Tognoni Time

From saying goodbye to ex-boyfriend Tom Pelphrey to giving back with GUIDING LIGHT in the Gulf Coast, Weekly makes the most of five minutes with the busy Gina Tognoni (Dinah).

Soap Opera Weekly: GL recently threw a goodbye party for Tom Pelphrey (Jonathan). How was it?
Gina Tognoni: It was very sweet, and he had so many wonderful things to say. This was really the only major job that he had after graduating from Rutgers [University in New Jersey] and this was a big deal. He got his feet wet here at GUIDING LIGHT and now anything he goes onto, he’s going to do very well. This is a great foundation.

Weekly: What was it like being at the center of the 70th anniversary “pay it forward” episode?
Tognoni: I was so impressed with the whole thing. I watched it twice. I loved that Dinah’s personality was really shown. She almost stopped the favor from going forward because of her selfishness and one-track mind. [The episode] showed her the people who really do care about her: Mallet, her family and her friends. She learned a lot about herself.

Weekly: How do you feel about the “find your light” concept?
Tognoni: This thought of “find your light” — it’s not extravagant. It’s a very simple subject and I think there’s something very beautiful about it. Starting the new year with this, it’s right. This whole experience for everyone on the show has been wonderful. In the beginning [of the new opening] there’s a prologue that says, “What we send into the lives of others, comes back into our own,” and it makes you think. I love that [executive producer] Ellen Wheeler and [head writer] David Kreizman put this together, along with P&G and CBS, because I don’t see any other soap opera doing it. It’s phenomenal and we’ll see it throughout the year.

Weekly: What will you be doing when the cast heads to Biloxi, Miss., to volunteer?
Tognoni: We’re going to be building homes and sharing our energy and our time. It’s all motivated by the fact that it’s the right thing to do — no other reason. It’s not a publicity stunt. This idea has been a gift to the actors. I think wonderful things are going to come from it. I’ve been in daytime for over 10 years and I’ve never seen anything as powerful as this. It’s very cool.

Weekly: What can you tell me about GL’s other special anniversary episode, which aired Jan. 25 and recreated the show’s early history?
Tognoni: The show explains where GL came from: How Irna Phillips, played by Beth Ehlers (Harley), developed this show, how we moved from radio to television and what that process was like. We had fun with the costumes. Hair and makeup and the costume department, [led by] Shawn Dudley, just blew it out of the water. It was phenomenal. It was like a period movie and should win an Emmy.

Weekly: Who did you play in the episode?
Tognoni: I played a young character named Kathy. She was on radio and made the jump to television. She was an exuberant little thing. She was beloved. We don’t see her die, but her [on-screen] death was a big thing, because the audience never saw death like that on television before. I wasn’t a centerpiece of the episode, but it was a fun part and I got to wear two great vintage costumes.