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The Erika Slezak Interview – One Life to Live

Courtesy/ABC

Six-time Daytime Emmy winner, Erika Slezak (Viki) should probably get ready to pick up a seventh after this coming Wednesday’s episode, in which she will play three sides to Viki’s personality in a very special performance created by the powers-that-be, to honor her 40th anniversary milestone with the series.  It was back in 1971 that Erika first graced our television screens as the central heroine in Llanview and the wealthy daughter of the ruthless Victor Lord.  From that point on, the soap world has been mesmerized time and time again by her flawless, fearless, and heart tugging performances.

Trying to fathom the daytime world without Erika and her Viki is going to be a tall order, but sadly after the decision handed down by ABC less than two weeks ago, that day will have to come. On-Air On-Soaps had the distinct privilege to speak to Erika yesterday, and while we had to broach the subject of the cancellation, the focus of this interview was to celebrate with Erika her forty years of a monumental television achievement, that if you think about it, most likely not many other actors will experience that kind of longevity.  From the storylines, her leading men, her various alters (and we have loved watching her play them all) her cast mates, to her current front burner storyline, and the upcoming major episode, Erika shared her thoughts with such grace, delight, sentiment, and passion for what she does best…act!

When you think of the consummate professional, who for forty years has left an audience in tears and standing with cheers, there is only one who has accomplished this feat, and that is Erika Slezak.
I hope you will be moved by and enjoy this fantastic conversation with the one, thee only… Erika!

MICHAEL:

It is your 40th Anniversary with One Life to Live, and we are celebrating it on air with tomorrow’s special episode.  It has to be bittersweet with the heartbreaking news of the show’s cancellation a week and half ago.  How are you doing with the news?  I know it is still so fresh, and I know you released a statement to the fans.  But since you may have had a tiny bit more time to process it, is there anything else you may want to add?

ERIKA:

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We have seven more months left. I have talked to Frank Valentini (executive producer, OLTL) and he had told me there are brilliant stories to be told.  And, that we will go out with a bang.  Right now, I can only look forward to the next seven months.  After that, I think I will sleep for a while, because getting up at 5AM is tiring.  I have done it for 40 years and I can’t complain, because it has been a brilliant job.  I am very sorry to see it go, and not so much for me, but for the incredible loss of jobs for everyone connected with the show.  And, I don’t mean just the people that work there every day.  I mean the hundreds and hundreds of actors who are employed as under-fives, and as extras and day players every year.  There is work for actors there, and now there is not.  I don’t know about nighttime shows hiring those people on that type of scale.  And I find that horrendously sad, and the jobs that are lost are so awful.  However, we have seven months to make some really good stories, and that is what we are going to focus on.

MICHAEL:

Speaking of your 40th, on my website we posted a fantastic photo gallery of your surprise party last month at OLTL.   I hear you were totally surprised!  What went through your mind when you saw all of the cast and crew there to mark this incredible accomplishment with you?

ERIKA:

When the notice went up that we were having a St. Patrick’s Day party, I was talking to David Coleman, who is our security guard.  He is like the Mayor of Llanview and the show would not exist without him.  He does everything.  If you have a problem with your life, or your computer, he can fix it!  David looked at me and said, “Hmm, interesting!  St. Patrick’s Day party on your 40th Anniversary?” And I looked at him and said, “How do you know it’s my 40th anniversary?” And he said, “Because I have always known it was March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day.”  I said, “Look, they have given me parties in the past and have said to me, ‘Look, we are going to give you a nice party and we are going to invite Agnes Nixon, and it will be lovely.’  And it has always been lovely.  No one had said anything this time.  And I said, “And it would be kind of dumb to surprise me, wouldn’t it? “   And I thought (regarding the St. Patrick’s Day party) that this is really nice of Frank.  It has been a really long rotten winter.  We moved down to that other studio, which is terrific.  But I thought, ‘It’s an excuse to have lunch on the floor and welcome in spring.’  Then the day of the party I was finished taping at noon, and lunch was going to be at 12:30.  I was really hungry, as I eat a little breakfast usually around seven in the morning.  And I said to Robin Strasser (Dorian) as we were leaving the set, “Thank God.  I am so hungry.”  And I went to my dressing room to change and Frank showed up at my dressing room door at 12:25.  And I said, “Oh good. Let’s go to lunch.” And he said, “No, I have to talk to you first.”  And he started talking about nothing. “Oh, I wanted to say this, and I saw the show that we aired, and it’s going to be interesting with the editing.”  And he is still taking about nothing!  I am looking at my watch and I go, “Frank, can we go to lunch?  I am really hungry.”   Well, he keeps talking, and he is walking ahead of me very, very slowly down the corridor – and I am thinking, “Geez! I am starving. Will you move it?”  And we go up in the elevator together and he is still talking away, and he pushed open the door and he is still talking…and…. everyone is standing there looking at the door.  They yelled, “surprise!”  I looked at Frank as I thought it was something for Frank.  I was so stupid!  And then, everyone started applauding and that is when I realized what it was.  I felt stupid, incredibly honored, and surprised, and of course cried, because that is what you do when you are that stunned.  It was quite amazing.

Courtesy/ABC

MICHAEL:

But then, there was even more in store for you once you entered your own party!

ERIKA:

Yes, there was.  I kind of walked into the room slowly and there are about 20 people wearing t-shirts that said “Erika” on them.  I thought “Oh, my God”, and my daughter. Amanda was there, too.  She had flowers for me. It was so sweet.  And my husband, Brian, who gets his hair cut at the studio, said to me that he was going to come in on that Thursday.  So Brian had been there in the morning and he vanished, and he was going to have the dogs groomed that day.  So I thought, I will catch up with him when the dogs finished their grooming. And of course, he walked in, too.  Apparently, everybody knew but me.  It was amazing!  And what kind of blew me away was the beautiful reel they put together, which had Nathan Fillion (Ex-Joey, now Castle) on it, my sweet boy!  He was on the reel, and that boy is not a boy, he is a man, but he is so wonderful.  I love him to death, I really do. And David Pressman was on the reel, Brian Frons, and Agnes Nixon, too.  I did have to laugh because Regis and Kelly were on it and the ladies of The View. Then, they had this enormous spread of food.  I finally said, “Gosh, I am really hungry. Can I get something to eat?” (Laughs) Then somebody else said, “No, you have to cut the cake now.”  And I thought, ‘OK, I will cut the cake.’  I never did get lunch, but it was OK. (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

There was one picture I saw of Robin Strasser applauding you with you in tears. And I thought, it looked like such a great moment.

ERIKA:

Courtesy/ABC

She is my great bud and she is wonderful!  Jerry verDorn (Clint) made a speech.  I said, “Jerry, you are not even working today, you drove all the way from New Jersey?”  And he said, “Of course I did.”  I was so touched by that and what Robin said.  I love Robin dearly.  I think she feels the same about me.  We respect each other, and she is so great to work with.  I have always said, “Robin, when you have to bring something to the table, you bring a thanksgiving feast every single day when you go to work.”  It was quite an amazing day and you look around and go: “All these people are here for me.”  I said to Frank, “You know, I could kill you for this, but at the same time, thank you, thank you.  It was awesome!”  I was kind of hoping it would go under the radar, because I don’t feel like I have been there for 40 years.  I am surprised that 40 years have gone by.  I am thinking of all the stories we have told and all the amazing actors I have worked with.

MICHAEL:

Continuing in the celebration, how did this upcoming 40th anniversary episode that airs Wednesday come about?  Was this the brainchild of Frank and Ron to honor you in this way?

ERIKA:

Yes it was.  Frank came to me about four months ago.  He said, “Listen, we do want to do something for your 40th anniversary, and we are writing a special show for you.”  And I burst into tears and said, “Whoa! That is like amazing!”  He said, “Yeah, it’s going to be great.”  And I said, “What is it about?”  And he said, “We don’t know yet, but it is going to be your show.”  Then, I did not hear any more about it till about three weeks before we were going to do it. Larry Carpenter, our director called me and said, “So, I am directing this show and it is all you and we need to talk about it.”  I said, “Great. Do you know what it’s about?”  And he said, “Yes, don’t you?”  It was then he told me, and then Frank came to me and we had a long sit down.  So I knew then it was going to be about Viki’s alters.  Frank and Larry came up with this incredible idea for a set that is so amazing.  Roger Mooney did such a terrific job designing this set.

MICHAEL:

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So give me the set-up of the special episode, which I hear is truly a tour de force by you!

