Tune in Tomorrow
March 17, 1981
NEW YORK - How could you not trust a sweet-talking man with baby-blue eyes, a baby face, and a flashing smile that reveals baby dimples? Get to know a guy like Ross Marler on GUIDING LIGHT and you'll know the answer.
As Jerry verDorn, who originated the role two years ago, says, "There's nothing more terrifying than a cute little boy who could, conceivably, set fire to your house. On the other hand, I think Ross has become a popular character because he's not totally ruthless. Despite the overwhelming ambitiousness that rules his life, he's capable of being vulnerable and of feeling guilt. Of course, he usually doesn't feel a sense of morality except in retrospect, after his actions have hurt others. And he's also capable of vacillating between the virtues of a 'good' woman like Eve and a destructive woman like Vanessa. The audience loves being kept in suspense whether and how he'll finally see the light."
Jerry was born in Sioux Falls, S.D., the son of a motor company salesman who moved to Fargo, N.D. Jerry's mother passed away a year ago, but was able to brag about her son's success on "GL" before her death. Jerry attended Morehead State University in Minnesota with "a vague idea of becoming an English teacher." But drama caught the young student's fancy and for the next seven years he took undergraduate courses "which never led to a degree because I bounced around from one theatre production to another. I was, perhaps, the oldest living non-graduate," says Jerry.
After studying at Studio 68 in England with Sean Connery and appearing in featured roles at Folger Theatre in Washington, D.C., Jerry came to New York in 1976 with his wife, Beth, a drama student he met while judging a speech contest. "Thank God, I gave her very high marks," laughs Jerry.
In New York, Jerry painted houses and worked for a trucking company while Beth toiled in theater management before switching to teaching English as a second language. After six months in the Big Apple, Jerry was being sought for modeling and commercial assignments. He still makes "extra" bucks with the occasional commercial jobs and could have made a healthy living in that field. Then he was cast in the original off-Broadway production of "Are you Now Or Have You Ever Been?" a dramatized examination of the McCarthy-era witch hunts in the entertainment media.
"Everyone else in the show played well-known celebrities and everyone from Liza Minnelli to Peggy Cass 'guest-starred' on a weekly basis in the Lillian Helman role. But I was the investigator, the most difficult part because it consisted entirely of asking questions, a trait that nevertheless came in handing during Ross's recent prosecution of Jennifer on 'GL,' remembers the actor.
While appearing in that off-Broadway play, Jerry understudied George Grizzard and acted matinees in Broadway's "Man and Superman," where he was spotted by a "GL" casting agent.
Jerry is one of those rare actors who is seemingly oblivious of his head-turning good looks, which, fortunately, haven't typecast him in the "pretty boy mold."
"I enjoy the recognition from the soap, even though I had to get a private telephone number after a string of midnight calls from viewers warning me not to 'ruin Eve.' But superstardom is not my goal. The work is what's important and I suppose that comes from the strong Dutch-German work ethic in which I was raised.