Go Away With … Daniel Henney

(Left-right) Clara Seger (Alana De La Garza), Unit Chief Jack Garrett (Gary Sinise), Russ "Monty" Montgomery (Tyler James Williams), Mae Jarvis (Annie Funke) and Matt Simmons (Daniel Henney) comprise the International Repsonse Unit, the FBI division at the heart of the upcoming drama series, CRIMINAL MINDS: BEYOND BORDERS, which premieres Wednesday, March 2 (10:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. The IRT is tasked with solving crimes and coming to the rescue of Americans who find themselves in danger while abroad. Photo: Richard Cartwright/CBS ©2015 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

(Left-right) Clara Seger (Alana De La Garza), Unit Chief Jack Garrett (Gary Sinise), Russ Montgomery (Tyler James Williams), Mae Jarvis (Annie Funke) and Matt Simmons (Daniel Henney) 

By Jae-Ha Kim
Tribune Content Agency
March 15, 2016

Thanks to his striking good looks, Daniel Henney was cast in a Korean television series — despite the fact that he couldn’t speak any Korean at the time. Today, his work takes him around the world. With a resume that includes roles in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” “Hawaii Five-O” and “Big Hero 6” (he was the voice of Tadashi), Henney is one of the stars of the new CBS procedural, “Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders,” which premiers at 9 p.m. Central Time on March 16. Fans may follow him on Twitter and on Instagram, where he posts photos of his travels and his dog, Mango.

Q. How does your level of recognition compare here in the U.S. versus overseas?

A. I’m fairly recognizable in Korea. But I’ve always been able to fly under the radar in the United States. It’s all really nice. I think, because I started a lot later than a lot of other actors — I was about 24 or 25 — and things happened gradually, it gave me a lot of time to gradually get accustomed to being recognized.

Q. You’ve traveled worldwide for work. When you’re ready to retire, where do you see yourself settling down?

A. I really love the Midwest. I lived in (Chicago’s) Wicker Park for a year and it was just great. But Michigan is special to me. I feel like the air is different, the mornings are different, the coffee tastes better. (Laughs) I feel comfortable walking around in my sweatpants and just chilling. Everything can be cut off. That’s where I feel the most at home. My folks are still there in the house I grew up in, I love fishing and it’s nice having such easy access to nature. I recently bought a cabin there and if I could live there and travel for work, that’d be ideal. No matter where I end up for work, I’ll definitely have a footprint there, whether temporarily or permanently. A lot of it will depend on where I’m at in my life. When I meet the right woman, hopefully, she’ll want to move there, too. No matter what I’m doing in Los Angeles, even at home, my motor is still running. When I’m almost anywhere in Asia, it’s insane — it’s like being in a moving hamster wheel. It’s crazy, in a good way.

Q. I’ve read that you first traveled to Korea to find out more about your mother’s birth family. (Henney’s mom was adopted from Korea as a baby.) How much truth is there to that?

A. There is some truth to that, but the reason I went was for work. I had always wanted to visit and would’ve gone sooner or later for myself, but it just happened to work out that I got a couple commercials to shoot that took me over there. Once I was in Korea, I thought it would be a great opportunity to track some things down for my mom. Even in the States when I was young, my mom was trying to put some pieces together and, as you can imagine, it’s a very difficult process.

Daniel Henney  portrays Matthew Simmons  in the upcoming  CBS series CRIMINAL MINDS: BEYOND BORDERS. Photo: Monty Brinton/CBS ©2015 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Q How proficient are you at foreign languages?

A. I took Spanish in high school and college and can speak enough to get my point across, but I’m sure I butcher it. I spoke a little Cantonese when I was living in Hong Kong, but now I can barely remember how to say my address. I lived in Korea for work and they can tell that I’m not Korean-Korean, because of my accent. But because I learned to speak Korean while I was living in Korea and had to speak Korean to get around, it’s a lot better than if I had learned it in the U.S. and had no one to talk to.

Q. Are you an adventurous eater?

A. I go for it! I kind of think the more delicately you treat yourself, the more you’re apt to get sick. I like to eat what the locals are eating. I try to eat healthy, but I eat street food when I go to Taiwan. I’ll eat all the soups in Thailand, because it’s so good. I love it all.

