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OLTL Icon, Erika Slezak Talks On Her 42-Year Run As Viki, Her Llanview Co-Stars & Husbands, and Life Now

Photo: ABC

As a precursor to, and now post-script to last night’s The Story of Soaps special on ABC, One Life to Live’s leading lady and six-time Daytime Emmy winner, Erika Slezak, chatted with Michael Fairman in a very special virtual conversation on You Tube’s Michael Fairman Channel  prior to the airing of the two-hour event that look into the history and the world of daytime and primetime soaps.

Erika appeared within the primetime special along with many other notables from the world of daytime.

Photo: JPI

Chatting from her home in Connecticut, Erika talked candidly about her beginnings on the ABC soap when she was first cast as Viki, and how her early castmates helped her through that challenging time. She also discussed the importance and challenges of playing Viki’s DID storyline where she played multiple alters, and, of course, her longstanding on-screen rivalry with frenemy Dorian Cramer Lord played by Robin Strasser.

As fans of One Life know, Viki certainly had her share of husbands over the years, and you will learn Erika’s thoughts on working with several of them from: Mark Derwin (Ex-Ben), to Brian Kerwin (Ex-Charlie), to Roy Thinnes (Ex-Sloan) and more.

Photo: JPI

But what was life like for Erika, playing the moral center of One Life day in and day out for over 42 years and the responsibility that comes with that? She weighs-in on that as well.  Later, the discussion turns to her emotional final day of taping at ABC’s OLTL following its cancellation, the move to Prospect Park, and if she would ever consider working on another one of the four remaining daytime soaps.

Photo: JPI

Slezak has won the most Daytime Emmys of any actress, and she recalls the time she was nominated with 7 other actresses in the Lead Actress category and the start of the annual “Ladies Lunch” with the nominees via Susan Flannery.

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For a deep-dive conversation into the genre with this soap legend, check it out below.

Then let us know if you were thrilled to see Erika, and hear what she had to say via the comment section.

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Jim HensonMildred ElmaneDavyChanning CapwellLara Recent comment authors
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DMRR
DMRR

I loved “Nikki.” She was hysterical, played perfectly.

RICHARD
RICHARD

I just adore her! Wish she could be on DOOL as a cousin to Marlena in a three month arc.

Chaz
Chaz

Seeing this great interview only brings forth how much OLTL is still missed and the amazing cast. It would be such a gift if ERika Selzak wrote a memoir.

Rodd
Rodd

Thank you, Michael! That was so lovely. Ms. Slezak always was, and still is, a class act all the way.

Sally singh
Sally singh

Missed OLTL very very much

Lara
Lara

This was a great interview. Thank you for sharing it with us! I do think it’s so sad that Erika never gives Clint Ritchie his due. It sounds like he was a hand full off-camera but the Viki and Clint relationship was a HUGE reason for her character’s popularity in the 80s.

Channing Capwell
Channing Capwell

Fantastic interview with a fantastic lady.

Of the shows we’ve lost, I miss OLTL the most.

Davy
Davy

Wonderful interview!

Mildred Elmane
Mildred Elmane

It was awesome watching Erika slezak again miss oltl so much

Jim Henson
Jim Henson

God I miss the hell out of that amazing lady.

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Y&R’s Eileen Davidson, Knots’ Donna Mills & GH’s Laura Wright Talk On Life in the Soaps

Three of the most recognizable names in the soap opera genre, Eileen Davidson (Y&R, Ex-Days, Ex-B&B, Ex-Santa Barbara). Donna Mills (Knots Landing, Ex-Love is a Many Splendored Thing, Ex-Secret Storm) and Laura Wright (General Hospital, Ex-Guiding Light, Ex-Loving, Ex-The City), chat with Michael Fairman in this virtual conversation about their careers working in front of the camera on daytime and primetime soaps.

Each of the actresses appear on ABC’s “The Story of Soaps” two-hour special airing on Tuesday night May 19th (9 p.m. EST). to which this interview is a prelude.

From her role as Abby Cunningham Ewing on Knots Landing to her role as GH’s Madeline Reeves, Donna Mills shares memorable stories from her career, and from her role as Y&R’s Ashley Abbott to playing five roles on Days of our Lives from Kristen DiMera to Susan Banks, Eileen Davidson recalls her start and the time she played five roles at one time, while bringing to life Carly Corinthos on General Hospital every day is a joy shares Laura Wright from her early start on ABC’s Loving which changed the trajectory of her life.

