When you think of family road trips, there is only one film that comes to mind: National Lampoon’s Vacation. Dana Barron will forever be engrained in our collective psyche as the original and sweet Audrey Griswold. Just as adorable (and tiny!) now as she was when she was 15, Celebrity Parents caught up with Dana at her mother Joyce’s NYC apartment. We spoke with Dana about Vacation, her many businesses, and her super cool pants (she made them especially for the cover shoot!)
When did you get your start in acting?
I started acting when I was 10, doing simple commercials. In my family, I’m the fifth generation of family performers. My grandfather was an opera singer, and my Mom came from Alabama to be an actress. My father, Robert Barron, started the first commercial and soap opera acting for television school in the world: The Weist-Barron School of Television.
I told my father that I wanted to get into the business. My sister, Allison, had been doing commercials. She’s the blonde hair, blue-eyed girl, and I’m the girl next door. By the time I was 11, I was on Broadway in Hide and Seek with Christine Baranski. My first film I did was He Knows You’re Alone, with Tom Hanks. It was his first film, too. It was a horror film, and every time he sees me now, he screams! [laughs]
And after that you did National Lampoon’s Vacation. That movie is a classic.
The movie is still one of the top comedies of all time. I think people can relate to the story. You feel for the family; you know what it’s like to be in the car with your kids. That film was such a special time in all of our lives.
Why was it special for you?
It was definitely because of the people I was working with. It was the 80’s and it was so much fun. I was young and wide-eyed. I got to work with not only Beverly and Chevy, but also Imogene Coca, who was a true legend. While the movie was about a vacation, it felt like we were on one, too. We went to four different states to film the movie. We went horse back riding with Christie Brinkley. We would hang out together often; we were all friends.
You reprised the role of Audrey in another National Lampoon’s movie.
I did reprise it 20 years later when I played with Randy Quaid in Cousin Eddie’s Island Adventure for NBC.
What was it like to return to the role two decades later?
It was fun and sad. Sad because I wasn’t with Beverly and Chevy. We are all still very close. My son Taylor plays with Beverly’s twins, Anton and Olivia. We are still a real family. I still speak to Chevy and his wife, and Michael [Anthony Michael Hall] and I call each other.
Is it true that they are making a new National Lampoon movie?
Yes. New Line Cinema has bought the rights to do a new Vacation movie. They’re looking at scripts right now.
Would you want to play Audrey again?
You know that we have to talk about 90210, right?[laughs] Yes, that was the height of the craziness. I walked into a successful show. It had already been on for four years. I loved my character, Nikki Witt. I got to make my own clothes, and tweak my lines. She was so young and free, open and artistic. She was hip in her own cool way. I also did a show called Magnificent Seven. I got to horseback ride and lasso things. I played a tomboy character who didn’t want to wear dresses and was rebellious and fun. I also did another horseback riding show in France.
Horses are recurring theme in your life.
Yes, I love them.
People may not know this, but you also have done extensive work as a producer.
After working for a while as an actress, I began producing, and have been doing it for many years. That’s how I met my husband, Michael. He’s a writer and a director. His passion is directing but he’s engrained in his writing. It’s his skill. He’s an amazing writer. He wrote the mini series Impact that was recently on ABC.
I saw it! It was amazing.
He’s very talented! He just did a Lifetime movie called Everything She’s Ever Wanted. Gina Gershon starred in it.
You’re also deeply involved with the non-profit organization United in Harmony.
I have been working with them for 15 years now. They have a camp that they run three times a year. It is 200-300 six to eleven year-olds who unfortunately are homeless. We bring them to Camp Harmony in Malibu and we do so many different things with them. For many, it’s the first time they’ve seen the ocean, or had three meals a day. At Christmas time, we give them gifts. I try to get as many celebrities as possible to teach the acting portion of the program. Hilary Swank has helped us, as well as Dustin Hoffman’s child. My friend Thomas Calabro, who is now on Melrose Place again, helps, too. I’ve brought Taylor with me to the camp so he can help as well. He has helped sort toys, and I hope that will be a passion of his, as it is mine.
It’s wonderful that you’ve shown a true dedication to volunteerism.
I’ve always done volunteer work. I worked as a teacher for kids who were wards of the state while I was filming 90210.
What other projects do you have coming up?[laughs] A lot! I’m still producing, auditioning, and I have two projects coming out this year. One is a film called The Invited with Lou Diamond Phillips and the other is an indie called HappyThankYouMorePlease. I’m also working on two businesses, and I wrote a book that I am hoping to get published.
Between the camp, your many jobs, and your family life, how do you find your balance?
That’s a good question. I’ve worked since I was little. During my career, I’ve done over 70+ projects. Now as a mom, it’s different. Taylor is almost four, and he’s a very active little boy. He just won’t sit and color. So I do a lot of work in the early mornings or late at night. I love being a mom, but part of my happiness comes from working, too. I’ve learned, though, that it’s okay to not have each project done perfectly. I’ve realized that nothing is ever as hard as it looks, and once you get over the fear, you just have to get in there and do it. As a person, as a woman, I do this for myself. It is definitely a hard balancing act, but it is a joyful one at the same time.