This interview originally appeared in the June 3, 1986 issue of Soap Opera Digest.
At a glance it would seem easy to define Deidre Hall as the Queen of Daytime, winner of all those Soap Opera Awards, idol to millions and the one actress who has almost single-handedly altered the relationship between star and fan.
Loose talk in the entertainment industry will tell you that Deidre can be difficult, demanding and a perfectionist. You will also hear that she is a consummate professional, possessed of a wicked sense of humor and that if you are a friend in need there is no better friend to have than Dee.
To size Ms. Hall up as either Very Shrewd Businesswoman or Daytime’s Sweetheart is to totally miss the heart of her.
Although Deidre and I have been acquainted for many years we did not get to know each other till this past September when she came to New York to appear on our tenth anniversary cover. After the shoot we both had time to kill before planes would take us out of town so we lunched together and found that when it came to matters of the heart we were no so different. Our conversation about personal matters flowed easily; for whatever instinctive reason we chose to trust each other. I remember coming away from that day struck by her sense of humor and vulnerability.
When we decided to do this cover story it was with the idea that the readers would get to see Deidre Hall full faceted — as I had come to know her — not as a mass of press releases.
We met on a foggy Thursday night for dinner in Los Angeles’s San Fernando Valley where the talk centered around enjoying life on our own. After dinner we went back to her house so I could view her latest project — the Deidre Hall Home Video Biography, showing Dee shopping, playing, eating, talking about her life and horsing around with Wayne Northrop (John Black). Dee’s house is filled with mementos, animals, a fireplace, art … it is unglamorous and very homey. She gave me a robe and slippers to change into and finally we settled on her daybed in the den at 10:30 that night to record this interview.
Incidents That Shaped Her Life:
I have a brother who has Down Syndrome. When we were children we were all out on the sidewalk playing box-ball one day. Some of the neighborhood kids were teasing my brother because he was retarded. I remember thinking, “We won’t play with anybody else. We take care of people we care about. We are a family and we take care of the family.” That sense of protection for him was very strong.
When I was 12 years old I wanted to be a model. My mother enrolled me in a beauty pageant. Although we had no money she knew it was a way for me to be in front of people, to get my composure and learn how to move. That was the best way she knew for me to get that experience.
My mother was the person who always knew I could do it. As long as she knew I could do it (she was the smartest woman I ever knew so she had to be right) I got to grow up with that knowledge. That is what ruled my life for a long time. My mother said to me one day, “I don’t know how you do this business. I don’t know how you ever got the knowledge. How did you get the insight or courage to go out to L.A. and be a TV star? I don’t know how you figure out financing, acting, dealing with egos, or being a woman alone in the world.” That’s funny to me because the answer is of all the people in the world who shouldn’t ask that, it’s her. She told me I could do it.
Another milestone: I remember being a kid and my dad worked at the post office. He was on the front window all the time. I went down to meet him after school one day and he was not ready to leave work yet so I stood in the back of the post office and just waited for him. I watched all of those people come to that window and he was their friend. He knew them by name or he knew their post office box, whatever. He was so charming and warm and patient. When I get into a situation where I don’t know how to be grown-up I think back to the post office and Daddy talking to person after person — every person was somebody brand new, fresh and interesting.
On Friendships With Women:
How do you describe friendship? My fear is that anything I would say would sound smaller than it really is. Friendship is huge. It is the most important thing in my life. It is what gets you through. It is what you count on. It is what you give back. I can count on two hands people that I feel close to in my life, and I am lucky enough to count on two hands.
I have fabulous friendships with women. I have developed a trust and belief in women. We have learned when one woman grows we all grow. I think we all sort of link arms and go forward together. Women who are in touch with their own power and magnificence have nothing to be afraid of.
On Growing Old:
I can’t wait! I hope I look old and dotty with lots of white teeth — I hope I still have my own teeth left.
What Success Means:
It goes back to friendship. Being the best person you can possibly be. Knowing that when you turn out the lights at night you didn’t leave anybody damaged. And if you could help, you did.
