Interview: Dan Fogler on ‘Brooklyn Gladiator’ and The World of ‘Fantastic Beasts’
If there is one thing that I absolutely love it is movies or comics about magic. When you find someone who also shares an equal love for the two, it is like a nerd paradise. For an incredibly talented actor like Dan Fogler – you get the whole package. He’s got both checked off on his amazing career checklist!
Dan Fogler has a variety of genres on his resume, from comedy shows, to musicals, to mystical realms. With his recently published graphic novel, Brooklyn Gladiator, Dan has added yet another item to his bucket list. As an avid Star Wars, Mad Max and Matrix fan growing up – Dan finally achieved his dream by putting Brooklyn Gladiator on the shelves. It’s a graphic novel focusing on one incredibly gifted man, on a dystopian Earth.
As a native of Brooklyn, Dan established himself in the musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee – for which he won a Tony Award. After making a name for himself on Broadway, Dan went on to star in comedy films and eventually dove into the world of writing. Not only does he write graphic novels and books – he is also a playwriter! His play Elephant in The Room was produced by the New York International Fringe Festival 2007.
I recently spoke with Dan, and learned a lot about his remarkable career. From walking the streets of Brooklyn to becoming a part of the Harry Potter fandom, Dan truly is a remarkable person. His novel, Brooklyn Gladiator, is one that needs to be on everyone’s shelves!
Jules: You’ve got some incredible works on your resume. You have absolutely everything from musicals to acting, and now you’re an author! What is your secret? That is an incredible balance.
Dan: Hmm – well I’m very right brained! I feel like maybe the right side of my brain is larger than the left side of my brain or something like that! (laughs) I can’t quiet my mind, I just have to keep making stuff and doing work. I guess the business that I’m in – everything spirals out of that. I get the action stuff, which is my first love. Then, I get a taste of what it is like to direct projects, and then I also get to dab into what it is like to be on set and make story boards.
There, you can reverse engineer story board into comic book making and it all kind of branches off of one love. From there, it really filters into the other ones. I would say it helps to be an actor that people are digging (laughs) or to be a part of a franchise to help get your comic books made, which is very helpful! To have other friends who are of the same mindset will also help you out. I have just been very fortunate – I like to keep feeding the creative fire!
Jules: You’ve officially been inducted into the world of Harry Potter with your performance as Jacob Kowalski in Fantastic Beasts. How did you get involved in that project?
Dan: Well, I was asked to audition. It kind of came out of nowhere,actually. I thought ‘wow’. Where I was in my career at the time, I thought in order to get this job I would have to first do really well in one movie to get to the next level to be in another movie, to even be in a position to audition for a movie like Fantastic Beasts. When I got the audition, I was like ‘Okay – Great! I’m just going to do my best’. I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to get it. Each time I auditioned, I started to feel really good about it.
Then, they said they had to go around to a lot of different people. One day, they brought me back for screen tests and stuff. I would see other people audition for the part I was going for. After awhile, you kind of create a philosophy to deal with the rejection, and then out of the blue they were like ‘Hey you got it!’ (laughs)
It was a real magical – pun totally intended – moment in my life.
Jules: So how excited are you for Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald?
Dan: I’m really excited – because it marks the journey of the Fantastic Beasts movie. The sequel officially makes it a franchise and it gets that boat moving. That is really exciting. I hear that everyone at the studio is really happy with it. It’s darker and the relationships are more complex, so that is a lot of fun to play. It is really cool to be able to build onto a character. I’ve never been able to do that before, where you get to continue their life after the first movie. So yeah, I’m over the moon. I really can’t wait to see it.
Jules: Moving onto your graphic novel, Brooklyn Gladiator, for those who do not know the series – how would you describe it? Give me your elevator pitch!
Dan: Brooklyn Gladiator is my dystonia New York in 2033. If you like Akira, Star Wars, Matrix or Mad Max – all of the things that I grew up loving, I infused into this universe. It’s like The Matrix in the sense that the main character, John Miller is the ‘Neo’. He’s living in this very oppressive regime in America and everyone is being dumbed down with super drugs. All the information is redacted, and he just rejects all of it. He’s trying to get out. He’s this guy who gets into death matches for money just to get by. Then one day, he gets a real psychic awakening. Once he gets out of America, his psychic abilities start to blossom. He realizes that the rest of the world is very much in a high tech World War III, and America has no clue.
Wait, that was a long elevator ride wasn’t it? How many floors are we going up? (laughs)
Jules: As many floors as you want! This is certainly a fun elevator ride!
Dan: (laughs) Yeah, that would be my most concise way of telling you what this universe is really all about.
Jules: Did the series come to you deriving from your love of movies like Star Wars and The Matrix? You know, those kind of movies? Or was this something that hit you out of left field one day?
Dan: You know, I always wanted to make a story like that. I was leaning towards the fantasy ideas, or realm. I loved Star Wars growing up. When I saw The Matrix and saw that it was happening now, not in a galaxy far, far away. It’s happening right here and now. I thought that would be a pretty cool concept. As things start heating up, especially with the election that happened, it felt like we were living in a current day sci-fi movie! (laughs) I feel politically and basically globally that the weather and everything else is so volatile right now. We could really spin off into something insane and with the times that we are living in now , the seeds of Brooklyn Gladiator are planted. I really just took all the crazy things that are happening with our world today and just said ‘Okay, let’s say everything has gone to hell and all conspiracy theories are true’. I wondered… what is our world going to look like in 2033?