We hope you enjoy this exclusive on The Michael Fairman Channel.

Watch Eileen, Donna and Laura below!  Then let us know what was your favorite moment or tidbit from the conversation via the comment section

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Interviews

Y&R’s Bryton James and Christel Khalil Share Winters Family Memories, Working with Kristoff St. John and More

This week, The Young and the Restless continues its theme weeks as they run encore presentations from their vault of memorable episodes.  Airing May 18th through the 22nd,  it’s “Winters” Week featuring classic moments featuring the talented on-screen family played over the years by the late Kristoff St. John (Ex-Neil), Victoria Rowell (Ex-Drucilla), Shemar Moore (Ex-Malcolm and two performers who grew up in the show before our very eyes: Bryton James (Devon) and Christel Khalil (Lily).

Y&R has run out of original episodes due to the TV production shutdown in Hollywood due to the coronavirus pandemic and until they can resume taping safely; they will continue to feature different characters, families and couples from Genoa City.

Photo: JPI

Michael Fairman chatted with Bryton and Christel in a virtual conversation for the Michael Fairman Channel on You Tube; where the brother/sister act share remembrances of filming some of the episodes fans will see this week including:  Lily and Daniel running away to California, Devon being lost in the zoo, and in another installment lfinally being adopted by Neil and Dru, and more.

Photo: JPI

Viewers should also look for Kristoff St. John’s first Y&R episode and when Neil’s estranged brother, Malcolm arrives in Genoa City to be part of the week.

Photo: JPI

During their conversation with Fairman, Bryton and Christel also reveal some humorous backstage stories of working with one another, plus where their characters are headed now, and  how knowing and working with Kristoff St. John, (who died tragically over a year ago), meant to them.

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Check out Bryton and Christel’s conversation below, and then let us know what has been your favorite Devon, Lily or Winters clan moment over the years via the comment section below.

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Interviews

Y&R’s Jess Walton Remembers Jeanne Cooper, Classic Katherine & Jill, and Talks Life in Present Day GC

For over three decades, The Young and the Restless’ Jess Walton has been a force of nature to be reckoned as Jill Foster Abbott on the CBS Daytime Drama.  But couple that with the Grand Dame of Genoa City, Katherine Chancellor, played by the late great Jeanne Cooper and together these two Daytime-Emmy winning actresses on-screen chemistry was off the charts; delivering some of the most iconic and memorable scenes in soap history.

This week on Y&R, the show kicks-off its theme week of classic episodes starting with five memorable ones ranging from 1990 to 2009 with Katherine Chancellor front and center.  From Katherine meeting her doppelganger Marge, to turning the tables on an alcoholic intervention meant for her, to seeing ghosts from her past, to making a mess at Chloe (Elizabeth Hendrickson) and Billy’s (then, Billy Miller) nuptials (literally!), to marrying her beloved Murphy (Michael Fairman), once you watch all these rebroadcasts, viewers will be reminded just why Jeanne is a daytime legend.  And oh, yes! Look for Jill to figure prominently into the equation in several of them.  So, who better to kick-off Y&R’s celebration of Jeanne Cooper this week than her longtime scene partner and dear friend, Jess Walton!

Michael Fairman TV chatted with Jess where she shared: some remembrances of her time working with Jeanne, creating the Katherine/Jill dynamic, and what she recalls about taping some of the classic moments fans will see, plus the latest developments in Jill’s life.  Could Jill and Jack (Peter Bergman) rekindle the feelings they once had for each other, complex as they may be? Stay tuned.

It is always a treat to speak with Jess, and we always treasure getting a moment to shine a light on the unforgettable Mrs. C.  Here’s what she had to say.

Photo: JWaltonTwitter

Do you remember your very first day at Y&R back in 1987?

