of being picked for that role, after you picked up the phone and you heard you ended up getting the role of Ricky in Falling Skies?
DY: Oh man, it was funny because my agent got on the phone and she started to speak as if I didn’t make it. She was like, “Well, Daniyah, I told you I’d let you know if you didn’t make it or if you did and I’m sorry to say that …YOU GOT THE PART!” I was like, “NO I DIDN’T!” and I was freaking out and I ran downstairs and I ran up to my mom and I said, “Mom, I got the part!” And I gave her a big hug and then she went on the phone with my agent, Sandra Gillis from Premier Artists. And I remember sitting down on the stairs and I started crying. I was so happy. I remember how badly I wanted this part. Like I wanted it so, so bad because I remember even before this part I hadn’t worked for a bit so I needed some work and I was just so sad and I missed set and I really wanted to get this part, so when I got it, I started freaking out and I broke down, you know. It was fantastic. I’ll never forget that feeling. It was awesome.
RP: Did knowing that Steven Spielberg was involved make it that more stressful wondering whether or not you’d gotten that role?
DY: Yes, it did, because it was one of those feelings where I had the “it’s too good to be true” feeling, you know? It’s like, “okay. It’s one of the directors from Smallville. Okay. Steven Spielberg. Okay, I’m working with some cast once in a while.” It’s like… Smallville is one of my biggest shows. Just to find out I’m working with one of the directors, it’s amazing. Then Steven Spielberg. I’m working with Steven Spielberg. It’s just… it was mind-blowing. I told myself, “There’s no way you can make this.” At one point, like after the callback, I said, “You know what? I shouldn’t even be thinking about this because it’s impossible.” And I think like two days after me thinking like that, I got it.
RP: Well, that’s awesome!
RP: And getting into the role of Rick, which is definitely not an easy role, tell us a little bit about Ricky for those who may not know and tell us what you did to prepare for his role.
DY: I’ll tell you what Ricky, who Ricky is first. Ricky is someone who was abducted by the aliens due to the fact that he was a kid and he was held there for quite a long time, him and Connor. Connor played Ben. Connor Jessup played Ben Mason. After being rescued by the humans from the aliens, he missed them because he looked at them as a family. Because the skitters did not only love him like a family, they also cured him, right? So – what did he have anyway was it emphysema or something like that – and apparently the harness on his back helped to cure that. So he sort of fell in love with the skitters like a family; like he loved them and missed them. So it had him looking at the humans like an enemy instead of the aliens as the enemy, right? So that was pretty weird because I had to get into the character of hating everybody on set that I loved; to hating them and it felt really, really weird because it’s like, “Yo, Maxim. Yo, Connor. Yo. You’re my best buddy, man. I love you. I love you. I love you. I hate you.” You know? It was like a big change, but it took a lot of concentration. Some of the stuff I did, I just tried to keep some of those thoughts in my head. I tried to imagine myself being taken away from my family and these people are the enemy, like the family I have now, you know? So yeah, that’s what it felt like. So yeah, it wasn’t really the alien abduction, it was more like being abducted from my family, like my human family here now with me, you know? It wasn’t easy, but I asked and I hope that I really pulled that off. You know?
RP: Well, I think you did, definitely.
That’s good. That’s good.
SW: So your character, Ricky, is introduced in episode four as Mike’s abducted and then harnessed son by the aliens and then you’re forced to join the Second Mass, even though you don’t want to, and you faced like a lot of fear and hatred from all the survivors at the camp. You said that, you know, you kind of drew upon like being taken away from your own family. What else did you draw upon as being the most isolated character in the entire camp?
DY: The fact that I was the most isolated character of the entire camp…well, Rick…Ricky, well he felt like he was hated. Why should he be in a place where he’s hated? One of my rules is never being where you’re not welcome, so if I’m not welcome here, what am I doing here? It sort of… I felt like a hostage, you know? Like I don’t want to be here, but I’m forced to be here with people that hate me, you know? And I don’t want to be here. I want to be over there with my real family. I want to go back to them but you people are stopping me, right? So it wasn’t a lack of emotion, it was really anger, you know? Sometimes I have a blank face, but if you were to see an emotional word written on my forehead when I had that blank stare you’d see “anger.” Right? And “missing my family” and “sadness.” You know what I mean? It was actually a mixture of emotions really. Yeah. It was a mixture of emotions, because some of the scenes that I did and some of the things that I did, I really didn’t know which emotions to invoke, whether it was sad, confused, angry. You know what I mean? When I went back to the school, I knew I had to be sad then, but I could have played it off as confused or maybe I wanted to go back or something like that. You know? So it was a lot of choices.
