#82. A Conversation with Danielle Harris: Part II

Jason Anders: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you want to be?

Danielle Harris: I'd want to be in Bora Bora. I've been doing so many movies lately where I've been freezing my ass off. I've been doing night shoots and crying hysterically. I'd love to be relaxing in the water, have it smell amazing, be nice and sun tanned- and have a big, fabulous, double-shot cocktail... that just sounds heavenly to me. I also want to go to Thailand. I just need a vacation (laughs). Bora Bora is always a place I've wanted to go. It seems the most exotic.

JA: If you could take on any genre for your next acting role, is there one specifically you're interested in doing that maybe you haven't done before?

DH: I feel like a romantic comedy would be really fun, but I think I also might get really bored with it. When I do horror movies, they're so hard to do and there's so much work required that a romantic comedy might end up being lame. I haven't really read anything lately that I would really want to do. Directing is the next thing that I really want to do, maybe more so than even acting in something.
I'd love to bring my friends in on my next project- work with my girls. Because I've done so much genre work over the years, I've been able to work with the same people over and over again, and it becomes an extended family. It's great to show up to a set when you know almost everyone that is there. It's like going back to school after summer break, and how exciting it is to have your clique back.

JA: Name three directors whose work you admire.

DH: Quentin Tarantino is a friend of mine, and I would love to work with him. I just love the way that he thinks of women, he writes them to be so badass and makes them so sexy.

JA: I love how you can really tell with his films that the picture was made by someone who loves making movies.

DH: Yeah, he just has such a passion for it and is so smart, and just takes such chances with stuff. I think he was going to do a picture called Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! - if he ever made that movie I would love to do something like that. That would just make my day.
JA: Hopefully he reads this and will make that happen.

DH: I hope so! Quentin, if you're reading this... c'mon now! (laughs) Another director would be Judd Apatow. If I go to auditions for comedies, I don't usually do well. I don't really find myself to be incredibly funny, but when I have to do things that are broad, risky, and allow me to take chances- that's when I give myself the freedom to have more fun and play a bit more. Those are the ones that I usually do better on, and I think that his movies are more my sense of humor.

I'd actually love to work with George Clooney, too. There's my third answer. I would love to be directed by George Clooney.

JA: Do you remember your first car?

DH: It was a white 1992 Toyota Corolla, with a dark royal blue velvet-like interior. Before I totaled it, I curbed it so bad that I lost two of my hubcaps. I totaled it in route to practice Circus of the Stars, so I was on my way to Universal. That sounds so weird (laughs), totaling my car on the way to practice for the circus.

JA: Have you developed any phobias over your lifetime?

DH: Yes, I have a total fish phobia. I don't eat any seafood, I won't cook it, and if you're eating it and you stick your fork in my food then I won't finish my meal. I would also never go scuba diving. That would be the worst thing that could ever happen to me. I can't even audition for movies that would force me to go into the ocean, it's an issue for me. But I do love the ocean. I love the water- also pontoon boats, jet skis, and sailing. I love being out on the water, and I like swimming in it... but if I see a fish in the water, I have a heart attack.

JA: Is your fear limited to fish? Or is it sharks and stuff too?

DH: It's anything in the ocean, really. Obviously I will feel like an ass if I say that I'm just as scared of a grouper as I am a shark. I just don't like fish. I do like to go to aquariums. I'm just weird.

JA: Do you have any other phobias aside from fish?

DH: Aliens. I'm totally scared of aliens. If I'm home alone late at night watching television and something comes on about UFOs, I have to change the channel immediately. I will have nightmares.
JA: Do you truly believe in aliens?

DH: Yes. I believe that I've been visited, so that's where the fear comes from. People reading this are going to think that I am absolutely out of my mind. (laughs)

I was seventeen years old, and I woke up in the middle of the night to a loud buzzing noise- I opened my eyes and there was a gray alien standing next to me, about eye height if I am laying down in the bed... about three feet, maybe? It was doing this weird thing with its head going side to side. The covers were down to my knees and I couldn't pick them up because my body was totally paralyzed. I couldn't move. There was some force over me that made me unable to move any part of my body.

