In Part 1 of the We Love Soaps interview with Patrika Darbo, the former soap star talked about her background, moving to Los Angeles and becoming a full-time actress, and her many guest appearances on primetime shows.
In Part 2, she discusses her recent role on DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES, her film career and her years on DAYS OF OUR LIVES.
We Love Soaps: You turned up on DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES a few weeks ago. I enjoyed your scenes with Eva Longoria Parker as Gabby's seamstress.
Patrika Darbo: She was very sweet. I enjoyed the show very much. I said to her just before I left, 'I want to thank you because, as a guest star, someone that comes on a show that you like to see each week, you hope the experience will be good. And it was.' She was very gracious and made it very easy, and she was very nice. I carried away a nice experience all the way around.
Everybody said to me, 'Do you think you'll be back?', and I didn't even think of that. The character said she had been with her [Gabrielle] for years. I'll be there in a heartbeat if they call.
We Love Soaps: How did your role on DAYS OF OUR LIVES come about? Had you thought about doing a soap before this full-time?
Patrika Darbo: Oh no, I didn't even think I was coming on full-time. The casting director at the time was Fran Bascom who I also knew personally, and we were at a party at Ronnie Claire Edwards' (Corabeth, THE WALTONS) house and in passing she asked me if I would considering doing a soap. I said, 'Of course, Fran, absolutely', thinking I could come on going, 'Hey, here's your beer. Do you want any peanuts' or 'Your hair looks good, mam. Thank you very much' or 'I finished dusting in this room'. I had no concept of what she was asking me until I got there and saw my hunky husband and I'm thinking to myself, 'Oh my God, they don't know who I am, they've cast the wrong person'.
The whole way it was written was that Kevin [Spirtas] loved and adored me for me and didn't give a rat's ass what size I was. That's probably why we were successful because people didn't have to vicariously live through a size 2, they lived through a size 20 and I was everywoman. That was what made it popular.
We Love Soaps: A mistake that's often made is the networks think the escapism factor is the beautiful people, but I believe it's the stories.
Patrika Darbo: Absolutely, you escape into the story. When it seems to be a little more real life, or you can put yourself into a situation, you are much more engrossed in it.
We Love Soaps: How was working with Kevin Spirtas?
Patrika Darbo: Kevin was wonderful to work with and then of course we got Nadia. It was a terrific experience, one that I will never forget and am very grateful for.
We Love Soaps: You became an instant fan favorite on DAYS and won the Soap Opera Digest Award as Outstanding Female Newcomer. You also had a rare DAYS Emmy nomination in 2000 as Outstanding Supporting Actress.
Patrika Darbo: That was very nice. The Emmy nomination was great because it comes from your peers.
We Love Soaps: What were some of your fondest memories of working on the show?
Patrika Darbo: Some of the most fun we had is when we first came on the show and we worked with Lisa Linde, whose father wrote "Goodbye Earl." We ended up driving her crazy but we were trying to split up Mike and Carrie and all the crazy stuff we did there was fun. The Mike and Carrie characters were supposed to leave the show and this was a way to "end the show" for them, but we got such terrific fan response that we were put under contract for a lot longer than we anticipated. And that lasted longer than even they had anticipated. Our six month contract turned into seven years.
We Love Soaps: You had a lot of fun moments on DAYS, but there were also some serious storylines. Nancy had a cancer scare at one point. And it was revealed she had been a rape victim as a teenager. What types of stories did you enjoy playing the most on the show?
Patrika Darbo: They gave me some great stuff with the breast cancer, and the long lost daughter. What was so good about it is that they gave me the opportunity to do different ranges, the comedy and dramatic sides. For an actor it was great.
When I was in heavy story though, I'd be sitting there just memorizing, memorizing, memorizing. I didn't get to go out that much with my poor husband at the time. He saw a lot of movies by himself.
We Love Soaps: Do you keep in touch with actors from the show?
