An actress since she was 2 years old, Vanessa Marano had already amassed an impressive resumé of stage, film and prime-time TV credits when she was encouraged to make a career pivot to daytime. “I had never done a soap before and my mom [Ellen Marano], who was an actress in her 20s and had been on old-world soaps like SANTA BARBARA, said to me, ‘It’s the best training you’ll ever have in your entire life,’ ” she explains. “I’m all about working, so I was like, ‘Why not?’ ”
Marano first hit up Y&R, where she auditioned for the role of Abby, who was being hyper-aged to a teenager, and recalls, “Of course, I wasn’t hired for that because the fabulous Hayley Erin got it, but at that time they were going to bring on a new Eden and they said, ‘We see you as her.’ ”
Marano said yes and she became the second actress to play Michael Baldwin’s little sister. It wasn’t long until she learned that her mother was right about the benefits of soap work. “There was all that memorization, not only of your lines but remembering blocking as well,” she points out. “It was like being thrown into the deep end but I thought it was really fun. There is this freedom to be over-the-top with storylines that I found really enjoyable.”
The same sentiment could be applied to Marano’s co-stars. “I was really lucky because the people I got to work with were so wonderful,” she enthuses. “Christian [J. LeBlanc, Michael] and Tracey [E. Bregman, Lauren] were absolute dolls. And because the pace was really fast, there was no room for errors, so the work day was over before you really knew it. I’ve recommended to other actors to try out for soaps. From a creative standpoint, you shouldn’t limit yourself to one genre, because you never really know what’s going to happen with your career, so putting yourself out there in a variety of different fields is just smart. People can get kind of snooty about these things, but I have found in the amount of time that I’ve been acting, there’s no room for that. It’s do good work when you have the opportunity to work.”
Marano completely understood why she was ultimately let go after a year-and-a-half of playing Eden. “I had been recurring on other shows, plus I was also doing an independent movie, so I was working days and nights, which got a little crazy,” she relays. “And Kevin Schmidt, who played my boyfriend [Noah] at the time, was working on other projects, as well, and wasn’t always available [for Y&R]. It was funny because at the same time I was working with Kevin, I was also on a show called WITHOUT A TRACE, where his brother Kendall played my character’s boyfriend. They were both super-sweet, super-wonderful guys.”
After leaving Y&R, Marano became a series regular on SWITCHED AT BIRTH for six years, while racking up guest-starring appearances on numerous TV shows and movies. In between, she was still getting recognized as her Y&R alter ego. “I did an episode of GREY’S ANATOMY and Chandra Wilson [Sydney, GH], who plays Miranda Bailey, saw me and said, ‘Eden! I love you on Y&R,’ which I thought was so cool,” she reflects. “No one’s a fan of April from GILMORE GIRLS, but Eden is still well-liked.”
Despite April’s low likability, her portrayer loved being part of the series. “When I say I love GILMORE GIRLS, I cannot em-phasize or underline it enough,” Marano smiles. “First of all, it was literally my favorite show even before I got on it. I think [Creator/Executive Producer] Amy Sher-man-Palladino and [EP] Dan Palladino are such fantastic humans and amazing writers. They were so great to me while I was on that show, and I felt so lucky to be that age and get to do that type of material. It really shaped me as an actress at that point.”
When Covid hit, Marano took a detour. “I started doing more producing,” she notes. “I produced a film with my sister, Laura, and my mother called Saving Zoe that came out in 2019 in which both my sister and I starred. In 2021, we produced an original film for Netflix that I didn’t actually act in, but my sister did. It was called THE ROYAL TREATMENT and she was the lead. We shot that in New Zealand, and it’s a sweet romantic comedy about a hairdresser from New York who gets whisked away to do a royal wedding, where she and the prince end up developing feelings for each other. So it’s very standard rom-com, really fun and super-silly. My sister was adorable and Mena Massoud, who played Aladdin in the movie [with Will Smith], was Prince Thomas in my movie.”
THE ROYAL TREAT-MENT became a surprise hit. “It came out in January 2022 and it was, I’ll brag for a second, number one worldwide for two weeks straight,” she beams. “I believe the opening week opened up to, like, 48 million hours of viewing, which was incredible. Hopefully, we can do more projects for Netflix.”
Marano’s last movie, ONE DELICIOUS CHRISTMAS, aired on Discovery+ during the holiday season in 2022. “I loved that it was a Christmas movie centered around food!” she shares. “So you got all of the magic and romance of Christmas, plus all of these amazing dishes. I got to eat black truffle potato au gratin at work — that just doesn’t happen enough. And working with [Food Network star] Bobby Flay was such a treat. I had to resist shouting ‘Yes, Chef!’ every five seconds.”
As Marano waits for other irons in the fire to come to fruition, she wouldn’t mind circling back to her first soap job. “I really loved being on the show and have so much respect for the medium,” she declares. “I would do Y&R again in two seconds if they’d have me.”
Me vs. Me
From 2018-22, Marano played a unique role in the Internet sitcom BAD BOY — herself. However, in this case, she was called upon by good friend Artie O’Daly (ex-Kip, GH, below), who wrote, directed and edited the series, to execute a very different version of Vanessa. “He kind of based it off of what I had told him of my experience on GILMORE, which was the audience didn’t like my character, April,” Marano explains. “So Artie asked me, ‘Would you make fun of yourself and be kind of horrible?’ I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, I’m so down for that.’ It was supposed to be for just one episode but it led to more. I had a blast playing a very bitter, bitchy Vanessa.” The show, which can found on YouTube, centers around Scott (O’Daly), a Hollywood screenplay writer, whose quiet life is invaded by a clan of obtuse but lovable grifters trying to jump-start their own careers in the entertainment business. Scott’s neighbor is Vanessa Marano, who goes ballistic when she finds out that one of the family members is not only responsible for the website that blames her character for single-handedly ruining GILMORE GIRLS, but also petitioned the United Nations to reduce the calendar year to 11 months, so April can be eliminated. “BAD BOY is a passion project made on a shoestring budget but it’s very, very funny,” Marano attests. “Artie is such a gifted writer and plans to continue with more episodes, which I would love to be a part of.” Among the cast is Y&R alum Julia Pace Mitchell (ex-Sophia) as Scott’s ineffectual agent, who’s more interested in a new Lexus than her client’s career. “Believe it or not, I’ve never been able to talk to Julia about Y&R,” says Marano. “A shooting day is crazy because we’re trying to get though 30 pages as fast as we can, so there’s no time for chitchat. It reminds me of my soap days!”
Just The Facts
Birthday: October 31
The Best Thing About A Halloween Birthday: “That always got me an extra piece of candy when I was trick-or-treating.”
Born In: Los Angeles, CA
Middle Name: Nicole
Sounds Fishy: Her first film role was lending her vocal talents to the animated movie Finding Nemo.
Sister Act, Too: Little sister Laura Marano is also an actress.
Relationship Status: Single and “healthy”.
Claim To Fame: She’s best known for playing the unpopular April on the popular GILMORE GIRLS.
Pet Peeve: “Right now I’m in a constant debate with myself about whether or not I should get a dog. Katie Leclerc, my old co-star from SWITCHED AT BIRTH, I’ve been dog-sitting her adorable Australian shepherd named Joey and I’ve always been a big dog lover.”