I am very good and forgiving, and I am very good at forgiving myself. I don’t get down on myself. For example, I believe in binging and not being guilty about binging. If I am going to have a sundae I am going to enjoy every morsel. If I’m heavier tomorrow I will deal with the weight. Whenever I find myself getting annoyed I just have to remind myself that everybody is doing the best they can That is all you can do.
Romance, Relationships and The Perfect Man
I am crazy about men; they’re the best. And there is a balance there that friendships don’t supply. There are parts of ourselves, as women, that come to life when there is a man in our arms.
Do I want the perfect man? The mature answer is that there is no perfect man, and if there was who would want him? I don’t have an answer. I don’t have any idea. I don’t think about it. When he shows up, hey, I’m still here.
You ask if I’m good with romantic relationships. I have always been told that I am communicative. The man has always told me that “I have always known exactly what you need and who you are. There is no confusion about that.” I think I am a real easy person to be around, and if anybody cares to stand there for a minute and a half they are not going to be afraid. I am real direct. There is no hidden agenda. If I don’t like you, I will tell you. If you want to know how I feel… ask.
On The Ending Of Her Marriage
I don’t think of relationships in terms of beginnings and endings. I think of always having that relationship. I adore my ex-husband. We care about each other tremendously. We will always be there for each other. It is not a matter of what goes wrong. If you are there, and you are open, honest, giving and clear, you do the best you can. If the relationship didn’t go the way you promised, you don’t stop caring and sharing. You just don’t live together anymore. You don’t have those children or buy that house or take that trip, but you don’t ever stop loving each other.
Who Does She Think On DAYS Has Promise To Be A Big Star Tomorrow?
I think Holly Gagnier (Ivy Jannings) can be a huge star. She is a phenomenal dancer and a fabulous actress, not to mention a gorgeous girl. I think she would do wonderfully well in feature films. I hope she has that chance early in her career. Micahel Weiss (Mike Horton) is a wonderfully strong actor. If only he would shave and button his shirt; that’s not off the record, I tell him every time I see him. And Stephen Nichols (Patch) is the man of my dreams. He’s a fabulous actor, a creative genius and wonderful on his feet. Stephen is just brilliant.
What Marlena Has Given Her
Marlena has taught me about the power of somebody who loves back. She really does love back a lot and she loves unconditionally.
When I have to do scenes that call for an incredible amount of vulnerability, I just let Deidre step off the stage. I have always felt safe doing that because you can always say, ‘”I wouldn’t be that vulnerable, but Marlena is.” I did sanitarium scenes years ago when I was going through a divorce in real life and it was a very painful time for me. But I got to go to work, not be made up, not even have to comb my hair — just scream and sob my brains out. That kept me from doing it at home. It was great. When I went home I could keep on breathing and be functional.
To Leave Daytime Or Not To Leave Daytime?
The last time I read a part that I really wanted was about three years ago. It was an ABC show called MOONLIGHTING. I loved that part when I read it. The role I wanted desperately before that one was a character called Krystle, but Aaron Spelling wanted Linda Evans from the day it was created. There are things now that are out there that I am finding I want to do, whether or not it happens remains to be seen.
There are moments when I want more rehearsal time, when I want to have an hour to light a scene because it deserves it. I miss the luxury that nighttime has. But we have fabulous story lines. I like the thoroughness of daytime, that we can complete an emotional cycle. I do not feel deprived because I am not on a nighttime soap or sit-com. I adore what I am doing and if a part came along that I would adore doing with all the advantages we don’t have in daytime, I would want to try that for a while.
