The next time I lose my voice and can’t conduct an interview, I will definitely call on OLTL’s Kassie DePaiva (Blair). For a special actors-interview-actors feature appearing in the 10/14 issue of Digest, she was brave enough to ask co-star Hillary B. Smith about her fascinating career outside of her long-running role as Nora. Here’s a preview of what she got Smith to dish.Kassie DePaiva: Tell us about your first daytime gig.
Hillary B. Smith: It was THE DOCTORS [in 1982, as Kit]. And my first day was Kim [Zimmer‘s, ex-Nola; Reva, GL] last day.
DePaiva: That’s so funny!
Smith: We were ships passing in the night, and she left, very pregnant with Rachel, and Alec [Baldwin, ex-Billy] and I ended up working together. And the show went off the air six months later.
DePaiva: Not her fault!
Smith: I was the last gasp.
DePaiva: You are extremely talented and have done stage, primetime and soap opera. What vein of work, or what medium, did you find the most challenging?
Smith: Two things. I find films very, very challenging because it’s so much downtime. It’s just hard to keep up the performance and then you cut and break down and they turn the lights around, so you have hours [until] you go back and try to do that performance from a different angle. I have great respect for film actors. Sitcoms were very challenging because what we got on Monday was very rarely what we ended up shooting on Friday. However, having said that, there are challenges to all mediums.
DePaiva: So you’ve done it all. Let’s talk about your films. What is your favorite role that you have done?
Smith: I played this woman who was not necessarily bipolar, but haunted. It was a short [film], but it was six days of going to a really painful place because this woman was completely and utterly in agony. She loved her child, she couldn’t show it, she was exhausted, she smoked nonstop, she was constantly going over conversations in her head, she was preoccupied, she was trying to do everything the right way and she just couldn’t do anything right during this time. It was cathartic and it was deep and I think that was my favorite because it was so consuming.
DePaiva: What film did you get really close to that you think you could have been better than the person playing the part?
Smith: There were several of those [laughs], but one of the ones that I knew I should have been doing the lead was Purple Hearts. [Writer and Director] Sidney J. Furie gave me a smaller part in it and I ended up going to Manila and shooting it, but Cheryl Ladd was cast as the lead. They kept me coming back and [auditioning for] the lead and I knew that I should have been doing the lead and I flew all the way out to Manila. My first night that I got there Sidney said, “No, bring her out to where we’re shooting,” and I had to go all the way out to this island in Manila, and they were out in a boat shooting and he came to my hotel that night to look at my wardrobe and said, “I want you to make me sorry that I cast Cheryl Ladd.” And I looked at him and I said, “I think you already are.”
DePaiva: Woo! That’s intense.
Smith: It was a great film. I enjoyed it.
DePaiva: Was acting the career you always wanted?
DePaiva: But did you ever feel like you needed to have something else to have to fall back on?
Smith: Genetics. I was going to Sarah Lawrence and getting my masters in human genetics. I think actors, as a whole, are really smart people and I happen to be a very logical, straightforward, linear-thinking person and genetics was that because it was mathematical; it was scientific, physiological, all of those things. And it was intriguing because it was completely different and it was something I felt that I had control over, whereas acting, you’re still at the whims of other people.
DePaiva: Did you ever or do you ever think that producing will be in your makeup?
Smith: Yeah, I tried to do that. I would love to produce. I’d produce in theater, but never in film. Daytime, yes, theater, yes. But what I really would love to do is story consultation.
DePaiva: Speaking of story, you’ve been on the show 16 years now and Nora’s gone through comas, men, whatever. If you could be Delphina for the day, what would you like to see happen to Nora just in the next year?
Smith: I’d like to see her go back and really do a great trial that causes as much at-home displeasure that she could work through. I would like to see her and Clint actually have a relationship. Right now, they’re seeing each other, but you don’t see them hash it out…. And I’d like to see her have a love interest with Blair.
DePaiva: Sure! But she’s got her hands full right now with John.
Smith: You know what? I think somehow or other, with this whole John/Marty/Todd situation, I’d like to see Nora and Blair go at it because Marty is Nora’s best friend and you’re shtupping her man.
DePaiva: I believe he’s shtupping me [laughs].
Smith: I don’t know. I’ve been watching you and it’s like, “Hello, sailor. New in town?” But I would like to see that quadrangle be more of a “quintangle.”
DePaiva: Well, I think the fallout of that situation could definitely offer that. Now, I’m going to get back to Hillary again. What person has influenced you more than anybody?
Smith: I think my mother because she taught through example. You know, she’d give us ground rules, but I watched her live by those rules and I saw the pros and cons of how she lived, but she always maintained dignity and her self-respect. And that was so impressive to me that I’ve always wanted to live by that. There are also aspects of different friends of mine that I have great respect for. I watch you and how you live your life and the choices that you make and how you go after things. I watch how you pursue your music, I watch how you love your family and give to your friends, and you were very giving to me at a time when I needed a lot of friendship and you gave me some tough-love talk —
DePaiva: And vodka [laughs].
Smith: And vodka. And it was wonderful. You and Jimmy [DePaiva, ex-Max] were really wonderful to me. That’s the stuff that makes a difference in your life and to actually be able to continue to work with you has been nothing but joy.
DePaiva: Oh, thank you!