Ian Anthony Dale moved to Los Angeles 14 years ago aiming to make a living as an actor.
It’s working out well for the St. Paul native, who headed straight for L.A. after graduating from college in Wisconsin.
He just bought a house.
“I’ve been recurring on [CBS’] ‘Hawaii Five-0’ for the last three seasons now,” said Dale, who is headed back to Hawaii to shoot soon. “I’ve got a new gig recurring on [The CW’s] ‘Heart of Dixie.’ ”
Dale was in the metro to visit family over the 4th and make the local media rounds promoting “Murder in the First,” a new 10-part TNT drama. “Takes place in San Francisco, stars the beautiful Taye Diggs & the beautiful Kathleen Robertson. They play homicide detectives who are investigating two seemingly separate homicides, but the mystery deepens when they realize both homicides have a common denominator, a Silicon Valley tech genius Erich Blunt, played by the beautiful Thomas Felton. I play the young ambitious lieutenant of the police department, their boss Jim Koto, [who] is described as someone who wakes up in the morning and says, ‘I’m going to be the mayor of San Francisco one day.’ As the season unfolds we get to see how his ambitions can cloud his judgment and get in the way of his relationships.”
Sounds like Koto may waffle between good and bad guy. Dale has tried to have both kind of roles on his résumé, a conflict that cost him the first time his talents were sought by that J.J. Abrams.
They remain on good terms. Dale is too levelheaded to call himself beautiful, but as you will no doubt notice, on my startribune.com/video, he is quite so. The video also includes an egregious rendition of the “Five-0” theme song, fully explained after the credit.
Q: You’ve been in L.A. a long time?
A: I moved to Los Angeles in 2000. I just realized that I’ve spent more time away from the Twin Cities than I have living here. It’s a little strange. There is a lot about the Twin Cities that remains a little foreign to me ’cause I left to go to Madison, Wis., for college when I was 17 and then off to Hollywood after that. I’m just slowly starting to discover all the great places to eat in this town. It’s really become a great food city. I didn’t realize there were James Beard award-winning restaurants throughout the cities. I went to the Butcher & the Boar, just awesome. Not only is the food great but the setting and the décor. The pennies on the floor at Butcher & Boar. That is so cool. I’d like to re-create that in my new house in LA. I wonder how difficult a process that is. Gives you a new reason to save your pennies. Bar La Grassa: Talk about savory and delicious every bite. Last time I was here I checked out Burch Steakhouse and Pizza.
Q: You’re planning a house with a floor full of pennies, you must be doing OK?
A: [Laughter.] I wonder how much that would cost; square footage for that.
Q: What is your definition of success as an actor?
A: I always said, “I’ll be happy if I can make a living as an actor.” I think it’s important to be realistic and have dreams and goals but it is also important to be realistic. I never said, ‘‘I want to go out to LA and become a star,’’ and I think a lot of people make that mistake. I always said, ‘I just want to be a working actor and if stardom or any of that other stuff comes with it, so be it, but that’s not my intention, not my goal. Such a small percentage of us get to say they do this for a living and make a living doing it. I feel fortunate.
Q: Have you turned down any roles that you regret?
A: Yeah. There was a time when I was offered two episodes of “Alias,” that show with Jennifer Garner which J.J. Abrams did back before he became the mega producer and super successful director. I instead decided I wanted to play this family guy on a short-lived UPN “Second Time Around.” It starred Boris Kodjoe and Nicole Ari Parker. At the time I had played several villains already and they wanted me to play another villain on “Alias” and I said, “No, I want to play a young father and do a comedy.” “Second Time Around” end up lasting one season, and “Alias” went on to become a huge hit and J.J. became what he is today. So I missed out on an opportunity to work with J.J. Abrams before he blew up. I regret that a little bit. I got a chance to read for J.J. for this HBO pilot about cancer doctors, several years later. He gave me the seal of approval. I went on to test for the network but I ended up not getting it. So I’m back on his radar. Not in the same capacity I would have been had I accepted that job in the first place.
Q: Who was the last celebrity you saw on the street over whom you gushed?
A: On the street. Humm. I remember I was on a plane ride either coming from Chicago back to L.A. or L.A. to Chicago and I met Sidney Poitier. I was like, wow. He’s so distinguished and such a gentleman you really feel like you are in the presence of royalty. Pretty awesome. Also there is this little coffee shop near my old apartment in Hollywood and I was in there one day eating a breakfast burrito and in walks Gary Oldman, with his wife and his kids.
Q: Pre- sticking his foot in his mouth in Playboy?
A: Yeah. He has been doing that a little bit lately but he is a really talented actor, one of my idols as an actor. To see him was pretty cool.
Q: Do you like fans to gush over you or do they sometimes go too far?
