Transcript of the interview with actress
better known as Nancy Hughes McCloskey on
AS THE WORLD TURNS
The interview was aired live at 9pm eastern
on Wednesday, June 8, 1994
It was conducted by Peter Anthony Holder
the evening talk show host on
CJAD 800 AM, Montreal
HELEN: Thank you for calling
CJAD: How are you?
HELEN: Just fine, than you, and it's a beautiful evening here. Is it up there too?
CJAD: Oh it's gorgeous here, we have 16 degrees on the celsius scale, that 61......
HELEN: Well that's a little warmer, oh no, I guess that's just about what we have too right now.
CJAD: Yes and it was a nice sunny day today...by the way, for those of you who would like to call Helen Wagner, the number to call is 790-0991. And if you're in your car you can dial *Talk. *8255, which is a service of Bell Mobility. Lines are free right now if you would like to speak to Helen Wagner.....I was looking through the New York Times Sunday Edition back on May 29th. You have a full page article there written about you.
HELEN: Yes, isn't that nice. We're very, very pleased.
CJAD: Very, very nice article indeed. You have been around on that show for 38 years. As a matter of fact, I understand you spoke the very first words on that program.
HELEN: Even before that, Mr. Holder. I made the pilot film which sold the show, so I've been on it since before it went on the air.
CJAD: Now when you say the pilot film, what was that like?
HELEN: What we did was to put a show on kinescope. We didn't have tape back in those days. And they filmed it, and sent it around as a selling piece. And Proctor & Gamble got interested enough in it and put us on the air. We made that pilot film in November of 55, so this is all pre-history land.
CJAD: How did you get the role of Nancy Hughes.
HELEN: Well that was an interesting thing. I was working on THE WORLD AND MR. SWEENEY with Charlie Ruggles. There were three of us who were running parts with Mr. Ruggles, who played a kind of a *------* Banes character (*undecipherable term*), and I played his daughter. And a young boy by the name of Glenn Walker played my son, Charlie's grandson. Glenn was on GUIDING LIGHT at the time doing both shows. Then after about five years, Mr. Ruggles decided that he wanted to go back to California, and neither Glenn or I wanted to go with him, so Charlie said "alright". Then he recast, said, "good luck and hail and farewell," and off he went. Meanwhile, Glenn's mother said Irna Phillips and Ted Corday, who were writing, producing and directing GUIDING LIGHT, were thinking of doing a half hour show. You see, up until that time, all the soaps were 15 minutes, radio and television. And she said, "why don't you call them up and say that you'd like to audition?" So I did and they did, and I did two stints on GUIDING LIGHT. One as a nurse with the words, "How do you do?" and another as a nurse saying, "the patients are just down the hall." In addition to that I did an audition with Don MacLaughlin, who played Chris for so many years, as you may remember. And we did an audition for Irna and Ted over at the old CBS building. Meanwhile, you see, for five years they'd watched me doing THE WORLD AND MR. SWEENEY, with Glenn and Mr. Ruggles, so they were thoroughly aware of everything I might do in front of a camera and where I might take direction. That's how I got the job.
CJAD: Did you audition for any other part than Nancy Hughes, or was that the role they wanted you for?
HELEN: No, Nancy was the role that I auditioned for and she was kind of the same kind of character that I played THE WORLD AND MR. SWEENEY. That was it, it was either Nancy or not at all. I think they were just being sure how I would take direction. They had all these various ways for me to appear in front of them.
CJAD: How has Nancy changed over the years?
HELEN: Well she's grown up, she's matured, she's mellowed, she's gotten less possessive of her family. And she's gotten a lot older, (laughter) 39 years later.
CJAD: Now when you say possessive of her family, that's one thing people talk about when they talk about Nancy. That she did at one point become quite the busybody looking after her children and getting in everyone's way.
