Will Daniel Get Your Vote?
Rona Barrett's Daytimers, September 1978
by William Irvine
Article Provided By Wanda
When Daniel Hugh-Kelly came to New York City in June of 1977 he had no job, no idea what direction his life was going to take - or where his acting career would lead. He'd just finished a year in repertory at the Acting Theatre of Louisville. Before that, he had done other regional theatre in Cahoes, New York, and Washington, D.C. as well as having been in a national tour for a year with Catholic University. He decided that he had reached the point in his career when "it was time to hit the big city." The decision to make the move was probably a bit easier for Dan than for many other actors; he had been raised just across the river in Elizabeth, New Jersey.
Things began pretty well for him in New York. He got a role in the New York Shakespeare Festival's production of Miss Margarita's Way, with Estelle Parsons. The play did so well that it lasted for five weeks off-Broadway, instead of the planned twelve performances and then moved to Broadway!
Although Danny had done well with the play off-Broadway, it was decided that he was too big for the part of the young student in a Broadway theatre. He was replaced and that left Danny on the unemployment lines. He had earned very little money doing the show but he had earned the excellent credit of doing a show for the New York Shakespeare Festival.
Unlike most actors, Dan refused to do anything but act. That was the profession he had chosen after graduating from St. Vincent College, and that was the profession he was going to stay with now. It wasn't very difficult for him to maintain that posture while he was collecting unemployment, but that soon ran out leaving Dan with no income at all. Life in New York became very difficult and often depressing for him. Even then, he refused to do anything except seek work as an actor. He continued making his daily rounds to agents, auditions, and interviews.
Perhaps as much because of his persistence and dedication as his good looks and credits, agents began submitting him for more and more parts. He found that the more exposure he got, the more people started liking him and the work he did. One day, Danny recalled, "I was sent up for a part on General Hospital. They auditioned me and then they kept calling me back. It was as if they were eliminating people. ....Anyway, they had me do a taped screen test--which I had never done before."
"It was really weird walking around in front of a camera, let alone having a microphone following me around. Apparently they really liked the test because they called me right back to the control room and asked me if I'd ever done a tape for Ryan's Hope. I said, 'no', They seemed very excited and told me they were going to arrange one for me. Within a week I did two tapes!"
Danny was clearly caught-up in the excitement of reliving that experience as he was telling the story. Still, he paused, his eyes brightened and a broad, dimpled smile appeared on his face. It took a moment to understand why. He'd done the tapes in early December and a couple of weeks had gone by. Christmas Day arrived and Dan was still out of work and in debt.
The excitement and smiles were still with Danny as he continued to tell how he received a call from ABC that was to make Christmas of 1977 a very special day for him and even his arduous struggle in New York. They wanted Danny for the part of Frank Ryan! He shared the news with his family and girlfriend, Catherine Ruscio. His holidays turned into festive times filled with excitement and anticipation. Dan had received a vote of confidence that would happily affect his life.
The big day to begin work finally arrived. Much to his surprise, it was much rougher than he thought it would be. "It's like opening night every day," he said. Then added, "the pressure is incredible!" Now that he's gotten into it and adjusted to the difference he says he "loves the soap a lot." And, "I have a lot of respect for anyone doing this - it's wild!"
Dan noted that he did not have the chance to develop and refine his character on television the way he did in theatre. Nevertheless, he has moved skillfully into the part of Frank Ryan. It's possible the similarities both Dan and Frank share are responsible for this! They are both urban, Irish-Catholics, and both have siblings of one brother and three sisters. It's interesting, too, that Dan's father is a policeman and Frank is an ex-policeman.
Even though his new part may have been rougher than he thought it would be, it has been a blessing for Dan. Listening to him talk about his life since he began work on the show, he sounds like he is still in transition between the pauper status of being a struggling actor and the princely status of a daytime television star. He has paid all of his debts and has acquired two new oriental rugs for his sparsely furnished apartment. He also went to the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and Belmont races, and rented a summer place on the Jersey shore with a couple of other guys - but he still doesn't feel the effects of his new-found, steady income.
He illustrated that with a story about his weekend trip to Louisville of the Derby. After arriving at the airport he started walking out to the highway to hitch-hike into town. He got halfway to the highway before he remembered that he could afford to rent a car! He walked back to the airport and rented a car for the first time in his life. He thought that was "pretty cool."
He was also overwhelmed when he found out that his ABC pass admitted him into a private room that overlooked the entire track and that there he was in the company of people like Bob Hope, Jacqueline Smith, Billy Carter and "everybody."
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