Amelia Heinle guested on Digest’s podcast, Dishing with Digest, and traced her soap roots from LOVING’s Steffi to Y&R’s Victoria.
Soap Opera Digest: Let’s go back and start at the beginning of your show business career. Tell us how you broke into the business.
Amelia Heinle: Okay. Well, I moved to New York after high school. I was 18. I think I wanted to get to the city, to be honest. I wanted to get out of New Jersey. I didn’t want to go to college. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study. I got on a Greyhound bus and I ended up in New York. I started doing a little modeling and that sort of wasn’t what I was wanting. I think I probably did it for like a year and then I realized that wasn’t for me. While I was modeling I was also kind of going out [on] commercial auditions and things like that…. I remember I was working also at a coat check and it was called The Supper Club…. My agent, who was just a commercial agent, happened to have a role for a soap opera. I had really no acting experience, but I just sort of was like, “Oh, this would [be] kind of fun.” So, I went uptown. It was 66th Street where all the studios used to be, where they used to tape ALL MY CHILDREN and LOVING and ONE LIFE TO LIVE and GUIDING LIGHT. That was like the mecca of soaps. But I didn’t know that, I just was like this little coat-check girl/model/nothing. And so I ended up going to the wrong studio. I remember it was raining. And then I ended up going [to] ONE LIFE TO LIVE ’cause it was confusing if you didn’t know the right studio. I finally ended up at the LOVING studio; that’s the soap opera that I auditioned for, and somehow I lucked into that role ’cause I had absolutely no experience. I landed the role of Steffi Brewster. I remember that was the worst name. I’m like, “Why would they name someone Steffi Brewster? It’s the worst soap opera name. It doesn’t even sound dramatic.” But it was fine. I mean, I was just happy to be doing it. I’m like, “How did I even get this job?” I remember later I became friends with the casting director who was like, “Well, you weren’t the best of the actresses, but we just had seen that you had a good instinct,” or something like that. Back then, they hired you off of stuff like that. I don’t think they do that as much anymore. But the role was mine and I took it for three years. It was old-school soap opera back then. And then I left ultimately after my three-year contract and I went out and pursued other things. I also had my first child, with Michael Weatherly [ex-Coop, LOVING], who went on to do other things in television. He’s a big TV star now. But we met on that soap and that was really a fun point in my life. And then I came out to L.A. We came out to L.A. together and we both sort of pursued our nighttime careers and sort of just auditioned. I think he had a holding deal for some network. They did holding deals back then. Gosh, I’m making myself sound so old, but I guess I kind of am now. I’m like, “Back in the day …”
Digest: But you were still kind of a baby. You were still a teenager when you were hired on LOVING.
Heinle: Yeah, that’s true. Thank you for making me feel better. I was young.
Digest: Tell us about what life was like for you on LOVING.
Heinle: Oh, my gosh. It was a great experience. It was hard to leave, but I knew I wanted to try other things at that age. I remember Jessica Collins [ex-Dinah Lee] was there, who also made an appearance later on YOUNG AND RESTLESS [as Avery]. She was on the show for awhile and I knew her from LOVING, so that was a great moment when she came on our show. I was like, “Wow. This is great.” We circled back around and met each other again, but essentially back then we weren’t really friends, we just kind of knew each other. When you come on a soap when you’re young, there’s like a different vibe…. Back then, we were just looking at each other like, “Is she gonna be better than me?” And I don’t think I really talked to her much back then but Rebecca Gayheart [ex-Hannah] was there. I remember she was nice, but she was leaving when I came in. Michael Weatherly, he was there for a little bit before I left and then he went and did other things. Roger Howarth [Franco, GH; ex-Kent] was on LOVING. Rena Sofer [Quinn, B&B; ex-Rocky], I think, had been there but left right as I got there. The person who really sticks out in my mind was Nancy Addison [ex-Deborah], who I worked with. She played my mom. They actually brought her on to play my mother and that’s when I started to feel important ’cause they were giving me a family member. She was wonderful. She passed on now. I know she had cancer and that’s very sad. She was such a lovely lady. She was a sparkly lady. She always treated me so well and gave me a lot of advice. I remember I would sit in her dressing room and we’d just talk. She was a lot older than me, but I gained a lot of knowledge from her. She made it so much fun. I miss her. I wish she was still around. Who else was on that show? … Do you remember Robert Tyler?
Digest: Trucker! Who could forget Trucker? That’s a good soap name.
Heinle: That’s what I mean. Why do the guys have all the good soap names?
Digest: Laura Wright [Carly, GH; ex-Ally] was there, as well.
