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WLS Interview: Catching Up With Linda Cook, Part One

Over the past few decades Linda Cook has appeared on all four of the current New York soaps, but is probably best remembered for her roles on two shows no longer on the air. In the mid-1970s, Cook played Laurie Ann Karr on THE EDGE OF NIGHT. In 1988 she joined the cast of LOVING as Egypt Jones and gave one unforgettable performance after another. We Love Soaps recently caught up with the actress to reminisce about her soap days and find out about her second career in real estate. In Part One, Cook discusses her life growing up, her role on EDGE and how working on live television helped save her wedding.

We Love Soaps: Can you share with our readers a little bit about your background? Where did you grow up?
Linda Cook: I was born in Lubbock, Texas, and lived there until I was about three. My dad was from there and was a farmer's kid in West Texas, outside of Wichita Falls. He married my mom, who is from Belfast, Ireland, after World War II. They went back there and he was going to school at Texas Tech University and started working following school. After he was working for a while, he was transferred to Omaha, Nebraska, so I spent most of my little childhood there, from 3 to 9, and I lived in Dallas for a year, and then he was transferred to Atlanta after getting promoted, and we stayed there.

We Love Soaps: Did you always want to be an actress?
Linda Cook: I got a job there working for a ballet company. I got my equity card dancing in star stock summer musicals in the chorus. My first paying job was dancing the part of the little girl in "Carousel" at around 16. It was suggested to me by some of the people I was dancing with that I should audition for a theater company in Atlanta. I did and got in. So I made this immediate transition into being an actress. Your body falls apart very quickly as a dancer and you can only do that for so long. Unless you become a Prima Ballerina by the time you're about 18, it's a hard life. Dancers are so much better now than when I was a dancer. It's a good thing I became an actress.

When they give us those Kuder Preference Tests in high school, they all came out that I should be an actress, which is strange because I was trying to make them come out for me to be a dancer. [Laughs] I was a very good student and was into art a lot and was a painter. I got scholarships as a painter and writer, but I just had the bug, and went back to dancing and got into a real theater company in Atlanta. From there I did all different kinds of theater in the southeast and did television and commercials and film work. One of the plays I was doing down there was going to be done in New York, and the producer said, 'I would like the guy who plays the lead and the girl who plays the little sister to come up and audition against the New York actors.' I had an actress friend in New York and came up and stayed with her to audition for a couple of things. I actually got hired for a show Off-Broadway before I got to the other audition.

We Love Soaps: That couldn't have been long before your role as Laurie Ann on THE EDGE OF NIGHT.
Linda Cook: It was right around the same time. I had just done one show Off-Broadway, in which Anthony Perkins from Psycho was the director and John Heard played my husband. As soon as that was over, I got on THE EDGE OF NIGHT. That was in 1975.


We Love Soaps: I was just watching some of your old EDGE clips on YouTube.
Linda Cook: Oh my God, I didn't know I was on YouTube. I actually have the old original tapes that guys on the show made for me of my shows. I have to donate them to the Museum of Television and Radio to get them out of here.

We Love Soaps: I would love to see those. So many of the classic clips aren't available anymore.
Linda Cook: It's on my list - that and three million other things.

We Love Soaps: What was your experience on EDGE like? Do you have any favorite or memorable scenes that stand out for you?
Linda Cook: I had such a good time on that show because when I first started, it was still live for three or six months before it went to tape. They had to have actors who could improvise if the scenery fell over or something. The only bad part of doing the live show was that if your scene was last, everybody else would take too much time and they'd get to your scene and be frantically saying, 'Talk fast, talk fast.' At the time I didn't have contact lenses that were comfortable and I couldn't read the teleprompters so I either knew it or I didn't.

We Love Soaps: Do you have any funny stories from the live episodes?
Linda Cook: I was doing a scene with John LaGioia, who was playing my husband, and we were in the bar that he owned and were supposed to be sitting at a table sort of close to the camera having this big long talk. They were going to commercial and then coming back to us. As we were talking I realized he was doing the part from after the commercial. First of all, you don't want to miss a commercial. And second, I was thinking, 'What the hell are we going to do here?' So I just kept talking around and talking around until I got to a cue line where they could break for commercial. And then I broke it to him that we had already done the scene from after the commercial and we had a minute and a half until they were back to us. That was fun.