ERIKA:

The episode takes place in the courtroom where Viki is fighting for custody of Ryder. And of course, I become Niki, so it’s Niki pretending to be Viki.  She gets outed in the middle of it and she is very funny.  Then Jean takes over, and it cuts back and forth to Viki’s subconscious mind.  So I played all three ladies in my mind, but Larry’s and Frank’s concept for my mind was this incredible warehouse that had all kinds of stuff from One Life to Live from Viki’s life.  I am talking about furniture, and mirrors, and in the middle is a cage, and there is a circular staircase, and guess where that came from? The secret room!  It has a cage and there are two locked doors to the cage, and Viki has to get out of her mind and get up the stairs to get back to where she belongs; and get back to life.  We shot it in two days.  The courtroom was one day, and the second day was this unbelievable set that took up half the size of the studio. I walked around the set and thought, ‘My God! These are chairs from the Lord Library.  This was Asa’s.’   I recognized most of the furniture, and I said to Roger, “This must have cost a fortune!” And he said, “No, we own all of this.”  And we did it in three separate segments.  I had two wonderful ladies who worked with me who were the doubles.  First we taped Viki, then Jean, and then Niki, which was kind of good because then it was a nice high note to end on.  Everything is a little larger than life in there, and Niki in particular.  I have said as you may have read, “I have officially joined Over-Actors Anonymous,” but I had to.  I had to seize that opportunity. (Laughs)  Larry said they had finished editing it, and it’s going to be really good.  I have not seen it, but I will see it on Wednesday when it airs.  I have made a date with myself.  I think I am almost in every scene.  It has a lot of me! (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

Last week, we saw Viki pushed to the edge by Tess; thus the emergence of Niki.  You make the shift to the alters so real and incredibly sad and painful for the viewers to watch.  You have done this time and time again, but of course, in different scenarios where Dorian triggers the alters, or other life-altering events in Viki’s life.  Are those scenes particularly difficult to pull off?

ERIKA:

It’s very difficult to do, because in my mind I know what triggers this.  We did a lot of research when Michael Malone wrote the multiple story; when we decided to give Viki’s DID a reason.  The sadness of that is what caused the mind to split.  I saw videotape with the permission of the psychiatrist and the patient of a woman who was a multiple, and it was during her session.  Again, we had her permission, and it was just the directors and I, and it was just incredibly sad, because the woman is a perfectly normal, very nice looking lady, who was horrendously abused as a child by various family members.  She has a whole bunch of personalities and they show up in the oddest way.  There is absolute silence, and then she comes back as somebody completely different. And it looks like ‘bad acting’ but its not.  It’s a whole different personality and very strange and sad to see.  So when we do it on our show, we have to make the personalities distinct characters.  This last time, I did not want to give it away because Viki was supposedly having a heart attack while Clint is having a heart attack.  So when I came back I did not want the audience to know instantly it was Niki.  There were like a couple of deep breaths, and I let them think Viki has composed herself. Then she turns around, and I actually wrote the line that Niki says to Tess, “God. You’re annoying!” (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

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How has it been having Kim Zimmer as Viki’s nemesis, Echo, on the canvas with you?  And then getting the opportunity as Viki to let Echo have it for destroying her marriage to Charlie.  Those were great scenes!

ERIKA:

I love Kim Zimmer, just let me say that.  When Frank told me he was asking her to come back I was so excited, because it was brilliant, and it was part of the history of the show. Kim is a wonderful actress and a great person.  From the first day she showed up we have laughed a lot and had such a good time.  And those scenes where Viki confronts Echo, I thought were particularly good.  It is hard to be really angry with Kim because she has such a sweet face on her.  But I loved playing those scenes and I think she did, too. And after that, I had scenes in the carriage house where I told her to get out, which I loved!

MICHAEL:

Niki now has the confession tape showing Echo knew all along that Clint was Rex’s father, not Charlie!

ERIKA:

Dorian gave her the tape, and Niki could care less. And then she realizes Echo could cause a problem for her with Charlie, and then she just figures I will go over there and threaten her. Niki is going through Echo’s closet when Echo comes in the room, and Niki just thinks everything she owns is just so ugly. (Laughs). And the rest you have to watch!

MICHAEL:

How do you feel about Viki losing another husband, as we know, Brian Kerwin will be leaving the series soon?  Many felt that Charlie was just not a good match for Viki, but yet they had such a sweet and pure love story originally at the Bon Jour Café.

ERIKA:

Courtesy/ABC

I think real life intruded on it.  There were some very sweet things that Charlie says that Viki realizes are kind of right.  He never could live up to what he thought Viki expected of him.  She didn’t.  She was quite happy to have Charlie, who was an incredibly good person… flawed, but good.  He says, “Echo understands because she is a drunk, and understands the failings and the flaws of another human being.”  And it probably was not a good match for Viki, because there is a lot to live up to… living in that house, everybody loving her, and being so rich.  Even though that is not her as a person, it is the trappings that come with her that Charlie realizes.  I think at the end she should realize it too, but she is heartbroken because she loves Charlie.  He is a really a good guy and Brian Kerwin (Charlie) is such a doll.  The whole Paris, Texas story I loved so much because it took Viki out of Viki.  It made her just the person who she is, but without the trappings.  She was so content being there, serving coffee, being a waitress, and meeting real people.  Viki and the audience met wonderful characters there: Mo, Noelle, Gigi, Shane, and Charlie, and all the people in and out of the café.  It was such a release and a relief for her to be away from the litany of problems in Viki’s life.

MICHAEL:

Have you and Brian said your goodbyes?

ERIKA:

Yes, unfortunately he is finished already, and I miss him.  He is a really good actor and a delightful person, but I wish him all the best, of course.

MICHAEL:

How have you enjoyed the pairing of Tess and Niki working together, as they are attempting to do in the custody case for Ryder?  Do you and Bree get a kick out of those scenes?  Yet, there is such great back-story there for what Niki did that left Jess vulnerable when she was a child and split in to Tess.

ERIKA:

Courtesy/ABC

Yes, because we never played that.  The one thing we talked about was that Tess was initially supposed to be like another Niki.  Bree Williamson (Jess/Tess) does not play it that way, which is brilliant.  Tess has a lot more feeling and heart.  Niki doesn’t care about anything except her own freedom.  She is the most selfish, self-centered person on earth, because that is what she was created to be.  It did not matter what happened, she would deal with it.  Tess is meaner than Niki, because Tess has more dimension.  When multiples are created, they are individually created to deal with certain problems and secrets.  Niki was created to deal with the sex, and so that is all she cares about.  It does not bother her to go sleep around, drink, and be totally irresponsible.  She is the antithesis of Viki.  We were very careful to be very separate as alters.  Bree is such a good actress and she has played this character of Tess so well, and we have lot more coming up with Viki and Tess that is really good!

MICHAEL:

Did you ever take issue with the back-story that was created for Jessica’s abuse, because of the behavior of Niki?

ERIKA:

I did not have trouble with it, but I thought it was the only way to deal with it.  They decided to have Jessica become Tess, and I was chatting with Frank one day and I said, “Where did Tess come from?”  And he said, “We hadn’t quite figured that out yet.  It probably should have been because of one of your alters.”  I said, “The only one that it could be is Niki.  The other ones would not have done that.”  And he said, “That is where we are going, we think.”  And that is where they did go.  Of course, it was so hard for Viki to have to deal with that because it’s her fault.  It is not her fault, but it is her fault.  But truly, it’s Victor’s fault for abusing her in the first place and creating her alters.  But Viki is not responsible for the actions of the alter.  She feels she is, but not really.

MICHAEL:

One of the comments I loved from OLTL head writer, Ron Carlivati, in this current story is; he loved when he flips Erika into Niki, and then you are Niki trying to pretend to be Viki.  Are those some of the most fun for you?

ERIKA:

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They are so much fun for me, and that is what the first half of the courtroom scene is about.  Niki is pretending to be Viki, and she thinks she is doing a really good job.  And so everything is slightly exaggerated because that is what she thinks Viki is.  It is terrific fun.  I am like the kid in the biggest sandbox in the world!

MICHAEL:

No matter what goes on in their lives, Viki and Clint are there for each other, even after the horrendous things Clint has done that have now hurt Viki.   Do you think there is hope now for a Viki/Clint reconciliation?  How has it been acting alongside Jerry verDorn?

