If there’s one thing today’s faves learned early on in their soap careers, having someone on set to show them the ropes made all the difference.
“I was lucky,” recalls B&B’s Thorsten Kaye (Ridge), who was hired by ONE LIFE TO LIVE in 1995 to play Patrick Thornhart. “I had Clint Ritchie [ex-Clint, OLTL] and of course, Bob Woods [ex-Bo, OLTL], salt of the earth. They were what John [McCook, Eric] is on this show. When somebody new comes in, he’s the one who says, ‘It’s all going to be all right. Come here. Let me show you around.’ You need someone like a Bob Woods or a John McCook, because they allow you to take a breath and focus on the work instead of the million other things you need to know.”
At the GH set, many a recent newcomer has credited Laura Wright (Carly since 2005) with helping them adjust to the unique challenges of shooting soaps — but to hear her tell it, she’s just paying it forward. “I had so many people helping me out when I first started,” says the actress, who made her daytime debut as LOVING’s Ally back in 1991. “I had never done television before and there were technical things I didn’t understand. Bernie [Barrow, ex-Louie], when I didn’t understand a note that the director gave me, he would translate it for me. I was helped along and nurtured by a lot of people there.”
Joshua Morrow (Nick, Y&R) learned two very important lessons from the start. “Professionalism and accountability,” he says. “You know, like showing up to work on time, being prepared and giving respect to the crew and your co-stars. Basically, be a great employee. I remember Peter Bergman [Jack] sitting me down and saying, ‘Be a good person. Be professional and be somebody the writers want to write about.’ Nobody is going to be as professional as Peter Bergman, but I try.”
Morrow’s co-star Tracey E. Bregman (Lauren) began her soap career on DAYS, where she was working with two of the show’s heavy-hitters. “My mom used to watch DAYS OF OUR LIVES and her favorite storyline then was also my favorite, which was with Don and Marlena,” the actress recalls. “So, here I was, coming in for my first day at my first job and I was part of their storyline. I was so in awe of them and Deidre Hall [Marlena] was really amazing to me. She took me immediately under her wing and she and Jed Allan [ex-Don] taught me everything about working on a soap. Before that, I had only done one day of acting for a commercial, so I didn’t know anything.”
Nowadays, Bregman tries to do the same for Genoa City newcomers. “I always ask, ‘Do you know where you’re going?’ ‘Do you know where the bathrooms are?’ ‘Do you know how to get to hair and makeup?’ Do you know where the commissary is?’ I pay it forward.”
When Patrika Darbo (Shirley, B&B) was hired to play DAYS’s Nancy in 1999, for which she picked up a Soap Opera Digest Award for Outstanding Female Newcomer, she needed convincing that she was actually in the right place. “I kept thinking they’d hired the wrong person,” Darbo chuckles. “Fran Bascom, may she rest in peace, was the casting director who asked me to do a soap, and I thought I was coming on to say, ‘Here’s your beer. Do you want any peanuts?’ Then they showed me a picture of Kevin Spirtas [ex-Craig] and they said, ‘He’ll be your husband,’ and I was like, ‘Holy crap! I’ve got to talk to Fran. They don’t know who I am!’ ” But Darbo states that the warm welcome she received calmed her fears right away. “I was welcomed into that family generously, kindly and warmly,” she smiles. “It was very respectful, and it wasn’t just the DAYS folks. It was also all the other soaps. When we’d go to events, the other actors and actresses welcomed me, too. I realized that the daytime community is a family unto itself, no matter what show you’re on. I’ve loved every minute of it.”
In December, Jacklyn Zeman (Bobbie) will mark her 41st GH anniversary, but she well remembers what it was like to be a newbie. “I was born in New Jersey and I had been living in New York [when I got the job],” she recalls. “I thought, ‘Oh, I’ll go out to L.A. for a few years. That’ll be fun!’ I was excited about that because I was familiar with the show. I had watched it; I grew up in a family of soap opera lovers, my mom, my grandma. So to actually be on a show and be cast on a show where I already knew all the players and the characters and the storylines, I was just jumping out my socks, I was so excited.”
She had a lot of time to get to know her co-stars. “We shoot so quickly now, there isn’t really time to sit and talk and catch up,” she notes. “Back then, we had some long days. We were here all the time. We’d come in for our blocking at 6:30, 7 in the morning, first dinner break was at 8, and second dinner break was 11 o’clock at night. I mean, we were getting three or four hours of sleep a night in those days! And we got so close, like family. We ate meals together. I’d go riding around with Kin [Shriner, Scott] on his motorcycle. I didn’t have family out here; I would spend Thanksgiving with Norma [Connolly, ex-Ruby] and her family. Those are happy memories for me.”
Kassie DePaiva (Eve, DAYS) has happy memories of her first soap job as GUIDING LIGHT’s Chelsea. “One thing that I loved was that when I first was cast, they took me on a shopping spree to Saks Fifth Avenue,” she marvels. “They had a private shopper and we went back in this one room. All of a sudden there were, like, 15 dresses for me to try on. They were building a closet for me. I was like, ‘Wow! That was pretty special.’ To this day I don’t shop like that and I certainly didn’t as a young girl. That was fun.”
Stars caution that it’s important to stay humble and be on top of your game throughout your career, but especially when you’re just starting out. “Well, of course you think you’re the greatest thing going, right, because that’s what they told you when you signed the contract,” Kaye quips. “No, you know what? I’m not sure the medium has changed that much. It’s still the closest thing we have to repertory theater, so if you’re the new kid on the block, there are probably one or two people who would play what you’re playing, so it’s important to remember you’re not all that. As long as you respect it and don’t go out of your way to be the cool guy or the macho guy, the guy who’s going to change the whole medium, then you’re going to be all right.”
Morrow admits to making a few rookie errors. “I made a lot of mistakes early on, like going to bed late,” he shares. “I was 20 and all of a sudden, this world opened up for me. I was new and making a bunch of money and partying with all my boys. Just being a jackass. I remember [then-producer] Ed Scott pulling me aside and saying, ‘You have to choose the path that you go down because you’ve got the world by the tail right now, but if you don’t do it right and be professional about it, it could all go away.’ I think I was late three days in a row, hung over with a few hours sleep and Jeanne Cooper [ex-Katherine] yelled at me! She was so angry, and she had every right to be.”
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