Brian Tyree Henry and Paul Dano started in theater —— which will come as no surprise to anyone who sees them in their latest films, playing characters with carefully crafted backstories. In Lila Neugebauer’s “Causeway,” Henry portrays James, a New Orleans mechanic and amputee who bonds with Lynsey (Jennifer Lawrence), an injured soldier desperate to return to combat.  And Dano has had an immense year, going from the Riddler in “The Batman” to embodying a benevolent 1950s dad named Burt, based on Steven Spielberg’s father,  Arnold, in “The Fabelmans.” For Dano, moving from darkness to light not only showed his range, it’s what he needed in his life. 

Paul Dano: I’m really happy to meet you. 

Brian Tyree Henry: Not as excited as I am to meet you. I’ve been a huge fan of yours for quite some time. 

Dano: Did you know you were going to use your middle name from the get-go?

Henry: I didn’t. Apparently, there is some imposter out there named Brian Henry that already had the name, and I had to put my middle name. 

Dano: I did my first film when I was 16, and I went by Paul Franklin Dano. And then in the second film I did, they said, “If you want your name on the poster, it’s too long.” And I said, “OK.’

Henry: And you let them take Franklin away?

Dano: That’s right.

Henry: It sounds very presidential. To be part of the three-name club is something very special. Was acting something that you knew you always wanted to do? 

Read the full conversation here as part of Variety’s Actors on Actors, presented by Amazon Studios.