Chances are you’ll recognize Dan Cade from his many and diverse television roles in recent years.
From recurring appearances on Amazon Prime’s Absentia and TNT’s Legends to his portrayal of vampire hunter Roberto on Syfy’s Van Helsing, Cade is a versatile actor with a boatload of extra skills rooted in his martial arts training and other physical pursuits.
Speaking to TV Fanatic from London, Cade shares some of the key elements to how he approaches his characters.
As Van Helsing Season 5 opened, Jack (Nicole Muñoz) was thrown back in time to the days before Dracula rose and encounters a human Bathory with her merry band of vampire hunters where we find Cade’s Roberto.
“We all stick into the shadows. You know, hunting the vampires. [Roberto’s] basically the sidekick of Bathory, one of the main heroes in the first three episodes, hunting the sisterhood.
“He’s introduced as an intense, strange character. I didn’t really think he was too strange. But yeah, he’s definitely intense.
“He’s got vampire hunting skills. I gave him a backstory of skills in martial arts, sword fighting, horse riding … really physical [training] because that’s the kind of actor I am.
“He’s very loyal to Bathory’s character.
“I filmed the three episodes in Slovakia in Europe. That was from January to the beginning of March . I flew back to London a couple of times, I think. But yeah, it was only a couple of months.”
The timing was truly lucky as the pandemic struck Europe in March of 2020.
“That’s right. Yeah, we were finished on March 6th. I’m done in Slovakia, and the next day, there was the first case of COVID in Slovakia. I definitely dodged a bullet with regards to my filming. Otherwise, it would’ve been shut down. But I was very grateful that I got to finish all my episodes before it started.”
Slovakia isn’t the first time Cade has traveled for filming. There have been many on-location shoots that have taken him all over the world. As Cade tells it, on-location productions provide very different experiences to studio ones.
“I filmed in Malta a couple of times, which is really, really nice and Morocco. They go to different locations, the productions. And there’s a unit base where all the trailers are. If you’re shooting on location, they have those different locations that they take you to each day for the different scenes.
“It’s quite exciting to see different places when I traveled to these countries like Morocco, Malta, Budapest.
“I like working in-studio as well. I recently worked in a studio in Budapest on a TV series. You’re in one contained space [where] you get used to the setting. The environment is a little bit different, but both are exciting to me.
“But I do like the location filming because you get to see different places.”
Traveling as much as he does, Cade has learned to travel light and settle in quickly in his new locales, whatever the accommodations.
“Yeah. Make yourself at home. Maybe you get a nice hotel room. So that’s pretty cozy and comfy; get used to it after a day or so. Or, if you’re in an apartment, you know you kind of like it becomes your home for a little bit. You try and make it as homey as you can, and normally it’s presented to you in nice condition anyway.
“I travel light because I’m not away for months. It could be a week here, a couple of weeks there. I just find it a little bit easier. My laptop makes me feel at home. (laughs)”
COVID-19 has changed the face and function of the filming industry all over the world. But it hasn’t slowed Cade down.
“I have filmed. I filmed in Budapest, and I did film in the UK in December. It’s pretty tough. I mean, you’re nervous. If the guy you work with gets tested positive, you’ll be out of the production or shut down for a little bit.
“I was on an intense production in December in London, and we were tested three times a week. You have to wear masks the whole time, even in rehearsal. So yeah, it’s not a comfortable scenario, so you learn to adapt.”
While he earns his accolades now as an actor, Cade’s entry point was through martial arts and acrobatic training.
“I started martial arts when I was about six years old. And then I just got naturally quite good with the movements. And then I went into the acrobatics, and it was just the natural thing is to go into the movies doing it.
“As you get a little bit older, you learn that it’s better to be an actor. You know, train to be a proper actor, get established, and then use those [skills] if they’re needed. They’re not hugely useful to you to get in roles, to be fair. In the UK or US, it’s more about the acting.”
Having those skills came in handy in the early days when he was credited for fight choreography.
“Yeah, that’s one credit. That’s the beginning of my pursuits in the acting business because I was trying to be an action guy.
“I go into some low-budget action film. I did a bit of fight choreography in that, and they credited me. That was right at the start, really.
“I changed career course, changed direction. But that was fun-ish, creating a scene. I’d be up for doing that.
