Some Not-So-Funny Things Happened To Cynthia Watros On The Way To GUIDING LIGHT ... But She Never Sang The Blues
By Jason Bonderoff
Soap Opera Digest
May 9, 1995
Sometimes, a soap career begins not with a bang, but a whimper. Last August, GL offered Cynthia Watros the chance to play Annie Dutton, a beautiful-but-gun-shy nurse at Cedars. At first, Annie had no storyline - and Watros was merely a recurring player. "It felt like a screen test for the first few months," she admits. But this new kid on the block pushed the envelope in every scene. Meanwhile, leading man Robert Newman (whose character, Josh Lewis, would soon become Annie's favorite patient) gave her pointers. "The first day, Robert just looked at me and said, 'Don't worry. You'll be great.'" she recalls. "He's always so patient and reassuring. He'll tell me when I'm standing in someone's light or when I'm not hitting my mark."
In December, GL decided to see if this Florence '90s gal could make widower Josh's pulse race. It worked. Soon after their characters' first date, Newman and Watros kept a date of their own - a meeting with Executive Producer Jill Farren Phelps to discuss Annie's fill-in-the-blanks-please background. One day later, Watros was put under contract.
Back in Lake Orion, Michigan, Watros considered herself a born comedienne. "It's always been easy for me to laugh at myself," she admits. "I don't consider myself a serious person. Humor helped her cope when her dad (an electrical engineer) and her mom (a nurse) split up. And humor proved even more of a lifesaver when she developed thrombocytopenia, a rare blood disease, at age 15. "It's kind of a leukemia thing," she explains. "I had it for two years. I had chemotherapy, lost all my hair and nearly died. It put my whole life in a different perspective."
Post-recovery, Watros enrolled in community college, then transferred into Boston University's notoriously tough acting program. ("We started with 50 students and ended with 18.") She survived the cut, won a career-entry award and used the prize money to move to New York, where she landed stage work and a part in the film Cafe Society.
She also sandwiched in a hostessing job at Hosteria Fiorella on N.Y.'s East Side. Think Nurse Annie gets the tough cases? "I've had people going into cardiac arrest because they didn't get the right table!" she laughs. (Yes, Watros still works the Saturday dinner shift as sort of a standing date: The restaurant's manager, Curtis Gilliland, is her beau.)
But if you think her Big Apple adjustment had no downside, think again. "I've been here a year-and-a-half and I've had two awful things happen," she reveals. "One rainy morning, I couldn't find a cab to get to the studio, so I flagged a gypsy [unlicensed] cab. At a red light, he locked all the doors, started to climb into the back seat and tried to pull up my dress. I hit him with my umbrella, and managed to get out. I went to work, but after rehearsal, I went home for two hours and cried." Worse yet, one night Watros and Gilliland were attacked by razor-wielding youths on an East Side street. "One kid pushed me down and took my purse," says Watros. "The other mugger slashed Curt's face so badly, he had to go to the emergency room."
Still, Watros prefers to focus on the positives: "I get mail saying, 'It's like you're always been on [GL].' I think that's the highest compliment. Don't get me wrong, people definitely want Kim [Zimmer, Reva] to come back, but they're happy that Robert has a storyline. Fans even ask for my picture. It's like they're welcoming me to their family.