Keahu Kahuanui photographed by Clinton Gaughran for AfterElton
Ever since the second season of MTV’s Teen Wolf roared to life a few weeks ago, viewers have undoubtedly noticed that we’re seeing a bit more of Danny, the openly gay character on the teen werewolf series. We just learned Danny’s last name (Mahealani) and in tonight’s episode, entitled “Frenemy,” we’ll find out a little bit more about him and, as has been leaked previously, some of the action takes place in a gay bar.
Who better than actor Keahu Kahuanui, who plays Danny, to fill us in on tonight’s episode and shed some light (and a bit of coy teasing) on burning questions like… will Danny get a relationship? What’s really the appeal in his character’s relationship with Jackson (Colton Haynes)? And would he like to see Danny join the wolf pack? And are shirtless scenes a piece of cake to shoot?
AfterElton got a sneak peek at tonight’s episode and then sat down with the charming Kahuanui to get the scoop.
AfterElton: You grew up in Hawaii, right?
Keahu Kahuanui: For the most part, yeah. I’ve actually spent quite a bit of time in California, too.
AE: Was acting kind of always something in your life, or did it come later?
KK: I dabbled in it as a kid, but it was mostly in high school where I really got involved. I did a few musicals and plays. Actually, I had a lead in a couple of them.
AE: Musicals? So you sing?
KK: [laughs] I put it on my resume, but it’s not my claim to fame.
AE: So prior to Teen Wolf, were you just doing the LA working actor thing? Going on auditions, that sort of thing?
KK: No. I was working the corporate life and doing acting on the side as work came in. I wasn’t even living in LA. I was living in Northern California, but I was coming down here a lot. I actually have an ‘I was discovered’ story.
AE: Tell me.
KK: It was sort of like a friend of a friend thing. What had happened was that I was coming down here a lot, and I met Jeff Davis (creator of Teen Wolf). And I guess after getting to know him a little bit better he proposed to me, ‘Hey, we’re looking to fill a role. Would you like to read for us?’ I read for the role of Jackson. So like I say, things went around and my audition tape got tossed around. Then they came back with, ‘Jackson’s probably not a great fit for you, but we do have this role. What do you think?’ At the time it’s not something I was actively seeking out, but it just kind of happened that way.
And I have to say my life has changed drastically from where I was to where I am now. I’m in a happier place. I love what I do. I very much enjoy it. I’ve discovered that I’ve always been more of a creative-minded person, so acting has been able to satisfy that urge for me.
AE: Do you think you might have gotten stuck in the corporate life if this hadn’t happened?
KK: I definitely think I would’ve continued down that route for a while, but I also think that regardless of how long it takes people, most people at some point find where they need to go or where they belong. Signs kind of point to the direction. Sometimes it’s jarring and abrupt, like mine was. I’m just lucky that it happened this early for me so that I can really pursue it.
AE: Now, Danny seems like someone who’s not just evolving, but we definitely are seeing more of him, too. Early on in the series, did you know much about Danny? Did you know he was a gay character?
KK: In Episode One or Two of Season 1 you find out that Danny is gay. I think there’s a conversation between Coach (Orny Adams) and Scott (Tyler Posey) that Scott’s having some issues, and Coach says, ‘You can talk about anything. Are you gay? Danny’s gay.’ That kind of sets the scene that Danny isn’t there to show the audience that he’s not another story of going through a coming out process. You can skip all that and just figure out who he is. There wasn’t a whole lot to learn about him in the first season. You figure out that he’s a geek and he has kind of a hacker past. He’s also well-liked by everyone. Obviously, this season there’s been a lot more revealed. Actually, Monday’s episode will let you even know a little bit more.
AE: What do we find out about Danny in the ‘Frenemy’ episode?
KK: We find out how much he is involved with what’s going on with the Kanima, how it relates to Jackson and whether or not Danny can or will help the situation.
AE: There are some scenes in the gay club, The Jungle. I love that name.
KK: It’s an actual place! There’s an actual place in Atlanta that’s called The Jungle. The outside is not the actual outside of the club. So if you look for it, it’s not even there.
AE: Is The Jungle on the show a place where we might see some danger in the episode?
KK: Well, there’s always something dangerous happening, always. It’s dangerous in a sexy way, or dangerous in a risky way, or dangerous in a scary way.
AE: Risky and sexy?
KK: All that.
AE: Rumor has it you have your shirt off in a scene so, tell me, when you’re shooting scenes like that, is it something you get stressed out about or is it just part of the gig?
KK: It’s definitely something you’re aware of, but it’s not always something you can be prepared for. Both seasons there have been some times where it just happens, and they say, ‘Just send in Danny shirtless. We didn’t like the shirt he was in. Just send him in shirtless.’ And here I am. I just ate lunch. I’m standing at craft services and hearing this over the walkies, and there’s nothing to do. Suck it in and hope for the best.
AE: What’s the rest of the cast like when that kind of stuff is going on? Are people kind of ribbing you about it?
