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Daniel Hernandez: A Young Local Actor Who Loves To Learn

IN THE November 3 ISSUE

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by Lorie Lewis Ham

This Valley is blessed with so much talent and one of my favorite features in KRL is our local actor profiles–introducing our readers to the people behind that talent. Most of the actors/directors we have profiled have been in theatre for years, but once in awhile we decide to feature a young talent that has caught our eye–one of those was Benjamin McNamara, and this week we are profiling another–Daniel Hernandez, who can currently be seen on stage at Roger Rocka’s in Singin’ In The Rain.

Daniel Hernandez (Don Lockwood) and Danielle Behrens (Kathy Seldon)

Daniel is a Fresno boy. He was first introduced to acting in elementary school when he and his friends put together some very low budget horror movies. His first acting in theatre was during his freshman year at Clovis High School when he took drama, however he was too scared to actually audition for a school play. “It wasn’t until after high school that I auditioned for a play. I did Sweeney Todd at CMT (Children’s Musical Theaterworks), directed by Elizabeth Fiester, and that is where I caught the acting bug.”

Through the years since that first show, Daniel has continued to work with Elizabeth Fiester in various shows. “Daniel is my favorite kind of actor: dedicated, works harder than anyone, increases his skills and talent ten fold with each show because he listens and takes from every source available to him. He is a delight.”

While in the ensemble in Sweeney Todd, Daniel’s first actual role was in Once On This Island with Cal Arts Academy, which has become one of his favorite musicals. Some of the other shows he has been in include The Wedding Singer as Glen Gulia with Good Company Players, The Drowsy Chaperone as Robert Martin (GCP), Legally Blonde as Warner Hunnington (GCP), the original musical Yo! Vikings as Murphy Bean (CMT), and Spring Awakening as Otto (CMT). And currently he is Don Lockwood in Singin’ In The Rain.

GCP's production of The Drowsy Chaperone-Daniel as Robert Martin, Emily Pessano as Janet Van De Graaff and Steve Souza as the Man in Chair

While thoroughly enjoying campy, high-energy musicals, at the same time Daniel seeks out dark musical dramas. “Sweeney Todd is another one of my favorites because of the dark comedy and the haunting story. My favorite moment of that show is at the end where Todd, Johanna, and Lucy are all in the same room together, but none of them know it. It breaks my heart because…well, I don’t want to tell you what happens!”

Daniel calls himself a baritenor–a word he made up to try and pinpoint his vocal part. His favorite thing about acting is that you never stop learning the art. “Whether it is formal training or in everyday life, you can and will learn more about acting.”

Daniel in Spring Awakening

He loves acting because of the escape, the thrill, the challenge, and the fun! “Hearing laughter and applause is enough of a reward to act. My favorite thing about singing is the release you feel when doing it. I also love harmony, hearing it and singing it. I think the voice is the most powerful instrument and hearing a crowd singing in harmony really gives me the chills. I really felt this when I did Spring Awakening with CMT. When the entire cast sang ‘The Song of Purple Summer,’ I couldn’t help but smile.”

According to Daniel, one the hardest things he has ever done is tap dance, though one would never know it watching him on stage. “I never really got into dancing until recently. What really pushed me to dance was doing musical theater. Performing in shows like Sweet Charity and the Producers inspired me to learn how to dance. Since those shows, I decided to take some classes and learn more. I had taken a tap class at Fresno City College, under the instruction of David Bonetto, and that is what really made me love tap. I auditioned for the Drowsy Chaperone a year later and was happy to find out I got the tap dancing role of Robert Martin. I immediately called Kaye Migaki and started tap again just for the show. Doing this show is what really pushed me to work hard and focus on the art.”

Daniel performing Singin' In The Rain

While one of the hardest things, Daniel said tap is also one of the most rewarding. “I am usually completely drained and exhausted after act 1 of Singin’ in the Rain, but it is so worth it because I am having a blast!”

His tap partner in several of those shows, including Singin’ In The Rain, is Dominic Grijalva. “I’ve had the pleasure of doing three shows this year alone with Daniel and doing so is always a fun experience. He is very dedicated, always willing to push himself to do whatever is called of him in each role he takes on. It has been a joy to watch him grow as an actor and perform alongside him in 11 different productions.”

Daniel, Kathy and Dominic in Singin' In The Rain

“Daniel is the kind of actor you love to perform with because he never stops improving,” said Emily Pessano, who worked with Daniel in Drowsy Chaperone and Legally Blonde. “He continues to work to make the project the best that it can be. He is a wonderfully hard worker and a joy to be on stage with.”

Daniel as Warner Huntington III, Emily Pessano as Elle Woods, and Brandon Delsid as violinist in GCP's Legally Blonde

As to what has helped him most in his growth as an actor and singer, Daniel attributes much of it to watching and studying other local actors. “There are so many amazing performers in the Valley and I respect them all for their work.”

His heroes though are his family, because of their support of him and what he does, and their unconditional love and reassuring words. “When things do get tough, or I am overwhelmed with something, it is usually my family who brings me back up, and encourages me to do well. I also owe a lot to my friends who support me a ton.”

As to advice for others wanting to get into acting, Daniel believes the best thing is to audition for as many shows as you can. “Have a good work ethic and you will not go unnoticed.” He also recommends seeing plays and musicals and meeting as many other actors as you can. “I think I learn the most from watching performers I admire.”

CMT's production of Annie- Kylie Briggs as Lily St. Regis and Daniel as Rooster Hannigan

Currently finishing up at Fresno City College and working at Starbucks, balancing everything can be a challenge and exhausting, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. He also manages to find time for hobbies, his latest being piano. “I really love to play and I have found it very therapeutic when I am overwhelmed or stressed out. I like to find a song I really love, study the sheet music, and play the song. I usually ooh and awe over a composers piece for about a month afterwards because the music is so beautiful.”

And as if that wasn’t enough, Daniel is the director for the late night web show Basically Brandon on Central Valley Talk, working not only with the host Brandon Delsid but also Dominic. “Though I wouldn’t really call that work,” said Daniel. “It’s a fun group of friends putting on a show and having a good time!”

“Daniel and I have been in several shows together, and I’ve learned that he has a fearlessness when it comes to performing,” shared Brandon. “He constantly looks for challenges onstage, and new things to learn. Constantly striving for growth, if there’s something he doesn’t know how to do, he will put in the time and effort and make sure he can do it the best. He has great self-motivation and is one of the hardest working people you will ever work with. This winter we are actually going to be playing opposite each other in Spamalot at Roger Rockas and I’m really looking forward to the experience!”

Daniel doesn’t really have any dream roles, but he does have dream shows that he would like to do. “I’d like another crack at shows like Sweeney Todd, Once on This Island, and The Drowsy Chaperone. I would also like to do Ragtime and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee!”

His future goals are just to keep learning. “I love theater, film and graphic design so I would like to keep obtaining knowledge about all of them. More so, I would like to keep learning about tap dance.”

Lorie Lewis Ham is our Editor-in-Chief and an enthusiastic contributor to various sections, coupling her journalism experience with her connection to the literary and entertainment worlds. Explore Lorie’s mystery writing at Mysteryrat’s Closet.

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