We Love Soaps: One story I really enjoyed had to do with Donna’s relationship with Matt Cory [Matt Crane].
Anna Stuart: [Laughs], Oh yeah.
We Love Soaps: What was it like to learn you were going to this story?
Anna Stuart: They were really hesitant to let me start that story. They wanted to do it, but they didn’t want to offend me. Part of it was dealing with menopause, not feeling I was womanly enough, thinking when I got older how young he would still be. I said to them, “I want to do this, I want to embrace this. Whatever women see in us, I want them to see that it’s okay, and that it doesn’t have to be the end of your life to go through menopause. And you don’t ever have to feel like you’re not womanly or desirable.” As for the young man thing, that’s subjective. I personally am not drawn to younger men, I’ve always gone the other way, if anything. But women who go with younger men I think are just as brave as anything. It’s an interesting relationship when younger men like older women. It’s all about the heart.
We Love Soaps: I thought was another example of Donna matching to the beat of her own drum.
Anna Stuart: But she was worried. I had a wonderful scene where I just fell apart looking at myself. I looked okay at the time but thinking I was not going to look okay in 20-30 years, and he was still going to be a handsome young man.
We Love Soaps: Wasn’t that the scene where Matt cut off his ponytail?
Anna Stuart: I think so.
We Love Soaps: Rumor or fact: In 1996, when the character of Frankie Frame was murdered under Jill Farren Phelps’ tenure, the original plan was for Donna Love to be killed.
Anna Stuart: I learned this not too long ago. I either read it online, or somebody told me. They said, “She wanted to fire you.” I said, “Really? Wow!” Apparently it didn’t work out because the fan base said don’t do that. That is my understanding, I have no solid evidence to corroborate that. I never asked Jill about that. When we see one another again I will ask her about that, I never thought to do that before. And she will tell me, we are good friends.
We Love Soaps: But at the time it was not called to your attention? You were not aware of this?
Anna Stuart: No, not at all. You know who else she wanted to get rid of? Robin Christopher. Robin is such a lovely gorgeous woman and stayed on the show.
We Love Soaps: And then she worked under Jill on GENERAL HOSPITAL for quite a few years.
Anna Stuart: Right. You know, all producers come in and they have their own vision. They want to do their thing. It’s rarely personal. It’s what she wanted to do, and then found it wouldn’t have worked as well as she thought.
We Love Soaps: Before ANOTHER WORLD was canceled, you said in the press that you would have left the show at that point anyway.
Anna Stuart: I said that, and I believe I might have. But if I knew what I know now I probably wouldn’t have. Toward the end of the show I was not having fun. I remember going into the producer du jour’s office and saying, “I’m not having fun. My character is written into a place and I’m not able to go with this. Wardrobe is dressing me to look like I’m from the Salvation Army." I was being written into something that didn’t even have a resemblance of who I felt I was as Donna. I was not happy with the character, and I had these visions of not having to drive to Brooklyn for the rest of my life.
I thought it would be best to work at ABC because that’s near my apartment, and it’s closer to the country. When I left the show I didn’t realize that it wouldn’t be like what it had always been. I haven’t auditioned for many jobs, I have always been asked to do things. I just assumed that somebody in daytime was going to call my agent and say, “Oh, we want Anna Stuart to do this.” That didn’t happen, because all of a sudden I am an “older woman” and all the girls my age are already well established on their shows because they’ve been on them for 15-20 years.
We Love Soaps: What was that like for you not to get these opportunities?
Anna Stuart: It was pretty depressing. I went through a number of different personal challenges. I left a 20 year relationship. I didn’t have the work anymore. I was not getting the work I wanted. It was challenging personally. I had always worked, and had the thought, “Who are you if you’re not working? Nothing.” It was a very challenging time.
Anna Stuart: I worked on a memoir for awhile, and I’m sorry to say I put it down. "Now that I’m not me anymore, who am I?"— that’s how I felt. I had doctors and friends begging me to take antidepressants. I said, “Do you know anyone on antidepressants who is happy?” I knew that wasn’t for me, that this was a very circumstantial situation and I will work through it someway. It was a slow transition.
We Love Soaps: Did writing help you?
Anna Stuart: No, it was just time. It was working with, “Who are you really? Okay you’re not working, but you are still a person. You still have some value in the world.”
We Love Soaps: What was it like for you to go back to the same studios in Brooklyn where ANOTHER WORLD was filmed, to be your same character Donna Love, but this time on AS THE WORLD TURNS?
Anna Stuart: It was okay. I was still working with all the same crew guys. And the make-up and hair people were there. There was still a lot of the same territory going on. But when you have always been a part of a company, and you know you are not going to be a part of this company, there is always a bit of vulnerability. The really sad and strange part was several years later. Chris [Goutman] had given me some voice over work that had to do with the show, “Stay tuned for AS THE WORLD TURNS,” or something like that. I remember coming to the studio and the guards didn’t know me. I had to give them I.D. Then one of the secretaries had to show me where you go. I knew where to go. She asked if I ever had been to the studio before. She had no idea who I was or the fact that I had been around the block a bunch of times. I wasn’t going to sit there pulling my own chain, so to speak. It was so interesting to find that nobody knew who I was. It was like, “Wow, life goes on. There is life after ANOTHER WORLD and you’d better get used to it, kiddo.”
We Love Soaps: How did that feel?
Anna Stuart: It felt very uncomfortable. And it’s all ego. It doesn’t have any meaning when you get right down to it.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Please press here for the final part of our interview, in which Anna Stuart shares the highs and lows of appearing on ALL MY CHILDREN, and her exciting new role on 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.