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Daniel Augustin: Shaping the Narrative of Entertainment, Music, and Advocacy

Miami Living Magazine proudly presents an exclusive interview with the versatile talent, Daniel Augustin. Known for his standout roles in TV hits like "Grey's Anatomy" and "How I Met Your Father," Daniel Augustin is a captivating actor, director, producer, and musician, with a notable mark starring as Maurice on the HBO Max comedy series "Rap Sh!t.  Reprising his role in "Rap Sh!t" Season 2, released on November 9, 2023, he continues to impress. Daniel recently unveiled the music single "Movie" and its cinematic video, showcasing the melody of second chances in his life. As a filmmaker, he helms "Kinfolk: The Series" together with his wife, which is premiering on YouTube Channel's "Tough Love Series". Born in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and of Haitian descent, Daniel's journey started with a passion for music in his parents' church, leading to a prolific career. Beyond the spotlight, he mentors filmmakers, supports his Haitian community, and advocates for men's health. Daniel Augustin is set to make an enduring mark in the entertainment industry.

Miami Living (ML): Daniel, it's such a pleasure to meet you! With so much happening in your career, let's start on a lighthearted note. What's the most exciting thing that has happened to you recently, either personally or professionally?

Daniel Augustin: I can’t say what the most personal thing is just yet. It’s still too personal and not yet in a place to be shared; but professionally speaking, I just signed with new representation after a confusing year. The WGA and SAG-AFTRA strike made things a little weird in so many ways and created a lot of hesitation as it pertains to creatives being as active as possible. There were more excuses made than people seizing opportunity. It’s a bit nerve-wracking to start over with a new team, but it also allows for a fresh start when professional rigidity sets in. 

ML: Your journey in entertainment began with a deep-rooted connection to music at your parents' church. How do you believe your early experiences with music - including forming the gospel rap group Mav-7 at such a young age - have shaped your approach to creativity and storytelling?

Daniel: My approach now involves implementing the boundaries I never knew how to, and allowing others to do the same. I think I can do that now because I have the framework from that first group. It was always easy talking about the big ideas we had, but boundaries were never a conversation piece when I was younger. Whenever someone would feel their boundaries were crossed, they’d just slowly start to disappear, and I’d end up assuming that maybe that person didn't like me anymore, or they didn't like that song. Believe it or not, that still happens to this day. Everyone isn’t evolving the same. One thing I love about the Loki show is those timelines because everyone is moving in a direction that suits the way they see life. The biggest difference now is that I’m more understanding of what’s going on internally. When things are getting chaotic around me or someone isn’t showing up anymore or answering calls –  there’s room for empathy – but there’s also room for me to give myself grace. It’s more about human nature and human psychology now than it is just about “our” dreams. 

ML: With your diverse background in music, acting, and filmmaking, is there a particular role or project that holds a special place in your heart, and if so, what makes it so memorable for you?

