In Part One of our interview with Emmy and Golden Globe-winner Susan Flannery, the actress reflected on her early acting career and her role as Laura Horton on DAYS OF OUR LIVES.
In Part Two of our interview, Ms. Flannery shares how she got the time off from her soap role to do The Towering Inferno, how the sixty minute format changed DAYS OF OUR LIVES, and why she only stayed on DALLAS for a short time.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Laura was at the center of a very controversial storyline. She was married to one brother [Mickey Horton] when raped by the other brother [Bill Horton].
Susan Flannery: Ed Mallory [as Bill] came in drunk and raped her. She kept quiet because she didn’t want to make a big scene. Then she married the brother [Mickey] and he never knew it.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: She knew it wasn’t Mickey’s baby. She knew it was Bill’s. This story went on for many years.
Susan Flannery: That story went on until the last year I was on the show. That’s when [Bill Bell] exposed it. He could keep a secret. But you could write differently then. Remember, the viewing audience was much much larger. And, there were so many women that stayed at home then. You’re talking 40 years ago. The economic situation in the country was completely different.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Do you think a story like that would work today, to have a secret that’s held for over four years?
Susan Flannery: You’d have to be awfully good at weaving it. I don’t know. It’s a whole new way of telling story now. And I’ve always believed a lot of that has to do with MTV. It’s boom-boom-boom-boom, people have to see things much faster. It depends on the story. But that’s what I think is so great about Brad [Bell]. He came to that conclusion quickly on his own. It took him to two to three years to figure this out, but he moves stories boom-boom-boom, every three months. He has his same characters and he has manipulated these same characters for all these years. He does little capsule stories and then moves it on to the next one and the next one. I think that’s what keeps the audience intrigued, especially overseas.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Recently my We Love Soaps partner did an interview with Wesley Eure, who played your son Mike Horton.
Susan Flannery: How is Wesley?
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: He’s great. He shared with Roger how he was quite a prankster on the set. In his interview he shared an anecdote in which he was trying to make you break character in a scene. He said that Susan Flannery does not break. Would you say that’s an accurate reflection?
Susan Flannery: [Laughs] Yes, I loved him. He was great. He and Patty Weaver [Trish] were wonderful. He was a great kid, I always thought he would go further ahead in his career because he had a lot of solid acting and emotion.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: He mentioned how coming out has worked against him in the field.
Susan Flannery: Oh, at that time, yeah.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: What led to your leaving DAYS?
Susan Flannery: It was just time. You don’t want to stay there forever. I had done The Towering Inferno, so that opened a lot of doors.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: You won an award for that?
Susan Flannery: A Golden Globe, yes.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Was that the catalyst for you leaving the show?
Susan Flannery: Absolutely. I had actually wanted to leave a year earlier, before I did Towering Inferno. I went to New York and walked into the NBC building, went upstairs, and said, “Tell them I’m here.” [Laughs] The Vice-President said, “Oh my God, what are you doing here?” I said, “Well, I had a couple days off so I came.” I went to see the president of the network at the time. I said, “Listen guys, I want to do some other stuff. Why can’t I do some guest stuff on a primetime series. That’s not a big deal.” They promised me they would, and nothing happened.
Then I got the opportunity to do The Towering Inferno. And I called them, on a Sunday morning, in New York. I said, “I want to do this, you gave me your word, and I’m going to do it. And we’re going to figure out how it’s going to be done.” Then Betty Corday called me and said, “We can’t pay for it [the extra studio time].” I asked, “How much is it going to cost? I will pay for it.” She was stunned. She had no answer. And I did, I had to pay for the studio time. We had to film five episodes on a Saturday, then Bill wrote me out the rest of the time.
We Love Soaps: And the show was still 30 minutes at that time?
Susan Flannery: Yes. We went to an hour during my last year. They asked me to stay to launch the hour. So I stayed the first six weeks after we launched to an hour. The first day we filmed I did 80 pages. I was in every single scene. And they shot it in sequence. They were still trying to do it like a regular soap, rolling the commercials, rolling the music cues. They hadn’t made the leap in technology or understanding that they had to shoot it differently and do post-production. That all happened after they went to the hour.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: “In sequence,” you mean they would film your scene, someone else’s scene, then come back to you?
Susan Flannery: They would start with the prologue and go to the epilogue.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: They would just follow the order of the script?
Susan Flannery: Yes, which is how you do it when it was 30 minutes. But in 30 minutes that was easy. They would go to black, run the commercials in, because they only had one recording machine. They would roll the music cues and everything. So at the end of filming those 30 minutes you had a completed show. There was no editing.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: So I imagine with the 60 minute format you would have been there quite late?
Susan Flannery: No, we still got out. They just went straight through, and you finished by the end of the day. But I said to them, “I’m glad I’m leaving. It’s so rushed that you’re no longer in control of your performance. And that doesn’t make me happy.” So I did the first six weeks when the show launched for an hour. That’s the reason I agreed to do BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL [a half-hour show]. I like that form. That was Bill’s favorite form too. He hated the hour. He thought they had to pad too much story.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: After DAYS, you did some film and television, and ended up a few years later on DALLAS.
Susan Flannery: It was a lot of fun. It was Larry [Hagman], Linda [Gray], and Patrick [Duffy]. I didn’t get to know Patrick so well, all my stuff was with Larry. But they were all just great, and Linda and Patrick have ended up on our show [B&B].
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: You were in DALLAS during it’s most popular year, right after J.R.’s shooting [1980-1981].
Susan Flannery: That’s why people always think that I was on it for four years. I did those thirteen episodes, and it was the year right after he was shot.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: I remember when you came on very clearly. You were a tough PR agent [named Leslie] who ended up screwing over the Ewing family. There was a big cliffhanger that summer where we knew J.R. had murdered a woman in the pool, but didn’t know who it was. Leslie was on the list of people who we thought it could have been. I was hoping it wasn’t you, I wanted Leslie to come back. Why did you not come back?
Susan Flannery: I only signed for those thirteen weeks. I didn’t really want to do a nighttime soap. I did it for those thirteen weeks and that’s all I really wanted to do to tell you the truth.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: What was the drawback of doing a nighttime soap?
Susan Flannery: I guess I had done the material for so many years in a sense. If it had been a different kind of show I probably would have stayed. Everybody thought I was crazy because it was the biggest show in the business. I thought, “This is great, I’ve had 13 weeks, I’m happy.”
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: What did you want to do after DALLAS? What would have been your ideal?
Susan Flannery: Oh. I don’t know. That I can’t really give an answer. Everything you do in a way is your ideal.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Please turn to Part Three to learn more about Susan Flannery's participation in Douglas Marland's A NEW DAY IN EDEN, and what led to her triumphant return to daytime in THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL.
Damon L. Jacobs is a Marriage Family Therapist practicing in New York City, and the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve". He has started blogging again at www.shouldless.com..