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The Erika Slezak Interview – One Life to Live

Photo Credit: Sue Coflin/Max Photos

When One Life to Live was unceremoniously dumped by the ABC Television Network back in 2011, and aired its final episode in January of 2012, fans were furious and heartbroken!  For many, the show they invested in for four decades was no longer in its time slot, and that also meant they could no longer see the central heroine of Llanview and One Life to Live, Viki, as portrayed by six-time Daytime Emmy winner Erika Slezak!

But all that has changed, thanks to the effort of Prospect Park and The Online Network, when Viki and many of your Llanview favorites, return in all new episodes of One Life to Live starting April 29th on Hulu, HuluPlus and iTunes.  On-Air On-Soaps caught up with Erika to ask her thoughts on how things are shaping up at One Life’s new studio digs in Connecticut; behind the scenes and in front of the camera; and what’s in store for Viki now that she and Clint (Jerry verDorn) seemed to get closer at the end of the ABC One Life finale.  Now with all the reports that there is some cussing going down in Llanview these days, we had to ask: “Could the very proper Viki now be prone to uttering a foul word?  Or, how about her alter, Niki Smith?”  Erika addresses that, and if the revival of One Life is all about the young these days, and not at all about the vets.  From what you will come to understand, the Viki/Dorian feud is once again going to reignite right from the start, so that should be a good sign to long time fans of the series.

Of course, Erika has been thrilled to work alongside one of her favorite scene partners of all -time these past few weeks, Roger Howarth, who returned to One Life to Live to kick start the series’ move online as Viki’s brother, the always entertaining and dangerous Todd Manning.  Erika fills us in on working with Roger, and former cast mates from Jessica Tuck (Ex-Megan) to Judith Light (Ex-Karen) as well as new cast mates including Corbin Bleu, who as Jeffrey King is set to share lots of screen time with Erika’s “Viki”.  From the sadness her fans felt at the cancellation of the original One Life, to Erika’s views on the poor judgment by ABC, to the revitalization of the series now, we think you will enjoy this chat with Erika … who is truly in a class all by herself.

MICHAEL:

So Erika, how was it to play Viki again?   Did you have to rev yourself up for it, or was it just like you had never stopped playing her, and it just felt like you were in her skin once more within a blink of an eye?

ERIKA:

Photo Credit: Chapman Baehler

First, because we had the cast photo shoot three weeks or so before we started taping, we got all the “hello’s” out of the way.  We started at work on a Monday morning March 18th as if it had been a weekend.  And for me, it was like everybody fell right back into it.  There was not a hesitation.  As for the new actors, it was like they had always been there.  That is how easily they kind of fell into it, as well.  The only thing that was different is we had to try and learn the outline and the shape of the studioThey have a wonderful commissary where they feed us breakfast and lunch, and you just have to figure that out, and once you have done that you are on your way.   It is a slightly different schedule.  Things are taking a bit longer, because they want to make sure everything is absolutely perfect.  So every scene is being shot, even if you didn’t have to, two or three times, so they can pick the absolutely best shot.  They are working very carefully on the lighting.  We are in HD, which is really fantastic.  We have never been shot in HD before.  When I first saw it on the monitor, I couldn’t believe it!  I thought, “God, we looked like crap all those years.” (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

The First Look One Life to Live sizzle reel that has been released on Hulu.com really popped!  I think the quality of the show looks terrific!

ERIKA:

It’s so clear and so good, but you know for us as the actors, everything is exactly the same as it was a year and a half ago.  We have sets.  We have costumes.  We have props, we have lighting, we have stage managers, we have cameramen, and we have cameras.  The only thing that is different is what those cameras have inside of them and where they are being fed to.  Everything else is exactly the same.  So there was no getting used to anything except the new studio.

MICHAEL:

Does Viki still have “Llanfair”?   What are the sets like?

ERIKA:

Courtesy/ABC

Oh, my God, yes!  We have a new set designer, who is fabulous.  What he has done is re-created the sets that they needed of the old sets like; Dorian’s house and Viki’s library, and Bo’s garret.  For all intent and purposes, when you see them the first time they look exactly the same … but like they have been redecorated a little bit.  They are a little different, but you say, “Oh, that’s Dorian’s house!  I just recognized it.”  Everything has been slightly updated, and looks a little sharper and little fresher, as if every character had a designer come in and redecorate for the afternoon! (Laughs)  But I have to tell you, they really did a lovely job.  And, we have brand new sets that are fabulous, too.  We have a new coffee house with a street scene outside where they have kids on bikes riding around. And of course, we have the ubiquitous hospital set! (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

Jerry verDorn and you got to work together again!  When we last saw Viki and Clint on the final ABC episode of One Life to Live, Clint had proposed to her.  When the show picks back up, will we know where things stand between the couple?

ERIKA:

You will find out on day one where things stand between Clint and Viki, but don’t hold your breath, because it probably won’t last! (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

I see problems on the horizon! (Laughs)  I would assume they will have to fight their way back to each other once again, if they are pulled apart by something Clint does?

ERIKA:

Courtesy/ABC

This is just in the first 20 scripts I am talking to you about.  Clint is behaving himself beautifully, but we know at heart, he is Asa.   So I am quite sure he is going to do something that shows his true colors!  Jerry is so good at that, but I don’t want to give anything away, or give any spoilers, but I think the audience is going to like what is going on … I hope! Please! (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

Corbin Bleu is one of the new casting additions to One Life, playing Jeffrey King. From teasers that have already been revealed, Viki wants him to help save The Banner.  What can you tell us about Jeffrey … and working with Corbin?

ERIKA:

The Banner, as with every newspaper in the world, is in trouble because of the Internet.  People don’t read paper print anymore.  They read everything online.  So readership is down, and advertising is down, while the costs are the same.  So Jeffrey is a hot shot young reporter who has been working freelance for The Banner, and helping us bring it to the digital age.  He has established the online Banner and is helping us make the transition, not to get rid of the print version, but to have both going concurrently.  Corbin is a wonderful young actor, and the nicest, charming man you could ever imagine.  He is so sweet and lovely, and I am very pleased we have him.   I think his character is going to be pivotal in the length of this show.  He is not just going to be a reporter.   There is a lot more that is going to happen with him.

MICHAEL:

Photo Credit: David Russell/TOLN

So, Viki will finally have someone on her side battling the “bad” guys in the workplace?  From the sounds of it, these two probably will develop a strong bond and close friendship!

ERIKA:

So far, Jeffrey and Viki have a wonderful relationship.  He has been a big help at The Banner.  He has been terrific, but again we have only shot 20 shows, which in the scope of things is nothing given where we are going to go.

MICHAEL:

How has it been getting to work with the incomparable Robin Strasser (Dorian) again?   You can’t have One Life without the show’s most famous supercouple … Viki and Dorian!

ERIKA:

(Laughs) I had to laugh, because day one Viki and Dorian are at it again, which is great.  As you know, Robin had back problems and had to leave early from One Life on ABC, and I was sad to see her go, because that has been a very big part of my time at One Life to Live.   I love all my scenes with Robin Strasser, who I love, and I love working with her.  And to know she was coming back now, and that at day one we were going to be at it again, was a joy.   She is the same as she always was.  Robin is top notch, on her game, and looking great!

MICHAEL:

Courtesy/ABC

In the First Look One Life to Live preview reel, you as Viki are narrating the story of Llanview to get viewers caught up on the back-story leading into the premiere episode on April 29th.   It contained some of the best moments of the history of Viki and Dorian.   What are some of your favorite scenes between the two?  And then, there is that moment when Dorian relentlessly goes after Viki till she splits into multiple personalities, and Tommy throws her down the stairs!  So gut wrenching, and oh so juicy!

ERIKA:

Some of the best scenes we had were when it was just the two of us talking, and we are locked up somewhere together.  We were locked in Asa’s wine cellar at Asa’s funeral, when she told me to go do something interesting with your life.  So, Viki left and went to Paris, Texas.  There also is the stuff when we were in the cave together for days and days, because when you put Viki and Dorian together, and they are just talking, that is by far the most interesting, because then each one is allowed to be the character that she is.  The scenes where I was turning into Tommy, was all her egging me on and egging me on, and me being very vulnerable, obviously, and slowly allowing this truth to come through.  It wasn’t so much about connecting with her then.  So what I love are the scenes when we are connecting with each other in conversations.  One of the best examples of that were the very last scenes of Dorian and Viki on ABC’s One Life to Live.  A conversation between Dorian and Viki can start at one level, and can go up and down and to 20 different places, and end on a completely different note.  That is what I love about it – it’s that every line of dialogue changes the tone of the conversation in some way between them.

MICHAEL:

So with the new One Life to Live, they are obviously re-setting the Viki and Dorian feud.

ERIKA:

Photo Credit: David Russell/TOLN

You will see!  Jeffrey has written an article that really pisses Dorian off.  Viki runs with the article and publishes it, and then starts the whole thing again.  She does that because it’s the truth and is the right thing to do.  It’s a scandal that Dorian is involved in Washington.

