"I'm Five Percent Away
From Being Legally Blind"
Daytime TV Magazine, July 1978
by Jason Bonderoff
Article Provided By Wanda
“A doctor once told me that I’m five percent away from being legally blind,” says Daniel Hugh-Kelly, who recently took over the Frank Ryan role on Ryan's Hope.
Because of his vision problem, Daniel always wears glasses off-camera. When he’s on-camera, he removes them and feels his way around as best he can. He doesn’t own contact lenses, he says, because up until now he wasn’t able to afford them. Hopefully his new role on Ryan's Hope will change all that. Meanwhile, Daniel has found a temporary solution. “When everyone else in the cast is upstairs having lunch," he explains, “I go on the set and memorize where all the furniture is.”
Daniel, who’s six feet tall with curly dark blond hair and blue eyes, was born and raised in Elizabeth, New Jersey. He’s the son of a policeman and the “first and only actor” in a family of five children. Giving a brief rundown on all his siblings, he says, “My older sister is married and living in Detroit. My older brother is a corporate lawyer in New Haven, Connecticut. My younger sister is a nurse in Florida, and my youngest sister still lives at home with my folks.”
Daniel was first drawn to the theater as a student. After earning a bachelor of fine arts degree from St. Vincent College in Pennsylvania, he toured with the National Players, one of the oldest theater troupes of America, where he played Hotspur in Shakespeare’s Henry IV. Normally, you need sword and armour to play the part, but in Daniel’s case, medical insurance would have been far more practical.
For one thing, he had a lot of trouble seeing the other actors on stage.
“As Hotspur, I had this big dueling scene,” he recalls, “and I wound up risking life and limb doing it. The duel was supposed to take place on a misty field and we used a fog machine to create the right effect on stage. But the stupid machine never worked right. Sometimes it didn’t make enough fog, and sometimes it blew so much steam on stage that I couldn’t see a blessed thing without my glasses on.”
“The actor who played Prince Hal, my battle opponent, was supposed to stab me in the side, I’d fall down, make this long speech and die. But a lot of times, when he’d stab me, he’d miss! Once, he stabbed me in the throat and it was so painful! I couldn’t get the words out to say my death speech.”
“But the worst was the time he stabbed me in the groin. Then I wanted to die - for real!”
After suffering all these outrageous slings and arrows playing Shakespeare, Daniel moved on to the Wayside Theater in Virginia where he earned $15 a week as an apprentice. Then, he did graduate work on scholarship at Catholic University, and in 1975 was recruited by the famed Washington D.C. Arena Stage company, where he appeared in Long Day's Journey Into Night and An Enemy of the People. And less than two years later, he was in New York doing Miss Margarida's Way with Estelle Parsons.
He came to Ryan's Hope in a rather roundabout way. “My agent sent me to ABC to try out for a role on General Hospital. I wasn’t right for the part but one of the ABC executives, Joe Emmerich, thought I might make a good Frank Ryan.”
Yes, he had some jitters taking over the role from Andrew Robinson. “He’s a fine actor. I know I’ve got some pretty big shoes to fill,” Daniel says. But on his first day of taping, Claire Labine and Paul Mayer, the shows’ creators, sent him a good-luck bottle of champagne.
Off-screen, Daniel is devoted to his longtime steady girl, Kathryn Ruscio, who’s not in show business. He’s also devoted to his favorite sport, fishing, and warm weather finds him with his jeans rolled up, casting a line off the Jersey Shore. In fact, he’s such an aficionado that last summer he practically put himself in hock to buy a brand-new rod and reel. “I nearly bankrupted my Master Charge,” he confides with a boyish smile.
He considers himself a pretty good fisherman, but admits that Kathryn sometimes has a lot more luck than he does. “One day I sat on a rock for three hours, “ he groans, and “couldn’t catch a darn thing. I tried every trick I knew, but nothing would bite. Then, Kathryn strolled nonchalantly by and - bling! - three seconds later, she caught something!’
Well, you know what they say: unlucky at fishing; lucky at love. Or something like that.
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