We Love Soaps: Did you feel more comfortable playing Donna on ANOTHER WORLD than playing Toni on THE DOCTORS or Gina on GENERAL HOSPITAL?
Anna Stuart: No. It just lasted longer. And she went through a lifetime in that role. Having babies, having deaths, having grandchildren. I never had another character that was that long. If I had I’m sure that character would have been through stuff as well.
We Love Soaps: What was it like to have your creation replaced by another actress when you left the show in 1986?
Anna Stuart: I left the show. My intention was to go to California and work. They kept calling me every few months and asked if I wanted to come back. I didn’t really know Phelice Sampler’s work, but she was very miscast to play this part. And the press was very unkind about that. They were brutal about it. So they kept calling me, asking me to come back, and I said, “No!” Finally, after two years, I said, “Okay, I’ll come back. I’m not having fun, and I want to buy a house in the country, and I need the money to do it.”
We Love Soaps: How did it feel to come back into the role?
Anna Stuart: It felt great. I knew who this person was. After two years, there was even more that had gone down in her life.
We Love Soaps: Did you ever see Donna as villainess or a mean person?
Anna Stuart: Never. No. Villains don’t seem themselves that way. And If I ever had to play a real villain or a murderer or anyone like that, I would never choose to go head on into it as twirling my mustache, so to speak. You go totally the opposite and it’s more interesting. And more believable.
We Love Soaps: Why did Donna do things or say things that result in other people being hurt?
Anna Stuart: Well, I don’t know if you have had a halo over your head your whole life. I have spent most of my life with at least one of my feet in my mouth. You say hurtful things, you do hurtful things that you don’t intend to do. Or, if you happen to be in a personal relationship where you are fighting for your life, you say hurtful things to try to get the upper hand back. I think anything Donna might have done was self-defense. All of us are trying to muddle through it at the end of the day. We do the best we can. Some of us try to be very conscientious about doing better, and some of us just kind of go along.
We Love Soaps: I recall that the way you could have Donna eloquently say something that sounded so sweet, yet was actually so mean, was one of the keys to loving Donna through the years. What were some of your favorite stories?
Anna Stuart: I had the most fun when she and Michael [Kale Browne] were rediscovering each other. They had so many wonderful capers. This is when soaps had money to do things. I remember we were marooned in a rainstorm in this old abandoned mansion. We got wet, and soppy, and giggled a lot. There was another time when I was up in the hay loft and I fell right through this hole that was up there that I didn’t know about. I fell down into more hay, and it was more laughing and giggling and joyfulness. That was a lovely time. I loved when I started discovering that I had these babies. That was a huge thing. And the relationships I had with the women who played my daughters, I had wonderful relationships with all three of them. We could almost anticipate what the other was thinking, we had a lot of vulnerable stuff to do.
We Love Soaps: There were rumors in the '80s that Donna was going to revealed to have given birth to triplets instead of twins.
Anna Stuart: I vaguely remember that, but it’s real vague.
We Love Soaps: What was it like to work with Ellen Wheeler when she started?
Anna Stuart: Ellen was brand spankin’ new. She was more the Marley character. She was very soft and vulnerable, sort of afraid. And then she had to do Vicky. And something happened to her when she had to do Victoria . She popped out. She put those clothes on, she put those high heels on, and all of a sudden, she was Victoria. And then that freed her up to be Marley. She grew so much in both of those parts. She was just wonderful.
We Love Soaps: In her book "Call Me Crazy," Anne Heche writes a beautiful description of you “walking down the hall like the second finale of a firework display on the fourth of July.” What was it like working with Anne, given she had already been there nearly two years when you came back?
Anna Stuart: Again, my reputation had preceded me. She was all ready for me to come in. She was not able to work well with Phelice either. She and I had more of a similar energy and dynamic in our mutual eccentricities and our passions. We are both very passionate people. We go at things passionately. When she works as an actor she goes in 300 percent. She was always so hungry to learn more and to do better. She came from a very traumatic childhood and upbringing. She put all of that, all of that pain and passion into whatever part she did.
We Love Soaps: And then Jensen Buchanan came in. What was that relationship like?
Anna Stuart: That was very different. She wasn’t a child when she came in, so to speak. She was an older character, more mature, and Vicky and Donna had a different relationship by the time Jensen came in. Jensen was more like Grace Kelly. She was much more contained and quiet. And I mean inner quiet, she was a very quiet actress. She was wonderful. Obviously she was totally different from Anne. Anne was a like a big labrador puppy. And Jensen was more of a mature labrador. She was more the grown up version. As I said, I love what each and every one of them brought to the characters.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Press here for Part Four in which Anna discusses Donna’s relationship with Matt, how she felt portraying a woman going through menopause, and her dissatisfaction with the show by the end. Plus, how did she cope with unemployment after ANOTHER WORLD? Come back to find out! Until then don't miss a second of Anna's 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.