TBT

#TBT - Rebecca Herbst

Credit: ABC

This interview originally appeared in the March 17, 1998 issue of Soap Opera Digest.

 

Ice skating since she was 3 years old, acting since she was 5, GENERAL HOSPITAL’s Rebecca Herbst (Elizabeth) got to a point in her young life where her dueling “hobbies” became an either/or proposition. “When I turned 15, I knew I had to choose one or the other,” recalls the now-20-year-old Herbst. “I was starting high school, and I knew that doing all three — acting, skating and dealing with high school — would burn me out.”

But which to choose? After all, it was her — shall we say — inauspicious introduction to acting that helped keep Herbst from having to put her skating on ice in the first place. “The very first [acting] interview I went out for, I got,” she smiles. “It was for a toilet paper commercial. But the day I filmed it, I got the flu and my mom’s car got towed. We had no money, it was our first time in L.A. and my mom was freaking out [laughs]. Then, the day of the actual shoot, my mom’s car died. After that, my parents were like, ‘There’s no way you’re doing this anymore.’ Not after that first job.”

Until the first paycheck rolled in…. “When the checks started coming, my parents realized, ‘Becky can keep ice skating if she pays for it like this,’” explains Herbst. “Ice skating is a very expensive sport, and I come from a middle-class family. My parents figured that as long as I wanted to do the commercials, I could help pay for my ice skating. I loved doing hem both, so that’s what I did.”

With her mom as her manager, Herbst managed to strike a healthy balance between school, skating and the occasional acting job for the next 10 years. This is, until the aforementioned crossroads. “The girls I was competing against in skating were all being home-schooled,” sighs the actress. “They were on the ice for six hours a day, I was on for two. I kept thinking to myself, ‘If I’m not dreaming about going to the Olympics, where am I going with this?’ I’m not a competitive person. I loved skating, I hated competing. And that’s pretty much what skating’s about.”

And acting isn’t? “With acting, the competitiveness is more within yourself,” Herbst reasons. “There are so many times when you get turned down for a job simply based on someone’s opinion. I might not get a job because I don’t have brown eyes. It’s very different from the kind of physical competition you’re constantly facing in skating. Focusing on acting turned out to be a huge relief. I could focus 100 percent of my attention on it, and I just wanted to so bad. It was like, ‘Finally, room to breathe.’

A few years later, upon graduating from high school, Herbst once again chose acting — this time over college. “It was kind of hard when I first graduated,” she shares. “All my friends started going to college and moving away, and I was the only one left at home. I wasn’t in school, I wasn’t working; I was just auditioning. I felt like a complete loser. I felt like, ‘What am I doing with myself? This is ridiculous.’”

Refusing to give in to self-doubt, the naturally ebullient actress continued to pursue her dream. “I started interviewing for all these sitcoms and series and everything,” she recalls. “And it started paying off.” After landing more commercials (“I did a public-service ad where I had to say, ‘I’m 15, and I have a baby. The guy who said he would love me forever left.’”), Herbst’s first steady acting gig put her over the moon … so to speak.

“I got cast on a Nickelodeon show called SPACE CASES,” she grins. “I played an alien and I had purple, blue and red strips in my hair that were permanently dyed. My hair was like that for about four months. I actually started buying clothes to match [laughs].” Next came a seven-episode stint on the now-cancelled NBC sitcom BROTHERLY LOVE. “My character was a 15-year-old floozy,” smiles Herbst. “During my first episode, I had to play her being drunk. By the seventh episode, though, she did this whole turnaround. I loved doing that.”

But not as much as she loved her next job offer: the chance the play scheming Lizzie on GH. “I was thrilled,” Herbst enthuses. “I mean, my mom used to watch GENERAL HOSPITAL when she was nursing me!” Introduced last August as Jeff Webber’s troublesome younger daughter (i.e., the bad-girl counterpart to sister Sarah’s good girl), Herbst admits to feeling some initial trepidation during her early days. “I felt a little lost because GH is such a huge family,” she says. “But everyone was so nice. And because of this I have a whole new circle of friends. Jonathan [Jackson, Lucky] is really cool and Jennifer [Sky, Sarah] and I have become closer.”

And rounding out that circle is Ingo Rademacher (Jax), whom Herbst started dating shortly after arriving at GH. While the two are no longer romantically involved, Herbst is quick to point out that they remain closer than ever. “We’re not longer technically ‘dating,’” she notes, “but he’s more a part of my life now than before. We just figured out that we’re a lot better friends this way, and our friendship means the world to me. This change in our relationship was totally mutual, and we both view it as a positive thing. We value each other; we cherish our time together. We still hang out and go out — but it’s as friends.”

What little spare time Herbst does have these days, however, is often spent decompressing from her character’s decompressing from her character’s taxing rape storyline. “I sleep so much,” she smiles. “After I taped those first rape scenes, I went home and slept for 14 hours. Part of me wasn’t even sure I could pull it off because I’ve never done anything like this. But I feel so honored that [GH] trusted me with this story. As hard as it is, it’s like, ‘Wow, this is a storyline I can sink my teeth into. This is real acting.’

“I can’t even tell you how much I value this experience,” Herbst continues. “GH is the best acting class I could possibly be enrolled in right now. I am doing what I love and I am learning what I love; that’s what it’s all about. Fortunately for me, I figured out pretty early on what I wanted to do with my life, and I’ve been given this opportunity to seize the moment. I’ve been really blessed.”

As for hittin’ the ice, Herbst admits to lacing up every now and again — for old times sake. “Once in a while, I’ll skate with some of my old friends who I grew up skating with.” Adds Herbst with a laugh, “Of course, the only difference now is, we’ve all quit the sport!”

 

JUST THE FACTS

Birthdate: May 12, 1977

California Girl: “I grew up in Encino for the first 14 years of my life, then we moved out near Malibu.”

Yeah, Sew?: “I got a sewing machine for my graduation. That was all I wanted, because I love to sew.”

Face Value: “I’ve always looked young. When I was 15, I was lookin’ 12. When I’m 23, I’ll still look 17.”

Animal Magnetism: “I have a pet squirrel. I’ve had her since she was a baby. She lives in a cage with my rabbit.”

All Wet: “Out here [in California], people do not know how to respond to all the rain we’ve been having. We don’t know how to drive in it.”

Family Matters: “I have a wonderful family. My parents are still together; they’ve been married for 28 years. And my older sister is my best friend in the world.”

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