Catching Up With The Original Cast Of PASSIONS


Credit: JPI

PASSIONS debuted 20 years ago today. Here, some of its original cast looks back on their Harmony experience. 


Kim Johnston Ulrich (Ivy Crane)

What is your casting story? “After I went in, they called me back and said they wanted to see me again because they didn’t think I was quite upscale enough. I laughed and I remember going, ‘Oh, my God. All I ever play is upscale and bitchy.’ When I first went in, I dressed nicely in a shirt and my hair was down. The second time I put on a really sweet suit and my hair up. I read with Ben [Masters] and it went very well. Later, they called and said I got it.”

Did you think you were signing on to a run-of-the-mill soap? “I had been on AS THE WORLD TURNS [as Diana], so I understood the machinations of a soap and even though they can be serious you know there will still be some outrageous, ridiculous, crazy moments because that’s just the nature of the beast. I knew that Ivy was married and in love with someone else but I had no idea the extreme it would take. And I had no idea that I would get to do some really amazing, fun and crazy things. I loved that job. It was a great job and was the most fun I ever had. We got to be in a tsunami, I went to hell, I got to run my car into a church, play a witch, go back in time and so many other things that you wouldn’t do on a TV show. We had a good time.”

What do you remember about your first week? “Most memorable to me was when Ben and I were coming through the door of the mansion and I had on this amazing red dress that the costumer at that time had built for me. So, I most remember coming in wearing this fabulous dress and I looked really good.”

What do you remember about the critical response to PASSIONS? “I remember watching the first day, and this is nothing against the actors because everybody turned out to be really good actors, but I remember watching some of the young actors and thinking, ‘Oh, boy, we won’t be on long.’ But they quickly found their stride and most have gone on and are doing well. I had writer and producer friends in the business who worked on big shows and they would stop to watch PASSIONS. They thought it was hysterical and great. They found the humor and the camp in it.”

So, it wasn’t hard for you to embrace the tone of the show?“No, not for me. I love doing comedy and high drama and camp. Comedy is hard to play, so to pull off those scenes that were over-the-top and ridiculous wasn’t easy. When I drove the car into the church, I had the idea of, ‘Why don’t I pop out through the sunroof?’ And that’s what I did. I’m very willing to make a fool out of myself.”

Were there ever any storylines that you didn’t like? “Yeah, I remember the prop guy bringing in the wheelchair and I was like, ‘What?’ I ended up being in that chair for two-and-a-half years. That was hard. It gave me a really bad backache and I had to go to many chiropractors to figure out what was wrong.”

What were your favorite storylines? “I loved the tsunami only because I thought it was super-fun to do. Floating around in the tsunami was insane and fun. It was so cool. I also enjoyed [Ivy] sparring with Theresa and I loved working with Andrea Evans [Rebecca]. Those were fun stories to do. A story I wish they would’ve done was rather than have Sam torn between Ivy and Grace, that one of Ivy’s daughters would go for Sam. I thought that would’ve been classic soap.”

Is it wild to you that it has been 20 years and are you in touch with any of your former co-stars?“You know what is wild to me is when I see that Lindsay [Hartley] and Eric [Martsolf, Ethan], who were just babies then, are now around the same age as I was when I started on the show. Galen [Gering] lives not too far from me and I was just giving his wife advice about school for their son. I see Andrea quite a bit for lunch and I still talk to Dana [Sparks, Grace] and I talk to Eva [Tamargo] occasionally.”



Lindsay Hartley (Theresa Lopez-Fitzgerald)

Tell me your casting story. “That might have been one of my first TV auditions ever in my whole life. I had just been doing singing and musicals and performing onstage. I felt super-insecure. So I auditioned and I just didn’t feel like I had a great experience. Then I get a callback for the screen test, but there was a big wait. I was chemistry reading with Travis [Schuldt, Ethan] and Josh Duhamel [ex-Leo, ALL MY CHILDREN], and Brook [Kerr, Whitney]. I completely fell in love with Brook right away, and how can you not fall in love with both men? It was a pretty intense screen test. And then I got in my car and I cried because I was so nervous. I was like, ‘I’m not getting that. There’s no freakin’ way.’ And then I got it. The week that I found out or when we did the carnival is when I turned 21.”

