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Lunch With The Cramer Women - Robin Strasser

We Love Soaps had the opportunity to sit down with the fabulous talents who portray the Cramer Women of Llanview. Starting February 12, 2010, this complicated and tortured family will be reuniting on ONE LIFE TO LIVE, and we could not be happier! What follows is a series of articles and features about these courageous women and their legacy on daytime.

We Love Soaps: It is such an honor to speak with you. I think Dorian is a symbol of empowerment and strength that we rarely see on daytime anymore. I wonder why daytime doesn’t represent women as strong as powerful as they used to.
Robin Strasser: I’m going to ask you about that question. Do you mean what you just asked me? I’m going to mirror it back. I think what you said to me was that they used to have stronger women and they don’t anymore?

We Love Soaps: I believe they do not.
Robin Strasser: You believe they used to and it’s degenerated?

We Love Soaps: Yes.
Robin Strasser: That’s news to me. You’re going to get me upset now.

We Love Soaps: For instance, Dorian is strong, she doesn’t necessarily need a man in her life...
Robin Strasser: I get that part. I’m going back to your other statement. I’m still going to give you another chance to back out of it. Are you sure you mean that women used to be stronger on daytime and now they’re less so?

We Love Soaps: I think women now on daytime crumble if they don’t have a man or a baby in their life. They used to show women more focused on work, more focused on achieving success in their careers. Now they are mostly about marriage and babies.
Robin Strasser: Okay, so after I put you on the spot I’m going to defer to you on that because I don’t watch the other show. Although I was rooting mightily for shows that got canceled not to be. Like GUIDING LIGHT, why can’t you shoot on location? I really wanted to see as many daytime stories survive as possible. There are so many jobs that are affected. Probably 800 jobs per show that gets canceled. It’s an honor to be here in New York, but it’s a little bit daunting that ONE LIFE will be the last one standing as of September. We’ll be the only show being done in New York. That’s an awesome responsibility. Those 800 jobs are needed because New York has been decimated on many levels by the economy and the way in which our business has made huge cutbacks.

We Love Soaps: What do you think are the ingredients for a successful daytime show in 2010?
Robin Strasser: There was an old-timer who used to say, “You only need two sets to do a good soap opera. You only need a kitchen and a bedroom.” I think...now this is my preference. I don’t know anything more than where my heart and my soul and my taste runs, which is toward human behavior and characters that you lock into whether they’re good or bad, haves or have-nots. I’m all into the storytelling, and telling the story of a person who starts here and ends up there. That to me is more than sufficient. But I didn’t go see Avatar the first week it opened either. It’s like neh, it’s not where I go running. If daytime continues to lock into the characters and nurture the characters and choose stories that are character driven, then I think we’re on the right road and we’re delivering what the audience likes. Can you pick up the pace, can you heighten the production elements? ONE LIFE TO LIVE is all about that. I think we’re the Sundance, the independent movies of daytime television. We’re the unpredictable. “Whoops! What did they just do?”

We Love Soaps: Roger and I mentioned to you that we have surveyed 14 different critics and writers in order to come up with our 50 Greatest Soap Actresses Of All Time list, and that you will be appearing in the top 10 of this list.
Robin Strasser: I’m so honored. That’s quite a field. I asked you, “Living AND dead?” And you said, “Ever.” That’s huge!

We Love Soaps: What do you attribute that to? Why do you think your performances have touched so many people throughout the years?
Robin Strasser: I am blessed to have been given such an interesting character to play. What I brought to it is a whole lot of stuff that I carry with me as a person. I come from a background that dates back to when you had to study method acting. Which was all about bringing your trunk of memories and who you are and your history to the character. All of that comes into play. To escape who I was as a child, I wanted to dress up and pretend I was someone else. Here I am, many, many years later, it’s 44 years since I did my first day at ANOTHER WORLD. It’s still opening night, it’s still like the first time for me. I did feel very flattered by a rave review, he said, “Nobody has more pride or passion.” Those two things are good. To have pride in what you do whether you’re a carpenter or an actor. And to have passion means that’s the jet fuel that gets you there, always bringing your A-game.

Years and years ago I said that to a movie director I was auditioning for. He was so bored, like someone twisted his arm and made him see this little soap opera actress. Okay, it was David Lynch! And he’s asked, “So what was it like doing a soap opera?” And I gave him that impassioned pride and passion speech. “Every day is opening night and it always matters because the audience matters...” He said, “Wow, your executive producer must have hated you.” [Laughs]. I said, “Thank you David Lynch. I guess you’re not going to give me this part, are you?”

We Love Soaps: Do you feel your success on daytime has been a barrier to doing other projects?
Robin Strasser: When you’re really busy doing a daytime show, I always thought it was inappropriate to even go and audition. When the shows were only a half hour long, and that does show you how long I’ve been doing this, I did Broadway. But Broadway has changed. Our day goes until 7 or 8 or 9 or 10 o’clock at night. On Broadway, they have to cast TV stars who they think sell tickets. I personally would love a shot at getting to do a Broadway show but it would have to be at a time when the show could afford to not use me as much. As long as they want to use me a lot I want to be there.

We Love Soaps: Are we going to see more of Dorian in 2010?
Robin Strasser: They don’t tell us. I’ve been doing this long enough that I don’t even ask. They just say, “Yeah, uh-huh.” It’s a little bit like dating. “Why didn’t you call?” You know when they hand you the script what’s in store for you.

We Love Soaps: If you could go back to beginning of your career on ANOTHER WORLD and give yourself one piece of advice, what might that be?
Robin Strasser: I’m going to give you what came up instantly, and then I said, “Oooh, that’s not a good answer.” That advice would be, “Pace yourself.”

We Love Soaps: Because?
Robin Strasser: I run on a very high frequency. It has served me well. But it can also leave you depleted. And sometimes you need the wisdom to know the difference between what is this or that. It would be “Pace yourself...you’re going to get at least 44 more years out of this.” Knock on wood.

RELATED:
- Lunch with Cramer Women (transcriptions from the panel interview)
- WE LOVE SOAPS TV #9 - Cramer Women Special
- Interview with Laura Bonarrigo (Cassie)
- Interview with Gina Tognoni (Kelly)
- Interview with Melissa Fumero (Adriana)

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 is re-imagining a world without "shoulds" at www.shouldless.com.

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