‘It’s A Gift to Make People Laugh’

Alumni5 MIN READ

Using his many voices, Daniel Raymont ’91 carves out his place in Hollywood

By Abigail Curtis Photography courtesy of Daniel Raymont
November 21, 2022

Having a conversation with Daniel Raymont ’91, a character actor whose career is on the rise, is like taking a hectic, hilarious trip around the globe.    

Raymont, 53, who plays a crime lord in The Mosquito Coast, a dramatic series on Apple TV+, and a gringo in ¡Que Viva México!, a yet-to-be-released film by Mexican director Luis Estrada, slips into accents seemingly as easily as breathing. Mexican, Scottish, British (both upper class and Cockney), Irish, Valley Girl, they all come tumbling out as he spins stories about his unusual background and his adventures in acting in New York, Mexico, and beyond. 

His facility with accents makes it easy to imagine the time he met the late actor Robin Williams in an elevator on his way to an audition, and the two fast-talking comedians began to talk. 

“For the next 45 minutes, we improvised, like a tango across the world,” he said. “It wasn’t a competition. It was a dance. It wasn’t every day he met somebody who could go all over the world with him.” 

Raymont got the part. He was cast as an Uzbek cab driver in The Angriest Man in Brooklyn, a 2014 comedy-drama that turned out to be Williams’s final film. Ultimately, the movie wasn’t a hit. But he’s never forgotten the opportunity to meet Williams, whom he described as “really sweet” and a different person in private than his manic public persona would suggest. 

“He was a gem. He was one of the best,” Raymont said. “I feel so lucky to have worked with him.” 

A close call in Castro’s Cuba

That’s just one of the memorable chapters in a life that has been full of them. Raymont was born in New York to a Texan mother and a Jewish father whose family escaped Germany on the eve of World War II and found sanctuary in Argentina. His father, Henry Raymont, was a journalist who worked for such distinguished outlets as the New York Times and United Press International. 

In 1961, when he was working for UPI as an international correspondent in Havana, Cuba, Henry Raymont’s life took a dramatic turn. That year, on April 17, he telephoned the agency’s news desk in New York City with the alert that the Bay of Pigs invasion, a U.S.-backed coup attempt, appeared imminent. A few minutes later, men armed with rifles rapped on his door and brought him to the Cuban military intelligence headquarters. 

Fidel Castro’s forces suspected that he was a spy and imprisoned him during the Bay of Pigs operation. Henry Raymont wrote later that he had been held in a cell with 50 other men, interrogated, and sentenced to death. 

“He met his executioner,” his son said. “They got along really well. They would stay up all night talking about history. He said, ‘I’m going to feel bad about executing you.’” 

After a week, Henry Raymont was released from prison. He made it back to the U.S., where his big personality had an outsized effect on the family. 

“I got lectured to, and lectured at, by a hyper-intellectual father,” Daniel Raymont said. “He was often impossible. I credit him and his impossibility with my success at acting. What you had to do to get attention at the dinner table at our house.” 

Henry Raymont, now 95, lives in Mexico, where the family spent time during Daniel Raymont’s childhood. In 1978, the Raymonts moved to Washington, D.C., which was a big adjustment for Daniel Raymont, who had loved living in Mexico. 

“I felt kind of torn between two worlds,” he said. “When I was in Mexico, I spoke Spanish fluently, but I never felt Mexican. In the U.S., I did not feel like an American.” 

Anthropology and acting 

That feeling helped propel him into anthropology, which he studied at Colby. As a sophomore, he went to Chiapas, Mexico, to study the last of the traditional Mayas, and recalls the experience as amazing. 

“I think there’s no better way to understand our own culture than by leaving it,” Raymont said.

He was also pulled toward the theater, though during the few plays he did at Colby, he felt like he didn’t know what he was doing. Raymont marveled at the other students, who seemed like they did. Still, he enjoyed it. 

“I’ve always gravitated toward comedy. I love comedy. I think it’s just a wonderful tool. It’s a gift to make people laugh,” he said. “I knew I had this ability to make people laugh. But I wasn’t sure if I could make a living doing it.” 

Daniel Raymont ’91, seen here in the Mexican comedy series 40 y 20, is finding success as a character actor in television and film projects.

Raymont continued in the field of anthropology, applying to be accepted into a graduate program at Harvard. Things were going well until he had a last-minute change of heart about some of the aspects of anthropology that troubled him. He didn’t like the way he needed to extract information from the people he was studying. 

“It felt like I was using them, and that didn’t feel good,” he said. 

So, during his Harvard interview, he made a sudden decision that changed the course of his life. While professors asked him if he was excited about a future in academia, he “started feeling the walls close in.” Raymont told them that what he really wanted to do was act. 

“I sabotaged my interview,” he said. “My father will never forgive me for that.” 

But he had set his course. A couple of years after graduation, he moved to Los Angeles and spent a decade slowly learning how the industry worked, garnering small parts in TV shows and movies. Ten years later, he came back to New York.

“That’s when things started to take off,” he said. “I still have no idea what I’m doing, but I’m better at pretending that I do.” 

He’s worked on many different projects, including Instructions Not Included, a 2013 Mexican comedy-drama blockbuster that became the highest-grossing movie from the Mexican film industry of all time. Whatever the role, Raymont gives it his all, from accents to physical comedy and more.

“When you’re performing, there’s nothing like it,” he said. “The number of actors that are actually working at any given time, it’s so small. It’s really a privilege to be able to do what I get to do.”