He may have recently gone through a separation, but Daniel Gillies is in the midst of planning an epic Valentine’s Day. The actor and filmmaker ended his 14-year marriage with actress Rachael Leigh Cook last year, but says the “Perception” star is still his “best friend,” and he’s putting his first Valentine’s Day as a single man to good use by offering himself up as a date.
“It’s the first time [being single] in 16 years, but I don’t place much importance on that day and I didn’t when we were married either,” the 43-year-old “Vampire Diaries” and “Saving Hope” star tells us. “Not to sound unromantic because Rachael and I had a very loving and wonderful relationship, but we never paid the day much heed. To us, every day was special when we were married.”
When it comes to romance, Gillies says the grandest gesture he ever experienced wasn’t to do with dates nights or gifts, but rather the arrival of his two children with Cook, 6-year-old daughter, Charlotte, and 4-year-old son, Theodore.
“The fact that women are willing to bear our children is incredible – if that isn’t romantic, what is?” he says. “That’s so romantic and heroic and something men could never begin to fathom. The fact they’re willing to carry our children for nine months, then bring this beautiful person into the world, is the most romantic gesture there is as a human, and I’ve experienced it twice.”
While he may not normally go over-the-top for Valentine’s Day, Gillies is going all out when it comes to the upcoming occasion, after launching a Propeller campaign, where fans who donate to Oxfam’s efforts to end the war and humanitarian crisis in Yemen could win a trip to Los Angeles to spend the afternoon hanging with the actor.
“I’m not going to half-ass this,” he promises. “Half the reason I was grumbling when [Oxfam entertainment relations officer] Jackie Nelson suggested we do it on Valentine’s Day was because I’m not somebody who does things by halves. I want to make it a really special day. There are a couple of restaurants I love, so I’ll definitely take them somewhere cool … I’m still figuring out the agenda.”
When he does wine and dine his fans, the Canada-born, New Zealand-raised actor won’t take a single bite for granted, given that the money raised will help benefit the millions who are starving, suffering and struggling in Yemen. The war-torn western Asian nation has plunged into dire crisis, with 16 million Yemenis not knowing where their next meal is coming from and an estimated one child dying every 10 minutes.
Although the dangerous nature of visiting Yemen has held Gillies back from his hopes to do a mission there, he has previously spent eye-opening time in Uganda, in support of Oxfam’s hunger programs. Describing his time in the east African country as “transformative,” he recalls the stark contrast of being stunned by surprising physical beauty one minute, then deeply disturbed by the personal stories of women at refugee camps the next.
“Eerily, in the same ‘water-cooler-way’ that you and I might talk about a TV program or new sweater, these women describe gang rape or their husbands being dragged in front of the village and set on fire,” he says. “And, 9/10 times the stories are not that emotional, because they’ve been so emotionally-eroded by tremendously difficult lives and experiences.”
Gillies admits it’s easy for the horror of such moments to drift to the back of his mind once he returns to Los Angeles, but he’s passionate about remaining conscious and proactive about the world in need outside the bubble of Hollywood. It’s something he’s also intent on passing onto Charlotte and Theodore.
“I really want to expose my children to the world and have them see cultures that don’t look like the United States,” he says. “I want them to see places that are struggling because it’s good for them to have in their consciousness that not everybody has a tree-lined street, a school they can go to and a doctor.”
“I want my kids to know there’s a world out there that hurts and needs us – and that we need to be responsible for that world,” he continues.
In the meantime, Gillies’ own globetrotting continues, having recently wrapped the thriller, “Coming Home in the Dark”, directed by James Ashcroft in New Zealand. He also filmed “Occupation: Rainfall” in Australia, is voicing audio books for Thor and continues to film Netflix’s “Virgin River” in Canada, where he previously worked on “Saving Hope” and alongside Luke Perry in “Jeremiah”.
“Virgin River” saw him reunite with fellow Kiwi and Bride and “Prejudice” co-star Martin Henderson on-set in Vancouver, although the two don’t share scenes.
“It’s a sweet little story,” Gillies says. “It’s a very little role and I took it because I want to spend more time with my family. I knew I was going away to do a movie in New Zealand and would be away from them for months and when I came back, I didn’t want to be away much. But it’s really Martin’s show with Alex [Breckinridge] and I come in fleetingly, which I’m happy about.”
See more on Gillies’ Oxfam campaign and enter to win a date with him on Valentine’s Day here!