ERIKA:

There is love there.  She understands Clint and the difficulties he is having now, and the difficulty he had with his father’s passing.  She has known Clint for a very long time and she always loved him.  And yes, they couldn’t be married anymore because then executive producer Linda Gottlieb decided we shouldn’t be married anymore.  I hope there is a reconciliation for Viki and Clint.  We have seven months to do it, so let’s do it. And Jerry verDorn is one of the most awesome human beings on this earth, and you can’t be mean to him.  I don’t care what he does.  He is just fantastic.  Jerry is amazing as a bad Clint!

MICHAEL:

Viki is going to have an internal struggle in the courtroom during the Ryder custody case this week.  This is not the first time she has had her alters come out on the witness stand.  At one point, didn’t they drag Niki out on the witness stand years ago?

ERIKA:

Yes, after Mitch Laurence killed Harry O’Neill, another awesome guy.  Have I been a lucky girl!  I remember working with Frank Converse (Ex-Harry). And I remember a scene where I was Niki and we were dancing some place, and I looked up at him, and it was in rehearsal, and I could not help myself, and I said, “God, you are handsome.”  And he was so embarrassed he did not know where to look. This is one of the most handsome men on earth.

Courtesy/ABC

MICHAEL:

And speaking of handsome, there was also Mark Derwin, as your Ben?

ERIKA:

I love him. He sent me the cutest email after my 40th stating that he was sorry he could not be on the tribute reel, but his mother had been ill and he could not make time for that.  But I thought it was just as well, because God knows what he would have said.  He is so disrespectful, but I love that man. (Laughs)  He sent me a cute email afterwards stating, “You know, people ask about our time together and we never had a day we did not have fun.”  And it’s true. Mark is like a big wonderful child.  I used to call him “My favorite 14-year old.”

MICHAEL:

When you look back at playing truly one of the all-time most memorable characters in soaps for forty years, what moments, either as Viki or personally to you as Erika, stand out in your mind?  Certain Emmy wins?  A little nugget, or a moment that may have happened on set, or a favorite storyline?

ERIKA:

I think the sixth Emmy win was the most stunning.  To win against seven other awesome actresses was incredible.  And, that is when we had the lunch the day before and Susan Flannery (Stephanie, B&B) had organized it.  It was fantastic!  We closed the restaurant. I think they were ready to throw us out.  There we were drinking champagne and laughing and screaming.  And Susan kind of vanished near the end and came back and she settled the bill.  I can’t imagine what the bill must of have been. We easily drank 8 to 10 bottles of champagne among the eight of us.  So to have a fabulous lunch and to have laughed and laughed and tell stories, it was just unbelievable!  And I had never met Michelle Stafford (Phyllis, Y&R) and Juliet Mills (Tabitha Ex-Passions) before.  I knew Martha Byrne (Ex-Lily, ATWT) but not very well.  I knew Kim Zimmer and Kassie DePaiva (Blair, OLTL).  Nancy Lee Grahn (Alexis, GH), I knew well because we worked together.  I yelled at Susan, “You shouldn’t pay the entire bill.”  And she goes, “Let it go. Whoever wins tomorrow can pay next year.”  And we all said, “ha-ha-ha.”  And when I made my acceptance speech I should have said, “Lunch is on me next year.”  But all I could think of was all of these amazing actresses and how did they pick me?  I don’t know.  The best part of that win was the lunch with those women.

MICHAEL:

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Where are your record six Daytime Emmys that you have won over the forty years as Viki?  When you look at them now, is it still surreal?  Do you realize what an amazing accomplishment and honor that is?

ERIKA:

I do.  I am honored and floored. We have a little library and they are in a bookcase there.  I will walk by and go, “Wow.”  The first one I got was given to me by Stuart Damon (Ex-Alan, GH) and it was not televised.  I have kept all the little envelopes.  Stuart and my husband were dear old friends, and when I won Stuart said, “Take the envelope.” And that is the only proof I had that I won, because my name is in the middle, but it also has the names of the other nominees, so it’s kind of lovely to see.

MICHAEL:

You have seen so many regimes come and go over your forty years at OLTL.  Right now, this show is must-see TV, as it has always been, but particularly now it seems that all stories are firing on all cylinders, which makes this cancellation all the more disturbing and disheartening.  How has it been for you handling the changes behind the scenes throughout the years?

ERIKA:

Every time a producer leaves I think that’s the end of me, because they come in and recast, but I stayed.  I started in 1971 and thought I had a two-year contract.  I was stupid. I did not know they could fire me anytime they wanted to.  And I say, I do not know how forty years have gone by, but one year turned to another.  I got married and I had children, and I still had this brilliant, wonderful job.  People come and go, and you get closer to some than others.  I cannot think of a better job for an actress over a long period.  I am sure it’s great to be a movie star and make a ton of money and stuff, but I have consistently worked for forty years, and taken vacations when I wanted; knowing I have a job to come back to. That is incredible for an actress, and it just doesn’t happen.

MICHAEL:

Whenever I speak to your castmates, no matter whom, they always tell me you know your lines as well as everyone else’s. (Laughs)  Do you make that a point?

ERIKA:

Courtesy/ABC

Yes.  I don’t necessarily learn everybody else’s line, I learn my lines.  I come from the theatre and it’s important to me. You can’t give a performance if you don’t know what you are going to say.  I am not up there making it up, and people still write letters and go, “God, you have to make that up everyday?”  No, you don’t make it up, it’s written. You frame the performance around the words, and all of that has to be prepared in advance. You can’t just fake it.  I have had people who don’t know their lines in scenes with me that are very emotional.  Because you are on a track, and I know how to build the performance, they will say, “Oh, I don’t’ know my line, or what to say.”  Then you are screwed and you have to build that performance all over again, and go back to the beginning. There is no time to do all the preparation all over again.  But that does not happen often.  And when people go up on a line, it is generally an honest mistake. There are a few people over the years that just couldn’t be bothered to learn their lines, but they are not there anymore.

MICHAEL:

Now, as the series is ramping up for its final months, what is it going to be like for you having Roger Howarth (First-Todd) back?

ERIKA:

I am delighted!  I wanted to call him, but I don’t have his phone number.  But I wanted to say, “Thank God. He is coming back.”  I loved working with Roger.  He is a very talented, really clever, really nice guy.  He is kind of shy and keeps to himself, but he is such an interesting actor, and we had a wonderful time working together before.  So I am looking forward to that a lot.

MICHAEL:

I know this may be too soon to ask this question, but knowing that Viki’s life will not be able to be seen by viewers after January 2012 on ABC Daytime, is there something you would still love to get the opportunity to do, or play that you haven’t, before it ends?  And, how would you like to see Viki’s final moments play out on-air as the show comes to unfortunate fade to black?

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ERIKA:

No, I don’t think there is anything left I would still love to play.  I make jokes that I have no organs left except my appendix.  I have had every illness under the sun except, I have not been a drunk or a drug addict, and I don’t think I want to do that.  I don’t think that is a direction for Viki to go in.  At the end, I would love to see her happy.  Who knows what they are going to write?  But it should honor the show. And the final scene shouldn’t just be Viki.  It should be Viki and Clint, and Bo and Nora, and all the people who have been there and have been the heart and soul of that show for all those years.

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imasoapfan
imasoapfan

What a beautiful and moving interview with the talented Erika Slezak! I loved it. I can’t wait to see her special anniversary episode tomorrow.

Chris
Chris

Awesome interview!!!! I adore Erika, and you asked all of the questions that we all would have asked.

Leigh A
Leigh A

How wonderful! Erika Slezak has always been one of my favorites. I hope the final shows ends the way she wants it too. That’s how I want it to end too. I can’t imagine all the main longtime characters not all being in the final show or scene. I loved this interview; very emotional!

Brandon
Brandon

God, I love this woman. Erika Slezak is AMAZING. I’m going to cry my eyes out when we have to say goodbye to Viki on the last day of One Life To Live.

Thanks so much for this great interview!

steve
steve

Michael great interview Erika was so poised She is such a talented Actress the viewers have been blessed to have Erika play Vikki for 40 years !

Erica
Erica

I love Erika Slezak! I loved the questions you asked, because a lot of others would have asked the same ones. I can’t wait for her 40th anniversary episode tomorrow!

Kristin
Kristin

Thank you, thank you, thank you SO much for this interview. I love OLTL & I just love Erika. She’s such a classy lady. I really enjoyed hearing everything she had to say. I even cried some when she was talking about her 40th Anniversary episode.

bbridges
bbridges

Awesome interview with the best of the best. Looking forward to the show honoring her tomorrow!!

Christina
Christina

Thank you! Great interview. Erika Slezak was the reason I started watching One Life To Live over thirty-eight years ago and she continues to be the main reason I watch today. It will be so sad on that last day of OLTL, like a friend leaving.

