When Tucson-born actor Daniel Kennedy prepared to leave Tucson in 2003, bound for New York, the Arizona Daily Star newspaper reported that he was is like a “first-round draft pick in the NBA”. Kennedy was selected to study at New York’s prestigious Juilliard School. Kennedy survived an intense 13-hour round of auditions before he became 1 of only 20 students selected to study at the drama division of the school.
It wasn’t his first audition, though, and he wasn’t picked the first time. The previous year, Kennedy was wait listed at number 21 at Juilliard. He was determined to try again the next year and he worked hard. The hard work paid off, but the hard work didn’t end with his acceptance at the school. He became the first student to major in both drama and vocal arts. His talent for stage acting and opera were further developed at the school.
Kennedy’s first audition after attending Juilliard wasn’t a role in the theatre or in an opera, but it was a shot at the role of Petey Cortlandt on the ABC soap opera All My Children (AMC). The daytime drama played an unusual role in the meeting and courtship of his parents. His mother watched the soap opera between classes with friends at the University of Arizona’s Media Center, where his father worked to support himself through pharmacy school. AMC played a role in the future Daniel Kennedy being born.
The character of Petey Cortlandt on AMC had been portrayed by two younger actors in the years prior. For the new storyline, the former child character was slated to return home as an adult. While his training at Juilliard helped him to land the plum role, he arrived very prepared for the audition. Kennedy presented his own interpretation of the character. He made an impression at the audition. He made a great impression on AMC fans with his debut as Petey in July 2008.
The role was a departure from the amateur dramatic roles and stage work Kennedy had previously undertaken. However, it allowed him showcase his natural flair for comedic acting, a talent that took him in a different direction for a while.
The daytime soap eventually went in a different direction, on many levels, he shared. The show moved to Los Angeles from New York, which provided cheaper production costs for the show in a bad economy. Despite his immense popularity with fans, Kennedy was not invited to move with the show. His character, as well as the active storyline was left hanging with no resolution.
This was not true for Daniel Kennedy, who did not allow himself to be left hanging, he set his sights on working in a different direction, his original direction – but better defined with additional goals. Additionally, he said that he had already fallen in love with the culturally-rich New York City. He began to create opportunities for himself there.
While simultaneously auditioning for roles, he also returned to academic studies. He is enrolled in the City University of New York’s Baccalaureate for Unique and Interdisciplinary Studies, with a full academic scholarship. Kennedy’s interview with the Tucson Citizen was slightly delayed, due to his preparation for the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and other commitments. He shared that his focus paid off. He aced the examination. He is also winding up a 7-month leadership program with Landmark Education, a training and development organization.
He also focuses his attention toward his current internship as an assistant to the Commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA). DCLA the largest funder of culture in the country. His internship allows him to contribute to, and play a part in behind the scenes work for the amazing cultural institutions of New York that he dearly loves.
The internship is also preparing him for his goal to participate in the New York Marathon, believe it or not. Kennedy explains that he incorporated training into his morning commute: “I run for an hour every morning from my apartment in Queens, into Brooklyn, across the Brooklyn Bridge, to City Hall, to the DCLA office.”
He also looks forward to an upcoming internship in Buenos Aires at the National Opera House before he graduates. He won an international grant to study cultural policy there. There is no doubt that Kennedy will have additional acting or singing opportunities while he is away – perhaps a role in a television novella will present itself to the handsome Kennedy. Or, he can put his singing or dance talents to use. Yes, he is also very talented in dance.
After his internship is complete, he plans to return to his apartment in New York and visit his home state of Arizona as much as he possibly can.
Kennedy’s family, his Mexican-American heritage, and his hometown of Tucson are important to him. He was extremely disappointed with Arizona’s recent legislation, SB 1070, which he vocally opposed. About this, Kennedy said, “I was relieved with the intervention of the Department of Justice and Judge Bolton’s subsequent ruling.”
He works hard support the causes that are near and dear to his heart and that allow him to make a difference. He recently became the spokesperson for La Raza’s Youth Leadership, filming a commercial spot recently for the cause. Kennedy is destined for great things. Each conscious step he takes toward his goals are driven by determination, planning, and hard work.
He is grateful for the role of Petey, as well as the opportunity he had to work with, and learn from, his fellow actors on AMC. He truly appreciates the dedication of his fans, who actually started a protest that sparked a “Bring Petey Back to AMC” campaign on Facebook. The grumblings from fans about his character’s absence continues to this very day on soap opera discussion boards. Yet, Kennedy’s fans will support him in bigger roles, which is where Kennedy has intentionally placed his focus.
It doesn’t mean that he would turn down an invitation to continue the much-loved role of Petey – if the direction for himself and the character felt right, and if the timing was right.
The timing of his unanticipated exit from AMC was perfect for Kennedy, who realizes his ability to make a bigger contribution to the world. Speaking about his education, awards and affiliation with La Raza, he emphasized, “Being laid off from AMC was the perfect opportunity to reevaluate my purpose on this earth. All these things that have happened in the past year I credit to my participation at Landmark Education, a training and development organization. In two weeks, I am completing a 7 month-long leadership course that I credit for giving me the tools to create as many possibilities as I want.”
Due to his extraordinary talents and his proven determination, the next major opportunity will present itself to this determined young man from Tucson, at the right place and at the right time – and likely soon.
Learn more about Daniel Kennedy at http://www.officialdanielkennedy.com
Cherlyn Gardner Strong is a freelance writer, who pens a popular blog about the paranormal on the Tucson Citizen. She also contributes off-topic articles, off and on the Tucson Citizen website, on topics ranging from border issues to social networking.