HELEN: Oh yes, yes, whatever was going to be done, she gave them great advice, whether they wanted to hear it or not! Oh, I used to get great mail castigating me, "why don't you leave those kids alone! Let them do what they want to." Well that was fine, you know, as long a people wrote, even if they didn't like it very much. As long as they wrote you know they were attending and were interested in the show.
CJAD: Do you get a lot of mail?....over the years?
HELEN: Yes, as a matter of fact. I don't get nearly as much as the younger kids do, of course, because of all this falling in love with the various boys and girls who come on the show, that's one thing, but I get a steady line of mail and I get it from all ages which is very interesting. First of course, I got it just from women. Now I get it from children of people who watch the show and I'm beginning to get it now from grandchildren who watch the show (laughter). Oh, and the other interesting thing from over the years. At first it was....I would never be recognized and people would never acknowledged that they recognized me, except in the supermarket, or do you remember the Automat, the cafeteria in New York?
HELEN: Anyway, now I'm recognized at Sardi's and I've worked for a long time as a volunteer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and finally over the years people tend to come up and confess, "Oh are you Nancy on AS THE WORLD TURNS?" "Yes." Well, now you see, I've made it to the top of the list. I even get recognized in the grand places. In museums.
CJAD: Well that's great! Let's go to the phones, Gerald in Hudson, hello
CJAD: Hi. Go ahead, you're on the air Gerald.
CALLER: Yes, I would like to know when did ah....because, my Mother died in 1972, but she was always watching your show from the beginning....
HELEN: Well how nice.
CALLER: And I also watch it every day. I don't care what they say. Some people say men shouldn't watch these things, but I like it.
HELEN: A lot of men do. We have a Rotory Club in Indiana, oh I think the second year we were on the air, wrote and they were going as a body to Europe. Was there anyway they could keep in touch with the show? So you see.....
CALLER: Also, there was Grandpa. When did he die?
HELEN: I think Santos died in about 1977 or 78.
CALLER: Yes, and the other one I like was Mr. MacLaughlin.
HELEN: Yes, Chris.
CALLER: I like the one right now, I can't remember his name....oh yes, Dan, is that the name of your husband?
CALLER: He's very good also.
HELEN: He's a nice man. I've been very lucky with my two husbands.
CALLER: And I like your children, they're very nice.
HELEN: Particularly Bob.
CALLER: Yes, but are the other ones going to come back, like Penny.
HELEN: Occasionally....they bring them back occasionally...Don and Penny, and we talk about them. And we're fortunate that when they do want to bring them back, the two people who played the parts are....well of course Penny is the same one who started, but the last man who played Don is still available to us. The man before him, unfortunately died, so we're lucky that we have the people that we do still.
CALLER: I hope that you will continue for a very long time on the show.
HELEN: Thank you sir.
CALLER: Okay, you're welcome, bye.
CJAD: Thank you for the call. During the course of the last week, I was in one of the various computer services. I was in CompuServe and I mentioning the fact that you were going to be on the program and if anybody out there who couldn't call us, because they were long distance in other parts of North America, had any questions to ask you, that they could e-mail them to me and I would ask them on their behalf. People, as you mentioned earlier have followed your career and watched the show since they were kids or watched it with their parents, watched it with their grandparents. I got this one from a lady named Linda Heath who said, "I don't have any questions, but please tell her that I think the reason that AS THE WORLD TURNS is my favorite is because I can still remember sitting in my mother's lap and watching Nancy fighting with Lisa many years ago. To watch her now gives me fond memories of my mother and I feel a little closer to Mom.
HELEN: How nice. That's a good deal of the kind of mail that I get, Mr. Holder, now. It's not so much advice one way or another about the show, it's thank you for the length of time that we've watched. My mother, my aunt, my grandmother and so on. Thank you for all the years that you've come to visit us. So it's always heartwarming to hear these things.
CJAD: Another letter from Pamela Troutman of San Antonio, Texas. She wants to know if there was ever a story line that you did not like, or refused to do and what was it?
