This interview was originally published in March 1992 in Soap Opera Digest
Laura Sisk Was Selling Super Unleaded Before LOVING Picked Her Out Of A Crowd
Laura Sisk’s Cinderella story began at a gas station in Clinton, Maryland. The station is also a convenience store; it belongs to her family, and Sisk worked there twelve hours a day — running the cash register, pumping gas, sweeping floors and making coffee. Eventually she took actin classes with a local teacher who submitted a videotape of her students to LOVING. Never mind that Sisk almost didn’t make it to the taping (she had overslept); the soap immediately called her for a screen test as Alison Rescott. Sisk just about died.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Sisk says, her voice rising as if she were a high school girl who just got asked to the prom by the captain of the football team. “All the other girls were all calm and cool and I was about to pass out with every person that walked into the room. I’d say, ‘Do you know who that is?’ And they’d say, ‘Who cares?’ I said, ‘I care! I watch these people every day.’”
Once cast, she had a “million questions” about life and television, and they were answered by Rena Sofer (ex-Rocky) and instant friend Kelly Ripa (Hayley, AMC) when they went out to dinner after Sis’s first day of work. Sisk has since taken Ripa home to meet everyone in Clinton. “These two guys asked me for my autograph,” Sisk says. “It was so funny because Kelly is really big. A lot of people know who she is. We just looked at each other. I said to her, ‘You’re not famous, are you?’ And Kelly said, ‘No. Uh-uh.’ It was so hilarious.”
Fame is a new sensation for Laura Sisk. Growing up she would see soap stars in magazines and say she belonged with them, but now that it has happened, she has a hard time believing it. “I see my picture in a magazine and I say, ‘Wow, that’s me!’ And pepole say, ‘Well, Laura, what do you expect?’ It’s just so weird.” Working with actors who she had previously watched on TV as she served customers coffee in her family’s gas station is a dream come true. She had wanted to be an actress all through high school. Her father told her, ‘”oh, I don’t want to hear that mess. You aren’t going to be any actress.” Her performance in the high school production of Our Town, which drew a standing ovation, changed his mind.
Sisk tried a semester of college, but decided that she wasn’t cut out for the academic life. She had planned on working side by side with her father and someday owning her own station. Every day the locals gather to watch Sisk on LOVING. When she first aired, they laughed when her character, Alison (a.k.a. Ally), who works in her grandmother Kate’s pie shop, said, “Pies R Us! Can I help you?” After years of hearing Sisk say, “Have a nice day” and “How much super unleaded would you like?” they figured she could handle that dialogue. “She don’t have to act on that one,” one of the regulars said.
Sisk has been home to visit the regulars down at the station. They told her how good she looks on TV and how well she’s dong. But when her mother and father both stepped out, Laura Sisk went right back into her old routine. She poured the coffee and rang up a gas sale. Her mother couldn’t believe her eyes. “I know how to do it,” Sisk told her mother. “I’m not just going to sit here and make a customer wait.”
Sisk went home again for her sister’s birthday. A big party had been planned. “I was really nervous about going because I didn’t want people to act differently toward me. Kelly Ripa was with me, and we walked in and the place got dead silent. I just stared to shake and I thought, ‘Oh, wonderful.’ Then one person, who wasn’t paying attention, looked over and said, ‘Oh, Laura!’ And as soon as that happened everything was back to normal. I guess they were waiting to see how I was going to act or if I was different now. And I’m not.”
Forming friendships on the set has been an important part of Sisk’s new life. Noelle Beck (Trisha) and former co-star Eric Woodall (Matt) have backgrounds similar to her own. “Noelle is from Baltimore, so we’re, like, Maryland girls,” Sisk explains. Everyday, Sisk and Beck eat lunch together, searching for restaurants in the area that serve Maryland fare.
Says Woodall, who played Sisk’s love interest on the show, “She is an incredibly hard worker who constantly kept me on my toes. I marvel at her innate sense of self and trusting gut instincts. She never ceased to make me laugh.”
Laura Sisk is single and not available for a steady relationship: “I’m not interested in dating anyone right now. I don’t want anything to take my mind off of work.”
Her ambition is considerable and she has set very high goals for herself. “I refuse to not be the best that I can be,” she states. “I refuse not to have all that I can have. Because you can have what you want if you really try.”
And what does Laura Sisk really want? “I want to be the person I’d die to go to see in movies. I want to take my career — if I’m lucky enough to stay in this career — as far as I can and then retire somewhere peaceful. My parents have land in North Carolina. We have horses there. Children are a must because I can’t wait to have kids. I’d like to raise them somewhere where it’s peaceful, and it’s pretty, and it’s safe.”
Ultimately, it is her faith that prevents Sisk from falling prey to her own ambitions. “God’s going to put me wherever he wants me to be,” she believes. “I think things happen for a reason. And things that are meant to be are going to be. I don’t think you can really do too much about that.”
And of course, there is one thing Laura Sisk knows for a certain about her future: “No matter where I go, I have to follow in my dad’s footsteps. I have to have my own gas station.”
JUST THE FACTS
Favorite Movies: The Wizard of Oz and It’s a Wonderful Life
Favorite Group: The Outfielders
Favorite Foods: “I love Maryland crab and shrimp.”
What She Collects: The Wizard of Oz dolls
Favorite Season: Winter. “You can walk around stark naked in the summertime and still be hot, but you can always get warm in the winter.”
What She Can’t Stand: Shopping.