As an actor, producer, director, teacher, and co-founder of the Edgemar Center for the Arts in LA, Michelle Danner is an extremely gifted entertainer with a penchant for sharing her passion and brilliance with up-and-comers and veteran actors alike. She has taught seminars and classes in New York, Dubai, Toronto, and LA, while also working on-set with an impressively long list of A-listers and coaching young actors
We got a chance to chat one afternoon after she had gotten back from a much-needed vacation, and we talked over her roots, her achievements, and her latest cinematic endeavor, Hello Herman. Read on for a look into the life of this incredible woman.
You clearly enjoy being in all facets of the industry. Is there a particular role that you prefer?
I’m really fortunate that I can have my creativity on many different levels. Of course they’re all different . . . [but] I like them all equally. I like to walk into a class and teach and watch actors grow and watch their process grow, I love to express myself emotionally when I act, and I like to have the whole vision of a project when I direct. So it’s [all] a challenge, and I like it.
How did you break into the business?
Well, my father opened the first William Morris agency in Paris in the '60s, and so I grew up in Paris . . . I had a very colorful childhood in the sense that my dad would have clients like Maurice Chevalier, Sammy Davis, Benny Goodman and they would come to the house and I grew with that . . . And when I came back to the States when I was 18, I studied with Stella [Adler] and Uta [Hagen], but [my love of acting and entertaining] came from my roots and my childhood and my dad and it came from being exposed to it since I was a child.
Looking at what Edgemar has to offer, it must have been quite an undertaking to bring to life. What drove you to give back in such a big way?
I love the arts in every form, and we did this two-theatre complex that we filled with art, and musicals, and plays, and classics. [We’re] working with at-risk kids, . . . you know all the budget cuts going on in schools to arts programs, [and] we’re offering that to kids that are not privileged to get that, and I feel very strongly about that and will always do that.
What happens in that moment when you’re with a particular audience, that’s a moment that’s never to be duplicated, it’s the air we breathe, and I love that. I will always do theatre, I come from that, it’s my roots.
Many of the projects you’ve worked on have been described as having a lot of heart and giving a lot of laughs; your latest, Hello Herman, seems to be a departure from that. Is there a particular reason for that?
The subject matter is fascinating to me - I’ve always been fascinated with people’s dark sides and what makes them act in a certain way, and the movie certainly deals with that. It’s about a kid that’s being bullied and cyberbullied, and he goes into a school and massacres 42 people, but he lives. . . It’s a provocative piece, I hope it’ll continue a much-needed conversation. And it totally made me think about all the other projects I’ll do in the future, and how I want to be equally as passionate.
If you could give your 20-something self a piece of advice, what would it be?
Find something that you do well and do it nonstop. Find something that you love doing, and just do it like crazy. Be proactive - don’t wait for the phone to ring. Find the stories you want to tell, create your own, based on the things in your life. Find roles that speak to you in a powerful way.
To read more about Michelle, please visit her website here.