Today we’d like to introduce you to Danielle Thorsen.
Danielle, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I am an actor, through and through.
The exact moment I knew I belonged on the stage, I was sitting in my high school auditorium watching the spring musical production of ‘The Wiz’ in my Sophomore year. I sat in that red, scratchy auditorium seat, watching my friends on stage and I thought, “I could do that.” I didn’t know if I had any actual talent or ability, but I decided to take the leap and try. Being willing to try and fail has taught me about both life and acting. As I continued to learn and grow, the idea ‘I could do that’ has transformed into ‘I will do that’. That idea of not only being optimistic and hopeful but also being driven and determined leads me to strive for my best every single day.
Over the years, I have lived in Atlanta, Chicago, and now LA. Each city held new and different opportunities to learn about the various sides of the business. The industry has been both challenging and beautiful. It has allowed me to find and be my truest self. I believe I’m called to acting for two reasons. One, I sincerely believe that the arts create empathy. Through the arts, you have the unique opportunity to see the world through someone else’s lens, and that understanding leads to a greater ability to empathize with others around you. Two, acting is my passion. I believe that if you follow your passions (as impractical as they may be), it creates a ripple effect. Living life with passion and purpose makes your internal light shine, and the world takes notice.
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve gotten over the years is that great actors develop passions outside of acting. In order to create a full character, you need to have a full life. I’ve taken that advice to heart, and while acting is my main focus, I find endless joy traveling and exploring, flowing on my yoga mat, and experimenting in the kitchen. I am trying every day to live life to the fullest and to continually become a better version of myself.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I don’t believe a career in the arts ever really leads to a smooth road. I’ve definitely had my fair share of challenges along the way, and my path to where I am today has been a windy and often times illogical road. I don’t regret any of struggles I had because every one of those experiences has made me stronger, more resilient, and more appreciative.
One thing in particular that I’ve struggled with my whole career has been learning to embrace myself as a biracial actor in an industry that finds it much easier to understand absolutes. I was adopted as a baby into a mostly white family in a very white community. My parents are so incredibly selfless; they never intended to have children, but they ended up adopting three. My sisters and I are all different races, but we never really thought anything of it as we grew up. That race blindness was how we learned to interact with each other and the world, so when I left the bubble that I grew up in, I was wildly unprepared to handle how the world deals with race ‘in real life’. I had a very difficult time adjusting and adapting, especially as a young actor. I often felt too black to be considered for the white roles and too white to be considered for the black roles. I really had to dig in and learn how to happy and comfortable in my own skin especially in an industry that is often so image focused. A huge positive for the industry as a whole is the steps toward change that are currently happening. There is a desire for more inclusiveness and to finally hear the stories from those who haven’t traditionally had voices in this industry. As I mentioned before, I believe that the arts create empathy. Through more inclusive representation, this industry truly can lead to greater acceptance and understanding in society. The arts have the potential to change the world, and I want to be a part of that change.
We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
My focus has always been on theatre, but I decided to move to LA to explore the film/television side of the industry. My favorite genres are classical/Shakespeare, and contemporary new drama (two very different sides of the spectrum, I know!). I’m really excited to dig further into the skills that it takes to craft a successful performance for the camera. I have a lot to learn, but life is all about tackling new challenges and doing things that stretch your boundaries and make you grow.
I am most proud of my willingness to adapt and change while remaining true to my core self. I fully recognize that I have a lot of room to grow as an actor and as a human. I try my best to push myself outside of my comfort zone and do things that scare me. I have worked hard to be the person who finds positivity and light even in the darkest of times. I believe that the more positive you are, the more positivity you inspire and attract. I hope to spread good in the world wherever I can.
What is “success” or “successful” for you?
My definition of success has shifted over the years. I’m a very goal-oriented person, and one of the lessons I had to learn about life after college is that sometimes you don’t reach your goals in the way you think you will. And learning to be ok with that was incredibly liberating. There are markers I still have on my mental ‘to accomplish’ list, but I know that they will happen in time. At the moment, what success is to me is staying true to the vision and the dream. Especially now, in the midst of this unprecedented time, I’ve had to recalibrate my expectations. When I moved to LA in October, I had a lot of ideas for how I thought this year would go and what I hoped I would be able to accomplish within a year. A global pandemic was not a part of the equation, to say the least. This time though has been incredibly valuable in that I have never taken the time to just sit with myself and be. I’m finding a deeper understanding of myself and my place in this world, and I consider that a success at the moment.
Anastasia Antonova (IG: @anastasiaaantonova); Kathryn Clark (IG: @kathrynmarie.photography); Jessica Fern Hunt (IG: @jes_fern); Yoga East West (IG: @yoga_eastwest); Ashley Mendez (IG: @mendezheadshots)