Where To Catch Her: On ALL RISE, premiering tonight, on CBS.
Your first big break was on RYAN’S HOPE back in the ’80s. What do you recall about your soap days? “I had been seen in this production of Taming of the Shrew at Northwestern University and I was seen by a casting agent for ABC Daytime Television. It was a great learning expe- rience, working with a new script every single day — and a lot of the scenes involved a lot of emotion. Soap opera scenes were like that back then. They probably still are! So, you learn on your feet. It was really rapid-fire.”
Do you still keep in touch with anyone from those days? “I do keep in touch with some people, mostly behind the cameras. This woman who was our stage manager, she was like my New York mom. Tamara Grady is her name. She’s great. Every time I’m in New York I try to see her, and then I got to be friends with her daughter, as well. As for the actors, I actually bump into Christian Slater [ex-D.J.; ex-Scotty, ALL MY CHILDREN] because he was on for a year or something when he was like 16 or so. He’s lovely, and I love to see him and catch up. I’ll also see Will Patton [ex-Ox; ex-Kentucky, SEARCH FOR TOMORROW] every once in a while. It’s been a while since I’ve seen him, though.”
Do you still get recognized by the soap fans? “Yes, yes I do! And that is going way back [laughs]! I’ve had a great career and I’m very fortunate. At this time in my life, it’s all gravy!”
Tell us about your new character. “Judge Lisa Benner is the supervising [judge]. That’s who I play. I think people can relate to having to be a boss and sometimes you have to make decisions that aren’t easy or necessarily going to make you popular. But you have to keep the big picture in mind and to keep the wheels moving and the system moving and making those tough decisions and sticking by them.”
Did you do any research for the role? “My son is in law school right now, and he’s externing with a woman judge in Pasadena, and she’s family court. So, she’s having to adjudicate over child custody situations or child custody payments, and after I saw the first morning that I sat in, I went back to her chambers. The first thing I said to her was, ‘You are a therapist.’ And she goes, ‘Well, yeah. You know, the black robe, for better or worse, people have to listen to me.’ And I said, ‘How do you….’ and she said, ‘I have to keep whatever personal life out of it. It’s just the way you focus. It’s just fascinating what a judge has to go through, one [case] after another after another. And she also shared some things about how sometimes her bailiff will give a slight eye roll at what someone has said or even how they show up in court, like, what they choose to wear in order to get to see their child more. You sometimes don’t think about that, even when you are watching JUDGE JUDY or some- thing. It takes a lot of just withholding your own feelings and your own his- tory, really.” Do you like playing a sup- porting character this time around? “I do. This is a much different situation for me than when I did CSI: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION. I am more of a supporting character here and perhaps it will grow into a more substantial part but at this point in my career, I’m okay with that right now. I worked a lot of hours on CSI and we worked a lot of nights, and it’s hard to do that. Look, we all love our jobs and we’re happy to have them but it’s harder to do when you get older, to work those kinds of hours. So right now, this is like the perfect job. I love the writing. I love the character. I love the cast, and it’s very topi- cal in terms of what’s going on in terms of stacking the courts these days.”
By the way, where do you keep the Emmy you won for CHINA BEACH? “Right now, it’s in storage because I sold my house recently and moved into a furnished place, so I’m still looking for a place to buy. Hopefully, it’s in good hands at the storage unit.”