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09/05 - 10/05

The Danielle Egnew Factor
Inside the Mind of a Modern Day Genius

Interview by Kate P. Thurber

On a sunny and sizzling day in Los Angeles, I had the coolest seat in town. Ironically, my seat was cool because it was next to the hottest lesbian commodity in Hollywood. At Jerry’s Deli in Studio City, it was my extreme pleasure to share a candid conversation with the power-sexy, in-demand, multi-talented creative visionary that freely writes her own heavy-hitting Hollywood ticket: Danielle Egnew. From fronting the power-cult band Pope Jane to playing talk jock on her own nationally syndicated radio show, this luscious yet ingenious rock star / actor /screenwriter / talk radio host agreed to meet with me between recording her upcoming album and appearing in a string of films, to shed some light on what it’s like to live in her genius skin.

So tell me, how do you handle the pressure of being known in Hollywood as a non-stop creative genius?

DE: (Big laugh) Oh, is that what they’re calling it these days? My dad calls it “my disease” (Laughs). That’s very gracious of you. I don’t really get the mystery of it, or the pressure part. I don’t feel any pressure to perform, I just do what I do. It’s not a big deal. Creating is fun for me, whether it’s recording an album, writing a screenplay or scoring a film, acting, oil painting, underwater basket weaving, whatever! (Laughs.) It’s something that I just do, and the more I do, the more relaxed I feel in my brain. It’s really not as mystical or as hard as everybody makes it sound.

Well not for you. When you were a child, did you always see yourself growing up and becoming a rock star?

(Smiles) No, not at all. I actually wanted to be an astronaut, but my math grades weren’t good enough and my eyesight is really bad, so that took me out of the running at the time because the astronauts used to have to be military pilots first. And the military required pilots to have 20/20 vision, so between the bad eyes and the bad math, I was doomed. But now they have the Space Shuttle, where they plop scientists with coke-bottle glasses up into space. So who knows, maybe I’ll see space yet, you never know.

I can’t picture you as an astronaut.

Really? I think the hair would great in space. (Laughs) Seriously, my biggest dream was to be an astronaut, and I still spend a lot of time reading about quantum physics and other nerdy Discovery Channel stuff. I’m fascinated by science. I always have been.

Back here on earth, what’s it like to be an out, lesbian performer?

Well, I don’t think it is any different from being a straight performer. That’s like saying, “What’s it like to be an out lesbian at the grocery store?” The pitfalls of the entertainment industry affect everyone equilaterally, indiscriminate of anyone’s sexual orientation. It’s a tough, ugly business full of desperate people, and that frenetic energy impacts a soul no matter what gender you’re sleeping with.

But do you find that being an out lesbian limits the opportunities that are offered to you?

No, not for me. I’ve never found that it was a problem. I mean, I have had other people think it was going to be a problem, and that caused problems. Like the management for Pope Jane. They were on me all the time to shut up about it, but I consider it to be such a non issue that I found myself answering questions [about sexuality] honestly. I seem to get a lot of offers to play lesbians in films, which I figure I can probably handle (Laughs).

Your management wanted you to stay in the closet? How could you handle that?

Well, this was back in the early nineties, we’re talking pre Will and Grace, here, so that type of attitude was par for the course back then. There was still an unspoken rule that if you were gay, you shouldn’t say anything because it might cost you [album] sales. Melissa [Etheridge] didn’t come out until the later nineties, and even that was a real wild card thing to do. They [management] were just terrified that if people knew some of us in the band were gay, we’d never get a record deal.

Did being gay affect you getting a record deal?

No. The labels had a bunch of other issues with us, but being gay wasn’t one of them. Mostly because everyone already knew about it, so it wasn’t like some big secret was going to break and ruin our careers. That’s the thing about closeted performers – they spend a lot of energy playing down their homosexuality, but people can smell that type of deliberate secrecy a mile away, and they pursue it. No one is interested in your personal life if you’re willing to talk about it (Laughs).

Your story sounds almost ideal. Most gay performers have horror stories to tell.

Well I’ve got horror stories to tell, but they’re not about being a lesbian in entertainment! (Laughs.)

What’s your worst horror story?

My worst horror story? Geez…(thinks). The one that comes to mind is when I found out that someone who I thought was a friend in my personal circle was actually an internet stalker that had been dogging me for a year, all over the web. I mean, we’re not talking little stupid comments about my butt being fat or my clothes being ugly, we’re talking launching vicious hate campaigns and personal attacks all over every chat board out there, and it was really hurtful. And it wasn’t just me she was after, it was anything I had to do with, like the members of Pope Jane, and even my partner at the time.

