Gabriel Darku has popped and locked a film career.

What started as dance commercial appearance in a 2012 McDonald’s commercial has led him to appear in TV series such as American Gods and now the upcoming Netflix show October Faction. To be released Jan. 23, the latter is a supernatural thriller that follows a pair of monster hunters and their twin children.

Gabriel Darku stars in Netflix’s October Faction to premier on Jan. 23.
Photo Courtesy of Amira de Vera

In the show, the show’s parents return to their family home under the guise of insurance agents. Over the course of the first season,their children slowly uncover the truth about their monster-fighting family. Darku, 24, plays Geoff Allen, one of the family’s twin teenage boys.

Darku said it was a welcome challenge to play Allen, who is more extroverted and talkative than the actor is in real life. He was thrown into the role in short order: he signed the contract for the job, and was on set within the week, Darku said.

“I appreciated being thrown into the role like that,” he said, leading him to allow the context of individual scenes to dictate his performance, rather than becoming too muddled in research and backstory.  

Growing up in Yellowknife, he never took advantage of performances at the Northern Arts Cultural Centre or school plays. Attending St. Patrick High School, he was always more of a jock — he played nearly every sport in school, and focused competitively on volleyball. 

“I always thought of acting as an unattainable dream job,” he said, adding he thought he had a better shot of being an astronaut. 

That’s until a McDonald’s commercial sparked his interest in film when he was 17.

Known for his decent pop and locking dance skills, his co workers encouraged him to send in an audition tape when the fast food company put out a call for employees to appear in the ad. 

The commercial featured McDonald’s employees dancing through the steps of preparing a new sandwich the restaurant was offering in 2012. To make the audition Darku had to send in a minute-long video.

“It was a huge deal back home,” he said. “Everyone was all over that commercial.”

After two short lists, they flew 10 participants to Toronto for a live audition of choreographed and free-style dancing. 

The organizers then winnowed it down seven dancers and then shot the commercial after some quick rehearsals and a second flight to Toronto.

“It was 13 and a half hours to shoot a 30-second commercial and I enjoyed every second of it,” he said, explaining he was fascinated with each take and behind the scenes production.

“If there was something I could do for 13 and a half hours every day, this is totally it.”

He later attended Toronto Film School for acting, aiming to capitalize on that moment to make a career.

Appearing in science fiction and fantasy-fare in shows such as Netflix’s Reboot: The Guardian Code, Darku said he was interested in taking on more dramatic roles.  

Part of the drive for his work to resonate comes from his own experience and connections made growing up in Yellowknife, he said, where he found diverse experiences were more openly shared in his circle. 

“It’s an environment that really encourages empathy and connection,” he said. “Having that foundation within me is a really big driving point of wanting to spread that to other communities that may not be as close-knit or as accepting.”

 

Nick Pearce

Nick Pearce is a writer and reporter in Yellowknife, looking for unique stories on the environment and people that make up the North. He's a graduate of Queen's University, where he studied Global Development...

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