How To Follow Your Passion And Succeed Against All Odds

Daniel O’Shea’s rise as an actor is a great example that your past does not determine your future.

He grew up in a low-income housing project, Frustrated and dissatisfied. His parents separated before he was born and divorced when he was two years old and the only time he ever saw his father was in photographs. Most of his problems can be said to have stemmed from not growing up with a father figure. Theater provided an ideal way for him to channel his frustrations and express himself whilst allowing his imagination to transport him to other times as well as other locations to explore parts of his psyche that had never been permitted to develop in his earlier years.

A Student of Life

Daniel O’Shea’s beginnings within acting were through the theater department at the Queensborough Community College. By his own admission, he was a terrible student, but acting turned him into a voracious reader and a true student of life. During this time, he was still unsure if he would ever be able to make a living as an actor, prompting him to take on odd jobs for a few years to support him and assist in aiding his ultimate goal. Then love struck and although initially rebuffed the courtship proceeded but was short lived.

Acting Career

Daniel O’Shea eventually lost interest in his then object of love and desire and threw himself even further into acting. In some respect you may call his first love the catalyst for his acting career.

In the early winter of 1984, he answered an audition for an open call posted in Backstage. It was for a feature film to be shot in Pittsburgh, PA produced by Michael Hausman (known for Silkwood, Amadeus, Places In The Heart, among others). He auditioned for the role of Adam, a coal miner smitten by an actress / model he meets during a publicity shoot at the coal mine. It also starred Jennifer Runyon, Karen Black, Dennis Christopher and Betsy Blair. Thereafter he was then able to parlay that stroke of luck into leading and supporting roles in film (Streets Of Gold, State Of Grace, Hamburger Hill, Last Exit To Brooklyn etc.) and television (CBS Mini Series Common Ground, among others)

His most recent acting credits have been playing an Irish land owner in Boardwalk Empire, appearances on three episodes of Inside Amy Schumer, the HBO Mini Series Show Me A Hero, The Onion News Network and work in feature films such as John Gallagher’s The Networker, Tony Clomax’s Broken Angels, Pain: A Revenge Story, Snitches and most recently Unbound by Steve Rahaman. He can also be seen in the soon-to-be-released indie films The Runner of Pamplona and Neverland as well as the upcoming independent TV series Eden by EW Films and this fall he will be appearing in Mario Corry’s play Walter’s Dead as part of The Thespis Festival.

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Images Provided By Actor Daniel O’Shea

Secret to Success

Daniel O’Shea is an ensemble member emeritus of The Collective New York, a recent member of The Indies Lab. With such a repertoire of actors he has worked alongside he still expressed that although many to list, some of the actors he felt inspired by are Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, Robert De Niro, Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Winslet and Meryl Streep,

So I asked Daniel what is the secret to his success in life and as an actor having grown up in not the best of circumstances. Here’s his thought-provoking response:

If there has been any guiding philosophies or pearls of wisdom that have sustained or led me, they would have to be: Play well whatever cards are dealt to you in life. Some people phrase that as, if life gives you lemons, make lemonade. What happens to us is not as important as how we perceive it and how we use it. Reading Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning cemented this idea into a guidepost for me. Shakespeare’s Hamlet says: I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space. It’s not how much I have in life but making use of what I have. I was fortunate to learn the lesson of the common delusion: If I get / have more space, then I’ll be happy. If I can only get space then I’ll be successful.

For those who embrace or even reject Religion, The Bible can be quite informative and inspirational. It’s obviously – at least to me – not meant to be a science textbook. The parable of the talents from Matthew 25:14-30 has been a gem of ongoing wisdom for me. My talent is purely God given; I had nothing to do with getting the talent that I have but everything to do with how I make use of that talent. In my first feature film Flight Of The Spruce Goose I had a few scenes with the veteran character actor Jack Kehoe. Jack was well established at that time having received well-deserved critical acclaim for major Hollywood successes”.

O’Shea’s supporting role in Spruce Goose had his character as a petty, sleazy, self-proclaimed manager/talent agent.

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It was a supporting part of maybe four scenes. Jack “took me to school” for want of better words. He was prepared, his acting choices were interesting, specific, personal. I’ve seen SO MANY young actors say “I only have a few lines, why work too hard on this? I’ll work hard when I get something big.” That kind of thinking is erroneous and self-damaging. This, I learned from Jack Kehoe through his actions. Bring your passion, your love for what you do everywhere from the lead to the minor role to the few lines. Early on in my career money came quite easily to me. It doesn’t come as easily to me today, that I can tell you. I don’t let my Ego dictate what I should or should not do or what’s beneath me or what is beyond my grasp. I let my passion and my talents navigate those choices. Do my little insights and philosophies work for me? The proof is in the pudding. I am fortunate enough to have received tremendous respect and recognition from so many of my peers and people who have admired and been entertained by what I do. I’ve met and worked with very many people; some famous some not so famous but almost all have been interesting, talented and admirable. I’ve traveled extensively, I’ve visited most of the finest museums in the world, I’m married to a beautiful, intelligent woman whom I love and who shares my love of the arts. I am quite a grateful person. What I have can never be lost or taken away from me. Money comes and goes. It works for me. Not bad for a kid from a New York City Housing Project.”Daniel O’Shea


Edit By Florence Bailey