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10 Quick Questions for D.B. Woodside

Multitalented actor reports for Secret Service duty in Netflix’s ‘The Night Agent’

spinner image d b woodside smiling against light blue background
Maarten de Boer/Getty Images

Known for his diverse roles in shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 24, Suits and Lucifer, D.B. Woodside, 53, stars in the new Netflix action-thriller series The Night Agent, as Secret Service agent Eric Monks. The Yale-trained actor talks about his professional role models, New York roots and keeping fit after 50. 

Was it challenging for you to play a Secret Service agent?

It was a challenge in all the best ways. I have a lot of respect for those men and women, and after being given the opportunity to do a deeper dive into what they do and what they believe and their personalities, it really made me fall in love with them a lot more. I had the opportunity to speak with one or two [former] Secret Service agents about their training and who these people are. So yes, it was definitely challenging, but it was a challenge that I embraced and that I loved. I’m better for it.

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You’ve acted in comedy, drama, action and even supernatural projects. Is there a genre you prefer?

There is one thing I do like better than the others, and I think it just comes from my training. I was fortunate enough to go to the Yale School of Drama [now the David Geffen School of Drama at Yale]. I love playing complex men, complicated characters. I think that’s a better reflection of our lives and of our times. I really enjoy embracing those men who are struggling with life, struggling with those big questions that we all toss around. So definitely drama — gritty, realistic — those are my favorite types of people to play.

Many actors never go to acting school. What are they missing?

When you study the craft of it, you learn how to adapt to each role. It gives you longevity. It builds character. The safety that you encounter at a school is that you’re not going to be fired, and so you get to find your voice. You get to figure out what your strengths are and what your weaknesses are. People who don’t take it as seriously as it should be can get pigeonholed into certain types of roles, and they don’t have the knowledge to break out of that rut that they’re in. They don’t have the experience to adapt and to change and to become many different people throughout the span of a career. Anyone who has the courage to jump into this world — at the end of the day — I wish them nothing but success. But if someone’s asking me what I think is the best road to success, I’m always going to advise them to go to a university where you can make bold choices and where you can fail upward and find your voice in the process.

Which actors inspired you?

At the top of my list is Daniel Day-Lewis. I followed his career. I wanted to be like him. I wanted to take my craft as seriously as he takes his. Another one of those actors would be Denzel Washington. He was groundbreaking in so many ways. He’s incredibly gifted, represents himself very well and is someone that I also try to model my career after — someone who I looked up to. I love how seriously he takes his craft.

As Melvin Franklin in the 1998 TV movie The Temptations, you did some singing. Can you really sing?

We have a saying in the African American culture: Can you sing or can you sang? People like Jennifer Hudson, Luther Vandross, Aretha Franklin … I mean, those people can sang.  We did a lot of singing in The Temptations. I can carry a tune, I can sing, but I’m nowhere near those greats. It’s just something I enjoy. The Temptations was incredible to be a part of — something that I look back on now fondly. We had an absolute blast working on that. We put in a lot of hard work learning all of those dance routines, recording about 70 percent of the music. That was an experience of a lifetime.

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You were also in Suits with Meghan Markle. Did you ever think she’d marry a prince?

At that time, no. Not for any reason [other] than that world was foreign to most Americans. … I’m a big supporter of Meghan’s. I didn’t know her well, but from the conversations that she and I had, she’s one of the most intelligent, compassionate human beings that I’ve ever met in my life. I really like her a lot. She’s a really, really good person, a great human being, and I feel bad every day when I see what the British press has done to her and continues to do to her. She doesn’t deserve that at all. She is a  remarkable human being.

spinner image d b woodside as erik and fola evans-akingbola as chelsea arrington standing in business suits wearing i d badges in a still from night agent
Woodside, seen here with co-star Fola Evans-Akingbola, plays Secret Service agent Erik Monks in Netflix's new series, “The Night Agent.”

You live in Los Angeles, but you grew up in Queens. Once a New Yorker, always a New Yorker?

Oh yeah, born and raised in New York, very proud of that. You can take the kid out of New York, but you can never take New York out of the kid. When I was young, I did a lot of hating on Los Angeles. Thankfully, I grew out of that. That’s annoying. There’s a lot of beautiful things about Los Angeles: It’s a beautiful city, the weather is fantastic, the proximity to the beaches, to the mountains. It’s gorgeous. I don’t have anything negative to say about Los Angeles, but New York is home. New Yorkers are my people. I embrace their directness, their honesty and their work ethic. That’s what I come from. That’s what I believe in.

What do you like to do outside of acting?

I share custody with my daughter’s mother [actress Golden Brooks]. So I have her 50 percent of the time. She’s 13 years old now. So much fun. I like to say she’s 13 going on 40. Dad’s not cool anymore. Dad talks too much. I wish Dad would just sit down and be quiet and let me do what I want. I take being a dad seriously. I love being a dad. I had an absolutely incredible father. I still have an incredible mother. We lost my father about eight years ago, which has been really hard on my family. I love reading and writing. I’ve been working on a project for the last two, two and a half years, actively working —  it’s a reimagining of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde —  to get it turned into a television series. That’s my big love right now.

What are you reading?

Right now I’m doing a little bit of a reread of [The New York Times Magazine’s] The 1619 Project. I read it about two years ago. I’m rereading it now for another project I plan on working on. I’m also reading Isabel Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns, about the migration from the South. My parents were a part of that. Like I said, I haven’t had my dad in a few years, but reading that book in some ways has helped me to understand the mindset of my parents. I’m learning about history that definitely affected my father and what that must have been like for him — why both of my parents felt the strong pull to leave the South at that time and have their children in the Northeast. It makes more and more sense the further I get into the book.

Have you had to adapt your fitness routine now that you’re in your 50s?

For me, it was something I started young, and of course, there have been periods in my life where I let it go. I think that’s important. I’m still — I’m going to be honest — in the process of losing my happy COVID weight. It was a wonderful time to be home and eat pumpkin bread and banana bread and corn bread. Now I’m back in the gym, doing the hard work to lose that weight. Working out for me is like my church. When I walk in there, it’s my sanctuary. For me, it has more to do with peace of mind than how I look. We all want to look our best. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, and if that’s a by-product of me entering my sanctuary for some peace of mind, I will definitely take it. It’s making sure that I run, that I swim. I’m a really big swimmer, always lifting weights so I can maintain strength as I get older. Of course, now I’m not throwing up those heavy weights anymore, my body can’t take that anymore. But there is something really wonderful about walking into that space and obtaining that peace of mind and being happy with the way you look.

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