By Deborah Wilker
The A&E character summary couldn’t be more direct: “Daniel epitomizes the word ‘nerd.’”
The geek in question is Daniel Green – unabashed lover of reptiles, science and math – and chief lab-tech on cable’s lighthearted Florida crime series The Glades.
But in real life, Jordan Wall, the handsome 28-year-old actor who portrays him, seems very much the opposite of this TV bookworm. Athletic and outgoing, he lives on the beach, runs marathons and has a killer set of abs.
“We are just a bit different, yes,” Wall says, making the “tiny” sign with his thumb and forefinger.
Stopping in for a waterfront lunch at Giorgio’s Bakery & Bistro on Hollywood Beach, we are just down the road from where The Glades sets up shop from time to time. The show, which returns for season four in June, stars Australian hunk Matt Passmore as the lead detective of a homicide squad based in fictional Palm Glade, Fla.
With storylines that traverse the state, all of Florida is a regular co-star. Characters who lunch in St. Augustine might be in Naples by night.
“We do shrink the state a little bit,” says Wall, originally from Clearwater and a graduate of the University of Florida. “Miami, Sarasota, maybe hit up Cocoa Beach – all in one day,” he says with a laugh.
Sometimes they’re even driving over the Georgia border – with South Florida often standing in for just about any of it.
As with most one-hour TV shows, the pace is grueling and production days can be very long. This show in particular, with its heavy reliance on dialogue and outdoor locations, is also at the mercy of rain, wind “and airplanes flying over us all the time.”
“Sometimes what you think will be a 10-hour day is a 14-hour day,” Wall says without a hint of distress. In fact there’s something about his enthusiasm that makes you suspect a 30-hour day would be just fine, too.
“Perhaps when I’m in the business a lot longer, I’ll get jaded.”
Four years into his adventure in series television, he says he remains awed by the complexity of it – the hours upon hours and dozens of production crew required to create even a 30-second scene.
“It feels like chaos but somehow it all always comes together. They build this glorious sundae for us and we the actors are the final piece on top. We’re what everyone sees, but the more I learn about each job, the more astounded I am.
Though Wall was active in school theater productions and attended the annual Florida State Thespians competition in Tampa during his high school years, his parents didn’t expect him to become an actor in real life. In fact, his dad was steering him toward law school after Gainesville. Later recognizing that his son had other dreams, he ultimately helped him enroll in a post-collegiate theatre workshop in Tampa.
“That support meant a lot,” Wall said of his family. “It was the beginning of him accepting that this is what I wanted to do.”
Within just two years he had an agent and had booked The Glades. The show, however, was originally set to shoot on Florida’s west coast – and the part of Daniel Green was originally written as a one-time guest shot for the first episode.
“It didn’t quite work out the way they planned!”
Ending up on the ocean in South Florida, along with the time and economic resources to have a completely separate life in Los Angeles (where he makes the rounds of casting directors the other six months of the year), is something of a jackpot for a young actor.
Last year Wall’s perseverance paid off with a guest role opposite Kathy Bates on the defunct NBC legal drama Harry’s Law.
“She was incredibly nice,” he said of the Oscar and Emmy-winner, widely regarded as one of the industry’s best. “She went around the entire room introducing herself to everyone – ‘hello, I’m Kathy, nice to meet you’ – which she did not have to do and of course everyone knows who she is.”
Her humility made an instructive impression on him, as have the many tales of entertainers and athletes who have hit it big – then quickly gone broke. Wall says he feels best living conservatively – preferring to room with friends when he is in L.A. rather than buy a home of his own just yet. “I don’t need much. How much do any of us really need?”
Though he does have his own place in South Florida each winter during Glades production – “it’s a new apartment every time.”
“I’m definitely a vagabond. I’m a nomad. I carry the clothes on my back. There’s only a handful of guys, maybe Leonardo DiCaprio or Brad Pitt, who have the next film waiting for them – who know where they’re going to be.”
For now, movies can wait. Wall’s next gig is as team member of the Florida Chapter of The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America’s Team Challenge – a series of marathons and triathlons that raise research funds for genetic inflammatory bowel diseases.
“These diseases can change – even ruin the course of your life. But because they don’t necessarily cause fatalities at the same rate as some other illnesses, CCFA doesn’t always receive the fundraising attention it should,” he said.
Wall was drawn to the charity after learning of a friend’s dire struggle with Crohn’s Disease. “I saw the debilitation first hand. She was a very active woman. It changed her life completely. Every day is compromised.”
He is a member of the local Florida fundraising team that will run a half-marathon in Napa Valley, Calif., this summer. Training for the group is supervised by CCFA coaches, whose strict regimen includes a 4 a.m. wake-up call most Saturdays – whether you’ve been shooting a TV show until 2 a.m. – or not.
“Last year we were initially training in Weston,” he said of the pre-dawn commutes from his beachfront apartment. “Then they moved it East, which helped a lot. But one night I got about two hours sleep. I was OK – till about the middle of the next day,” he says, recalling with some amusement how he just about collapsed. “Running alongside these people has really taught me not to take my health for granted. If I can combine some personal goals of mine – staying fit – with an amazing cause, I think I should.” λ
The Glades, starring Matt Passmore, Michelle Hurd, Kiele Sanchez, Carlos Gomez and Jordan Wall, returns to A&E television for 13 episodes starting in June.
Train with Team Challenge
Not a champion athlete? Don’t even get to the gym? Doesn’t matter – just about anyone can participate in The Florida Chapter of The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America’s Team Challenge – an ongoing series of destination marathons and triathlons held worldwide throughout the year. Endurance training is provided by professional coaches, who vow they can get just about anyone ready for a 13-mile run (or walk) in a matter of months. If you’d like to participate, contact Rachel Kramer at 561-218-2929 at the Boca Raton office of CCFA – or visit ccteamchallenge.org.