Longtime soap fans will never forget Taylor Miller's run on ALL MY CHILDREN as Nina Cortlandt Warner. Her pairing with Peter Bergman's Cliff is one of the most memorable in daytime history. Miller created the role of Nina in 1979 and played the role off and on until 1989. She returned in the mid-1990s a couple of times and will be returning again for soap's 40th anniversary in January. Miller also played Sally Frame on ANOTHER WORLD for a year during a break from AMC. For the past 20 years, Miller has been raising her two children in Chicago and occasionally performing in plays or acting in films. The role she plays in her latest film, Hannah Free, is a huge departure from Nina and she is winning rave reviews. Miller recently spoke with We Love Soaps about her days as a soap star, her other roles, life as a mom, and seeing both her children off to college.
In Part One of our interview, Miller shared stories about landing the role of Nina and handling instant fame. In Part Two, the actress discusses leaving ALL MY CHILDREN the first time, her stint on ANOTHER WORLD, and why she left AMC again in the late 1980s.
We Love Soaps: You were everywhere in the early '80s.
Taylor Miller: We were doing "Soaps Alive!" and we traveled all over the place. I lived and breathed [work]. I worked 12 hours a day. It became my identity and I didn't have one yet so... [Laughs] I didn't have a basis for who I was. That's why I feel sorry for Britney Spears or Michael Jackson. You have to have some special character when you're young to be famous.
We Love Soaps: And ALL MY CHILDREN was so big in New York. It's still big here.
Taylor Miller: It was crazy to be on that soap. It really was.
We Love Soaps: You left ALL MY CHILDREN the first time in 1984. Why did you leave?
Taylor Miller: They kept on repeating the same storyline over and over again. I likened it to being in pantyhose that were too small. I don't know if you've ever had that experience.
We Love Soaps: No! [Laughs]
Taylor Miller: I wanted and needed to play somebody different, somebody new. I went out to Hollywood and in the ten months I was there I did a nighttime guest spot, a commercial and a play. I guess that was a pretty good. Then I had the job offer to go to ANOTHER WORLD. I just wanted to play somebody different.
We Love Soaps: So in 1985 you assumed the role of Sally Frame on ANOTHER WORLD. It was a bit jarring for me because I loved Catlin and Sally with Mary Page Keller in the role. What was it like going from this hugely popular role on ABC to being a recast of a popular actress on a NBC soap?
Taylor Miller: It was very difficult. ALL MY CHILDREN was right there in Manhattan, and [for ANOTHER WORLD] I had to get up early and leave and was isolated over in Brooklyn. Again, I was very young when I was doing this, and these were the things I thought were important. They would have everybody sit at the studio so you may get out there at seven o'clock in the morning but you might not work until three in the afternoon. It was a difficult transition for me. I had a bad attitude! [Laughs] And I don't know if they really knew what they were doing with the character. I never really got hooked into Sally.
We Love Soaps: I believe Thomas Ian Griffith (Catlin) and Mary Page Keller are still together to this day.
Taylor Miller: I did his film, Excessive Force, when he was in Chicago.
We Love Soaps: One problem ANOTHER WORLD had in its last two decades was they were constantly changing writers and producers and directions for the show.
Taylor Miller: When I would go and try to get new wardrobe, the wardrobe mistress would say, "Pick something off this rack." I was used to Carol Luiken, who went shopping for Nina and had a look for Nina and was very specific. They way [AW] did it was, "What do you want to wear?" That's the way I had been trained and they didn't have a look for Sally and they didn't understand I wasn't being difficult.
We Love Soaps: ALL MY CHILDREN recast the role of Nina while you were away, and I wasn't happy about that, but you returned to the show in 1986 and stayed for a few more years.
Taylor Miller: I went to Europe for three months and then I went out to L.A. When I came home from Europe I watched the show one day and she looked startlingly like me. I watched and went, "That's a choice. That's not what Nina would do, but that's a choice." [Laughs] She had great storylines! She got to do new and different things.
