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ONE LIFE Alum Pens New Play

Brynn Thayer, who played ONE LIFE TO LIVE’s Jenny from 1978-86, has written a play called Let Me In, a dark comedy about love and loss. Here, she talks about how the project came to be.

Digest: The genesis of this project sounds pretty fascinating. How did you begin to write it?

Thayer: When I was living in New York and doing ONE LIFE TO LIVE, my roommate, who was my best friend since I was 10 — we moved from Dallas to New York together and had been there for maybe three years together — died in a car accident with her boyfriend as they were driving into New York from New Jersey. I had grandparents who passed, which I guess as a child, that’s kind of your first step into going to a funeral or losing somebody that you love. But not really for me, and not really understanding the difficulty that many of us have when a loved one passes, to say the least, I was devastated. My life changed. She was my soul mate, the person that got me to move to New York, the person that challenged me to go from being a school teacher to coming to New York to taking a chance and seeing what else we could do in the world. She just always kind of pushed the envelope and I followed.

Digest: That’s unbelievable. How did you cope at the time?

Thayer: So, I had the soap opera, thank heavens. I didn’t know everybody very well at the time that she died because I had just gotten on the soap, but it was an extraordinary group of people. I didn’t know what the heck I was doing because I’ve never really acted before. I’d done TV commercials, but that that was the extent of my acting ability. I just got the job on ONE LIFE TO LIVE because I looked similar to the actress that they had to replace. And so those actors were really my teachers: Judith Light [ex-Karen], Steve Fletcher [ex-Brad], Erika Slezak [ex-Viki], Tony George [ex-Will], all these fabulous actors who had extensive acting backgrounds and they just shared all of their knowledge with me and got me through those first couple of years and were my teachers. But they were also the people that got me through those first stages of losing a loved one. And it was pretty remarkable. So that that accident changed my life and I had always kind of had this story in my head.

Digest: So when did you write the play?

Thayer: I’ve written a little bit, I wrote a one woman show and that was also about death; death is my go-to subject. I wrote a couple of short films that were based on my experiences. I started taking writing classes to learn about writing and I’ve been in a lot of acting classes because I knew that I needed to learn about acting if I was going to be an actor. I had learned to be a school teacher and not an actor. So I started reading plays and putting up scenes and working with other actors and that was kind of my school. I joined another acting class about a year ago and I thought, “Well if I’m going to join this class, let me finish this play that I’ve wanted to write, and use the other actors in the class to work on it with me. Who knows how much time I have left to be doing stuff like this?” So that, in fact, did happen. I used some actors in our class, and I realized that yes, I do have a piece here that I think could be interesting. I finished it and I decided to just put it up. I got Jorge Garcia [Hurley, LOST], who is a wonderful actor, to be one of the three characters, and then these two other great characters that are married to each other, who have this wonderful chemistry and are crazy-good. And we’re in the middle of rehearsals now and it is the most fun I’ve ever had. I’m just loving it. So it’s based on a lot of my truth, a lot of things that did happen to me, but of course, I’ve exaggerated some of them, about going through a death and how we all do it differently, how we grieve, how we figure out how to get through the loss, how we avoid it, how we do things to mask it, how we navigate it. So it’s these three different characters, and I think each one is a part of me and how I dealt with death and continue to deal with death and the questions that I have about death and it’s that universal thing that we’re all bonded by. It’s a dark comedy and that’s the way I want it to be, I want it to be really funny. I feel like you kind of get the message of something if it’s based in funny as opposed to preaching. So I’ve tried to make it as funny as possible and the actors just have made it even better than I wrote it.

Digest: What was the process like for you once you actually went through examining what happened to you with the loss of your friend?