JESS:  I do remember when I got the job.  I had to start the very next day.  My very good friend was Nicholas Walker from Capitol, and he had worked temporarily on Y&R, and he was dating Eileen Davidson (Ashley, Y&R) at the time.  So, he kind of had been on the set, and he had watched the Jill and Katherine scenes.  He came over and ran my lines with me.  The next day, everybody was coming up to me.  I had worked with many of these people on Capitol because we shot right across the hall, and they were all so welcoming – the cameramen, the wardrobe people, the makeup people, etc.   There was so much going on.   We had a casting director who had white hair, and he was about Bill Bell’s age at that time.  I thought he was Bill Bell.  (Laughs)  Every week, I’d go up to him and ask him how I was doing, and he’d go, “Well, are they saying anything?”  I said, “They’re saying it’s okay,” and he’d go, “Then, it’s okay.”  Finally, I said to him, “Your daughter (meaning Lauralee Bell) has been so wonderful to me.”  He said, “I don’t have a daughter!” (Laughs)  Oh, it was so funny.

Photo: CBS

What are your first recollections of meeting Jeanne Cooper, and working with her?

JESS:  We were in the thick of this storyline revolving around Rex Sterling (Quinn Redeker), and what I remember is that Jeanne was really helpful to me.  I had a tremendous amount of dialogue.  We were just working together so much.  I just grew to love her, and then I noticed how wonderful she was to everybody.  Every new person who came on the show, Jeanne would take them aside. She would show them the ropes, and would give them advice.  She was just fantastic.  Anyone who would ever have a baby, she would always have a baby gift for that person.  In her dressing room, there would be executives who would come in.  You’d walk into her dressing room, and there would be the head of Sony sitting there chatting with her.  I spoke to somebody last week about how she was always the first one to offer up her dressing room for AFTRA meetings.  Jeanne always knew everything that was going on.  She knew every rumor going around; she knew every truth going around.  She was the most amazing woman I ever met.

Photo: CBS

Was there a moment when you knew that the Katherine/Jill dynamic and rivalry was solid gold, and would have legs for you and Jeanne for years to come?

JESS:  Here’s the funny thing: Jeanne was coming off working for years with Brenda Dickson (Ex-Jill), and she and Brenda had tremendous success with this on-screen relationship.  They had crowds in the parking lot who would meet them after work.  There would be the Jill side and the Katherine side.  Jeanne would tell me the history of it.  It began to dawn on me how big it had been back then.  Then, we got such incredible fan mail from people on different sides of the fence.  Most of them were quite on Jeanne’s side, on Katherine’s side.  I did not care for that! (Laughs) There was nothing much I could do, but I think I knew from the very start how special this was.  But, I’ve got to tell you, we worked our asses off in the dressing room on our scenes.  We would set each other up for the punchlines of the jokes, we would accentuate their character flaws, we would accentuate how ridiculous Jill was, and we would laugh about it.  It was the most wonderful part of our time together.  Jeanne was the heart and the soul of the show.

Now, coming up on Thursday, Y&R will rebroadcast the classic Katherine/Jill cake fight from April of 2009, when Katherine and Jill steal the spotlight at Billy (then played by Billy Miler) and Chloe’s (Elizabeth Hendrickson) wedding.  What do you recall about taping the notorious cake fight?

JESS:  I remember I asked Sally McDonald, (who was directing the episode), if I could be drinking mimosas during the scenes to excuse the fact of Jill’s ridiculous behavior.  So, she let me always have a mimosa in my hand, and then, finally we went into the dining room, and Katherine told Jill, she wasn’t her daughter.  Jill was so hurt because she really did love Katherine and hated her at the same time.  I remember I had to hurl horrible insults at Murphy (Michael Fairman) and at Esther (Kate Linder), and then it culminated in the cake fight, which was a fan favorite, I’m sure.

Photo: JPI

Did you do that fight in one take, or did you have to redo it to get it just right?

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JESS:  Oh, we couldn’t have done it again.  We were covered!  Instead of trying to smear cake on me, Jeanne kept trying to lift the entire cake to put on me, (laughs) and we had people behind us. I asked Melody Thomas Scott (Nikki) because she was kind of in the middle of it, “Do you mind if I get cake on your face,” and she was like, “No, go for it.”  So, I had Beau Kazer (Brock) behind me holding me up because my high heels were slipping, there was frosting all over the floor, and I kept falling down, and he kept holding me up. (Laughs) It was just hilarious.

Photo: JPI

Now this Tuesday, Y&R will air an episode from back in July of 2005.  In it, Katherine (Jeanne Cooper) surprises her loved ones when they attempt to stage an intervention about her drinking problem.  Obviously, Jeanne herself documented her battle with alcohol over the years in her memoir.  Were you ever concerned for her playing this kind of story that was close to things that she experienced in her own life?