MICHAEL:

Susie Bedsow Horgan just left her post as co-head writer of One Life to Live.  I know from our previous conversation, she is one of the reasons you were very excited about the writing of One Life.   How do you feel about this sudden departure?

ERIKA:

I was disappointed to hear that she left the writing team.  I called her, and this was her decision.  She said, “It’s just so much work.”  And whatever the other reasons were, she did not go into.  But, it was her decision to leave.  I am hoping it was for the good of the show.  Thom Racina is staying on as head writer.  He is a brilliant guy, and has such an experience in daytime that I think things will continue along very well.  Susie did what was right for her … that is the most important thing.

MICHAEL:

Photo Credit: Sue Coflin/Max Studios

Fans always look to you, Erika, in so many ways that if things are alright with you, then it’s going to be alright with them.  Therefore, do you think the writing team understands the characters who were previously on the One Life canvas?

ERIKA:

I do think the writers are understanding the characters the fans have loved, absolutely! But again, I have not seen a whole show, but I have seen scenes.  And the scenes ring very true and the characters seem true, and when they are not, we say, “Can we fix this line?  Or, tweak this a little bit?”  And production says, “Absolutely!  Say what you think is more appropriate in terms of language, etc.”   I think they have been very good.  I think they have pushed the envelope a little bit it terms of what we can, and cannot say on the Internet, as opposed to network television where we had censors.   But, it’s nothing outrageous.  It’s not like everyone is suddenly going around cursing.  That is not the case at all.  They have just made us a little more human, and talking how we do in real life.  People are now much more real in terms of the dialogue, and I think that’s good.

MICHAEL:

So the big question: Will super-proper Viki ever utter a swear word?

ERIKA:

Courtesy/ABC

When necessary, I suppose.  But Viki is not somebody who resorts to that kind of language.  The way she was raised, and the way she is and had always been, she is a journalist.  She was an English major, I am sure in college.  She uses good English and she speaks in very proper sentences, and sure, the occasional “hell” or “damn” might slip out, but that’s not abnormal for her.  We actually had that in the last few years on ABC.  I don’t think Viki will ever go into real rotten language, because it’s not who she is.  I don’t think they would ever write it for her, and if they did, I would say, “That is really not who she is.”  Unless Niki comes back, and then all bets are off.  (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

You know, they are going to do that at some point I am sure, just to have Niki on the Internet cussing away, and God knows what else! (Laughs)

ERIKA:

Possibly … I have no idea.   I purposely never asked Susie where they were going with it, and I have no idea what their plans are regarding that.  Personally, it would be a lot of fun to play Niki! (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

Fans were also thrilled to see publicity images of you and Roger Howarth (Todd Manning) in new scenes together as Viki and Todd!  What has it been like getting the chance to work together again?

ERIKA:

Photo Credit: David Russell/TOLN

Talk about the guy I love!  We had the best scenes together last week!  He is so good. Roger is so full and rich as a character, and he is just phenomenal.  I was very pleased to have him come back, because that is a relationship that we have built up over 20 years.  It is very strong, and it gets better and better.  It is a very unique relationship. Yes, Viki criticizes him, she corrects him, but she loves him.  And in Todd’s own way, he loves Viki back.

MICHAEL:

Do you think getting the opportunity to work with you again was one of the reasons Roger decided to come back?

ERIKA:

I have no idea; you would have to ask him.  I know he wanted to be a part of One Life to Live whatever his reasons were.  I don’t know that I was a part of that.

MICHAEL:

What do you think of the younger set of new actors on the show?

ERIKA:

They are good.  Robert Gorrie, who plays Matthew, is terrific.  He is thoughtful and strong.  And oddly enough, looks exactly like an older version of Eddie Alderson (Ex-Matthew).  He is very handsome, but there are a lot of features about him where you say, “OK.  That’s Eddie grown up.”  It’s terrific casting.  I haven’t, worked with him, but I have seen a lot of his stuff, and I think he is very interesting.  And Laura Harrier, in spite of not really having been an actress before, picked up so much in the short time we have been working, and she is going to be a very good Destiny.

MICHAEL:

Photo Credit; Chapman Baehler

Have you gotten to work much with your on-screen daughter, Melissa Archer (Natalie) yet?

ERIKA:

We are getting to work together a little bit, but Natalie doesn’t live at Llanfair anymore!  That makes Viki sad.  But Natalie has her own set, so there is lots more she can do.

MICHAEL:

Of course, we all saw the images of you and several OLTL cast mates bringing coffee and donuts to the wonderful group of fans that came to welcome you back to work in your new studio in Connecticut, and to show their support.  I know you got some beautiful roses, too.  How was that moment?

ERIKA:

We all went outside the studio to say “hello” to the fans.  It was a bitter cold day, and they were standing out there for hours with balloons and slogans and signs!  It would have been cruel just to ignore them.  They were so sweet to come and cheer and to say, “We are so glad you are back.”  We went out on a five minute break from shooting.  It was incredibly good of them to come and show their support.  I think the outcry that the fans made when ABC cancelled both shows on the same day, and the outcry that continued, I think was a big factor in Prospect Park’s willingness to try and put this back on the air.  They realized how important this show was to the fans.  They thought, “Yes we can do this,” even though it fell apart the first time they attempted it.  They pushed through and they were able to get it done.

MICHAEL:

Photo Credit: Sue Coflin/Max Photos

When I post something on my website that is something that Erika Slezak said, there is an outpouring of love for you that I have never seen for any actress in this genre.  One of the comments I consistently get is, “She is a class act.”

ERIKA:

That is just lovely.  It is a credit to Viki, too, that we have always managed to keep her true to who she is.  Then she becomes Jean, Torrie, Tommy, or Niki, or somebody, and they forgive her that, and then she comes around again as Viki.

MICHAEL:

The final ABC OLTL interview we did together in New York City on November 8th 2011 was one of the saddest things I ever had to do in my career.  I know we both fought back tears.  Do you remember going through that day?  And how the cancellation decision sent shockwaves through the industry?

ERIKA:

It was a sad day.  I have said what I had to say about ABC, but I think they made a mistake.  I hope they realize they made a mistake.  I think it’s wonderful that General Hospital was saved, and even though it moved its timeslot, which is generally never a good thing, it’s doing better now than it had been.  It shows that the audience wants entertainment.  They don’t want to be taught how to cook, or how to get thin in the middle of the afternoon.  You can learn that anywhere else!  Our audience was so used to entertainment from Ryan’s Hope through to General Hospital, and then when they left Port Charles come in, and there was still All My Children and One Life to Live.  The audience wanted that time for entertainment.  We were told, “No, the audience doesn’t want entertainment anymore, they want information.”  I am sorry that is a load of rubbish.  When you are used to being entertained, all of a sudden you are being told how to cook a Pork Loin a different way?  The answer was “no” from the fans.  They want to continue seeing their fantasy family, but then to follow it up with, “How to get thin and change your life?”  I think it was pretty evident how bad a call that was, because they canceled The Revolution just a few months after it started!

MICHAEL:

Courtesy/ABC

One Life to Live was firing on all cylinders in the final two weeks of air shows.  It was amazing!  Ratings were up!  It made no sense for the suits to can the show.  Do you think looking back they canceled, or sacrificed One Life to keep General Hospital?

ERIKA:

I was certainly upset that they canceled One Life to Live and All My Children, but I was delighted that they were keeping General Hospital.  When thy canceled us they had not been planning on canceling GH, but in my own mind, I thought it might be on the chopping block in a year or two.  But, very wisely they took Frank Valentini and Ron Carlivati and pepped GH up again.  I think it would have been suicide to cancel all three shows at the same time.  The fact they did both shows was bad enough!   But they had nothing to replace the third show with.  They canceled AMC and OLTL because they already had something in place for them.  They had The Chew for All My Children and The Revolution for One Life.  We were allowed to continue till January of 2012, because The Revolution was doing so poorly and it needed so much work.  They kept testing it, and it would test very badly.  I think had they had something to replace General Hospital with, they very well might have canceled it, but thank God, they didn’t.  Now ABC has a different mindset going, “OK, let’s stick with the entertainment … because it’s working!”

MICHAEL:

Do you miss working with Frank Valentini (Ex-executive producer OLTL, now EP GH) and Ron Carlivati  (Ex-head writer, OLTL, now GH)?

ERIKA:

Courtesy/ABC

Yes, I was very fond of both of them.  I think they were incredibly good at what they do. However, in the last four weeks I have seen our new executive producer, Jennifer Pepperman become a whole different person.  She is now the executive producer who is running the show.  She is working her tail off.   I don’t know how she ever goes home. Our new staff is wonderful.  Hopefully, when we see all the new shows together, we will find out that the writing is equally as good.   Ron Carlivati is a fantastic storyteller!  Frank is an extraordinarily talented producer, and it was to his credit that One Life to Live went out the way it did on ABC.   From the minute we were canceled he said to everybody, “We are not going out sad.  We are going out on top. We are going to get better and better and better!”  And, we did just that.  That was all Frank.  He was a leader, and a cheerleader and a boss, and he was always like that.  Yes, I do miss them, but Jen is doing an amazing job, and our writers are working their tails off in the very short space of time that was given to them.  We will be fine.