Daniel: That’s a good question because of how many amazing experiences I’ve had to date. I want to say Wu-Tang because of what it meant to portray Rakim, or Rap Sh!t because it’s a show that incorporates the type of music and culture I’ve created for years. I would love to say David Makes Man because of that musical number where one of the corner boys passed away, and the whole block performs a beautiful going-home that involves an emotionally choreographed walk through the set with the casket – it was artistic and beautiful. But the most memorable experience I’ve had to date has been creating Kinfolk the Series alongside my wife and, by far, my favorite creative partner, my wife, Sh’Kia. That show was a creative dream. The little idea that could, if you will. I remember us talking about it at an Atlanta restaurant once over dinner, and then before we knew it, she was writing scripts, and I was giving notes. Before you know it, we were sending out breakdowns and auditioning actors we’d never met. Before we knew it, we had wardrobes, props, wigs, and locations set. I remember telling my team at the time not to send me any auditions for three months because all I was going to be pouring my energy into was this show, and they didn’t understand it. They thought it was career suicide, but it served as an amazing opportunity to evolve. What I lacked in experience, I made up for in education. I read and re-read those scripts until there were pictures in my head. I read Robert Rodriguez’s Rebel Without a Crew and sat down at my computer for months while piecing together what I felt is art. I learned things I’ve never read in books like something as simple as what it means for actors to share the screen. I found answers to my own questions. From editing to directing to cinematography, to working with theater actors and a handful of actors who had little to no experience, I had a wonderfully challenging experience that I wouldn’t trade in for any of those roles. Luckily, I got to do them all and didn’t have to, but I feel the industry is evolving from right under us. Studios need names, sure, but they need educated creatives. People who can sit in the editing room with another editor and offer value that serves the story. Working on this show and completing it is one of the greatest accomplishments of my young career. The other day, my 10th-grade English teacher told me she watched all six episodes, and she thoroughly enjoyed it. She told me it reminded her of Napoleon Dynamite, and that’s a compliment I’d never imagined getting. I did enjoy that film in high school but to create something that’s personal that resonates with others in a way that can be personal for them is like magic to me. 

ML: Your production company, Augustin Productions, has been behind several successful short films and digital series, including the acclaimed "Kinfolk" selected into Tribeca's 2022 Creator's Market.  What inspired you and your wife to create this production company?

Daniel: Again, inactivity. Sh’Kia and I wanted to be able to have something to show for ourselves because saying you’re a creator or director or anything isn’t enough without proof. The chaos of not having opportunities became our ladder. Neither of us was getting much interesting work besides some co-stars here and there. I can’t count how many actors I see blame their representatives, when to me the answer I’m looking for is staring me back in the face… they can’t help me anymore than they already have. It’s officially time for me to help myself. If I’m the one saying I want something, it should show through my actions. Only about one in ten artists have the power to tell their representatives what they want, and it just happens. That’s my opinion. I’m not in that category, so my being ultra honest with myself seems to propel me in the direction I want to go. I’ve been self-generating opportunities since my career began, and Kinfok is no different. We haven’t exactly gotten the type of eyeballs on the project that has offered to pay us anything, but we paid ourselves an experience that a resume can’t express. That much was vital to the sincerity of our endeavors.

ML: "Rap Sh!t" on HBO Max has gained significant praise, and your character Maurice has become a fan favorite. How did you prepare for this role, and do any aspects of Maurice's character resonate with you personally?

Daniel: My preparation is musically inclined. I love how a song can subconsciously connect with the way my body feels and moves. Every scene has a tone and so for me, having a theme song for each scene is such a fun way to do my homework. Leaving your trailer, heading to set, and having a ton of conversations that, at times, have nothing to do with what I’m filming and waiting can be distracting. Having my headphones with me and finding a place where I can relax and let the song do the work is one of my favorite things to do on set. As for how Maurice resonates with me: first off, I’m a Haitian-American who grew up around Haitians, went to a Haitian church, and has been to Haiti on multiple occasions, so I have experiences the writers don’t need to have, and because of it, I was able to bring something to this character that an actor who isn’t Haitian couldn’t. When my mom and dad left Haiti for the United States, they lived in Miami. I was born in Fort Lauderdale, so proximity is a very close second. Lastly, while I was living in South Florida, before I could truly say I was a professional actor who was making a respectable living in the arts, I made a living just like Maurice does. I don’t mind talking about it now because those days are far gone, but I lost friends doing it. I used to pay for studio sessions with jwèt money, making sure everybody was fed and whatnot. I was always very much so a team player with a big heart and a sucker for skirts. 

ML: Your latest single and music video, "Movie," has garnered attention for its cinematic storytelling and captivating visuals. Can you share more about the inspiration behind the song and the creative process of bringing the story to life in a movie-like format?

