Check out our interview with actor, producer and writer Dana Abraham who is set to star in the new highly anticipated thriller drama feature NEON LIGHTS premiering on AppleTV+ and Amazon Prime on July 12th. Dana will be starring opposite Kim Coates in the film.
Written and produced by Dana himself, Neon Lights follows Clay played by Dana, a thirty two year old, revolutionary tech-tycoon who is on the verge of a hostile takeover, until he loses his cool during an interview, and retreats to a remote hideaway with his estranged family to restore balance in his life.
Follow Dana @iamdanaabraham
Hi Dana, please tell us a little about you
Hi! Thank you for having me- it’s immensely lovely to be interviewed by such a reputable brand and magazine from the west coast!
A little about myself- okay!
I’m a son to a single mother, Nilufar, and brother to three sisters- women have dominated my life! I’m a former amateur boxer (former National Champion) with hopes of one day becoming a pro, which inadvertently led me into realizing I just love “Rocky”. Shortly, after my pugilistic dreams became grim, I took steps towards wanting to become a tactical aviator (fighter pilot, but sounds sophisticated!), and that also inadvertently led to realizing, I just really loved Tom Cruise in Top Gun.
After graduating with a BA in Political Science and giving up my dreams of being a lawyer (SUITS!); I took up acting.
I spent several months living in a living room- pardon the pun- while training at Speiser/Sturges in L.A. to become an actor (finally, something that stuck!).
Describe yourself in 3 words
Three, only three! Hmmm… charismatic, determined, resilient.
How did you get started into acting?
Honestly, the truth is, after spending months in my mom’s basement, and having bounced around school to school, trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I was watching Will Smith on Oprah. He was talking about Paolo Coelho’s ‘The Alchemist,’ and how it changed his perspective.
I picked up that novel, and read it.
I ended up in Egypt a few short months later. The interesting part was, I was in Egypt in search of my treasure. Presently in life, I felt the world was out to get me. We grew up in poverty, and I just felt at every turn, there were roadblocks and adversity.
Now, while in Egypt, this present time, the new President el-Sisi had taken over and ISIS had just been beaten out. Yet, Egypt, despite being under-rebuild, was torn. Tanks on the road, curfew, bombed buildings, all for me to see; a kid from Hamilton, Ontario, who felt the world was out to get him, finally acknowledging how ‘blessed,’ I truly was.
When I returned, I realized I had ample opportunity- one, many couldn’t even fathom- and I took up acting. A small dream inside of me, finally realized.
I failed my first ever acting class- but I knew I loved it and kept going. Here we are.
How has this changed your life?
I mean, in the most incomprehensible ways, along with what’s expected, truly. I believe one of the first things that unequivocally pop to mind is the level of self-empowerment I have, in conjunction with gratitude.
It’s been immensely humbling to be able to work, day-in and day-out doing what I truly love. Even in the darkest or most challenging of days, there is a level of servitude that others may have about their gig’s, whereas I am aware of how blessed I am; because the problems are my own, and I’m doing what I thoroughly enjoy, love and am infinitely passionate about.
Having said that, it’s been daunting to get to this point, and I acknowledge that it will be even more daunting moving forward. However, ‘with great power comes great responsibility,’ and I feel as though, the only thing that changes with time, is my perspective on how I deal with the larger tasks at hand, and moving forward with compassion, always.
What is the best and also most challenging part of being an actor?
The best part I feel, personally, is the ability to ‘play make believe,’ in the most layman’s terms. I mean, really, we are adult-children, playing imaginary circumstances.
Conversely, getting to that imaginary space, takes work, determination, drive and of course, discipline. I think the most challenging aspect to being a performer, is managing expectations, of not just others, including but not limited to, the audience, director’s etc., but also yourself. Understanding that you are always a work in progress and not take everything so seriously because you are great. Keep striving for greatness, and you will arrive at the doorstep you are heading towards, eventually.
How do you prepare for a role?
Truly that has depended on the role itself. In ‘Neon Lights’, it took a lot of work, research, character development to understand, as well as, respect those that may have the same mental health polarities as ‘Clay’ does in their day-to-day lives and not making it a comic.
For ‘A Hundred Lies’ in which I played ‘Damian’, took a little less character development, and more of behavioral and personal exploration, with of course some aesthetic looks, just as I had to for Neon Lights.
For Clay, I spent about two months working with Rouzbeh (director) and really working out how he felt, so I’d take him for a visit to a restaurant. I’d dress how he would, talk like he would, and order the food he’d eat and I’d journal how I felt the entire time. That was my method that I felt would allow me to begin feeling comfortable with being him.
It took a lot less effort for Damian.
Tell us about your highly anticipated thriller drama feature “NEON LIGHTS”
Where do I begin?
Neon Lights is really a wonderful film. You know, as a creative, I always have so many doubts about what I do, what I make, my choices and Neon was nothing short of that. There were moments I felt I could’ve performed better in every way (the script, acting, producing), and there are moments where I’m just filled with joy that we actually got to make a film, during the second wave of the global pandemic, and now it’s coming out on Apple Tv. How often do people get to say that?
It’s a feature film that delves into mental health, childhood trauma, financial & familial failure, romanticism, all neatly wrapped into a psychological thriller, as we follow tech-tycoon, Clay Amani in an off-grid location with his foster family.
It’s truly a film that is riveting, colorful, performance dense, and I believe will shock the audience. It was the first time I got to play a lead, it was the first time I got to work with Kim Coates (one of my favorite performers!), first time I got to work with Rouzbeh (we did a second and onto our third, together) and in the end, it will be one I’ll remember forever.