MICHAEL:

Now that you had a year and half off from playing Viki, is there something you would love to suggest to the writers that you would like to just dive into and play?

ERIKA:

No.  I am not a writer.  I play Viki.  And when you are a writer, you have to write for everybody and incorporate everybody into all the stories.  As an actress, you are thinking, “What am I going to do with Viki?”  I am always pleased, surprised, sometimes delighted, and sometimes absolutely horrified what is given to me to play, but that’s OK.  That is their job, and they constantly come up with stuff for Viki! (Laughs)   If that stuff happened to me in my life, I would be dead a hundred times over already.  (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

Photo Credit: David Russell/TOLN

Are you at all concerned with the youth movement in daytime, and the youth movement for the new One Life to Live, which is to keep the current audience but to expand it and bring in a younger generation?  And, that characters such as Viki, Clint, and Dorian could be pushed under the carpet in favor of all the newbies?

ERIKA:

At some point that probably will happen, and probably should happen.  You have to have the younger generation take over and become the core characters, but I don’t see that happening now.  I know that had we stayed at ABC, Jessica and Natalie would have become Viki, and Viki would have become older, and that is fine.  That is what happens in life.  You go through ups and downs and arcs.  I think Viki will always be a character there.  How important she will be after awhile would be determined by who comes to take her place.  You do need a vocal morale center of the show, which Viki has always been.  If they can replace her with somebody else then they should.  Hell, I am not going to live forever, and Viki’s not going to live forever.  But for now, I don’t see that happening at all.  Viki is very much in the forefront mixing into everybody’s life, as she always does.  She is very concerned about The Banner, and her family, and Clint and Jefrrey, and Natalie, and everybody, so let’s see where this goes.  But yes, I think that at some point that should happen.  What they have to do is bring in very interesting younger characters and give them time to develop.  And, that is something that soaps don’t always do.  You can’t just throw a character bing-bang in the middle of a story!  The audience doesn’t know who he or she he is.  They have to learn to like them, or not like them, one way or the other. You know, the characters you love to hate, as opposed to the ones you love.  You have to give them time to grow as characters, and the audience to get to know them.  But for now, everything is as it was.

MICHAEL:

Courtesy/ABC

I recently interviewed Judith Light, and we discussed the famous courtroom scene when Karen gets on the stand and admits her life as a prostitute in order to save her friend Viki from a murder rap.  Judith reminded me that the overall theme, in part, was about saving and helping a friend in need.   Do you remember taping those monumental scenes?

ERIKA:

Viki was the one who discovered what Karen had been up to.  And, Viki was very fond of Larry, who was Viki’s brother-in-law when he was married to Viki’s sister Meredith. She was very fond of Karen, and totally trying to find a way out of this without having her destroy her life!  It was very painful for Viki to watch this, and how Herb Callison just destroyed her on the witness stand.  Judith was so fabulous!  But, what I didn’t realize is that they were shooting an awful lot of Viki willing Karen to get through it.  I did not know it till I saw the episodes, but I remember the scene, very, very well.  Oh My God, how could you forget?  At one point the writers and people said, it was the best story on daytime television, ever.  The way Gordon Russell had pulled everybody into this story was genius.  Gordon Russell, was our head writer back then, ‘par excellent’ … and we lost him much too soon.

MICHAEL:

So now looking back at 41 years, are there new favorite all-time storylines you have?

ERIKA:

Yes, but having been the same character for 41 years, you forget so much of the story.  I could not give you one right now. Certainly, Paris Texas, The Heaven Story I loved because I was so comfortable and so happy.  (Laughs)  But all the stories were adventures. Years ago, Viki and Marco Dane (Gerald Anthony) had a silly adventure and that was fun, and working with Lee Patterson as Joe Riley was always fun, working with everybody was fun.

MICHAEL:

Courtesy/ABC

You had the opportunity to work with Jessica Tuck (Megan) again at the end of ABC’s One Life in the final “heaven’” scenes.   How was that?

ERIKA:

Oh, that was lovely.  I was so fond of Jessica, and I still am.  When Megan was dying, and the whole Scheherazade story, it was so touching, and even leading up to that, all the scenes were wonderful.

MICHAEL:

And now you will create new memories!

ERIKA:

There will be new memories, which will be wonderful.  We are making new memories and we are creating an old again/new again show.  All My Children’s Thorsten Kaye (Zach) and Vincent Irizarry (David), and I are all going to on The View to promote the premieres of both shows.  I am not sure of the date of our appearance, though.

MICHAEL:

Fans are thrilled they will be able to see you again as Viki.  During your time away, I am sure many people came up to you expressing the loss they felt not seeing Llanview.  But now thanks to the fans unwavering quest and support, Prospect Park, The Online Network, and Hulu, new episodes will begin very shortly!

ERIKA:

Courtesy/ABC

I am happy to be back.  I love Viki and I have all these years.  She is not a part of me, but I know her so well now.  I like her more and more.  It’s a pleasure to be back in her skin. People were coming up to me so missing her.  One lady came up to me one night while I was having dinner with my family.  She was this very elegant woman, and she said, “I don’t want to interrupt, but I just want to tell you I find it disgraceful you were canceled. I miss you guys.   I have enjoyed you so much over the years on OLTL.  It is such a part of my life.  I just looked forward to that hour … and why?  Why did they do this?”  And I thought, “This is an intelligent educated woman, who is saying, ‘Why would they take that hour a way from me?  My fun time?  My time?  My entertainment?”  People were really sad.   There are people who lived with One Life to Live for 43 years! And unfortunately, we have a wonderful sweet fan named Marge Cash, and she is in her mid 80’s now.  She wrote me this sweet letter not too long ago.  She has been a fan of the show before I joined the cast.  She wrote me a letter to say, “I wish you all the luck in the world.  I am in my mid-80’s and I don’t have a computer and I can barely put the television on, so I won’t be able to see it, but I wish you and everybody all the best.”  And I thought, “Oh, I wish we were in a place for her to see it.”  It means a lot to her.

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scott
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scott

Love her.

ghfan4evr
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ghfan4evr

This interview was everything I expected and more. I remember the interview you did with Erika on that sad final day. How wonderful it must have been this time around. Thank you once again, Mr. Fairman!

C
Guest
C

Great interview. Though I’m assuming that, in Erika’s comment about Natalie, that you meant to see she’s no longer living at Llanfair, not Llanview.

Mary Fergen
Guest
Mary Fergen

Such a fun and interesting interview, Michael! There would be no OLTL without Erika and Viki. She knows just how the fans feel, and how much these soaps mean to us. I’m getting even more excited to see the new episodes!

lanell
Guest
lanell

welcome home OLTL- 😀

Batmarc6
Guest
Batmarc6

Beyond the honor of being pictured with Erika and Soap Fans United President, Shawn Brady… this conversation with her is an absolute TREASURE that I shall ALWAYS cherish. It is SO thrilling to be exposed to her honesty, her forthright attitude towards both the past and the future, her elegance, grace, charisma, intelligence, charm and, as always, she remains the epitome of class. The two weeks that remain before the Hulu premiere are going to be absolute TORTURE!! Not the same kind of torture that the last two years have been, mind you, but agonizing, nonetheless!!

Rob
Guest
Rob

I can’t wait

Llanviewer717
Guest
Llanviewer717

What a wonderful interview. Thank you Michael for posting it. Erika Slezak is as articulate and classy as always. I have always said OLTL has the strongest, most grounded cast on television and she is at the head of the class. My heart and soul are with all of them.

Stephanie
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Stephanie

Love her. Thank you Michael for bringing us the interview. Looking forward to seeing Viki again, Erika and the rest of the cast has been greatly missed.

CTwildheart
Guest
CTwildheart

Michael…I would LOVE to help out Marge Cash! Is there any way you can ask Erika for her contact info? Please?!?!?

rebecca
Guest
rebecca

that is sooo nice of you. I hope Michael can get that for you. best… 😉

Troy Turner
Guest
Troy Turner

Yes, we MUST help Marge to see OLTL again. This is why we’re still fighting as hard as we are. Michael, what more can you tell us?

Llanviewer717
Guest
Llanviewer717

I agree. If there is some way for the rest of us fans to help here, I’d love to participate.

CTwildheart
Guest
CTwildheart

Or you can give Erika MY contact info….