KK: Yeah. I mean, they know that it’s not like you can just walk in there and say, ‘Today I’m going to take my shirt off.’ I think they’re pretty self-conscious about it as far as, ‘I need to work out’ or ‘I need to always be on my game during the season because anything could happen.’
Especially when you get a script, you’re, ‘Oh, crap’ when you see that you have to be shirtless…or naked, which has happened, also. But I’m lucky enough to be, I’d say, generally pretty active. I’m very active in my own life. I like to be outside. Working out for me, whether it being going out and just swimming or just running around outside, helps keep me sane.
AE: So how much more we get to know about Danny in this week’s episode and beyond?
KK: A little bit more into his social life we will definitely see in the next episode. We get to know him a little bit better. You empathize with him a little bit more because there are some moments for him where it’s very relatable, gay or straight, because of the situations he’s put in.
AE: Would you like to see Danny become a werewolf? Just as an actor to be able to do the eyes and the teeth?
KK: Yeah. Talking to Tyler Hoechlin (Derek) and Tyler Posey…Hoechlin’s mentioned how when the makeup’s on and the contacts are in and the fangs are in it’s a lot easier to embody that because that’s what you are. And I think it would be fun. I’m a big fan of Halloween. It’s one of my favorite holidays. And my favorite genre on TV to watch and also something I strive for is sci-fi fantasy. So clearly I’m on the right show!
AE: Danny is really just part of the world on Teen Wolf and not merely the gay guy, which is a great thing to see. Are you aware of that being a big shift in television overall?
KK: Yeah. I’m very aware that my character isn’t highlighted for the fact that he is gay. I mean, there are so many other things that his character is integrated into the story. This is almost what a lot of people fight for. People in the industry are fighting for equality. I feel it’s just important to give variations of what it’s like for a gay person to live in our community. You have the Chris Colfers from Glee, and you have the 90210’s Trevor Donovan. Teddy’s story is a coming out story, but he also has more characteristics in common with Danny. But at the same time Danny is past that stage, where it’s, ‘Okay, let’s put all these stereotypes, all these stories that we’ve almost heard before, and just…what would it be like, at status quo?’ And I think this is what makes it so great is that Danny’s Danny. It’s what makes him interesting…what else makes him interesting? You find out in Season 2 and the rest of the season.
AE: Why do you think Jackson and Danny are such good friends? Danny’s likeable and Jackson’s, well, kind of a dick.
KK: I think that’s definitely part of it. But I also feel there may be a connection there because maybe Danny feels a little sorry for the way Jackson is all the time to everybody else. He probably notices more, that he’s kind of a douche. But at the same time, I feel like Jackson has shown some openness to Danny in general. I mean, even his comment, ‘I’m everybody’s type’…they have their own rapport. Danny’s very sarcastic. So is Jackson. I feel like they connect on that level where they understand that they can rip at each other but at the same time it’s a bromance kind of love thing.
AE: Would you like to see Danny get into a relationship on the show?
KK: I think it’s definitely something that I’d be open to exploring. Again, if you want to get deeper into developing a character, love life is eventually going to come into it. So if that’s one of the things that Jeff decides to do with the character, sure, why not?
AE: How has it been interacting with fans via social media? It kind of comes with the territory anymore, doesn’t it?
KK: It makes you a lot more accessible, and it gives you a direct connection to the fans that you didn’t necessarily have 20 years ago, even 10 years ago. It’s great because people do get to know a little bit more about you outside of your gig. Also, they get to hear maybe tidbits about things that happened in the show, or things during an episode when you’re shooting, that they may not know because maybe the behind-the-scenes videos aren’t going to show that. I also love all the support. It really encourages you to keep going, because acting is a difficult career to pursue, and I feel when you have people who are telling you, ‘Yeah. We love it. We love what you’re doing,’ it helps.
AE: Have you always been good at keeping secrets? I mean, this show has a lot of big secrets and potential spoilers.
KK: Sometimes it is a challenge to keep secrets about the show because you’ve read so far ahead, and you want to tell people, this is going to happen, and this is going to happen. It’s so fun, especially when you know something so exciting is going to happen and people are guessing. But it’s actually also very fun to watch the rumors of what people speculate is going to happen.
Even when I asked on Twitter who people thought the Kanima was going to be…the responses were all across the board. It was just funny. I feel like that’s the fun part is, even though you’re keeping the secret. They’re eventually going to find out, but you get the opportunity to kind of get to know what people expect or are thinking about.
AE: Is there anything else you’d like to add to the interview?
KK: Just thank you to everyone. The audience, keep watching. The fans, keep tweeting, keep showing your support. We really have been so fortunate to have such a great fan base and we really appreciate it. We try to read everything.
AE: You know AfterElton recaps the show, right?
KK: Oh, the recaps are so funny.They’re so good. The recaps are actually something I enjoy from week to week as much as I enjoy watching the show. They’re just hilarious because people basically say the subtexts. They say the subtexts of all the texts and it really is as entertaining as watching the show.