Childhood & Early Life
She was born on October 28, 1962, in San Francisco, California, US, to Joaquin Alberto Zuniga Mazariegos, an emeritus professor of philosophy at the ‘California State University,’ East Bay, and Agnes A. Zuniga (née Janawicz), a Unitarian minister. Her younger sister Jennifer Zuniga is also an actor.
She is of mixed ancestry with Polish and Finnish descent from her mother’s side and Guatemalan descent from her father’s side.
She developed an interest in acting at a young age and undertook the ‘Young Conservatory’ program at the San Francisco- based acting school and large non-profit theater company, ‘American Conservatory Theater.’
Following the divorce of her parents, she and her younger sister relocated to Reading, Vermont, from Berkeley, California, along with their mother. She attended the ‘Woodstock Union High School’ in Woodstock, Vermont, from where she completed her graduation in 1980.
She then moved back to California to study theater arts from the ‘University of California,’ Los Angeles.
The first big-screen opportunity for Daphne was in the supporting role of Debbie in the 1982 American slasher film ‘The Dorm That Dripped Blood.’
In 1983, she appeared in theTV film ‘Quarterback Princess.’ Over the years, she has featured in many other TV films, which include ‘Stone Pillow’ (1985), ‘Pandora's Clock’ (1996), ‘Christmas Do-Over’ (2006), ‘A Family Thanksgiving’ (2010) and ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered’ (2013), among many others.
Her lead film debut happened with the 1984 slasher film ‘The Initiation,’ where she played the double role of twin sisters, Kelly Fairchild and Terry Fairchild, starring along with Clu Gulager, Vera Miles and Hunter Tylo. Recollecting her portrayals in the film, she said, "It was pretty heavy for a first role."
The NBC-aired American sitcom ‘Family Ties’ marked her debut in television. She featured in two of its episodes, titled ‘Double Date’ and ‘The Graduate,’ which were broadcast in 1984.
Her next starring role was that of Alison Bradbury in the 1985 American romantic comedy ‘The Sure Thing.’ The film, which also had John Cusack and Viveca Lindfors in leading roles, garnered positive reviews from critics and went on to become a commercial hit, grossing more than $18 million at the box office. That year, she also featured in the American coming-of-age drama ‘Vision Quest.’
The 1986 comedy ‘Modern Girls’ saw her tickling the funny bones of the audience, along with the likes of Virginia Madsen, Cynthia Gibb and Clayton Rohner.
She followed this up with the role of Princess Vespa in the 1987 American comic science-fiction film ‘Spaceballs,’ which emerged as a cult classic on video, over the years. The film, which was co-written, produced, directed, and starred in by Mel Brooks, became a commercial hit and is marked among the most popular films of Brooks.
Daphne then furthered her fame with the lead role of Beth Logan in the 1989 American science-fiction horror ‘The Fly II,’ a sequel of the Oscar-winning 1986 film, ‘The Fly.’ The film, in which she starred along with Eric Stoltz, Lee Richardson, Harley Cross, and John Getz, became a blockbuster hit, grossing $38.9 million at the box office.
In 1989, she also appeared in the American comedy-drama ‘Staying Together,’ the American drama ‘Gross Anatomy,’ and the episode ‘The Eyes of the Panther,’ from the American anthology series ‘Nightmare Classics.’
After almost a decade in showbiz, Daphne landed up with perhaps the most memorable role of her career, Jo Reynolds, in the popular American prime-time soap opera ‘Melrose Place.’ She started appearing in the series from the fifteenth episode of the first season in 1992 and went on to play the role till its fourth season in 1996. The recurring role brought Daphne widespread recognition as a TV actor.
She has also worked as a voice artist. Some such works include the role of Cinderella in the episode ‘Cinderella’ of the animated television series ‘Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child’ (1995), the role of Gabrielle in the episode ‘I Used to Be Funny/My Fair Dork/'Twas the Night’ of the animated TV series ‘Johnny Bravo’ (1997), and the role of Lula in the episode ‘Once Burned’ of the animated TV series ‘Batman Beyond’ (1999).
She also lent her voice to the character of Princess Vespa in the animated TV series ‘Spaceballs: The Animated Series’ (2007-2009), and to the character of Jo Reynolds in the drama TV series ‘Melrose Place’ (2009, 2010), reprising her roles from the film ‘Spaceballs’ (1987) and the series ‘Melrose Place’ (1992-1996), respectively.
Daphne, along with Steven Latham, produced and directed the 2007 documentary ‘The Future We Will Create: Inside the World of TED.’
Her on-stage endeavors include appearing in the play ‘The Scene’ by Theresa Rebeck in its stage production at the ‘San Francisco Playhouse’ in February and March, 2008.
Over the years she has featured in several other notable productions, including TV series ‘American Dreams’ (2004–2005), ‘Beautiful People’ (2005–2006), and ‘One Tree Hill’ (2008–2012); television movie ‘Mail Order Bride’ (2008); and films ‘Summer Forever’ (2015), ‘Who's Driving Doug’ (2016) and ‘Beyond Paradise’ (2016).
She had to be treated for mercury poisoning in 2004. She said that it was caused due to excessive consumption of fish, and subsequently, she ceased to eat fish and other meat.
She engages herself in environmental activism and backs different campaigns on environmentalism. She mentioned that she had developed a lasting interest in the environment after her family camping trips to the ‘Yosemite National Park’ and ‘Yellowstone.’
Speaking on environment, she said in a 2007 interview that, "The planet does nothing but support us," and that, " …we are constantly committing crimes against nature."
She is one of the founders of the ‘Earth Communications Office’ (ECO). In 2009, the then Mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, inducted her to the ‘Board of Directors’ of the ‘Los Angeles River Revitalization Corporation.’ She has also remained associated with ‘Environment California,’ the ‘Waterkeeper Alliance’ and the ‘Natural Resources Defense Council.’
This elegant diva eases her pressure and stress in life by visiting Buddhist meditation retreats.