Daisy Eagan is a talented actress who has been featured in many shows and stage productions over the last two decades. You know and love her as Joey Riverton in Freeform’s hit series, ‘Good Trouble,’ and her Tony-award winning performance as Mary Lennox in ‘The Secret Garden’ on Broadway.
Eagan was born on November 4, 1979 and raised in Brooklyn. Her parents bought a house in Park Slope in 1980 for about $30,000, and she absolutely loved it. She grew up in a working-class, liberal household in which her mother wrote about women’s health, and her dad was a carpenter/artist.
Early on, Eagan’s mother ingrained in her and her sister an understanding of and compassion for the struggles of the working class and the working poor. The two grew up going to pro-choice and pro-union rallies.
Our Downtown team has the incredible opportunity to sit down and ask Eagan a few questions about herself and her career.
Downtown: Being a child actor and finding success at such a young age, how does that impact you in your relationship with yourself, but also pursuing out a career into adulthood?
Daisy Eagan: The answer to this question could fill a book. Having been a successful child actor is one of the biggest puzzle pieces of my life. I came of age at the top of my profession. It ended up being a big mind twister. I was too young to understand that success is not a straight line and that just because I was successful then didn’t mean I would always be. And it came so easily to me as a kid that I think it took me longer than most to learn a work ethic and discipline. I think for anyone to handle success properly they need to have a solid foundation. And at 11, I didn’t have that foundation. I’m so grateful for my early success, but it took me a long time to retrain myself and get over the inevitable resentment that came with less success as I got older. It took me a long time to get over myself and to learn to work hard.
DT: You play Joey Riverton, a radio talk show host, on the show ‘Good Trouble,’ could you describe your character to me?
DE: Joey is a complex person. Mostly Joey’s role is to help Alice figure out who she is and navigate the early days of being an out queer person. Joey has clearly done a lot of work on female-themselves. Learning about boundaries and how to communicate. We don’t know too much about Joey, yet. I have a fantasy that they’re a good cook. And I think ultimately, they want to be a record producer. I imagine they spend a lot of their free time at record shops and going to shows.
I think Alice and Joey’s relationship so far has been a really honest portrayal of two young queer people trying to figure it out. I think in all relationships, but especially in queer relationships, there’s a lot of insecurity because of our society’s treatment of LGBTQI+ people. Queer relationships, I think, are inherently harder because both people are living in a world that largely rejects them. So, there’s a ton of armor and unhealthy (but usually necessary) defenses that can go up. It takes a lot of work and patience to make a queer relationship really work. I think, so far, Joey and Alice are doing a good job. Little fires erupt and they put them out quickly. So far, anyway…
DT: After learning a bit about this character, I found out that you’re an LGBTQ+ character and recently came out as non-binary in this recent season. What was it like to take on this role and be another representation for LGBTQ+ individuals on television?
DE: I feel like I’m a small part of an important revolution. Like, in the history books, I’ll be listed as one of the first actors to play a non-binary character on television. Representation matters. Exposing people to diversity helps to normalize it. The more we see that non-binary people are just normal people, the more accepted non-binary people will become. To be a part of that cultural movement is thrilling. And I take it seriously. I try to be as thoughtful as possible, not just with my portrayal of Joey, but also with how I talk about gender in my own life, on social media, and with my son. Joey happens to be a female-bodied, androgynous presenting person. Not all non-binary people look like Joey. So, on my social media, I try to highlight all the different kinds of gender presentation there are.
DT: Do you find yourself in the character you play on the screen or has this character helped you discover things about yourself in your own personal life?
DE: I was already questioning my gender when I got cast as Joey. I had been writing about it on my blog. I knew I was queer when I was 12 years old. I “came out” on social media as Bi in 2009. But I spent most of my professional life being told I looked too gay. So, I worked very hard to femme myself up. And I felt tremendously uncomfortable. I felt like I was in drag. Looking back, it makes sense that I had trouble booking work. I was going into auditions feeling like an imposter. If you can’t be yourself authentically, how can you fully take on other roles?