What was that like for you? “It was a really incredible experience and gift from God. It’s a bummer it’s still not on because I think it would be super-fun. I really enjoyed that soap because of the insane storylines. It was just a bit off and different and I think that was fun for us to play. And even though we played it straight, we had a ball off camera. To be there through the whole run was a blessing.”

The Ethan/Theresa romance and the triangle with Gwen was really front burner from the beginning. What stands out to you about that? “Well, I will tell you this: The first day of filming, my last scene of that episode I say, ‘I’m gonna marry Ethan Crane.’ And then it took me nine years to marry Ethan Crane. I said the same thing from day one. I went on a nine-year journey with nine years of saying the same thing. I didn’t know how to do it. I really didn’t. I would come offstage trying to figure out how to justify this character because she’s so driven by that fate word. I could never do what she did. I’d be dropping out year one: ‘Good luck, honey! Have fun with that.’ So it was neat that I got to play that because she was so different than me.”

What was your favorite storyline? “Maybe the Bermuda storyline. I ended up marrying Julian Crane and then he threw me in the armoire to hide me. That was really, really fun. I loved working with Ben Masters. He’s so talented. He was just the coolest. He was so supportive with everything. He was a team player. He wanted the show to be good and had fun doing it. He was just great.”

What other storylines stand out to you? “I loved when we were in the cabin and I was pregnant and when we broke out in song. Bollywood was awesome, too. I went to hell … that was pretty fun. And then rode that chariot. Oh! The tsunami was crazy. They had this big water tank that smashed us down, for real.”

What was the impact on you personally? “Oh, well I have my child [Isabella, 15] from it! I got married to a wonderful man [Justin Hartley, Fox] and have a gorgeous daughter who is doing very well in school. And Justin’s awesome. I’m super-blessed for what I found in my personal life. Brook came out of it. Twenty years of friendship is a long time. She is my best friend. And I think it’s really helped my writing. It helped me create and have an imagination to write different stories. I really believe that PASSIONS helped train me to be a writer.”



Brook Kerr (Whitney Russell) 

At the time the show was starting, did it occur to you that it wasn’t typical to have as multicultural a cast as PASSIONS had? “I had seen soap operas growing up; my mom and grandma and everyone at church had to watch their stories. I remember seeing a few women of color, but I knew right away that it was a whole family. It wasn’t just a one-off storyline. It was a successful family, each character had their own story, dreams, passions, desires, everything. And they didn’t dwell on it, like, hitting you in the face with, ‘We’re filling the quota!’ It was equal time, equal story, equal importance in the feeling of the show. I was really proud of that — my mom a doctor, my dad a tennis coach, me having dreams of Wimbledon, the relationship between Whitney and her father, and her sister. I mean, that’s a lot of dynamics going on!”

Was there a story that made you realize that the tone of the show could be a little out there? “It was always interesting because I would watch the show every once in a while and forget about the witch and Timmy, because we were never in scenes together. I’d catch them and be like, ‘Oh, my gosh, I haven’t seen her in forever!’ It was a great dichotomy to go from a girl falling in love with Ethan Crane to a doll coming to life and a witch and a fairy. I mean, how fun is that?”

What do you remember about how viewers reacted to the show in the beginning? “I felt like it was something that everybody didn’t realize that they needed in the daytime realm. People just attached on immediately and it was so refreshing for us because we were like, ‘We felt it, too, but you never know how other people are going to feel.’ ”

Was there a storyline that was challenging for you to get behind as an actor? “Well, I guess the incest thing was a little difficult to get behind. This was the first time Whitney felt that somebody saw her for who she was, that didn’t have any expectations of her. So that’s a tough thing to just be like, ‘No!’ I had to honor that, and the Chad character really did love Whitney for Whitney. It was difficult as an observer to say, ‘Why would someone do this?’ But if you put yourself in those shoes, why would you want to give something like that up when you’re in your early 20s, and just go with denial and, ‘Maybe it’s not real!’ ”

As you reflect 20 years later on the impact the show had on you personally, what springs to mind? “Gosh, the friendships that were created. It was such a fun time because you really didn’t know what you were going to do the next day at work. Just the freshness of everything. It was a steady surprise every time we got a script in our mailbox. That I really enjoyed. That’s one of the things I love about being in this business. In L.A., your whole life can change in 24 hours. And that’s what happened when I auditioned for the show.”

