Daisy Eagan is best known for being the youngest actress to win a Tony Award, for her performance as Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden, and while she hasn’t worked very steadily over the past 20 years, she’s recently come back strong. Right now, she’s part of the Off-Broadway company of Love, Loss, and What I Wore playing at the Westside Theatre through December 30, and then she and her current castmates — including Loretta Swit and Sonia Manzano — will embark on the show’s first national tour, which kicks off in Scottsdale, Arizona on January 2. TheaterMania recently spoke to Eagan about her journey from child star to adult working actress.
THEATERMANIA: Love, Loss, and What I Wore features character studies of women from all walks of life. Which ones are you able to relate to most?
DAISY EAGAN: The story that grabs me the most every night is “I Hate My Purse. I think, ‘Oh, I’m not the only one who is hopelessly disorganized.’ But there are pieces of all of the women that I really relate to. For example, I got married really young and I’m divorced, so certainly, I’ve know a lot of that kind of loss. My mom died when I was 13, so I can definitely relate to a lot of the stuff in there about mothers dying or disappearing or going away. I also like the monologue I have called “Shoes,” because I do love heels but they kill my feet. And there is the line when one of the mothers says, “Is that a tattoo?” I remember when my dad found out that I had a tattoo. His response was, “You’re an asshole.”
TM: Why did your parents decide to name you Daisy?
DE: For a long time I thought I was named after a cat, but it turns out it’s not true! My dad had an older neighbor named Daisy, and she’d invite him in and he’d have ice cream. I guess this was back in the day when kids were still allowed to go into people’s homes without worry that they would be abducted. The thing is I think it gives people automatic images of what I will be like, and I don’t match it. I’m not a funny, happy, jumping through the field kind of gal.
TM: How do you think you have changed most significantly since you won the Tony Award?
DE: I had to kind of learn backwards about struggle and about rejection, because I didn’t experience that as a kid. As I got older and I started to experience it, it felt like failure. So I’ve had to learn that rejection is not necessarily failure.
TM: Do you have advice for other child actors?
DE: I would most want to talk to parents of kids in the business and highly recommend that they put their kids in some type of therapy — whether it’s group therapy or art therapy — because it’s difficult to be a kid in this business. It’s also difficult to be constantly in a new group of people, becoming attached to them, and then the show ends and you disband.
TM: You’ve been working for a while on a one-woman show called Still Daisy After All These Years. What do you talk about?
DE: I talk about how it was my decision to get into the business, how my parents were certainly supportive, but hesitantly so. I talk about my very quick rise on Broadway, and then my mom’s death which happened very shortly after that, and the consequences of that. I talk about leaving the business, and then I end with the decision to get back in. I’m not very satisfied with it at the moment. Maybe in the summer or fall New York will get to see it.
TM: What goals do you have for yourself in the next few years?
DE: I would like to be happy, to be working steadily, to be able to eat good food, and not always have to buy my clothes at TJ Maxx! I also want to be in a place where I can foster or adopt LGBT youth. I would like to open a safe house, but I would like to do it in the middle of the country. There are safe houses in New York and in L.A., but there are also millions of kids in the middle of the country with nowhere to go. I think it might be nice to have a safe house where they can also learn some resiliency skills.