We had the good fortune of connecting with Gina Daidone and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Gina, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Taking risks means facing your fears. It also means being open to new possibilities. Since I was a kid, I’ve always been a risk-taker…much to the distress of my parents. I was the kind of child that climbed high up in trees or on the monkey bars at the playground. I wanted to explore the woods behind my relative’s house, ride my bike too fast, jump out of planes, and try all the new things I could get my hands on. I perpetually had cuts on my knees and mysterious bruises everywhere else. I learned very young that risk makes life more interesting.
Many of the most important parts of my life have involved risk, from my personal relationships, to career goals, to moving across the country from my hometown. I’d rather live a life of risk and intrigue than playing it safe. That has served me well sometimes, and other times, not so much. I’ve watched people I care about take the safe route, afraid to take a chance and remain miserably stagnant in their lives. I’ve seen others who took a risk, leaping with blind faith into the unknown, only to crash and burn spectacularly. I’ve come to understand there is no formula to whether or not the risks we take will pay off as we hope.
I’ve found that most everyone in the creative career field is a risk-taker. Since our jobs are often short-term or project based, and not guaranteed, we struggle with having a sense of stability on a regular basis, but we do it because we absolutely love the work and don’t want to sacrifice our happiness and feeling of fulfillment to do anything else. That rose comes with many thorns, because we don’t always have the luxury to dedicate all of our time and energy to our craft. There’s rarely PTO for vacation, or a 401K, or other benefits associated with more “secure” career fields, and we often have take on survival jobs just to pay the bills which become exhausting distractions from the work we really want to be doing. No, the benefits that come with being a creative aren’t always something you can quantify so precisely.
As a kid the stakes are fairly low. Then you get older and experience broken bones (and hearts), gain adult responsibilities, have others depending on you, and suddenly it’s not just about your wants and needs anymore, so you must learn to use risk strategically. Ultimately, 9 times out of 10, I would still choose risk if given the choice. I choose to allow things to play out as the universe intends, even if I don’t always immediately see the reason behind how or why something happened. When I am old and gray, I’d rather reflect on my life and know that I took risks and experienced the outcome, instead of looking back with regrets and thoughts of what might have been.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
There are so many words to describe who I am professionally and what I do: actor, writer, producer, editor, content creator. Ultimately, it’s all storytelling. These days, my time is mostly divided between writing screenplays, acting classes, and auditions. I’m super excited for the projects that I’m working on and the possibilities of what they will become, for the productions that I’m already cast in, and for the ones I’ll someday work on that I’m not even aware of yet. I also really enjoy keeping busy by helping others further themselves and develop their own brands. Sometimes that means writing blurbs for websites or scenes for demo reels, sometimes that means being a reader for a friend’s self tape audition or providing feedback on their portfolio or editing resumes and cover letters. I love helping people help themselves because if you invest in others and truly believe in their potential, that support doesn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated.
I never thought I’d be here professionally. I’ve always been obsessed with storytelling through art. As a kid, I absorbed books, movies, and TV shows like it was my job. At the time, I didn’t even think about the possibility of it actually being my job someday. Growing up, I watched a lot of Star Trek with my dad, so obviously I wanted to be an astronaut and explore new civilizations amongst the stars. Then I found out how much math and science are involved…dammit Jim, I’m a creative, not a doctor. I love animals, so at one point I wanted to be a veterinarian or a zoo keeper. Sadly, I’m way too sensitive to handle the sick or injured ones. I still wanted to be taken to parts unknown, even if it wasn’t outer space, so I traded one rabbit hole for another; I became a journalist. I was romanced by the idea of an exciting life as a news reporter, the likes of Lois Lane and Hemingway. I reported on crime and punishment, mischief and mayhem for almost 3 years before deciding it wasn’t the type of storytelling I wanted to be a part of anymore.