That’s really where Brooklyn Gladiator came from.
Jules: Rolling back to the character of John Miller, who is Public Enemy Number 1, did you have a certain person in mind who was your inspiration behind the character or was he someone you created all on your own vision?
Dan: I guess you could say I took a lot of my own journey going down the rabbit hole of conspiracy, and trying to figure out who is in charge, or what is really going on. I did this movie called Don Peyote, and I was having this real spiritual awakening in my early 30’s. I was thinking, ‘I’ve got to capture this in a film’. I learned a lot during that time. I learned a lot about myself, and just a little more about things that are happening outside of the veil in which we are presented. I thought ‘okay- I still want to put this into my work, I have a lot to talk about’
I think that there is something going on, a change in energy that is happening. I wanted to capture that in my book.
Jules: One thing that I find fascinating about Brooklyn Gladiator aside from the intriguing storyline are your sketches and coloring. It POPS! Did you present your illustrator with what you wanted exactly or did you give him a baseline and say ‘hey, take this idea and run with it!’
Dan: I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted. On the inside, John shares a lot of my own ways of thinking. On the outside, he’s pretty much like a homage to 90’s action stars. He’s a mix of Bruce Willis and Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger. All of those great characters that they’ve played, I was pretty much like ‘hey! he’s that guy’. I turned to Hodges and gave him my best description of what I thought that guy would look like, and he came up with a really great design. My favorite design that he came up with was Uncle Benny. He’s kind of like Micky from Rocky meets Yoda, meets Ad-Rock from the Beastie Boys.
I absolutely loved it. I also loved the cover that was done. That was the closest to what I really thought John looked like. He looks like a boxer, MMA tough guy on the outside. On the inside, he’s a different kind of a guy. His mind is also constantly expanding while everyone else’s is being dumbed down.
Jules: So who is taking over first: the robots or the zombies?
Dan: (Laughs) I would think it is going to be all of the above. You ever hear that comic book Zombies Versus Robots? I feel like it is going to be something like that (laughs). Something is going to happen with some kind of a deadly virus and it is going to break out, and everyone is going to come and freak out, and then they’re all going to get bit, and become zombies. So, they’ll send in these robot soldiers and the next thing you know the AI will take over. It’s going to pretty much be a waterfall.
Jules: Well I don’t know about you, but I will gladly face off against a robot versus a zombie any day. I don’t like things eating or biting me or anything like that!
Dan: (laughs) yeah no – I don’t want any of that weird up close and slobbering thing either. I would rather be incinerated miles away by a laser or something!
Jules: What are some other projects that you are working on that your fans can look forward to in the near future?
Dan: So we’ve got Brooklyn Gladiator out on the shelves now. In October, around Halloween, we’ve got the Moon Lake omnibus coming out. That was my first book and Chapter House is going to be releasing this omnibus which is like 400 pages – volume I and II of the original novel and then like 130-150 pages of new material of the previously unpublished. I’m really excited about that – it is going to be this gigantic book.
I have a podcast that I do – it is called ‘Dan Foglers 4D Experience’ podcast. I let people know about 4D movies. There’s 3D and then there is 4D. In 4D the chairs move and then there is wind and smoke and it’s intense. It is like watching Star Wars and feeling like you are in the Millennium Falcon.
I’m developing all sorts of stuff for TV and such. I’ve got a play that I’m messing around with. Like I said, I like to keep busy! Fantastic Beast 2 is coming out soon, so I’m going to be traveling to a lot of cons!
Jules: If you could go back in time and play the role of any of the original Harry Potter Hogwarts Professors – who would it be?
Dan: That is a good question! I would say that Snape has the best journey. I would love to die my hair black and just be flipping my hair all over the place all of the time. (laughs) You know swirling and twirling around. That would be my first choice! My second choice would be Hagrid. I would love to be gigantic and that tall – just towering over everybody! Then I get to see say awesome and loving things all of the time!
Jules: As a kid growing up, if someone asked you what you wanted to be – what was your answer?
Dan: You know, I always had a weird sense of humor. I would say firstly the generic answer ‘Yeah, I wanna be a fireman’ and then ‘If that doesn’t work out… i’m going to join the ballet’! (laughs). I was always trying to get the laugh really early on. I kind of knew that I wanted to entertain people, you know?
Jules: What is one series that has stuck with you through the years? Whether it be a comic book, movie or TV Series?
Dan: Star Wars for sure. I would also have to say Lost – I binged that show. In my book, Moon Lake, it portrays something like in Lost. An island lost in time and when you go there you can’t get out. I loved reading The Walking Dead and watching the show. Whenever I watch it nowadays, I have to watch it in black and white – you know? (laughs).
Jules: That is true dedication!
Dan: You know it! (laughs) Also, anything with Harrison Ford. Like Indiana Jones! Come on now!
Jules: Last question, if you could have any mystical beast as a pet – what would it be?
Dan: ANY beast that I want?
Jules: Any beast you want!
Dan: Well the first thing that came to my mind, is the goose who lays the golden eggs. Now I feel like filthy thinking about that. I couldn’t keep a poor animal making it poop out gold for me – poor thing!
Oh, I know! Puff the Magic Dragon! BOOM! DONE AND DONE!
You can now pick up copies of Dan’s graphic novel Brooklyn Gladiator!