Daphne Zuniga

Daphne Zuniga

Born in Berkley, CA, Zuniga was raised by her single mother, an earthy feminist and Unitarian minister, following her philosophy professor father leaving the family when Zuniga was six. As a teenager, Zuniga and her mother left Berkley, moving east to another crunchy enclave, Vermont, where the teen later graduated from high school.Following graduation, Zuniga returned to California to attend a three-year theater program at UCLA. Studying her craft in Los Angeles was a smart choice, as she started landing no shortage of roles seemingly right off the bat. In 1982, she made her feature film debut in the teen gorefest "The Dorm that Dripped Blood." Guest appearances on "Family Ties" (NBC 1982-89) and parts in several TV movies soon followed, including a role as Helen Hunt's sister in "Quarterback Princess" (CBS, 1983).1985 was a banner year for Zuniga. She starred as a caring social worker who becomes involved with an elderly homeless woman (Lucille Ball) in "The Stone Pillow" (CBS), followed by a role opposite Matthew Modine in "Vision Quest." Better yet, she landed the role of a prissy college student on a road trip with free spirited John Cusack in Rob Reiner's critically acclaimed romantic comedy, "The Sure Thing" (1985). Two years later, she tackled the role of the spoiled Princess Vespa in Mel Brooks' "Star Wars" spoof "Spaceballs" (1987). Although, the movie received lackluster reviews from critics, it ranked as one of Zuniga's most recognizable roles.Over a four-year period, she brought a level of skill and professionalism to her role as perennial victim Jo Reynolds on "Melrose Place." By 1996 Zuniga had grown tired of the direction her character had taken. Jo Reynolds was originally written as a smart, independent motorcycle-riding woman with a successful photography career. But as the show progressed, Jo was increasingly reduced to a victim of multiple failed romances and bizarre circumstances - culminating in her affair with a man who impregnated her, then kidnapped her, causing Jo to retaliate by harpooning and killing him. As if that wasn't bad enough, the resident nut job, Kimberly Shaw (Marcia Cross) had the gall to kidnap Jo's baby, who was later adopted out. Feeling that the producers had done everything that they could to her, Zuniga left in search of saner scripts. She was the first original cast member to leave.After departing the soap, Zuniga, took a self-imposed partial hiatus, continuing to act, but with less frequency. She starred as a doctor in the forgettable medical thriller "Pandora's Clock (NBC, 1996), but she also began to turn her attention toward environmental issues. In 2004, she became a strong voice warning against the dangers of mercury poisoning after becoming an unwitting victim herself. A health conscience vegetarian who studied meditation at Buddhist retreats and practiced yoga, she also ate sushi - a lot of sushi. Eventually, she began to suffer from a variety of mysterious health problems, including memory loss and depression. After eating sushi four times in a week, Zuniga broke out in rash that landed her in the emergency room. Doctors were baffled, but Zuniga had heard a story in the news about mercury poisoning. She had her mercury level tested and discovered that it was well beyond normal. She stopped eating seafood and her health problems ceased.In 2004, Zuniga returned to primetime with a recurring role on "American Dreams" (NBC, 2002-05), playing her first mother part (albeit, a sexy one) who was also a Playboy Club hostess. She then scored an even bigger role, making her full time return to primetime as the mother of two teenage girls in the ABC Family drama "Beautiful People" (2005-06) playing Lynn Kerr, a woman who relocates from New Mexico to New York City with her daughters after being deserted by her husband.