Thayer: It was really good. I have pictures of my girlfriend all over the place and that’s been over 40 years, but I feel like she’s still in my life. I love to write dialogue and people talking back and forth and having crazy conversations, so somehow when I’m writing, I don’t want to get too hokey about it, but I start channeling them and just writing down what I think they should be saying at the time. And I walk away from it every once in a while because I maybe get stuck or I’m not sure what I’m trying to say, but then you always come back to it. I have found if you just keep muscling through, you’ll find the gold.

Digest: You are not acting in this production, but are the writer/director/producer. What has it been like to wear all those hats?

Thayer: I have loved figuring out what the set is and working with the set designer who’s so much fun, and creating this apartment in New York — the kind of New York apartment that I always wanted to live in myself. There’s so many things that come up that I never really considered before. I’m working with the lighting designer and the sound guy, who are just another two very creative people that read the play and loved it. They said, “I want to do this,” and I wanted people, of course, that got the play and that enjoyed reading it. So they brought great things to it. I had a teacher years ago, Milton Katselas, who said to us in the class at one time, “Always put music in your scene, in your plays, and always make your characters dance, if at all possible.” For some reason, that’s really stuck with me. So I have I have fun dancing, I have great music. They’re grieving, they have alcohol, they talk about really tough subjects, they talk about dying, and if you should be in charge of your own death and being a caregiver if somebody is sick, but it’s all done around comedy. It’s a very emotional play, too, though.

Digest: Are you still acting?

Thayer: I still love to act so that’s why I’m always in class because you get a chance, even though you might not have a job, you still get a chance to act on stage in a class and learn more about acting and how you can be better. I just did a couple of episodes of this new show that’s coming out, FATAL ATTRACTION, a remake of the movie. That was my latest acting job. I did a film also about death called Good Grief, which should be out fairly soon. Before that, I did some episodes of SUITS and it was such a good show.

Digest: Looking back on ONE LIFE experience, what stands out to you the most?

Thayer: Definitely the other actors. Those are some of the best days of our lives; we all loved it. I’m still in touch with several of those actors and we just had a ball. I mean, we were living in New York, we were working four days a week at least. We had an incredible head writer, Gordon Russell, who wrote storylines that lasted three years and there were other stories going along with it and it he was just so wonderful at doing that. It was great. I loved every minute. It was all that camaraderie that we got to have in those days, and we were a bunch of people that really, really liked each other. It was my first job, so I didn’t know any different. I just knew I was in a really special place.

Digest: Who are you still in touch with?

Thayer: Judith and I are very close, so we make time for each other a lot. She is one of those special human beings; her name says who she is. She is really light. She’s so smart about people and life. She’s a teacher of life and she’s funny and she’s goofy and just a great friend. I still see Julia Montgomery, who played Samantha. I keep in touch with Steve Fletcher, who played Brad. Those are my top three.

Digest: Could you ever have imagined when you started on the soap that you would make these lifelong bonds?

Thayer: I am so thankful. When I came on, Judith was rooming with the girl I replaced, so then of course, they put me in that same room, so Judith and I became dressing roommates and, oh, my God, how lucky was I? I was a big soap fan. I watched ONE LIFE TO LIVE and ALL MY CHILDREN, so I was calling everybody by their character name because it was so embedded in me. I had to switch over now that I was acting and call them by their real name.

Digest: Was that trippy then when you first went on stage?

Thayer: Oh, yes! It was like, “What am I doing here?” It was dream-like and I was wearing a nurse’s outfit and then crossing myself in front of candles at a Catholic church as the nun. It was great.

Digest: Are you recognized as Jenny still?

Thayer: Very little. People recognize my voice more than my face.

Digest: Would you go back to daytime if asked?

Thayer: I’m sure I would. I’m certainly not as quick as I used to be, so I really admire those people that are doing it now because they do it very quickly, it seems.

Let Me In will run at Theatre 68 Arts Complex – The Rosalie, 5112 Lankershim Blvd, North Hollywood, CA from February 25-April 2, on Saturdays and Sundays. Ticket prices are $35. For more, go to or call (818) 691-3001