Daphne Zuniga

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Daphne Zuniga
Daphne Zuniga Photo Op GalaxyCon Raleigh 2019.jpg
Zuniga at GalaxyCon Raleigh in 2019
Daphne Eurydice Zuniga

(1962-10-28) October 28, 1962 (age 60)
San Francisco, California, U.S.
Alma materUniversity of California, Los Angeles
Years active1980–present
Height5 ft 8 in (1.73 m)[1]
David Mleczko
(m. 2019)

Daphne Eurydice Zuniga (/zəˈnɡə/;[2] born October 28, 1962)[3][4] is an American actress. She made her film debut in the 1982 slasher film The Dorm That Dripped Blood (1982) at the age of 19, followed by a lead role in another slasher film The Initiation (1984) two years later.

She went on to star in several comedies, including Rob Reiner's The Sure Thing (1985), opposite John Cusack, and the cult comedies Modern Girls (1986), and Spaceballs (1987). She also starred opposite Lucille Ball in the television drama film Stone Pillow (1986), and in the science-fiction horror sequel The Fly II (1989). Zuniga later gained major exposure as a television actress for her role as Jo Reynolds on the Fox primetime soap opera Melrose Place from 1992 to 1996. Other television credits include roles as Victoria Davis on One Tree Hill (2008–2012), and as Lynn Kerr on the drama series Beautiful People.

Zuniga has been active in environmental issues since the mid-2000s, and was a founding member of the Earth Communications Office. She has also worked with the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Waterkeeper Alliance, and Environment California.[5]

Early life[edit]

Zuniga was born in San Francisco, California[6] on October 28, 1962, to Agnes A. (née Janawicz) and Joaquín Alberto Zúñiga Mazariegos. Her mother is a Unitarian minister, of Polish and Finnish descent,[7] and her father, originally from Guatemala,[8] was an emeritus professor of philosophy at California State University, East Bay.[9][10] Zuniga has a sister, Jennifer Zuniga.

In her early teens, Zuniga expressed interest in acting, and attended the Young Conservatory program of the American Conservatory Theater of San Francisco. After her parents divorced, Zuniga moved with her mother and sister from Berkeley, California, to Reading, Vermont, where she spent the remainder of her teen years.[11] Zuniga graduated from Woodstock Union High School in Woodstock, Vermont, in 1980, after which she returned to California and enrolled at the University of California, Los Angeles to study theater arts. After leaving college, Zuniga was close friends and roommates with fellow actress Meg Ryan.[12]


Early work[edit]

Zuniga made her film debut in Stephen Carpenter's slasher film The Dorm That Dripped Blood (1982), playing a supporting role as a college student. Two years later, she made her lead debut in The Initiation, another college-themed slasher co-starring Vera Miles and Clu Gulager.[13] "It was a great part," Zuniga recalled. "I got to play twins: a good sister and an evil sister. I got shot in the back on-screen. It was pretty heavy for a first role."[13]

She then appeared in the drama Vision Quest (1985), followed by a lead role in Rob Reiner's The Sure Thing (1985), opposite John Cusack.[14] The film was critically praised; critic Roger Ebert said of the film: "The movie industry seems better at teenage movies like Porky's, with its sleazy shower scenes, than with screenplays that involve any sort of thought about the love lives of its characters. That's why The Sure Thing is a small miracle."[15] Shortly after, Zuniga was cast in the television drama film Stone Pillow (1985), playing a social worker in New York City who forms a bond with an elderly homeless woman, played by Lucille Ball.[16] She also appeared in the comedy Modern Girls (1986), opposite Cynthia Gibb and Virginia Madsen.

In 1987, Zuniga was cast as Princess Vespa in Mel Brooks's cult comedy Spaceballs, opposite Rick Moranis, Bill Pullman, and John Candy. Though the film received mixed critical reception,[17] it later garnered a cult following. The next year, Zuniga appeared in a lead role in the blockbuster horror film The Fly II (1988), followed by the drama-comedy Staying Together (1989), and as a med student opposite Matthew Modine in the drama Gross Anatomy (1989).

Melrose Place, film, and television[edit]

In 1992, she was cast as Jo Reynolds in the Fox soap opera Melrose Place, and appeared on the show as a recurring character until 1996. The role garnered Zuniga major exposure to television audiences, though her television career had begun in the early eighties with a minor role on Family Ties (1984) as a girlfriend of Alex P. Keaton.[18] She also appeared in the 1995 miniseries Degree of Guilt.[19]

In 1994, Zuniga appeared in the release of a video for Bob Seger's previously released 1976 hit "Night Moves".[20] In the video version of the song, she and a pre-Friends Matt LeBlanc are shown in a 1960s drive-in theater, where Zuniga as a dark, edgy young woman becomes a visual fascination for LeBlanc as a clean-cut young man. In 2000, Zuniga appeared as a bartender in the music video for Evan and Jaron's single "Crazy for This Girl".