HELEN: No, I think if you're an actress, you don't pick and choose what you want to do. Everything is a challenge. There are some things that I like less about Nancy then others. For instance, that I had to play in connection with Penny and Edith.
CJAD: You mean in the meddlesome years?
HELEN: Yes, in the meddlesome years, (laughter), yes that's exactly it. Oh, and I took great exception to the girl to whom my son Don was engaged, and I broke up that engagement because I didn't think she was good enough for him. She didn't have a college education, and he was going to be lawyer and he needed a wife with a college education. Well, it's not a storyline that you necessarily like, but it gives you great chance to play things that....oh, gives you the excitement of doing something that's not you. So, no, I don't thing there has been a story line that I had really rejected.
CJAD: Now you started on 1956 on the first show and your opening line, I have it here from the New York Times article, "Good morning dear, what would you like for breakfast?" This is after you rolled out of your twin bed.
CJAD: We've come a long way from twin beds in soap operas. How do you feel about the morality in today's soaps compared to when you first started on the show.
HELEN: Well, I'm a little disappointed in the lack of commitment. I think in the moral situation in this day and age, I think people are not nearly willing enough to assume personal responsibility and that kind of thing is necessary for a moral attitude towards other people. Not so much that there is a way to do...but courtesy of one's behaviour to one's fellow human beings are going by the boards with lack...beginning with the lack of morality. I think we did have to open our eyes to what was......well the behaviour that people should follow, not for a reason, not because someone said you should, but because it worked and it was right. And that's, I think, one of the things we're getting into, with terrorism and crime and so on. People will not assume the responsibilities for their acts and so they do these incorrigible things.
CJAD: Okay, 790-0991 is the number to call. I should mention on behalf of Gerald, who called before saying "men don't watch the show," I'll say right now, I've been watching this show, AS THE WORLD TURNS since before I started school.....We go to Amy, hello you're on the air.
CALLER: Hi, Peter, you're not the only one who's been watching it that long either.....I just wanted to say, "Thank you, Mrs. Wagner." Your show is wonderful. I'm addicted to it.
CALLER: My mother got me a VCR two years ago and it's set up everyday to watch the show
CJAD: Mine too.
HELEN: Tape is a marvellous thing, isn't it?
CALLER: Oh, yes it is because with the weird schedule I have, I never get to see it all the time......I think the show is good because it gives me a sense of family, because I live here alone in Montreal. And you learn so much from your show. It's very informative.
HELEN: Well that's good to hear, because what we try to do is tell a story of how people live their lives. That's our effort to tell a story about people.
CALLER: Not just that, but the medical stories like what they're doing with the Alzheimers and that....I mean I cry when I watch it. Sometimes it is so funny and so sad at the same time. It's really a beautiful show.
HELEN: Good. Thank you.
CALLER: And please don't ever quite.
HELEN: We'll try not to!
CALLER: And my funniest memory of one time was a scene, oh God, must be 20 years ago, in that kitchen where you had that ugly green fridge, and you were supposed to be cooking something in the pot and you were stirring it and you clanked around in the pot to let everybody know that it was an empty pot. And they were trying to cover up the sound, but it was so good and everybody's trying not to smirk. (laughter)
HELEN: (laughter) Oh, we had some funny things like that happen.
CALLER: Oh that show is excellent, don't change anything about it.
HELEN: Well, I must tell you one thing that was very funny. When you're on the air you don't have the stove connected, because a hot stove is too much of a danger in that kind of situation. One day we did have it practical because they decided that they wanted to see Nancy frying chicken for the 4th of July picnic.
HELEN: So I was frying chicken for the 4th of July picnic and in the midst of everything, one of the timers on the stove went off. Well we had never used the stove before. None of us had any idea where the timer was. We were playing a much.....sort of laissez faire attitude towards this old thing, and meanwhile one of the stagehands was crawling behind the set, pulled the plug on the stove...(laughter)...you know the great cook Nancy didn't even know how her stove worked.
CALLER: Can I ask another question?
