We Love Soaps (Damon): You have been outspoken during your time on soaps when you have enjoyed your story lines and when you have not. I admire that greatly.
Hillary B. Smith: You stand alone.
We Love Soaps (Damon): Have there been consequences that you have had to pay for being so open and bold in your statements?
Hillary B. Smith: I will answer that by just saying “yes.”
We Love Soaps (Damon): If you could go back and do things differently, would you?
Hillary B. Smith: One would like to say, “Yes I would do things differently.” No, I probably wouldn’t. I think with maturity there comes the understanding that it’s not just about this. I’ll give you an example. When Bo and Nora kidnapped their son and went to England, I fought it. Because I didn’t feel that the District Attorney and the Commissioner of Police would be so blatantly disregarding of the law. But when it was explained to me with the legal loopholes, I thought, “Okay, Nora probably would have come up with that.” And also there a was a bigger picture. There was a story that involved other aspects of Llanview that needed to be done. And you know what, it has to be about the play. From that standpoint, we just do it the best way we can, we cover as many bases as we can, and we give good motivation, and other than it’s all about the play.
We Love Soaps (Damon): Much to your credit, I think your commitment to that story made it work for me. I bought it because Nora believed she was doing the right thing.
Hillary B. Smith: And if you remember, before she got on the plane, she got on her knees and begged the doctor, who she fought, to do the surgery. When he refused she went down the hallway and completely collapsed. That’s when Bo stepped in and said, “I have an idea.” At that moment she completely put her faith into him. That whole story line was the build of that relationship and how they had yin and yanged so well. She totally put her trust into him.
We Love Soaps (Damon): Let’s talk about VENICE. I wanted to congratulate you again on your Indie Soap nomination for Best Performance In A Comedic Role. How did VENICE come about for you?
Hillary B. Smith: GUIDING LIGHT was shooting in New Jersey. And I lived close to the town where they were shooting. Crystal [Chappell] would come and stay with us when [she and her husband] were thinking about coming back to New York. They had been in Los Angeles and were thinking about coming back to New York. She would come and stay with me at the house. Then they were thinking about bringing the kids out. I convinced her to come out and move where I was. The school system is good, and I would have my buddy. Then when it was announced that GUIDING LIGHT was going off the air, her family moved back and she moved in with me. It was great having her there, she is such a wonderful soulful presence. So she was talking to me about this. She was talking about the role of [Gina's] mother. I said, “I’ll play your mother.” She said, “You can’t play my mother.” I said, “Yeah I can, why couldn’t I?” She said, “Well, there is a spiritual advisor.” I said, “Perfect.” She said, “It’s just a little part.” I said, “Fine! I don’t care, I would love to do something like that.”
We Love Soaps (Damon): What made you want to do it?
Hillary B. Smith: Because I just want to applaud someone for going out and following a dream. I also loved the philosophy of what she was doing, it was a gift to the fans. I thought that was really generous of her. She was doing this from her own pocket, her own creative juices were going. You support people like that! Plus she is so talented, and I just love this woman. So then I met Kim Turrisi who wrote it, and we had a great time. They mentioned Guya. I just started going off and being Guya. And then the part just kind of grew.
We Love Soaps (Damon): Tell us about Guya.
Hillary B. Smith: Guya is a blast. She is soulful. She is a mama bear who loves her babies. And that’s the one thing I have brought to Nora that is about Hillary. I love my family. My kids come first. And I am passionate about my friends. My friends and my family are everything. So that’s Guya. Owen [Galen Gering] and Gina are her babies. Her sister was their mother and her sister died in a car accident. Guya just envelopes them. Their father, the Colonel [Jordan Clarke] isn’t a warm and fuzzy man. So Guya stepped in and they became her babies. She loves those kids more than anything else in the world. Her marriage fell apart because her husband was fooling around on her. He was a big studio executive. She led that highfalutin life and she went, “That doesn’t mean anything, and you don’t mean anything.” She moved out to Venice to be near her babies, to open up her spiritual store, and now she’s there on the beach. She reads crystal and she drinks in people, literally. She’s a toucher and a sniffer.
We Love Soaps (Damon): Did Tina Sloan know you were going to that far with her in that scene?
Hillary B. Smith: No. The first time she did it she said [yelling], “Oh my God, oh my God.” I love Tina so it was very funny to watch her do that. Again, that’s the beauty of working with someone who is a vet, who is very sure, who knows exactly what her part is. You come in with another character and there is no overlapping, just one character reacting to another character. That’s what makes a good scene.
We Love Soaps (Damon): Is there anything that Roger and I have not asked you that you want our readers to know about you?
Hillary B. Smith: I’m kind of a jock. I used to compete in tennis, I still do compete in paddle tennis in the leagues. It’s the greatest outdoor sport in the middle of winter, on an elevated platform in a chicken wire cage. It’s terrific. And I play golf. I do a lot of sports, most people don’t know that about me.
We Love Soaps (Damon): You are in great shape!
Hillary B. Smith: Oh you. I used to be book smart. I used to study genetics. I worked on a research project when I was 17-years-old studying phenylketounuria.
We Love Soaps (Damon): What is that?
Hillary B. Smith: It’s the inability of the body to process phenylalanine, which is an essential amino acid. If you look on soda cans they will say, “Attention phenylketonurics: contains phenylalanie.” It was the cause of mental retardation. I got went to Sarah Lawrence and was getting my Masters in Genetics at the same time I was getting my B.A.
We Love Soaps (Damon): Wow, impressive! In this long career you have had many ups and downs, yet you appear peaceful and calm. How have you gotten to this place?
Hillary B. Smith: I have always lived by the credo that everything happens for a reason, and everything happens for the best. I trust in that, believe in that. A lot of people fight change. But life is like a river taking you downstream. If you keep paddling upstream to stay with what you know, you are going to miss a lot of the journey. I used to fight and paddle upstream to stay with what I know. I didn’t trust the journey down. Now I have found that letting go and letting God, going down the river, that there are a lot of fabulous things yet to come. It’s trying to stay within what I can control and to be at peace with that.
Hillary B. Smith: Also, I’ve raised these two kids, and these two kids are now out on their own in life. When you’re taking care of them and raising them and nurturing them, there’s so much of that nurture-control, trying to make things right, giving them the best you possibly can. So when they are out of the house and gone, there is a sort of letting down, and relaxation, and okay, they’re off, I’ve done the best I can. Now it’s just gravy. It’s not a lesson that lands and stays forever, it’s a process. I say to my kids all the time, “Life is full of mistakes. You will never ever be defined by your mistake. You will be defined by what you learn from that mistake, and how you apply it to your life. So don’t be afraid to live, don’t be afraid to make mistakes, just make sure you learn from them and carry them over.”
EDITOR'S NOTE: Thank you for reading this transcribed interview. To watch the complete interview with Hillary B. Smith please go to We Love Soaps TV #13.
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.