This interview was originally published in the November 30, 1999 issue of Soap Opera Digest.
Her Career May Be In High Gear, But ATWT’s Maura West Prefers The “Normal” Route
Digest: Let’s talk about the men on the show … Scott DeFreitas [Andy]?
Maura West: You know I’m going to marry him?
— Digest, 12/1/98
When Maura West (Carly, AS THE WORLD TURNS) is reminded of the prescient comment she made over a year ago, she immediately leans forward with an excited gasp. “Can you believe that? Oh, my God! I remember having to discuss that with him because I was not dating Scott when we did that interview. Believe me, if I’d had a relationship with him, I really would not have said that,” she laughs. “Scott and I were always sort of friendly to each other, and very respectful. So we’ve always just liked each other, and that’s why I said that in the interview.”
At the time, she was still dealing with the end of her first marriage and life as a single mom to her son, Benjamin. DeFreitas, in the dressing room next door, became a good friend first. “I always wondered if she was in the room next to me. I don’t know when exactly that happened, but I became a aware of it whenever I passed her door,” reveals DeFreitas. “And since we share a wall, I would knock on the wall, and sometimes, she would knock back.” Those knocks turned into long conversations and, eventually, romance. “You can’t really pinpoint a time. I can’t really say, ‘This is the day that I decided I love him,’” says West. “Scott has a reputation for being a really wonderful man. And he is.”
The budding relationship between the two actors on a show already rife with real-life romance became a hot topic among fans and the press, but West hasn’t really given it much thought. “I don’t know because I’ve never worked anywhere else, but [ATWT has] a bunch of really good people, and good people fall in love with good people,” she shrugs. “If Scott were a jerk, I wouldn’t love him. If Keith [Coulouris, ex-Reid/David] were a jerk, Lesli [Kay, Molly] wouldn’t love him. It’s just a group of really good people.”
Not one to bask in the media spotlight, West doesn’t fully understand the public’s fascination with her personal life, but she doesn’t mind it, either. “I guess that’s nice because I don’t have any deep secrets. And I’m very proud of my son. If people want to know about that, that’s fine,” She says. “We’re really kind of normal people.”
Spend a few minutes with the down-to-earth actress and she makes it abundantly clear that her life is as normal as your next-door neighbor’s. She prefers jeans and cowboy boots to formal attire, shrieks with delight when recounting the joyous moment when childhood idol Barbara Mandrell left a note in her hotel mailbox (“I still have it!”) at the Digest Awards, and speaks of her son with the enthusiasm of a soccer mom. The fact that she works as a soap actress — an acclaimed one, at that — is incidental. At the end of the day, she comes home to the Connecticut house that she and DeFreitas bought together, complete with a white picket fence, two dogs and, of course, 3-year-old Benjamin.
“My dreams are all coming true,” gushes DeFreitas, who has respected Benjamin’s relationship with his father while developing his own bond with the boy. And if there was any conflict in the newly combined household, it’s long since been resolved. “They get along very, very well,” says West. “I mean, I’ve had some problems adjusting to Scott. That just happens. Benjamin and I lived alone together for all of his life that he can recall, so when you throw a person into this mix — and it’s obvious that Mommy also loves this person and wants to spend time with this person and isn’t at your every whim — I’m sure there is jealousy and anger and those things that anybody would feel. And it probably will go on for a long time, but they’re working it out and they’re friends.” The key, says DeFreitas, is obvious to those who know West well. “You just have to be thoughtful and understand that Benjamin is the most important thing in Maura’s life,” he explains.
“I think of my life now as pre-Ben and post-Ben,” confirms Mom, who is pleased to see a lot of herself in her son. “I love him to death, but he’s a little stinker. He’s very defiant — very like his mother. Everybody’s mother always say that: ‘I hope you have one just like you.’ And I have one. He’s like me: stubborn and willful. And I think that will serve him well later.”
Benjamin’s future is something she thinks about often. “There’s a line in the John Lennon song “Beautiful Boy” that says, ‘I can hardly wait to see you come of age,’” she says. “And when Benjamin was first born, I thought, ‘Oh, my God, no! I don’t want him to grow up. I want him right where he is, my baby.’ And now I understand. I can wait, but to watch him grow, and become a boy and then a man and then a husband maybe and then maybe even a father … that’s what I live for, to help him and watch him thrive. And now another one too.” The couple was already planning marriage when they learned that they were expecting a baby, due in March. “Everybody deserves a pleasant surprise occasionally in their life, and we got one,” She smiles. “I think that it was a shock to a lot of people, and it was shocking to my mother. But she loves me, she loves Scott and she’s gonna love this baby. But everybody really needed to digest the information and let it be real. Because it didn’t seem real at first.”
It was pretty “real” for ATWT Executive Producer Christopher Goutman, who is currently overseeing a show with three pregnant, front-burner actresses. “I think he’s seen everything,” says West of her boss. “He’s been in the business a long time and I’m a woman in a relationship. He knows I have a son, he knows I love children and I think he expects this, sort of.” Still, it was West’ devotion to being the best mother she could be to Benjamin that took her away from the show for a year in 1996, so there has to be some concern. “I can never say when I’m leaving the show, because as we know very well, we can be asked or told to leave pretty much at any moment,” she points out modestly. “But I think things change with the idea of having two children to support. And remember, I tried the stay-at-home mom thing. I said, ‘I’m gonna try this, maybe this is what I was meant to do.’ But I’m not. I tried staying at home, and no matter how much I love my son, and I love him just as much as any mother loves her child, I needed something more, which was my work. So I don’t have any intention of not working.” West will take a standard maternity leave, after which she plans on returning to the only show — the only television acting job — she’s ever known.
While her personal life has changed drastically since she first joined ATWT fresh out of college in 1995, West’s confidence at work has evolved as well. “I grew up,” she says matter-of-factly. “I also feel a lot more comfortable with the medium. I had never done television and I was very, very, very nervous, so I learned. I’m by no means a seasoned soap person or a veteran, but I have a handle on the routine of it. It takes a long time to learn that, I think. It took me a long time.”
Since her near-seamless return to ATWT fold in 1997, West has had lots of practice in an almost constant string of major storylines. “I’ve worked a lot in the last two years, so if I have a couple of months or a few weeks of working two times a week instead of five times, I feel okay about that. When you are doing a solid two months of five days a week, you know that people are sick to death of seeing you — I’m sick to death of seeing myself when that happens.”
Though she blushes when it is pointed out that her fans and co-stars hold her in the highest esteem, West knows that other actresses in her position have taken the opportunity to fortify their resumes elsewhere. “I’m not thinking about going other places, and even if I were, I wouldn’t tell,” she chuckles. “But I’m not. When I came back I thought about that, but I have a great character to play and I love the people I work with. I’ve always thought about doing theater, but I can’t until my children are older. Because you just don’t see your family. And my family has always been more important to me than work.”
It’s that steadfast refusal to cave in to her career at the expense of her home life that drives West, and she makes no apologies. “I think I’m human. I have regrets about things, but nothing that changed my focus or has changed my course or made me a bitter or lesser person. I only learn from that sort of stuff,” She says. “What’s that song about ‘Regrets, I’ve had a few?’” When told that the tune is “My Way” she lets out a hearty laugh. “Is that what it’s from?” she grins. “How appropriate!”