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Julia Montgomery Talks on Her Daytime Comeback on Y&R, and Shares Memories as OLTL’s Samantha Vernon

Photo: Joanna DeGeneres

It’s hard to believe that its been over four decades since Julia Montgomery first hit the daytime scene as Samantha Vernon on One Life to Live. Now on the Wednesday, March 23rd episode of The Young and the Restless, Julia returns to soaps in the role of Tanya and shares scenes with some key people in a red-hot new storyline.

Montgomery, who later after her One Life to Live years starred in the movie Revenge of the Nerds (1984) and other TV and film roles, is looking at her stint on Y&R as jump-start, perhaps back to daytime. But what wonderful stories and insight she has of being part of the iconic cast of One Life!

Julia shares some inside stories on working with: Phil Carey, Judith Light, Gerry Anthony, Brynn Thayer, Steve Fletcher, and the original Vernon family with Jameson Parker and Farley Granger.  Throughout her time on the ABC soap opera, Julia left OLTL on a few occasions and shares here with Michael Fairman TV what ultimately led to her decision to depart for good.

So, who says you can’t come home again to a genre that kick-started your career at 16?  Montgomery is starting here, and starting now with this guest visit on Y&R.  Check out what she had to share about her time in Genoa City and Llanview below.

You stepped into acting on a soap again for a short stint on Y&R.  What was it like being on the top-rated daytime drama?

JULIA:  Honestly, it was really fun to be back on a soap opera set.  It’s so interesting with the multiple cameras, etc.  It’s its own animal.  At one point, I was sitting down between my scenes, and I just had this kind of a rush.  I purposely have not been on a soap set for decades, and then this came about, and I was like, “Why not?”.  I’m just in a completely different place in real-life as an empty nester, plus it’s kind of hysterical that I’m also a realtor, and I’m playing an LA realtor!

Typecasting!

JULIA:  I know! The writing is very good.  I changed a few things here and there to make it more authentic.  The Young and the Restless is, I think, my favorite show of the soaps, and I think the lighting is so good.  I loved everyone: the hair and makeup, the actors, loved my director … I had a total blast!

Photo Credit: Sheldon Botler

You worked with Y&R newcomer Kelsey Wang (Allie) in your scenes. How was she to work with?

JULIA:  She was wonderful, and a really good actress.  She had a lot to do that day, but she is extremely present, bright, and alive.  I loved working with her, and then the mystery person.  I’m not allowed to say who it is; but tune-in and you will see! My character is in the story to help Allie settle Keemo’s estate.

Would you want to return to Y&R and do something if they said, “Come on back and let’s explore Tanya more!?”

JULIA:  Well, perhaps yes!

Photo: ABC

Well, let’s talk your signature soap role of One Life to Live’s Samantha Vernon.  You landed the role and debuted in 1976 and then left and came back a few times through 1981. When you came on the show who was in the Vernon Family?

JULIA: Jameson Parker, played my brother and my first dad was Farley Granger.  I just remember that Jameson was there for my audition, and they invited my parents back to the control room. Jameson was talking very highly of me to my parents, saying, “Oh, she’s really good.”  At one point, I stumbled on a line and found my way back, and I guess they were just ecstatic that a 16-year-old who had never been on a real television set was getting such feedback. Farley Granger, couldn’t have been more wonderful to me.  He was just a doll and a big film actor at the time.

Well, he was a big get for the show!

JULIA:  Totally, and he was still completely gorgeous, but it was still “Doctor Vernon,” and that means you’ve got all of that doctor dialogue to learn.  Coming from a film set to a soap opera set, and having tons of dialogue to begin with, he was just exhausted.  I think at the end of six months, he was just like, “This just isn’t for me.”

Brad was the bad boy, and Samantha was the good sister. Is that how you viewed it?

JULIA:  Let me settle this.  When I came on the show, I was 16-years-old, and the character was 16-years old.  Six months later, they turned me 18, so that I could be involved with men, not only men, but generally older men, not as old as Asa, but it became as old as Asa later.  My character had a flirtation with Tony Lord, who was played by Phil MacHale at that point.  So, of course, Samantha was good, but what does every good girl want … to be bad!  (Laughs) That’s how it works!  Later, they had some great scenes with me and Marco, played by the amazing Gerry Anthony.

Courtesy/ABC

I was going to bring up Gerry.

