Soap Dish: Spencer SpeaksBy Michael Karol Posted: Apr 15, 2010
I had the rare and wonderful opportunity to speak to Gillian Spencer, the actress best known for playing ALL MY CHILDREN's Daisy Cortlandt. She returns to the show on April 20 to remember her erstwhile TV husband Palmer (the late James Mitchell) in a special memorial episode (see Soap Opera Weekly's April 27 issue, on sale now, for the scoop). But Spencer had a lot more to say that we couldn't fit into the magazine, including her thoughts on the survival of the soap industry and what she's been doing other than acting and winning a Daytime Emmy for writing the soaps.
Gillian Spencer with the late James Mitchell in 2004.
Soap Opera Weekly: How do you think the soaps will survive?
Gillian Spencer: (sighs) The late, lamented GUIDING LIGHT — and [now] the loss of AS THE WORLD TURNS...it's just...changing times. The continuing story is something people love; it's the most [solid daytime] format. It's hard when the old form is dying off and the new [one] isn't even in sight yet. Part of what has happened to daytime [is the loss of] the multi-dimensions within stories. That was there when Agnes [Nixon] was creating the story. There were humorous characters. There were real villains. There were reality segments. There were socially conscious segments. There was a huge variety of story within [an] hour show that is gone. I wonder myself if daytime expresses where people are in their day-to-day living anymore.
Weekly: Can the industry come up with a new dynamic format?
Spencer: I think they will. You know, that's already being talked about in the union. Everybody is looking for the new vehicle and how it [will] work. As far as the Web, this new way of viewing programs, I don't know.
Weekly: Well it does seem that certain shows do go over the top on a consistent basis now. I remember when I first started watching AMC, I thought it was over the top — but nothing like some of the plots that have been written on the soaps in recent years.
Spencer: Well, the '80s were the great time for this particular format in television — and then, with all the new possibilities available to people [on cable], that audience has dispersed. Certainly, people have seen it coming since the end of the '80s. They were predicting this; now we're here.
Weekly: Right. Do you see yourself involved at all? What have you been up to the last couple of years?
Spencer: I work full-time in a completely different field, which I worked in part-time for about 30 years: holistic health, looking at the places where science and spirituality meet.
Weekly: What's your niche?
Spencer: I do workshops, and have written a couple of books.
Weekly: Personally, I'm really into green tea.
Spencer: That's wonderful. I know it's very beneficial, [but] I have never been able to get used to the taste.
Weekly: It does take some getting used to.
Spencer: Yeah. And meditation. Have you done that?
Weekly: I have tried it. I tend to fall asleep [laughs].
Spencer: That's a good thing.
Weekly: But I've never done really the mantra thing and all that...
Spencer: Or just focusing on your breath, you know. It's relaxing. And you definitely can change the cortisol [a hormone said to reduce stress] levels in your body by meditating. That's been measured now; [it's] a relaxation response.
Weekly: Well, it's been a pleasure to meet one of my AMC idols.
Spencer: Oh, that's nice. You made my day! It's been great talking to you. I may try green tea again!
Weekly: It couldn't hurt — as my mother used to say.