Saturday, June 19, 2010

Nelson Aspen Catches Up With Louise Shaffer, Part One

We Love Soaps buddy and international entertainment reporter Nelson Aspen recently continued his Where Are They Now Tour in his Manhattan living room with the much beloved Emmy Winner Louise Shaffer.  Here are the highlights from their interview together during which the Ms. Shaffer shares memories from RYAN'S HOPE and SEARCH FOR TOMORROW. You can get her fabulous new book at

Nelson Aspen:  We are back in my apartment rediscovering another legend of daytime.  Today it’s my pal Louise Shaffer.  I think it’s been a quarter century since I last saw you.
Louise Shaffer: Has it been that long? 

Nelson Aspen:  Louise started out in daytime in EDGE OF NIGHT and even was in one of cult favorites ALL THAT GLITTERS.  She then hit her stride winning her Emmy as Rae Woodard on RYAN’S HOPE.  What brought you to RYAN’S HOPE?
Louise Shaffer: Actually it was Claire Labine.  She and Paul [Avila Mayer] had been the writers on a show called WHERE THE HEART IS. They then went on to LOVE OF LIFE.  I had just done ALL THAT GLITTERS in L.A. and it had tanked. 

Nelson Aspen:   I love that show! It was so original.
Louise Shaffer: This was a show in which women had been in the position of men since the dawn of time.  I was this manizing CEO and getting it on with my secretary.  It was a Norman Lear show, and this was his attempt to start the forth network and it never really worked out.  I was out there thinking, “Okay, I really all this sunshine and all the trees.  This is not my place.”  But I had no reason to go back home.  Then Claire called and said, “I want to write this part for RYAN’S HOPE.” I said, “Fine! Whatever!”  She asked, “You don’t want to hear about it?” I said, “No, is it shooting in New York?” And that was that. 

Nelson Aspen:  L.A. in the 80s was tough.
Louise Shaffer: I never got it.  I went in for an audition for the part of a nun on a show.  So I came in, not wearing a lot of make-up, I did the reading.  The feedback to my manager was, “She’s really not very sexy.” Now I’m a fallen away Catholic, but I just could not come on to anybody as a nun. So I just never understood L.A.  I never understood the mindset.  I never understood what they really wanted in an interview.  I think now I probably get it better.  Because I understand now it’s as much as who you are as much as it is what you do as an actor.  In those days I was just very methody and intense about my work, so I never got it. 

Nelson Aspen:  Rae was really quite a force.
Louise Shaffer: Claire and I had a talk about her.  She said, “We want you to play a bitch.”  Someone needs to explain to me why I play exclusively bitches.  I think I’m a sweetheart.  So I said, “Here’s the thing.  I’m going to play someone who is amoral.  I want to play someone who does not have a real conscience at all.  No clue that what she is doing is wrong because she does not think in terms of right or wrong.” That does sound like a bit of a sociopath.  So she said, “I get you, I understand.”  I’m somebody who goes through life saying, “How can I say the right thing? Oh, I’m so sorry. Oh I apologize, I’ll send flowers...”  I spent my life being worried about what everybody else is feeling.  I just thought I want to play someone who never worries about that.  She wants something, it’s over there, she’s over here, she goes for it.  And if you happen to be in her way and she steps over you, then it was your problem for stepping in her way.  That was the premise of it.

Nelson Aspen:   And it won you an Emmy.
Louise Shaffer: Thank you. Yes, it did, the year the Emmys were not televised. 

Nelson Aspen:  No, but we've seen the pictures. Those were the last of the glory days of daytime.  Especially when you had RYAN’S HOPE.  It had such a cast, and Claire, and Ellen Barrett producing.  I was working at SEARCH FOR TOMORROW when Ellen was there.  She was a bit of a hurricane.  An actress named Marie Cheatham had played Stephanie on SEARCH for the past decade.  She was very popular, but very temperamental, very dramatic, very lovely and funny, and very much part of the fabric of the show. One day, out of the blue, they let Marie go.  In was in the middle of a scene with Lisa Peluso, who played her daughter Wendy.  Marie finished the scene, she was let go, and the next day they had to finish shooting the second half of the scene, the rest of the conversation between mother and daughter.  In came a brand new Stephanie.  I have always credited you for this. You had the burden of replacing a popular established character.  And not only that, but no “...she went on vacation. “  You were picking up a scene that she had begun the day before.  What kind of pressure was on you?
Louise Shaffer: It was huge.  I knew there had been a problem with Marie.  I did not know what that problem had been.  I think I got the phone call literally the night before I went in.  The initial idea was, “We are going to be losing the character, and we just wanted to finish out this story for the next couple of weeks.  It was initially a two week deal. 

Nelson Aspen:  But you stayed there for several months.
Louise Shaffer: And then they said they wanted to continue on after the two weeks.  They said,  How would you actually like to start playing Stephanie?” I said, “That would be wonderful.  Thank you, yes.”  How was it? I came up in live television, so I kind of like it when everything is against you (laughs).  I really do. Because you can’t think.  You don’t have time to worry.  You don’t have time to second guess yourself.  You just step in and go for it because you’ve go to. 

Nelson Aspen:  The show was in such dire straits at that time.  Everybody was looking for a solution to save it.  And then she was the victim of, “The Women To Watch Murders.”  Stephanie was slaughtered.  The last time I saw you, you were writing sitcoms with your husband. 
Louise Shaffer: You typed for us.

Nelson Aspen:  This was before the internet. 
Louise Shaffer: Yes, I couldn’t even type.  I wanted to be a writer, but I had to do it long hand. 

Nelson Aspen:  Your soap days came to an end at that point.  What were you doing with your acting at point?
Louise Shaffer: That was when, after SEARCH that I went back to LA. My husband said, “To be honest, this is late in the game.  But let’s give it a couple of years.  Let’s see if we can rev up something for both of us in L.A.  I did three or four things, but I always loved writing and the handwriting was on the wall at that point.  I think women in particular, in my day, go through a period where if they don’t have a job it will be very difficult to get one.  And then later you can go back, and you are now solidly a character actress.  There are is no discussion about the possibilities of playing a leading lady.  I think there is about a ten year period where I was really struggling hard.  I love acting, but I’m not into struggling.  So I just started writing.

- WLS Interview Archive: Louise Shaffer
- EXCLUSIVE: Scoop on Nelson Aspen's New Book
- CLASSIC CLIPS: Louise Shaffer as EDGE's Serena/Josie

EDITOR'S NOTE: Press here for Part Two in which Nelson discusses Louise's successful fiction writing, her wonderful new book, as well as her decision not to get "knee surgery".  Press here to watch the complete interview.


  1. I used to Love Ryans Hope and Where the Heart is. I just wish some of these shows could be repeated. Love to see them again.

  2. I used to Love Ryans Hope and Where the Heart is. I just wish some of these shows could be repeated. Love to see them again.

  3. I used to Love Ryans Hope and Where the Heart is. I just wish some of these shows could be repeated. Love to see them again.