Nancy
Guest
Nancy

I can barely contain myself until 4-29. I never thought this would happen and am so proud to be part of the movement that saved my shows. 2 more weeks and back to normal. Thanks to all the people who did this unbelievable amount of work to get our shows back.

heidi
Guest
heidi

Another fabulous interview Michael!!! Erika is one of the best and a favorite! I am so glad she thinks things on the new PP show are going well. I am so hoping they continue with OLTL and just make it even better than it was as it changes like life does. Do they address where characters are that are not on the show yet… like Jessica? I hope they do that well and leave the oportunity for them to join or come back in the future. She is best! Oh… when she was talking about playing her alters… it made… Read more »

Marva
Guest
Marva

Ohhhhhh Erika Bring it on homeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee….. Can’t wait to watch my soaps again, family and friends think I am nuts because I boycotted ABCD…Still do……

Llanviewer717
Guest
Llanviewer717

You’re not nuts. The alphabet network and the mouse company have no respect, regard, concern for the audience that made millions of dollars for them over the past 40 plus years and no respect for their employees. They will never get one more second of my time or penny of my money.

Marva
Guest
Marva

Thank you, glad I am not the only one who feels this way.. 🙂

CTwildheart
Guest
CTwildheart

I am also still boycotting. I don’t take being lied to and manipulated and talked down to lightly. I especially don’t like that they did that to their own employees. I doubt they will ever get me back…it will take a LOT. So if you’re crazy – then so am I!

Barb Coleman
Guest
Barb Coleman

Thank you Michael for this awesome interview! Erika is a class act! Loved hearing her enthusiasm. I have missed her so! I cannot wait for April 29th! It will be nice crying happy tears instead of tears of devastation! Oltl was my all time favorite and I lost a part of myself, a part of my day when it went off the air! I am over joyed to have my family back! Thank you so much Erika for all your years of dedication and years to come! WHOO HOO!!! I am even more excited now after hearing what she had… Read more »

Tina
Guest
Tina

I adore this woman. I cannot wait to see the show again.

Trapper
Guest
Trapper

Great interview! It’s so wonderful to know that OLTL, and especially Viki, will be back with new stories. I’ve missed Erika Slezak and the rest of them, as has my 90 year old Mum. Thanks for the interview, Michael!!

Christina
Guest
Christina

Another great interview!!! I love this woman, she is the reason I started watching OLTL and I am SO glad that I am now again able to watch OLTL. Thank you for this interview and thanks to Erika for all that she does to bring Viki to our screens.

Ann
Guest
Ann

Great interview! I am so excited for OLTL to come back. Oh, how I have missed my Llanview friends…after watching for around 30 years, through school & jobs & raising kids…they really do feel like part of my life! Erika/Vicki is the greatest. Cannot wait!

susan r.
Guest
susan r.

Erika I love you & I can,t wait til OLTL returns! I,m counting days tick tock to see OLTL resume! Ive really missed all the Buchanans,Cramers & all the fine people & I have to pinch myself to make sure that this is real but it is real & I,m SO happy! Hurray we the fans wouldn,t take no for an answer our wish has been granted & our awesome show is back! Yeah! I can,t wait to see you all in action & no our OLTL should have never been cancelled in the 1st place!

Joliefan Forever
Guest
Joliefan Forever

That Lady is the Definition of Class…..

Rosalie
Guest
Rosalie

Great interview with a great person! I’m sooo excited to see OLTL back again!!!

Edna Barefoot
Guest
Edna Barefoot

Michael thank you so much for the article about Erika. She IS a classy lady. I have missed OLTL so much. I have been watching my tapes of Erika & finally I get to see it new. I am so glad Erika cares for her fans ABC/D didn’t. I can hardly wait til the 29th. Thank you again Michael glad you are an Erika fan that leads to great articles.

Shelley D
Guest
Shelley D

She is such a class act. I love hearing her talk about the younger actors with such fondness. I can hardly wait for my show to come back!

Debbie Harris
Guest
Debbie Harris

Wonderful interview with the Great Erika Slezak!! Cant wait to see my Favorite OLTL live again!!

Jeffrey Jonas Moree
Guest
Jeffrey Jonas Moree

Oh God yes let Nikki come back and curse everyone out…lol

Jackie
Guest
Jackie

I grew up watching OLTL since I was a kid in high school and never missed one show! I am so excited that show will be on again! Even if it’s going on the internet instead of TV. I love all the characters and especially Vicki and Dorian! It’s going to be wonderful!

Bob J
Guest
Bob J

Hopefully the time of the show will go back to one hour. I am sure rating will make a difference. Is this going to be on soap net ?.

Michael
Guest
Michael

Great interview with an absolute class act!

Cindy
Guest
Cindy

I can’t wait for OLTL to start again!

Karen B.
Guest
Karen B.

I am so happy our shows are coming back and happy to say Erika hit the nail on the head with her comments about the cancellations being dumb. I never watched one episode of the Revolution or The Chew and I quit watching GH for the most part. We do want our entertainment and there is a whole channel devoted to cooking so why watch a cooking show on ABC? I am most sure there was a much broader fan base for the soaps than The Chew. I am very glad to know Erika understands her fans. 🙂 She is… Read more »

Lou
Guest
Lou

I am in Canada, and I can’t watch it, as we can’t get it in Canada. I really wish they could find a way for us to see it. I loved OLTL.

Troy Turner
Guest
Troy Turner

PP has just inked a deal with FX Canada to air both AMC and OLTL

Lou
Guest
Lou

How do I get FX Canada?

CTwildheart
Guest
CTwildheart

That’s right! FX Canada will air both shows! Good for Canada and Prospect Park!

Lou
Guest
Lou

Great, but how do I get FX Canada? Is it on tv, or on-line? I sure hope it’s on tv.

CTwildheart
Guest
CTwildheart

FX Canada is a TV channel. You need to check your cable carrier and see if you have it…good luck!

Brian Greene
Guest
Brian Greene

We Love You, Erika–Yay! 😀 <3

Tracey
Guest
Tracey

Thank you for the wonderful interview with Ms. Slezak. She is the heart of OLTL and yes, one classy lady.

peg
Guest
peg

Erika will always be viki
I am so happy they bought oltl back
oltl was my favorite soap
thank you erika

Interviews

Y&R’s Peter Bergman Talks On Dina’s Death & How It Will Impact Jack, His Final Scenes With Marla Adams & Taping During COVID-19

The Abbott family is reeling from the death of their mother, Dina Mergeron, who passed away from complications from Alzheimer’s disease at the end of last Friday’s episode; signaling the end of an era for Dina’s portrayer, Marla Adams.  In a pivotal and heart-breaking scene, Dina shares one last goodbye with her children: Traci (Beth Maitland), Ashley (Eileen Davidson) and of course, Jack (Peter Bergman).

Today, the drama continues as the Abbott’s grieve Dina’s death and its aftermath while they remember the life of their flawed mother. This puts Jack at the epicenter of the family, and like it, or not, the new head of the clan.  What does the future hold for him now?

Michael Fairman TV chatted with three-time Daytime Emmy winner, Peter Bergman, who has embodied Jack for over 30 years on the top-rated CBS Daytime drama, to get his thoughts on: how Y&R needed to handle Dina’s death within the confines of the coronavirus pandemic and its safety protocols, what he felt about playing those final scenes with Marla Adams and the significance of the ‘teardrop of love’, and a preview of what fans can expect in the coming days as the impact of Dina’s death will be felt by the Abbott children and extended family.

 

An actor’s actor, you can always expect a conversation with Peter to be forthright, candid and enlightening, and this one was no different.  Here’s what one of the genre’s absolute best had to share about the significance of this story and more.

How has it been returning to Y&R during the pandemic?  I bet you never thought in all of your years in daytime, that you would be doing your scenes socially-distanced, sitting or standing, so far apart from your castmates.

Courtesy/CBD

PETER:  Just getting back to work felt great, loved that.  I wasn’t involved really in romantic scenes at this point, so that I didn’t have to do.  So, all in all, I was very happy to be back, and socially-distancing didn’t really bother me at all, and then Dina died.  Doing that from six feet away was just awful.  You saw the limits at a time where not any of us could be within six feet of each other; where you would usually hold a hand, stroke a brow, and talk softly.  So, I think the writers did what they needed to do to make it work for Dina’s exit.  We are in the middle of COVID, in case anybody forgot, and so you have to ask, ‘Does America really want to watch an elderly woman die in the middle of the Abbott living room or anywhere else?’  So, we had to have Dina’s exit without looking at a dead body, out of respect for the times we are living in.  We had to do a strong, powerful, pivotal scene with our hands tied behind our backs.

Courtesy/CBS

It’s so interesting that you say that because that’s how I felt watching it, knowing what it would have been like, if Jack, Ashley and Traci would have been with Dina at her bedside, up till the end, for instance.  But all of that said, Peter, I got so choked up in your last moments with Marla.  Jack is just sitting there and Dina is telling him how much she loved him and you’re doing the thing that only Peter Bergman can do as the tears well-up in your eyes.  As we have talked about previously, my mom died from complications from Alzheimer’s, so these are always tough types of scenes for me to watch.  I am sure it was also for those in the audience, who have lost a loved one to this disease, many of whom reached out to me on social media following its airing.

PETER:  It’s got to be tough for you to watch.  I get that.

