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One Life to Live’s Ellen Holly Talks Her Groundbreaking Role And Struggles As Carla Gray

Courtesy/TVAcademyFoudation

In a sit-down video interview with the Television Academy Foundation, Ellen Holly best-known for her iconic and groundbreaking role on One Life to Live as “Carla Gray” talks about being the first African-American actress with a continuing major role on a soap opera and the turmoil behind it.

Throughout the over four and half hour’s of interview conducted with Holly, the actress chronicles her struggles with One Life’s creator Agnes Nixon, and various producers to be paid fairly, while also asking for good and dramatic storylines.

Photo: ABC

Holly recalls leaving One Life to Live in 1980, and returning in 1983, only to be fired by then-producer Paul Rauch at the end of her contract.  She discusses what she feels was poor treatment by the network and several producers of One Life to Live, and what she learned from that experience.

There are lots of stories, and behind the scenes moments through the viewpoint of Ellen, as well as how important it was at the time to be cast is such a key role in 1968.

From advice for actors, the civil rights movement, diversity in television, events and behind the scenes stories with her co-stars and producer at One Life, pivotal career moments and more, all of it was covered with the TV Academy Foundation

Now below check out a six segments relating to Holly’s experience and time on OLTL.  Let us know what you thought about what she had to say via the comment section.

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RICKIE BOGUILLE
RICKIE BOGUILLE

Always loved Ellen Holly and Carla! (From the narrative and having read her book, I presume her dressing room was given away to Jacquie Courtney and her co-star of less sexual wattage than Peter De Anda and Robert Milli was Herb Davis.) However, she misrepresents the span of time Lillian Hayman was on “One Life.” Lillian left about 1970 (replaced by Hilda Haynes and Esther Rolle) and didn’t return to the show full-time until 1977 (the show was 45 minutes at this point; original cast member Doris Belack had been fired and replaced a few weeks prior). Sadie did, however, return to the show briefly for Carla’s wedding to Ed Hall (circa 1973). When Sadie returned full-time, the writers had created a backstory whereby Sadie once worked for Will and Naomi Vernon as their nanny/housekeeper before becoming housekeeping supervisor at Llanview Hospital (Holly erroneously reports in her book that Sadie worked for the Siegels, the last of which had left months before the introduction of the Vernons in 1976.)

Holly is correct, however, in the show’s re-positioning of Carla beginning in the 1970s. She became a supporting character, whereas she was a leading lady during her first couple of years or so. She had some high notes in her following decade on the show — Carla and Ed taking in young street smart Joshua West and her second marriage (to Dr. Jack Scott, played by an actor whom she despised). However, Holly and her audience deserved better — the actress was an asset and drawing card, and evocative of the show’s glorious early years.

Jamesj75
Jamesj75

Rickie, thanks so much for providing such detail and filling in the blanks. I, too, watched OLTL during that time, but my memory of that show is not as vivid.

What I do remember, however, is the mesmerizing allure of Ellen Holly as Carla Gray. A great actress in a groundbreaking storyline — for any medium!

I must thank Michael Fairman for this illuminating feature, including snippets of this riveting interview. For me, it’s so enjoyable when the early days of soaps are honored — and deservedly so!

Steve
Steve

There doesn’t seem to be any love lost between Holly and Erika Slezak, who she refers to as “the third Viki”

M J
M J

Lol @ the third Viki. Yikes! That hurt MY feelings…

I started watching OLTL as kid in the late 70s, so I missed the initial groundbreaking Carla Benari/Grey storyline, but I fondly remember Miss Holly during the Ed Hall era. It really is heartbreaking how she and Miss Hayman were relegated to bit players when they were clearly and integral factor in the shows success.

And speaking of the third Viki, I would imagine that the overwhelming majority of the remaining OLTL fans could never fathom anyone in the role of Victoria Lord Riley Burke Riley Buchanan Buchanan Carpenter Davidson Banks/Niki Smith/Jean Randolph/Torrie/Tommy/Princess/Victor Lord, other than the incomparable Erika Slezak. I have heard many times that her work doesn’t even come close to what Gillian Spencer gave to the role (albiet as an only twice married Viki with only one alter). I have never seen any of those scenes, and have only seen two or three stills of her in the role. I believe all the original video from the first few years of the show was rerecorded over or destroyed. Tragic! What I would give to see just a few of those original episodes featuring Miss Holly, Miss Hayman and Miss Spencer, who I grew up watching portray another iconic soap character on another iconic Agnes Nixon soap..;)

RICKIE BOGUILLE
RICKIE BOGUILLE

LOL. I was thinking the same thing. In her book, she raves about Gillian Spencer (the original Victoria Lord) and mentions that Joanne Dorian (her replacement) was a good actress who was physically a Xerox copy of Ms. Spencer (the actresses only vaguely looked similar, as I recall). Re: Erika Slezak — I was impressed she had so much chemistry with Lee Patterson (Joe Riley) when he returned to the show (Slezak was cast with Bernard Grant as her love interest; she hadn’t worked with Patterson during his first run). However, Slezak wasn’t a major draw for me personally. Ellen Holly, Lynn Benish (Meredith), Dorrie Kavanaugh (Cathy), Lee Warrick (Julie) and Nancy Pinkerton (the fabulous original Dorian Cramer) were more of a draw for me through the early 1970s.

