A Life Less OrdinaryBy Elaine Flores Posted: Sep 15, 2003
When Eden Riegel describes herself as an "average girl," one has to ask if she can possibly be serious. "I can," she insists. "Emotionally, I've gone through what everybody else has."Perhaps. But when it comes to life experience, she's way ahead of most of us. The Virginia native joined a 26-city tour of Les Miserables at age 7 and was on Broadway within a year. Her lengthy resume; includes the role of Patti D'Arbanville's (ex-Selena, GUIDING LIGHT) character's daughter on NEW YORK UNDERCOVER, and a part in the hit comedy American Pie. Her voice has been heard on a number of recordings, including Michael Jackson's HIStory. And we haven't even gotten to Harvard, the White House internship and her groundbreaking role as ALL MY CHILDREN's Bianca.Of course, Riegel has been shrugging off comments that her life isn't average since she was a little girl. Watching her brother, Sam, act made Riegel want to do the same, and both kids ended up touring the country in Les Miz. He played Gavroche; she, young Cosette. "I learned a lot. I grew up quickly," notes Riegel. "Everybody would always say, 'You know, you're not having a normal childhood.' And I always said, 'This is normal to me. And I like it.' People who didn't really know anything about me and my family would say, 'Don't you miss going to regular school and playing soccer and stuff like that?' I was like, 'I guess I do, but I'm getting so much in return.' I was treated like an adult, and I was expected to deal with the responsibility of having a job and getting there on time and doing the work even if you're not feeling so great. But it was always my choice, so I loved it. My mom would have taken me out of it in a second if I said, 'I don't want to do this anymore.' "After a year on the road, it looked like the Riegels were headed back home to Virginia. Riegel explains, "My brother got too big and Les Miz didn't want to break up the family by having me continue on the road and my brother go home." But there was a surprise ahead: Riegel was bound for the Great White Way. "The way that they told me I got the role on Broadway, it was very bizarre. They didn't tell anybody: not my mom, nobody. One day, we're in our last city. They're calling half-hour call. 'Ladies and gentleman, this is your half-hour call.' And at the end of the call, for some reason, they say, 'We'd like to inform you all that Eden Riegel is going to be moving on after the show and going to the Broadway company.' And I was like, 'What?' It was one of those moments. The men's chorus, they were all in their dressing room. They ushered me in, and they all gathered around me and sang, 'Give My Regards to Broadway.' I was crying and crying. That is really my fondest memory of the road."Riegel's mom sold her business of day-care centers, and the two moved to the Big Apple. Before long, Sam had a Broadway role and joined them in New York. "My dad wasn't too thrilled to see us go, but this was something we really wanted to do."Life in the city was far different than anything the young actress had experienced before. "When Les Miz brought me to New York, I started doing commercials and TV stuff and some movies here and there, and I supported myself because if I couldn't pay for the apartment and tuition and things like that, then I'd just have to go back to Virginia."Schooling didn't suffer because while working, Riegel attended Professional Children's School in New York. And when the time came, she decided to give higher learning a try. Riegel recalls: "I decided that I didn't want to continue with acting without looking into my options. I'd experienced so much, but I didn't want to look back in 30 years and say, 'I wish that I had gone to college. I wish that I had seen what else is out there.' So, I applied to college. I got into Harvard. I visited Harvard. I loved it so much. I felt really at home. I filmed American Pie the week before freshman week. I thought, 'I love this world, but I'm going to see another world.' And so I did, and I love the academic environment. I studied really hard and I fell in love with politics."