It’s so crazy,” marvels Heather Tom of the fact that she’s marking 15 years since her B&B debut as Katie. “I’ve been in the vortex of daytime since I started on Y&R when I was 15 and I remember we were talking about a three-year deal and I was like, ‘Oh, my God. Three years?’ And then I ended up staying there for 13. And when I did start on B&B, I only signed a six-month contract, so I wasn’t sure what was going to happen and then once I jumped in, I was like, ‘I hope this show goes forever and I hope I can be a part of it.’ It’s been a wonderful place to go to work.”
Tom says the opportunity to join the soap came up after a chance run-in with Executive Producer/Head Writer Brad Bell at the Daytime Emmys. “I had left ONE LIFE TO LIVE and I was back in L.A., and then I got a call from him saying, ‘Hey, would you consider playing Katie Logan?’ ” she recalls. “Now, when I was at Y&R, I remember Katie Logan as this poor girl who had to have zits put on her face every day. But I jumped at the chance to work with Brad and the Bell family again and honestly, when I got there, I was like, ‘Who knew this oasis was across the hall this whole time?’ ”
Tom remembers her first day vividly. “I had my first scenes with [Katherine] Kelly [Lang, Brooke], and I remember I had a wardrobe fitting and Birgit [Muller], the costume designer at the time, said, ‘Katie is not very fashionable,’ and I was like, ‘We’re going to change that,’ ” she laughs. “Katie came on very much living in her big sister’s shadow and it was nice to play with that aspect and have her find her own style and her own look. I also love how they always bring in new characters coming through the front door and so that’s what I did. I walked through the front door and was like, ‘Hey, I’m back from San Francisco!’ ”
Katie’s evolution over the past 15 years has been fun to play for the actress. “She has come a long way,” Tom points out. “I really appreciate that she hasn’t been stuck in one place. Over the years, Katie has had a lot of things happen that have changed her world view and how she approaches problems and relationships. At her core, she has the same values, and there will always be that part of her that feels like she’s in her sister’s shadow, but she has definitely come into her own.”
Having two on-set siblings in Lang and Jennifer Gareis (Donna) has been a welcome throughline over the years. “I love that we’re powerful, unique, strong, smart women, and that the Logans are matriarchal,” says the actress. “With Jen and Kelly, we have a sisterly relationship in real life so it’s lovely to play that. It feels comfortable. It feels real. The minute I first walked on the set I was like, ‘Yes, this is my family.’ ”
She is equally enthusiastic about her leading men. “I have good relationships with all of them,” Tom smiles. “Donald [Diamont, Bill], I’ve known since I was 15 and so we have a believable bond. We don’t have to make it up. Thorsten [Kaye, Ridge] is fantastic. He always surprises you in a scene. He’ll say something in a different way and you’re like, ‘Oh, okay, let’s go there.’ And, Darin [Brooks, Wyatt] is just a kick in the pants. With him, I got to explore a side of Katie that hadn’t been explored. And, you can’t forget the [role-playing] mustache!”
In 2016, Tom began toiling behind the camera when she made the leap to directing. “It was something I had been wanting to do for a long time,” she explains. “I approached Cindy [Popp, director/producer] to see if she would mentor me and she was beyond open to it. She was so wonderful and then I went to Brad to get his blessing and he said, ‘If you want to shadow her and learn, I am 100 percent supportive of that.’ There was certainly no guarantee that I would get to direct a show. It was more like, ‘If you want to spend your free time doing this, that’s great,’ and so I shadowed her for months whenever I wasn’t working. When I was with her, she was so incredibly open about the process and what you had to do and how you broke down a script and how you gave notes in editing, everything that goes into it. I had this idea that I knew what the basics were — I had no idea! I can’t believe how many moving parts there are. It’s a miracle that the show gets put out every day and it’s a testament to all of the people who work in all of the different aspects of getting the show out.”
After directing a handful of B&B episodes on her own, Tom applied to the CBS directors program — and got rejected. “They said, ‘You need a greater body of work so go do a couple of short films and come back to us,’ ” she recalls. “So I did three short films and went back to them and was accepted as part of the program. Through that, I got DYNASTY. In fact, I’ve just finished my sixth DYNASTY. I also did GOOD TROUBLE, so it’s been wonderfully crazy. Covid threw a wrench into the whole world, but I’ve been very lucky in the fact that Brad has always been so supportive, beyond my wildest expectations. I don’t have words for it, to be honest.”
Though she’s passionate about calling the shots, Tom isn’t looking to make it her full-time gig. “I don’t want to obligate myself to anything. I love Katie and I love acting. I’ve been doing it my whole life and yet directing is really exciting. I’ve always wanted to keep learning no matter what, and this is an exciting way to do that.”
As she looks back at her time in daytime, Tom reflects, “I feel so lucky. No one gets to work that consistently, no matter who you are. It has been a wonderful place to grow up and to develop and make lifelong friends. I spent more time with a lot of these people than I have with my husband [laughs]. I feel lucky to have this community and am able to celebrate this community. When I started directing for B&B, I didn’t know how it would be received but there was nothing but love and support, and you feel like everyone wanted you to succeed. It’s such a nurturing place to live.”
Real life turned into reel life when Tom’s son, Zane, began playing her TV son, Will, in 2013. “Working with Zane was kind of like my own personal hell, and I don’t mean that in a bad way,” she muses. “It was lovely to have him there and give him something to do, but if anyone thinks it’s going to be so much fun being in a scene with my son, it was the exact opposite. Generally, we have twins, so if one of them is having a bad day, we can bring in the well-behaved baby. Here, we didn’t have a twin so I just kept thinking, ‘Please don’t shut down production. Please don’t have a meltdown,’ and then I was like, ‘Am I scarring him for life by telling him that this bearded man [Bill] is his father?’ And, ‘Oh, and now I have to act.’ It was very schizophrenic and as he grew older and they started giving him lines, I would find myself metamorphosing into this horrible stage mother, where I would stand behind the camera and go, ‘Smile. Say your lines.’ The others were like, ‘We don’t know what’s funnier when we’re cutting together a scene, Zane saying his lines, which was super-cute, or going to the B camera and you mouthing it!’ ”
Tom was relieved that Zane “retired” when he went to kindergarten. “Brad called me and said they were thinking of having a storyline, and he was trying to suss me out as to whether I would mind if they aged the character and I was like, ‘Age him!’ Zane found out about that a year or two later and he was like, ‘You got me fired from my first job.’ I was left like, ‘I am a terrible mother [laughs].’ ”
Just The Facts:
Birthday: November 4
Family Matters: Tom wed James Achor on September 17, 2011. The couple welcomed son Zane Alexander on October 28, 2012.
First B&B Airdate: August 30, 2007.
Soap Roster: Tom has played B&B’s Katie from 2007-present; ONE LIFE TO LIVE’s Kelly from 2003-06; and Y&R’s Victoria from 1991-2003.
Award Season: Winner of six Daytime Emmys, Tom is the only female performer to have won in all three acting categories: Lead Actress, Supporting Actress and Younger Actress. “They are on my piano in my living room, and Zane is very proud of them. Every time he has a friend over, he’s like, ‘Let me show you something.’ That’s kind of my favorite part.”
Most Challenging B&B Storyline: “It’s either the heart transplant [in 2008] or the postpartum depression [in 2012].”
Most-Missed B&B Co-Star: “Susan [Flannery, ex-Stephanie]. I watched how she took control of a scene and demanded that you show up and toss the ball back. I also miss Patrick Duffy [ex-Stephen]. I loved having the Logan girls’s dad there. He was a great addition and is such a lovely person.”