SW: Did you get a lot of direction from the directors as to how you should play the part?
DY: Well at the beginning I was struggling with it because when they say, “be…” the instruction wasn’t directly to be emotionless. It was, “don’t like anybody around you” and “you don’t feel like you’re welcome here and you want to go back to your family.” So again, like I said, I played that off as anger than to figure out “have emotion without showing emotion,” if you know what I’m saying, you know? So that’s where if a word was on my head it’d be “anger” or it would be “sad” or something, me having to have emotion without showing it. A lot of direction was given at the beginning, but as the series went on, not really. Not really, as the series went on. Since from probably episode about like five, not a lot of direction, because Rick was sort of a one-sided character. He was either freaky or just completely straight, so it was just me making the decision between the both depending on the scene.
RP: And when we got into the first couple episodes, we saw an up-close view for the first time of the harness and them attempting to remove it from your back, so tell us a little bit about what it was like having to wear the full silicone version of that harness.
DY: Well there were actually two versions, there was a silicone, and then there was foam. The foam was really itchy because it had a little wire going through it and sometimes it’d be poking you in your neck. It was so uncomfortable, but the silicone one was just the really heavy one. It’d be dropping off; it’d be falling off, you know? And we had a lot of technical difficulties with that because sometimes I’d have to be standing up and it would have to be on my back lighting up, right? And you guys couldn’t see the straps on my stomach or anything so that was pretty difficult. I remember we had problems with one scene where I put it back on my back to go and open up the skitter cage when I was telling you what to say and do. It took us eleven takes to do that scene of me putting it back on my back and having it stay there and at the same time, hooking up the wires, lighting up…It was difficult and annoying to wear that. It was the most uncomfortable thing I’ve ever had to wear on set, by far.
RP: Did they have to add some kind of like gooey liquid to it too, so when they were pulling it off you it kind of gave the appeal that there was stuff coming out of it?
DY: Yes, a lot of goo and a lot of fake blood, a lot, a lot, a lot. Even the scene where they’re doing the surgery to take it off my back, if you guys watch closely there’s like a bump on my chin, that’s the goo dripping onto the floor. It’s crazy. It was gory. It was really, really gory. There was blood everywhere, goo everywhere and the scene where they had to be ripping it off my back; it was dripping down my pants, down my boxers. It was terrible. I remember when I walked it used to make noises – those squishing noises – if it was on my back. Just picture this big, slimy slug is sitting on my back, so it really got into my head and I was like, “Oh my gosh, someone please get this thing off of me!”
RP: Well, the FX guys definitely did a good job then.
DY: Oh, yeah! They did amazing! They’re fantastic. They’re amazing. They did great on it.
SW: Is it a long process for them to get it on you?
DY: No, actually. Especially when I’m wearing a t-shirt or something over it, no, not at all. The scene where I’m doing the surgery, it really just laid down on my back and it was the actors responsibilities to hold it down and to tear it off as if it was actually there, so they had to do a bit of dancing, pop-and-locking there. No, what it was that took a lot of time was actually the spikes, because of the make-up and the fact that it had to stick and it was hot and on set I really liked to play basketball and I’d sweat. So it would start to form these little bubbles until they told me I had to stop. Yeah, that took a pretty long time. At one point it took me about, like probably an hour and a half/two hours. Yeah. Especially when they were making it. That took a long time too because they had to take my body shape to get the fit for the harness for both the foam and the silicone. That took a bit, but it was fun, because I had to lay down, they poured this thing on me and then waited until it dried. It was great. I loved it. It was fantastic. There’s a lot of things in this film and in Moby Dick that I have not experienced ever. I’ve never experienced them; I mean I’ve got a slug on my back or being on a ship out at sea. It’s great.
SW: Well, you and Ben, who’s played by Connor Jessup, are bound by your abduction/harnessing experience, but your characters couldn’t be more different in your recovery. So how do you and Connor play off each other in your scenes together?