CJAD: Go ahead.
CALLER: All the fireplaces, where do they exhaust them? I know it sounds stupid, but you notice that.
HELEN: What they use is...is it canned heat Peter?
HELEN: It's something like that...they burn something that does not smoke, and the exhaust goes up...and the studio is big enough, I guess to clear out whatever that stuff is.
CALLER: Because I remember hearing a story of Don Hastings one time, he was supposed to light the fire in the fireplace and there was too much gas and he got blown away from it.
HELEN: I don't think I was on that day, but it sounds possible (laughter)
CJAD: Thank you for the call, Amy.
CALLER: Thank you.
CJAD: 790-0991 is the number to call....What I remember mostly about the kitchen is the fact that you had a stove that was in the wall, for so many years. I was used to the floor model ones and it was a very modern kitchen for its day.
HELEN: Oh yes it was.
CJAD: That stove in the wall. That always intrigued me when I was a kid.
HELEN: It intrigued me too, so when we moved into the house we have now I had one of those kinds of stoves.
CJAD: Oh really!
HELEN: Yes, and it's not....I have no microwave because this is too good.
CJAD: 790-0991 is the number, Audrey in NDG, hello.
CALLER: Hello, Peter.
CALLER: Hi Mrs. Wagner.
CALLER: I go back to....oh quite a long time to when Penny was in pigtails.
HELEN: Oh, she'd love to hear that.
CALLER: Yes, even my parents watched you from Day-A, and it's just fascinating what you're saying, you know, about what transpires on the program. It's very fascinating and I've enjoyed the program. I always manage somehow to catch up, but I do lose some things in between.
HELEN: Stick around long enough and somebody will talk about it, so you will catch up, (laughter).
CALLER: Yeah, now it's very ah....I had the pleasure of talking to Don Hastings when he was on a couple of weeks ago. It just makes you feel that much closer to the ah...because when you're watching it you're living it.
HELEN: I can imagine that would be true.
CALLER: Yes, it's true. Sometimes I sit there with tears in my eyes and I say to myself, "oh my goodness, what are you doing?"
HELEN: But you live with the moment, and I'm glad that we're real enough to you to make you feel that.
CALLER: Oh it's true, it's a very, very good show. And all the best of luck to you and all the crew and keep up the good work and stay much longer.
HELEN: Good, thank you.
CALLER: Nice talking to you.
HELEN: Thank you ma'am.,
CJAD: Thank you for the call....I had another CompuServe note from a lady by the name of Vicky Palm in Minneapolis, and she talks about the years....there was that period of time when you weren't on the show for awhile. I guess you were off contact and were just a day player at that point.
HELEN: I'm still a day player.
CJAD: Oh you are?
HELEN: Even the contract players, yes, my husband was looking into some....our financial arrangements and seeing about a financial plan or something like that. And he wanted to set it up with Proctor & Gamble and they said, "nope, can't do that. All the actors are day players." Anyway, that period, everybody was saying, "oh my, you've retired." But I hadn't retired, they just hadn't written me into the show.
CALLER: Well Vicky wanted to know if during those years where you weren't on the show as much if you kept up with the other cast members or watched the show, and how you felt when you were not on it on a regular basis back then?
HELEN: Well, interestingly, I've never watched the show, because I never got into the habit. You see, we were live until the middle 70s, and as a result I was either on my way there or doing the show, so I never could watch until we went on tape. It's a habit that I think you have to get into. I'm too used to doing the show to sit back and watch it, and I keep telling myself, "now I should watch." I should watch what all of the other shows do to, so that you have an idea of what's going on in the area in which you work, and I forget, I get going on other things. One of the things I did while I was not on the show that much, I went to China for two months, and had a lovely time. And my husband and I went some other lovely trips around, so that we weren't even here to watch the show. And no, I didn't watch not because I wasn't interested, but just because as I said, I wasn't used to watching.
CJAD: Pat in Pierrefonds, you're on the air with Helen Wagner.
