At face value, Julie Daniels’ story seems to be a common one—an actor’s child grew up in the Valley and started in “the industry” at a young age. But like the character-driven work she tends to produce, what makes Julie’s story inspiring is the personal details.
Actress, writer, voice coach and poet Julie Daniels grew up in Sherman Oaks and now lives in Studio City. I met Julie by phone recently and had a chance to chat with her about her life, her art and what inspires her.
“Gosh…” Julie said. “How to encapsulate all that?”
Julie has fond childhood memories of her father taking her hiking in the canyons above Sherman Oaks and Studio City before there were proper parks and trails, “really roughing it,” according to her. But it was her actress mom who exposed her to art and theatre. This is how Julie “caught the bug.”
“My mother took me to all the best theatre in town,” Julie said. “I went to all kinds of art museums and galleries. I was filled up with great theatre and film and art, and that’s how I wanted to express myself—as an actress. That’s what made me feel most alive.”
A graduate of Grant High School, Julie lived through the peak of the “Valley Girl” craze of the 1980s.
In a move to resist her Valley roots, Julie decided to pursue her love of acting by leaving LA and heading to Seattle in 1984.
“It was great,” Julie said about her time in the Emerald City. “It was a beautiful place to live.
This was at a time when Grunge Rock was just getting started and Seattle was about to undergo the hipster renaissance which made it famous by the mid-90s. At that time, Starbucks only had a handful of locations around town but was poised to become the coffee giant we know today.
For Julie, Seattle was simply the right place for her to develop her acting chops.
“That’s where I really built my acting resume. It was very hard to get started professionally [in LA] because there was so much competition,” she said. “The stage is my real love and New York didn’t feel comfortable for my spirit. Seattle had a thriving regional theatre community. So, I went up there.”
While doing cold readings in a playwriting workshop up there, Julie connected with a writer and director, and created and starred in a one-woman show titled “Picture of a Goddess,” based on the life of 19th century famed French actress Sarah Bernhardt. Julie’s fascination with Bernhardt began when her brother gave her a poster of the actress when they were kids. Her mother told her it was a “very important” image for a young actress to have. As a result, Bernhardt became Julie’s muse.
“She was just with me. I read about her, and I felt so connected with her spirit that I felt I became Sarah for a time,” said Julie.
She would go on to tour the show around Seattle, and later it would get picked up for a radio production on KPFK. Additionally, she performed the show at the Hollywood Fringe Theatre Festival.
Julie moved away from Seattle in 1989, but not before doing what she went there to accomplish… begin a life immersed in the performing arts.
Since then, she has done extensive voiceover work, did a stint on General Hospital, worked on other soap operas, earned an MFA in playwriting in 2007, and worked as a voice/speech and voiceover coach.
These days Julie is focused on writing screenplays. She likes to write historical work, with a focus on strong female figures. One of her new screenplays, Walkin’ on to Freedom’s Land, is based on the life of Biddy Mason, a former slave who won her freedom in 1856 and went on to be one of the great real estate moguls of early California.
Walkin’ On to Freedom’s Land is currently designated as an official selection by The Beverly Hills Film Festival. The script also placed in the top 10% in the Nicholl Competition at the Motion Picture Academy, was a Second Rounder in The Austin Screenwriting Contest, and received Honorable Mention by the Writer’s Digest Competition.
Historical character studies with heavy feministic and political overtones are a common thread in much of Julie’s work.
“I grew up in a very progressive family, so the seeds were planted for social justice and political action. It came into my writing just sort of naturally,” Julie said. “It was exhilarating to go back in the past and find out about these women that were so magnificent in their courage and lived extraordinary lives of vision and purpose.
The Biddy Mason screenplay is now finished and Julie is currently marketing it.
Like many creatives, the COVID-19 pandemic was a paradoxical time of both crisis and inspiration for Julie.
“I wrote a lot of poetry,” Julie said about her pandemic life. “It’s been very hard, scary but also profound because I think we’ve been in a spiritual crisis.”
She said she believes the pandemic revealed social and personal tensions that have been around for a long time.
“I think at the root of it is this great need for people to be with themselves and find some way to express and create from a place of solitude,” Julie said. “It was really uncomfortable not being able to touch, not being able to be with people. It was surreal.”
“I believe it’s been a time of deep reflection for many people,” she added.
Julie made the most of the pandemic, joining the New Phoenix Theatre Company to do streaming plays. Her virtual theatre roles with the company have included Andromache in Trojan Women, Elaine Harper in Arsenic & Old Lace, and a member of The Chorus in Oedipus Rex.
“I do what inspires me. I do what feeds me,” Julie said.
So, what does inspire her?
“Redemption, Courage and forgiveness. That’s what gets me writing,” she said.
Living back in Studio City now, Julie remembers her childhood here fondly. She remembers eating at Casa Vega–before its recent Hollywood spit polish–when it was a simple “family restaurant.” She remembers shopping at Quigley’s five-and-dime and Maxsons.
“It’s kind of hard to see these places that I grew up with gone,” she said. “The Valley used to be a home-spun kind of place.”
But she also says some things have gotten better in the Valley.
“When I was growing up the smog was awful and in the last 30 years, the air has gotten a lot cleaner. People in town have also gotten a lot more conscious as to how we relate to our environment and the natural world.” she said. “Things have changed, but there is still a kind of homey charm to this place. The weather is lovely and it’s home.”
She still loves hiking the canyons in the Santa Monica Mountains and she said the rebellion against the Valley she felt as a youngster has faded.
“I have a new love affair with my hometown. I feel rooted here, really connected to LA now,” she said.
As for the future, Julie plans to keep creating from a place of love. These days, she keeps her sights set on finding joy and connection, and creating work that has deep meaning for her.”
To contact Julie checkout her website…
or email her at email@example.com