Patrika Darbo: I keep in touch with Kevin, and Nadia. I talk to Rachel Melvin, Suzanne Rogers, and I stay in touch with Kristian.
We Love Soaps: DAYS has gone through a huge cast upheaval in recent months. Do you hear about the backstage drama?
Patrika Darbo: I think it's like almost any show. If you talk to any soaps right now, a lot of them have been asked to take cuts in their salary, from actors to the writers and producers. It's tough everywhere in the industry.
We Love Soaps: What do you think Nancy is up to now? Do you still check out the show?
Patrika Darbo: She's creating havoc in New York and raising her daughter, who is probably going to be a demon child. I tune in every once and a while, and I tuned in the other day and I saw Kate talking to the guy that Chloe had slept with. She's always trying to save poor Lucas from something. I thought to myself, if Nancy had any idea Kate was sabotaging her daughter, she would be there in a heartbeat. It would be a battle, hell on wheels for sure.
We Love Soaps: Would you return if they approached you?
Patrika Darbo: I don't know if I could sign a long-term contract, but I certainly would go back and be recurring and do a good storyline. Having done some more television and films, and now back doing some commercials, I'm not willing to take myself out of everything else completely anymore. I know that this business is like any business, there is no loyalty to the employee. If the business is going down, the first ones they'll get rid of are the people on the bottom. It's the same as if you were working in an office.
We Love Soaps: In addition to your theater work and daytime and primetime TV work, you have appeared in a number of huge films like Charlie Wilson's War, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and Hatchet. How have you enjoyed your experiences working on films? And which was your favorite?
Patrika Darbo: I got cut out of Mr. and Mrs. Smith so you won't see me. The director liked all the things I did though. The beginning opens when they're talking to the psychiatrist in the office. There were four other couples and I was one of the other couples. The director kept us in the credits. My favorite film had to be In the Line of Fire which starred Clint Eastwood. The scene that I did with John Malkovich in the bank was Clint's favorite and he cast me in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil because of it.
We Love Soaps: Out of all the roles you have played, which would you say is your favorite?
Patrika Darbo: I think my favorite part would be from the show that Del [Shores] wrote, "Daddy's Dyin'...Who's Got the Will?". It was the first breakout thing where I got to reprise my role from the stage version to the film. From the film, I got put under contract with ABC. ABC sold my contract to Lorimar and I did STEP BY STEP. I also loved Leaving Normal with Meg Tilly and Christine Lahti. We filmed up in British Columbia and Ed Zwick was the director.
We Love Soaps: You are involved in a number of organizations that cover many different areas including diversity. Most TV shows including the soaps are lacking in portraying diverse characters.
Patrika Darbo: It's what we call in the diveristy group I work with in the union the "American scene". They need to grasp it and portray it the right way, but people don't.
We Love Soaps: I watched a YouTube video of you recently commenting on Sarah Palin.
Patrika Darbo: I still have the same comment. Here's all this stuff about her child and how her daughter's pregnant and they want to keep it private. But then you hear comments like, 'these poor people are having children and we have to pay for it' and find out they are against abortion. You just can't have it both ways.
I'm very active in my union, in the television academy and in neighborhood politics. I have an opinion and I'm going to tell you what it is. I do a lot of stuff for the AIDS project, and we recently had the "No on 8" campaign here trying to get marriages legalized. I'm like, 'What the hell are these people's problem?'.
We Love Soaps: So what's next for you? Any projects in the works?
Patrika Darbo: I just finished doing Rango, which is the Johnny Depp animated feature coming out probably next year. It's been slow lately because the SAG contracts have not been completed. I just take it as it comes.
We Love Soaps: Are you interesting doing any behind the scenes work?
Patrika Darbo: I've been writing a little bit working with a friend. We are going to try to produce some "love in the afternoon" vignettes for our website. I love writing, but I'm a terrible procrastinator at times because I'm primarily an actor. So if I have a reason to be acting instead of the other stuff, I will do it.
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