Danny, along with co-stars Glen Powell and Jay Ellis cover the June 2022 issue of Men’s Health! More outtakes and digital scans will be added once available!
MEN’S HEALTH – Flight anxiety be damned, when the 29-year-old got the call to report to set, he showed up. There, he found costars that all wanted to show up for each other.
When Danny Ramirez tells the story of flying to Los Angeles for his Top Gun: Maverick audition, it doesn’t get off to a great start. “I wouldn’t say I was deathly afraid of flying,” he says, “but . . .”
Ramirez’s acting career started only seven years ago, with such illustrious roles as “Moving Van Kid #1” and “Panicked Student.” That he’s quickly built a résumé of interesting roles is indicative of his tendency to bum-rush an opportunity. “I’ve always been dive first and sink or swim later,” the 29-year-old says. When I let slip Ramirez’s aerial anxiety to Maverick director Joseph Kosinski, he was dumbstruck. “Danny never showed that fear,” he says.
What Kosinski calls “flight training” Ramirez calls “the Tom Cruise School of Being a Badass.” Cruise himself developed a grueling five-month crash course for the actors. “I learned the art of puking and rallying,” says Ramirez.
It also taught the actor not only to trust his own instincts but to trust others’ instincts, too. Ramirez recalls his first flight with costar Glen Powell piloting a Cessna. “Glen is all smiles, more smiles in a minute than you’ve had the whole week. The next thing I know, he’s pushing the throttle forward and we’re up in the sky,” says Ramirez. “It’s bigger than a trust fall. Way bigger.”
By the end, the cast was a tight-knit unit. On the set of their Men’s Health shoot at an airfield in Chino, California, Ramirez, Powell, and costar Jay Ellis exchanged stories between shots, like the time during survival training when Ramirez was underwater in a harness that wasn’t unbuckling as the hand signal for “help” floated out of his brain like so many air bubbles. Spoiler: He managed to wriggle out and get to the surface. Turns out nobody had even clocked that he’d been freaking out. “He looked so calm,” says Ellis. “There was no panic in his eyes!”
Ramirez’s sink-or-swim mentality wasn’t always so literal, but it’s guided his career from the start. He spent the first part of college studying engineering and playing soccer in Atlanta. One day during practice, while he was sidelined with an ankle injury, he accepted an offer to appear as an extra in a movie shooting on campus. “I thought, I’d love to make 120 bucks right now. I’m broke.” What was supposed to be a two- to three-hour shoot ended up lasting eight hours, and Ramirez couldn’t shake his interest in what he saw. The next day he bought his first book on acting. He transferred to New York University to continue his engineering degree and to pursue acting. Later he auditioned to transfer into NYU’s acting school, Tisch, with “a really low GPA and the first monologue I’d ever memorized,” Ramirez says.
Still, he thinks “there’s a naiveness” in how he dove into Hollywood. Even acting school was “all Chekhov and Shakespeare,” and Ramirez, whose parents are Colombian and Mexican, would find himself working hard to find his place among the predominantly white roles in those stories. He recalls that a teacher once encouraged him to go into acting by telling him he’d be perfect for a lot of supporting roles. “The auditions that were coming across my plate at that point were all ‘the pool boy’ or ‘the gangbanger,’ ” he says. “The things that were happening [in Hollywood] at that moment were just not inclusive of where I could fit in. That’s why I started writing. If these roles don’t exist and I’m not trying to help create them, then all I can do is shout at the screen when no one who looks like me is on it.”
Each role he takes on seems to scratch a different itch: Euphoria creator Sam Levinson’s offbeat action movie Assassination Nation; Netflix’s Latinx coming-of-age series On My Block; the upcoming romantic thriller The Stars at Noon, from celebrated French auteur Claire Denis. And, of course, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Fans have been theorizing that as Anthony Mackie takes up the Captain America mantle, Ramirez will take up the Falcon’s wings.
Ramirez deflects expertly when asked about it. “I can’t say much other than I’m really happy with the direction that it’s all going.” Falcon director Kari Skogland is also guarded but explains why Ramirez is someone you want on your roster. “He has a mischievous twinkle in his eye and also a deep resolve to go the distance when called upon to do so—which I feel are some of the ingredients found in a hero.”
If anything, Ramirez is more ready now than ever. I wonder if he’s still afraid of flying. Nah, he says. “Like, ‘Oh, yeah, of course we’d stay up.’ There’s less to fear.”