One and Two of our interview with Lilly Melgar, the wise and inspiring actress discussed triumphs in her early career, her friendship with Ricky Martin, and the highs and lows of Lily Rivera Corinthos on GENERAL HOSPITAL. In Part Three below, Melgar discusses the challenges of going to B&B, and how she dealt with disappointment following her daytime roles.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: So your role on GH ended, and a few months later you were on B&B. As I recall there were some pretty steamy scenes between you and Windsor Harmon [Thorne].
Lilly Melgar: There was a lot of sensual subtlety that never really went anywhere. I liked the chemistry with Ridge too, that was really fun. And I loved working with Bobbie Eakes.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Claudia and Macy got into it a few times.
Lilly Melgar: That was great, I love her. And working with Stephanie [Susan Flannery] was great as well. I was very blessed on both shows.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: How was the experience at B&B different from GENERAL HOSPITAL?
Lilly Melgar: [Pause] It was different. Completely different. I didn’t have Wendy [Riche]. I didn’t have that kind of family emotional support. I did become good friends with Lindsay Price and George Alvarez, and even Windsor. I was coming from a show that had acting coaches on set, and where there was so much time and energy spent in the work, the scenes, the acting. On B&B I just didn’t that have that. It was a different experience. We were on our own. They hired professionals, and they expected professionals to come in, do their job, and that was the perfect experience for me after GH. Wendy had said it—I was ready to be on my own, I didn’t need that support system anymore. So it was different. I can’t say anything negative, it was just different. I was very spoiled by my time on GH. I had the coaches to push me, and then had the emotional support of the producers and the team. But that’s so rare, it was just a unique rare experience. There are actors who have worked their whole lives and never had that.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: After six months, Claudia was just gone. What happened?
Lilly Melgar: I got a call from the producer that Hunter Tylo was coming back...or she was already back but then Katherine Kelly Lang was coming back. He said, “We only have a half-hour show. There’s just not going to be space for you guys anymore.” Me and Lindsay and George were let go.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Not coincidentally, it was the three people of color that were let go.
Lilly Melgar: I never thought about it.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Really?
Lilly Melgar: Really. I never thought about it. It’s a good point. Again, the same thing happened [as GH]. The character just wasn’t evolving the way I had hoped. If you’re not fulfilled by the character challenges that you get to explore then its okay to move on.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: What would you have liked to see happen for Claudia?
Lilly Melgar: At that time I thought it would have been fun to go the telenovela route. On every telenovela the lead girl starts as the maid and ends up with all the riches. That was the obvious way to go with it. It would have been fun, and a lot of fans were waiting for that. I remember when they dressed her up in a purple dress and did her hair. The fan mail I got, from a lot of gays, were screaming, “Yeah!” They were all over that! All my gay friends were routing for Claudia.
It was so fun for people to experience the dressing up and the glamorizing of the poor little immigrant girl. That is why telenovelas work. It is a story that has worked for ever and ever, and hadn’t really been done on daytime. I thought they had something gold in their hands. I don’t know why they did not choose to go with it. I understand they had their two biggest moneymaking leads coming back. It is a half-hour show, that is where you are going to put your time and energy, and I get it. But it would have been fun for Claudia to come head to head with Macy or Taylor from a position of power. It would have been really interesting.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: So what happened after B&B ended?
Lilly Melgar: I have to admit I had a charmed run there. I grew up and decided to be an actress, and booked everything that I would go out for. I got written into GENERAL HOSPITAL. When I was done with GH I was immediately written into THE BOLD & THE BEAUTIFUL. It was just a charmed life. So I kind of got used to everything being handed to me.
In the midst of being on GH, I was up for some major films. Unfortunately, I don’t think I was as hungry as my competition because everything had come so easy. I turned down a lot of things. Funny enough, one of the things I turned down was the Spanish version of CHARLIE’S ANGELS which would have been great, playing one of them was one of my dreams. I turned that down based on advice. Sometimes you get certain advice, and you start believing you don’t need to do certain things anymore because you have achieved a certain level of success. I was offered a chance to be written into BAYWATCH. A lot of offers that came my way I turned down because I thought they would keep coming.
But they stopped coming. That was another huge lesson. So I booked an episode of NASH BRIDGES, of CSI MIAMI, and I turned those down again based on the advice that I should hold out for bigger opportunities on a show. “Hold off for a series regular, why do the guest appearance?” Now I never would have seen myself on BAYWATCH, it’s just not me. I’m not putting it down in any way, it’s just not me. But the other stuff, to keep myself working, to keep myself growing as an actor, I should have done it. I should have done most every opportunity that came my way. That was a hard lesson I had to learn. I did do a few independent films, and I did produce my first film which we are currently in negotiations to sell. It’s called Black Cobra, it is an action flick.
Then I got into directing music projects. I began co-directing certain segments of the video content for Madonna and Christina Aguilera’s concerts. The video content is shot separately from the performance and then inserted into the show. Whenever there was character development of any sort I would be asked to co-direct on those segments. Then I was given my own piece, which was the opening of the Spice Girls reunion tour. And that was really really cool. For the Spice Girls it was an opening scene, I directed five little girls that were playing them. It was the concept, the wardrobe, the space, the everything. I casted the actresses, I directed. I chose every single aspect of that. The show opened with my video. It was the story of them as little girls dreaming of making it big one day, and then making their dreams come true. I was perfect for directing that, that is my style.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: It sounds like you were able to try new creative expressions when those offers stopped coming in.
Lilly Melgar: Yes, and I’m not going to lie about it. It was hard for a bit. I felt lost. For so long I identified myself with what I did. I was always Lily from TU MUSICA, or Lilly from RITMO INTERNACIONAL, I was Lily from GENERAL HOSPITAL. To go through that quiet time, it was very difficult. Talk about going through growing pains. But I thank God I went through it. God’s grace overwhelms me. I was forced to look within and find out who I really am, what I’m really about, and what I have to offer without those things.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Please come back for the final part in which we discuss Lilly's life lessons learned that have fueled her strength and confidence. How has she been able to make Janice Ramos on THE BAY so fierce? Find out in Part Four.
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