DY: Well…that’s difficult. I don’t look at him as Connor when they say, “Action,” really. He’s Ben. I’m Rick. You know, I’m the one that wants to go back and I see him as sort of a traitor. Like, how could you be friends with humans? How could you be friends with the ones who are doing all this to me? Who are doing all this to us? You know what I mean? We could be a part of something so much better yet you want to stay here. What’s the matter with you? So I don’t really play off Connor really because his emotion in whatever scene we’re doing together doesn’t affect mine at all. Like there’s a scene where we’re sitting on the bench and he brings me some food and he starts to yell and my emotion doesn’t change at all. Right? It’s me, just confused and trying to convince him of the fact that we can be a part of something so much better. Really. So it’s not really playing off, it’s just holding your own character’s perspective of what’s going on. Who your character is, your character’s characteristic.
RP: Right after that scene that you talked about there, there was – as we get to the final – there’s a point in which you jump out of the window of the school and you start running towards the barriers in the front with Ben in tow behind you and you actually make a jump over the barriers of cars and start running. Was that a stunt that you did yourself or did you have a stunt double?
DY: Ha! I wish you didn’t ask that! That one…that was a stunt double. That was a stunt double. Me jumping off the box and spinning around and jumping off the car. That was a stunt double. But there was… the continuation was me jumping from a lower height. Like a real, low height and continuing to run. Yeah, but that was a stunt double.
RP: Did the stunt double, did they have him on wires and how did they get the scene where they jumped him over the cars?
DY: I actually wasn’t there while he was doing the stunt. I wasn’t there. I did see him though and I did see him practicing, but I wasn’t there for the actual shoot.
DY: Yeah, so I’m not sure of that.
SW: Hey, the scene before that one, you know it’s probably one of the most frightening scenes in the whole season, when you surprised and attacked Uncle Scott, who’s played by Bruce Gray, what was your reaction when you read the script for that scene?
DY: Oh, I was freaking out! I was so excited. Ever since I read that, that was the one thing on set that I was waiting for. I was waiting for that. Like I was so excited. They called me in. I was rehearsing for a day on the harness on top of the roof. I was just so excited. I’d never done anything like that ever before. It was great. I loved it. Even when I went into the read-through, Greg Beeman, the director of Falling Skies, he looked at me and he’s like, “I told you, you’re going to love this episode. You’re going to love this episode. I told you! You’re going to love it!” I was like, “Yeah.” He knew it was in there and he knew I would love that and I really wanted to do it. He asked me how we would do a scene where I would be attacking Uncle Scott from on the roof. I said, “I want to jump off the roof!” All right. I don’t want it to be a floor thing. I don’t want it to be…I don’t want a stunt guy to do it for me. I want to do it myself. I want to jump off of the roof, so he made it happen and I thank him for that. I love it.
SW: I mean it was a great scene, because I think that you probably scared everybody out of their seats. Because it was totally unexpected.
DY: Yes! Good.
SW: And in the season finale, Eight Hours, you make the attempt to rejoin the aliens by telling the Second Mass’ attack plans, but in the end, you’re rejected by them and so this is the first time viewers get to see the human side of Ricky. So what was more difficult for you? Playing Ricky who wants to be re-harnessed with no emotion, or Ricky crying in Tom’s arms?
DY: Playing Ricky with emotion crying in Tom’s arms actually was an easy role to play because I’d played a lot of roles with emotion. Some part of Moby Dick had a lot of emotion. Nurse Fighter Boy, a film I was in, Charles Officer, Ingrid Veninger, lovely people. Those were…Nurse Fighter Boy was a really emotional movie and Moby Dick had some really emotional parts in it. So my forte is an emotional role. Like I’m funny at home, but I’m not the best at playing a funny character. I prefer to play somebody who’s sad or someone who can show his anger or someone who’s crying. You know, so that’s an easier role to play for me, except other than someone who is blank in emotion and who’s completely heartless to the people around him.
RP: So what was one of your favorite episodes to do of the entire season?
DY: Absolutely the last one, the last one because of that stunt. I loved it. It was great. I loved it. It was awesome and the one where I’m trying to open the skitter cage because you guys saw me without my shirt so I got to flex a little bit.
RP: And which one was your hardest or most difficult one to shoot? Was it the one where you were up on the wall or was it the one where you were opening the skitter cage that was harder for you to do?
DY: Stunt-wise or emotional?
RP: Just overall, I’d say maybe more the emotional side, you know, because you did have some emotion even when you were in that scene to crawl up on the wall because just before you were talking to Ben and you were kind of twitching a little bit so there was a little bit of, kind of, confusion or a little bit of scared showing in Ricky.
