Jessica Leccia has had a whirlwind introduction to the soap world. When Natalia first drove into Springfield back in April as Gus’s long-lost first love and the mother of his son, she stirred up all kinds of ancient dust and caused some major malfunctions in Gus and Harley’s well-oiled marital machine. Despite troubled relations with her new Springfield kin, Nat’s clearly intent on sticking around — and Leccia couldn’t be happier. Digest snagged the GL newcomer for a brief status update, on-screen and off.
Soap Opera Digest: The last time we spoke, you were reveling in the bliss of GL’s big Emmy wins. Are you still riding the wave of excitement?
Jessica Leccia: I still get giddy to go in [to work]. I’m still very grateful to be there. I’m not sure that’ll ever go away. I try to stay humble, you know. I’m so happy to be there and it’s really a joy to go to work. I’m getting to know everybody more and more…and loving them!
Digest: This is your first recurring daytime role. Did anyone help you learn the ropes on the set?
Leccia: Kind of everybody. I actually thought it was strange how friendly everyone was [laughs]! You see the same people every day and you get kind of warm and mushy with everyone. Everyone was very, very helpful.
Digest: Do people recognize you from the show?
Leccia: No, not really. [At] the few fan events I’ve been to, obviously I’m recognized because those people are looking for me, but I’ve had some comments on how different I look from Natalia. I think that’s part of what it is. I maybe spend a little more time on my hair or wear more makeup than Natalia does. She’s exhausted, that one!
Digest: Do you think “Gush” fans have warmed up to Natalia?
Leccia: I think so far, people are still up in the air about it. This is a major couple we’re dealing with. I expect people to be up in the air for a while.
Digest: Do you fear she’ll always be viewed as an interloper?
Leccia: There’s no way of getting around that. There’s two people in love and there’s all this other business. It’s hard to be objective about that.
Digest: What’s it like playing a mother?
Leccia: Once I met E.J.[Bonilla, Rafe], I told him right away I have an 18-year-old brother. I was like, “Oh, my God, he’s exactly like my younger brother,” who I’m very used to mothering. It came a lot easier than I thought it would.
Digest: Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
Leccia: I was born in New York City. Both my parents are New Yorkers. My background is Puerto Rican, but everyone is as American as apple pie in my family. We did hop around a little bit. I got to go to the Poconos for high school, so that was living in the mountains. I’ve been able to kind of see and feel everything as far as living in the middle of the city, which I love.
Digest: How did acting come about for you?
Leccia: I wanted very much to be a theater major. That was my intention, but there was some trepidation because I was very, very shy. I kind of felt my way around and decided to stick with my theater major and then started auditioning in college and doing shows and it just stemmed from there.
Digest: What attracted you to daytime?
Leccia: Honestly, you kind of just want to work in every genre that you can. When I went in [to audition] for GUIDING LIGHT, it was going to be my first time ever doing anything that was recurring, which was very appealing to me. I like the stability of getting to know people and at the time, I didn’t know I’d be there this long, so that was a nice surprise!
Digest: You participated in the recent ABC/CBS charity softball game. How did that go?
Leccia: I ended up going to bat, which I wasn’t expecting, and I was completely unprepared. I thought it was going to be a bunch of burly soap men being like, “This is our team. Don’t mess with our team!” So I assumed that someone with absolutely no athletic ability wouldn’t be welcome to play. I went to support and then ended up having to bat. I hit the ball and then I ran, even though I had a designated runner, which is embarrassing. I just got so excited that I hit it. I just ran to first [base] anyway, and then there was my designated runner running with me. We actually got a run out of it, so I’m glad I got up there.
Digest: Do you have any other projects in the works?
Leccia: This is my main focus right now. I haven’t sort of figured out how that would work, fitting things in, since I’m brand-spanking new! I’m really content to just be here.