BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL’s Pam is back, wreaking havoc. Grab some lemon bars and read on as Alley Mills opens up about her troubled character.
Soap Opera Weekly: Do you have a blast when Pam just goes completely off the rails?
Alley Mills: I totally do. It was such a surprise when Brad (Bell, head writer and executive producer) wrote the first [return for Pam], which was when they were looking for who shot Stephanie. I remember one of our set dressers said to me, “Are you off your medication?” and I gasped, because I hadn’t read that [in the scripts] yet. You don’t read anything in advance, and I was like, “That’s what’s happening!” So I just went for it, and I thought that was such a great idea: to suddenly turn this pretty normal, pathetic person from the Midwest that she was before — Pam the baker — into Pam the psycho. It’s really fun.
Weekly: She’s done a lot of crazy, inexplicable stuff, too! Like how did she get the snake into the shipping crate?!
Mills: The thing about B&B is that it doesn’t really matter — it’s just what you do. This odd character, Earl, appeared out of nowhere, going, “Oh, those bears sure are hungry!” Then there happened to be a bear [outside the Big Bear cabin], and Pam has all of these honey bottles and lemon bars. That’s pretty wacky!
Weekly: Yes, and it’s great. That whole bear sequence cracked me up, because all Owen had to do was bang on a pot and the bear left.
Mills: I know, and that was a big bear. Eight feet! It was a bear that was used to being on TV, but did you hear about the precautions that they had to take? There is a big ramp at CBS, this huge loading dock and ramp, so you can actually drive a car down the hall — because that’s what THE PRICE IS RIGHT does with all of its trucks and cars. Well, they blocked off the entire hall and drove the bear’s trailer into the hallway of CBS. There were all kinds of security guards, and everybody had to leave the set of B&B, except the crew. It was a really big deal, because a bear can actually kill people, even if it is tame. It can bite your head off, or your arm. So they were very cautious. It was exciting, and I got to meet the bear in the hall!
Weekly: At least you didn’t have to touch the cobra.
Mills: No, I didn’t, but I saw it. That was a real cobra, too.
Weekly: Despite all the wackiness, Pam does have a serious mental illness. You take that to heart in your performances.
Mills: It’s a reality, even though it’s B&B. Part of Pam being off meds is the fun of what she does to Donna. It’s truly that much of a personality changer, but it’s such a tough line to walk, because I don’t want to mock [the illness]. I desperately don’t want to offend anybody’s sensibilities. I want to make it real, but I also want the latitude for it to be fun.
Weekly: Stephanie and Pam’s relationship is probably where the balance comes in, showing the graver side of Pam’s condition.
Mills: Yeah, and also her motivation for what she’s doing. Even up in Big Bear, when Donna said she didn’t like Pam…it makes me laugh to say it, but it also really touches me — Pam’s line, “I know you don’t like me, and you don’t appreciate my lemon bars.” It means a lot to Pam to bring some sunshine into someone’s day and make her lemon bars. It’s funny, but it’s also heartwarming, because she does want people to like her. She does want to reach out and make people happy, but you also don’t want to cross her.
Weekly: You’ve had such a long career in acting. Out of all the roles you played, is Pam the most surprising?
Mills: It’s totally surprising, because every script I’ve ever played — even on THE WONDER YEARS — you know who you are. You rehearse a play for four to six weeks, and by the time you open, you know exactly who you are. You know everything about that person. Even on a series which ran for seven years, I knew Norma Arnold after that first show. I remember once they tried to make Norma Catholic, and I said, “No, guys, you’re wrong. You can’t do this, suddenly make them Catholic, just because you like the [idea of] light streaming in and votive candles.” I said, “To me, we are so Protestant!” That was in the fourth year or something! So they changed it. They wanted the candles, so they had candles, and then they put in a voice-over that Norma couldn’t get to her church, so she just stopped by a generic church. You really know who you are when you’re on a prime-time series. On a soap, you never know. You can become horrible and bad and then wonderful and good, and I really love that. I love being surprised.
Weekly: What’s your favorite thing about Pam?
Mills: The thing that I love that Brad has done is that he made Pam funny. She’s smart and has wheels turning in her head, so that makes everything easier. Betty White‘s Ann is like that, too. She’s not a dummy, and she’s kind of funny. You can have latitude. You can be mean, but it’s not awful, and it doesn’t make people hate you completely. I can’t tell you, though, how many people have come up to me and said that Pam’s mean. It really hurts my feelings. I was in Palm Springs, and this lady goes, “I know you!” I went, “Oh, hi!” and she said, “You’re Pam!” That doesn’t happen to me a lot, because people usually know me from THE WONDER YEARS. She said, “You’re so mean to that girl.” I said, “Wait a second, that girl stole my sister’s husband right out from underneath her nose.” She went, “You have a point!” and I went, “Yeah, I have a point!” Even though Donna is such a sweet girl, she’s an airhead to Pam.
Weekly: She’s a hot tamale!
Mills: (laughs) Who thought of that? It’s like, “How do they think of this?” It’s really interesting to me!