JESS:  Never.  Not for an instant.  I knew her too well by that time.  She was so far from taking another drink and breaking her sobriety. I didn’t give it a second thought.   We just thought what a great story it was, and besides this, in the middle of that great story, she would never have been in the mood to take a drink because she was loving the story so much.  That’s the way she was and I will say; this was a fabulous episode the way they wrote it.

Photo: JPI

Another memorable episode is airing on Friday when Y&R rebroadcasts Katherine and Murphy’s wedding from May of 2009.  Jill caused some problems in it!

JESS:  I do remember being locked in a closet.  Somebody locked Jill in a coat closet because they thought I would ruin the wedding, and I got out of the closet, and Jill walked through the wedding being really snarky to Katherine. We did a lot of crazy things.  I always had to make a fool of myself.  I’d open up my scripts, and I’d go, “Oh no, Jill.  Please don’t do this.”

Photo: JPI

Would you and Jeanne ever go to the producers or writers; if there was something that you just would not do as they had written for the two of you in the scripts?

JESS:  I don’t think there was anything major.  There were things we disagreed with.  I remember one time she called me up.  We were working on our lines at night for the next day. Jeanne said, “Every single one of my lines, Jess, should be a Jill line, and every single one of your lines should be a Katherine line.”  So, we switched them all around, but we let the writers or producers know.  Jeanne was absolutely right.  The lines were all reversed.  I also know she never liked the story of Katherine being Jill’s mother, and I always loved it, because I thought it explained the love/hate relationship so well.  I think she thought it would damage their relationship, and it kind of did for a while.

Photo: JPI

Why do you think you and Jeanne, as Jill and Katherine, became so beloved by the fans of Y&R and the entire soap genre?

JESS:  First of all, there was such fabulous writing and situations.  Then, you have these two characters.  You have this older woman, who is this fancy, shmancy dowager, and then, you have this haughty, arrogant upstart, and they were really well written in their backgrounds.  Then, all of the sudden they get down and dirty.  They were also so human with each other.  So, the audience could see Jill being knocked down a peg or two.  They’d see Katherine, who is this fancy lady also being super human.  You never knew what Katherine and Jill were going to do, and it was pretty hilarious when you think of it.  It was kind of the comedy part of the show, at times.  I think, that was appealing to the audience, and I think we handled it really well.  I mean, we rehearsed so long.  Back then, we were last up in the afternoon.  So, if the taping of the show would stretch out, we had hours and hours to prepare and get our lines down and figure out the beats that we could do with each other.  Maybe, that was why it worked.

Photo: CBS

I’ll never forget the last scene that Jeanne did with you. Katherine goes up the staircase and says, “Goodnight ” to Jill.  How did you get through that scene? (Watch the scene following this interview below)

JESS:  She was so frail at that time.  We had just done The Marie Osmond Show, and I remember she was just standing at the back of a chair just holding on, and I knew something was really wrong.  Then, every scene after that (which wasn’t that many), I kept thinking, “Is this going to be the last one she will be able to do?”  I didn’t really think that she would die.  I didn’t go that far.  I just thought that she would not be able to act anymore.  Even during that scene, it was just one of the many that I thought, “Is this the last time that I am going to be able to act with her?”  So, she went up the stairs, and she had that great dignity. Jeanne was very slow going up, and when she turned around, Jill asked if she could do anything for her.  I do remember there was a great deal of communication going on between her and me.  I definitely had it in my mind that this might be the last time.  It was something.

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Now, in the present day on Y&R, it looks like the show could be rekindling the Jack (Peter Bergman) and Jill relationship.  They certainly have had a complicated past.

JESS:  There is also a lot passion between the two of them.  They have a love/hate thing going too.  Anytime you have that kind of passion – one side or the other (and with them you have got it on both sides), that’s always a possibility.  There are some great old classic shows with us. Jack and Jill always have this tension.

Photo: JPI

Do you enjoy working with Peter Bergman?

JESS:  Oh, working with Peter is like falling off a log.  It really is.  It’s the easiest thing in the world because we both trust each other so much.  We know our characters; we know each other’s characters.  We have so much fun with it.  We love the idea of battling, especially when there’s a lot of history behind it.  It’s really fun.