JULIA:  He was so wonderful. The thing about being on One Life to Live, was that when I came on the show, the actors who I ended up working with like Judith Light (Ex-Karen) and Gerry Anthony were all into making the scenes great.  We had so much fun working on these scenes, and, not everyone on the set did that.  Some people had been on there for years.  They did their thing, and they didn’t necessarily have the same joie de vivre as some of the rest of us who were like, “Let’s make this great.”  So, I think we really just had a tremendous time, most of us. When we had a scene, we worked on it.  In those days, of course, we worked on it all day.  We started in the morning, and we didn’t tape it until after lunch.  Everyone was there until like 5 or 6pm at the earliest.  Whatever it took to get it done.  We had the likes of Robin Strasser (Ex-Dorian), Michael Storm, (Ex-Larry) and Brynn Thayer (Ex-Jenny), who came on about a year or so into my first year, and since that time Brynn and I became BFF’s.

What was it like working with Phil Carey (Asa)?

JULIA:  Phil was a nice guy, but he had sciatica, so as the day wore on, he would have to take medicine for that, and he’d go to lunch, and then he’d come back, and it was he wasn’t really that present.  He was sort of just getting through it.  Interestingly enough, somewhere during those soap opera years, I ended up being interviewed several times by Dustin Hoffman and his writer for the movie Tootsie, and they literally based that older doctor character off of me telling them about Phil Carey.

Photo: ABC

Did Phil’s situation cause you to leave One Life?

JULIA:  He would have a drink, come back to set, and I think he may have forgotten he had already taken his Percocet, and it’d be like, “Is anybody home?” So, I mean, it wasn’t very fulfilling, at least for me, and so that’s ultimately why I left.  The storyline was really fun, though.  It was young Sam, being kind of independent, and it had that fun banter with Asa.

I remember you left, and there was a new Samantha!

JULIA:  I left and they kept trying to replace me, then they kept asking me back. Finally, I said I’d go back, then I did go back, and of course it was a continuation of the storyline with Sam, and then by the end of that contract, I finally was like, “I can’t take it anymore.”  That’s when they brought in Dorian Lopinto, and she took over the role of Samantha.  It was a good time for me to leave. I ended up staying in New York for a few years and doing some movies of the week and films, but in those days, it was like, “You’ve got to go out to LA!” and I’m like, “Alright.  I guess I’ll go try it,” and I did, and it was pretty fruitful.  I did lots of television and films and it was a lot of fun, but I purposely, at that point, completely stayed away from soaps, but now it’s a completely different time.  My kids are just about out of college, and I’m footloose and fancy free! I am ready for action!

Photo: ABC

It’s so much fun for everyone who loved One Life to see you again because it was so great.  Did you think back then that Judith Light would become as prolific an actress as she has become? I did.

JULIA:  I knew she was a powerhouse, but I didn’t know she would take the world by the horns.  Later, I worked with her on Who’s the Boss.  She’s just brilliant.  We all know.  We knew she was brilliant then.  There was no question.  There was an actress who played the role of Karen before Judith too, Kathryn Breech.  She was so gorgeous, and I loved her, but I think there were a behind the scenes reason she had to leave, and that all seemed to happen very quickly. All of the sudden she was gone, and Judith was there.  I hope Kathryn is good out there somewhere.  Every time I looked at her, I was like, “Oh, my God, I’ve never seen someone so gorgeous in my life.”

When Judith stepped in, she just owned that role!

JULIA:  She did.  She owned that thing, and it was tremendous because again, talk about wanting to make something great.  With Judith, it was like, “Wow.  This is fantastic!”

Photo: ABC

Steve Fletcher came in to replace Jameson Parker.  How was working with Steve? He was wonderful as Brad!

JULIA:  Oh, yes.  Jameson left before me.  He was planning to leave because he had a movie… The Bell Jar with Sylvia Plath … so he was flying to Budapest.  He asked me if I wanted to sublet his apartment.  I was like, “Yes, I do!”  It was walking distance from the set. It was amazing, and as for Steve, I thought he was wonderful.  He truly was like my big brother.  We had that same relationship where we would really work on the scene and try to make the best of everything that we could.

Well, that’s amazing.  What a great experience!  Well, I hope this works out now that you’ve dipped your toe back into daytime. 

JULIA:  Right, exactly!  It was really fun to revisit the whole experience and have it feel so sparkly and new.

Photo: CBS

Are you watching Y&R now, or were you watching it before?

JULIA:  I had watched it just a little bit.  Now, I’m watching it!  However, I know Peter Bergman (Jack, Y&R) from my New York days.

From his time on All My Children?

JULIA:  Well, actually, what’s funny is he was the bartender on Third Avenue in New York when I had run away from home when I was 18 (so, it wasn’t technically running away), but … I had run away from home because my parents did not want me to live in the city even though I had been working on One Life to Live for two years. I was like, “Sorry, I’ve got to go. ” I ran away to a Catholic residence hall on the east side.  This is all to say, one of my roommates from this Catholic residence hall had met Peter Bergman because she went to this bar because there was this gorgeous bartender there.  Later, I come to find out that it was Peter Bergman right before he got All My Children.  Then, we kind of knew each other from the soaps, and when I moved out to Los Angeles, we ended up in the same spinning class together. It was bizarre. I’m like, “Peter!”  He’s like, “Julia!”

