We Love Soaps (Roger): Is it true you almost came back to AS THE WORLD TURNS again?
Hillary B. Smith: I decided that daytime was what I would do. Again, I’m a big fan. So my agent made it known I wanted to come back and ONE LIFE TO LIVE called and said they had a part. I thought, “Oh my God, [it airs] at 2 o’clock [opposite ATWT].” I called Douglas and said, “I just want you to know that I would like to come back to daytime, and ONE LIFE TO LIVE has put their feelers out. I thought I owed you the courtesy call, because I’d be directly opposite.” He said, “Thank you so much. But Ellen is here, and everything is great and it’s fine.” So I came in, I screen-tested with Bob Woods, and I got the job. They died my hair red and got everything all ready. About three days before I started I got a call from Douglas, “Ellen Dolan is leaving. Will you come back?” I said, “I can’t.” He said, “But you haven’t started yet.” I said, “I can’t. There’s no way. I’m committed. Contracts are signed, scripts are written, I start on Monday, I can’t.”
We Love Soaps (Roger): Now you’ve been doing ONE LIFE TO LIVE for 18 years.
Hillary B. Smith: I was only going to do it for five, until the kids got old enough and could handle mommy traveling again. Eighteen years later, here I am.
We Love Soaps (Roger): In primetime that would be record setting. In daytime you are still a newbie.
Hillary B. Smith: It’s 70% of my life [laughs]. I was here [at ONE LIFE] for a couple years, then I ended up going out and doing SOMETHING WILDER with Gene Wilder at the same time. I did not want to leave this when I got the call about SOMETHING WILDER. I said, “Only if I can stay doing ONE LIFE TO LIVE, you will have to work around my schedule.” They said okay.
We Love Soaps (Roger): What shows did you watch growing up?
Hillary B. Smith: At some point I watched all of them. I started watching THE DOCTORS, ANOTHER WORLD. I never was a DAYS OF OUR LIVES fan. I watched BAY CITY: SOMERSET at one point. I watched EDGE OF NIGHT, I watched the whole ABC lineup. It was tough to get out the door during the day. You had RYAN’S HOPE, then ALL MY CHILDREN, ONE LIFE TO LIVE, GENERAL HOSPITAL, and EDGE OF NIGHT. So that was it, my afternoons were booked.
We Love Soaps (Roger): Was there anybody you watched on ONE LIFE that you liked and then later worked with on the show?
Hillary B. Smith: I was definitely a Bo fan. But I had screen tested for this show in the part of Becky Lee Abbott in 1979 before he was even on the show. Judith Light (Karen Wolek) was on. Gerald Anthony (Marco Dane), God bless him, was brilliant to watch. Michael Storm (Larry Wolek), and obviously Joe and Viki. Sorry. Clint and Viki were okay, but Joe and Viki were it.
We Love Soaps (Roger): Now we’re going to do the therapy part of the interview with our resident therapist Damon.
We Love Soaps (Damon): Hillary, it is so great to speak with you. One of the descriptions people use to discuss your portrayals as Kit on THE DOCTORS, Margo on WORLD TURNS, and Nora on ONE LIFE is “feisty.” Why do you think that is?
Hillary B. Smith: I guess I’m a little bit “feisty.”
We Love Soaps (Damon): Is that a reflection of you?
Hillary B. Smith: Yeah. It’s what I bring to the table. I bring passion, a little fire. I like my characters to just walk that line between over-the-top and soulful. It can be a fine line, but is actually a wide swab. I like her to have that range. You just never know quite when she is going to take up arms and fight for a cause or when she will sit down and be empathetic.
We Love Soaps (Damon): Are you that way?
Hillary B. Smith: Yes I am. Nora is a little more headstrong than Hillary is. Nora is smarter than Hillary...or at least she used to be. Hillary has gotten smarter than Nora recently. There are differences. We look an awful lot alike.
We Love Soaps (Damon): In what ways would Nora be smarter than Hillary?
Hillary B. Smith: Booksmart. She’s a lawyer. And just the way her mind works when she’s thinking she can think in three dimensions. I love puzzles. I can certainly scratch my head and make it look like I’m thinking deep thoughts but Nora does think deep thoughts. She is very driven, probably more so because of the field she is in. She’s a very soulful person. She feels deeply. I don’t think she ever planned on loving as deeply as she did until Bo walked into her life. I think that has defined her life. When he stepped out of her life the void was so huge that she has tried to fill it along the ways with various different things that haven’t worked.
We Love Soaps (Damon): Talk about a long-term story! It’s been over 10 years between the breakup and the make-up. Why are fans clamoring even after a decade to have these two together?
Hillary B. Smith: They just enjoyed each other. They truly loved each other without trying to change each other. They didn’t try to dominate. They just enjoyed. There are two different kinds of bonding in chemistry. There’s ionic bonding and covalent bonding. A water molecule is covalent bonding. It is hydrogen and oxygen and they need each other. If you break it up they can’t sustain. One falls apart, and the other is whole. In ionic bonding it is two wholes that are attracted because of their negative/positive charge. If you break them up they’ll maintain their own individuality, but the pull together is huge. Anyway, this is what it’s about with Bo and Nora. They are two individual who are so drawn to each other.
We Love Soaps (Damon): I have never heard it broken down chemically before.
Hillary B. Smith: But isn’t that what it is? It’s chemistry. It’s the joy they brought out in each other, it’s the bond they brought that made them whole. And it’s not that they couldn’t survive, it was just the fun they would bring out in one another. Chemistry for me is about trust and respect. Woodsy and I have been around the block a couple of times, working together is just so easy. Because we just listen to each other, we just talk to each other. There’s no acting, it’s just two people who are really comfortable with each other, respect each other’s humor, and just have a good time. I think that’’s infectious. In this day and age when things are so dark and so unhappy and people are looking for happiness and fulfillment and escape, that’s what you want to see.
We Love Soaps (Damon): That joy and friendship is what we search for in our relationships.
Hillary B. Smith: Can you imagine finding that soul mate? I think Woods and I both come from relationships that are that. He and Loyita are very much soul mates, and me and my husband have been together for 26 years. We bring with that that comfortability.
We Love Soaps (Damon): You were saying earlier that in some ways Hillary is now smarter than Nora. Can you tell me what you meant by that?
Hillary B. Smith: I think Nora has reacted in some cases much more in knee-jerk fashion. Hillary sits down and thinks things through a little bit more and sleeps on it. Nora has been pushed to points of desperation, like kidnapping her kid, being so afraid of her emotions with Bo that she married Clint.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Click here for Part Three to read more about Hillary's pattern of being outspoken in her life, her role as Guya on VENICE, and life lessons learned.
Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City at Mental Health Counseling & Marriage And Family Therapy Of New York. He is also the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve.