“...So that was me completely on display and fully vulnerable and raw, but I didn’t let anyone know that because it was under the guise of the character. I could hide in plain sight... “
By Sydney Champagne
Photography: David Tenniswood
Dan Payne is a Canadian heartthrob. A real old fashioned leading man! A professional athlete turned actor, Payne knows what success feels like. But don’t judge a book by its cover now, because he is one of the most down to earth actors you could ever speak to. He has a calm demeanor that makes you feel welcome, and is engaging as he opens up about personal struggles. During our interview, he used his voice to advocate for more avenues and communities to discuss mental health while using his own story as an example, rather than focusing on all the exciting roles he has coming up. Real life, not acting. That’s who Dan Payne is–he’s real, he’s authentic, and though he’s extremely talented he is totally grounded and focused on the most important thing in his life. His family.
Growing up as an athlete and later becoming a professional volleyball player after university, Dan Payne found himself in love with the intoxicating highs and lows that both watching and playing sports made him feel. In short, he’s not one to shy away from a crowd. “ I did fall in love with that demand of performance of being in front of a crowd, and I fell in love with that immediate response factor,” he said. “I’m a hockey fan. So watching the Stanley Cup I’m sitting on my couch and my heart rate is up and, you know, my stomach is all twisted up. I love that feeling. And so I missed it when I retired [from volleyball]. I was like, ‘Oh, where do I get my fix? Where do I find that same level of passion and love for something?’”
Little did he know, his brother had the answer to this dilemma. Around the same time Payne retired from professional volleyball, his brother was starting up a photographic company in Australia and asked Payne to run it with him. The goal? To make movies together, as they had dreamed of doing together when they were kids.
Payne made his start writing and performing comedy with his brother, and later on he got an agent and began auditioning for roles outside of his brother’s company. Since then, he has played a variety of roles, in a wide range of genres, from a blue alien to a kind father to a murderous vigilante– and he enjoyed them all. Despite his success, he does admit that he wasn’t flawless at the start.
“When I started doing the acting…I was pretty ignorant to the whole process, and very, very naive. But very passionate and willing to fall on my face, which I think are two great things for anything you want to achieve,” he said. “If you’re willing to fall on your face and learn and you’re passionate enough to keep getting back up, you’re gonna get somewhere.”
Try, fail, learn, and repeat. It’s this attitude that has driven Payne and allowed him to keep bettering himself as an actor, and, in turn, has given him a different outlook on life; one that has helped him cope with depression. “If I’m being brutally honest, acting was a cathartic escape from the who I thought I was,” he said. “I struggled with depression, and I found such a relief and an escape to be authentic and truthful through those characters, but through the hidden sort of mask of that character. So that was me completely on display and fully vulnerable and raw, but I didn’t let anyone know that because it was under the guise of the character. I could hide in plain sight.”
Though Payne recognizes the sensitivity surrounding the subject of depression, he is an advocate for more conversations surrounding mental health, no matter the setting. “Even if you’re having that conversation because you feel obliged to, because that’s what the cool conversations are about…That’s really, honestly, in my mind, an opportunity, not a negative thing,” he said. “Because that alone, whether you’re authentically present in that feeling or not, you’re going to be discussing it, and the stigma will break down and the awareness and consciousness will come in.”
He continued, saying “I am coming to realize that the more I talk about it, the better I am, and the better off I am, and potentially the better off somebody else might be for hearing it, and if it’s just that one person then I feel honor bound to at least give it a shot.”
Oftentimes, Payne has these conversations with his wife, who has been a light in the darkness for him, providing unwavering support. “You don’t want somebody to ‘fix it’. And you don’t want someone to tell you like ‘Hey, just smile, you’ll be happier’” he said. “So when somebody says, ‘Hey, I’m here and whatever you need, let me know… if it’s a shoulder to cry on…or if you want me to drag you to your therapy session, because whatever it is, I’m here’, that’s the greatest gift of all. And to have that from the one person who knows you better than anyone else. Well, what a foundation to grow and find your own strengths and maybe get to a better place.”
He credits his wife for helping him understand that he is enough, which is something he has struggled with believing for a long time. So, he got the words “I am enough” tattooed on his foot; a constant reminder to himself that no matter what his brain is trying to tell him is wrong with him, he is enough already, and he doesn’t have to change anything about himself to be enough.
Dan Payne is a man with a lot of love in his heart; and the deep love and admiration he has for his wife is only the be- ginning. He reflected on his childhood, telling us that his family moved around often while he was growing up, and that he was grateful for it because it allowed him to become best friends with his siblings.
Not only is his family close, but they are also quite the humorous bunch. “My family is very fortunate, we had a lot of laughs growing up… My sister’s quirky funny and my brother’s just like painful funny with tears and bellyaches…and my dad, anyway, lots of laughter,” he said with a smile. His family’s humor is what gave Payne’s brother the idea for them to begin writing their own comedy.
Payne is a very busy man, but he puts being a father at the forefront of his life. “My kids are at an age where I’m grateful for the position I’m in now because I can be a very present father,” he said. “And I disappear a little bit once in a while. But I’m on the whole, other than the little mini disappearances, I’m very fortunate. I coach my kids baseball, I coached my kids hockey… I get to be around [to] help for the homework. I’m there when they get home from school, if I’m not working, like there’s so many beautiful elements to it.”
Currently, you can find Payne on the brand new season of Virgin River, which released on July 20th and is available for streaming on Netflix. You can also watch him in the film Corrective Measures where he plays the role of Payback alongside Bruce Willis and Michael Rooker.
He also let us in on a little secret: he has accepted a role as a step-father in an upcoming movie. He wouldn’t tell us any more about the film, but is excited about the opportunity– and we’re dying to hear more!
Looking into the future, Payne is in the process of writing some movie scripts with one of his friends. He hopes to continue being in front of the camera, while continuing to write and hopefully produce the movies he acts in as well– all while also being a full-time father who coaches his children’s baseball and hockey teams. What can’t he do?