Neal
Neal

Erika is such a class act!

Emily
Emily

Great interview. How can you not just love Erika? Always such a class act.

Doe
Doe

A loving interview, Michael. Erika has been the glue that has kept the show operating at such a high level. She is a phenomal actress.She makes everyone better because of her expertise and finesse in her performances And yes, she is a class act. She is someone you have to keep watching because she brings you in to her life so artfully. Then you don’t know what hit you and brought you in to her world. Fabulous woman! I will miss her very much. But, I believe we may see her doing something great on Nightime TV or perhaps she will go back to the theater and her roots. Do not retire Erika. There are a lot of performances we have yet to see!..

Jen
Jen

I adored this interview. I can’t imagine my life without Viki, I just can’t! Erika is a true class act!

Writestuffla
Writestuffla

Erika will always be Dame Erika to me, because she is acting royalty. She is gracious and I remember either Brett Claywell or Scott Evans tweeting and saying they just marveled at her work. The only thing I take issue with Dame Erika (it’s affectionate, not snarky) is the writer’s handling of Charlie Banks. Once they brought him to Llanview from Paris, they really didn’t know what to do with him, and they need to take responsibility for their poor writing of that character. Unfortunately they’ve done the same thing to Susan Haskell. They didn’t know how to write for her, so her character is getting the St. Anne’s treatment. It’s disrespectful to the actress and it’s disrespectful to the viewers. If OLTL was to survive, they would have to clean house starting from the top down. Frank and Ron would have to go. Their storytelling leaves a lot to be desired and is one of the chief reasons for the erosion of viewership over the past few years. There are still a lot of good stories to be told in Llanview. Frank and Ron just aren’t the people who could tell them.

Brian
Brian

Erika Slezak is one very classy lady! It will be so hard to watch final show. Congratulations on your 40th. You will be missed by all who love “One Life To Live”

gigik
gigik

Have loved Erika and the incredibly wonderful stories that have emanated thru the years…So much fun to escape the reality of everyday life ………Thank you for all the unforgettable scenes —watching the characters age (not as quickly as me though!!!)
Wishing continued happiness and good fortune to the cast…

Sue
Sue

Thanks for the heads up on the special Vicky episode. I’ll be sure to watch it. I remember when Erica took over the role. I would make a cup of tea for my mother and me and we would watch OLTL. Good memories….

Ann
Ann

I Love ‘One Life to Live’! it has been my fav since i was a young girl, watching w/my Grandma’s in the summers, and as an adult off and on…

Shame on ABC cancelling it!
For just another talk/info show! i hope the ratings sink!

Thank you Ms. Slezak! You are a ‘Class Act’!

Christine
Christine

I think that Erika is right the final moments should include Viki, Clint, Bo and Nora. Hopefully Dorian can squeeze her way in as well.They are OLTL and they are going to be the people that are missed most. I don’t know what I am going to do without my daily dose of Bo and Nora.

NY Soap Examiner
NY Soap Examiner

Michael you are truly amazing in the way you deal with your subjects. They are made to feel comfortable and allowed to answer the most pertinent and heart felt questions. Erika Slezak is a true Jewel and the thought of never seeing her perform again as our beloved Viki is too dreadful to contemplate. Thanks for the best interview I have read in a long time. You are the King!

Cindy
Cindy

I was watching OLTL since the very very beginning- and then ERIKA SLEZAK appears- how wonderful-
and, my sister in law and I used to discuss the happenings for when you were on- she was in costume dept- THE GINNY scenes, with the tight corset-
I am going to so miss you and all the actors- I hope down the road- you somewhere get into daytime shows- we will so miss you- THANK YOU for these years- CINDY P

red and vanessa forever
red and vanessa forever

can’t for viki and clint reunion as it should be them together and bo and nora together also

Dee
Dee

Thank you for all the wonderful years. I started watching OLTL in 1977 when i was 16. i will be 50 at the end of this summer. It was such a big part of my life and i will miss it and you very much

hmm
hmm

I so admire Ms. Slezak’s humility.

She truly is one of the best in the industry and deserved all of her emmy’s.

Cheffran
Cheffran

Oh my, but I am truly devastated about our soaps going of the air. Erika is one of my favorites and of course I am a big fan of OLTL and AMC , as well as DOOL and GH. These soaps have been a part of my life since 1965 and for sure I will miss them as will all of the other fans. For sure TPTB are caring about any of the staff, no matter what their job is, or the fans. Shame on them and thanks Erika for your wonderful acting and dedication which you have shown over the years. Sadness is a big part of my life right now due to this devastation.

sophie
sophie

I hope we see more from Erika after the show ends (and she’s had her big sleep and rested up). She’s not only a great actress, but a thoughtful, well-spoken woman. I hope there will be something wonderful in store for her.

MEG
MEG

Thank you MICHAEL ,ERIKA IS WONDERFUL

OLTL Fan
OLTL Fan

Oh my gosh…. Ever since hearing the news, I still feel like someone punched me in the gut. This is my family!!!!! Erika is my family!!!!!!!

Brian Greene
Brian Greene

Erika, You Are Soooo Terrific. We Love Watching You In Evanston, Illinois. 🙂 Thanks For Conducting This Super-Terrific Interview, Michael! 🙂

Doe
Doe

Oh, my God! If you didn’t see todays episode of OLTL , you missed the performanc of a lifetime. Erika Slezac was so effective in playing all her alters, going back and forth into each one that I knew I was witnessing the greatest soap actress of all time. And at the end, all I could do was sob. It was overwhelming to say the least. If all you fans haven’t seen it, go look for it and you will see for yourselves what I am talking about. Bravo….Bravo…Bravo Erica

trish17
trish17

I saw the episode with the alters today and was blown away. I wasn’t aware that this was going to be the show and I was mesmerized and all I could think of when it was over was that in a few short months Vicki will be gone from my life and this amazing actress. I grew up with most of the Soaps and when GL and ATWT went off I did not turn on CBS to see the new shows and still haven’t and to tell the truth I don’t even know what replaced those shows and the same will be true with ABC. My daytime TV viewing will be cut drastically. DOOL will be the only one left of my Soaps and I don’t know that I will start watching Y&R and B&B or GH.

Patrick Trubia
Patrick Trubia

Great interview Erika. And the show today was fantastic!! I have to say that when I heard the news about the cancellation I felt like I was told that I was terminally ill by my doctor. The news was shocking! How can I not have Erika and her great characters on OLTL. Erika is my family, she has kept me entertained and delighted since I began watching back in 1978. Erika really has been the only reason that I watched. I don’t want this year to end, Erika as Victoria Lord still has many years to be told. Thank God we will have her to 2012. Long live Victoria Lord! You are the best Erika. I’m so happy and proud to be your fan. I’m so very glad that I have much material in my archives to see again and again. You are the best of the best.

Linda
Linda

First, I must say that my daughter and I am truly devastated by the news of the cancellation of AMC and One Life to Live. We are doing everything we can to join forces to have the decision changed. To me, the best two actors on television are Erika Slezak and Bree Williamson!! They make changing into their alters look so easy and it is amazing when they are their alters and try to pretend to be the real character (Niki pretending to be Viki). You are the best!!! We are praying really hard that our shows don’t get cancelled and we won’t have to live out the rest of our lives without the best show on TV. Keep the faith, because I know I am going to. We love you and hope for 40 more years!!!

Scott Paquin
Scott Paquin

She is Amazing! I really hope that after hearing about the shows # 2 ratings that ABC will change for minds and not cancel this wonderful show.

luane raudabaugh
luane raudabaugh

I totally agree with you! OLTL FOREVER!

luane raudabaugh
luane raudabaugh

Wonderful interview! What a lovely, gracious lady. I wish only the best for Erika and all the amazing actors on my very,very favorite soap since it came on tv when I was a mere 13 years old. I will miss Erika tremendously!

sadie soaper
sadie soaper

Thank you for this interview. Erika’s performances have always been superb, but her performance on her 40th anniversary show was absolutely outstanding and Emmy-deserving. I have been a OLTL viewer since its inception and followed all stories with great enjoyment. I sincerely hope OLTL (and AMC) will find another home on NBC or CBS or a cable network. Exceptional acting, writing, direction and crew work will be sorely missed. ABC has made a huge mistake in cancelling these shows – my “stories”.

ethel
ethel

wow – what an awesome interview!!! erica is some lady……………

jeffrey moree
jeffrey moree

WOW! What a brilliant actress Erika is and Micheal is a masterful interviewer. I will miss OLTL deeply what a waste to cancel it in favor of a reality show.

