In Part One of our unique conversation with legendary Robin Strasser, the Emmy winner reflected on starting out on ANOTHER WORLD, and how We Love Soaps 50 Greatest Soap Actress honoree, Constance Ford (#23), mentored her both on and off stage. In the second and final part of our interview, Ms. Strasser (who is #5 on the list) shares more anecdotes, as well as her own insights into creating a a relevant character on daytime.
Robin Strasser: I left out a story, it’s too delicious. She would say, “Tell it, tell it!” She had made a movie with Sandra Dee, A Summer Place , she plays Sandra Dee’s mother. Connie was ready to shoot their scene, and it’s a scene, she does it marvelously. She doesn’t want her girl to have sex and she knows she’s messing around with Troy Donahue. They have a confrontation on a staircase, and Connie is supposed to slap Sandra Dee. Connie is ready for the scene, she’s all prepared.
Sandra Dee is late to the set. Where is she? Miss Dee was doing an interview with a reporter. She comes to the set, still talking to the reporter, and takes a little longer, winds down the interviews, and now walks on the set with Ms. Ford. They take their position, Connie delivers her speech, and instead of not hitting her, she whacks her and hits the girl. Hard. Connie smiled and said, “Well it’s the take they printed, and that’s what you see in the movie.”
Connie would laugh about that a bit. She was so thoroughly professional, but she was also a wild child, a wonderful spirit who just loved what she did. I later found out she had had a Hollywood career. There was not a whiff that she had dipped her flag or had taken a second position to anybody career-wise by doing a daytime drama. A lot of credit in the good taste in casting that show has to go to headwriter Agnes Nixon. I was too young and stupid to know. But when you think about that cast, we had Harry Bellaver, we had Hugh Marlowe! Hugh Marlowe was in All About Eve for crying out loud! “I’m not worthy, I’m not worthy,” is what comes up for me. I never got a sense that anybody felt they were slumming. Harry Bellaver was a joy. Hugh Marlowe had that face, that voice! But I hope I’ve said enough about Connie. I adore her, I owe her so much.
We Love Soaps: Did you keep in contact with Constance after leaving ANOTHER WORLD?
Robin Strasser: I’m not really good at goodbyes. I’m very shy, and that would surprise a lot of people. I can’t say I did. My heart was always connected. I don’t pretend personally. If I love you I really love you, I invite you into my home. I actually cook the dinner and I never entertain for business in my home. I felt very connected, but when I wasn’t on ANOTHER WORLD I didn’t watch it, when I wasn’t on ONE LIFE TO LIVE I didn't watch it. The one time I watched ONE LIFE TO LIVE was when I took a look at Live Week. That was when I had to pick up the phone and tell Kassie DePaiva she had become a black belt champion.
We Love Soaps: I have always maintained that Kassie’s performances during Live Week is some of the best work I have ever seen. Daytime, or anywhere else.
Robin Strasser: Ever. Ever. They should not have even had pre-nominations. They should have just given her award.
We Love Soaps: You mentioned earlier you were not the “type” to get on a soap when you started out. Tell me more about that?
Robin Strasser: Back in the day when I was starting out it was very very rare to have actors of indeterminant but distinctive ethnicity. That could just mean you had dark hair on daytime. The ingenues were basically blondes. You had to have a certain kind of look, you didn’t have dark haired women. I found out that Agnes Nixon was watching the audition for Rachel. Even though she didn’t create ANOTHER WORLD, she was it’s head writer at that point. She had created the whole Rachel/Ada/Steve Frame story. She watched all the young actresses they brought in. She said [about me], “That one reminds me of a young Anna Magnani, I want her.”
She went to bat for me. She liked that. It didn’t matter to her that Connie had been already cast as my mother. Connie was so blonde and blue eyed. So this father who was only alluded to was the “dark one” who gave me my dark eyes and my dark hair. In those days my hair was it’s natural color, which is almost black. They didn’t have ingenues that looked liked that! I auditioned for DARK SHADOWS, I auditioned for AS THE WORLD TURNS, I auditioned for a number of shows. I don’t have a very tough skin about the audition process. [I thought] “I’m a theater actress, they’ll never use me in daytime television.” Never say never dahlin’!
We Love Soaps: One may be surprised to hear that you don’t have a very thick skin when you appear in the press to have a very thick skin.
Robin Strasser: Well that’s my alter [laughs], that’s Robin’s alter in this case. You sometimes are fortunate to play a character who has a lot of cover and weaponry at her disposal. But that’s probably without analyzing the recipe, I certainly don’t want to teach it to someone who might take my place. “Here are the secrets to how I play Dorian...”
We Love Soaps: I don’t think they could ever do that. They have tried!
Robin Strasser: I do endorse when you have a role investing as much as you can in the part and leave your fingerprints all over it. To come in and give a safe choice is probably not the most successful recipe for creating a character on a daytime show. The more you invest yourself or your fantasy version of a part of yourself, the better.
We Love Soaps: Well I can honestly say your recipe has helped me. Part of why I love soaps has to do with seeing characters I care about survive some of the worst things that can possibly happen. As Dorian, you have been quite a role model for me and so many others in this way.
Robin Strasser: Well I’m delighted. I’m nakedly psychological in my work and in my choices. Maybe it’s in my subtext. But that’s why I wanted to act It was a coping mechanism, pretending I was other people from early childhood. Then I was lucky enough to become good at it and make a living out of it. How lucky am I?
We Love Soaps: Thank you so much for this interview, Robin.
Robin Strasser: Thank you. It was a pleasure talking to you, and I loved visiting with Connie for awhile.