We Love Soaps: After you returned we had more Cliff and Nina drama and eventually the couple married for a fourth time and left town. But nothing could top your first wedding.
Taylor Miller: That was amazing. It had a lot of humor. It was a great wedding.
We Love Soaps: It was so grand. That's one thing soaps rarely do anymore because they can't afford to do it.
Taylor Miller: They cut off their nose to spite their face. They started taking all the money out of daytime so they quit earning. That's when they started to lose their ratings.
My friend Maxine Levinson was the producer of ONE LIFE TO LIVE for a minute and she brought in old ABC storylines that were interwoven with each other with sexiness and humor. That was the stuff ABC was made from. She was doing brilliant ABC Daytime but they let her go.
It started to become about A sets and B sets and who had what in their contract and how we are going to use them.
We Love Soaps: When you left the show again, how was that decision made?
Taylor Miller: I worked on ALL MY CHILDREN until 1988 and then came back in 1989. They had never planned on my leaving. They were rather shocked.
I had gotten married [to Eli Tullis] and I was going to have a baby and I couldn't imagine working 12 hours a day and never seeing my child. I would watch Susan Lucci talking on the phone with her children and I thought, "She really misses them. She wants to be with them." And she was at work all that time. I thought, "What happens if I come home and my kid is having facial expressions like the nanny?" I was raised by my mom and I just thought that was a really important choice to make. Eli and I talked about moving back to New York. [Susan] had her husband there to go see school productions and that kind of stuff. I said to Eli, "Would you be that person?" And he said, "No." So we made the family decision that we would go with his job as a trader.
We Love Soaps: Not that many people would make that choice at the height of their career.
Taylor Miller: It didn't even enter my mind to do it differently. I couldn't imagine not being around my kids.
We Love Soaps: And now the child you were having is...
Taylor Miller: Liza just turned 21 on Halloween. We went to Washington, D.C. and saw Cate Blanchett in "Streetcar" and went to this lovely organic restaurant, Nora's, and she and a couple of friends came in and we all had dinner and spent the weekend together.
We Love Soaps: You also have a son. Are either of your children interested in the entertainment business?
Taylor Miller: They don't appear to be.
We Love Soaps: What do they think about you and all those clips of you on YouTube.
Taylor Miller: They love it like I do. When I watch those clips now I think, "That was fun. I had such a great time."
We Love Soaps: Do you have a favorite memory or favorite Nina storyline from your years on the show?
Taylor Miller: When I first got there. That was the most brilliant storyline that we ever had. The whole séance, and not knowing who my mom was, and Palmer coming between Cliff and Nina. I thought it was the best of ABC.
We Love Soaps: I don't think Elizabeth Lawrence (Myra) would ever have been cast on the ALL MY CHILDREN of today.
Taylor Miller: And she was brilliant. We had all day to rehearse. When I went to visit a few years ago, they block and tape everything.
We Love Soaps: That's one reason why I have so much respect for the daytime actors who manage to squeeze any "moments" out of their scenes these days.
Taylor Miller: And yet you see Michael Knight and David Canary working off in a corner still looking for the peaks and valleys in a scene.
We Love Soaps: After ALL MY CHILDREN, Peter Bergman immediately joined the cast of THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS and has been on that show for 20 years now. He's been nominated for a Daytime Emmy 15 times for that part. Did the two of you keep in touch after ALL MY CHILDREN?
Taylor Miller: On and off. We exchange Christmas cards and he usually sends a nice long note with that.
We Love Soaps: Your Wikipedia entry says that you wrote scripts for ALL MY CHILDREN at some point. Is that true?
Taylor Miller: No. My son and his childhood friend have done my Wikipedia. [Laughs] I don't even know if they put that in there. If they did, they should take that out!
EDITOR'S NOTE: Coming up in the third and final part of our interview, Taylor Miller talks about her role in the movie Hannah Free, her upcoming visit to ALL MY CHILDREN and the reaction of the soap when she asked to return.