I always thought aliens were green, but when I looked it up online and did some research about other who people who believed they had been visited, a lot of them talked about this gray alien and the feeling of paralysis, as well as loud buzzing noises. I don't know why they chose to come visit me in Studio City when I was seventeen (laughs).
JA: Was the physical appearance the classic idea of an alien?

DH: It was totally the weird shaped head, the huge, almond-shaped black eyes, a very skinny neck, long skinny arms, long fingers, and wearing nothing. It looked like an alien to me.

JA: Do you believe in ghosts?

DH: I do believe in ghosts. I actually have two ghosts that are in my house. I don't really mind, which is kind of weird. It's because I think I know who they are.

One is the guy who I bought my house from- he's the only person who ever lived in this house, and he lived here since 1938. He didn't pass away in the house, but I feel like his spirit is here. There are specific things which that ghost does, and then there's another ghost. This ghost turns the light and fan on in my bedroom in the middle of the night. I'll be dead asleep at 4AM and suddenly the fan will be on high and the lights will be on. I don't want him to go away because I do feel kind of comfortable that he's making sure I'm okay.
And then I had my best friend, actor Jonathan Brandis, pass away about seven years ago. Ever since he passed away, every single house that I've lived in, my stereo will turn up to full blast. I will have my stereo on low, and it will all of the sudden just go as high as it can until I have to run in and shut it off. He might also stop the song in the middle. Maroon 5 is a group that always reminds me of him, because that's what he was listening to right about the time that he passed away. "Harder To Breathe" is a song that reminds me of him, so if I am talking about him in my house with someone or I have a mutual friend over, that song always seems to come on my iPod. I think he's here for sure. Especially since his personality was to turn up music as loud as it could be- he had a very big personality.

JA: How did you originally end up being friends with Jonathan Brandis?

DH: All of us kid actors just grew up together, kind of like your friends that you went to high school with. We all worked on the same lot together. At one point, my friend Jenna von Oÿ was on Blossom, Tatyana Ali was on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and I had another friend on Saved by the Bell- and they all worked at the same place. We all knew each other. I would say that my generation was after River Phoenix, before Lindsay Lohan. Those were all my friends that I grew up with.

We would never talk about acting, we would just hang out drinking Zimas and smoking cigarettes. We all dated each other, went to City Walk, and were just sort of our own little rat pack.
JA: As a kid I was totally obsessed with seaQuest DSV... I could not miss an episode. My friends never understood that about me.

DH: That was such a great show- he was so miserable when he was in Orlando, I was always like "come back to us!" I also grew up with my guys- like Leo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Lucas Haas, Johnny Whitworth, and Kevin Connolly. Those were the guys. Now they're all big stars, and other actors too that don't really work anymore.

JA: What were your favorite television shows to watch growing up?

DH: The Honeymooners is still my favorite show, second would probably be Three's Company, and The Golden Girls. Just all the shows that I grew up watching in my living room while eating a TV dinner after doing my homework. Shows like Taxi and Cheers. I can't really get into TV anymore.

JA: I was just about to ask if you had any shows you were currently addicted to.

DH: I don't watch a ton of television, but I do love Weeds. What I love is renting the DVD and watching all thirteen episodes in one night. Watching a half hour and then waiting a whole week for another episode just makes me crazy. I'm more about having it all at once.
JA: If you could star in the role of any television show in history, which role would you take on and why?

DH: That's a hard question. How great would it have been to be Janet on Three's Company? To have been able to work with John Ritter, that would have been amazing! Remember when they made that "movie of the week" about them around seven years ago? I auditioned for that.

JA: Did you ever get to meet John Ritter?

DH: I did not, but I have met Jason. I've actually been to their house and I was totally star-struck because he reminds me so much of his dad- their looks, voice, and mannerisms are so alike. He's so sweet and talented, and it's so much like looking at his dad when he was younger.

JA: Do you collect anything?

