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 discussed leaving ALL MY CHILDREN the first time, her stint on ANOTHER WORLD, and why she left AMC again in the late 1980s.
In the third and final part of the interview, Miller describes her experience working on her new film, Hannah Free, and the response she received when she asked to return to ALL MY CHILDREN.
We Love Soaps: Do you have any interest in writing?
Taylor Miller: No. Now that both of my children are in college I do have an interest in acting. I just auditioned for Virginia Woolf and I want to play that role. I think one of the things is that I'm kind of a "one at a time" person. I've done a couple of plays in Chicago and a couple of movies, but I wanted to come home and make dinner for my family. So trying to balance that and do the same amount on both was hard for me.
We Love Soaps: Are you both your kids away at college or still in the area?
Taylor Miller: Away.
We Love Soaps: What has that been like for you?
Taylor Miller: They both are gone as of this year. It was very disorienting for me. And you wouldn't think it would be because they are so independent and in their last years at home they weren't home all that much, but you still center around them. It's been a transition where I feel like, "What am I going to do now?" And then I think, "Maybe I should have had a job all along and then I wouldn't feel so sad!" [Laughs]
We Love Soaps: Skipping ahead to your current film, Hannah Free, you were in a play a few years back called "Unspoken Prayers," which was written by Hannah Free screenwriter Claudia Allen. Is that how you landed the role?
Taylor Miller: Yes. In fact, a lot of people that were on the set of Hannah Free had worked with Claudia. She is an amazing woman and keeps in touch with everybody. It blows my mind. That's why Sharon Gless is in the film because Claudia worked with her one time. If you work with Claudia one time, she's in touch with you. She's brilliant.
We Love Soaps: Hannah is played by Sharon Gless in the film. What was it like working with Sharon? Did you share a lot of scenes?
Taylor Miller: We had a couple. She works the same way I work which you run it and you look for stuff in scenes. You try to find the relationship. We'd do kind of Meisner stuff. And, of course, she's mad at me because I'm the daughter who never accepted her. This took place in the '60s and I'm in a small town in Michigan and my mom decides to have a relationship with a woman. It made my life hell. The children of the town just didn't understand.
We Love Soaps: How would you describe your character, Marge?
Taylor Miller: Marge is very angry that she didn't have a traditional family. She grew up feeling kind of alone. She had a great relationship with her mother and she was probably the only friend in town that she trusted. Everyone else was always whispering, "You know, her mother is one of those lesbians." There would be that kind of silence when you walk into a room where you know people are talking about you.
We Love Soaps: The film has played Chicago and will be coming to New York in December 11. Were you at the premiere?
Taylor Miller: Yes. We went out to the San Francisco premiere. It was the final film [of the Frameline festival]. It was great. It had a lot of energy and a lot of people from the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. It was speaking of their experience. Claudia is very good at that. She's very good at relationships.
We Love Soaps: You've been on stage and received a reaction from an audience, but what was it like to be in a theatre walking yourself on film with an audience.
Taylor Miller: They hissed at me when I came on. They didn't want Margo to look pretty at all and they accomplished that. And so when I was done playing Marge I decided to be as sexy as I could at the premiere. I wore this green and white dress and these red heels and it was form fitting and I went looking as sexy as I can. It looks like Marge is wearing a wig but it's my hair. They turned it this puke brown. It was a temporary color that washed out every day. I had no eye make-up. It was just horrible. They did a great job because it was very Marge. The hair was Marge, the purse was Marge. You didn't even have to act, you just became the person. [Laughs]
We Love Soaps: As you said, you have done some theater and film and voice over work over the past 20 years. How have you decided which projects to take on.
Taylor Miller: I did voice over work because it allowed me to be with my children. I would work for an hour and get paid for the rest of the year. That was perfect for me. It's a great industry to be in. I did this play, "Bleacher Bums," because Joe Mantegna called me up and asked me to do it and I thought, "I'm going to be in movies! I love this!" Of course, that was the last time I heard from Joe. [Laughs] But I met my friend Mindy and she got me started in the voice over industry. I've always been so taken care of. It's been amazing.
