Interview with Ian Anthony Dale

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Murder in the First’s Ian Anthony Dale is no stranger to the suit and tie, having starred in quite a few crime-drama roles throughout his career. The gifted actor is all business on set—his characters who are usually direct and focused on their missions are no nonsense. While Dale is certainly career-driven and takes his job very seriously, he is also an experience-loving traveler who is super easygoing and approachable. While that brilliant smile he sports is hard to look away from, the real eye-catcher is Dale’s incredible talent. Before entertaining viewers as the dashing Lieutenant Jim Koto on Murder in the First, Dale starred in hit series such as CBS’s Hawaii Five-O and NBC’s The Event. His career boasts a laundry list of popular titles, both in television and on the big screen. Not bad for a Minnesota native who once dreamed of becoming a professional baseball player! We’re glad he took his many talents to Hollywood. Get used to this handsome face on prime time, because there’s no toe-tag on this career. He’s on the scene and here to stay.

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Cliché: Is there any particular reason you gravitate towards roles in the crime-drama genre?
Ian Anthony Dale: I wouldn’t say I target them necessarily. Crime-dramas have a tendency to dominate the television landscape, and having worked with a fair amount of regularity over the last 12 years, I was bound to end up on a few of them. I started playing cops early in my career and it’s become a role that the entertainment community, as well as the public, has grown comfortable seeing me in. That’s typically how it works in our industry. About 12 months ago, I played a doctor for the first time, and since then, in just this past year, I have played a doctor two additional times. Perhaps a superhero will be next.

Do you think these roles would enable you to have a career in law enforcement? You already know all the police lingo.
No amount of fake dead bodies could ever prepare you for the real thing. The job of a cop, particularly a homicide detective, can be extremely challenging. I’ve learned that from my brother who works homicide for the Minneapolis police department. Though I have considered what it might be like to pursue a career in law enforcement, I don’t pretend to think that what I do on television in any way makes me more qualified for real police work. I have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for the men and women in law enforcement.

What do you love most about your career?
[I love] all of the places I get to travel to and experience, as well as all of the wonderfully talented, interesting, and genuine people I get to meet and work with along the way.

What was the worst scene you’ve ever had to shoot in your career?
The ocean is one of Mother Nature’s most beautiful creations, but also one of her most dangerous, particularly on a stretch of shoreline on the North Shore of Oahu known as the Bonzai Pipeline. Waves upwards of 40 feet high crash down onto razor sharp coral in an awesome display of violence and power. Early on in my career, I shot a pilot called “The Break” in which I played a surfing cop. One of my scenes required me to drop in a half dozen times on Hawaii’s famed wave. Mind you, I had only surfed maybe ten times in my life prior to shooting the scene, so you can imagine my trepidation as I paddled out. Each attempt ended with me going over the falls and getting thrashed like a ragdoll by the underwater currents. I’ve never had to hold my breath so long in my life. I came out of it a little bruised and battered, but also with a massive feeling of exhilaration. It was a harrowing experience to say the least. I probably came a lot closer to death that day than I realized at the time.

How does your new series, Murder in the First, compare with your experience on the set of Hawaii Five-O?
Both shows have a crime element to them, but beyond that they are vastly different. Hawaii Five-O is a procedural with serialized elements, while Murder in the First is entirely serialized. It’s hard to compare experiences. Each set is unique. I’ve had a great time working on both shows.

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Tell us about your character, Lieutenant Jim Koto (Murder in the First). What sets him apart from the other members of the San Francisco PD?
Jim is a very ambitious young man who straddles the line between cop and politician. He has a tendency at times to let his opportunistic attitude get the better of him and disrupt his relationships. There are a few key characteristics that set Koto apart. For one, he’s the only member of the SFPD sleeping with the District Attorney, at least as far as I know. He also clearly wins the award for most luxurious head of hair in the department.

That he clearly does! There are often little bits of humor sprinkled throughout the episodes. Do you think that’s important for shows with more serious subject matters?
A little levity never hurt.

Do you think real-life cases are ever just as interesting as the fictional one on the show?
I would argue that most cases we see on television were inspired by real events, hence the term “ripped from the headlines,” made popular by the Law & Order franchise. Between my brother the detective and my cousin the lawyer, I’ve heard some pretty fascinating real-life stories.

Unlike other shows of this genre, Murder in the First follows only one case throughout the entire season, rather than new ones for each episode. Will we find out “whodunit” by the season finale?
Definitely. We won’t leave you hanging.

To view the full interview with Ian Anthony Dale and other exclusive stories, be sure to check out our Aug/Sept issue.

Feature image and photos courtesy of Gabriel Goldberg

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