A Few Words With Kevin Daniels, the Actor Behind One of TV’s Best Gay Characters

Kevin Daniels as Hank in USA’s Sirens.

Photo by USA Network/Chuck Hodes, © 2014 USA Network Media, LLC

Sirens, which returns to USA for its second season Tuesday at 10 p.m., is a buddy comedy set in the world of EMTs. Hank, his best friend Johnny (Michael Mosley), and Brian the rookie (Kevin Bigley) drive around Chicago providing urgent relief to the sick—and since the U.S. version of the show comes from the creative team of Denis Leary and Bob Fisher (Wedding Crashers, We’re the Millers), some of the afflicted are really sick.

Sirens also features one of the most interesting gay characters on television: There’s nothing generically gay about Hank, played by Kevin Daniels. As he tells a woman looking for a “gay best friend” early in the new season, “I’m not that type of gay. … I do not go dancing. I do not go shopping. I do not watch Dance Moms and make bitchy comments.” 

He is, however, openly, unreservedly, and boldly gay—and his orientation affects the way he moves through life. When Hank and Johnny, who is straight, get a chance to work out in Chicago’s fanciest gym, the two men experience the place, and its clientele, in very different ways.

I spoke with Kevin Daniels, who also plays Longinus on Modern Family, about Sirens, the roles he gets cast in, and the wave of British black actors now arriving in America.

Hank is a fantastic character.

Ex-military. Sports fan. They really try to steer clear of any stereotype.

He’s is so butch. How do you play that without coloring into femme-phobia?

That’s what’s so smart about how they write him: He’s so hypermasculine, but then they put him into certain situations, and suddenly the walls come down, and you can see who this guy really is.

Do you see Hank as a gay role model?

One hundred percent. He doesn’t care what anyone thinks about him. He always says what’s on his mind. He takes pride in his appearance. He wants to do the right thing.

Looking at your filmography, it seems like the roles you usually get are men in uniform or gay men.

I’m a cop, firefighter, EMT. I’m a gay man. I’ve played a couple of lawyers; played a serial killer once. I’ve played a lot of basketball players, a couple of football players. It’s either athletic, because I’m tall; something imposing or menacing; or something really funny and light-hearted. I got to do a Christmas movie this year for the first time, with Anne Heche. It’s called One Christmas Eve. I do a monologue with a little beagle puppy, and the puppy falls asleep in my arms. 

Are there roles you think you should get that for some reason you don’t seem to get cast in?

Meryl Streep keeps beating me out. I could’ve been Margaret Thatcher! I could’ve been the Iron Lady! I would love to be in one of the big action adventure popcorn explosion movies.

That would not in any way be a stretch!

I don’t really get a chance to go out for those. I was in [Michael Bay’s] The Island. It was a couple or three lines, but it was fun. I’d love to be one of those guys. Or I’d like to be the goofy med-tech guy.

If you could just wave a magic wand, and you could step into any role, what would you want to do?

James Bond! But apparently, Idris Elba has it on lockdown if they decide they want to do a black James Bond. Or Harry Potter. Hogwarts, man!

I wanna wear a cape. Me and [Sirens co-star Michael Mosley] have this thing: We’ll go out and have dinner, and when it comes time for dessert, I’ll say, “I don’t know, man. I gotta get in them tights.”

How do you feel about the latest British invasion: Afro-Caribbean actors?

I love it! More roles, more visibility. And when it comes time to go do stuff over there, I’m first in line. They go to school for it. They just don’t just wake up one morning and say, “Hey, I want to be an actor.”

But you went to Juilliard!

A lot of people don’t care.

This interview has been edited and condensed.