A: You know, that just comes with the territory. Like I said, I don’t do this to be famous. I enjoy it. It’s just part of the job. I wouldn’t be where I am today without people supporting me. I’m happy to take a picture, to shake their hands and it’s flattering and it’s important to remain available to that fan base. Without them I wouldn’t be sitting here with you today.
Q: The house would be the most expensive purchase you’ve made in L.A.?
A: I’ve never spent that kind of money. But it’s being put into a good place, good investment. Man, things cost a lot of money in L.A.
Q: Are you handy, can you fix things?
A: I am quite handy, not to sound brag-adocious but I’ve been working with wood and building things my entire life. I used to be a skateboarder and built ramps with my father. Then the first two years I lived in Los Angeles I worked as a carpenter building sets. Now I build furniture in my spare time. Having a new house, I’ve got a laundry list of custom home projects planned. Honestly, I would prefer to be in my wood shop all the time.
Q: You’ve got all your fingers, too!
A: However, when I moved in the new house I’ve got the old aluminum crank windows, 65-70 years old. They’ve got this rust buildup on them and I was taking CLR and naval jelly and Scotch Brite pads and stripping them down to their original shine. For about a week straight I would put my thumb on my iPhone 5 to unlock it and it wouldn’t read my thumb print because I had no thumb print left. But yeah, still have all my digits. Hopefully, it stays that way.
Q: Carpentry is the Harrison Ford route?
A: Yeah, he worked as a carpenter for several years before acting paid the bills. I love it. It’s a great creative outlet.
Q: What do you cook when you are trying to impress somebody?
A: Oooh. Perfectly cooked steak, medium-rare. I really think there isn’t any other way that a steak should be eaten. Also, one of the dishes my mom taught me to cook, a traditional Japanese dish, is tonkatsu. That actually fits into the Minnesota diet. We like fried food here. It was like the perfect dish my mom could make that worked in the American, Western diet and Japanese diet.
Q: What do you speak better: English, Japanese or French, since you are of all those ethnicities?
A: I wish I could tell you I was really good at Japanese and French but I speak zero French. I speak a skoshe Japanese, a little bit. I would say English is definitely my best. My mom [Olga Dale] is Japanese. She tried teaching my sister and I when we were really little. My father didn’t speak Japanese. It was really hard to catch. As an adult I’ve taken private lessons to try to pick up the language. It’s really hard. It’s challenging as an adult to learn new languages, especially one as challenging as Japanese.
Q: When I was researching you I only found mentions of your dad?
A: I wonder why that is? My father [Jack Dale] has had a really successful sports career. He’s being inducted into the Cretin-Derham Hall Athletic Hall of Fame in September. He played on the ’68 Olympic team. He played minor league hockey. Had a successful career as a Minnesota Golden Gopher. You’d never know these things by talking to him. He’s the most humble person I know. You’ve really got to pry it out of him or ask another family member or friend. It’s just because he’s a local boy and has these accolades is why that’s what we end up talking about. But my mother is an amazing one. She has given her entire life to the nursing profession. She just celebrated her retirement after over 50 years. That is certainly something to be celebrated and mentioned. Olga, a tough German lady’s name and she’s this cute little Japanese woman. I think she fits it in demeanor and toughness and I think she’s proud of it, too.
Q: Did you experience much racism growing up in St. Paul?
A: I was really lucky, I just experienced a minimal amount. I was one of the only people of color at my grade school and also my high school. It’s weird recollecting on my childhood, I think, because my brothers are all white. We all share the same father but different mothers. I guess I kind of associated white but I was occasionally reminded in a really negative way that I wasn’t. Knock on wood, I am lucky it wasn’t so bad. Moving to Los Angeles and working in places like Hawaii you get to experience a true melting pot. It’s really nice to be around people who are multiethnic. I really think 20-30 years from now the face of our society is going to change, dramatically.
Q: I’m going to ask you some questions People magazine recently put to your co-star Taye Diggs. When was the last time you cried?
A: Wow. [Long pause] That’s so funny you asked me that and you referenced Taye Diggs in the question. Because the last time I cried was when I watched the pilot episode for “Murder in the First” and I watched that scene between Taye Diggs and his wife on the show. He is at her beside and basically saying his goodbyes. It was some of the best work I’ve ever seen Taye do. It really pulled me in emotionally and made me invest in his character. Yeah, that made me cry.
Q: What was the last thing you took off a set?
A: I’ve got a great pair of sunglasses my character wore on “The Event” on NBC. I think I’ve got them in the car right now. Actually it was a gift. I don’t know if I actually “took” them.
Interviews are edited. To contact C.J. try firstname.lastname@example.org and to see her watch Fox 9’s “Buzz.”