Photo: Ed McGowan/Plain Joe Studios

Yes, so I felt for Jack and Dina in the moment as a son and his mother.  But what did you think about how the scene was written, and what Dina was saying to Jack and his sisters as her final goodbyes to her children and their reactions to it?

PETER:  As written, something in this necklace triggers something in Dina that brings her out of a stupor, brings her out of the murk, the fog for a brief instant to tell the people who she cares the most about that she loves them in slightly different ways.  I have, with everything in me, a struggle to always add in there, “I have a complicated relationship with my mother.”  I’ve added that line in there so many times over the years, you have no idea.  It was a complicated relationship because by the time she dies, there is no kind of straightening that out, there is no kind of Jack looking for answers. The depth of what Ashley is feeling, what Traci is feeling, what Jack is feeling, were kind of lost because of the way we had to do it. The writers had to do it, so I’m not blaming anyone, but because of the way we had to do it, there was no, “Wow, why isn’t Ashley crying?  Why is she just so stoic that this isn’t touching her at all?” because she can’t go there. Traci feeling like she found her place in the family simply by Dina saying, “You’re the beating heart of this family,” and Jack, who is doing the right thing, “She should leave peacefully, she should leave feeling loved, we should all be here, we should give her nothing but love,” damn, this is complicated.  You couldn’t have any of those things.  .  Hopefully, some of that slid in there and we wedged some of those complexities into it, but it was hard to write a complex scene with the situation as it was.  We needed to get it done it one day.  We did not need to drag this out.  Again, were it not COVID time, sure, let’s drag it out.  Let’s spend some time on this.  People die.  Let’s watch the family process a death.

Photo: CBS

I just think of what it all means for Jack moving forward.  Dina basically tells him, “You’re in charge of the family. Look after the family.” That’s kind of where it’s been going for Jack this whole time.  I don’t know if that’s what Jack wanted, but that’s where he is ending up.

PETER:  Right!  That’s where he ends up, and you know, this has been a long time coming.  Dad dies, and it is pretty clear that he’s got to step up, and his mom comes into town, and she’s not just his mother.  She’s Ashley’s mother; she’s Traci’s mother, we’ve got to look out for her and give her the dignity and things like that.  Now, there is just no getting around it.  Jack is the head of the family.  That’s the way it fell.  Twenty-five years ago, was Jack ready to be head of anything?  Absolutely not, but I think enough has happened to Jack now: enough heartache, enough growth, enough introspection, enough losing people, that Jack might just be ready for this job.

Courtesy/CBS

When Marla Adams came back to Y&R 2017, and they started telling the Alzheimer’s storyline, it brought up such abandonment issues for Jack and rightfully so, about how a mother could just leave her family and children,  Throughout all that,  you did such poignant work.

PETER:  I wanted that to be in there at the very end.  One of the powerful parts in this whole thing is that Jack wanted to scream at Dina every bit as much as he wanted to hug her.  That was there for quite a while, and Jack had to kind of come to terms with, “Hey, you’ve been leaning on this excuse for quite a time.  She’s here.  She can’t do you any harm.  She feels bad about what happened.  What do you want, Jack?”

Photo: CBS

One of the highlights of this storyline was when Y&R explored the history and relationship between the siblings, Jack, Ashley and Traci.  We saw their younger versions as the show flash-backed to when Dina left John and the Abbott family.

PETER:  Between the writers and Peter Bergman, we built this story that the night that Dina left, Dad was upstairs with the girls, they were weeping inconsolably, there was no fixing it, there was no telling them that everything was going to be all right.  He didn’t want to lie to them and say she will be right back, he told them, “She’s not coming back,” and he comes downstairs, and Jack is fourteen-years-old, and a little confused, but decided to say to his dad, “Hey, can I help?”  He looks across the room, and his dad is weeping, first time he had ever seen that.  His father is weeping, and he said, “Jack, you’re going to have to help me with the girls.  I can’t do all of this,” and it changed Jack’s life forever.  Jack was a parent to Ashley for a good part of their relationship.  So, all of this stuff with Jack’s identity, all of the fighting with Ashley, all of the Jabot madness is Ashley finally getting to say, “I don’t need a father!  You’re not my father.  Stop talking to me like you’re going to fix things for me!  I’m sick of it.”  All done by Dina … all truly caused by Dina.

Courtesy/CBD

In my interview with Marla, she told me that at the end of her last scene, you and many others came back to the set to pay tribute to her.

PETER:  We did.  The show had arranged it, and Tony Morina, the executive producer, stepped out on the soundstage with a microphone, and Marla sat on the sofa in the Abbott living room. Tony began telling a lovely, lovely story about how far back his relationship with her goes because Marla and Tony wife’s, Sally Sussman (Ex- head writer, Y&R), also had a long-standing relationship.  Tony was just so grand and gracious in saying that there are some people who, if they weren’t an actor, they’d be this or that or the other thing, but that Marla was born to be an actress.  That’s what she is, and it was so generous.  I think she got three and a half years that she didn’t expect to get out of this.  It was supposed to be a six-month storyline, and four years later, she was still there, and it was a good thing for her, and a unique story turn for the rest of us.  It really was.  It was a powerful thing, and now the Abbott family has a new shape.  There are three adults there: Ashley has established her independence, she is not around as much, she is back and forth between Paris, and Genoa City, Traci is trying to be as supportive and kind as she can be, but essentially, Jack is in the big house by himself.

Yep!  Well, now we’ve got to find Jack a good woman.

PETER:  Yes, or a bad woman.

… Or a bad woman!  I’ll take him in a relationship with someone to stir things up.  I also hear coming up, there will be the reading of Dina’s will.  Is there anything you can tease about that?

PETER:  There is a will read, yes.  No one knows what to expect, and Dina … in the end… comes through for almost everybody…

Courtesy/CBS

Well … that ought to be good.

PETER:  Yep… really comes through for almost everybody, and you know, the Abbott children are wealthier, and all three of them are alone, and in no small thanks to Dina for that.  These are three adults who have been very unlucky in love.  Of course, this is the next challenge.  I don’t mean to assume that I have any idea of what you went through in losing your mom, but there is a point at which you also have to let go and say, “Okay, now it is just me, and what do I want to do with this life?  I’ve used this as a reason not to move forward for a good while.  What am I going to do now?”  I think the next turn in the Jack Abbott story comes pretty organically.  Dina’s death frees Jack to be just as alone as he has ever been.

No matter what Jack does, including the bad things, you always see the inner-pain that is very palpable within him, as you have portrayed him.

PETER:  Yes, but he really has grown in the last 30 years.  Jack is hungry for more right now, and he couldn’t really be that way with Mom in the house.  He didn’t have time for that.  Now he has all of the time in the world.  So, we’ll see what he does with that.

Courtesy/CBD

I understand there is a funeral for Dina, but it will be off-camera?  I guess, because of COVID, it is better that way.

PETER:  That’s true and it’s off camera, that’s correct.  What’s important at most of these things isn’t what happens at the gravesite, it is what happens at the reception afterwards, and that is also a fun turn.  So, they all agree as a family they are going to do it at Society, and they kind of close the joint and make it their own little party, and someone shows up who isn’t expected, and it throws a really, really different vibe into the whole thing, and everybody has to adapt.  It’s actually fun, what it turns into.  It turns into a memory fest with crazy stories of Dina.

Courtesy/CBS

Do you have a favorite moment, or memory, of a scene you played with Marla?

PETER:  I think I had a day where Jack tried to get through to her and tell her, “Do you realize the damage you did?  Do you realize?” and she wasn’t able to take it in, and he went to Traci, and he said, “I want to shake her.  I want to yell at her… and I want to protect her.”  I thought there was something just so rich about that.  That was my favorite moment, my favorite part of it, when Jack finally said, “She’s going, man.  We’ve got to get this conversation done now.  We’ve got to talk this through,” and he was too late.   She was too far along with Alzheimer’s.  She wasn’t up to it.  She couldn’t do it.

Photo: JPI

And now here is Jack; and his parents are both gone.  There is no Jerry Douglas or Marla Adams on the show as both John and Dina have passed on within the history of The Young and the Restless.

PETER:  Again, you were generous enough to share your own personal experience, but isn’t it amazing?  Wow, you’re the grownup now.  Isn’t it amazing?  That’s what the Abbott’s are going through: just what you went through.  There is no older generation to turn to for anything.  We are the older generation.  It’s powerful stuff, and I’m really, really grateful for anytime that Ashley, Jack, and Traci are together talking about those things, talking about, “Wow, okay, that just happened… where do we go from here?”  It’s going to be really interesting.  If you asked me, “Over the last 30 years that you’ve played Jack Abbott, have there been many times where you’ve thought, ‘I’ve got no idea where this is going!’”  I would say, “Yeah, right now.”  I’ve got no idea where we are going with this.

Courtesy/CBS

There has been much speculation that the “teardrop of love” necklace will lead Jack to a new romance, or some new adventure in his life.  They spent a lot of time mentioning it in short order, that it would seem it’s not just to bring Dina some closure.  What are your thoughts on it?

