Actor Dan Payne’s Judgement-Free Philosophy on Parenting and Mental Health
By Tanishq Desai
From John Tucker Must Die to Watchmen – Dan Payne has over 100 credits in the form of television features or indie films to his name. Apart from being a full-time husband, father and actor who actively advocates for mental health, the Mulligans heartthrob talks about his upcoming feature film, Corrective Measures, alongside Bruce Willis and Michael Rooker.
Tell us about your new movie, Corrective Measures.
“Well, it’s a big step up for me! I got to work with a couple of guys that I consider to be legends and icons — Bruce Willis and Michael Rooker — so I did a little happy dance the moment I found out that it was happening. And I also get to play a character that I’m not used to. He’s an ex-military vigilante, which is kind of far away from the loving-nature-doting-husband type of roles that I’ve played! This project is on a way bigger scale too. It’s Fox Tubi’s first original content release and I’m honoured that I get to be a part of it.”
You play Walter Arthur Locke (aka Payback). Tell us about your character and what drew you to him?
“So Corrective Measures is a graphic novel turned into a movie and Sean Patrick O’Reilly who directed, wrote and executive produced this did a magical job of making it a fun story and a great ride to be on. My character, Payback, is an ex-military guy, and some things happened to him that put him on a pretty strong vigilante path of revenge. But he ends up in one of the state-of-the-art hidden octane penitentiaries where all the main bad guys of the world get stuck. Now we’ll have to watch the movie to know if he ends up there on purpose but he’s got a pretty strong vendetta against criminals. When a radio magnetic pulse goes out over the world, it gives some people superpowers, kills the rest and some get mutated because of it. But this gives us a little good vs. evil because the good people put their powers to good use and the bad tend to go to evil, which eventually leads them all into this prison so you understand how it can get when there’s a bunch of superheroes and badasses put together. It can get messy.”
Coming back to you working with some icons in this movie. What was it like working with Bruce Willis?
“I grew up admiring and falling absolutely in love with his career and he’s got this charming smartness that’s just intoxicating. He looks like a million bucks and his presence is undeniable — like you can almost sense when he’s coming. From Moonlighting to Die Hard, he has been that guy for me, so to be able to say that I got to work with him is just unbelievable. And the honour of knowing that as he’s stepping away, I get to be in one of the last movies that he’s going to do is mindblowing. I’m so grateful for this opportunity to have met him and shake his hand and know that the guy that defined cool for me is actually that cool.”
Without giving too much away, can you tell us your favourite on-set memory with the cast?
“There’s a whole bunch! But with the stunts, our stunt coordinator Reese created a lot of moves that physically worked well with my body. And I got to do all of my stunts. We were rehearsing the fight choreography with this great group of guys and you all need to trust and look out for each other because bodies are flying everywhere and you need to be careful. I might have accidentally clipped a really good friend of mine in the nose during one of the scenes but, hey, it happens and he was so good about it. There’s a lot of camaraderie between the crew and the team on set because it all starts from the top down, our director Sean Patrick O’Reilly set the tone for it to be a collaborative space and was always in it together. I loved every minute of it.”
Aside from acting, you’re also a big advocate for mental health. Can you tell us why this is so important to you?
“I think there’s still such a stigma attached to it, especially within young people. I remember when I was at that age and struggling about how I felt that I had to keep it hidden and quiet. I felt if I admitted to needing some help then I would be deemed broken or unworthy and struggled with those thoughts internally because I didn’t want them to be real. I was too afraid to say them out loud. For me, why it’s so important because the sooner everyone — especially teens — realizes that there’s help out there and talks. Because telling someone takes its power away, it did for me. Telling someone and giving that feeling a name took its power away and then I felt like I had a chance at taking control of driving the bus, as I like to say. I’m still new in this journey in my mental health but I know that telling someone I knew would receive it and they wouldn’t have to fix anything. It’s all about talking to somebody so you start learning how to help yourself and maybe get help from others. So that loved one — be it a parent, brother, sister, friend, whoever it is. If you can find the strength and courage to voice out where you’re at to them then you are not alone. You talk it out and you’re going to find very soon that you are not alone.”
You have two boys who are soon to be teenagers. How has the parenting experience changed for you as your boys get older?
“One of them is already a teenager and it scares the crap out of me! No, I love it. I have an incredible teammate in the parenting world, my wife, Daylon, is phenomenal. And I have been a teenager. I just don’t remember what I would have wanted to tell my adult self to get through it. Being a teen is tough, you’re figuring yourself out, you have external influences from so many cliques with social media telling you to be a certain way and you’re not sure what is or isn’t the right way. But having boys, I want to make sure that I’m creating open channels of communication that they can talk to me about anything. I hope we create that world for them and I want to be a support for them to go through their journey as best they can knowing that I’ll help them in any way that I can. It’s their job to live their lives to the fullest and still know that there’s help along the way, including Mom and Dad.”
What are you most looking forward to in their teen years?
“I think our conversations. They’re both athletic and love sports. And the conversations are starting to get more about the philosophy of the sport and how to approach it. They want to talk about the mental aspect of sports now. Our conversation continues to be more in-depth and about the bigger picture rather than the finer details. Because they’re going to start managing the finer details themselves, I think it’s my job to be able to give advice and little wise bits. I go to my Dad all the time and he’ll never tell me what to do but he’ll share his wisdom and thoughts and from that conversation, I have a better idea and I’ll try something. I hope it’s a generational thing. I’m grateful for my dad and I hope the same thing happens for my boys.
How do you think your advocacy for mental health will help you be a better parent?
“I think my boys see that I’m okay to not be okay with where I’m at. I’m not hiding, there’s no stigma and no negative element so they see that it’s an honest truth that I have to deal with. And I think that it’d also help them be a better listener in their friend group if somebody is struggling. So, if I choose to be open about it, they’re going to be able to not stigmatize that issue and help others struggling. It helps them be better advocates for others whether they are suffering or not, they can just be that teammate that helps the person get to their mental health. To me, it’s a lot about awareness that starts from within.”
What are your tips for having open conversations with your kids about mental health?
“The biggest thing to remember is to enter the conversation with no judgment. I’m not an expert or a psychologist. I’m not a doctor who can prescribe or diagnose somebody. But I know that if I approach you with absolute love and no judgment then hopefully we have a comfort level to have a conversation that creates an opportunity for us to branch out to whatever outcomes we discover by talking just to help. Having that conversation to help change the mindset and the negative self-taught pattern to become more aware can only be of help. The thing is to come at it with an open heart and no judgment.”
What would be your advice to other parents who see their kids may be struggling with mental health issues?
“As a kid who struggled with depression, I don’t think I knew it myself. I wondered if this was just normal for everybody. I blamed it on puberty and thought it was normal — and so did my parents. So if you see something that makes you think, don’t ignore it. If you see your kid struggling and you love them and care for them, the ideal thing is to talk to them. I think if my parents may have asked me, then the conversation would have been different. But I was always so afraid of the stigma and did not want to be seen as broken or less than. Don’t let the fear drive you. Have that conversation based on love and not judge because your kid might be just as afraid to say it as you are to ask it. So let’s make a genuine effort towards helping each other.”
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