Eventually, I accepted that my skill set revolved around words, images, and feelings; creating new and interesting worlds to explore while connecting to others by exchanging knowledge and ideas, and mutually expanding our understanding of the world. Professionally and personally, I want to be known for being passionate and adaptable; as a risk-taker, an adventure and knowledge seeker, someone who isn’t actually always as confident as she may seem, but who still tries to be open and vulnerable even when it’s terrifying. I want to show others that it’s okay to be afraid, as long as you still face your fears, otherwise you’re not living your most true life.
Whether in front of the camera or behind the scenes, being a storyteller is cathartic and engrossing, ridiculous and frustrating, all at once. It often forces me to look at parts of myself in ways that aren’t always comfortable, but always necessary in bringing the best of myself to a project and producing a final product that everyone involved can be proud of, and inspired by.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Well, a pre-Covid itinerary might look a bit different, considering options are slightly more limited these days. There’d be a lot more social activities such as dancing in Weho, house parties, live music and comedy shows, etc. Fortunately, living in SoCal, there are still so many outdoor activities to enjoy that are pretty Covid-safe and likely would’ve made my list anyway.
I’d take visiting friends biking or roller skating at Manhattan or Hermosa beach, or drive up PCH over to Point Dume in Malibu to climb the cliffs for sunset. We would listen to music and play in the sand, throwing a Frisbee or kicking a soccer ball around. I’d take them to walk the Santa Monica pier just for the heck of it or wander through the Venice boardwalk, where there’s always good people watching.
Another day we’d picnic in the park (Kenneth Hahn is one of my low-key favorites), or go hiking at my favorite Griffith trail up to the observatory for a nice view, then wander through Hollywood Blvd for the tourist experience, and pop by the LACMA lights at night for a little photo shoot.
We’d get elotes or ice cream in Echo Park and walk around the lake, then hit up Little Tokyo for sushi and sake, the Arts District breweries, Koreatown for BBQ, or any of Leo’s Taco trucks. I’d take them to the Grove for shopping and explore the stalls at the Farmer’s Market, before happy hour drinks at a patio in Weho or a rooftop spot, probably Mama Shelter or Perch.
If we had enough time, I’d take them to Disney or Universal to run around and be kids again for the day.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My Shoutout is dedicated to my parents and my closest friends both here in LA and back home in NYC, who have been cornerstones for the accomplishments in my life. Without their love and encouragement, I’m not sure where I’d be right now. Self-love is essential on anyone’s journey, but there are days when you simply need someone else to give you that extra boost, to remind you of your power and beauty and worthiness.
I don’t just view my accomplishments as something for me, I see them as evidence of all the amazing people who helped me get through my darkest days and loved me unconditionally, even when I didn’t always have the strength to love myself. Sometimes that meant providing support emotionally, mentally, physically, or even financially. I’m getting sentimental just talking about this because I consider myself so outrageously lucky to have such wonderful people in my life. Sometimes I wonder what I did to deserve that kind of love, then I remember that everybody deserves the kind of love and care that makes their eyes water with gratitude.
Having a solid support system is crucial to success. I believe anyone who says they got to wherever they are in life by doing it alone isn’t being entirely truthful, or at least being very short-sighted. Somewhere along the way, someone helped you get closer to your goals. Especially being in the creative field, there are countless times when I’ve doubted my choices and wanted to give up. The temptation to accept a more “cookie-cutter” existence is ever-present, but the people closest to me have always been supportive of my decisions, even if they don’t always agree or understand at first. They remind me of my past triumphs, of the times when I didn’t think I could go on, but I did and will again. People need people, whether we like to admit it or not. Even Thoreau went back to civilization eventually.
Also, I have to give honorable mention to my dog, a little Foxie Doxie named Ella. For the past 14 years, she has provided cuddles whenever needed, no questions asked or words necessary. Many times she has snuggled up to me while I laid in bed crying, licking my salty cheeks or gently resting our foreheads against each other. Dogs are so pure in the way they love and show affection, it’s truly inspiring. Everyone should get themselves a pet. Animals have SO much to teach humans about how to love and live a simple, happy life. That kind of companionship is priceless.
Oliver Cristian Oscar Da’Vida Jacob Zukowski