There’s no doubt I’ve done my fair share of interviews with various celebrities over the past ten-plus years since I first started doing music journalism; some are easier to feel a sort of personal connection to than others, as though you’ve known them your entire life after watching them virtually grow up before your eyes. Danny Cooksey is hands down one of those celebrities for me, and in a very indirect sort of way, I even have him to thank for my lifelong love of heavy metal music (but more on that later).
As a child in the ’80s, I watched a young Danny on one of my favorite sitcoms at the time, Diff’rent Strokes. Then as a teen in the ’90s, I watched as he embodied the ultimate teen-aged slacker in such unforgettable roles as Budnick on the classic Nickelodeon TV show Salute Your Shorts. Recently, I was able to speak to Danny from his home in California, where we covered not only many of the previously-mentioned roles he’s taken on over the years, but also what he’s up to these days – which may come as a surprise to many of you.
These days Danny lives a more modest, family man-type of life, taking his son to school every morning before coming home to tackle either voice-over work, or teach acting lessons (the vast majority of which he actually teaches one-on-one online). As far as teaching goes he tells me; “I believe that each person has their own sort of individual process as far as what they want to accomplish with their needs and goals with acting. One thing I try to focus a lot on is the audition process, because even if you’re the best actor in the world, that’s a whole different monster in itself.”
One of the first things I wanted to know regarding Danny’s past was how he felt when he comes across an old episode of one of the many shows he’s been in; “You know, it’s funny, there’s certain memories that are seared in your brain, while others kind of meld together. I remember when my my daughter was younger she found an old VHS tape with Diff’rent Strokes on it, and I had no recollection at all of the plot line or anything. It was sort of this odd, out-of-body experience, but it’s pretty interesting. I don’t really sit around watching myself often or anything, but every once in awhile something will come on that I’ll catch, and I just kind of have to pinch myself and say, ‘Wow, how did I ever even end up in that situation?!’ (Laughs).”
Of course I couldn’t help but ask Danny how he reacts when called Budnick (without a doubt one of his most memorable roles) these days, to which he replied; “You know, I still think it’s awesome! But I actually have more people asking me what high school I went to and trying to figure out where they know me from more than I get called Budnick (laughs).”
Music has also played a heavy role throughout Danny’s career as well. As a child, he took a try at singing country music before later switching it up to rock, briefly fronting the band Bad4Good in the early ’90s, who released one album (Refugee) in 1992 before ultimately dissolving. I asked Danny how he felt looking back on that project now, to which he replied; “I’m still so proud of that record. We worked really hard on it, but it was a really weird time in music, and it seemed like things were just changing by the minute. I feel like if it were released a few years earlier that record might’ve been a little more successful than it was. Or maybe it would’ve been something totally different if it were released a year later (laughs)! But it was an amazing experience for sure.”
But if there’s one thing I really wanted to ask Danny about, it was the scene in the 1991 film Terminator 2: Judgement Day where he and co-star Edward Furlong were seen blasting the then-new Guns N’ Roses hit “You Could Be Mine.” Although I already knew of several hard rock/heavy metal bands and songs before that (including even ones by GN’R), it would be the first “rock” song I’d ever physically own in any way (and on cassette of course!), and I credit that as the moment I instantly fell in love with an entire genre. So I had to ask Danny whether or not he was a GN’R fan prior to the filming of that scene (as well as thank him for the role he played in my introduction to the song that quite literally changed my life), to which he said; “Oh yeah, I was definitely a big fan! I had actually seen the original lineup on tour with The Rolling Stones in like ’88, and they were just awesome!”
He goes on to elaborate on the inclusion of the song in the film; “When we were in the early stages of filming, I was given a cassette of the music that was going to be used in the scene. Originally it was going to be 2 songs, and I believe they were “Higher Ground” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and “I Wanna Be Sedated” by the Ramones, which were, you know, both fine. But at some point I got handed another cassette, and it was an advanced copy of “You Could Be Mine,” in which case I thought I was just the coolest person on the planet since the record wasn’t even out yet! (Laughs).”
As if all these accomplishments were not enough, Danny is still involved in making music to this day, currently performing in a project that helps raise proceeds for abused animals called Shelter Dogs, who self-released an album, Take Me Home, in 2015 (which ironically was co-produced by acclaimed Guns N’ Roses producer Mike Clink), and are currently in the process of writing a brand new album. Be sure to look out for more material from them soon, but in the meantime you can still check out their previously released music on Spotifiy, ITunes, and of course YouTube. And those interested in his acting classes can also reach Danny at: https://www.dcacting.com/.