M J
M J

In going back over the history of the the show, ES didn’t seem to be much of a stand out until they brought back Niki Smith. Prior to that, I believe both Judith Light and Robin Strasser had won Emmys before Slezak won her first. Viki could be quite dull and one note. They really milked the DID storyline to the point of ridicule. As a kid, I remembered it being poignant and heartbreaking to see Viki succumb to Niki Smith. After a while, it just looked like the writers drug out Niki whenever they didn’t know what to do with Viki, or they just wanted cheap comic relief.

nancy dillingham
nancy dillingham

Yes–soaps historical OVERDO a once-good thing. 🙁

Thad Bosley
Thad Bosley

When I watch Ellen Holly, I feel as though I am witnessing a remake of Captain Queeg’s Court Martial in The Caine Mutiny. Whew… creepy.

Isisdawonder
Isisdawonder

I watched all of this interview. I have her book as well. She dropped quite a bit of info from her years on the show and beyond. Well worth viewing. She is quite knowledgeable of the business and how the game is played. It IS a shame how she and others were treated by those in power at ABC. She deserved better.

fginaspy
fginaspy

I have always loved Ellen Holly. She is a beautiful and talented actress. She still is. I am sorry TPTB treated her so badly. Thank you Michael Fairman for sharing these videos.

nancy dillingham
nancy dillingham

So sorry–evil lurks everywhere.

TomJ
TomJ

I was only 5 years old when OLTL debuted and I watched with my mom and my great aunt. I loved Ellen Holly. Funny that even at my you g age, I never saw Ellen as a supporting or secondary role. She was always a a main star of OLTL in my eyes. Her words in this interview are a much needed cautionary tale for everyone who is new act acting.

Violet Lemm
Violet Lemm

I was just a young mother, years ago when watching the most romantic relationship between Carla and Ed. I also loved watching Ms. Holly many years ago in The Heat of The Night with Carroll O’Connor. What a two for one treat that was.

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Chris Harrison host and EP of the series, posted via Instagram: “It’s now officially official and I have the official exclusive poster to prove it. Colton’s dramatic season of #TheBachelor premieres Mon Jan 7th.”

The poster has the slogan: “What does he have to lose?” and one would assume its a nod to Colton’s noted and much discussed virginity.

Courtesy/ABC

Viewers first met Colton in Becca Kufrin’s season 14 of The Bachelorette, where he came in as fourth runner-up.  He continued on the franchise on Bachelor In Paradise, and his controversial on and off again relationship with Tia Booth, Becca’s friend.

Just how will Colton handle kissing a bevy of ladies, the fantasy suites, and more?  Guess we will find out,and if his season will be a doozy compared to the lackluster season of Arie Luyendk Jr., until Arie dumped his choice for love Becca and went back on his word and fell back in love with the runner-up  – his now fiancee and expectant mother of his chid, Lauren Burnham.

So, what do you think of the poster art for the new season of The Bachelor? Will you be checking out Colton during his effort to find true love? Comment below.

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There is a new soap in town from creator/executive producer Jamey Giddens from an idea by executive producer Will Packer, and they have found their leading lady for the ensemble cast. 

Robin Givens (last seen in the soaps on B&B and CW’s Riverdale) has been tapped to play the role of Stephanie Carlisle in Ambitions set to premiere on OWN in 2019. 

Stephanie is the wife of Atlanta Mayor Evan Lancaster (Brian White), whose true loyalty is to her own family’s prestigious law firm, where she is the latest in a long line of distinguished lawyers. Stephanie desperately wants to be in charge of the Carlisle family law firm and quietly fumes about her father Stephen’s condescending assertion that she’s simply not ready yet.

The series is billed as a multigenerational family saga centered around one woman who, having recently relocated and intent on revitalizing her marriage, finds herself going head to head with some of the most powerful and deceitful players in the city.

According to Deadline, rounding out the series regular cast are Essence Atkins (Marlon, Half and Half), Brian White (Ray Donovan, Scandal), Kendrick Cross (Acrimony), Brely Evans (Being Mary Jane) and Erica Page (Ozark, Bad Dad Rehab).

The show is currently in production in Atlanta, Georgia.

So, excited to see Ambitions when it makes its debut? What do you think about Robin Givens joining the series? Comment below.

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That means Maya Avant will be back in action.. In an Instagram post holding a script from the series, she noted, “Back to work!!!! Having all the feels.”

Mosley gave birth in August to her daughter, Aurora Imani.   Maya was last seen on the canvas in that month as well.  No word yet if Maya’s return will also bring with it Rick Forrester (Jacob Young) who went on recurring status with the show and is off doing other projects.

In other news, looks like fan favorite Hunter Tylo (Taylor) may be back on Bold, in time for the holidays, if her tweets are any indication of that.  Having a twitter exchange with fans of the series, one who seemed disgruntled again, Tylo posted this!

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So, excited to see Maya and Taylor back on the canvas at The Bold and the Beautiful? What would you like to see happen for the characters in story? Comment below.

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