Later, Zuniga would work as a voice actor on the animated television series Stories from My Childhood (1998), and also had a lead role in the miniseries Pandora's Clock (1996), an action thriller filmed in Seattle, Washington.[21]

From 2005 to 2006, she was cast as Lynn Kerr on the ABC family series Beautiful People, and also had a recurring role in the series American Dreams.[22] She also appeared in a recurring role as Victoria Davis on The CW series One Tree Hill between 2008 and 2012, appearing in over forty episodes. During this time, she appears in several made-for-television movies including Secret Lives (2005), The Obsession (2006), Christmas Do-Over (2006), Mail Order Bride (2008), and On Strike for Christmas (2010).[23]

In 2007, Zuniga co-produced and co-directed (with Steven Latham) the documentary "The Future We Will Create: Inside the World of TED" — a look at the annual Technology, Entertainment and Design conference held in Monterey, California. She also starred in the scripted web series Novel Adventures, which premiered November 3, 2008 from CBS Interactive.[24][25] In February and March 2008, Zuniga appeared onstage in a production of The Scene by Theresa Rebeck, at the San Francisco Playhouse.[26]

Zuniga reprised her role as Princess Vespa from the 1987 film Spaceballs, by voice-over in the television spin-off Spaceballs: The Animated Series. She also reprised her role from Melrose Place in an updated version, but it was short-lived, as the series was cancelled after just one season in 2009–10. She starred in 2010 in the hit Hallmark Channel film A Family Thanksgiving. In 2013, Zuniga appeared as a postal worker in the Hallmark Channel series Signed, Sealed, Delivered, as well as the television film based on the series and in Gone Missing with Lauren Bowles.

Zuniga appeared in a guest starring role in the VH1 scripted series Hindsight as Libby.[27] In 2016, she was cast in a new TV movie for Hallmark Channel, When Duty Calls, with Judd Nelson and Daniella Monet.

More recently,[when?] Daphne Zuniga starred in Heartbeats, Witness Unprotected and A Christmas Arrangement with Miles Fisher.

In 2018, Zuniga directed her first feature film, The Protégé, with Keenan Tracey and Jeannette Sousa.[28] It was released in 2019 under the title Deadly Assistant.[29]

In 2019, she co-starred in the television film Gates Of Paradise, opposite Lizzie Boys and Jason Priestley, and Christmas In Paris with Karl E. Ländler.

In 2020, she was a guest star in NCIS as Stacy Gordon, Navy commander.

In 2021, she was a guest star in Fantasy Island as Margot, with her old Melrose Place co-stars Josie Bissett and Laura Leighton.

In 2022, Zuniga appeared on Dynasty as Sonya Jackson.

Environmental activism[edit]

Zuniga has cited her family's camping trips to Yosemite National Park and Yellowstone as sparking her lifelong interest in the environment.[30] "The planet does nothing but support us," she said in a 2007 interview, "and we are constantly committing crimes against nature."[18]

Zuniga has supported several environmental campaigns. In 2009, she was appointed by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles River Revitalization Corporation, a not-for-profit development corporation charged with catalyzing sustainable development along the Los Angeles River.[31][32]

Zuniga was a founding member of the Earth Communications Office (ECO), and has worked with the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Waterkeeper Alliance, and Environment California.[5]

Personal life[edit]

Zuniga's younger sister Jennifer, also an actress, debuted in the film A Woman, Her Men, and Her Futon (1992). Zuniga attends private Buddhist meditation retreats to manage stress in her life.[18]

In 2004, Zuniga suffered from mercury poisoning, which she attributed to overconsumption of fish. She said she had eaten sushi four times in the week prior to being taken to the emergency room and that her symptoms included weak memory, headaches, crying spells, skin rashes, and mild depression.[33] After her diagnosis, Zuniga stopped consuming fish in addition to other meat.[18]

Zuniga began dating businessman David Mleczko, whom she met on a blind date, in 2006.[34] The two married in a private ceremony in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on June 8, 2019.[34]



