Originally from Houston, TX., then Salt Lake City, UT., Dani started modeling in all mediums: fashion print, runway, commercial, body paints, sculpture, and film. After moving to Los Angeles, she attended and graduated the Joanne Baron, D.W. Brown Conservatory for the Dramatic Arts in Santa Monica, CA., shifting her focus from photo to film/stage. Shortly after graduation, she began performing weekly with an improv troupe based out of Hollywood at a variety of venues across the city, including places like Second City LA and iO West.
With an enthusiasm for kids, Dani currently teaches improv to preschool and elementary-aged children in West LA. She is also actively involved in red carpet hosting/interviewing for both the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival and the Hollywood International Independent Documentary Awards. Dani consistently works in film and theatre productions and currently resides in Los Angeles, CA. With her busy schedule, we were excited that we were able to catch up with her to talk with her about her latest project, the Harry Potter fan film Severus Snape and the Marauders.
Dani Jae Interview
Legendarium Media: We understand this film is set in the Harry Potter universe, but what is the specific setting for Severus Snape and the Marauders?
Dani Jae: This film is designed as a prequel to the books and the movies, set one generation back. Not much is written about The Marauders, and yet their history is so integral to what happens later on! To take it straight from the writers’ words: “Set in 1978, Severus Snape, James Potter, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, Peter Pettigrew and Lily Evans have just graduated from Hogwarts School. As James and his friends, known only to each other as The Marauders, drink at a bar, Snape enters as well, hoping to find Lily. Knowing their dark future, and the part Snape might play in the First Wizarding War, James decides to do something about his longtime rival once and for all.”
Legendarium Media: How did you become involved in Severus Snape and the Marauders?
Dani Jae: While I was doing some online submissions one fine day in early Spring 2014, I happened upon this project. After sitting in a waiting room with several other “green eyed and red haired” females, I did what I thought was a flub of an audition, thought I had completely bombed, and that my accent was terrible! I’m not usually one to be hard on myself after auditions or to be nervous when doing callbacks, but when I attended the first callback, I was incredibly anxious and felt like I was in way over my head; my Harry Potterness was pale next to those people! At the second callback, though, it felt surprisingly natural to be there—definitely a shoo-in. Every person I met was a fresh face, but the director (Justin) later confessed that he had us all intentionally meeting/hanging out several times before and after filming to get us “bonded” together. It worked nicely!
Legendarium Media: What aspects of a Harry Potter film draw you in, as opposed to other “typical” filming themes?
Dani Jae: Magic is something that every child wishes to be (and believes can be) real. Because of how beautifully crafted this whole world is by J.K., it lends a sense of realism to the imagination, and lets us hold onto the kid-like notion that logic isn’t the only thing holding our world together. HP also isn’t a huge stretch in time or space for us; who’s to say we can’t go to Hogwarts? Who’s to say there isn’t some secret door at 9 3/4 that we can pass through and find people, places, and adventures that our typical day-to-day could never hold? Above all, I think, it’s the universal themes that make it so appealing. Harry Potter deals with love, loss, friendship, quarrels, death, bullying, homework, sports—all things that we have some connection to. Harry Potter is the epitome of relevant.
Legendarium Media: What personal qualities do you have to your character, “Lily Evans,” that lend themselves beneficially to filming?
Dani Jae: As a character, she is someone that I understand considerably well. Some of her qualities I already possess, many that I’m continually working towards and most that have been demonstrated by my own parents. Her ability to stand up and defend others is a trait I oftentimes find in myself—occasionally putting me in harm’s way. When I was young and ran around play-places, I would be the one sticking up for little kids who would get get picked on by bullies in the ball pits and in the play tubes. Now it’s matured into standing up to mentally ill homeless men who harass drunk tourist strangers that don’t speak English. Some things never change. Lily’s foundation as a person is love and courage, with selfless and loyal behavior exhibited. I think that’s something we could all work towards in our lives.
Legendarium Media: Harry Potter fans are known for being a devoted and well researched base. What’s your interaction with them been like, and how have they been involved in this process?
Dani Jae: It goes without saying, but the fans have really been what makes this happen. Not only were they the immensely helpful in the funding process, but they’ve been involved every step of the way. The first scene in the film, in the pub, was 100% shot with HP fans as the extras who brought all of their own clothing, and were super excited to be a part of what we were doing. Since filming, I’ve been chatting with various fans from all around the world, people who are genuinely supportive, with no other reason than we share the same common interest and appreciation for Harry Potter. When a fan makes a meme, it makes me smile so big! I had one HP fan send me an article about a female Soviet sniper in WWII (Lyudmila Pavlichenko), knowing that I would appreciate it given my feminist platforms, and we chatted about historical influences that enhance our own daily attitudes! It’s undertakings like this that truly make you feel a sense of community, even with otherwise complete strangers.
Legendarium Media: Which part of this whole process has been the most nerve-wracking or biggest obstacle for you?
Dani Jae: Actually, while it being the most advantageous of things, it’s also most terrifying: the fan base! The worry that I wouldn’t live up to what expectations are for Lily was a huge issue to me. I made extra sure to do fandom research, to explore everything canon and non-canon, to see what HP fans had discussed this character up to be, especially since there’s only limited information about her from the books/movies. It wasn’t something that I added to my own character work of her, but really helped me understand the larger scope of this world I was diving head first into.
Legendarium Media: The first HP film done by Broad Strokes Productions did really well, with currently over 4million views. And Severus Snape and the Marauders is already over 350K in 2 weeks! How was it working with the writer/director Justin Zagri?
Dani Jae: Yes, we’re all thrilled about it taking off! Truthfully, we were aiming for it to do so, based on the talents that were put into it to make it such a quality production from start to finish. We have many more events to attend this year as a cast in LA and elsewhere, so we’re aiming to blanket nicely! Working with Justin Zagri was quite easy, truthfully. Having written the story himself, he had a very clear idea of what each character needed to posses from the beginning, which is why he cast the way he did, and then gave us much creative room to fill in the blanks. On set, things were incredibly tense at times, but he was still smooth in his directions. For me, I value directors who have a clear vision and who can communicate precisely—thankfully, Justin can do both!
Legendarium Media: What’s next on your horizon, what can we expect to see next from you?
Dani Jae: I’m currently working diligently to promote the Severus Snape and the Marauders film project, which has several events coming up for it throughout the spring and summer. The goal of the film was to market all of our talents in a broad platform, so I plan on utilizing this for future endeavors. Aside from that, I regularly do red carpet hosting/interviews for both the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards, and the Hollywood International Independent Documentary Awards, with the next event being held in mid-April.
I’m also working on the infant stages of a new web-based documentary show LA Music Now, which will briefly chronicle the lives of local musicians around Los Angeles, their successes, and perceived failures. I’m currently writing some stand-up comedy material and aim to begin performing that this spring as well. Then during the summer, I’ll be performing with LeftBrain Productions in the classic piece “The Foreigner.” I like to keep busy.
Legendarium Media: Where can people find you?
Dani Jae: The beauty of the Internet: everywhere!
My website: www.danijae.com
I’m also on Facebook: facebook.com/DaniJae
And the lovely Snapchat: jae.dani