PETER:  I think it has legs.  I think you’re going to hear about it again. There is something in there, and I don’t know if it’s the teardrop’s magic charm or that its history is not what it was, or it gets stolen.  I don’t know, but I think we have spent enough time saying ‘teardrop of love’, that there could be a story there.

In Dina’s final moments where Jack brings her the ‘teardrop of love’, wasn’t it symbolic to her because it was her acknowledgement of having her family back together and with her at all times? There is a back-story to that piece of jewelry as well.

PETER:  The point of the necklace is, “This was when I was truly happy, when I had this necklace, when it is all back together,” and maybe we are to know something more about the teardrop…?  I don’t know.  So, this was a gift to her before Jack was born.  She wore it home from the hospital when she brought him home, but we don’t know exactly what year she got it, and we don’t know exactly what year she lost it.  It was stolen, and it was on the black market for a while, and Victor (Eric Braeden) was looking into it.  It was clear that it was very important to Dina.  So, Jack, against his own wishes, said, “No, I’ve got to do the right thing.  I’ve got to try to trace this thing down.  It clearly means something to her.  Maybe she is trying to tell us something.  God only knows.”  So, he did the right thing, not because, “I want to make Mommy happy,” but because he forced himself to do the right thing, to find the damn necklace, and to see what this is about.  Then, we saw the affect it had when he gave it to her.

Photo: CBS

It’s always good to chat and check-in with you during these key and historical moments in the life of the character of Jack Abbott.  There have been many throughout your time on Y&R, and it will be interesting to see where this goes from here.

PETER:  It will be, and I’m telling you, this is a real moment.  Normally, we just go from one story into the next, into the next, and this one has been hanging for so long that, “Okay, now that it is over, wow, what is going to happen to Jack?”  I’m just as curious as everybody else.

So, what do you think will happen next for Jack?  Did you reach for the hankies in Peter’s final scenes with Marla Adams?  Share your thoughts via the comment section below.

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Interviews

Marla Adams Talks Her Final Scenes As Dina Mergeron, The Alzheimer’s Storyline, and Her Touching Farewell

Today on The Young and the Restless marks the end of the enduring run of Marla Adams in the role of Dina Mergeron. In story, Dina passes away from complications from Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a storyline that started four years ago when the CBS Daytime drama brought back the character and Adams; and one that has deeply affected many in the viewing audience who have also had their own personal experience of losing a loved one to this dreadful disease.

If you have not seen today’s episode yet, you may not want to read any further, but needless to say, make sure you have the hankies ready for Dina’s final moments with her children and how she leaves this earth, which will be remembered for quite some time to come.

Marla originated the role of the rich and spoiled Abbott matriarch back in 1983 and portrayed the role on and off for what amounts to five decades. Her classic scenes with Jerry Douglas (Ex-John), Eileen Davidson (Ashley) and so many more from the iconic soap, always made for great and complex stories.

 

With this her final airdate on Y&R, it also puts an exclamation point for Marla on an incredible daytime career having also appeared on: The Bold and the Beautiful. Capitol, Days of our Lives, Generations and The Secret Storm

Michael Fairman TV chatted with Adams in this very special conversation where she shared with us how it was to play these heartbreaking last scenes, the importance of the ‘teardrop of love’ necklace to the story, how Y&R gave her the most overwhelming and beautiful send-off, and her ‘thank you’s’ to all of you, who have been her extended family and are sad to see her go. She is one-of-a-kind …and now, here’s Marla.

Photo: Getty

Marla, I am so glad we have the opportunity to chat in this full-circle moment as you have brought the character of Dina to a close.

MARLA:  It’s such a joy to talk to you.  It seems like yesterday and an eternity as well.   I thought of you so much, and I remember talking to you specifically with all of the different interviews over the years, when I was at the studio.  But I will always remember the interview you did with me and Beth Maitland (Traci), my darling soul sister, and you talked to me about your mother who has since passed on from Alzheimer’s.  I’ll never forget what you had to say all those months ago

Photo: HallmarkChannel

Yes, and when as audience members we watch these stories unfold with characters we have loved, or watched on our screens for years, and there is a death, we feel connected to them as well.  And in this case, as a child who has lost a parent to Alzheimer’s, like many in the audience, you ask yourself first, “Can I watch this?” It hits very close to home, but I’m sure when people watch today’s episode of Y&R and see Dina pass away, they will be extraordinarily moved.

MARLA:  Oh, my gosh.  Wait until you people see Friday’s show.  I know they will be moved.  They should be!  I’ve got friends who I’ve already said to, “Get your Kleenex box out.”  It’s so beautiful what happens at the end of the episode.

Courtesy/CBD

How did you feel about playing Dina’s final scenes?

MARLA:  It was wonderful because it showed her lifetime of sorrow and regret, and what was so wonderful was the fact that the hero of the whole thing is the kindness and respect that she really did have for her whole family.  They had the most beautiful sendoff for me.  They sent me a limo!  I went to the studio, and dear Patti Denney (Make-up artist, Y&R) was there, of course with all kinds of makeup and everything else, and she looked like she was entering the ER room for Covid-19, because of all the safety protocols we must have.  It was unbelievable, the kindness that was served to me.  After we finished taping my final scenes, I came back to the soundstage and they totally surprised me.  Dear Tony Morina (executive producer, Y&R) and Sally Sussman (Ex-head writer, Y&R) were there, and Tony spoke about me, and so did my Y&R extended family and on-screen children: Peter Bergman (Jack), and Beth Maitland, and Eileen Davidson, and much of it was put on tape (see excerpts in video below).  Afterwards, Tony gave me beautiful flowers.  I was driven back home after this, and I felt really special, and it was just amazing to me. I had written Josh Griffith (Current head-writer and co-executive producer, Y&R) a ‘thank you’ for writing the show with his wonderful people, but I never heard back, but when I walked in my apartment, the phone was ringing.  Guess who?  It’s Josh!  He said, “I waited until I knew you would be home to thank you,” and I felt so lovey-doved up, I couldn’t believe it.  I want to read something to you that I received in the wonderful flowers that came the next day from CBS Daytime executive Margot Wain and others.  The flowers were so big that they didn’t fit on the bar!  The card read: “Thank you for bringing the amazing force that is Abbott matriarch, Dina Mergeron to countless fans of The Young and the Restless.  Your vast contribution to Y&R and CBS for more than five decades is unparalleled.  We are forever grateful for all you’ve brought to Y&R as both a consummate professional and a cherished co-worker.  All our best wishes.”  I was just so touched by the sentiments.

Photo: CBS

I also want to share something with you.  When it was revealed in the promo that came out last week that this would be your last show, I received so many notifications on social media, saying, “Oh, my God!  We love Marla!  You have to interview her!”  You are loved by the Y&R fans.  I hope you know that!  They’re sad to see you go, because you’re a legacy character to them, and soap fans have deep connections to characters that have been on their favorite soaps for decades.

MARLA:  Five decades!  My God!  I’m eighty-freaking-two.  I can’t believe it.

Courtesy/CBS

In story, Jack was on a mission to get the ‘teardrop of love’ necklace back to Dina before she died, hoping that she would have one last moment of lucidity and would recall it and it would hopefully make her happy.   He moves heaven on earth to get it, and does, and brings it to her and viewers saw her reaction. 

MARLA:  The necklace had never been anywhere before in story except recently, but I said to myself that I would play it ‘quietly and graciously’, because it made for such a beautiful moment for Dina with her children.

Courtesy/CBS

For Dina, the necklace was a symbol of remaining connected to her family and her children, even when she was not with them all of those years.  In your final scenes, Dina had these moments to say goodbye to each of your children.  Do you remember looking at Eileen, Traci, and Peter taping those highly emotional beats?

MARLA:  Yes, they were so there for me.  They are an extended family that is so precious to me, and playing this iconic character has been, too.  I remember when Sally Sussman told me a few years ago, “ I’m going to bring you back on The Young and the Restless, but you’ve got Alzheimer’s,” and I said, ‘What!?  You’re bringing me back so you can kill me off?’ and she said, “Oh no, it’ll be about a year.”  That dissolved into four years, and now five decades had passed and I was still on Y&R.  I am beyond grateful.

Courtesy/CBD

As an actress, was it hard to play Dina’s final moments when she goes to the light to join her beloved, John?

MARLA:  It was heart-wrenching for me.  In the story, Dina died when she went outside and to the front door of the Abbott home.  They did not tell me before-hand, and that’s why it was so wonderful.  I hope they came in for a closeup of that because I had no makeup on, it was beautiful, and then, Dina said, “Oh, John.”  I’ve done everything from movies, to daytime, to nighttime, to Broadway, but that was the iconic moment for me, to do this gig with wonderful, wonderful actors and friends, and to do this particular storyline.

Photo: CBS

It was 1983 when you first appeared on Y&R.  And through the years, Dina did not do such great things! She had an affair with Brent Davis who was the biological father of Ashley that caused such a rift between mother and daughter for years.  She abandoned the Abbott children and walked out on them and her marriage to John, and that’s just for starters! Dina was a complicated character. Did you love the fact that she could be very selfish at times?