Diane Ross
Diane Ross

I’ve watched OLTL from the beginning. It’s been my favorite of the ABC soaps. We moved a lot over the years and the soaps where my constant no matter where I lived. Kudos to Erika and the entire staff of OLTL for giving us a lot of joy and entertainment over the years. The cancellation of OLTL and AMC is a travesty. Shame on ABC!

Skater Boy
Skater Boy

She is such a classy and talented lady. She and Susan Lucci have truly been the jewels of daytime. I hope we will see these amazing actors again; though I fear ageism will get in the way. Sleazak is an amazing actress and would be a marvel for any show; Lucci may be typecast. Both are very beautiful ladies for any age.

sadie soaper
sadie soaper

***** ATTENTION: SOAP FANS *****
We need to take action to save All My Children and One Life to Live!!! We need our voices to be heard !
Go to this website http://soapfansunite.webs.com and join in the protest of these ridiculous cancellations! Go to the rallies, call the sponsors, write letters and boycott ABC (except for our soaps). We need to make it quite clear to the network that we WILL NOT watch any replacements if they go through with these soap cancellations.
We will not let our stories go without a fight!

james brann
james brann

soaps were yesterdays tv the talk shows are now shows more women working not home watching tv soaps so abc got to stay alive in today tv markets

Inez
Inez

The talk shows they have now are barely thriving, Rachel Ray, The Talk’s ratings are lower than ATWT’s last episode, even Oprah’s ratings are sagging in her last year. Reality and talk is just cheaper to produce and Disney wants out of the soap business. They have for a long time. And women DO still watch soaps. I don’t know where the theory comes from that we don’t watch anymore, we just don’t watch at the designated hour anymore BECAUSE of work and other things outside the home. That’s why SoapNet was such a lifesaver for many of us, just like DVR and Tivo and all the other ways to record and watch later. If the Neilsen’s actually counted the other ways we watched the shows, and not just during the 3 hour block periods, ABC couldn’t keep using ‘ratings’ as a reason for dropping the shows. I mean, BSFrons has said that GH is on par with Y&R, yet, OLTL has steadily gone up in ratings, beating GH, and for good reason. Better quality, better use of vets, better storylines, etc. More people are tuning in since the news broke, I’m sure, but even before that, OLTL has been gaining on word of mouth popularity alone, since the network never wanted to promote the show themselves. Now we’re losing it, sad.

And with Roger Howarth’s return, I’m sure they’ll look like even bigger fools. They pimped VMG’s return to the high heavens and it flopped in the ratings BIG TIME. And I LOVE Brenda and VMG, but they failed on that one. No real promotion for Roger except for in the mags and online and ecstatic fans passing the news to one another. I’m quite sure the splash will be bigger, given how he probably won’t hang out in Rome for two months, lol, and how much people are loving OLTL right now.

Maria Smith
Maria Smith

As I have said many times….Erika Slezak is indeed a rare jewel.

Robin Fletcher
Robin Fletcher

Michael, I think this has to be my favorite of all your soap star interviews. And your subject is THE class act of TV, daytime or night. Thanks! Robin Fletcher, Dallas, TX

Elizabeth Owens
Elizabeth Owens

Erika Slazak is such a gracious lady,I will miss her and everyone associated with “One Life To Live” Thank you again for giving us all these many years of heart-felt performances,may God bless you.

Elizabeth Owens
Elizabeth Owens

This is one of the most gracious and talented ladies of daytime T.V.

ANNIE THIEL
ANNIE THIEL

I LOVED ALL MY CHILDREN AND ONE LIFE TO LVIE EVER SINCE I WAS A KID. ON ALL MY CHILDREN, JOHN CALLAHAN EDMUND, MICHALE E. KNIGHT TAD, JACOB YOUNG JR, JUSTIN BRUEING JAMIE, WALT WILLEY JACKSON, SUSAN LUCCI ERICA AND AMEILA HINEL MIA AND TERI IVANS SIMONE AND AIDEN TRUNER AIDEN. ON ONE LIFE TO LIVE BREE WILLIMSON, HILLARY B. SMITH, SAMUEL BALL, BRAIN KERWIN, ROBERT S. WOODS, JERRY VER DORN, JOSH CASAUBIN, JUSTIS BOLDING, JOHN BOLGER, CHARISSA CHAMAROO, JAMES DEPIVA AND HIS WIFE KASSIE, LUARA KOFFMAN, TIMOTHY GIBBS, DON JEFFCOAT, JASON SHANE SCOTT, ERIN TORPEY, MARK DREWIN, KALE BROWEN, JESSICA MORRIS, SCOTT EVAINS, SEAN EVAINS, MELISSA GALLO, DAVID FUMERO EVERY BODY FORM THE PAST AND NOW.

Interviews

Y&R’s Hunter King Talks Summer’s Clash With Phyllis, Seducing Billy, ‘Life In Pieces’ & Being Newly Engaged

On The Young and the Restless viewers just watched the summer of …  Summer!  When the top-rated soap brought back two-time Daytime Emmy winner, Hunter King to the canvas, you knew it was going to be to stir up some major drama.  But, little did viewers know that Summer came back a vixen, ready to steal her mother’s man!

Last month, it became game on between mother and daughter after their epic showdown, where Phyllis (Gina Tognoni) got wind of Summer’s attempts to put the moves on Billy (Jason Thompson) and her plans to meet up with him in Philly! (And that spelled trouble for the couple known as “Philly” too)  Oh yes, and there was that well-deserved bitch-slap!  So, where will it all go from here?

Michael Fairman TV caught up with King where we discussed: Summer’s new attitude, if Summer will get her wish and have sex with Billy, her real-life engagement, and her upcoming return to the CBS sitcom Life in Pieces, and more. Check out what Hunter had to say below.

Summer is so pursuing Billy! When you came back to Y&R, did they tell you we need her to be really vampy and this seductress?  What has happened to her? (Laughs)

HUNTER:  Yes.  I understood where it was coming from, and I was excited to play the same character, but being able to play it totally different.  I get to sort of reinvent her.   I think when Summer went away she discovered herself, and kind of grew into Phyllis’ daughter … maybe.  But I will say, it has been very vampy, and you don’t even know yet what’s to come!

Photo Credit: JPI Studios

How is working with Jason Thompson?

HUNTER:   Working with Jason is great.  He is always so professional and prepared and always willing to collaborate on scenes.  Jason is just so creative, and so in it, and loves to work so much that he just exudes that the scenes.

Let’s just say when Summer and Billy “finally” hit the sheets … (Laughs)

HUNTER:   We don’t yet … we shall see.  The way this whole storyline unfolds you think it’s going one way and then there is a twist, and then twists on top of twists.  The more layers that come into play you start to understand why everything is happening the way it is.

Now, Summer had no idea that Billy had a gambling addiction, which put this whole spiral of his in motion?

HUNTER:  I guess not?  (Laughs)  It’s hard to know. I would say she evidently did not know about his gambling.

Photo Credit: JPI Studios

Viewers saw Phyllis slap her daughter in the face as the fight between them escalated; when Summer admitted she was going after her mother’s boyfriend!  How was it taping that scene, and working with Gina Tognoni?

HUNTER:  She’s amazing! Gina didn’t really slap me, but I will say afterwards they wanted to put red blush on my cheeks, and I said, “Oh, just pinch my cheek instead, and I wound up bruising my cheek.”  So Gina goes, “I really didn’t hit her!”  It was the funniest banter on set.  Gina was scary in those scenes, like a good scary.  I went, “Damn!”

On August 18th, you got engaged to your beau, Nico Svoboda.  Were you expecting him to propose when he did?

HUNTER:   I was so shocked, even though I had wanted it to happen, very much.  But, I had no idea when it was coming. It was amazing, and the best day of my life and, we are engaged!

Photo : HKingInstagram

And he got down on one knee for the proposal!

HUNTER:  Yes!  I thought it was sweet.  It’s something you dream about when you are a little girl.

What it is about Nico that makes him the guy for you?

HUNTER:  Besides the amazing qualities he has as a person – he’s compassionate, he’s caring, he’s driven, he’s loving, and just cares for others so much – I love the way that he loves me.  I have never felt so loved before, and so accepted, and he is very supportive of my career.

Courtesy/CBS

Are you excited to go back to your role as Clementine on the sitcom, Life in Pieces?  It is slated for a midseason premiere.