CALLER: Miss Wagner, it's a real thrill to speak to you. And I just want to tell you that I'm a fan, and I've been watching the show for years. I was really shocked when Douglas Marland passed away.
HELEN: Yes, we all were. That was a real blow.
CALLER: Yeah, and I just hope that the show continues the storylines that he started, and that they don't get off track. I don't want it to turn into another GENERAL HOSPITAL or ANOTHER WORLD. AS THE WORLD TURNS was a show in itself.
HELEN: Yes I agree with you.
CALLER: It was about families and it was about the Hugheses and the Stewarts and even the Snyders who haven't been around that long, but there's a core there. And we just don't want to see that ruined. I don't know if you've noticed if there's been a change in the show since he's gone.
HELEN: Well, there has been a slight change. It's very difficult, though, to maintain an author's ideas. He left a Bible, so-called in quotes, that he had put together, fortunately, just previous to his heart problems, and we've gone on that now for more than a year. I don't know how much of that is left and how much of what they are doing will be continued. I'm sure they will continue Doug's people, but now they really have to strike out on their own and we've got to just cross our fingers and hope for the best, because that's what we all want.
CALLER: Oh yes, I hope so too, because like I said, it's a show about families and the Stewarts and the Hugheses have been there from the beginning and you want to see that continue. You saw it when he was there, because there was always new children being born. Margo always had her kids and.....Margo was having her children....only the Stewarts didn't seem to keep up as well.
HELEN: Well you realize that a happy marriage is limbo on any story, because it's a hard thing to tell about the simple pleasures of day to day, but I think this is a basis of what we try to do, and the problems that people meet....I think we'll go along. Let's just hope for the best.
CALLER: And can I ask you one other thing?
CALLER: When they decided on the Emmys as whom to nominate? I couldn't understand how someone like Scott Holmes would go into a supporting character...ah supporting actor, rather than a lead actor.
HELEN: The Emmys are a large question. All the awards shows are....when you figure that every year, they have to make an award. And if you consider the fact that WORLD TURNS does five shows a week, 52 weeks out of the year. That's 250 shows. If we do 250 shows and all the other eight shows do 250 shows, how are you going to chose a best show, a best actor. The only awards it seems to me, that are really viable, are the ones for the stage, because at least you can see everything that they do. You can't possibly see everything that our show does, much less see every actor and how well he does his job, so it's a hit or miss thing for my money. And a lot of it is politics.
CALLER: Yeah, I think so too, yeah.
HELEN: But, I think it's fun to have that kind of recognition and everybody comes out together and has some good times and they pat each other on the back and then go back to work, (laughter). It's like 4th of July for the nation.
CALLER: And it's a great cast. You have a great cast of actors.
HELEN: Thank you.
CALLER: Alright, thanks so much.
CJAD: Are you very close with the other cast members. Do you see each other outside of your daily work.
CALLER: We don't see each other outside a great deal, because we all live quite some distance. We're together so very often....but people who live in town....you see, I don't live in the city. A great many of the cast don't live in the city. And we're far enough away, that it's rather difficult for us to get together, but we're very friendly. We've always been a very friendly cast and had a good time together. That, I think is one of the reasons why the show has been as good as it has.
CJAD: A lot of people might not be familiar with you background besides the work you've done as Nancy Hughes. I understand you are originally from Lubbock, Texas.
HELEN: Yes, my father was a doctor down there on the plains of West Texas.
CJAD: How does someone from Lubbock, Texas end up on the boards of New York?
HELEN: Gradually, (laughter). I went to college in Illinois and then my piano teacher brought me with her to New York to attend a master class of Abram Chasen's piano class...that was...and I graduated from college with a degree in music and a degree in drama. And after that summer in New York, I just decided well, that's where I'd like to go. Mother and Father said, "well, alright" so off I came. And I landed in New York on the wings of that hurricane of 1938, just about the time that Czechoslovakia fell, so it was pretty exciting times. That's before your time....May I ask you a question?
