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Daniel Gillies On Three Poisonous Things, Loving Failure, No Shortcuts, Doing the Work, and the Fallacy of Winning

Interview: Robert Piper

Robert Piper: What’s the best advice you could give someone about life?

Daniel Gillies: Do your work. I love to watch my daughter. At twenty-two months, that little soul is developing at a rate I will never understand. She’s kind of taught me that growth and expansion are a person’s natural state and inclination. When she falls, she rises. When she holds something, she really studies its dimension and form. When she wants something, she’ll find a way to get it or throw the fuck down. When she communicates with you, she’s not simply learning to navigate the language of words, she’s also mastering emotional nuance, gesture, tone, cadence, humor, movement, and hundreds of other personal and cultural idiosyncrasies we rarely acknowledge or see.

If she can’t say a word, she relentlessly rehearses it until her perfect little mouth and lips form the structure of a sound, together with the brand-new instruments of her hard palate and tongue. She has no pride. She has no ego. She doesn’t think she is terrible or worthless if she doesn’t do something well. She doesn’t know what a word like “sin” even means. I hope she never does. She can identify love. She lives from moment to moment and pursues joy with everything she has. She is uncompromisingly true to her desire. Her desire is everything that nature intended. In short: she’s a genius. Most infants are. They’re indomitable, fearless, and completely in harmony with a cosmic proclivity for growth. They’re heroes because they walk directly through adversity with love and ardent resolve.

What happens to us?

We are taught to want a thing. We are taught that having that thing will make us happy. We are taught that having it immediately is the answer. We are taught a corrupted version of success. And love. And fulfillment We are not taught that hardship is the anvil upon which we are beaten into beauty. We are not taught that some of our greatest moments are some of our most difficult. The romance of circumvention is one of the most destructive forces at work in our society. The American Idol freeway to greatness, Instagramming one’s way into popular consciousness with selfies of our ass folds beneath short shorts, human growth hormone and performance-enhancing drugs for athletes, Adderall for the idle mind, reality television that sacrifices our dignity for fifteen lousy minutes…

It’s all just venom to the soul and symptomatic of a larger issue: the idea of the shortcut. The result without the fight. The fight is the thing. The work.

RP: What projects are you currently working on?

DG: I do a television show called The Originals. I am writing the movies I will direct when I am not doing The Originals. I have a son and a daughter that shoot magic at me from every direction.
Daniel Gillies is an actor who has appeared in The Vampire Diaries, The Originals, and Spider-Man 2.

Gillies on Three Poisonous Things



1) The Dominion of Distraction.
At every turn you have to find a new kind of self-sovereignty over your environment. Every kid I see is at the mercy of Periscope, Twitter, or an Angry Bird of some description. People are shackled to their mediocrity by companies and businesses who want to consume your life with theirs.

2) Malevolent Inertia.
This prevalent and pervasive waiting, particularly among young people, as though the determining forces of this world were luck, money, and the correct moment. Which is, of course, complete horseshit. You have to declare war upon this falsehood. Whatever you want is as elusive as you make it.

3) Art as Competition.
We are contaminated with the idea of “winning” and defeating others. Indoctrinated by parents, schools, and our ubiquitous media, hammered with a lie: The only way to be truly triumphant is if we are dominant before supposed “competitors” rather than beautiful before ourselves. If you do your work, eventually there will be a spark. A fire. A blaze. If you devote yourself entirely to a pursuit, there is no way you cannot find beauty and fulfillment. Love the failure. Fuck the shortcut. Do the work. Begin.

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