DY: The most difficult scene for me to do was actually…I…it’s easier for me to play the emotional role, but the hardest scene for me to shoot was absolutely the scene where I was crying with Noah, because at the same time of me being able to cry when I would need to, I still had to – it wasn’t just a crying, it was like a bawling thing – and I had to do it over and over and over. And I’m doing this with people that I joke around with behind camera all day. I’m doing this with my best friends, so for me to be crying and acting like that, it was pretty hard, but that’s emotional-wise. Stunt-wise, I would say where I was putting it on my back was pretty hard, because it was very technical. It was a lot more technical because of the lights and the way it had to connect to my back.
SW: So it seems like you want to do a little bit more action.
DY: I love action. I really want to do that Jean-Claude Van Damme thing. Yeah, like what’s that movie with that guy (accent) who talks like this all the time? You know, what’s that movie, the one with the guy in the car, the audi car? Transporter!
SW: Oh! Jason Statham!
DY: Yes! Yes. Don’t judge me because I don’t know the name.
SW: Oh. Don’t worry about it. I mean you…you’re talking about Jean-Claude Van Damme, who’s the muscles from Brussels to Jason Statham. He’s a pretty serious guy. You know, he does a lot of serious action movies, but he does all his own stunts.
DY: Yes, like Jackie Chan. Yes. Jackie Chan does his own stunts and I love watching Bluebirds. He’s hilarious. I really want to work with him. That’s somebody I always wanted to work with.
SW: So to talk a little bit about Falling Skies, kind of on set/off set, you know, the survivors are a very tight-knit group except when there’s division amongst the ranks, but how’s the cast when you’re not shooting? Like what is it like on set with everybody?
DY: We’re all best friends. Like we’re all a family. Like at lunchtime Noah would be playing chess with one of the camera guys. Or I’d be…there’s no, “this table is for this group and this table is for this group.” It’s really just grabbing a seat anywhere and just talk. You know what I mean? Everybody’s a friend and as soon as they cut, someone’s saying a joke, you know? So during a serious scene, you can picture us – well when I was on set – you can picture us having to do it a lot of times, because somebody’s cracking a smile, or… Like when I was doing a scene with Peter – the scene where he’s folding the flag during my father’s funeral – I couldn’t stop laughing while he was handing me the flag. Right. I couldn’t hold a serious face because we’re always joking around behind the camera, so to do a serious scene like that, look him in his eyes without having to laugh like we would always do, it was hard. So those were…we were a very close-knit group of people.
SW: So you’re pretty excited to go back for season two, obviously, to come back together. So was it instant chemistry for everybody?
SW: Was there like instant chemistry when you did your first read? When you met up together for season one?
DY: Yeah. I was really friendly with everybody. Tom, Moon, Connor and Maxim, Mpho, Peter, and Colin Cunningham. It was just really, “Hey, I’m Danny. You know, love to work with you guys. This is going to be amazing.” Yeah, but I really cling to Moon a lot because I fell in love with her. I wanted to marry her.
SW: How could you not, right?
DY: Yeah, but, yeah, that’s a…Noah had a lot to teach me, you know. So yeah I wouldn’t say there was like a glitch in our relationship. It was sort of just, “okay. We’re here now. This is who we’re going to be seeing for the next couple months so like her, like her, like him.” You know what I mean?
SW: So more of a family connection together.
DY: Yeah. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.
RP: We hear a lot that the game of choice on set is chess. Connor posted a picture of you two playing.
DY: Wait a second. Wait a second. Don’t make me speak about that! I lost a lot. Connor’s really good and he knew a whole bunch of tricks that he got off the net or something, I don’t know, but he used to beat me in like three moves until I figured out his little trick. But yeah, that was the game. There was a lot of board games being ripped out on set, a lot of board games. Like I said, Noah, every lunch would be playing a board game with one of the camera dudes and I’d be playing chess with Connor. So that was a way to pass the time easy, like when you’re done with your lunch early and waiting or you’re not on set yet and you’re not going to be on for like the next four hours, if you’re not in school, let’s rip out a game of chess or start planning a short film.
RP: We heard recently that you posted a YouTube video where you had to go back and do an ADR for some of the scenes on the show. Can you explain to fans what an ADR is and it is that they do that?
DY: Well, off the top of my head right now, I’m going to be completely honest with you, I can’t remember what an ADR is. Like an Audio Directed…I don’t know.
RP: Well, in general.