Heinle: Oh, how could I forget Laura? That’s right. We were roommates for about eight months ’cause when I first came on, she was the person who was my friend. And then we decided we were going to be roommates and that lasted about eight months. We had a blast. I mean, New York City at that age and having a job on a TV show. Right before I got on the show, I was watching it at home. My senior year in high school I would kind of get the second half of the day off and I’d go home and watch GENERAL HOSPITAL because I really, really, really loved Duke and Anna so very much. I would skip the end of school to go watch them. And I think LOVING would come on before or after. It was ABC. So that’s why I ended up watching LOVING. And then I would see Michael and I would see Rebecca and they had their little storyline. I’m like, “Look at that. Those are cool.” It was like a kids storyline and I was a kid, so I was like, “Oh, cool. I’m gonna watch it.” And a year later I was on the show. This is weird. It was a great time to be on a soap opera. Now it is, too, but back then we used to sort of tour the country a little bit more and more people were watching, I think. It was kind of the golden age of soaps, or at least the tail end of it. It was fun.
Digest: In 2001, you came back to daytime to play Mia Saunders on AMC. How did that come about? What brought you back?
Heinle: I just was out here and I was sort of missing the East Coast and missing my family. I wanted to bring [son] August back home to the East Coast. I was a little bit burned out on California. The producer of that show actually had been the producer of LOVING at that time and so I just reached out to her. She brought me back on. She just happened to open a role up for me, which I was really kind of nervous to do because I usually have to audition. And then I went back and I was with my family. It was a good down period to be back on the East Coast and just sort of take a break. It’s difficult out here sometimes when you’re in acting and you’re trying to get jobs. I just needed to take a little personal time, so I went on a soap and went back into the city. It was actually really refreshing. It was right around 9/11, actually. I always look back and I’m like, “I can’t believe I moved back to New York for three years and I’m there for 9/11 and the blackout and then I go back to L.A.” But back to the show, I ended up on ALL MY CHILDREN. I was working with Rebecca Budig [ex-Greenlee] and Alicia Minshew [ex-Kendall] and Terri Ivens [ex-Simone]. I was only there for three years.
Digest: You were the Fusion Girls.
Heinle: The Fusion. Yes. Oh, my gosh. And one of our directors that ended up coming to Y&R later when I came to Y&R, he was there. He had been on ALL MY CHILDREN. His name is Conal O’Brien. He used to call us Fusions ’cause he would forget our names. He would be like, “Fusions! Stand over here!” But I think he thought it was funny and then later we did, too.
Digest: After AMC wrapped, you joined Y&R, where you are now. The show had been looking for the right person to succeed Heather Tom as Victoria for a really long time. What do you remember about getting the role?
Heinle: Well, I came back here. I think I was out here for about a year. I had decided to go back to daytime again. I gave myself a little year off to sort of see what I wanted to do. I was like, “Well, I better get a job.” I needed to be working again. I didn’t even have a manager. A friend of mine had this guy named Michael Bruno. He was like, “Do you want to go out for this role? It’s kind of a big role. I don’t know if you’re really interested. There’s gonna be a lot of dialogue. It’s Victoria Newman.” And I’m like, “Yeah, I know who that is.” And I knew of Heather Tom. I had seen Y&R. I had watched it when I was working at soaps, but I never really committed to it. I think I watched it when Christine was Cricket.
Digest: This was your first time as a recast. What was it like to sort of step into this role knowing someone else had memorably played it? How did you approach it?
Heinle: There was an element of wanting to be the strong [one] that everyone told me about, like, “Oh, she was very strong.” I was like, “Okay, well, that’s not really who I am.” It took me a little while. I tried to be that and it wouldn’t work. Honestly, it just took time. I didn’t read any people’s reactions. I didn’t want to know ’cause you can’t really compare yourself. I know Heather now. We see each other all the time. She’s awesome. I really, really like her. But there’s no way I could’ve played the character the way she played it. Ultimately, they wanted this strong character and ultimately I found my own strength. It may not have looked like hers, but it was mine.
Digest: Next March it’s gonna be the 15-year mark that you’re hitting in the role of Victoria. What does that milestone sound like to you hearing it out loud and what does it mean to you?
Heinle: It seems like that long, but it doesn’t seem like that long. It seems sometimes shorter and sometimes longer. It scares me to think, like, I never thought I would be in a place so long. Not that it’s gonna end anytime soon, but if it were, like this has become such a part of my life and the people I see on day-to-day basis is like…. This is like a legacy for me almost. I’ll be known for his, for being on Y&R because I’ve been there so long. If anyone Googles me one day they’ll be like, “Oh, yeah. She was on Y&R.” It’s like, “Wow, I’ve put my life into this place already and it just went by so fast.” My son is 24. Like I said at the beginning of this, that’s life. It just goes by really fast. I’m grateful. I don’t have
any regrets about staying there. All those people that I work with I just love them, I adore them.
Listen on Spotify to Dishing With Digest as we dish the latest soap news and get up close and personal with the biggest names in daytime.