What kind of roles do you like or would like to play and why?
Honestly, once you see me play ‘Clay,’ you’ll understand I love darkness. But if Marvel or DC could give me a call, I’d love to be an action-hero.
Wondering if ‘Anubis’ comic is ready for production, because I’d love to play that!
Jokes aside, though, as long as the character has a purpose, propelling his or their actions, I’ll rock it.
What is the most rewarding part of your work?
This is easy, short and sweet: creating jobs, and opportunities in my community through film production.
What’s your advice for newer actors?
It used to be “go create your own content,” which still stands. But I’ve pivoted recently. With a lot of self-reflection, I’ve now come to the realization that all of our work, personal and professional, can only be done at the highest of levels, when we ‘love ourselves.’
This industry (Film/TV), is ever so daunting, and that’s mildly stating it. We have to begin with faith in our abilities, faith in who we are as humans, first, and understand that the due process isn’t easy, but in time, what is intended for us, will be ours.
That begins with loving ourselves, only then can we be patient, kind and compassionate with ourselves, and naturally, outwardly towards others and the world. I think that’s where the real gifts of the universe begin to come our way.
What would you say are the greatest lessons you learned so far in this business?
I’m more than an actor, filmmaker and a professional. I think it can begin to take a toll, when your work becomes who you are and dictates your actions on a personal level. Just as we set boundaries for people or things in our lives, I began setting boundaries to the limitations of my profession and where it begins to hinder my progress as a person. At which point, I can genuinely continue to enjoy my work, and continue to have a level of fulfillment in my day-to-day of the blessings that are coming my way.
How would your best friend describe you?
You’d definitely have to ask them that, because I think that would depend on the day they got me? Jokes aside, I hope, not only my best friend, but everyone around me, would describe me as a person with humility, compassion and a sense of responsibility to be of service to others.
What advice would you give to your younger self and why?
“Keep on rockin’ with yourself young man, because it ain’t easy. And love yourself, brother. Life is hard, you’ve been through a lot and you’re still going to be great.”
Growing up, I’ve really had a chip on my shoulder; a lot of childhood trauma, and animosity stemmed from abandonment issues, towards the world and those that did not deserve it at times, including my loved ones.
Through healing, therapy, meditation and self-reflection, I’ve learned to understand myself, my actions and what motivates me.
I wish I had a better understanding of myself earlier, but I am aware that I have had to learn and make mistakes to get here. I think the best thing, as Socrates would say, we can do for ourselves, is “Know thyself.” I don’t differ from that.
What’s next for Dana Abraham in 2022?
We have screened Neon Lights World Premiere in my hometown in Hamilton, Ontario- in front of 700 guests!- on Canada day long weekend.
Following that, we will be in Los Angeles, and soon, we will announce our international premiere dates and locations. A Hundred Lies will be releasing with stars such as Rob Raco (Riverdale), Humberly Gonzalez (Ginny & Georgia), Stephen Tracey (Good Sam), Jessica Amlee (Heartland), Brandon McKnight (The Flash) and Michael Xavier (Northern Rescue) in the fall.
Maternal starring Amybeth McNulty (Stranger Things) and Colm Feore (Bon Cop, Bad Cop) will be releasing later this year as well, and we go back to camera with an Edgar Allan Poe adaptation titled ‘Black Cat’ where I play another tech-tycoon with eerie possessions and hauntings!
What is your favorite healthy food?
Oh, kale chicken salad hands down!
And your favorite cheat food?
What is your own definition of happiness?
Self love, gratitude, and compassion. Life is beautiful if you can start with your own perspective, and the rest falls into place.
If you could meet someone living or dead, who would it be and why?
This list is so long, but off-the-top of my mind, Jake Gyllenhaal, Hugh Jackman, Meryl Streep, for sure. Marilyn Monroe, Kurt Cobain, James Dean and Frank Sinatra, Marvin Gaye. I can keep going…
Best advice ever given?
Not advice but a passage from the books of Psalms (112:4): Even in the midst of darkness, light dawns for the upright for the most gracious, righteous and compassionate man.
Do you support any charities?
Seapaw Rescue! Animals need our love and support!!!! I’d love to support more; please get in contact!
Where do you see yourself and your career in 5 years from now?
Oh boy this is tough. Hopefully working alongside the best of the best. Why else do it?
Favorite song? Why?
“Fly me to the moon,” by Frank Sinatra. My mom did ballroom dancing for a stint and continued back up recently. I’d hear her play that song, and I’m not quite sure if she remembers or not, but I thought she looked so wonderful when she’d practice. That song will one day become my wedding song.
What do you think of Social Media?
I believe that, like all things, there’s a balancing act. I have a strong team that helps me with it, especially Amira, my publicist. I don’t stay on it much, because it does lead to severe anxiety, a sense of discontent, and so I say, understand the purpose of social media, and use it to your advantage. If you are on it to share your life as a photoreel, so be it. But please do not use it as a mode to compare your life with others, you will eternally be hurt. I use it for, now, work, and that’s about it. It doesn’t dictate who I am or what my value is on this planet.
Where can we follow you?
Book: “The Alchemist” by Paolo Coelho, but also, “A little Life” by Hanya Yanagihara.
Quote: Psalm 112:4
Movie: Titanic. It’s timeless, and James Cameron is from Niagara, Ontario!
TV Series: Defiant Ones – the story of Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre! But also, Peaky Blinders!
Favorite Food: Sushi.
Travel Destination: Costa Rica.
Sports Team: Golden State Warriors, Cincinnati Bengals, Mercedes Formula 1.