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Stage, screen and 'somewhere in the middle'

Susan Egan:
'A great time being a bad girl'

iconSusan Egan's career has proved her a triple threat of stage, TV and film. Click here to get to our interactive gallery of scenes from her work.  

In this story:

Honing her skills

Adapting to aspirations

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(CNN) -- As the child of a doctor and an anthropologist, Susan Egan wasn't expected to pursue the arts. Add to that her conservative upbringing in California's Orange County -- which she calls "as Republican as you can get" -- and she was an unlikely candidate to succeed.

graphic Can your career "niche" you in one job-role or another, as Susan Egan's did before "Cabaret?"

Yes. I can get typed easily.
Not if I don't choose. I have flexibility if I want it.
No, my field is free of that.
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But succeed she has, landing a regular role on The WB's popular Sunday night show, 'Nikki,' starring Nikki Cox.

Egan credits what she describes as her ability to step back and analyze herself in an unbiased manner. Instead of reinventing herself, she develops her strengths to suit her desire.

"What I've figured out is that I can step away from myself and see what I do well and what I need work on. I can be pretty unbiased about myself," she says. "And because of that I can then go work on things that I've had a hard time with and learn to excel just by working really hard.

"As much as I long to play Rizzo in 'Grease,' I'm always going to be a Sandy. So it's not going to serve me well to audition for Rizzo."


Honing her skills

At 30, Egan has packed a lifetime of performances into her career. From "Bye Bye Birdie" to "Triumph of Love" to her acclaim as Belle in "Beauty and the Beast" on Broadway.

But after repeatedly being cast as the "good girl," Egan longed to break the mold and stretch her acting muscles. And it was after her turn as Sally Bowles in director Sam Mendes' 1998 Broadway revival of the provocative "Cabaret" that Egan began getting noticed for grittier parts.

Susan Egan starred as Sally Bowles in the 1998 Roundabout Theatre revival on Broadway of the 1966 musical "Cabaret." Sam Mendes ("American Beauty") directed the show, which moved during its New York run to Studio 54  

"All of a sudden I've been considered for roles that are so different than the sweet young thing. The role I play in 'Nikki,' the character of Mary, is a little bit older than Nikki, and she's very jaded, she's very cynical, so I'm having a blast. I'm no longer the straight man, I'm no longer setting up the joke -- I get the punch line. So I'm having a great time being a bad girl."

It hasn't been easy for Egan. She once grappled with the idea that perhaps she was never going to hone her skills into one area that would allow her to excel. Early on, Egan recalls telling her mom, "I feel above average at a lot of things, but not really great at one thing. And she told me, 'One day you're going to love being well-rounded.'"

Now, rather than shying away from other artistic pursuits, Egan devotes her downtime to enhancing them.


"The job gives me the freedom I never had with Broadway stuff. I would be asked to audition for films while I was doing plays but I was never available to shoot them. You have to be there eight shows a week every week. You get one or two weeks off per year. But in television, you have this long hiatus, which allows you to do other things."

She's currently recording her first solo album of Broadway tunes. The first half was recorded in New York last year, and since 'Nikki' has been picked up through May, she plans to travel to London and finish the last seven songs. A tentative July release date has been set.

She also enjoys writing lyrics, and some of her own songs could appear on the second album, which she says will be more commercial.


Adapting to aspirations

Beyond the singing, acting and dancing, Egan is a self-described "voracious" reader who loves the classics. Writing her own novel is an as yet unrealized dream, she says, although Egan says she may draw on her own experience for a plot in order to fill a void she sees in the literary world.

But Egan's least-known aspiration doesn't involve the arts. It has to do with animals. In fact, furry ones that look like llamas.

Susan Egan
Film credits
•   "The Disappearing Girl Trick," 2001
•   "Man of the Century," 1999
•   "Hercules: Zero to Hero," 1999 (voice)
•   "Lady and the Tramp: Scamp's Adventure," 2001 (voice)
•   "Men Don't Tell," 1993
•   "Deuce Coupe," 1992
•   "Extreme Close-Up," 1990
TV credits
•   "Nikki"
•   "The Drew Carey Show"
•   "Party of Five"
•   "Almost Perfect"
•   "All My Children"

"The biggest thing that no one knows about me is that I long to have an alpaca farm. They've only been in the States for a short time ... they're from South America, and they're adorable. They're really, really friendly and very easy to raise. I just love them."

Whether as an alpaca rancher or a sitcom star, Egan appreciates the renewed need to discover her true self. But she says she's better at adapting now than in the past. Even with the publicity behind a show like 'Nikki,' Egan is maintaining her balance.

"More people see one episode of 'Nikki' than saw all 750 episodes of 'Beauty and the Beast.' So what's surprising me is the image people have of me out here. They now think of me as this sort of fast-talking dame and that makes me laugh.

"But I'm definitely somewhere in the middle."


Pianist on a break: Just call him Barto
April 4, 2001
Glenn Dicterow, concertmaster: 'Music as medicine'
March 29, 2001
Bill Maher: Proud to be 'Politically Incorrect'
March 21, 2001

The WB: 'Nikki'
Susan Egan
Official Susan Egan fan page

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