ATLANTA — Kraig Dane acted in his first play in the sixth grade, but at the time, he didn’t realize it would be the start of a career.
The Iowa native was award-winning from the start; his performance earned him the “croakiest throat award.”
“The entire class, including my teacher, laughed at me,” Dane recalled. “That moment was more embarrassing than the play. In high school, I would see other people doing plays, and I was so enamored with the idea, but I would always give in to the fear of being made fun of. That fear kept me from doing what I wanted in life, still does on the occasion.”
It would take a few more years until he saw Heath Ledger’s much-praised role as the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s 2008 film “The Dark Knight” that he knew for sure he wanted to act.
“I wanted that opportunity to make someone feel the way I felt watching him,” he said.
He was living in Des Moines, Iowa, at the time, and he started looking into acting classes in the area. After a couple of months, he secured his first job, a supporting role in Fortnight, a 2010 low-budget film.
“From there, I started finding whatever acting classes I could,” Dane recalled. “Lifebook Acting Academy was my first LA acting school. That time of my life was the most intense and powerful couple of years of my life, but that story is for another time.”
He moved to Los Angeles, but like so many in “Hollywood,” he relocated to Atlanta for opportunities as more movies began filming in and around the city.
“I got into acting as a way to process and experience emotions,” Dane said. “Growing up, I had always kept everything close to the chest, not wanting to show or, in some situations, feel the emotions I was experiencing, and not necessarily just the ‘negative’ emotions.
“Feelings of happiness and joy were, and still are, emotions that are hard for me to experience,” Dane added. “Acting gave me the freedom and a feeling of safety so that I could experience these emotions without fear.”
Today, when he’s not on set, Dane is a bartender at Eleanor’s, a popular speakeasy located at Muss & Turner’s in Smyrna, Georgia. It’s a position that allows him the flexibility to work between roles, and quite often, patrons recognize him for his other job.
“This profession is not for the faint of heart,” Dane said of acting. “The highs and lows are intense. The lows can be really low, wanting to quit, wanting to just tuck tail and go home. The high’s, as my therapist would say, ‘(I) need to let myself enjoy the blessings and the wins.’”
Dane’s credits to date include recognizable roles on “Criminal Minds” and “This Is Us.”
In his latest role, Dane portrays Boseman, a key character in the upcoming series “The Underground Railroad.” The 10-episode series premieres on Friday, May 14, on Amazon Prime.
“Being an actor is more than what shows you’ve been on, or what movies you’ve acted in,” Dane said. “I won’t lie, I want to be in big blockbuster movies and on hit TV shows, I want to experience that, but acting is more than what you’ve been on.”