Q. What is on your travel bucket list?

A. I lived in Europe for a while, but I’ve never been to Spain. I would love to go to Ireland and have a pint of beer in Dublin. My family’s roots are there. I’ve never been to any part of South America and would love to visit some of the countries there.

Q. What was the first trip you took as a child?

A. My earliest memory is when I was three or four. We had a 1982 aqua blue Chevrolet Chevette. We went to visit my aunt in that tiny car. It took two days.

Q. Do you enjoy road trips?

A. I really do! I drove cross-country from California to Michigan with my dog, Mango. That was fun. I love to travel by any means. The experiences are so worthwhile and it really changes you as a person.

Q. Mango’s quite popular with your fans!

A. She really is. She’s a very famous puppy. I love her and think my fans love her more than me! (Laughs.)

Q. Do you have a routine when you first land in a new country?

A. In Korea, I always head to my favorite restaurant in Seoul for kimchi jiggae. No matter what time it is, if the restaurant’s open, I have to go.

Q. Do you think you and Matt Simmons could travel well together?
A. (Laughs.) Yes! Matt’s a pretty cool guy. He did two tours in Iraq and is super skilled, so I’d feel very safe with him. He’s also not a complainer, so he wouldn’t get easily flustered if things didn’t go as planned.

Q. You’re playing Matt Simmons, a character whose race wouldn’t be identifiable if you just saw his name. Do you feel pressure to go out for Asian-specific roles?

A. Like a lot of roles I go for these days, Matt was not written for an Asian actor. I like that and like that he represents the muscles and the All-American family guy on the show. He’s very much an American soldier. The show will rest on his shoulders a lot of the time in terms of field stuff. I think it’s probably a first for an Asian American to have that role. I was given the option of changing his last name Kim or Park — which is what they do sometimes if they think the name better suits the character. I said, “Look at me. My name’s Daniel Henney.” And they agreed it should stay.

Q. How important is it to you that you’re playing so-called “American” characaters?

A. It’s really important. I grew up in Michigan and had nobody to watch on TV that resembled me. So now, a kid could see that and it gives them hope. Not that they should become an actor — unless they want to — but that they can have the confidence to try new things. That’s great.

Q. To outsiders, it looks like your transition from model to actor was effortless. How much of it was planned in advance?

A. I really did start planning ahead of time. A lot of my friends who modeled didn’t have that mentality and kind of just lived for the moment. Modeling is a really fun way to make good money and travel, but when it’s over, it’s over very fast. So I took the money and put myself through a lot of acting classes and saved a lot of money so I that I would have access to resources later. I used to put together reels from my commercials and walk over to various agents and ask them to please look over my work. Acting’s tough and there’s a lot of down time and probably everyone thinks they’ll stop acting at some point. There’s pressure. But I prefer that.
I think there’s probably moments for everyone where they think they’ll stop. Acting’s tough. It’s a lot of … down time, pressure. But I prefer that.

Q. You grew up as an only child. What was that like for you?

A. Well, it’s the only thing I knew, so it was fine. (Laughs.) I had a lot of responsibility an a lot of chores. My parents instilled in me a strong work ethic and that has served me well in my career.

Q. For a while, your base of operation was Korea and you would come to the U.S to visit family and work. But now, it looks like your roles will be keeping you in the U.S. more. Do you still plan on appearing in Korean dramas and films?

A. I really hope to do that. It can be difficult, because of my level of Korean isn’t strong enough to do certain roles. So, I need the script ahead of time to really study it. I really want to do more in Korea, though. I have a production company now so maybe I can jump on board on one of my projects.

© 2016 JAE-HA KIM

Comments (17)

  1. Jeff Winters says:

    This is a really interesting column. I like the format and enjoy hearing about their travels. My wife is crazy over Daniel.

  2. Marcus says:

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  4. Melissa says:

    I fell in love with Daniel Henney in My Lovely Sam Soon! So glad to see he’s gained a worldwide fanbase!

  5. Daniel Henney says:

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  11. Robin Seabloom Kim says:

    Excellent interview! I’ve always liked him. He seems like such a “regular ” guy.

  12. Kelly Jeon says:

    Oh my!!! Love him!!! Lucky you!

  13. Francisca Susanto says:


  14. Yvette Slattery says:


  15. Emma Kalka says:

    Haha, maybe I should switch from music writing to interviewing actors… 😛 As always, you’re still an inspiration to this up-and-coming entertainment reporter. ^^

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