This interview was originally published in the August 5, 1997 issue of Soap Opera Digest.
It’s 1,000 degrees in Jennifer Gareis’s Y&R dressing room — give or take a few — but for some inexplicable reason, she is not sweating. Perhaps, she has taken that adage about not letting them see you sweat a little too seriously. “People come up to me all the time at the gym,” she laughs heartily, “and they just have to comment. I’ll be working out for an hour, really hard, and they say, ‘Excuse me, but you’re not sweating.’ It used to worry me that I didn’t. I don’t know why, I just don’t! And I know sweating is good for you. It helps cool down the body. Maybe I’m inefficient or something.”
Hardly. Since Gareis stepped into the recast shoes of Josie Davis, Grace has become one very efficient and complicated bad girl. One minute she seems to be doing a great and wonderful act — like wanting to reunite her pal, Sharon, with her long-lost daughter, Cassie. And the next minute, well, she is committing a pretty big no-no: Grace let Sharon’s husband, Nicholas, make love to her when — in a drunken stupor — he mistook Grace for his wife. Ewww. “No matter what Grace does,” smiles Gareis, “I believe it’s for the right reasons.” Even sleeping with her pal’s hubby? “Even that,” she defends. “Grace has this little flaw, and it shows in her passion and lust for Nicholas. She’s convinced herself that she is doing nothing wrong. I think most people want something in life, but they stop themselves if getting it means doing something inappropriate. Grace, unfortunately, doesn’t have that side to her. But I can’t hate her for that.”
Of course, the question that begs to be asked is: How could Nicholas not know the difference between Sharon — his wife — and Grace in bed? “I asked that same question myself,” Gareis smiles, “and one day when we were taping, Sharon [Case, Sharon] and I were standing there in bathing suits and I checked her out. We’re the same height, our faces are similar, our shoulders and hips and bodies are very similar. It certainly is possible for Nicholas to have confused us.” She pauses and whispers, “Sharon’s chest is a little bigger than mine.” That the scene came off believably is a testament to her and Joshua Morrow (Nicholas) not being apprehensive. “I never question anything; my job is to make it real. That morning, before taping, several actors said to me, you just have to dive in 100 percent. And have fun with it. I know I did. I believe Joshua did, too.” Obviously the audience ate it up.
After Gareis auditioned for another Y&R role, the powers-that-be asked if she could start immediately. She was only in town, visiting from New York, not really expecting to land a major job right away. Gareis had had bit parts in Private Parts and The Mirror Has Two Faces (she danced with Pierce Brosnan), guest spots on prime-time shows like BAYWATCH, some soap credits, including GUIDING LIGHT, plus a score of commercials. Still, landing Y&R was a big deal. “Getting the job here was such a plus,” she beans, “and the good thing was there really wasn’t time to worry about leaving New York, or how much I would miss my family. I miss them a lot. But I knew I had to focus on the job and I couldn’t dwell on it and be upset. I started in a storyline that was already pretty hot, and I was working a lot, right away. I was a bit overwhelmed at first. I thought, ‘Is it always this way?’”
Gareis is one of those people who likes juggling a full schedule, however. “The more they throw at me, the happier I am. I love to learn. Throw me in a hospital bed, make me go crazy, make me whatever you want. I love the challenge and I love trying out all aspects of the character.”
Grace could learn something from Gareis’s work ethic. While attending Franklin and Marshall College (she majored in accounting), Gareis modeled, swam competitively (placing in the top 10 in the nation in the butterfly competition) and won several beauty pageants, all in her “spare” time. Hmmm. Bright, attractive, a model and a star athlete? You can just imagine how popular Gareis was in school. Where are the knife marks in her back? She laughs, “I found a lot of girls didn’t like me, or they would talk behind my back, or judge me, thinking I might be stuck up. I’m really not. And once I got to talk to them, they would find out I was just like them. They would be surprised that I’m nice. You know, I’m cool.” We know. No sweat.
JUST THE FACTS
Birthdate: August 1
Born And Raised: Lancaster, PA
Junk Food: “I’m really lucky. I’ve never craved it.”
Fan Club: “My mom is probably my No. 1 fan. She watches every show.”
Forget Me Not: “I can forget my lines when Grace has to be hyper and upset.”
All That Jazz: “I don’t like going to clubs; I’d rather hang out with friends at my house and have a cookout. I enjoy going to movies. And I love jazz.
Grace’s Skimpy Costumes: “My job is to say the lines, not pick out the clothes. What they want me to wear is totally up to them. I’m not a stylist.”