Last July, I finished a theater gig and I said, fuck it, and cut my hair short again. I was tired of trying to fit someone else’s idea of who I was. I’m almost 40. I don’t have time for that shit anymore, you know? People told me that cutting my hair would get me typecast. And I had been so scared of that possibility for so long, but then I was like, wait, you mean type-cast as my actual type? What’s the problem? And I think a piece of me just felt like, if I didn’t get jobs because of my hair, or my gender presentation, then those weren’t jobs I wanted.
Less than a month after cutting my hair, I booked Joey. Less than a month. The creators/producers of “Good Trouble” have made it clear from day one that they want me in this role. They’re not interested in making me something else. It’s one of the reasons I love this job so much. Joanna, Bradley, and Peter walk the walk. They clearly believe in the stories they’re telling. They’re not trying to sell something to some “new” demographic. They’re like, let’s tell stories about real people. I walk on to that set and I can’t believe my luck (and my therapist would want me to add: “and my hard work.”).
But getting back to the show’s impact on me. Joey seems to be slightly more sure of who they are than I am. Bless them. I’m still figuring it out. For now, I identify as a non-binary female. There isn’t some integral part of my being that feels female or male. I don’t identify with the traditional definition of “female,” nor do I subscribe to the gender norms. That said, all of those things are cultural, not biological. So, I don’t feel like I’m rejecting a biological thing in my body, so much as I’m rejecting a cultural definition of who I am supposed to be because of my genitalia. I guess it feels more political than personal. But, as they say, the personal is political.
DT: Switching off of television and onto the stage, you’re about to perform at The Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland and be a part of the new play, “Sleeping Giant.” Could you talk about those shows?
DE: I always recommend switching off the television once in a while. I’m going to The Fringe Festival with two productions. One is 30 Minute Musicals Roulette. We take classic movies and turn them into 30 minute musicals. We’re preparing “Top Gun” (I play Maverick), “Die Hard” (terrorist and Deputy Chief of Police, Dwayne T. Robinson), and “Jurassic Park” (John Hammond and The Goat). Each night the audience votes on which one they want to see. It is complete silliness and one of my absolute favorite things I’ve ever been a part of.
The other play is “Sleeping Giant.” It’s a dark comedy about a giant, ancient beast that gets awoken in a small lake town. It’s a metaphor.
DT: You’re also quite the writer, with having penned op-eds in numerous publications and even operating your own blog. What sparked your interest in writing and have you ever wanted to dabble into screenwriting or playwriting?
DE: I don’t know that I can point to any one thing that sparked my interest. Back in the days of MySpace I had a friendly competition with my ex where we would write a blog and see who could get the most viewers (I usually won. If he says otherwise, he’s a liar. A LIAR, I TELL YOU!). And I realized I had a voice and some things to say.
I wrote a piece about finding out I was pregnant at 10 ½ weeks that people responded really well to. Then I wrote a piece while I was pregnant about what it was like to be uninsured and pregnant (this was before the ACA), and I got a bit of attention for it and won a BlogHer Voices of the Year award for it. I wrote about my abortion before #ShoutYourAbortion was a thing. And I wrote an open letter to a theater critic about rape culture, in which I discussed my own experiences before the #MeToo movement started. So, I decided to start taking my writing a little more seriously.
Currently, I’m in preproduction for a short film I wrote. So far, the script has been made an official selection of six festivals and has won three best short screenplay awards. I also have a completed pilot and am working on another pilot. Because I’m an actor in L.A. and we are all required by law to have a pilot.
DT: Lastly, is there any advice you can give to aspiring actors, especially as it relates to child actors?
DE: My best piece of advice is to have fun. If you find that what you’re doing is not bring you joy, it’s time to look for a new line of work. Remember that fame and fortune are fleeting unless you’re Beyonce or George Clooney. Enjoy the process. Remember that everyone on the set or backstage is working just as hard as you are and that most of them have more to do than you (always be kind to your P.A.s and stage managers…). Be who you are. Don’t let ANYONE tell you that who you are isn’t exactly enough. You will waste too many years trying to be someone you aren’t. And parents, don’t put your children in show business. DT