Melissa Claire Egan, famous for playing Annie on “All My Children” and Chelsea on “The Young and the Restless,” graduated from UNC with a degree in dramatic art in 2003. Features Editor Brinley Lowe asked Egan about her career and time at UNC.
The Daily Tar Heel: When did you get you get your start in TV?
Melissa Claire Egan: I started auditioning as a kid at about 10-years-old for fun as a hobby (in New York City). I always knew I wanted to go to college. I was going to do this later in life. I knew I wanted to enjoy my childhood and do the school plays and play lacrosse and be on the swim team and do those real life things — but I loved acting since I was very young. But my parents were like, ‘You’re going to college,’ and I was like, ‘I know.’ I had taken acting classes in New York with more of a conservatory kind of feel, and that’s why I knew I did not want to go to a conservatory for college. I wanted an all-around education. I knew I wanted to be in classes with other people who weren’t actors.
I’ve always said the best acting class is living your life.
DTH: How were you involved on campus?
MCE: I did three shows a year, so that took up most of my extracurricular time. I would rehearse four hours a night.
It was a great feeling of being a team and working on the show for months at a time, and then presenting it was just so thrilling. And then you’re also doing your acting classes all year long too.
DTH: How does that differ from your work now as a soap opera actress?
MCE: I always say it’s the closest thing to doing a play because there’s so much to do and we don’t have any reruns. Every day, you essentially get one take unless somebody drops their line. You’ve got to get your blocking in the moment. All the cameras are on at once. And then the next day, you do a new play. It’s not like you get four days to do a scene. I love that pace. There’s no down time. You have to be on your A-game all the time.
DTH: Was it a big adjustment to have to memorize lines that quickly?
MCE: That is one big difference. Obviously if you’re doing a play, you’re doing the same play every day. People think there are cue cards—and there’s none of that. There’s no cue cards, there’s no teleprompter. Going into it 10 years ago, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is crazy!’ but you get used to it. Your brain is a muscle. You get used to learning lines very quickly.
DTH: After college, what was the first role that you played?
MCE: I moved to LA a month after I graduated. I did a lot of commercials. I did a Taco Bell commercial and it ended up being a Super Bowl commercial. I didn’t know so I was just watching the Super Bowl and I happened to be on. No one bothered to let me know.
When I was in college, I got an agent in Greensboro so I could audition in Wilmington. There were a lot of early mornings of me driving to Wilmington in the dark — two and a half hours for an audition — and not get it, and then I’d drive two and a half hours back. There are so many people who want this career, and you have to really pay for it and work extra hard.
DTH: What is your favorite character that you’ve played?
MCE: That’s like picking a child. It would be obviously between Annie on “All My Children” and who I play now, Chelsea on “The Young and the Restless.” It’s hard because they’re both such fun characters and they’re the ones I’ve played for such long periods of time. I always say, you want the opposite of what you want in real life on these shows. You want divorce, you want someone cheating on you, because it’s just a fun thing to play.
DTH: How has your time at UNC impacted you?
MCE: I still joke that I’m jealous of any students at UNC because I loved it so much. I learned so much as a person. I get such nostalgia watching a Carolina basketball game or anything. I met so many incredible people, incredible friends that I’m still best friends with. The four years — they go by so fast, but they just change your life.