HELEN: Is Eric Holder any relation of yours?
CJAD: No, not at all. Neither is Geoffrey Holder.
HELEN: Well, I'm more interested in Eric, because I think he sounds like such a good man.
CJAD: Well, no, no...no relation whatsoever.
HELEN: Well, he comes from....his people came from Barbados.
CJAD: As did mine, yes.
HELEN: Yes, and that's what made me think, "ah, those men are somehow related." Well, anyway, (laughter), we'll get on to your questions.
CJAD: The role you play as Nancy....at least in the past you've had some good sparing with Eileen Fulton who plays Lisa. Now....and we were all waiting for it, I think, because I see them talking about the show on the computers when I go into the various forums and people have been waiting for you to dump all over Ellen for a while and a couple of weeks ago you did. Do you enjoy those types of scenes.
HELEN: (laughter) Oh sure! Get a little something going, or a little conflict, instead of being just sweetness and light and pouring coffee and opening doors and that sort of thing. You get to yell a little bit, (laughter)
CJAD: Was that a problem...you look back, as I mentioned, to the first time you were on the show and the opening line, and we were talking about it earlier this afternoon....people were saying, "what was the first line," and I mentioned it being "Good morning dear, what would you like for breakfast?" And a lot of the women would say, "gee, I don't know who would say that line today!"
HELEN: (laughter) Well, you see, we've come a long way in these practically 40 years. Life has changed and people have changed attitudes.
CJAD: Did you ever during those years say, "gee let's bring Nancy a little more into...a little more independent. I mean she is now, but that did take some time, didn't it?
HELEN: Well I wouldn't say she wasn't independent. She was a figure of....that's the way people behaved in those days. She was not under Chris' thumb by any means, she just was not one of those people who went out and did civic...got into civic affairs and ran the town. She stayed home and ran her home. As a matter of fact, Irna, Irna Phillips who wrote us for 20 years, had Nancy staying at home to such a degree that she never wanted to go away on a vacation with Chris, which made it very difficult for Helen Wagner to get away on a vacation, (laughter). Finally, Irma came up with a sister for me in Kansas City, so whenever I wanted to go away on a vacation I'd go out and visit "Pearl." I do have a sister, but she's not in Kansas City, and her name is not Pearl. Her name is Ruth. She says, "I'm glad my name isn't Pearl. I don't think I like Pearl very much, (laughter)
CJAD: Let's go back to the phones, Ilene in DDO.
CALLER: I have been listening to you chat with Peter on the phone from the very first minute and I have been tempted to call to ask one specific question, and Peter just touched on it. It's about Ellen. When are you going to....you know....just tell her to buzz off!
HELEN: Well didn't you see? I told her off already once.
CALLER: Yes, but not fully though...I find I really I am addicted to that show. I schedule my day's activities so that between two and three I am free. And I'm waiting and waiting for your to tell Ellen something about her interference with Dan
HELEN: Well I think...there's one thing about my relationship, or Nancy's relationship with Ellen. It is written more nearly as if, now, as if we are contemporaries, and of course we're not. She's the age of my daughter, Penny. So she's really not so much, my contemporary as a person to whom I would have....with whom I would have that kind of relationships. She's more like a daughter. So I think that's one of the reasons they have me behaving as I do towards her. Maybe that will give a little scope to it.
CALLER: Yes, but I really love every character in that show except Ellen. And I look at you as a role model for all mothers. You seem to have it all together. To say the right thing at the right time. And your relationship with Bob....
HELEN: Well I think actually that's nice to hear, but I think Nancy's relationship with Bob....she's always been much to protective in telling him what to do all the time, which of course, he's smart enough not to listen.
CALLER: Even in that sense, the close camaraderie between a mother and a son. You can have your differences and yet still you can feel that presence of the love there.
HELEN: Well, yes, I think that's terribly important and I'm glad that comes through to you.