HUNTER:  I am super excited to be back.  We are back taping again   I am excited to do the sitcom and Y&R   As an actress, it’s so exciting to get to do different things:  a sitcom and soaps … why not?! (As noted in the press: King took a three-episode break from Y&R to film some episodes of the sitcom due to a scheduling conflict.)

Then speaking of “All in the Family,” it was just announced, your sister, Joey is coming onto Life in Pieces.

HUNTER:  Yes!  How crazy. She will be on for a few episodes, and it will be fun.  I think we will interact a little bit on the show, and we have never had the chance to work together before.

Photo: HKingInstagram

You and your sister have the funniest Instagram videos.  Do you plan those out?

HUNTER:  Joey is so funny.  It kind of just happens when we get together.  Sometimes we film something and sometimes we don’t.  But Joey is so much fun and my best friend. She is the funniest person in the entire world, and so it’s just easy to laugh when I am with her.

So, what did you think of the showdown between Summer and Phyllis?  Are you glad Phyllis slapped her daughter, or was it a mistake?  What do you think will happen next?  Will Summer ultimately sleep with Billy? Do you want Summer to end up with Kyle (Michael Mealor)? Will you be checking out Hunter on Life in Pieces? Share your thoughts via the comment section below.

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General Hospital

General Hospital’s Max Gail Opens Up On Portraying Mike’s Battle With Alzheimer’s & Making A Difference In People’s Lives

“What happens the day I wake up, and you guys are the strangers,” says Mike to his son, Sonny and his wife Carly (Laura Wright). “I left you before to my everlasting regret, but it’s going to happen. I’d do anything if I didn’t have to do it again, but it’s going to happen – one way or the other.  At least this way I could leave some good feelings, instead of disappearing before your eyes.”  Those words were said during a gut-wrenching scene on Friday’s episode of General Hospital, as Mike tries to come to terms with his deteriorating mental state in his battle with Alzheimer’s, and the hard realization that he may be better off in a care facility, instead of at his son’s home.  These scenes, as all the scenes in this storyline, have been exquisitely played by Max Gail (Mike) and Maurice Benard (Sonny).

When Max Gail arrived on the GH canvas as the recast Mike Corbin in a role made soap-famous by Ron Hale, viewers did not know what to initially expect.  What they did know was that Max is an accomplished actor with a body of work from primetime dramas and comedies, film, and the stage, and that if he is coming to GH, he must be coming on board for something major.  Before GH, suffice to say, Gail is most remembered for his role as “Wojo” on the ABC sitcom Barney Miller that aired from 1975-1982.

In story on GH, Mike, who abandoned Sonny as a child, once again re-enters his son’s life, but soon we learn that he is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and that the soap is tackling a story that is an important medical, social, and familial issue of our time.

Gail has been a revelation in this role.  A clear frontrunner for an Emmy, playing the facets, the levels, the characteristics, and the heartbreak of a person who is slowly losing everything they know near and dear to them, as in the end they are ultimately stripped of their dignity from this most horrific of diseases.

On a personal note, and as part of this conversation with Max, it was important for him and for me to share, that I lost my mother at the end of April of this year to Alzheimer’s.  So his work hits close to home, this story hits close to home, as it has also resonated for many viewers who have shared their stories on social media and when Max makes personal appearances.

Here now is this very special interview for Michael Fairman TV with an actor whom we can all agree is touching all of our lives.

You’re portraying a person suffering from Alzheimer’s and play the progression of the disease.  Do you feel pressure as an actor to get it right for those who have loved ones, or person’s afflicted with it?

Courtesy/ABC

MAX:  It’s more like an urge, or a calling to find some kind of truth in it that I can connect with.  One of the things I’m inclined towards showing is someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia often just drifts off somewhere else.  “Where am I going?”  This has happened to me many times in life.  For instance, when I was a youngster, I can remember getting in my car, and I’d driven a long way from some party or something like that, and I’d been drinking, and I didn’t remember it.  I knew I’d gotten home somehow.  So, it’s not out of my realm.  I’ve learned that there are no set behaviors really… other than that it usually ends up being really difficult for caretakers, and seemingly really painful for many, if not most people suffering with Alzheimer’s, and losing connection and losing the ability to just function.  We are kind of on the cusp of that in story at GH.  I think it was originally proposed that I would play the part for just a few months, and to give me an out if it wasn’t working.  Maybe, there was a placeholder idea to ship Mike off to a home or something, but the storyline has touched so many people that it has been continuing.

The story has been so effective.  You’ve done such an amazing job, and the fans love Mike and what you’re doing with the character, and they’re on board on this journey.  It’ll be interesting to see how far they will take this with Mike.  Will we actually see him not being able to communicate anymore?  How far will the writers go to show the horrific aspects of Alzheimer’s? 

MAX:  I’m not sure.  You know, I’ve had times where I’ve got the scene, I get the writers, and I get the heart of it.  Other times, I find where that transition is from where Mike is lucid and clear, and other times what that state of mind is and that switch is, and what that is in behaviors and energy level.  I think there’s an ongoing downturn for Mike, and for me as an actor finding something in the moment and finding how it works with things that he does remember.  They’re trying to find a place for Mike within all of the interwoven drama of General Hospital.  I, frankly, had no idea how complex the range of storylines was.  Mike doesn’t really have control over his story.  I don’t want that as an actor.  Mike has some intentions that are really important to him.  I’m trying to find that balance where there are times when he has a pathetic, very sad remorse about what he has missed.  I think that underlies his feelings for his son, who he never could quite reach, because of his own failings as a father.  Sonny’s formative experiences growing up were then with his abusive stepdad.  Finding all of that is really important to do in a way that doesn’t make Mike just this sweet older man with Alzheimer’s.   It’s a wonderful challenge to be presented with.

Courtesy/CBS

You brought up that Mike is seemingly very sweet in his demeanor now.  My mother, who I shared with you died a few months ago from Alzheimer’s was a strong-willed, feisty woman.  As the disease took hold of her, she became very sweet.   She became almost childlike.  The fire had gone out of her eyes.  You knew she didn’t know who you were, and so, all of that, as you know is so tough to witness as her son.  In terms of Mike and his ultimate care, everyone says they love him and want what is best for him, but that he needs to be taken care of because he gets confused, doesn’t know where he is sometimes. etc.  Sonny has been grappling with putting him in a care facility to be looked after, or to keep him with the Corinthos family under their roof.  However, Mike has come to a realization that he may need to be in facility all on his own, and doesn’t want to burden his son by living with him anymore.  That was a poignant moment, and another one of the best scenes has been when Mike couldn’t remember that Sonny was his own son. 

MAX:  Right and he doesn’t know if he’s around friends or around enemies.  This can be true of Alzheimer’s patients.

I had that happen with my mother when she came out to Los Angeles to see me for the last time.  She was out of her element, she was confused, and she broke down and cried in the hotel room.  She asked my father, “Why did you bring me here?” and he told her, “We came to see our son.”  It was heartbreaking.   Later, she had a moment of clarity and realized more of what was going on.  I think it’s those in-and -out moments that you portray so well on-screen.  I feel that they are very realistic to what I, and others, have experienced.

Courtesy/ABC

MAX:  I appreciate that and sharing that with me, because you never know as an actor.  That place of “Where am I?  What is this?” makes me think of that “Summer Wind” moment from the Nurses’ Ball when it wasn’t just, “I’m embarrassed.  I don’t remember the words.”  It was, “I don’t know where the f**k I am.  I thought there was a band there, but there’s not.”  So, in a way, I just had to be there on this big soundstage and just feel this big space around me.  I could barely see that there were people out there.  It’s kind of a terrifying thing to a lot of people, but I think Mike has something in him that makes him want to be okay with all of this.  He doesn’t have to freak out and get accusatory.

Courtesy/ABC

What has it been like working with Maurice Benard as your on-screen son?  Do you watch back your scenes together and ever go, “Oh, that was great!?”

MAX:  Yes, there have been a lot of those!  There are some scenes that are so emotionally focused, and we get a lot of delight in each other.  He has been playing this character in this situation for so long, so it’s just kind of in him.  Maurice has presence.  I think when I went in to read for the part of Mike, I had gone through pilot season and had gone in for some interesting pilots.  I didn’t feel like I was really connecting in the readings, because most things are by tape these days, anyway.  When this part came up, a soap hadn’t really been on my radar.  I knew I’d be going in to read with the actor, so I said, “Okay,” and I looked at the material, and then I checked out Maurice on IMDB.  One of the things that got my interest was that he has been diagnosed and takes medication to deal with bipolar disorder, and that’s become a part of his life, and it’s become part of his character.  I thought, “Wow, that’s really interesting.  This is a survivor, and he’s risen to something that takes a certain kind of balance and courage.”  I watched some clips, and when I went in for the reading of this kind of an amalgamation scene of what the story elements were going to be, I felt like we connected before we’d even started the dialogue.

