Daphne Zuniga spoke with SheKnows about her career on and off Melrose Place. Central in her world currently is Zuniga’s upcoming original Hallmark movie, Mail Order Bride, airing November 8 at 9 p.m.
Zuniga came to fame opposite John Cusack on the teen classic, A Sure Thing. Through numerous roles through the ’80s and ’90s she carved herself a reputation as a go-to actress for parts that required a certain amount of…
“They always wanted me to play the smart girl. I am smart,” she says and laughs during a lunch break for One Tree Hill.
Zuniga’s performance on Melrose Place altered that perception adding layers of darkness, passion and at times cunningness with her portrayal of Jo Reynolds for 109 episodes.
She admits it was a stroke of fate and a higher power that led her to a Wild West set in British Columbia to portray a Mail Order Bride.
Zuniga plays a con artist fleeing an 1800s baddie in Greg Evigan who wants her for stealing a large amount of cash.
Posing as her recently deceased friend who was set to go to Montana and marry, Zuniga’s character instead makes the journey and the adventure and romance commences.
The zeal of Zuniga
SheKnows: You have kept so busy over the years from The Sure Thing to Melrose Place and now One Tree Hill, what do you credit your ability to get really lost in these diverse characters? You never seem to be typecast.
Daphne Zuniga: As long as I stay curious about my internal process and growth, I think it attracts different parts. To be very specific, four or five years ago, I started doing these meditation retreats – completely silent for ten days. No distractions, no reading, no music, no writing. Even though it sounds horrific, and it was the first time, I left there and I was a changed person. What happened was, I was this wide open possibility on the inside. I was fearless. It is very interesting. From that year on, I literally started writing and I have been published three times. I started attracting these bizarre parts like Playboy bunnies to the crazy mom I play on One Tree Hill to this western gal I just played in Mail Order Bride, it’s like did that for my own internal sanity. But it was reflected by the parts just coming to me. It’s not something that I set out consciously to do. I just know that I love to stay creative. I can’t stand being stagnant. I had those years earlier. I knew if I wanted to stay really alive and creative, I needed to do it inside first. You can’t sit around and expect people to keep hiring you. You have to stay interested and interesting to yourself. The meditation, hard to believe, but it really turned things around. When you start to see yourself without limitation, the world sees you that way too.
SheKnows: How was One Tree Hill?
Daphne Zuniga: It really was fun. Earlier that year a strike was about to happen. I felt like I was on vacation. I got this call. I had heard of this show. I knew it was these good-looking kids (laughs). I talked to the creator, Mark Schwahn, and he told me he wanted me to play the villain. I’m always the normal one. You have to be a bitch. OK! I can do that, I have that in me for sure. It was fun to go in and have something to focus on one quality. Just be the mother who has no clue what mother means. I was just visiting, then I could leave, it was fun.
SheKnows: Like a nephew, fun kid, but not yours.
Daphne Zuniga: (Laughs) True! It was also cool for me being on location. They put you on location in North Carolina. Just coming in to do my thing, it was a real gift.
India to Montana on the wings of faith
SheKnows: To put on the old west clothes and be part of a Hallmark movie, that’s an entertainment entity. How did Mail Order Bride come to you, did you pursue that project?
Daphne Zuniga: You’re going to think this is crazy. I just got back from India. I had been doing this incredible process with these monks in India and he said to me, ‘start praying for what you want.’ I told him I didn’t pray. I meditate. He said you can call it whatever you want, just start to see it and I will send you blessings. I was in New York, just back from India. I was walking around Central Park and thought that I really wanted some sort of adventure. I wanted one more movie this year where I get to play an adventurer. I swear to God, Joel. I get back to my apartment and I called my agent and left a message. He calls me back and said ‘you’re never going to believe it but we got an offer.’ I said, ‘what do you mean an offer.’ He said, ‘do you ride a horse?’ I didn’t but that was good because they wanted someone who couldn’t. I read the script that night for Mail Order Bride and signed right on because that was it. That was what the Monk sent me, so there you have it.
SheKnows: That’s the universe at work again.
Daphne Zuniga: My agent said you’re leaving Tuesday and that was Thursday. That, I love about this business. There’s a lot to not love, but to go off and be told you have to be a cowgirl on Tuesday. I learned how to ride a horse. I learned how to shoot a shotgun. I got to wear corsets and petticoats and heard cattle.
SheKnows: Where was it filmed, sounds miles from Melrose?
Daphne Zuniga: (Laughs) Outside of Vancouver. We got to ride the most amazing horses up there.
SheKnows: How was working with My Two Dads’ Greg Evigan?
Daphne Zuniga: Yes, Greg is my favorite costar now. He’s so fantastic. He plays a bad guy, I never met him. I had never seen BJ and the Bear, but he plays this guy is after me because I stole money from him. Up until that point, I was someone who worked for him as a saloon girl, a pickpocket, the bootlegging circuit. The story opens up and I’m avoiding him going off to Montana as a mail order bride to escape him. Then, he comes and gets me.
SheKnows: Definitely a wrinkle on the mail-order-bride movies of the past. You’re there for sinister reasons.
Daphne Zuniga: Yeah, it’s like I’m a fugitive. We had such fun Greg and I pitched a story, a western, based on these characters so, they liked our pitch, so we’ll see.