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LDS convert Danor Gerald is star of new 'Saints and Soldiers' film

Published: Thursday, Aug. 14 2014 5:00 a.m. MDT

Updated: Friday, Aug. 15 2014 10:55 a.m. MDT

Danor Gerald plays "Owens" in "Saints and Soldiers: The Void." The film premiers in theaters on Aug. 15.

Provided by Saints and Soldiers: The Void/Go Films

Danor Gerald decided to become an actor after being hit with a tennis ball.

While an elementary school student, Gerald was playing a tennis-ball version of dodgeball when he was nailed in the midsection. As he curled up on the ground, classmates quickly gathered around him. He noted their grave concern, saw a humorous opportunity and began squirming and squealing in pain.

"I started to laugh and they threw a fit. 'You are such a faker,'" Gerald said. "Later I realized I had complete control over their emotions for a couple of seconds, and while acting, I could have influence on people. I decided I wanted to be an actor."

Decades later, Gerald continues to fulfill his acting dream. He has found success in television, movies and onstage. Most notably, Gerald is one of the main characters in "Saints and Soldiers: The Void," which premiers in theaters Friday, Aug. 15.

Gerald's career also has a spiritual element. He is a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Joining the LDS Church has blessed his personal life, his family and his career, he said.

"I enjoy the chance to take people, have them in the palm of your hand and create an emotional or a spiritual experience," Gerald said. "Then to have them walk away with some thoughts in their heads that hopefully make them reconsider or change some of their opinions that need improvement, or to help them be inspired to do things they have been afraid to do — that's why I love acting."

The actor

Gerald was raised in rural Mississippi by his great-grandmother. Later, he moved to Dallas to attend school, and he earned diving and acting scholarships at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkansas.

Gerald found he enjoyed stage acting and was cast for roles in several productions, including "To Kill a Mockingbird," during the 1990s.

"For a time, I could audition for any show and get cast," Gerald said. "Directors would say, 'Come and be in my show.'"

In 2000, Gerald made his television debut in a couple of episodes of "Sheena," a series shot at Walt Disney World in Florida.

Breaking into TV and film was more difficult, Gerald said, but the turning point came when he stopped worrying about things he couldn't control. In time, the opportunities began to come his way.

In more recent years, Gerald has appeared in several commercials and feature films, including "High School Musical 2," "House of Fears" and "Forever Strong."

"Once I stopped caring about whether or not they liked me, I started getting parts," Gerald said. "There is freedom that comes with having balance. Once you realize it is not the most important thing in life, you are able to live in the moment."

LDS conversion

After moving from Arkansas back to Dallas, Gerald said, he had shoulder-length dreadlocks and was "dabbling a little in alcohol and mild drugs."

The aspiring actor also liked to talk with his friends about spiritual topics. Gerald was raised by a Baptist and at one time lived with a relative who took him knocking doors with Jehovah's Witnesses.

He was on a quest to find God, he said.

One day, Gerald met the friend of a roommate, a returned LDS missionary, who noticed Gerald's desire for spiritual things and invited him to meet with the Mormon missionaries. Gerald accepted.

As a truth-seeker, Gerald figured the missionaries would eventually say something wrong and he would say "thanks, but no thanks." They never did, he said.

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