I think the funniest thing that ever happened on that show was the gal who played my Mom, Ann Flood, and Woody, who played my Dad, had a scene at the very beginning of an episode, and she had her front to the camera and the room behind her. He was supposed to come down the stairs and she's washing dishes and supposed to say something like, 'Hi honey, how are you this morning?' and he says, 'Oh, I'm fine. It's so hard to get up in the morning.' They had rehearsed it that way. Ann was a lady, and you didn't cuss round around her. She was Irish Catholic and blushed on a dime. When they got to the live show and the camera was right in her face, she's washing dishes and kind of looks over her shoulder at him and says, 'Hi honey, how are you this morning?' and he says, 'Oh, it's so hard to get it up in the morning.' She went about crimson and started laughing and could not stop laughing, with tears rolling down her cheeks. He totally lost it. And all around the set where we were waiting for them to come to us for other scenes, we were all out on the floor. It was like Mother Theresa having to deal with this. [Laughs] We were in hysterics and they were going to be at us in '5, 4, 3, 2, 1.'

We Love Soaps: That's so funny. I love stories from the live days of television.
Linda Cook: It was fun on that show because you could hear the commercials play during the breaks. You'd be in the middle of a big, emotional scene and they'd cut. Then you'd hear the commercial and they'd count you back into the scene. It came in real handy though, learning to turn it on and turn it off.

It helped when I got married to Patrick [Mann] because we were having the wedding at the St. Regis and it was the second marriage for both of us. We had a suite and had about 10 or 12 people coming over. We were going to have the wedding in the living room and then the reception. I arrived from the hairdresser and Patrick said, 'Honey, there is a problem, and I already talked to them about it and they can't change us out of this room..." And I went into the bedroom and there were twin beds and I said, 'Oh no, this is not happening. I am not starting my second marriage out in twin beds, no bloody way.' So I sat up on the bed and got on the phone and called to the front desk and I started sobbing, and carrying on like all hell breaking loose, [makes sobbing noises], 'My whole day is ruined, and these people are coming...' And Patrick came running in white-faced and thought his bride was upset, and I shot him an okay sign, and he said he thought at that point, 'Should I really marry her?'

We Love Soaps: What happened?
Linda Cook: They upgraded us to a corner suite ten floors higher but said I would have to come down to the lobby and re-sign in. I told Patrick we had to go down and said, 'Give me a minute here, I gotta get some real tears going.' And so far it's worked. We were married in 1976. It was a great wedding and we had a wonderful time. We started around 7pm and had this beautiful sunset light coming in as the ceremony started. And then we all went over the Rainbow Room where Sy Oliver and his 1930s style band was playing. We went to St. Augustine in Florida for our honeymoon. At the time, I don't think they had invented sunscreen so I couldn't go too far. [Laughs]

We Love Soaps: Didn't Laurie go crazy when you were playing her on EDGE?
Linda Cook: At the time I had a show I was going to do on Broadway and other things I wanted to do, and they were very sweet and sent the character away to a mental asylum. They didn't kill me and left it open for me to come back.

We Love Soaps: You came back for the final episode, right?
Linda Cook: Later on when I was doing a show on Broadway, EDGE was going off the air, and they had me back for the last 10 or 12 performances, so they got me out of the insane asylum. Apparently I shouldn't have been there in the first place.

We Love Soaps: That's a lot of years to be locked away!
Linda Cook: I know. Where was the appeal process? [Laughs] But they had me locked away for shooting somebody. There was a whole storyline where the mafia guys were trying to kill my father and I accidentally ended up shooting someone. When I was doing that storyline, I was having dreams that the mafia was after me. I was like, 'Okay, when you're dreaming in character, now's time to get off the soap.'

We Love Soaps: In the years between EDGE stints, did you do mostly theater?
Linda Cook: I did a lot of theater and commercials. I still do theater and commercials. I just auditioned for some depression medicine this morning. And I'm in callbacks for something that's going to be done over in German. I did ONE LIFE TO LIVE not too long.

We Love Soaps: Next you were on RYAN'S HOPE. What was it like working on that show?
Linda Cook: I think I've been on all the east coast soaps at some point. I've been on so many I can't even remember who I played on RYAN'S HOPE. [Laughs] Patrick and I were walking around Riverside Park and stopped in to have a glass of wine and ran into Ilene Kristen [who played Delia].

We Love Soaps: Tell me about your stint on ALL MY CHILDREN.
Linda Cook: This one I do remember. [Laughs] I played Lucy Voight. She was an investment banker. I had such a hideous hard time with her lines. I was saying stuff where I had no clue what I was talking about. I was supposed to be the bitch wife, and it was all my fault Dr. Voight was hitting on Angie, because I was so cold. All my scenes were these phone calls where I would have on this power suit and really long finger nails. I had my favorite line that I ever did from that show. I was always saying I didn't have time for him and that was his excuse to hit on Angie. I had this great line, 'Can't talk, limo waiting,' and that was it. Most of the scenes were just from the chest up and about financial stuff. That was a really hard character. [Laughs]

EDITOR'S NOTE: In Part Two, Cook talks about her memorable role as Egypt on LOVING, her friendship with Carroll O'Connor and her battle with breast cancer.

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