Daniel: We filmed that during the actors' and writers’ strike. I knew I wanted to work but was frustrated that I was, in a sense, “not allowed to". So, the work I wasn’t getting a chance to do inspired me to incorporate my acting and filmmaking work into my music endeavors in a visual sense. The treatment could’ve been completely different. I could’ve absolutely just been singing to a girl and doing that only –  but where’s the story? Where’s the fun? I want to make videos that, five to 10 years from now, are still worth watching because of the narratives. It’s not enough to just have bottles and girls on the beach. 

ML: Your commitment to mentoring aspiring filmmakers and serving the Haitian community is commendable. Can you share a specific moment or experience that solidified your passion for giving back to your community and supporting emerging talent in the film industry?

Daniel: Working with actors, whether they may be experienced or don’t always know how talented they are, gives me an immense amount of joy. I don’t mind that I sound like a scratched-up Compact disc that’s skipping repeatedly, but again, my answer is Kinfok: the Series. One thing I tend to come across when I meet aspiring actors are individuals who want to develop a career but don’t know how to take the first step. Oftentimes, the most common thought is for us to get representation because reps are going to help us get jobs, and getting jobs is going to help us start a career, but they don’t know how to advocate for themselves when that falls through. With Kinfolk, I got to work with very talented performers. Half of them didn’t have representation but came out of the project with more footage than a regular co-star role would give them. This show was like a private company that came in, provided jobs, and stabilized a community of actors. At the time of production, two of the three leads of the show didn’t have representation, and neither of them had ever been a lead in a series. At this time, two of the three have representation, one of which (Sh’Kia) is now a series regular on two different shows (Kold x Windy on WE TV & Caught Up on BET+), and another (Amethyst Davis) has representation and has been booking like crazy, where when we were working together she had one co-star and stand-in work. Because of this show, actors got a chance to work in a controlled environment that put them first. When Sh’Kia and I produced our first project together, I directed it, but I was also an actor in the series, so I wasn’t truly able to devote all of my attention to them because I often was filming and performing. With Kinfolk, I took a step back from acting and decided to work from behind the camera. A handful of the actors have more of a background in theater (Toni Tenaj, Regina Hodges-Hopkins), and one of the leads never booked anything, but studied acting in school (Terrence Millan). Being able to communicate with them went beyond saying action and cut was an opportunity for all parties involved really. With that said, I look forward to what’s to come. I have a podcast in the works for multihyphenates, acting modules I’ll be releasing for my Instagram subscribers, and a potential book about my experiences with reps and what’s taken to get to this point, how and why you must advocate for yourself and what that even looks like. I’ve only just begun. 

ML: Outside of your busy schedule, you enjoy activities like boxing, playing basketball, creating music and reading. How do these personal interests contribute to your overall well-being, especially in the demanding world of entertainment?

Daniel: The value of having some other activities can be life-changing. Without being well-rounded, I don’t think I’d have anything to offer the work I’m doing as an actor, filmmaker, or writer. If I’m writing, something must’ve happened in my personal life that I can write about. Whether it stems from something I read or something I experienced, I don’t think people really make stuff up. Everything comes from somewhere. When I don’t know what’s next in my career, trust there’s likely a book about it or a book that may lead to me knowing what I want to do next, even if that wasn’t what I was looking for. 

ML: Lastly, what message or impact do you hope to leave on the entertainment industry, and what are your aspirations for the future, both professionally and personally?

Daniel: My aspirations are for a long and successful career. I aspire to live a life that can serve as a testimony of how to do it. I’m not saying this because I want to be copied or because I want to be the example; I’m saying it because I need to know what I want from myself. It’s not superstardom. I want to be the example I needed to see growing up. There are only two individuals I can think of off the top of my head who have laid out an example I can pull from: Denzel Washington and Viola Davis. Denzel often references Sidney Poitier, and Viola often references Meryl Streep. Seems like If you’re disciplined and understand the value of work ethic over ego, you can absolutely have a long career. I hope to leave an impact that my family can be proud of, but more importantly one that I can be proud of mostly. 

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By ML Staff. Images courtesy of Ben Cope


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