CALLER: Oh yes it does.
HELEN: I guess the big difference between the Nancy of years ago and the Nancy of today is when Bob had the affair. I think Nancy of the days gone by would have handled that quite differently and Susan Stewart would have been lucky to be alive.
HELEN: Yes, Bob would have had his ears tweaked, (laughter).
CALLER: Well it just shows the maturity of the characters too.
CALLER: Fine, thanks very much. Keep up the good work.
HELEN: Thank you ma'am, thanks for calling.
CJAD: Give us a little bit of an idea about how the show has changed from going from live to tape, and also from 30 minutes to one hour. How has that changed what you do on a daily basis?
HELEN: I think the biggest change over the years has been in the forum of writing, Peter. When we went on the air with half an hour, we had, say four scenes in the half hour. When we went hour we had maybe twice that many, but we had scenes beginning, middle and end. And when they decided that the audience they were aiming at was 30 years old and under, then they started doing more episodic writing. We would start off with the beginning of a scene, flash to the middle of a scene that had come from the script from the day before, then come back to the middle of the first scene, then start another scene. So, we play beginning, middle and end of scenes spread out through the whole script for the day and it's much more episodic, which doesn't make for as much ease in playing the scene for the actors, because you don't get started on a scene and able to play through to the denouement of that particular moment. That momentary idea. We have to do a part, then come back and do the next part, then come back and do another part. And I think that's the biggest change that's happened to us since we went on the air. Of course one of the things that we....first we started off in black and white, then went to color, and that was pretty exciting. And now it's just ordinary. You look at black and white and that looks rather strange and interesting (laughter). And we've gone from being able to....not being able to immediately look at the show, to now being able to see the show even as we do it with monitors and the floor and so on, and also immediate tape. And so far as editing the shows go, they can now take a tape, rearrange all sorts of things in it, without changing the original, so that they can see how they want to cut it, and still not have to change it to that cutting. They can go back to the original or go to their cutting as they choose. Which to me is just magic. It's like being able write a whole page....type write a whole page and rearrange anything on it that you want to without changing a thing. It's made, of course, editing the show much, much easier and much more interesting.
CJAD: How has it changed your day, from the days when you had to do it live and the times you had to be at the studio to working now when it could go on for quite a while, I understand?
HELEN: Well when we first went on the air we were due there at 7:30. And we stayed through air, which was 1:30 to 2. Then, if we were on the next day we'd pick up again in a half an hour and start on the rehearsals for the next day's show. So if you were on just that day, your day was 7:30 to 2, and you went home, no questions asked. Well now, since we tape it, we're in at 7 and we do the majority of the script in the morning, because people are fresher of course. So, I'll say maybe out of 24 scenes, we'll do 14 in the morning and 10 in the afternoon. We're supposed to be through with the morning at 1:30 and go into rehearsal with the afternoon show at a quarter to two, which we're supposed to finish at 6:30 that evening, if we're lucky. Very often we'll go over. Sometimes when we have big scenes and big weddings and that sort of stuff, we went late as seven o'clock the next morning, one day, (chuckling), and the people who were doing the show for that scene of the day had to be ready to go...they left and went right into rehearsal for the next day. That's the worst we've ever done.
CJAD: The regular actors go through a lot of dialogue. Where do you find the time in that long schedule to even rehearse or memorize your lines.
HELEN: Memorizing is the easiest part of it.
HELEN: Oh yes. As you go over your lines....whenever you read through them, that helps you start memorizing.
CJAD: Is part of it due to the fact that you and so many of the other actors on the shows have played the characters for so long that you know to a certain degree how they're going to react to a certain thing?
HELEN: Oh yes, that does make a great deal of difference. And if the dialogue isn't written in the way that you feel it should, we've always had the very great privilege of adjusting words. Not ideas, but words. If certain words don't fall easily into your character's mouth, you can chance those words, but you cannot change the idea. And that's been a great help.