Why She Created A Home Video About Herself For The Fans:
I did not have a lot of interest in doing it. I knew it would be a lot of work, I didn’t think there would be a market for it and quite frankly, I thought it was a little arrogant, but my partner Sherry Ingram convinced me. Sherry, Mary (ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT) Hart and I have a video company called Customs Last Stand, we do custom resume tapes. Sherry came into my dressing room one day and said, “You are known for responding to your fans. You do Lunch-break, you answer the mail, you have always been first. Maybe it’s time to be the first person who responds to their fans on video.” I thought that was the height of sharing parts of myself and I really had mixed feelings about it in the beginning. It was only because I trust Sherry so much — she produced and directed the video — that I did it. So I sat with the mail and compiled questions of the things that the fans wanted to know. They always wanted to know about romance and children and what it was like to do a scene with Wayne Northrop and Jed Allan. Endless questions like that. We began by putting on video tape answers as complete as possible to those questions.
What She Really Feels About The Relationship Between Stars And Fans:
You ask people to believe a character and that is asking a lot to them. They give you that. You can’t then say, “No, you can’t keep it now that I’m in front of you, in real life, instead of on TV.” I feel really gifted that I learned that lesson.
A long time ago I was in a very small town in Louisiana and a woman came up to me who was a fan. She was excited to see me and a little embarrassed. I thanked her for saying hello but there was something else clearly going on with her and I asked what was wrong. She looked at me for a moment and I’m not sure who she saw but she said, “My mother just had a car accident this morning and I don’t know if she is going to live.” My thought was that she trusts me to know that about her because she trusts Marlena, and that is a lot of trust. I reached out to just hold her for a moment and she collapsed in my arms and wept. It is overwhelming to be that trusted. Having had a lot of things like that happen to me taught me that because I play Marlena, because the audience has seen her raw… they approach me like that. People trust Marlena who don’t trust their psychiatrists, lovers, husbands or children.
The time when you feel too tired to respond to the fans or when you really don’t have the time, you still have to give because you see what happens to that person who is open to the moment. You learn the life lesson that people are people, and you take that moment no matter what it costs. If you can’t take the moment to be with the fan then get out of the marketplace. Go home and be alone; that’s the responsibility (fame) carries. I feel passionately about that.
What Don’t The Fans Know About You?
That I cut up as much as I do. I tend to go for very broad humor.
I think there is an image that goes with playing a psychiatrist or being a professional actress or a grown-up woman — whatever those images are they don’t go along with humor. I told you at dinner about being at a black tie affair and having a man come up to me, and thinking I was an incredibly sophisticated woman, said he and his friend looked around the room and picked me out and decided that he would like the three of us to go out and get a tattoo! I loved it! I loved his sense of humor and we kidded each other all night. Fans do not know that I love to goof. I also don’t think they know what a terrible softy I am…
On Her Leading Men: Jed Allan (Don), Wayne Northrop (Roman) and Drake Hogestyn (John):
I missed Jed when I stopped playing opposite him. It was very hard having our marriage fall apart. Jed and I were the best chums. We dished all day long, went to lunch together, shared secrets and created moments in the characters. I was very protective of that story line. When they brought Roman on I kept saying to the producers, “I don’t love this Roman, do I? I love Don, don’t I?”
Of course I missed Wayne a lot when he left. Wayne was a playmate, someone I played with every day on the set. He is funny and brilliant and crazy.
How do I feel about Drake Hogestyn coming on? Drake is a natural actor with tremendously deep feelings and the audience is going to see that. He is caring and profound. His intensity is very real and the character has those same qualities. My acting with him is playful, more real and more heartfelt.
What Is The Purpose Of Your Life?
You save the tough questions for last, don’t you?
Obviously, if one believes as you and I do in the growth of different lifetimes, you believe we get put back on earth to teach and learn. I don’t know that I have any profound thoughts on why I’m here. My immediate response would be that when I look at my life and what I have done, how I am blessed, that maybe what I had to learn about is gratitude. And maybe I was sent here to learn to be alone and enjoy being alone.
(M.B.: And when you enjoy being alone they are going to send you the greatest man in the world.
D.H.: What a funny idea.)
One More Question, One More Answer:
What are my goals? To get this room finished. And to just keep doing new things. To keep fighting new fights, welcoming new challenges, feeling accomplished — the same stuff that makes everyone feel alive.