Interview with Broadway Performer Daisy Eagan
Daisy holds the title of being the youngest female to ever win a TONY at the age of 11 for her role in The Secret Garden. Daisy’s other performing credits are extensive. Check out Daisy’s stories of being a child actor and advice to fellow performers (both for children and adults pursuing the biz).
BB: What made you get into theatre as a kid?
DE: Temporary loss of insanity. Childhood misjudgment. I was like, "Well I CAN'T be a Unicorn, so I guess I'll be an actor."
No, no. My father had been an actor long before I was born, but came to his senses and got out and became a carpenter. When I was 8 he decided to do a play just for fun. We didn't have a lot of money growing up, so we never went to the theater. I didn't really know what Broadway was and I certainly had never seen a Broadway show. So, I saw my dad in this play and I was blown away. There he was, my dad, but not my dad. I was so teased in school that the idea of getting to be someone else really appealed to me. I told my parents I wanted to try acting and they reluctantly found me an audition for a tiny part in an Off-Broadway musical. I booked the lead and the rest, as they say...
BB: How/when did you get your first Broadway job?
DE: My first Broadway show was Les Miserables. And when I say it was my first Broadway show I mean it was the first Broadway show I ever saw... after I was cast in it. I was 9. I sang "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" at the audition. All the other little girls there were wearing white communion dresses and patent leather shoes with sausage curls in their hair. I was wearing black stretch pants, a lemon-yellow sweater that was two sizes too big for me, with a prominent stain on the front and red, hightop Converse sneakers. That's probably the main reason I got a callback. My final audition was held on the stage of The Broadway Theater. I remember seeing the barricades in the wings and having no idea what they were beside HUGE. I sang "Castle on A Cloud" and "Little People". I as cast as Young Cosette/Eponine and the understudy for Gavroche.
BB: How did you transition from being a child actor to an adult actor and what can you recommend to others who want to do so?
DE: I'm still transitioning... Best advice I can give is "don't be a child actor to begin with". If you already are, go to therapy. No joke. I think everyone should be in therapy at some point, but I think child actors need help transitioning into adulthood. Also, don't have stage parents.... Children naturally think they are the center of the universe until around 10 or 11 when they start to really understand that there are, like, 6 billion other people in the world, and if they're actors I think this misconception is amplified. So, as they get older and they're not as cute as they were and they're talent is less of a novelty, it can be especially hard. Also, when you're a kid, acting is fun. For me, doing Saturday matinees was not much different than playing little league. But as you get older, getting jobs carries more urgency because your livelihood depends on it. It's important to remember to have fun with it. The moment acting stops being fun is the moment a kid/teen should consider a new line of work/play.
BB: Having been a child actor and can look back on your experience what kind of advice can you offer kids wanting to pursue the "biz".
DE: See above....
Start off with local, community theater to make sure you enjoy it before you go off to Los Angeles for pilot season or head to that open call for Annie. This also gives you valuable experience so that when you do book that big job, you know how the ins and outs better than, say, I did when I started!
This business is so rewarding when it's good to you. There is nothing like the rush of being on stage in front of thousands of people. Like I said, HAVE FUN! If you're not having fun, there's no point in staying in. Also, remember to pursue other hobbies and interests. Collect stamps, learn about Louisa May Alcott, learn how to build model engines. No one likes an actor who only knows one thing! This also gives you something to do during the inevitable breaks between jobs.
Also, for those reading this that are already working professionally, I want to urge child actors to reach out to colleagues for support if they need it. This is going to sound awfully harsh, but stage parents can really screw a kid up. One child actor who is on an extremely popular TV show right now just got removed from her household because of emotional and verbal abuse. I know her parents and I'm willing to lay down $5000 that they were forcing her to not eat so she could stay skinny for the cameras. If you're experiencing anything like this, please reach out to a trusted cast or crew member. You should be in this for no one but you. If someone is forcing you, coercing you or otherwise pressuring you, talk to someone.
BB: Can you offer a piece of audition advice? (For example....Dealing with nerves, how you keep a positive outlook in a business that is full of rejection etc.)
DE: Like I said, find a therapist! And try to maintain and strong sense of self. Know who you are outside of acting, that way when you're not acting you don't feel useless. People will say some pretty awful things to you in this business. If you have a good head on your shoulders and you know who you are and you LOVE YOURSELF, these things won't bug you so much!
Also, there ain't no shame in getting a survival job when you need one. We've ALL done it. I was a customer service rep for a psychic hotline once....
And SAVE YOUR MONEY!
BB: What can you recommend for staying positive in such a competitive field and/or always seeming to start from scratch every time a job ends?
DE: See above... And know that not getting a job does not mean you're not talented (unless you actually are not talented...). People get and lose jobs for a myriad of reasons. Don't let it define you.
Also, have I mentioned therapy, yet?
BB: What was/is your day job/other ventures in between gigs or do you do both simultaneously?
DE: I have done everything. Babysitting, sales, customer service, coaching. I haven't started hooking...yet. I have friends who have 5 jobs just to make ends meet between gigs.
BB: Do you still train/work on your craft?
DE: Of course! I train vocally with a wonderful woman in Los Angeles names Evelyn Halus. She is awesome. And lately I've been using my auditions as my acting training. Also, I'm looking forward to taking sketch writing and improv classes at UCB next summer.
BB: Working on both coasts can you give some similarities/differences of the two markets pertaining to pursuing the biz.
DE: I once had a casting director in Los Angeles tell me it was "cute" that I did theater...
BB: Any words of inspiration or anything else you want to say?
DE: You know how people say, "If there's anything else you can do, do it"? I second that. It's hard to stress enough how difficult this business is. It's like telling an 18-year-old not to get married. You know they're going to do it anyway. All you can do is tell them about your own experience and hope they come to their senses.
Acting, singing and dancing are wonderful ways to express yourself. Doing theatre can be so fun and rewarding and satisfying. Show Business, on the other hand, is a whole other ball of wax. Try to separate the business from the art and you'll do okay!
Daisy Eagan began her career at the age of two, playing a Bag of Wool in a preschool production of Baa Baa Black Sheep. From there, she went on to become the youngest female ever to win a Tony Award for her performance as Mary Lennox in “The Secret Garden” (Drama Desk and Outer Critic Circle Award nominations). Most recently on stage she was seen in NYC and on the first national tour of "Love, Loss, And What I Wore" and as Snooki in "Jersey Shoresical: A Frickin' Rock Opera!" Her other theater credits include “Les Miserables” (Broadway), “James Joyce’s The Dead” (Original Broadway production), “Be Aggressive” (world premiere at La Jolla, Garland Award honorable mention, and regionally at TheaterWorks), “On the Mountain” (world premiere at South Coast Reparatory), “A View from the Bridge” (South Coast Reparatory), “The Wild Party” (The Blank Theater Company. 2006 LA Weekly Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical) and a whole bunch of other plays and musicals.
Her T.V. and film credits include "The Mentalist" (2012), “Without a Trace”, “Ghost Whisperer”, “Numb3rs” and “The Unit”, “Losing Isaiah” (Paramount), “Ripe” (Trimark), “Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding” (Green Street Films). Daisy co-created, co-wrote and starred in “Krystal Park”, a soap opera set in a trailer park, pieces of which can be found on YouTube.
Her two one-woman shows, "Still Daisy After All These Years" and "Daisy Eagan: Fuck Off. I Love You" have played to packed houses in New York City and Los Angeles.
2006 L.A. Weekly Award Best Featured Actress in a Musical
1991 Tony Award Best Featured Actress in a Musical