Wouldn’t you love to see Jill have a romance that continues and is more long term?  Do you think that would be good for her?

JESS:  I’m not sure if it would be good or not for her.  I really thought that was going to be it with Colin (Tristan Rogers), because she met somebody who was so, so charming.  Then, that didn’t work out.  I remember I went to the producers years ago, and I said, “Please give Jill somebody.  I don’t just want to be an old maid running around town butting into other peoples’ business.  Give me a homelife.”  So, for a while, I felt like I had that with Colin, and it’s always so much more fun being in a partnership.  In soaps, that means you have a partner to go to parties with, to be in scenes with, to have a home with rather than being alone… so, I do prefer that.  I’d like to see that, whoever it might be with.

Photo: JPI

But, you’d be all-in for a Jack/Jill redo? 

JESS:  Well, I certainly wouldn’t be against it.  That’s for sure.

Jill recently got her son Billy (Jason Thompson) and Lily (Christel Khalil) to work together.  She gave them a shot at Chancellor Industries running the social media division.  Was she trying to set them up, romantically? What was Jill’s reasoning here?

JESS:  I think she still wants Billy with Victoria (Amelia Heinle) because of the grandchildren and because of the family dynamic. I think Jill was just doing that for business reasons.  She thought it would be really good for the media division because as she says in the show, “They’re so different, and they will play off of each other so well that it will be a successful division.”  She also was very fond of Lily because of when she and Cane were married.  Jill is very fond of both Victoria and Lily. I’m not quite sure Jill took into consideration that there was a danger if Billy and Lily got together, in that he’d never get back with his family.

Photo: JPI

You and Jason Thompson seem to have a great relationship.  How is working with him as your son on Y&R?

JESS:  I flat-out adore that boy.  I love him so much.  What’s really interesting too is that he reminds me of my own son, Cole, and both of them have sons named Bowie.  So, I’ve got a real grandson named B-E-A-U, but they call him “Bowie”, and Jason’s son is B-O-W-I-E.  Anyway, I’ve never played with a Billy who had dark hair and dark eyes, and I don’t know why, but I love that about him; that he looks like Jill instead of an Abbott!  Jason is so damn good at what he does, and he is such a quick study.  He goes so deep into the character, and he even points out stuff to me in scenes that I haven’t thought of.  It’s really stimulating.  Billy loves Jill even though she makes him crazy.  He loves her, and I can feel it.  She, of course, adores him, even though he exasperates her sometimes.  I just love their relationship.  I love him as an actor.  I love him playing that character.

Photo: JPI

What do you think Jeanne would say if she knew there was this week-long tribute of episodes “Katherine the Great” airing on Y&R?

JESS:  Oh, she’d adore it!  Are you kidding?  Nobody would love that more than her!  She loved accolades.  There is no doubt.  She would be the first one to admit it, too.

Photos: JPI and ABC

Jeanne won the Daytime Emmy for Lead Actress in 2008 and you won in that category back in 1997.  Did the two of you ever talk about your Emmy wins? 

JESS:  Yes.  I won Best Actress before she did, and it always made me feel really weird, because I thought that was so unfair because Jeanne had been so wonderful for so long.  So, when she finally did win, I felt incredibly good about it.  I was so, so happy.  It was well-deserved and long-overdue, I thought.

Photo: JPI

Do you have some hopes for Jill in the future? Is there a story you would still love to get the opportunity to do?

JESS:  No, you know what?  The great thing about our show is that we are like a theatre company.  It always reminds of how I started out in repertory theatre, and that’s what we are, and the show as a whole.  I love the fact that I go around and play scenes with different people.  On Y&R, I have grandsons, I have sons, I have ex-stepdaughters, etc.  So, I love it the way it is.  I mean, if Jill had a romance in the future, I would love that, but whatever they have in store for me, I’ll take it with both hands, believe me.

So, are you excited to see some classic episodes of Y&R featuring Jeanne Cooper along with Jess Walton?  Would you say that Jeanne and Jess’ scenes over the years remain some of your enduring favorites? What are your hopes for Jill in 2020? Share your thoughts via the comment section.  But first, check out a preview for this week’s Y&R, Jess and Jeanne’s Lead Actress Emmy-winning moments, plus their final scene together below.

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