Year Title Role Notes
1982 The Dorm That Dripped Blood Debbie
1984 The Initiation Kelly Fairchild/Terry Fairchild
1985 Vision Quest Margie Epstein
The Sure Thing Alison Bradbury
1986 Modern Girls Margo
1987 Spaceballs Princess Vespa
1988 Last Rites Angela
1989 The Fly II Beth Logan
Staying Together Beverly Young
Gross Anatomy Laurie Rorbach
1992 Mad at the Moon Young Mrs. Miller
Prey of the Chameleon Patricia / Elizabeth Burrows
1993 Eight Hundred Leagues Down the Amazon Minha
1994 Charlie's Ghost Story Ronda
Cityscrapes: Los Angeles Chantal
1997 Naked in the Cold Sun Rini
Stand-ins Shirley
2000 Artificial Lies Karen Wettering
Enemies of Laughter Judy
2005 Secret Lives Jill Thompson
2006 A-List Tina
2008 Mail Order Bride Diana McQueen
2010 Seducing Charlie Barker Stella
2012 Changing Hearts Christina Riley
2013 Gone Missing Rene
A Remarkable Life Tracy
2014 Monkey in the Middle Olive
2015 Summer Forever Sophie
Occupy Alice Cindy Lowe Short
2016 Who's Driving Doug Alison
Beyond Paradise Elana
Search Engines Kate
Those Left Behind Shelly
2017 Heartbeats Michelle Andrews
2018 Witness Unprotected Sam
2018 A Christmas Arrangement Blair Covington
2018 Abigail Falls Anne
2019 Christmas in Paris Kate Fortune


Year Title Role Notes
1983 Quarterback Princess Kim Maida Television film
1984 Family Ties Rachel Miller 2 episodes
1985 Stone Pillow Carrie Lang Television film
1989 Nightmare Classics Irene Marlowe Episode: "The Eyes of the Panther"
1992–1996 Melrose Place Jo Reynolds 110 episodes
1993 The Hidden Room Elizabeth Mahern Episode: "The Faithful Follower"
1994 Models Inc. Jo Reynolds Episode: "Pilot"
1995 Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child Cinderella (voice) Episode: "Cinderella"
1995 Degree of Guilt Teresa 'Terri' Peralta Television film
1996 Pandora's Clock Dr. Roni Sanders Television film
1997 Johnny Bravo Gabrielle (voice) Episode: "My Fair Dork"
Dead Man's Gun Lillian / Tanya Episode: "Black Widow"
Spin City Carrie Episode: "Hot in the City"
Loss of Faith Claire Hainey Television film
1998 Spin City Carrie Episode: "It Happened One Night"
Stories from My Childhood Episode: "Ivan and His Magic Pony"
1999 The Outer Limits Juliette Kagan Episode: "Essence of Life"
Batman Beyond Lula (voice) Episode: "Once Burned"
2000 Batman Beyond April Moon (voice) Episode: "April Moon"
Stark Raving Mad Dr. Anne Russo Episode: "Therapy"
2003 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Emma Dishell Episode: "Abomination"
Eve Mrs. King Episode: "Twas the Fight Before Christmas"
Ghost Dog: A Detective Tail Amanda Morton Television film
2004–2005 American Dreams Shelly Pierce 14 episodes
2005–2006 Beautiful People Lynn Kerr 16 episodes
2006 Christmas Do-Over Jill Television film
2006 The Obsession Deborah Matthews Television film
2007 Nip/Tuck Carly Summers Episode: "Carly Summers"
2007–2009 Spaceballs: The Animated Series Princess Vespa (voice) Main role
2008 Novel Adventures Laura French 8 episodes
2008–2012 One Tree Hill Victoria Davis Recurring role
2009-2010 Melrose Place Jo Reynolds 2 episodes
2010 A Family Thanksgiving Claudia Television film
On Strike for Christmas Joy Robertson Television film
2013 Signed, Sealed, Delivered Andrea Shmeckle Television film
2015 Hindsight Libby Episode: "The Cranberries"
2016 When Duty Calls Carol Lawton Television film
My Husband Is Missing Ann Bradshaw Television film
2017 The Wrong Babysitter Susan Television film
2019 Gates of Paradise Nurse Broadfield Television film
2020 NCIS Navy Commander Stacy Gordon Episode: "Lonely Hearts"
2021 Fantasy Island Margot Episode: "The Big Five Oh"
2022 Dynasty Sonya Jackson 2 episodes