Why would a person who claimed to be your friend do this?

I have no clue. Attention, maybe? This stalker woman started out as a fan, and the whole time she was coming to my Pope Jane concerts, buying our CD’s and acting all buddy-buddy, she was hacking me up on the web! It was pretty traumatic, and it ended up costing me a lot in my personal life, which was devastating. But the worst part was that this friend of mine was going on and on with me about how horrible the stalking problem was, and the whole time, she was the stalker!

That’s really scary. So how did you finally find out about it?

Oh, this gets better. Another friend of mine, who I also met first as a fan, tipped me off that this particular woman was the stalker – and as if it couldn’t get weirder, the turned-in stalker then exposed the woman who had turned her in, my OTHER friend, as being part of the whole stalker plot! They were a hate tag team, hanging out with me by day, and littering message boards with hate mail by night! The second stalker woman went psycho on me publicly after she was busted, on the internet, laughing about how stupid I was because I never caught on, and how much she hated me the whole time, blah blah blah. It was nuts.

Two of your fan-turned-friends both ended up being crazed internet stalkers?

: Yeah. I felt like a complete idiot. It was really horrible to find out that people you trusted were not who you thought they were. And they had this really twisted idea of who I was, like I deserved what I was getting…I still don’t get it. You‘d think you would know if someone was doing something like that, but the type of people who would do that are very pathological, and it’s hard to clock those types of people. That situation has made me a lot more cautious, unfortunately. I sort of had to clean house, so to speak, and start again on a lot of levels.

Well it looks like you’ve done a good job. Your career has branched from music into film. Did you see that coming?

Maybe subconsciously. I’ve always loved film. I love to act in it, I love to score it, I love to write it – I just love it.

I can’t believe how multi-talented you are. Tell me about the screenplays you’ve written that were optioned.

(Laughs) Man, that was a wild ride. One script I wrote, a metaphysical thriller, got optioned and a year later, after 16 re-writes to get it into blockbuster shape, the Producer ended up making some serious changes to the script that to this day I cringe and gnash my teeth at the very thought of, but that’s what the version they’re pushing. There’s no accounting for taste in this business (Laughs).

You didn’t have any say in what ultimately happened to the script?

No, not in the end, not with that Producer. When someone holds an option, it means they officially have the last say, unless the option states otherwise, but most don’t. It’s really a typical story: a writer thinks they have something brilliant, it [the script] gets developed, the writer makes concessions and turns it in to the Producer, then it gets filleted, sliced and diced, and served up very differently all in the name of better development. You just pray and hope that the script you spent a year killing yourself over, which is now this sliced and diced thing you barely recognize and really don’t like, will still sell.

That’s brutal! But you seem to handle it well.

That’s entertainment. You just didn’t see me when I was hysterically sobbing and chewing a hole in my pillow! (Laughs)

You’re known for turning out great screenplays at record speed. Have you always written?

Yeah, I guess I have. I used to write my own material in high school for my competitive drama competitions. I wrote a lot of plays while I was in college in Arizona, and they got produced by little theaters around. I also wrote for a theater troupe in Seattle that I co-founded. So the screenwriting came pretty naturally, although I think it’s a lot harder because you have to say less and show more, which is a bit of a challenge when you’re dealing in a medium of words.

So you’re acting now, too?

Finally, yes, I am getting back to it. My background is actually in theater, in acting. I was going to be an actor, and I had two full ride scholarships for theater from two different universities [University of Arizona, Eastern Montana College], but then I ended up getting a little Indie record deal up in Seattle in 1991, and that kicked me into music full time, so I really shelved the acting then. It’s kind of funny how life takes you full circle.

What upcoming films can we see you in, leading lady?

(Laughs) Well, I’ll be “Dexy” in Melody and Harmony, a LyonHart Films release written and directed by Teresa Crespo–Hartendorp. That starts shooting this summer. And this is further off, but I’ll be playing “Jane” in my own original screenplay called Imogene’s Waltz that’s being made into a feature film. I’ll be working with Producer and Director Susan Turley on that after she’s done with her upcoming film Changing Spots. Susan also produced and directed The M.O. of M.I., the gay suspense thriller that was a huge festival hit, so I’m really feeling fortunate to be able to work with her. Both these women are brilliant, talented directors, and they’re great people on top of it.

Any chance we’d be lucky enough for either of these films to show you in a steamy lesbian love scene?

: (Big laugh) Uh…yeah. In both of them.

How steamy do these scenes get?

Now you’re just going to have to wait and see, aren’t you?

Do you only act in gay-themed films?

