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An Interview with Duane Daniels


  1. “Michael Phillips, film critic from ‘At the Movies’ and the Chicago Tribune, once called you a “pleasantly maniacal over-achiever” What did he mean by that?”

A. That’s one of my favorite things anyone ever wrote about me. He was referring to how busy I was at the time, doing television and producing and acting 8 shows a week in theatre. I think he also might have been referring to how I look. I do look a bit maniacal.

  1. “What brought you to Phoenix?”
  1. I came here to look after my Mom. My parents moved here when my Dad retired. My Dad passed away and I didn’t want her to be alone. She’s older and in a wheelchair. She’s doing awesome, by the way.
  1. “Is that difficult? Being away from L.A.?”
  1. In some ways. But Los Angeles can be pretty challenging. The competition for actors there is higher than anywhere else in the country. New York too. I still get to work there when I can. I just did the Veronica Mars movie and another short that’s playing festivals. I still have representation and go out for the occasional audition. I have just cut back on auditioning for commercials.
  1. “Why commercials?”
  1. I very rarely get cast in commercials. I have done a few. I worked on a Volkswagon campaign with David Hasselhoff and Leonard Nimoy. That was a blast! And I did a spot for Dunkin’ Donuts that ran a long time. A couple others. But to get those jobs I had to attend many hundreds of auditions. To commute from Phoenix for commercial auditions just isn’t a good bet right now. Plus, I didn’t become an actor so that I could pitch corn chips or whatever.
  1. “Why did you become an actor?”
  1. “It is literally the only thing I have ever wanted to do. In later years, I also became a producer and director, and now also a teacher/coach, but acting is my main passion. Oh, and basketball.
  1. “You started out just doing theatre?”
  1. Yes. I never even considered film or television. I was kind of a theatre snob. I didn’t get an appreciation for tv until I started getting cast in tv shows
  1. “How did that happen?”
  1. I think my first job was a pilot with Rhea Perlman called Kate Brasher. I am told it aired but I never saw it. Somehow, I got an audition and was cast. I had no idea what I was doing! I remember the director told me to stop looking at the tape on the floor while crossing during my scenes. I had never had to hit a mark before.
  1. “Did you get better at that?”
  1. Ha. Eventually.
  1. “What happened next?”
  1. I just kept on with my stage career which was very busy at that time. I was appearing at regional theatres across the U.S. and Canada. One of my gigs during that period was a show called “Triple Espresso” I stayed with that show off and on for 11 years. I did 2000 performances of that. Best training of my life.  I did a gig with them in Dublin for 8 months. Toronto. Other shows, too. I did The Buddy Holly Story at The Apollo Theatre in Chicago for 9 months. Lots of jobs at The San Diego Rep, Old Globe. That whole scene. All this time I was also Artistic Director of The Fritz Theatre in San Diego. I was Equity, so I couldn’t act there, but I did direct and produce there full time as well. I ran that company for 18 years.

“I’m beginning to understand the Michael Phillips quote. Were you still doing television?”

  1. I got cast in a few things. I was on the Sci-Fi channel a lot then. A few times I played the guy who gets killed and then they spend the episode trying to figure out who killed me. In Tremors I got eaten by a giant shrimp. I kept hoping to get cast in a role where my character lived to the end of the episode. I later did a show called Fashion House, and was happy to get killed in my 4th episode. Oops, spoiler alert!
  1. “And in Veronica Mars, your character is still alive!”
  1. I am very happy about that. A few more characters got killed off in the recent movie. But Van Clemmons lives on.
  1. “How was the experience of doing the movie, years after the tv show ended?”
  1. It was beautiful. It was so lovely to work with those guys again. They are some of the nicest people I have worked with in Hollywood. As you know, Kristen is a great singer and we used to talk about musical theatre. She and I had that in common. I asked her to be in one of my musicals – I was about to produce and direct Hair – and I like to think she was tempted, but Hair went on without her. Anyway, she was as warm and funny as ever.
  1. “Who did you get for Hair?”

A. Sara Ramirez played the role. She is on Grey’s Anatomy now. She is an incredible vocalist. She won a Tony for Spamalot on Broadway.

  1. “What is your musical background?”
  1. It’s all over the map, really. I sang opera professionally for a few seasons with the San Diego Opera. I also sang with the Cleveland Symphony back in the day. Tons of musical theatre. Chorus boy stuff when I was younger, then more character parts later. I have played all of the Bass Baritone Bad Guys, Caiaphas, Bill Sykes, Jud Fry. Sweeney Todd is a role I’ve done 3 times.
  1. “You like playing bad guys, huh?”
  1. Absolutely. There is power in making an audience laugh or cry, but I really love a chance to scare them! I also had a career as an a cappella doo-wop bass. If you don’t know what that is, ask your grandparents!
  1. “Music has been a big part of your life.”
  1. Definitely. My Dad was an excellent singer and performer. He performed into his late 70’s. I still sing for pleasure. I also do a lot of voice coaching and use musicality in the classes at The WorkHouse. I have been thinking about doing some musical theatre, but scheduling it is difficult. Also, I am in the unions so there aren’t many jobs for me in Phoenix.

Professional Training for Advanced and Working Actors