“I did do a little bit in Van Helsing with the stunt guys when it was my turn to do the fight. They already had it in their head what the characters were going to do, but I would maybe fine-tune it a bit.”
Who inspired Cade in those first “action guy” days?
“The original guy was Van Damme. I wanted to do those kicks, and then you take it to another level where it’s more cinematic. He does do some cool moves, and then you just enhance on it.
“That was the start. He got me really into it, and then I went into the acting side. But yeah, that was my main inspiration on the martial arts.”
With his attention turned to acting, Cade sought out drama training to hone his skills.
“I went to university first, actually, then went to drama school. I studied more screen camera techniques.
“There are a few accredited drama schools in London. I went to one called Mountview. There are other ones like RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art), Guildhall, LAMDA. They’re very difficult to get into.
“[Mountview] gave me a good grounding in screen acting. Then I trained with the head of acting at RADA. And she’s very Shakespearean. She was really good.
“I trained with another actor; he went to RADA as well. He was in the Royal Shakespeare Company. I just wanted to learn the classical training but didn’t actually go to RADA.
“With regards to the method, I bring myself to each character. You get to grips with the writing, the pacing, the scene, the show, and the other characters. And then I dive into more specifics, like the thoughts, what they were thinking at the time, why they’re saying what they’re saying.
“Trying to figure out that way, and then you’re on a set, you’re costumed up, and you’re in the scene. It becomes you. It becomes natural.
“I’ve heard about actors going away from set and still being that character, but I don’t really do that. It just helps to be on the set in the scene with the costume and the other characters.
On Van Helsing, Cade’s character is deeply involved with Bathory (Jesse Stanley), who transforms into Dracula’s Oracle. How much work did he and Stanley put into fleshing out that relationship?
“Before we started shooting, we discussed it. It was quite interesting what we both came up with. She was really helpful. Every time we’d do a scene, we’d go over it together, and we’d bounce ideas off each other.
“Sometimes we would bring it to the director, Jonathan Scarfe or one of his showrunners like Jonathan Walker, to discuss any ideas on the scene. [It was] really collaborative in that way.
With Roberto’s arc at an end on Van Helsing, where will Cade pop up next?
“I’m in a show called Atlantic Crossing, which an American-Canadian drama. It’s in the war era, Pearl Harbor. I play the Pearl Harbor radar officer, Joseph Lockhard, who’s based on a real-life character.
“Sofia Helin from The Bridge, an acclaimed Scandinavian drama. She’s in it, and also Kyle MacLachlan. That was picked up by PBS in the States. So, at the moment, it’s on PBS Masterpiece.
“I’m also in a show called Terra Vision, which is coming out on Netflix. It’s about the court case with Google Earth. That’s coming out soon. It should be out this year. I’m just waiting for a couple of things to go through. The COVID situation has made it really complicated.”
A naturally active guy, Cade makes time to watch the types of shows he’d like to be on eventually.
“There’s a show called Gomorrah. Been watching that. That’s really cool. It’s about the Italian Mafia in Naples. It’s all subtitled. It’s a gripping show. It’s one of my favorite shows. I’d love to do a show like that.
“A Mafia TV series. I had a bit of a taste of that when I did this movie called The Hard Way with Michael Jai White. It’s on Netflix at the moment. I did play a mafia guy in that. It was fun.
“It would be very cool to do like a Goodfellas kind of sort of TV show or movie. I’ll say that’d be one of my dream roles.
“Or something where there’s a lot of action in like a sort of a Tom Cruisey type. What’s that movie … Jack Reacher. Something like that would be really cool.
“I would do [the stunts myself] as much as I could. Yeah, I would. Apart from getting kicked out of windows and things like that. I’d do whatever is safe.”
With his extensive background in martial arts, acrobatics, and even parkour, has Cade ever considered competing in UK Ninja Warrior?
“No, I haven’t, actually. I stopped competing in stuff years ago. But yeah, that would be fun to do. Maybe I can revisit it and check it out.
“I do a lot of sprinting, gymnastics, and martial arts tricks. Those are my go-to activities. Gymnastics really keeps me fit. I love doing that. It’s awesome to do.”
Dan Cade’s exciting new and upcoming projects are just a click away on his Instagram, @dancade.official.
Look for him on PBS Masterpiece’s Atlantic Crossing currently airing and soon on Netflix’s Terra Vision.