DY: Yeah, but it’s just…it’s a voiceover. Right. It’s…the…There might be too much noise in the background or my voice might not be clear enough. There’s too many noises, too loud so you might have to go back into the studio, run over the ? get back into that character and whatever scene they’re having problems with, you’d have to redo the vocals for at the same time as matching your mouth movements, and not really the sound so much, but the emotion in your voice. Right. Like one of the scenes I had to do a voiceover for was hard because it was like in the studio. It wasn’t like a set up scene. It was the scene where I was crying with Noah. That was pretty hard, but yeah. It’s fun. I love voiceovers. It’s cool, because I get to see some of the episode before it comes out. So it’s like a cheat. So I mess up on purpose so I can go and do the voiceover.
RP: So besides your love for acting, what else do you love to do other than acting?
DY: Well, I am actually in the music business with my brother Kepha. We are running a group together called Kepha and Daniyah. Just him and I are doing R&B and pop music and we’re actually coming out with an album soon. We’re actually right now, as I’m waiting for season two, we are producing our own music video for our song we’re coming out called…for our song we’re coming out with called, “Running Away.” And it is about my brother running away with a girl that he really fell in love with. And then another song coming out where it’s the same thing, only it’s happened to me with a girl that I was with. So yeah, we’ve gone on tour and stuff like that. Yeah, so yeah, we’re actually doing a little segment on YouTube called Kepha and Daniyah’s Life, that we do every week. It’s just about our everyday lives and whatnot, what happens in our day and we’ll just be explaining something or just living, you know, I mean as if the fans are living with us. Like what happened today, just videotape it, stick it up on YouTube, and yeah stuff like that. So yeah, it’s fun. I love it. Like we actually have a studio in our house so we record our own songs and we send them out to get it mixed and mastered. And we write our own songs and and we make our own beats. So it’s a lot of fun. He’s actually sitting next to me right now. Want to say, “Hi?”
DY: Yes. I also got my mom and my dad and my niece in the room right now. Everybody wants to say, “Hi?”
SW: So are we going to hear some of your music on the Falling Skies soundtrack then?
DY: UUUHHH…Next question! I’m asking, so maybe. I don’t know. It could happen, right? We could make up a song for Falling Skies. We’ll write something and record it and send it out to Greg and see what he says.
SW: So you’re on all the social media with like YouTube, Twitter and you love chatting with your fans, just like a lot of the other cast. So what has Twitter meant for you in connecting with the fans?
DY: I’m here because of the Creator, yeah of course, and also because of my fans, right? Without my fans, who am I really? I would not get the support, couldn’t get the views, so really fans are the ones who are a huge part of making you. You know what I mean? So you have to show appreciation to the people who helped to get you here and to the people who are showing you so much support and love and I like to give that back. You know? So if someone tweets me, it is my responsibility, right? And what I want to do is reply back to them, right? So when I’m tired, I don’t like to argue, I don’t want to sound angry, so when I’m in a bad mood, I stay away from Twitter. If I’m tired I’ll stay away from Twitter, because one time I was tweeting somebody and I had like a hundred typos and she didn’t even know what I said, but I didn’t get to reply because I was already sleeping. I was so tired! Right? But yeah, my fans…my fans are everything to me in this business really, because they really help me out a lot and they really give me a lot of support and backing that I need to keep going forward, so hallelujah for that.
RP: Well, we really appreciate you talking to the fans and all the cast that do and I know all the fans out there really appreciate it as well and I wanted to thank you for speaking with us tonight. And Three If By Space and The Fright Channel will be posting the interview on each of our sites.
DY: That’s cool. That’s cool.
RP: And we will also put up some links to your Twitter, your YouTube and your LiveStream chats that you’re going to be doing every Sunday night. You and Connor both are going to be doing them on Sunday night, so that’s going to be awesome. We’re going to get to tune into both of you.
RP: And we look forward to hearing from you as we go through the fall and season two production. And Dan is there anything else you wanted to shout out to your fans tonight?
DY: Well, I don’t believe in calling out names, because I don’t want to miss out on any names, but I’d love to…I want to advertise ? Check out Kepha and Daniyah’s Life on YouTube. That is Kepha and Daniyah’s Life, so check that out please. Follow me on Twitter: @DaniyahYsrayl. Yeah, and thank you so much for the interview Rob and Sharon. I really appreciate it, thank you.
SW: All right. We appreciate your time too. Thank you.
Thank you, Dan!