It is a very good time to be Rebecca Staab, who stars in ABC’s highly anticipated summer thriller SOMEWHERE BETWEEN, which will debut on July 24. But then, it seems like it’s always been a pretty good time to be Rebecca Staab.
As a child, the studious Staab harbored dreams of performing as she worked her way to a 4.0 GPA, but, as she puts it, “I grew up in Omaha, so there’s not really a lot you can do” outside of school plays. Working with a local modeling agency ultimately landed her in
Paris (“It was the summer before my senior year of college and I was like, ‘Free trip!’ ”). Intending to stay for three months, she lived abroad for nearly four years, building a successful career before deciding to give New York a shot. Approximately 24 hours after arriving, her modeling agency, Ford, sent her on her first-ever acting audition — and she booked the gig, a six-episode stint as Cecilia on LOVING.
Those six episodes turned into six months, but she left when GUIDING LIGHT scooped her up to play sheltered Jessie Matthews, staying until 1987 (her real-life relationship with her leading man, Shawn Thompson, ex-Simon, continued on for several years). After GL, Staab began booking prime-time episodic work out of Los Angeles so steadily that she moved there “for a trial period — and I’m still here!”
Her early years in California were jam-packed professionally. “I was just working up one side and down the other,” she recalls. “It was overwhelming — so much material and five, six auditions every day. I was still doing a lot of commercial work and some print work, too. It was almost too much.” Soon, though, a change in TV culture challenged her prospects. “When I first got here, THIRTYSOMETHING and L.A. LAW had come out. I thought, ‘Turning 30 is going to be the best thing that ever happened to you! As soon as you’re 30, you can play doctors and lawyers, all those sorts of roles.’ And then as soon as I hit 30, TV flipped really young! All of a sudden, it was 90210 and all these shows about teenagers and people in their early 20s. I was like, ‘Wait a minute, where did the jobs go?’ I was too young to play their parents and I was too old to be in their posse. I was in a no-man’s land, age-wise, for a chunk of years.”
She did continue to work, both on prime-time and with occasional return trips to daytime (she played Elizabeth Barrington on PORT CHARLES from 2002-03 and popped into Y&R in 2008 as April Stevens) — and she fell in love, 10 years ago this month, with William deVry (Julian, GH). “We met, we had dinner, then went for a drink, then sat in my car talking until 6 in the morning. And that was pretty much it; we didn’t even really date, we were just together.”
Staab credits deVry with the uptick in her on-screen workload, as it was with his encouragement that she decided to check out the booming TV and film production scene in Vancouver. “He always used to go up and work there, and I always stayed and took care of things at home,” she explains. “Then he got really busy on GENERAL HOSPITAL and he was like, ‘Why don’t you go?’ I was like, ‘I’m happy here, I don’t want to leave!’ All the other big moves in my life had been in my 20s, and I was so settled in my life here that I really went there kicking and screaming. I had every excuse not to go. But I am so thankful that I did. I fell in love with the city, and there are more productions going on in Vancouver than there are in L.A., so it was so much busier. Now I have a whole second life up there. I was there primarily last year and just came home to visit.”
Staab marvels at the impact of the move on her career. “It’s very similar to when I first came to L.A. and would just work and work and work. It is exhilarating, because I know how rare it is, and it’s so much richer the second time around. I appreciate it so much more.” And, in a refreshing change of pace for someone who not only was a model, but was frequently cast as “the model type”, she notes, “I’m brought in on projects up there that I would never be brought in for in L.A. Some of the auditions I’ve gone on there, I don’t even have to wear makeup or do anything with my hair. It’s been liberating; I’ve been blessed with good genes and I take care of myself, but I don’t feel the pressure that I felt in earlier years to look a certain way. And being my age has opened up all these new characters to play; there’s a whole new arsenal of roles that I qualify for now.”
Particularly close to her heart is the character she plays in SOMEWHERE BETWEEN, Colleen Dekizer. “It’s a type of character I’ve never gotten to play before,” Staab sets up. “I’m the governor’s wife, and they changed my look so much” — drab wig included — “which is great because it completely frees me up to really get to be somebody else. And this show is so incredible. Just talking about it gives me goosebumps. When I read the first script, I literally sat there with my jaw on the table going, ‘Oh. My. God.’ It’s so genius, so intricate.
“The writers and the producers and the directors that wanted me for this — they saw a quality beyond my look,” she concludes. “To have this character and to have this material that I’ve been given, it feels like another door is opening, that I get to step out onto a whole other platform thanks to this show. It feels like the start of a very distinct new chapter — and I’m pretty excited for it.”
The Other Woman
Rebecca Staab is a fan both of GH’s “Julexis” and the woman who has the on-screen heart of her real-life love, William deVry (Julian): Nancy Lee Grahn (Alexis). “She is so smart and so funny and brings so many dimensions of who she is as a person to Alexis,” Staab praises. “I mean, the banter between those two! They’re both really funny. People who are used to Wil as Julian Jerome probably can’t even imagine how funny he is, but he is such a hoot. They have chemistry on-screen and off-screen and they complement each other so much, both on-camera and in real life. I love that they’re both, you know, over 40 and hot and smart and passionate. It just feels real when they’re together. His fans will send me Twitter posts, like, ‘Oh, my God, I can’t imagine how supportive you are of your boyfriend who is half-naked on-screen with somebody else all the time. Thanks for always having such a good sense of humor about “Julexis” and for not minding when we drool over him.’ I’m like, ‘No, I love it!’ It’s easier to be a good sport because I really like Nancy so much. I enjoy watching them and, along with the rest of the ‘Julexis’ fans, I wish they were on more! I think we get the best of them when they’re together.
Just The Facts:
Birthday: July 27
Hometown: Hays, KS
Daytime History: Cecilia Thompson, LOVING, 1985; Jessie Matthews, GUIDING LIGHT, 1985-87; Elizabeth Barrington, PORT CHARLES, 2002-03; April Stevens, Y&R, 2008)
Near Miss: She placed sixth as Miss Nebraska in the 1980 Miss USA pageant.
Perfect Ten: She is celebrating her 10-year anniversary with William deVry (Julian, GH) this month. “Ten sounds kind of short. In a good way, it feels like we’ve been together longer.”
Why So Serious? “Wil is so disciplined that he’s helped me become a much more serious actor, and to really be dedicated. [GH] is such an important priority to him all the time, even if he only has one scene, that it’s actually helped me work harder.”
On Aging Gracefully: “Changing physically has been liberating. It’s like, ‘This is what I look like now, I’m just going to embrace it.’ I can’t lie, there are times where I wish I was 20 years younger — but my inner self still feels 27.”