Photo: IMDB

Hearing all of these stories of yours, I think you need to write a book!

JULIA: I would need help with it … but that’s an interesting thought!

So, what do you think of Julia returning to daytime and The Young and the Restless? Were you a fan of Samantha Vernon, and One Life to Live back in one of its heydays of the late 70’s and early 80’s? Comment below.

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Steve
Guest
Steve

Reading this piece reminds me of the large number of recasts OLTL went through in the late 70s/early 80s. Granted I was rather young, but if someone mentions Sam Vernon, I picture Dorian Lopinto.

Montgomery certainly does throw some shade at Phil Carey. Hilarious that George Gaines (OG Frank Smith) character in Tootsie was loosely based on Carey. I said good day Dr Brewster (I said good day!)

Kat
Guest
Kat

Yes it’s amazing when people are dead and can’t defend themselves you crawl in like vultures never watched that era but if she thinks Y&R is a great soap she needs to sit in a mental chair! The show is horrible and this story about Keemo/Bergman hated it!! The man was never mentioned for thirty years! Please when you all get over yourselves then will talk ! Bergman was never Jack that role was snd always will be Terry Lester! Bergman has been a mad Cliff Warner and not good at it

Damien
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Damien

Agreed Kat! Peter Bergman’s Jack has been a wallowing mess for the past several years. Griffith has stripped Jack of his edge and made him the town philosopher. Jack is irredeemable in this Keemo story since it’s seen he was long forgotten. Regardless of the horribly boring way Jack’s been written Bergman looks out of place and uncomfortable in most scenes, especially with his hand mannerisms, nail picking etc. Nevermind Bergman , poor Michelle Stafford looks horribly uninterested in this latest Jack propping support story. Then again she hasn’t had anything of interest to do since her much ‘ hyped’… Read more »

Llanviewer717
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Llanviewer717

Oh, the memories this brings back. I loved One Life to Live and she explained one of the reasons why. The actors who took the effort to make the scenes great. Bravo to Julia Montgomery, Judith Light, Gerald Anthony, Brynn Thayer, Steve Fletcher, and, of course, the incomparable Erika Slezak and Robin Strasser. I could go on and on listing outstanding actors who gave there all for a scene. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss our beloved One Life to Live. Congratulations Julia and best of luck on your return to daytime TV.

Jamesj75
Guest
Jamesj75

Thank you for this terrific interview of Montgomery! This news of a 70s soap actress returning to a soap, however briefly, is stunning! I was watching OLTL throughout virtually all of its run. I always enjoyed the character of Sam, but I honestly found it cringeworthy, at the time, that Asa could be with her. They did the same thing with Asa’s son Bo: as he got older, his love interests became younger. Who was writing back then? Woody Allen?!?! I fondly remember how exciting it was when the Vernon family came on. In addition to Montgomery and Granger, the… Read more »

Soaphound
Guest
Soaphound

Hi Jamesj75! Two other things I enjoyed here: her description of the excitement of being on a soap opera set is just as vivid and real as I’ve always imagined… and the reference to the movie THE BELL JAR. I didn’t much care for the movie but the novel and Sylvia Plath’s poetry are mainstays in my life. This was a refreshing interview.

Jamesj75
Guest
Jamesj75

Hi Soaphound! Glad to read that you also found much to enjoy with this interview! Montgomery certainly related “the excitement of being on a soap opera.”

Penny
Guest
Penny

Love Her! Can hardly wait to see her again!

Violet Lemm
Guest
Violet Lemm

Wonder if Peter can make a Dirty Martini, shaken, not stirred? Imagine that handsome, YOUNG face serving your drink? Yum! Peter, not the Martini.

JHurley
Guest
JHurley

I have great memories of Julia’s Samantha and was so sad to see her leave. I was only around 11 or 12 and she quickly helped cement my lifelong love for OLTL. Great interview and greater still to hear of her memories on the soap and that she’s doing well.

Lew S.
Guest
Lew S.

I didn”t care for her version of Sam Vernon. I much preferred Dorian Lopinto’s take. As someone posted, it’s not cool to speak ill of the dead. Soap magazines were around during her OLTL tenure and she could have aired her dirty laundry then.

Violet Lemm
Guest
Violet Lemm

I think she has rather loose lips in regards to Peter Bergman being a bartender in his early years. Maybe he doesn’t want that shared and painting Phil Carey as a drinking pill taking Zombe is not very attractive either. Maybe she should write a book or sellig some of the other stuff she’s been privy to, would make a good expose.

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