Well, Maurice certainly loves working with you! He has been very supportive and vocal about that.

MAX:  It’s mutual.  We can take really little simple moments, and we can find something deeper in it, and it doesn’t have to be an, ‘I’m going to start crying now’ moment.  Although, I would love for Mike to have a moment of self-observation where he goes, “Gee.  I cry a lot more than I used to.”  I think there are people who are like that, and it’s okay for certain people to cry, and for other people it is not.

Courtesy/ABC

There was a part of my mom that knew something was wrong.  She’d go, “Why am I crying?  I don’t know why I’m crying.”  She got confused as to why she was feeling that.  She couldn’t connect it all, and at times she kept saying, “I don’t understand.  I don’t understand.”  Those were the things she would try to express.

MAX:  I have a feeling that Mike has those moments too, but he finds a way for it to be okay.  There may be a point where someone with Alzheimer’s can’t pull it off anymore, but how we find those and those specifics, I don’t know.

Photo Credit: JPI Studios

Working on a classic sitcom such as Barney Miller is vastly different than working on a daytime soap opera.  While now being at GH, have you found any commonality within the experience?

MAX:  If I can take a moment and reflect on Barney Miller, because it was a great experience and one that I found was not so easy to find again over the years.  One of the things that really resonates is that when we started shooting the studio audience laughed too easily.  We would end up retaking the scenes.  Sometimes, we didn’t have the end of the show written, because they tended to let certain things start to show up in the earlier parts of the script.  Danny Arnold who was the writer, creator and producer of Barney Miller would always take over the way Frank Valentini (executive producer, GH) does in a way … looking to be respectful of the director, but still seeing things on his own.  Frank has a really wonderful eye.  He’s much more connected into the overall storylines, the motivations that went into the writing, and what he sees in the moment.  I always welcome him on the set because the directors, who have a range of talents and sensibilities, are tasked with coming up with a whole lot of shots to cover, a whole lot of tricky angles, and all of that.

Courtesy/ABC

Vernee Watson has been amazing as Stella, who is also Mike’s social worker.  Does Mike have romantic feelings toward Stella?

MAX:  Vernee is wonderful.  I didn’t know Vernee had been on the show when I came on board.  She won an Emmy, and I’m not surprised.   She is so present and so specific, and she’s very bright and gets what all of these elements are, and so, I think they have a connection.  For whatever ways Mike has lived in his like, there isn’t some strange, exotic draw that she is black, and Mike is white.  I like that because both my first and late wife, and my second wife, with whom I’ve had children (and we’ve been separated for awhile, but have a great relationship) are African-American.  So, in my world that is not a big deal.   I think there’s an affinity there between Mike and Stella.  You know, he’s alive.  He’s old, but he’s not dead.  There’s an ease with women he likes.  I think there are a whole lot of reasons for them to not get involved.  One is just professional, and she’s a social worker.  We just shot something where I say something to somebody else about, “back when I still had all my marbles,” you know, he’s in another stage of life, which many people go into gracefully, while many don’t.

 

What do you think about how Mike knows about who was buried at Charlie’s Pub?  He was trying to keep the truth about Charlie Delaney from coming out, which turned into a gas leak that blew up the bar!  This storyline ties in to Sonny’s mobster dealings as well.

MAX:  Well, this is where they put this effort in the storytelling to connect Mike in some way and be intertwined with Sonny.  Of course, it reveals certain things about Mike that he’s never revealed to anybody before.  So, that’s kind of cool.  I think when he knows what and how much sometimes is not clear.  That’s why I started talking about Barney Miller because the other thing was a lot of times when we go together for the table reads, they didn’t have the end of the story.  They had a first draft, maybe. Dan would talk about it, and they’d say, “Next week, the main story is going to be this man in his fifties who is coming to terms with the fact that he is gay,” or whatever those underlying themes may be with the different characters reactions.  So, we knew elements going into it and that sometimes I  didn’t know what the writers are really intending.  In terms of Mike, he’s kind of back and forth in certain moments.  I have to resist the idea that they trap me by just being careless.  I’ve learned that just trying to fix the script often gets you into a place where you “rehearse yourself out of it,” as they say.

Courtesy/GoodDayLA

You appeared on the morning show Good Day LA  a few months back with Laura Wright (Carly), and Maria Shriver, who has founded the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement.  What was that like meeting Maria, and helping get the word out about the effects of this disease and the work Maria is doing?

MAX:  It was great to do.  Maria had sent out a tweet that is was wonderful what was going on, on General Hospital.  On Good Day LA, she talked about her work, particularly focusing on the fact that more women are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s than men.  So, then Laura and I sat down and did an interview alongside Maria.  We actually had a nice conversation before.  They did a web interview also as a follow-up.  That was very cool, because Maria is very smart, and I’d never met her, but it was great to see what she was doing.  Whatever we are dealing with in the show is sort of my opportunity in the real world to bring awareness and shed light on the subject.  I’d love to see an ongoing conversation online amongst people who can share their stories with each other.  That’s a lot of what they’re doing.  They’re raising money for research, but people need to be able to talk to each other when you’re a caregiver.  Coming out of the early sixties and early seventies when I was playing a cop on TV, I never was a fanatic activist.  I certainly got the behavior of the Chicago police at a certain time in terms of the energy and conflicts of the time.  There was something to think about, but at the same time, I had opportunities to kind of share that all cops aren’t bad, just look at the show, Barney Miller.

Courtesy/ABC

You were my favorite character on Barney Miller as Detective Wojciehowicz!  I think for many who watched the show you were, too!

MAX:  I think “Wojo” ended up being the heart of the show.

Max, you’re helping people through your beautiful performances including me.  Congratulations on that.   I’ll continue have to have a box of Kleenex handy as I watch how it all unfolds for Mike.

Photo: IMDB

MAX:  Well, I really appreciate your questions.  I’m just planting that seed.  That is really what I would like to do after talking to you and so many people.  That’s something I’d like to put out there.   We each have our own domains and responsibilities and all of it overlaps, and you can kind of get in touch with that; if you just go around the circle and share it, and then go around again.  I’m looking to help people out there in the world who are watching and are looking to share in the conversation.

So, what did you think about the heartbreaking scenes on Friday’s episode of GH between Mike and Sonny?  What have you thought of Max Gail’s performance throughout his GH run?  Have you experienced the loss, or are watching someone you love, or care about slip away from Alzheimer’s?  Share your thoughts via the comment below.

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General Hospital

GH’s Kirsten Storms Chats On: The Emotional Impact Of Nathan’s Death & Who Could Be Maxie’s New Love Interest

2018 has been a difficult year for Port Charles’ beloved Maxie Jones. She became a widow and a single mom following the untimely death of the love of her life, Nathan West (Ryan Paevey).  Maxie’s portrayer, General Hospital fan favorite Kirsten Storms delivered in scene after scene, tearjerker after tearjerker, as viewers experienced the grief of losing a good man, a good cop and her husband, and the father of her child.

Complicating things was Maxie’s friendship with Peter August (Wes Ramsey), who came to town with an agenda and who was revealed to be Henrik Faison, Nathan’s half-brother. As Maxie soldiered on with life after-Nathan, she formed a bond with Nathan’s sister, Nina (Michelle Stafford). Through various (and one nefarious) twists and turns, the two women have grown closer always trying to have each other’s back, and to be there for one another in their times of need.

This past Labor Day, ABC and General Hospital aired the encore presentation of Nathan’s funeral, which reminded us all of great soap opera storytelling, and Storms’ powerhouse performance in this storyline.

Michael Fairman TV recently chatted with Kirsten where we found out: how she handled this 10-hankie inducing storyline, who she thinks the ultimate new love interest for Maxie will be – with Peter and Chase (Josh Swickard) in the running, and how she has stood up for herself on social media when she has had to set fans straight on their often misperceptions. There is no question that Storms contributions to making the character of Maxie come to life, make her one of the standout MVP’s of daytime drama.  Here’s what Kirsten shared.

