By Megan Mullen
“I’d get a little stoned and it would be on TV, and I’d trip out watching young me.”
Daniel Magder laughs over a pint of beer after hosting Ram in the Rye’s trivia night. He’s thinking back to his time working as a bartender in Vancouver, when he would make it home late enough to catch reruns of his old show, Life with Derek.
The Family Channel show, which spanned four seasons from 2005 to 2009, saw Danny Mags—as he now prefers to go by—playing the title character’s younger brother Edwin.
Now sitting in a booth at Ryerson’s student pub, the 27-year-old is winding down after spending the past two hours entertaining students during Bingpot Trivia’s first round of a semester-long league.
Bingpot began two years ago while Mags studied broadcasting at Humber College, after applying too late to Ryerson’s RTA program. What started out as some fun at a college bar in his free time soon became a paid gig at multiple locations. In addition to Monday nights at the Ram, Mags can be found entertaining crowds at Pennies, 3 Brewers Liberty Village and The Olde Stone Cottage.
Mags’ interest in trivia goes back to his time studying screenwriting at Vancouver Film School. He and his group of friends took part in trivia nights at a local bar once a week under the team name ‘Bingpot,’ a reference to the police television sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
As he hosts Bingpot, Mags’ inner entertainer shines through. He shouts out questions on topics ranging from Batman to popular songs, engaging with the crowd as if he’s friends with everyone there. “When I started doing Bingpot, I was like, ‘I need to be in front of people, it’s what gets me going.’”
But as a recurring face on the TV screens of Canadian teens and young adults growing up, Mags still struggles with being recognized for his childhood acting career. Especially when it happens on Tinder.
“Somebody asked me earlier today, ‘you were on [Life with Derek], what happened? I figured you would have gone on to bigger and better things,’” Mags reveals. “But he’s not wrong. Because at 15 that’s what I thought.”
Mags accidentally stumbled into acting at the age of five, when a talent agent scouted his younger sister. He then landed minor roles on TV shows and movies—including Boy on Raft in the original X-Men. Eventually, he was cast in Life with Derek as Edwin, the youngest boy in the McDonald-Venturi household.
Life with Derek follows the story of five step-siblings adjusting to their newly blended family. The show was never expected to be successful outside of Canada, but after being picked up by Disney, it reached audiences worldwide. “That’s not lost on me,” Mags notes.
Mags has only recently come to appreciate his part on Life with Derek, as success took its toll on him early in his life.
“Being successful at a young age…is not always a good thing,” Mags explains. “It set me up for unrealistic high standards and unrealistic expectations of the things that I would have to do to be successful in my career.”
Life with Derek wrapped after 70 episodes and a Family Channel original movie, 2010’s Vacation with Derek. Mags starred briefly in a handful of TV shows and movies, including a 2011 leading role opposite to Steve Austin in Knockout. Mags hasn’t been involved in any major productions since 2012. After Life with Derek, he admits he was too stubborn to listen to people trying to give him career advice. The acting game changes once you become an adult, Mags says—and even a leading role in a Family Channel show isn’t enough to stay successful.
“What do you mean I need to take this more seriously? Fuck off, I’m getting work!” Mags says, referencing his past attitude.
“Being successful at a young age…is not always a good thing”
Stubbornness wasn’t the only factor hindering Mags’ acting career following Life with Derek. Working throughout his childhood took away parts of his childhood that he’ll never regain, like the experience of going to summer camp. “What if there were auditions in the middle of the week?”
If constantly working from the age of five wasn’t hard enough, by the time Mags was 12, he was already one of the biggest child stars in Canada. He wasn’t able to go to Wonderland or the movies without a crowd of people recognizing him. “I just wanted to be a kid,” Mags says.
After years of dealing with the repercussions of childhood stardom, Mags has come to appreciate the impact he had on so many people through Life with Derek. Now, he’s focused on growing Bingpot, but isn’t writing off a career in entertainment for good.
“You could never get me out of entertainment, but I had to do it on my own terms,” Mags says.
“I’m just trying every single day to do something that puts me a little bit ahead of where I was yesterday.”