  1. ^ Kornblut, Anne E. (October 29, 1995). "MAN TROUBLE? NOT ME, SAYS DAPHNE 'MELROSE PLACE' STAR'S LIFE IS VERY DIFFERENT FROM TROUBLED ROLES". Daily News. New York. Retrieved August 21, 2016.
  2. ^ "Tips for Clean Air Living". South Coast AQMD. October 12, 2012. Retrieved September 8, 2022.
  3. ^ "Today in History by the Associated Press". North Adams Transcript. The Associated Press. October 28, 1996. p. 7. Actress Daphne Zuniga is 34.
  4. ^ "Today in History by the Associated Press". The Index-Journal. Greenwood, South Carolina. The Associated Press. October 28, 1997. p. 9A. Actress Daphne Zuniga is 35.
  5. ^ a b "Daphne Zuniga". The Huffington Post. Retrieved August 22, 2016.
  6. ^ "Daphne E Zuniga, Born 10/28/1962 in California | CaliforniaBirthIndex.org". www.californiabirthindex.org. Retrieved August 8, 2019.
  7. ^ "Daphne Zuniga Biography (1962?-)". Filmreference.com. Retrieved July 13, 2012.
  8. ^ "Daphne Zuniga displays snob appeal in 'Spaceballs'". Chicago Sun-Times. June 28, 1987. Retrieved October 15, 2012.
  9. ^ "Emeritus Professors" Archived July 26, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, Department of Philosophy, California State University, East Bay, website
  10. ^ Gale, Thomson (August 1992). Who's who Among Hispanic Americans - Google Books. ISBN 9780810376045. Retrieved March 3, 2014 – via Google Books.
  11. ^ "Vermont History: Daphne Zuniga". Virtual Vermont. Retrieved September 4, 2016.
  12. ^ "Daphne Zuniga Biography". TV Guide. Retrieved August 22, 2016.
  13. ^ a b Burke-Block, Candace (June 22, 1987). "Actress Daphne Zuniga: 'I Want To Be A Chameleon'". Sun-Sentinel. Archived from the original on August 26, 2016. Retrieved May 2, 2015.
  14. ^ Pecchia, David (February 4, 1989). "No Sure Things". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 5, 2016.
  15. ^ Ebert, Roger (May 1, 1985). "The Sure Thing Movie Review". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved September 3, 2016.
  16. ^ O'Connor, John J. "TV Reviews; Lucille Ball Plays A Bag Lady On CBS", The New York Times, November 5, 1985
  17. ^ "Spaceballs (1987)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved September 5, 2016.
  18. ^ a b c d Myers, Jack (September 21, 2007). "Beautiful People's Daphne Zuniga: Facing Her Fears and Ready to Fall in Love". Media Village. Retrieved September 4, 2016.
  19. ^ HER STRENGTH HITS NEW 'DEGREE, October 29, 1995, Daily News of Los Angeles
  20. ^ Childers, Chad. "Matt LeBlanc in 'Night Moves' by Bob Seger". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved September 4, 2016.
  21. ^ Gerard, Jeremy (November 7, 1996). "Review: 'Pandora's Clock'". Variety. Retrieved September 4, 2016.
  22. ^ Bobbin, Jay, "Daphne Zuniga Has 'American Dreams'", October 3, 2004, Zap2It.com News
  23. ^ "Mail Order Bride". Metacafe.com. Retrieved July 13, 2012.
  24. ^ "Novel Adventures". Noveladventures.cbs.com. Archived from the original on February 18, 2012. Retrieved July 13, 2012.
  25. ^ "Insider: biography of her character, Laura". Archived from the original on November 18, 2008. Retrieved August 8, 2019.
  26. ^ Tristan Fuge, "Daphne Zuniga to Star in San Francisco Playhouse's The Scene", Theatre Mania, January 4, 2008
  27. ^ Black, Elizabeth (November 20, 2014). "VH1's 'Hindsight' Takes You Back To The '90s". VH1. Retrieved September 5, 2016.
  28. ^ N'Duka, Amanda (December 13, 2018). "Daphne Zuniga To Helm 'The Protegé'; Gravitas Lands 'The Divorce Party'; Ramses Jimenez In 'Critical Thinking' – Film Briefs". Deadline.
  29. ^ "Deadly Assistant". IMDb.
  30. ^ Miller, Jenesse (November 28, 2011). "Her Most Important Role: Daphne Zuniga, Environmentalist". EcoVote. Retrieved September 2, 2016.
  31. ^ "LA River Revitalization Corporation, The Board". Archived from the original on August 7, 2012. Retrieved October 15, 2012.
  32. ^ "Daphne Zuniga Opens Up About Mindfulness And Finding Love In ORIGIN Magazine". The Huffington Post. October 13, 2013. Retrieved September 2, 2016.
  33. ^ Liz Borod Wright, "Actress Describes Mercury Poisoning Ordeal: Daphne Zuniga Was Eating a High Seafood Diet, ABC News, October 21, 2005
  34. ^ a b Jordan, Julie (June 8, 2019). "Just Married! Melrose Place Alum Daphne Zuniga Weds Her Longtime Beau David Mleczko". People. Archived from the original on June 9, 2019.

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