CJAD: Through the years of the show a lot of the actors have come and gone. A lot of actors have come and gone. Some of them have gone on to greater popularity either on the big screen or in nighttime television. Tell us some of the stars you've worked with and if you felt at the time that you were working with these people that, yeah, this person's going on to do this or this person's going on to do that.
HELEN: I don't think anybody thinks about the future, and really, in those terms, Peter, when you're working. People have said also, "Did you ever look to the future and see how long it was going to be on." No, the important thing is the next day's show. Yes sure, there are lots of people that you think could go on and become great stars. There are an awful lot of good actors on daytime television that deserve to do a lot of other kinds of acting, if that's what they want to do, and they have done it. They've also gone into directing. Mark Rydell, for instance....Meg Ryan...oh, dear, I always forget people when I get...there have been a lot of people who've come through the show. And a lot of people who have come through our show have gone to other shows.
CJAD: Well Marisa Tomei who's been on your show, the Academy award winning actress from MY COUSIN VINNY.
CJAD: And the young lady who played your...I guess it would be your granddaughter, actually your great- granddaughter, who was in THE JOY LUCK CLUB.
HELEN: Oh, yes, yes, yes. Ming-Na Wen. I'm terribly pleased that they've gone on and done those things, but they're not the only ones that are that good. I must say this. That for the most part, the work on daytime television is more demanding of an actor than the so-called bigger stuff, because you have to bring so much on your own and there's not enough time, really, to rehearse the way you'd like to. We do a show a day. The nighttime shows, they have a whole week to rehearse. For a movie, you....depending on whether the director rehearses you are not, you have an enormous amount of time to work on your character. We have to go from day to day and we have to take the script and put it on, and make real and true and live the words that we're given. And you have to do a lot of it on your own, because time is so short. We have three rehearsals. When we first went on the air we used to have nine. That way you really could get going on your character. Your director could give you a great deal of help, or change things. You could try things and it didn't work and you could change things. We can't do that now, because we only have three rehearsals.
CJAD: There was a time to, I think if you go before the 80s, where the industry, to a certain degree, tended to look down a little bit on soap opera actors. But they came into their own....into their due in the 80s, I guess. Where people didn't say, "gee, I'm no longer a daytime actor." People are very proud to be daytime actors and you get people who used to be on the big screen who are now coming to daytime.
HELEN: Yes that's true. There's been a great about face and this article in The Times....it's sort of a.....what am I trying to say.....
CJAD: It's sort of a recognition.....
HELEN: Yes! It's a recognition....a final recognition of the big entertainment world that rather than just looking down on us as journeymen players, I think we have really begun to come into our own and a great deal more recognition is given. The fact that we do very presentable work.
CJAD: A lot of the daytime actors have had the opportunity, because they work in the daytime, at least in the time when it was live, they did just daytime and had their nights free to do other things. To do Broadway plays and the like. I know you've done some Broadway work. Have you done a lot of work while you were Nancy?
HELEN: No, because I didn't have that much time. Whenever I did anything, I had to take the time off to go and do it. We could get written out if there was a show that wanted you on Broadway. You could get written out. Look at Larry Bryggman who plays John Dixon. He's always doing something, off-Broadway most of the time, it is, because they have.....they don't run so long, so he can do it and then come back to the show, or he can do it and do the show, as he goes along. We could all work, by taking time.....our contracts all would allow us to take time off. But most of the time, if you can work the evening, it's a good thing, but it's a buster. For instance, if you're in the.....I get up at 4:30 in the morning. If I got home 12:30 the night before from doing a show, I don't have an awful lot of gas left by the end of the day, (laughter).
CJAD: Well it's the end of the day here for us too, and I don't want to keep you any longer. I'm sure you have a lot of things to do. We look forward to seeing you for many more years as Nancy Hughes on AS THE WORLD TURNS. We're watching you everyday. And I thank you for talking with us this evening.
HELEN: It's been a great pleasure, thank you.
CJAD: Bye, bye.