In Parts One and Two, Three, and Four of our interview with Anna Stuart, the beloved legend shared her personal insights and professional anecdotes about working on daytime for nearly 40 years on THE DOCTORS, GENERAL HOSPITAL, and ANOTHER WORLD. In this final part, Anna Stuart discusses her experiences working on ALL MY CHILDREN, GOTHAM, thoughts about the future of soaps on the internet.
We Love Soaps: Tell me about your work on ALL MY CHILDREN.
Anna Stuart: That was a totally different experience from what I had before.
We Love Soaps: What was it like?
Anna Stuart: [Pause] I was a well established player coming into a well established company, which meant I was very much of an outsider. And the fact that I wasn’t on contract...they didn’t want to interview me. The P.R. person at that time wouldn’t even speak to me. He would walk right past me and welcome the next person with great big smiles, it’s like I didn’t exist. It was just a very different environment. There were egos there. We didn’t have a lot of egos out in Brooklyn [on ANOTHER WORLD] and if you did you paid. That’s just not the way we worked out there. We were actors out in Brooklyn, we weren’t about the ego thing. It was a very different set. But I love my crew guys, they are the ones you want to be friendly with. They are the ones who, after all, are the bottom line. If a crew guy actually likes what you are doing there on that set, or likes the way you look, you’re in. They’ll be honest with you. Again, I found my way. I found the people I liked the most, that I resonated with the most, and I had fun. You find the good corners and nestle in them.
We Love Soaps: Did it help at all when Mark Pinter was hired to play your husband?
Anna Stuart: It’s not a question of "help". I wasn’t miserable at all. It was lovely to work with him though. I enjoyed working with everybody.
We Love Soaps: Are there any plans for Mary to come back now that Greelee [Rebecca Budig] is alive?
Anna Stuart: I hope they’ll call me and have me come out. But I don’t know if they’ll discuss that at some point once they get settled. I think they should. As long as they have Greenlee on there, and as long as they have established Greenlee with a mother, it would be behoove them to bring her around now and again.
We Love Soaps: Especially after your last appearance.
Anna Stuart: Yes, I showed rather a human side after she died. But whenever somebody asks an actor, “So what are you doing”, they want to know what you’re working on, not what you’re doing. I finally got past that one by saying, “I’m doing nothing that I don’t want to be doing. [Laughs] Absolutely nothing I don’t want to be doing.” David Forsyth [ex-John, AW] and I have a wonderful two character play we’re working on and want to get off the ground. It’s a terrific play.
We Love Soaps: Of course we know now that you are working on something these days that many of us are excited about. How did your part as Elizabeth on GOTHAM come about for you?
Anna Stuart: They called me. Martha [Byrne] called me and said, “Do you want to be a part of this?” I said, “Sure, why not?”
We Love Soaps: What was it like for you to get that call and find out that Martha wanted you involved in this labor of love?
Anna Stuart: This is the part that doesn’t march to my own drum. I thought, “Why is she calling me? Linda Dano would be much better for this part. Linda must not have been able to do it. Or the person they really wanted couldn’t do it, they didn’t really want me.” I finally thought, “Well, okay, I guess, okay.” I kept saying, “Okay, they asked me to do it, so I guess I’ll go do it.” It was great. Those first few episodes we shot last month. It was good to have everyone familiar around me, hair and make-up and wardrobe. It’s always good to work with people that you know.
We Love Soaps: And we know Maeve Kinkead is in GOTHAM. Will you two be sharing any scenes?
Anna Stuart: We have to. There has to be something, because it’s a very antagonistic relationship for these characters, acquaintances. Whatever they have, it ain't good.
We Love Soaps: With daytime television floundering, how do you feel about the internet becoming the new area where continuing stories can flourish?
Anna Stuart: I think it’s fascinating. I’m not one of those [computer] people, I don’t do all those things. But I’m aware that people live by them. They live by their Blackberries, they live by their cell phones. That’s how people live now. If you don’t have all that in place, you’re nobody. Lisa Brown was just saying to me that even when there’s lots of money coming in from sponsors, the episodes still won’t be that long. It won’t be like sitting down at the television and watching your hour long soap. This will be people getting them on their Blackberry while they are on their way home. I just think it’s fascinating and I’m thrilled there is so much support from the daytime community.
We Love Soaps: And you get to work with Matt Crane again.
Anna Stuart: I’m not sure if I do or not, but he is certainly on board. I don’t know if we will have doings or not.
We Love Soaps: Is there anything you can preview for us about what’s coming up for you on GOTHAM?
Anna Stuart: Absolutely not. I don’t know! I’ve just shot two episodes, and I’m about to shoot another one. I know [Martha] is a smart cookie and a good business woman. She’s got her vulnerabilities. I haven’t developed the character yet, she hasn’t been developed yet.
We Love Soaps: What is it like to walk into a completely blank slate in such a new entertainment medium?
Anna Stuart: It’s exciting, and it’s also horrifying. It’s nerve-wracking because when I went into those episodes last month, I didn’t know who she was. I wasn’t sure where I was coming from. It’s anxiety producing, as well as exciting.
We Love Soaps: For us long-term soap fans, it’s exciting to see GOTHAM and other show picking up creatively where networks have dropped the ball creatively.
Anna Stuart: They don’t want to, but it’s happening. It seems that the [web series] are being forced to go back to the beginnings of daytime where it was about relationships. It wasn’t about fanfare, it wasn’t about all the glitter around it. I mean, the great big party scenes, all these crazy episodes. This is more about relationships. The good guy versus the bad guy, the little bit of mystery. It’s back down to the basics, to the most important part.
We Love Soaps: I just love speaking with you Anna. Is there anything I haven’t asked you that you would like to share with our readers?
Anna Stuart: Just have an open mind and be supportive of our new venture. Thank you for your devotion all these years. Without the fans we wouldn’t be anybody.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Thanking you for reading! And please enjoy Anna on new episodes of GOTHAM.
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.