Nathan’s funeral has been one the standout episodes of the year thus far in soaps. Every aspect of it was beautifully executed from the performances, the writing, the directing, camerawork, etc.  What were your thoughts of the storyline that followed with Peter (Wes Ramsey) being kidnapped by Nina (Michelle Stafford) and Obrecht (Kathleen Gati)?  Maxie did not originally have a clue as to what was going on to avenge Nathan’s death. 

KIRSTEN:  I have chats with Frank Valentini (executive producer, GH) occasionally about storyline.  He and I have a very good relationship.   He’ll talk to me about things I have coming up, because he knows I’m not the type of person who talks to other people about it.  I’m literally the last person on the gossip train.  I’m always the last person to find out about things.  It almost makes me feel stupid. (Laughs)   So, it’s nice because he’ll say to me, “This is going to happen: Nathan is going to die, and Maxie and Peter are going to become closer, and Nina and Obrecht are going to kidnap him and start breaking his limbs ….”   I thought, “Oh cool. We’re going back to crazy Nina,” who is one of my favorite characters.   I love that we always forget the stuff that Nina has done in her past.  It’s not brought up, but it’s there!

Photo Credit: JPI Studios

They have balanced the character of Nina out since her beginnings of the show, which has made her a more fleshed-out character with many dimensions.

KIRSTEN: They have!  Nina’s job with Crimson really leveled that character out, and the relationship with Valentin (James Patrick Stuart), although he’s crazy himself so it works!  Michelle has built up such a great character, and Kathleen Gati always brings one hundred and ten percent.

Photo Credit: JPI Studios

I love the bond between Maxine and Nina, because Nina has been the grieving sister, and Maxie gave birth to Nathan’s son, and they were trying to help each other through their despair.

KIRSTEN:  Yes, it wasn’t too long ago that Maxie was following Nina around in steam rooms begging her to take her back with her jobs, and now they’re inseparable.  (Laughs)  She jokes that Nina’s transferred her love from Nathan to Maxie in a creepy way. (Laughs)

Maxie has worked for Kate Howard and Nina. Who does Maxie think is a better boss?

KIRSTEN:  Selfishly, I think she’d probably say Nina, because I think Nina takes into account her opinion a little bit more.

Photo Credit: JPI Studios

How did you get through the amount of crying leading up to, and following Nathan’s death, that was called upon for you as an actress to play in so many tragic and heartbreaking scenes?   Were you able to get through it, and not take the emotional toll that was hitting the character home with you?  

KIRSTEN:  It’s always difficult to have emotional scenes, but to have so many of them felt like it went on for a long time.  There was a good two and a half weeks where I had to be sobbing going into work.  I had recently been reminded of what it was like to lose somebody that you care about.  I remember when I was breaking down my dialogue (because there’s a whole huge process that I go through) thinking, “Oh! I remember what this felt like, and I have to remember to try to portray that when doing this.”  The moment when Nathan flatlines, and Maxie goes outside, and she hears it … he’s dead.  That unexpected turn, because they woke Nathan back up that’s what killed me.  Nathan gets shot, he has surgery, he wakes back up and starts talking, and then he dies moments later.  I remember thinking, “Oh, my God!”  Having Nathan wake up, and giving Maxie that hope and then just taking him away … from that moment on I knew I would have to be just crushed completely… while playing pregnant.  I felt that there were a lot of days after work when I would stay for an extra hour and just decompress, but I was happy when they started to move on from that a little bit, because it was a heavy couple of weeks.

Photo Ctedit: JPI Studios

Did you watch any of those performances back?

KIRSTEN:  I did, and I never usually do that anymore.

So, you’re going to submit yourself for the Emmy this year, right?  If you don’t, I am going to do it for you myself! (Laughs)

KIRSTEN: (Laughs) Yes, I plan on submitting.

Photo Credit: JPI Studios

Where do you see Maxie’s relationship going with Peter now?  Will Chase (Josh Swickard) be in her life?  How many cops can she have relationships with if she were to date Chase? (Laughs)

KIRSTEN: (Laughs) I know, right?  I was kind of hoping for that fact alone that she wouldn’t end up with Chase, but then I worked with Josh.  Not only did people like it, but I liked it!  I worked with him the day after I came back from two sick days that I took, and I felt terrible.  I was there pretty much because I didn’t want to let Frank down, and Molly Burnett (Maxie sub, GH) was working on something else, and she couldn’t work one more day for me.  I remember being on set and I kept saying, “Josh, I am so sorry.”  We had already had our scenes in the police station, but they were so brief.  This was the first real set of scenes with him that I had.  I just felt that it wasn’t the first impression that I wanted to make on him for who I am as an actor, but he was so supportive.  Josh didn’t let it alter his performance.  I could barely look at him and I could barely look into the lights!   I just felt like I wanted to be at home in bed, but he made those scenes fantastic.  They wouldn’t have been what they were.  If I had walked on set, new to a show, with someone who had been there for a long time… and now, knowing that he was a Zenon fan, he probably had all of these other expectations, and I’m like, “I can’t even look at you!”  (Laughs)

(Laughs) So you would be okay with a Maxie/Chase pairing?

KIRSTEN:  One hundred percent.

And as far as Peter goes?

KIRSTEN:  I have a soft spot for Wes.  I really do.

He’s been given a tough time by many fans of the show on social media.

KIRSTEN:  He has, and I think that’s unjustified.  I have really high expectations for my scene partner, because I know that when I’m going in there, I’ve prepared my dialogue, and I have a good sense of what I am going to bring to the table.  You should do that too as my or anybody’s scene partner,  because there are lots of soap actors out there who are not working anymore, who would be willing to put that type of work into this part.  With Wes, he respects acting so much that never in a million years would he not go to the set with that same mindset – if not more so than I have – and I think we have this mutual respect for each other on that level.  We are committed to our scenes, and kind of don’t really care what else is going on in the storyline at that moment.  For example, when he tells Maxie that he’s Henrik in the hospital and she is in a wheelchair, there were four or five other people in that scene who didn’t have dialogue, so there was chatting and laughing going on.  He just completely zoned in to what he was doing.  He was able to bring emotion and cry.  I texted him and was like, “I don’t even think I’m going to be noticed in those scenes.  Great job!  It’s good, because I didn’t like the way I looked in the wheelchair!”  I just adore him, and he and Laura Wright (Carly) could not be a cuter couple with each other.  She’s happy. They both are very happy, and they both are genuinely good people, and to anyone who has anything to say about the reason why Wes was hired, or his part in the show, I’ll say that he has a better work ethic than a lot of people who I have had the opportunity to work with throughout my career.   He’s earned his place on the show, and if people just gave him a chance and step back from what they know goes on behind the scenes as far as his relationship Laura, they’ll be able to see how talented he is.

Does Maxie give Peter a pass for what he’s done, and his lies and deception?

KIRSTEN:  So many people have given Maxie a pass for stuff she’s done.  I’d have to say, “Yes”.   I do like that he’s Nathan’s brother.  I feel like that has got a weird thing to it that I can understand Maxie’s draw to him, but he’s also a different person than Nathan.

Courtesy/ABC

You’ve recently been great at shutting things down on social media when fans make assumptions about what is going on in your personal life and explaining the situation.  Can you talk to me about that?

KIRSTEN:  I guess motherhood changed me so much.  There’s no time for the b**s anymore.  Going through everything I did last year, I had to really accept that I am human.  The things that I go through and experience, or that have happened in my life are no different from somebody who is sitting at home watching the show.  I’m a person, too.  I can’t be ashamed of the things that happen to me.  I just have to own it and move forward, because owning it is how you get better with something.   Last year was a very rough year for me.  I think a lot of things came to a head for me personally.  I’ve never been the type of person to kind of slink back and let that take me over.  I’ve always been like, “Nope.  I want to get back to work.  I love my job.”  As much as I love it, I take it that seriously.  I know the emotional and mental condition that I have to be in to be able to be prepared and work as well as I want to.  So, I don’t want anyone to be confused about what my time away from work has been for.  I pride myself on the work I have done on myself, and I want to be able to acknowledge that.

So, what have you thought of Kirsten’s performance throughout her storyline following Nathan’s shocking death? Would you like to see Peter, Chase, or someone else as Maxie’s new romantic interest?  Share your thoughts on this and other points and views shared in this interview via the comment section below.

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Video du Jour

This weekend we mourn the loss of General Hospital’s beloved Susan Brown who played Gail Baldwin. Here is her final scene from 2004 when Gail and her husband Lee (the late Peter Hansen) showed up at Lila’s funeral and had an exchange with Alan and Monica. Share your thoughts on Susan’s passing via the link below. Leave A Comment

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