DH: You're stealing that question from me. I have this thing where I like to move a lot. My style keeps changing, and when I move into a different house I will usually sell everything and start over. I'm always buying new couches. I only take pieces with me that I love. My house is not cluttered. I'm actually in the process now of painting my house a different color inside just because I'm bored.

I do it myself too. I didn't grow up with a dad, so my mom and I did everything ourselves. We're very handy. There's not really anything that I collect- I always try new things, like I tried planting tomatoes and herbs... but I don't have a green thumb, so as soon as it dies I'm over it. There's was definitely a point where I said "I'm going to grow all of my own vegetables in my own garden." I love to cook.
JA: What's your favorite meal to cook?

DH: I'm Jewish, and I always loved to cook my grandma's food- like brisket. I'm not someone who's religious, but for me, religion is family. Kind of like being Italian- you get the entire family together and it's chaos, and it feels like home to me. So every time I cook a brisket, the smell of the meat in my house reminds me of being a little girl, so that's probably my favorite meal to cook.

JA: Do you feel younger or older than your current age?

DH: I have always felt older than my age, mainly because being a kid actor I felt I had to grow up really fast. I'm finding now that as I get older, I'm sort of regressing a little bit. I think it's because a lot of my friends are having kids now. I take my goddaughter to the park every day now because I want to go on the slide with her. I wanna go on the swings and play in the sand with her- all of the things that I didn't get to do. I think I Tweeted today- it's such a beautiful day in L.A. and I have this urge to just do cartwheels on my front lawn. I'm actually standing outside of my house right now on my front lawn because I like the way the grass feels on my feet, and my thirteen year old Labrador is laying here with me.

It's a good Friday. I'm about to go for a hike, come back home and get some frozen yogurt, and then I'm having girl's night at my house. We're all gonna hang out and gossip, drink wine, and be girls.
JA: What do you do when you can't sleep at night?

DH: I'm usually a pretty good sleeper. I don't really do anything, I just kind of lay there and think about stuff. I went to go see Christopher Cross the other night- I'm a huge fan of the singer/songwriters of the 70s. I'm the one that bought that 10-disc set on the Time Life ads. This week alone I've seen Tears for Fears, Christopher Cross, and I'm going to see Chicago on Monday. I was at a friend's house the other night who couldn't sleep and kept waking me up, and I just laid there for a good hour- I could not stop singing Christopher Cross songs in my head. It was on repeat... I was driving myself nuts.

I don't usually get up and out of bed to do anything, I just lay there and pray that I get to go back to sleep.

JA: That's awesome that you're going to see Chicago.

DH: I love them! I grew up with them- "Colour My World" was my parent's wedding song, and it's the only song I actually know how to play on the piano. I've seen them in concert probably seven times. I just love it. I was with one of my friends last night and had them on, she was jealous she's not able to go to the concert with me, so I was continuing to make her jealous by playing all of their songs as we were riding. Torturing her. (laughs)

JA: One of my first big interviews was with Bill Champlin, and all of my questions related to Chicago- and the first thing he said was "I don't want to talk about Chicago."

DH: Oh no! That's like me saying I don't want to talk about Halloween anymore.

JA: I've avoided Halloween questions so far (laughs).

DH: (laughs) But I'm sure at some point you will ask one! This is our second interview, so maybe we already covered that in our first one.
JA: What was your favorite Halloween costume growing up?

DH: My favorite costume was one that I put together myself when I was in my twenties. I was going through a rebellious stage. It was the year that Lil' Kim was at the Grammys and Diana Ross grabbed her boob. She wore that weird outfit, and I decided that I was going to be Lil' Kim that year. I had this costume made where my boob was sticking out, and I even took makeup and made my skin darker. I put on this blond wig, big Christian Dior glasses, and stiletto heels, lots of jewelry and fake nails. No one even knew it was me! None of my friends recognized me until the end of the night when I was dancing and all of my makeup was coming off. Probably the most risque and fun costume I ever put together.

I've been my fair share of hookers for Halloween. It's like the green card to be a whore for a lot of girls. You can dress like a skank and go out, and no one even thinks about it. I've definitely done that a few times, but this was pushing the envelope. When I get my website up, I'll find the pictures and post them.