Who is still in your life from the cast? “Lindsay and I are still very close. You might see something with her and me working together very shortly. We have really held it together through the years, through the children and all the changes. It’s amazing.”

What kind of legacy do you think PASSIONS left? “I think it was fearless. That’s the word. They went as far as they could with everything and really took chances, but it was still grounded in relationships and love, and we cared about these people because their relationships were real.”



James Hyde (Sam Bennett) 

How did you get cast? “I was filming AS THE WORLD TURNS [as Liam] at the time and there were these rumblings of a new show on NBC. Nobody knew what it was. And then finally my agent told me, ‘Hey, you’re going to read for a character.’ And so I actually read for PASSIONS in New York and I read with Jackie Briskey [casting director], who is amazing. I read for Hank. I was living in Miami and was going up to do my shows in New York and then coming back. I got back to Miami and I had [a message saying,] ‘I think you’d be better for Sam. You have a family that will be more entrenched in the storyline. We just like you for Sam.’ I said, ‘Great.’ So I went back to do a screen test for Sam. I flew back to New York and that’s when I heard. I went in and did my last shows on AS THE WORLD TURNS and said, ‘I am out. I am a new member of the show called PASSIONS.’ ”

What did you know about the show? “We knew that there was a witch that lived next door, but we didn’t know how far this was going to go. James Reilly didn’t want to meet us in person. He felt like if he met us in real life it would kind of ruin the idea of the character for each one of us. I met him once at a signing in New York and he was there for a second and he was gone. I mean, we had no idea that there would be these tsunamis or my house being sucked into hell. We always used to joke like, ‘Well, how is he gonna top this one?’ ”

What is the craziest story you did? “The craziness was the house. We had to come in and fight these dragons that blew fire. My closet was the portal to hell. I’d come running up to the house and my house is being sucked into hell. That, to me, as the character, was the biggest and craziest storyline we had to play. They were long, long days, finishing at 2 or 3 in the morning, and then we had to be back the next day. It was exhausting. But again, it was fun. We were playing.”

What did you think of the pace of the storytelling? “I think fans were at one point complaining that the storyline wasn’t moving fast enough. I learned very early on in soap operas that you have to pick your battles and not go up to the office every day and complain because there’s a whole year with a lot of scripts. Everyone’s going to be the armchair quarterback going, ‘Wow, I wish I would’ve done this or that or whatever.’ But I believe, over the nine years, we certainly entertained them.”

Who are you in touch with? “I knew Galen [Gering] in Miami. We used to play volleyball together, we modeled together. I was on my way to do the second screen test for Sam, and I get on this plane at Miami International and I put my bag down, look over and Galen’s right next to me. I’m like, ‘Where are you going?’ He goes, ‘I’m going to go read for this show.’ I go, ‘Me, too!’ So we came out and we helped each other with lines. We wanted both of us to get it. Long story short, his dressing room was right next to mine, his parking spot was right next to mine — I still see him now. I still see Kim [Ulrich], I see Eva [Tamargo] — she is the godmother of Moses, my son — Rodney Van Johnson I see all the time, ’cause he’s a track coach over at Notre Dame. I see Jesse Metcalfe a lot, Jack Krizmanich [John], Mark Wystrach [Fox]….”

Is it wild that it’s been 20 years? “Yeah. I mean this from the bottom of my heart, it puts a smile on my face. It really does. When it ended, I was so disappointed.”

Filed Under: