This interview originally appeared in the November 20, 1984 issue of Soap Opera Digest.
The Rise and Shine of Kristian Alfonso
Here are some facts: She came to television a virtual newcomer. In less than a year Kristian Alfonso became part of the hottest couple to hit daytime since Luke and Laura. It is a love story that is classic in its origins and continues to make people melt: gruff boy from the wrong side of the tracks (but with just the right mix of tough and tender) tames the spoiled rich girl who was getting into all sorts of trouble. Shakespeare wrote something along those lines when he penned “Taming of the Shrew” about five hundred years ago.
This time the leading lady is a Boston-bred teenager who was far more interested in Olympic skating than acting — “I never watched television” — when she started out. A leg injury killed Kristian’s chances of competing for the gold, so instead, Alfonso nabbed a modeling contract. Which led to someone from NBC scoping her out, which led to a role opposite Rock Hudson in “The Starmaker,” which led to “Days of Our Lives” and Hope Williams Welch. It is not the way most 18-year-old girls have lived, but Kristian Alfonso insists she is still a normal teenager. And if her dressing room is any indication, she is right. It looks like Patty Duke’s bedroom on the old “Patty Duke Show.” Every tiny bit of space is taken up with … stuff. There is a snake bite kit sent to her by a fan, a pair of ice skates, photos, posters, letters and needlepoint from fans that say HOPE AND BO FOREVER, a trophy she won playing “Family Feud,” stuffed animals and some bears stuck on her door. Kristian Alfonso likes stuffed animals a lot. And she adores pink.
“When I’m not working, I’m buying pink,” Kristian says cheerfully. In fact, she is wearing a pink jogging suit right now which sets off her dark hair and blue eyes rather nicely. Kristian is curled up on her couch, which had to have some of its contents dumped to make room to sit. “I love buying things,” she admits. “I live by myself in my pink apartment. This year I was able to buy a Datsun 280ZX. I collect teddy bears, but they have to have cute eyes.” Kristian throws her head back and laughs at herself. “I also have a Yorkshire Terrier. This dog has more clothes than I have!” Alfonso mocks. “I’m not kidding. She has a brass bed, high chair and couch. She has a house, fur coat, a gold lamé top. But does she use any of this stuff? For her birthday I bought her a dress and put her hair in a French twist. I got a cake and I had an artist sketch a picture of her in her little dress. We had friends over and she blew out the candle. It was great.”
This, of course, is the young part of Kristian talking. The part that wants to date more and play more. The part that loves kidding with Andrew Masset (Larry) on the set. But there is a whole other facet of Kristian’s personality — that of dedicated actress. And though the road to stardom has been extremely short, Alfonso insists she’s been ready for it.
“The role has changed my life,” Kristian admits. “I can shop more, but I also don’t see my family as much as I used to and I really miss them.” Alfonso’s parents and older sister still live in Massachusetts. “I never planned on any of this,” she waves her hands around the dressing room. “I was a competitive ice skater until I crushed my leg. Until four years ago I never even went to a movie! I started modeling with Wilhemina and they brought me to New York where I began working right away. I was lucky because I wasn’t eighteen yet and I’m only 5’4½”. A lot of times they had to put me on apple boxes so I wouldn’t appear so short.” Unlike many models, Kristian was constantly accompanied by her mother. Although she balked at the time, she’s thankful now. Because of the availability of drugs and sex, many teenage models have fallen into trouble. “There’s too much freedom in modeling,” Kristian insists. “I don’t think any girl should get into it unless she has someone from her family with her for the first year or so.”
Once her modeling career was in gear, Kristian started acting. But nothing prepared her for the love reaction this character continues to receive. “Hope has gone through a lot,” Kristian says the understatement of the year rather softly. “She tries to be very sophisticated when she’s with Larry. But when she’s with Bo, she’s innocent and helpless. I can see a lot of Kristian coming out in Hope now. We both get tipsy very easily,” Kristian giggles. “We’re both strong-willed. We’re both loyal and home-loving. She’s very sensitive and I think I am, too. And my acting isn’t so mechanical anymore,” Alfonso allows. “When I look at the tapes of those first shows I did,” Kristian rolls her eyes back, “I think, ‘My God, why did they ever hire me?’”
Probably because they saw a spark ignite between Kristian and co-star Peter Reckell that lit up the screen. That spark is better known as chemistry, the undefinable something that happens between actors and audience. “I love working with Peter,” Kristian enthuses. “I don’t really know what makes the chemistry, but it’s there. It’s interesting,” she contemplates, “because off-screen Peter and I are not close. We never go out or anything. He’s got a girlfriend, we’re just two different people. I’m all over the place,” Kristian laughs. “Peter is quiet. He’ll just look at me sometimes and say, ‘She’s nuts!’ But I get tired sitting around all day,” Alfonso laments. According to Peter Reckell, though, his on-screen relationship with Kristian works because “we have mutual respect for each other, egos don’t get in the way and we listen to each other. That allows creativity to flow.”
When Kristian isn’t working, this beautiful, single actress is on her own to tackle the Los Angeles dating world. “I haven’t really dated since I’ve been out here,” Alfonso concedes as she picks up a stuffed animal and strokes it. “It’s a difficult situation because I believe you either hit it off with a person or you don’t. I’m outgoing to an extent, but I won’t put myself out,” she qualifies. Kristian is pensive. She picks at a few stray hairs falling by her eyes. “Actually, I’m very shy. I used to say that I wouldn’t go out with a model, but I did. And I said I would never date an actor, but I did, so I’ll never say never again. The thing is, actors are so headstrong. Actresses, too, although I don’t think I need to be the center of attention. As long as I’m loved and know I’m cared about, that’s enough. But I do want to get married and have kids.”
If Kristian had trouble meeting men it may have to do with the amount of success she’s garnered at such an early age. Men — actually people in general — may be intimidated by it. “It’s difficult for me to speak to men,” she says haltingly, “but I think it’s hard for them to ask me out.” Kristian is well aware of the havoc her career might wreak on her personal life. She has seen actresses with beauty, brains, talent and success, but no one to share it with. Kristian frankly admits it scares her. “Because I do want to share my life with someone,” she stresses. “You can have everything in the world but if you don’t have someone to share it with, it’s nothing.”
Meanwhile, Alfonso spends much of her free time with close girlfriends, including “Days’s” producer Shelley Curtis. “She’s my mentor. She’s like a big sister and Shelley truly cares about actors,” Kristian says passionately. “Shelley is the person who’s helped with my acting ability. I hold on to her.”
Indeed, Kristian’s acting has improved enormously over the past few months. She’s had to hold her own through scenes jammed with action, passion and necklines that show off her attributes rather than cover them. Still, Kristian has made those scenes believable and seduced us into rooting for her. When she makes love with Bo, we are all making love with that one person who’s always been elusive to us. It is the stuff fantasies are made of.
Acting is making Kristian Alfonso more confident and more bold. In time she expects to leave “Days” and would one day love to appear in films. Acting, like skating used to be, has become a passion for Alfonso. “Even more so,” Kristian adds. “I love to perform. Skating and acting are really just two different types of performances, though I miss the live audience.”
What she doesn’t miss is the “normalcy” her life might have had, had she remained in Boston. “Although at times it still hasn’t hit me that I’m out of high school and on a show,” she admits.
Once I get more settled, I’d like to take classes in film at U.C.L.A. I look forward to coming to work every morning,” Kristian says exuberantly. “I’m not doing this work for the publicity, and the money isn’t really important to me. People say, ‘You’re hot now, you should renegotiate your contract.’ Well, I don’t care. As long as I’m getting by, that’s enough.” That, and pleasing her fans. Kristian Alfonso is well aware of the power the audience wields, and she is grateful for their loyalty. “I owe a lot to them,” Kristian says solemnly. “If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here.”
Suddenly, Andrew Masset pops his head in, and Kristian is filled with electric energy. She is all over her co-star, kissing and hugging him, asking about his children, his wife, teasing him about his tie, which she deems “awful.” Masset is obviously entertained. He cracks a few jokes, showing how different he is from his character. Michael Leon zips by next on the way to the studio, and Kristian yells out to him. It is apparent that Alfonso is the live wire around this set: A professional with a kid’s heart that she has no intention of maturing.
Once Masset leaves, Kristian plops back on the couch, picking up a ringing phone and answers in a male’s voice. Her manager, the other voice on the line, seems humored. Apparently, Kristian has a habit of changing her voice on the phone. “That way I don’t have to talk to anyone I don’t want to,” she says with a satisfied smile.
Despite a life that is filled with promise, Kristian does have her complaints, and most of them have to do with herself. She has a face and body that is the envy of many women, but Alfonso doesn’t see it that way. “I love to eat,” she confesses, “and I hate that I have a tendency to gain weight all the time. I also hate it when people say I look like Brooke Shields.” Kristian laughs at the absurdity of her remark. Viewing her face up close though, you see little resemblance to that other dark haired, light-eyed beauty. “Some people come up to me and say ‘Are you Brooke Shields?’ I say, ‘Am I on my knees?’ (Brooke has a good seven inches on Kristian.) I mean, come on, she’s a beautiful girl and I’m very complimented but she’s a lot taller. Actually, we did a story together in a New York magazine two years ago showing how we didn’t look alike.”
Kristian picks up her snake bite kit and explains that it was meant to keep Larry Welch from poisoning her. This somehow leads to a very juicy discussion about stage kisses. A voice on the P.A. system calls Kristian to the set, but she momentarily stays put and explains what happens when an actor wants the kiss to be more passionate than the actress. Or vice versa. It’s a very funny conversation that I won’t report here. Maybe Kristian will write about it someday for this magazine. With her natural ability for storytelling and the sheer energy and enthusiasm she projects, it would be a doozy of an article.