MARLA:  You think?  That’s why I loved her.  Of course!  I can be very selfish, too.  You have to be selfish if you’re an actor, good God. (Laughs).

Courtesy/CBS

It was great that The Young and the Restless brought you back four years ago so that through the telling of the Alzheimer’s storyline that Dina was able to somewhat repair her relationships with her children.  Obviously, over the last many months the audience could not witness the more day to day progression and toll the disease took on Dina and her family in its final stages, but unfortunately with the way COVID-19 has affected shooting daytime soap operas, and all of our lives, including safety protocols, I am sure plans had to be altered,

MARLA:  Of course.  As an actress, this was the most important role of my life, and to have her final moments spread out in one day really is because of all of the fans who have been writing in and wanting to see Dina again,

Photo: CBS

People were rooting for you to win the Daytime Emmy back in 2018 when you were nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. That must be a nice moment to carry with you from playing Dina’s final storyline.

MARLA:  Yes, and I should have won!  Eric Braeden (Victor, Y&R) was furious. (Laughs)  He said, “What do you mean, darling, you should have won!  Goddammit!” He’s a wonderful man and a good friend.  He came to pick me up several times to go to the studio for my last few shows, and that’s the kind of mensch he is. So, I feel just so blessed and I feel great love and loss.  I would like Dina to come back as a ghost, but I have no idea, if that will happen or not. But if the fans would be interested in seeing Dina as a ghost … make sure to write in to the show and tell them!

Courtesy/CBS

Speaking of the fans that have followed you for decades on Y&R, what would you want to say to them now that Dina has passed on?

MARLA:  Thank you, from the bottom of my heart for all of the love, the support, and the chance to play Dina out… and I’m thankful that you cared, and loved her, up till the end.

So what did you think about Dina’s final moments on today’s Y&R? Will you miss Marla Adams?  Share your thoughts via the comment section below.  But first check out the special behind the scenes tribute for Marla, followed by The Michael Fairman Channel’s interview with Marla and Beth Maitland from Y&R’s 45th anniversary celebration referred to during the above conversation.

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Interviews

B&B’s Jacqueline MacInnes Wood Talks Steffy’s Opioid Addiction Storyline, The Emotional Scenes & Adjustments Made Due To COVID-19

If you have been watching CBS’ The Bold and the Beautiful over the last two weeks, you have witnessed the compelling and important storyline unfold with Steffy Forrester (Jacqueline MacInnes Wood) at its epicenter.  In a harrowing tale of opioid addiction that can so easily happen to anyone given the circumstances, the daytime drama took on a social issue prevalent and rising in our society today.

This story gave Daytime Emmy-winner, Jacqueline MacInnes Wood another chance to shine in some of the most deeply affecting episodes and scenes in soaps of 2020.  In story, after Bill Spencer (Don Diamont) accidently hit Steffy with his car while she was on her motorcycle; she became hospitalized to treat her injuries. Once there, she met new love interest, Dr. Finnegan or as the show calls him “Finn” played by newcomer, Tanner Novlan. Finn prescribes pain medication for her. But before you know it, once Steffy is out of the hospital and back at home she struggles with the pain and the isolation of her life, and the losses she has experienced over the last many months, and before you know it, she is addicted, and no longer getting the pills from her doctor, but by any means possible.

Last week, we named Jacqui’s work the ‘Power Performance of the Week’, but we are also giving it to her again this week for her masterful performance on Tuesday’s episode, where Steffy breaks down after being confronted by Finn, Liam (Scott Clifton) and her father, Ridge (Thorsten Kaye) and finally coming to the stark realization that she is an addict.

Michael Fairman TV caught up with Jacqueline MacInnes Wood after all the key scenes had aired to: get the inside Intel on what went down taping those moments, and how the show made some important decisions amid the coronavirus pandemic about the telling of this storyline. Here is what Jacqui had to say about: her co-stars, herself, and what she learned about those who struggle with addiction.

Courtesy/CBS

How did you feel about being handed the ball to tell this important story, and how much were you told ahead of time?

JACQUELINE: Originally, I was told that we were going to tell this story, and that was before Covid-19.  So, it was literally the week before we went into lockdown, and we were about to dive into this story. Obviously, I am so grateful to be able to tell this story because traditionally The Bold and the Beautiful has a long list of social stories that we are known for telling.  It is something that that we need to talk about because it is happening, and it is happening everywhere.  Someone knows somebody – it is in our family, or our friends are dealing with this, and I didn’t realize how close to home it was for so many people.  I think that with our show, the way we balance drama, and romance, and real social issues that really touch people, is special.  I noticed that throughout this week with so many people reaching out to me.  People who are police officers, to people who actually work with people who are addicted, people who were addicted have reached out to me.  There have been a lot, but I’m very honored, again, to dive into this story.

A lot of fans and viewers remarked along the lines of “Wow, Steffy got addicted very fast,” because it felt like the story kind of accelerated itself, and some people are like, “Well, they just told it too fast.”  I wondered how you felt about that, knowing what you know about soap operas and research you may have done on addictions.

JACQUELINE:  I did some research on YouTube on opioid addiction from first-hand accounts of addicts and the effect on just them, but also on the grief it had caused their families. I originally had mistakenly thought, “It must take years to become addicted,” and I was very surprised by how quickly and easily one can be trapped in pain management, and many cases are heartbreaking.  You always think, with opioids, “Oh, this can’t happen to a lot of people,” but it’s not just, “Oh, the ‘crackhead’ down the street…”  It could be a mom, or these people who have a surgery, or an accident, and then they just get on these pills, and it happens so quickly.  Yes, the storyline happened extremely fast, but there is truth to it because addiction does happen very quickly in this world.  The other thing I have to say, I think what Brad Bell (executive producer and head writer, B&B) did so elegantly, is that we were going to tell this story, and we were going to tell this story for a very long time.  I love that he was very perceptive to this – that we are in a dark time right now.  It’s a dark world, and I think that it is important, again, to shed some light on this, but we didn’t want to necessarily drag it on too long because it’s like, you watch every news outlet, and it’s depressing, and it’s depressing everywhere.  Before Covid-19, this story would have been a lot longer, and I think it was kind of realizing, “Let’s take it back.  But, let’s dive into this.” I think we were also being mindful of the viewers because we are shedding light on this, but also, opioid addiction had now skyrocketed through this pandemic, and this quarantine.  I think, again, it’s important to tell this story, but we didn’t want to be another show that is just so depressing right now during such a depressing time.

Photo: JPI

Right, so the story won’t be as elongated , but obviously, she will always have this addiction now, which is always great as a character, to delve back into, that Steffy will have in her physical and emotional make-up now.

JACQUELINE:  Absolutely.  She will always have that.  She will always have to be mindful of it.

What did you think about Dr. Finn in all of this?  Do you think that he should have caught on earlier that this was happening to Steffy?

JACQUELINE:  (Laughs) Yes, absolutely.  I think, Steffy was pretty good at hiding it from him, especially the last time when she invited him over, and she said she didn’t need the pills.  However, on Tuesday’s episode when there was that huge explosion, and he really got to see that visceral side of Steffy as defiant and angry, that was a lot for him to take in.  Tanner has been doing such an incredible job of diving into this and telling this story, but yeah, you wonder if Finn noticed, but again, I do think Steffy was pretty good at hiding it.

She was pretty slick, but when she got the pills from Vinny, I kept thinking, “What did he give her?”, because they seemed awfully strong, or laced obviously with another drug. 

JACQUELINE:  When Steffy got the pills from Vinny, that was the first thing I said, “Is this just opioids?” Now, she’s getting it off the street, and we just don’t know.  It’s laced with God-knows-what.  She has no idea because she’s not getting it from an actual doctor; she’s getting it from Vinny.

Courtesy/CBS

So, when Tanner came to the show, did you read screen-test with him?  What was your initial thought of him and Steffy finally having a potential new relationship?

JACQUELINE:  He is absolutely wonderful.  It’s funny because we have a lot of friends in common, and he is a fellow Canadian, and we bonded over that.  He originally screen-tested, I think, a few days before we went into lockdown.  So, who knew that we were not going to be able to work with each other for months and months and months, but he has been completely added to the group, and it is a different world that we are navigating, especially with how we are filming on set and the 8 feet apart rules, and you have these emotional scenes, and you feel like you just want to grab someone, and hold them, and cry.  I have so many fans going, “My God, I just wanted one of the characters to hold you!” and then you’re like, “COVID,” and nobody can really touch me, so…

Photo: JPI

Isn’t he kissing his wife though as your stand-in?  B&B alum, Kayla Ewell?