I auditioned for a play when my kids were leaving. I thought, "I'm going to get this play. This is going to be perfect." And I didn't get it. But if I had gotten it, I wouldn't have been able to feel what it feels like to have your child go and to be an empty test. It's real. What women go through is real. It's very strange to not have your children home anymore.
We Love Soaps: You've worked in all these different mediums. Do you have a preference?
Taylor Miller: I loved working on the set of Hannah Free. After that I thought, "I want to do more of this." I adored working on ALL MY CHILDREN and would love to do that again. I really like doing theater, but it's more nerve-wracking. I did this play called "Memory House" and it was a two-person play and I had perhaps 85 percent of the lines and I had to bake a pie. It was this beautiful story of a woman whose daughter is applying to college and she's given her life to this child and the daughter is feeling like she's betraying me. It was a brilliant script. I did it in Louisville and it was different every night. We did it in Chicago, and it was much more in control. I learned a lot. I feel like I'm ready to do theater now.
We Love Soaps: ALL MY CHILDREN is about to celebrate their 40th anniversary. The character of Nina is at the top of many people's list of characters fans would like to see return, which is why I'm somewhat surprised it is actually happening.
Taylor Miller: I asked if I could come back and they said, "No. We just don't have any place for you. None of those same people are in the storyline." I wanted to come back on the show because James [Mitchell] is not feeling well. And I wanted to come back to be with him, to be able to see him more. And they said, "No."
We Love Soaps: Was that this year?
Taylor Miller: Yes.
We Love Soaps: Big mistake. What the show has been missing is heart.
Taylor Miller: I've gone on my own time to visit him because he is such a dear friend. I wrote to Agnes and said, "Darn. I really wanted to be with James. I'm so sorry that's not in the cards. I guess I'll have to spend my own money to get there."
We Love Soaps: So how did your appearance on the 40th anniversary come about?
Taylor Miller: You know, I think they were going to have to pay me anyway because they were going to use clips. [Laughs] So they decided to get me there in person too. I've read the script. It's nothing that is inclusive. But it's such a great show. My memories of ALL MY CHILDREN are fabulous.
We Love Soaps: There are several new soaps but they are being broadcast on the web including shows from Martha Byrne, Crystal Chappell and soon Tristan Rogers. They are shooting them very much like an indie film.
Taylor Miller: How do they get paid?
We Love Soaps: People are still trying to figure that out. Some people put their show out there and try to get sponsorship from the buzz. Other people try to seek out sponsors in advance before going into production. No one has quite mastered it in terms of sustaining them over time but these three projects have a great chance and I'm interested to see if they can pull it off.
Taylor Miller: Me too. And you've just given me a great idea too!
We Love Soaps: If you could go back 30 years when you were first starting on ALL MY CHILDREN, knowing what you know now, what advice would you give yourself?
Taylor Miller: [Laughs] Was it 30 years ago? Can you repeat the question? 30 years? That's when I stopped hearing you.
We Love Soaps: [Laughs] What advice would you have given yourself?
Taylor Miller: I was terribly immature when I was on ALL MY CHILDREN and yet I had the most brilliant and wonderful people around me. It was a supportive family atmosphere when I was there. I was just so taken care of. Leaving the soap, each of those times was very necessary. If I had not left the soap, I would probably not be married today. I don't think I could have continued to be as famous as I was and continued to make as much money as I did and still be right-sized. You really have to be right-sized to be a wife and a mother. It was such an ego busting proposition.
I think I should have given back more. I did everything for money when I was there. I would go and do waivers and stuff when I was there. But I think I could have volunteered somewhere or been an important person in someone's life. I could have done something for my community. [Laughs] I think I was incapable 30 years ago of thinking that way. But if I had been a superior human being who thought that way, I would like to have seen myself as a more generous person. But I really see everything as quite perfect the way it has unfolded.