(Smiles) No, of course not. But films with gay and lesbian content are really big right now because there’s an enormous audience that wants to see them. Geez, look at how the L Word took off, nobody expected that! So Producers are actively looking for strong material with gay themes, and I just keep getting cast, which I’m thrilled about, I might add.

With all this filming, is there anything new on the music front for Pope Jane fans?

Oh sure. I’m finishing up my solo album, WildLamb, as we speak. It should have been done by now, but the script work really cut into the recoding time. Pope Jane is on hiatus while I do all my movie stuff, but my solo album will be finished by this summer. I hope!

You’ve had so many successes. If you could change one thing about your life, what would it be?

Oh, I need to think about that a minute, here…(thinks) One thing. I’d change is what I studied in college. I had scholarships for theater, and I took them, but if I had it to do again I would definitely be a Quantum Physics major. There’s just too much about the science of the infinitesimal that fascinates me, and I really am a frustrated quantum mechanic. There’s nothing worse than an armchair quantum mechanic.

What’s a quantum mechanic?

I don’t even know if that’s really a term, but it would be somebody who studies quantum mechanics. You know, the nuts and bolts of why the infinitesimal works the way it does, even beyond a molecular level. Smaller than atoms, that kind of thing. Space and time bending. That’s all so interesting to me. I’ve got my own theories about things. I’ve written a paper on what I think Dark Matter is, and another one covering my personal theory of the disappearance and reappearance of atoms.

Wow. What do you plan on doing with these theories?

(Big Laugh) Not much! I don’t think NASA really wants to hear theories on quantum mechanics from some chick in L.A. with no formal science background who acts in lesbian dramas and sings in a band!

Speaking of bizarre theories, your syndicated talk radio show, The High Road, has received a lot of acclaim for the way you handle some controversial subject matter. Tell me about that.

I don’t know why the subject matter is considered controversial, but it is. I talk about spiritual physics, which is not much different than quantum mechanics, but dealing with the actual physical effect of intention. You know, I talk about how to make miracles happen in your life.

You know how to do that?

Well it’s not a secret. We’re all miracle machines, and we’re capable of manifesting anything we want, good or bad, in this three dimensional universe where free choice is the big wild card. People get a little freaked out by the thought that we, as a human race, are capable of manifesting miracles, because they see it as a blasphemous claim. But it’s not. You’re not challenging God by accepting that you are capable of bringing through miracles. You are honoring God’s design of infinite creation by accepting that you are infinitely creative.

So you believe every average Joe can make miracles happen?

I absolutely do. The problem is that as a society, we think that miracles come from some other mystical source, when in fact, they come from our willingness to accept something happening that is out of the ordinary, and then our willingness to accept that we can create that something. If we don’t accept it, it can’t happen. It’s that free will thing; The Universe -- God -- doesn’t rape people with miracles.

But why a talk radio show like this? Talk radio is usually Howard Stern.

Well, because this message of hope, of the truth about how we work on a miraculous spiritual level, needs to get out there, even if it’s right before Stern! (Laughs) We’re being told that we can’t change anything in our lives, that any minute the terrorists are going to come and blow up Anytown, USA. There is such a fear consciousness that’s running the world right now, especially in our country. But it’s all BS. We’re not victims who can change nothing, we are good, powerful sentient beings who can affect a lot of positive change if we’ll just quit buying into the 1950’s fear propaganda illusion and tap into our true potential, our miracle capabilities.

Have you always been such a deep thinker?

Hey, I was born and raised in Montana. There’s not much else to do up there besides think (Laughs).

Are people surprised to find out that you have a big brain beneath that beauty?

Sometimes, yeah, they are. Most people in entertainment are pretty self-absorbed, and I think people expect you to be that Bling-slinging bad-ass that rolls up with the limo and the attitude. I’m way too nerdy for that stuff. I’d rather figure out why atoms disappear and play Yahtzee with my friends (Laughs).

One last thing, on that note. You’re such a physically beautiful woman and your features are just stunning . Do you find that your body gets in the way of people taking your art seriously?

My Body? (Big Laugh) No, no it hasn’t…(Still Laughing) I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, I’m not trying to be rude, it’s just that…I don’t think of myself like that, like some big sexy thing. I’m flattered beyond belief that people think that, I really am honored to the core by it. I mean, I’m happy with the way I look, I just see myself according to my abilities, rather than my physical self, I guess. I think that’s how most people deal with me, through that perspective.

I have to confess, you’re a lot more down to earth than I thought you’d be.

Really? How did you think I’d be?

You look very intense. I thought you would be more intimidating.

Me? (Laughs) Oh dear Lord, hardly! I’m a giant dork from Montana, how intimidating can that be?

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