Eight years ago, he danced his way from a Yellowknife McDonald’s to screens across Canada. On Thursday, his latest show is released on Netflix worldwide.
Gabriel Darku was a teenager at the city’s École St Patrick High School when, on a friend’s recommendation, he entered a McDonald’s contest looking for employees with a background in dance.
“One of my friends knew I danced as a hobby and was decently good at it, and they convinced me to do it,” Darku told Cabin Radio. “I passed the live audition and got the job. It was crazy. It was just a really lucky, surreal experience that stoked the fire of my interest in acting.”
Now, Darku plays Geoff Allen – son of parents who secretly hunt monsters – in October Faction, which makes its Netflix debut on Thursday.
“It is a supernatural drama with horror elements,” said Darku, 24. “The parents protect the globe from all these supernatural happenings. The kids don’t know the parents do this for a living. They think they’re insurance agents.
“It’s this great drama focused on family and wanting to keep secrets to protect the ones you love. All this happens to a backdrop of supernatural craziness.”
Darku had just three days to develop his character between signing the contract and appearing on-set – something he says helped him. “I was really getting to learn [the character of Geoff] while surrounded by the environment he was supposed to be in, which turned out really great,” Darku said.
Things have tended to happen fast in Darku’s acting career.
Following the McDonald’s cameo, he moved to Mississauga to play competitive volleyball. Vaguely planning to become an engineer, Darku soon realized nothing at school captivated him quite like shooting the McDonald’s commercial had.
He successfully auditioned for the Toronto Film School, met his future agent while there, and discovered his agent was targeting shows produced by streaming giants like Netflix in the firm belief the networks would explode in popularity. When that came to pass, Darku said offers of work were “nearly instantaneous.” (Other credits include Impulse, Slasher, and ReBoot: The Guardian Code.)
Ahead of October Faction’s release, Darku said he had only recently had the chance to view the show in full himself – and was now awaiting the wider world’s reaction.
“I’m waiting to hear what everyone else thinks about the show,” he said. “It hasn’t quite hit me, just how big this network is and the viewership is.
“I can see myself refreshing IMDB a lot, but that’s more just curiosity of what people think. I could care less what the rating actually is. What’s more important to me is hearing people’s honest opinions of the show and using that to make it better, whether we get our next season or whether I get my next job. It’s all about self-improvement.”
Currently in a professional lull while waiting to hear if October Faction gets a second season, Darku – who gets back to Yellowknife around once a year, where many friends and family members remain – hopes he’s reaching a pivotal moment in his career.
“I’m hoping this is going to be a tipping point in terms of getting looked at seriously for bigger roles, and being seen as someone who’s more versatile,” he said.
“A lot of the roles I’ve been doing have been rooted in sci-fi, horror, and fantasy worlds. As much as I love doing that, I’d also love to do so many other things.”