JACQUELINE: Yes, yes he is!  I just thought it was priceless that, how long have I been on the show, that Steffy has just been pining away for Liam for years, and years, and years, and finally gets the go-ahead, and she’s going to get a new love interest, and I’m like, “Woo-hoo!” and then, COVID happened, and I find out, “Your love interest is going to be a doll!”  So, he gets his wife, which is great.  My husband has been completely supportive, but my husband has not come in.  I don’t think it would work playing opposite him as Tanner, but his wife actually has a very similar look to me, which is great.  So, she’s been in a few times, which has been amazing!  I get the foam doll. (Laughs)

Photo: JPI

I was just thinking it’s so funny, too.  Steffy FINALLY gets a new man, but she is with a doll! 

JACQUELINE:  I know, I know.

Photo: JPI

What’s great about when you get to play these kinds of emotional levels in an addiction storyline … or anything that kind of flips the character’s mental state, is that you get to see the anguish.  You know, we’ve never seen Steffy discuss or really say anything about having Beth taken from her, whom she raised her as ‘Phoebe’, and then losing Liam to Hope, and this is kind of addressing her pain through this story arc, which I thought was really good, that it wasn’t just swept under the table.  The characters, the audience, and Steffy were realizing that she had emotional baggage and distress over those losses.  How did you feel when taping those scenes with the confrontation where she pulls out a switchblade on Brooke (Katherine Kelly Lang), Ridge, Liam and Hope (Annika Noelle)? Those were great scenes. 

JACQUELINE:  Thank you, thank you.  We didn’t know how we were going to be able to do these scenes.

Because of the social distancing?

JACQUELINE:  Well, yeah, social distancing!  We did it in one take.  It was a long 10-12 page scene.

Photo: Gilles Toucas/Bell-Phillip Television

Well, the final 7 minutes of that episode were just a riveting; which included that knife scene, which in itself was gut-wrenching to watch, as I assume it must have been to play?

JACQUELINE:  It was a big scene, and it was a big, emotional week for all of us, obviously, and I couldn’t have done it without my cast.  They were so phenomenal as well.  We were trying to think, “How are we going to do this?”  Thorsten Kaye came up with this idea that Steffy should have a knife because Ridge would want to go to her and grab her, and the only thing that would maybe keep him away.  She is so angry, and she does have so much emotional baggage, and yes, she is in pain from her motorcycle accident, but I think that a lot of people saw in that phone call from Hope, where Hope said, “Oh, Kelly wants to spend another night,” that was that whole mental shift of, “Oh, my God, this is my worst fear.  It’s finally happening.  My daughter doesn’t want to stay here.  I am truly alone.  I don’t have anybody.”  Her life up to now has been about raising Kelly, and then that was that whole baggage unload – the pain of all of the years of what the Logans had done to the Forresters – it was just a domino effect. She obviously is not dealing with the pain in a pragmatic way.  I think Steffy was using the pills to mitigate her misery, physically and emotionally.

Courtesy/CBS

I think there were two turning points … after the switchblade incident, when she finally realized, “Oh, my God, what am I doing?  I’ve got this knife,” and she gets rid of it.  She does seem to have these moments (in that episode and the one that aired Tuesday) where she realizes, “Oh, my God, I’m messed up,” which were heartbreaking moments.  Do you remember playing that moment of, “Oh, my God, I’m an addict,” where Steffy admitted it out loud?

JACQUELINE:  Yeah!  It was extremely difficult.  I’m really good at being able to work on set and being able to leave it behind.  That’s the one thing that people will say to me, “What is it like off of set?  It must be so emotional for you!”  Once we say cut, I’m done.  I don’t mentally check out from the scenes, but I’m just able to let go because we just have so many episodes and so many emotional scenes, but I have to say this took a little while to shake.  I had to get into my car, and I was still emotional, and I had to put some good music on, and blare it, and drive home.  To know that these things are happening in the world and it is happening to so many people, it just breaks my heart, and I still get emotional about it.  It is gut-wrenching to know that this happens.  When I have those emotional scenes, (especially like that) I can’t fake it.  That’s just not who I am.  I can’t just fake cry to get through it.  Yeah, I’m an actor, but even though we film so quickly, even though it’s usually just one take, even though we are crying all day with all of these scenes, I really like to emotionally get there.  Obviously, over the years, I’ve learned to get there quicker, and I am really proud of myself for that, but what you see is what you get.  Those are real emotions.  I am just as present as I possibly can be in that scene and just listening to Ridge, and Liam, and Finn and just taking it all in – then Steffy realizes that she is addicted, just that moment of everything breaking down; her whole world was falling apart.  I think it was an important moment, but we were just really there for one another in that scene.

 

Scott Clifton, I just really want to say, throughout that week, had to play annoyingly holier-than-thou with you as Steffy.  People were annoyed with Liam.  He was the perfect annoyance to get her really pissed off!

JACQUELINE:  Yeah, I know!  It was actually funny at one point because so many fans were like, “Steffy was out of her mind!  She was clearly on drugs!”  I love the Steffy fans who were like, “Liam is so wrong!”  You could see how loyal the fans were.

Courtesy/CBS

They were!  It was great, but Liam was super annoying. That being said; did you watch back last Friday’s episode where after Steffy runs out, the camera pans to Scott, and Liam breaks down and cries?  So good. 

JACQUELINE:  Yep, yep.  I know, it was so good, and that was him!  That’s what I find so beautiful is that when you are in that scene, you don’t know what the reactions are going to be, and I know that was so true and authentic of Scott.  It was a genuine emotion that came out of him. I hadn’t seen him break down in a long time, but it was so unexpected, but I was glad to see it, really glad.

Photo: JPI

We haven’t seen Bill Spencer come to Steffy yet.  How does she feel about that?

JACQUELINE:  That’s a good question.  I don’t know how Steffy is going to feel about that.  I think, obviously before the addiction happened, she would blame him for hitting her on her motorcycle, but you never know, things could change coming up with Bill and Steffy.

Well, he will probably blame himself now for the addiction, I would think, because he hit her.

JACQUELINE:  I think so, too.  That’s one of the things he may be playing in those scenes.  So, we shall see.

Courtesy./CBS

Talk to me about Thorsten Kaye in those scene with you as the dad, because in the episode we saw Tuesday, there was a powerful moment when he just sat beside Steffy, but not holding her at the very end.  I thought that was a very nice touch given also Covid-19 protocols.  At that point they weren’t dragging Steffy out into a rehab facility.  We just watched him sitting there quietly while Steffy had this reckoning to herself. 

JACQUELINE:  I really liked it.  I liked that we had a lot of those chill moments of taking each other in. Thorsten and I get along so well.  We’ve just always had a bond, and I love working with him because in rehearsal, we do something one way, and then, again, when you’re filming, it’s always so unexpected, you don’t know what he is going to throw at you, which makes you be even more present.  It’s a tough scene.  I was feeding off of him and vice versa, and I’m sure he was putting himself in that situation of God-forbid if his daughters were in this situation, and you know, I’m looking at him in that father-daughter moment and seeing him become emotional for his daughter.  It just kills you, it really does, but it was a heartbreaking moment, but I like how we ended the scene: with something as very simple as sitting beside each other.

Courtesy/CBS

Your fans and the soap pundits are saying that obviously you have your Emmy reel for next year, it’s done.  It’s right there.  This may just make you a two-time Lead Actress Daytime Emmy winner.

JACQUELINE:  Aw, that’s so sweet.

It is great for you because you have an arc of a story there to tell, and we’ve talked about this before – an arc of a story for a submission in Emmy competition seems what many of the judges like to see and can understand because they watch the performer in scenes from the progression of a story.   

JACQUELINE:  Definitely, and it was nice to know that I was going to do this story and that we were going to tell this story, but once we came back months later, I didn’t know that we were still going to dive into opioid addiction with Steffy, because again, with our show, and with a lot of soaps, storylines change all of the time. I am very grateful for it.

 

So, what can we tease?  Will Steffy get Kelly back, or will she be estranged from her for a little bit?  What do you think?

JACQUELINE: I think that Steffy is a strong woman, and I think she will come back stronger than ever, and I think she will get her daughter.

Courtesy/CBS

You should be very, very proud of this work, Jacqui!

JACQUELINE:  Thank you.  I am.  During the week, when we had all of the dialogue to do, and it’s a different world now when you’re taking care of a toddler, and then with the Covid-19 protocols, and then you get the story, (and again, so grateful for it), but it was so much dialogue, and going back and forth, and making sure you’re bringing it emotionally, and it was extremely challenging, to say the least,  But, I am really proud of myself that come that Friday I was like, “Oh, my God, we did it.  We did it!”

What have you thought of Jacqueline’s performances in the opioid addiction storyline? Were you glad to hear the show decided not to drag out the story due to the times we are all in? Do you feel this storyline was powerful and could help those in need of help? Share your thoughts on the interview with Jacqui and more via the comment section below.

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Video du Jour

B&B’s Jacqueline MacInnes Wood deliver the Power Performance of the Week as Steffy’s drug addiction leads to a confrontation and intervention by her loved ones with dire consequences.  Here is the last seven minutes that featured Emmy-winner Wood at her best. Leave A Comment

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Power Performance

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Airdate: 10-08-2020

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