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Credit Check: Susan Walters

Susan Walters (Diane, Y&R) looks back on her non-daytime gigs

Priscilla Beaulieu Presley, ELVIS AND ME, 1988: “I was new to Hollywood when I got this huge role. I actually didn’t feel any pressure about playing a real-life person; the pressure for me was to tell the story from her point of view. I wanted to really make sure that her story stayed true to what happened to her. This was a four-hour miniseries and I was in every single scene, but that volume of material didn’t daunt me because I had come off from LOVING [as Lorna], where I had worked five days a week for three years. I did a lot of research on Priscilla, when there were no computers or the Internet, so besides reading her book, I familiarized myself with anything I could get a hold of about her. I wore some crazy wigs for her younger years and then we used my hair with falls for when she was older. Apparently, Priscilla was a champion for me to get this job after she saw my audition tape. In real life, I’m a lot taller than her and she’s really petite but a very nice lady.”

Mary Beth Sutton, DEAR JOHN, 1990-92: “I shot the most episodes, 56, of a prime-time show with this sitcom. Of course, that’s nothing compared to the hundreds of episodes I did on soaps. DEAR JOHN was a totally new experience for me and most of the people on that show were these amazing theater actors. Up to that point, I had done Aaron Spelling shows [HOTEL and NIGHTINGALES], so I was kind of the odd man out on DEAR JOHN, but I learned a lot and they were wonderful to me. Jere Burns [Kirk] and Judd Hirsch [John] couldn’t have been nicer to me and it was a really wonderful place to work.”

Dolores, SEINFELD, 1993: “I ran into Jason Alexander [George] on a plane coming back from New Orleans, where I was doing a series, THE BIG EASY, and we started chatting. He was like, ‘You should come do the show,’ and I said, ‘I’d love to.’ I played a girl whose name rhymed with a body part but it didn’t start out that way. That kind of happened during rehearsals because originally she had the same name as ‘a poet in a car,’ so it was kind of fun how it evolved. In the final scene, where my character tells Jerry, ‘You don’t know my name, do you?’, that was handed to me a half hour before we taped it in front of a live audience. I still get recognized for that episode all of the time and I love it.”

Margo DeSalle, SPY GAME, 1997: “My husband, Linden [Ashby, ex-Cameron, Y&R], played the male lead, the husband of a married spy couple. For my role, I had to shoot, like, an automatic machine gun at him. I was the bad person and I had to come bursting out of a building, shooting and trying to kill him. People were asking me, ‘That’s gonna be really hard to shoot at your husband, isn’t it?’ and I was like, ‘No, not really [laughs].’ It was pretty funny.”

Rachel Smithfield, JAG, 2004: “For this episode, they showed what it was like when a Marine died overseas on the battlefield and then you follow the body through these steps, all the way to where he was buried. I played the mother of this young man and it was really difficult. I actually talked to one of my best friends who had lost her son and said, ‘I cannot portray everything you went through, but I just want to channel a little bit of it to show people what it’s like.’ I did it to honor her but I felt like such an impostor.”

Mary Kinnan, CSI: MIAMI, 2004: “My character bludgeoned somebody with a tire iron. In rehearsal, they handed me this rubber tire iron and we first did the shots where it looks like it’s the guy on the ground. Then they put a pillow down and they’re like, ‘So, you’re gonna hit that,’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah, okay.’ And they’re like, ‘Because you’re killing him.’ I said, ‘No problem.’ And then we rolled and I’m just, like, beating the crap out of this pillow. When they said cut, everybody was cracking up because they’re like, ‘You have some rage inside of you right now!’ They thought I was gonna be all wimpy about it and I’m like, ‘So, how is that?’ and they said, ‘Yeah, that’ll do!’”

Maia, STAR-CROSSED, 2014: “This was one of many roles where I played mom to an ‘out-there’ kid. I was an alien mom living on Earth with her alien son and I had to speak alien, which was a struggle. Matt Lanter, who played my son [Roman], is such a great guy and really good friends with Melissa Ordway, [Abby]. I told her to please apologize to him for me because I had to cheat and write down the phonetic [pronunciation] of my alien speak and I would just stick it by his legs. And then during my coverage, I would just look down at it and look up and say it, you can’t do that on the soap. So I cheated quite a bit with the alien stuff and he never judged me. He was a really cute kid.”

Sharon Tidwell, HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER, 2015: “Viola Davis [inset] is the most amazing person and I’m just so in awe of her talent. On her show, I’m on the witness stand and she had the ability to make you think that you were on the same level with her. You never got the idea that she was this Oscar-nominated star who had just won an Emmy. She made you feel like we’re all actors and that was so enlightening to me. That kind of vibe felt very inclusive.”