JA: How far out are you from having your website up?

DH: It seems like I'm never going to get there. It's so much more work than I thought it was, just because I'm the only one really doing it. I'm not very savvy when it comes to computers, so I'm just trying to learn how to work everything before I get it up- I want everything on it to be amazing. I recently left my video camera and three of my memory cards on an airplane when I came back from New York in November, there were a lot of videos there that were lost that I was going to post. I need to get my ass in gear and get that up.
JA: Do you have any weird habits?

DH: I have a lot of weird habits. I have OCD about clutter or messy drawers. I am super clean and organized except when I am working- it's like a bomb goes off and my house will be a disaster. I like having my spices turned out, glasses have to be a certain way... I actually started an organizing business a few months ago where I go to people's houses and organize for them. My tag-line is "Clear the Clutter to Gain Clarity".

Did you see Up in the Air?

JA: I loved that movie.

DH: I loved it too- and I loved his analogy about the backpack. That's how I feel about life, having all this stuff just weighs you down and you can't be productive or live a happy and fulfilling life if you've got all this baggage. I mean that both emotionally and with stuff people accumulate. I think that if you could just clear your space out then your mind will be clear, and you can accomplish so much more.

JA: What's your favorite color?

DH: Gray. A lot of my clothes are gray, and I love turquoise.

JA: Do you have a favorite junk food?

DH: Aside from french fries? I love Swedish Fish. I love any kind of gummy... anything red. I love Sour Patch Kids. I just like candy.

JA: Do you play any instruments?

DH: No, unfortunately. I've tried to play guitar over the years. I just wish that I could play guitar, sing, and write music. I have a guitar that Jonathan Brandis bought me years and years ago for my birthday, and I love it. It's still sitting here. I can't get rid of it because he gave it to me, but I can't play it at all. I love when someone comes over and plays it for me- I love jam sessions. I could just sit there and listen all day.
JA: Do you have any songs that are currently stuck in your head?

DH: Aside from every Christopher Cross song? One song that's been in my head for years, and I don't know why, is "Total Eclipse of the Heart". Also Heart's "Alone". I've been singing "Alone" for probably six months, and I keep begging my friends to do an acoustic version of the song. I love chick music. I also love Air Supply. If I could have Air Supply play at my wedding, along with Lionel Richie, that would be amazing! I would have it in my back yard and take all the money that I would spend on the linens, flowers, and all that other crap that I think is ridiculous to spend money on and hire my own band, have all my friends there, and I would cook all the food myself... probably better than any caterer. That would be the ideal wedding for me. Maybe in Bora Bora.

JA: Do you remember the first album you were really excited to listen to?

DH: Yes, it was 2 Live Crew on vinyl. It was my downstairs neighbor who was seventeen and I was eleven, and I had her buy it for me. I played it on my pink record player.

JA: Do you like musicals?

DH: I love musicals- I really wanted to see Cats when it was playing at the Pantages. I saw A Chorus Line last year. Whenever I go back to New York City I will see Chicago .

JA: If you could live in any decade, which would you choose?

DH: There's something very sexy about the 1920s. When the women were women, but they still were empowered. Once you get into the 1950s the women were just the housewives. They were still classy- when I go eat with my grandmother I watch her and her friends eat. They're very put together, they have great nails and jewelry, their outfits and makeup are done. They also take their time and eat slower, and there's something classy and feminine about that which a lot of modern women don't do. Feminism kind of screwed it up for us. It ruined chivalry. We just had to make equal money, and we had to have equal careers... and then we bitch when the guy doesn't open the door for us. So I guess you can't have it all.

JA: What is your favorite virtue?

DH: Empathy.

JA: And finally, which three adjectives would you use to best describe your personality?

DH: I will do six- I will give you three that I don't like and three that I do like. The three that I don't like are anxiety ridden, controlling (usually with myself and not other people), and impatient. Those are three that I'm working on being better at, and the three that I like are loyal, honest, and feisty.

Read "A Conversation with Danielle Harris: Part I" here.