Soap Opera Magazine 1994
March 14, 1995, Volume 5, No. 11
An Exclusive Interview
with OLTL's Erika Slezak –
After 24 Years, She STILL Loves Viki
By: Sheila Steinbach
As Erika Slezak celebrates her 24th Anniversary playing Viki on March 17, she
finds herself in the midst of another challenging storyline. In this exclusive
interview, the three-time Emmy award winning actress graciously talks with SOAP
OPERA MAGAZINE about her current story line and what working on OLTL has meant
Q: What was your reaction when you learned about this current
ERIKA: I was delighted, but I must give
credit where credit is due. About a year ago, Robin Strasser (Dorian) came to me
and said, "Don't you think we should deal with the real cause of Viki's split
personality?" Robin, who's just incredible and so bright, said it would tie up
so many loose ends. Multiple personalities are never caused by some mild
incident; they're always caused by trauma to the child, either sexual or
physical abuse. But ABC never wanted to deal with it. Since I've thought for
years they should, Robin and I went upstairs together and asked if they wanted
to do the story; They said they'd think about it, but nothing ever happened.
When Susie (Bedsow Horgan) became producer last summer, however, she told me
they were going to do this storyline. But she said there was only one downside
to it - they had to kill Sloan. I screamed, "No, that's not what I meant." She
said it would all be triggered by the death of Sloan; they had to do it that
way. I was devastated. I just hated that, but I was delighted they were doing
the story. What I didn't know at the time was that they were going to come up
with all these other personalities!
Q: Why was Tommy the first of the alter personalities to emerge in
this storyline when Dorian mentioned Victor's abuse of Viki?
ERIKA: A young child cannot deal with this
kind of trauma, so they shatter into a personality who can. Since this almost
always happens with little girls, they create a character who can be angry, and
for a little girl, it's always a male character. The point of all the alters is
to protect what they call the host; all of Viki's alters are there to protect
her. Tommy comes out when Dorian is going to hurt Viki by telling this secret;
the anger is so great he has to do something about it, and he does. He keeps
coming back because Dorian makes him extremely angry! (Laugh)
Q: How about Jean?
ERIKA: Jean's whole job is to protect
Victoria. Jean is a very practical, very orderly, very disciplined person; she
is the personality called the gatekeeper. She filters out what can and can't be
dealt with by the other personalities. It's only when everything starts to fall
apart that the others come out.
Q: What about Nikki's return?
ERIKA: Nikki is everything jean dislikes.
Nikki is thoughtless, careless and totally irresponsible. Nikki was the
personality created to enjoy sex when Viki was older because there has to be one
who likes it. Nikki was there to protect Viki during the act, but she comes out
because Todd finds out he's the Lord heir. He goes to Jean and she doesn't want
to deal with it, so she lets Nikki come out to do it. Nikki is so rude and such
a slut! (Laugh) What Jean doesn't count on is she can't make Nikki go away as
Q: Then we have Jean pretending to be Viki.
ERIKA: Which is another tricky thing. This
is so boring for Jean. She doesn't much care for Viki's lifestyle. She can't
stand all these People touching her. She has no feelings. That's her job. She
doesn't get angry. She doesn't love. She doesn't hate. She's purely practical.
Viki, of course is just a mass of emotions. So Jean has to fake the emotions. At
the same time we have to let the audience know, without letting the other
characters see it, that it's Jean who's enduring this, and she's not very happy
about it at all.
Q: How do you prepare emotionally to do these personalities?
ERIKA: I don't know. You trust dumb luck
and instinct; I mean that. I'm very careful about knowing the words so that
doesn't ever get in my way, then all you do is go moment-to-moment. I understand
pain on different levels. I do not understand Viki's pain because, thank God, it
never happened to me, but you take pain that's been in your own life and you
transfer it. That's an actor's technique – to be able to recall and magnify
Q: What have the past 24 years been like for you?
ERIKA: It's been the most incredible
joyride. I wouldn't be here after 24 years if it hadn't been. We all have bad
days. I've come in her saying, “I'm out of here!” But that lasts about three
minutes. Very few days have been real unhappy, very few. Viki's been a dear,
interesting character that I have enjoyed playing. She's always doing something
different. She gets to wear really pretty clothes, live in a really nice house,
and I get to work with really nice people. What's not to like? It's been
sensational. But I'm not talking as if it's over because it's not!
When I was hired, I was so stupid I thought I had a two-year contract. I
didn't know they could let me go at any day. All I can say is, this is 22 years
longer than I thought I was going to be here! (Laugh) I've obviously made a very
nice amount of money. I have a very nice lifestyle. I get to do what I love.
Very few actors get to do that, and even fewer are lucky enough to work steadily
for 24 years. I can count on one hand the ladies and men on daytime who've had
that and I think they'd all say, “Thank the Lord.”
Q: Working in daytime also allows you to have a family life.
ERIKA: That's the reason I've stayed all
these years, aside from the fact that it's been fun. I have time to spend with
my family every evening. I can count on two hands how many nights I've gotten
home at two in the morning. I get home by four in the afternoon, so I get to do
homework. I love homework! My roughest nights are when they have tests. Michael,
whose 15, does most of his own studying. Amanda, who is 13 and in the eight
grade, still asks for help.
Q: It must be great to celebrate your 24th anniversary on the show
with this latest storyline.
ERIKA: It's fabulous. The reason I've been
here 24 years is because they've never let me be just Viki. They haven't let
Viki get boring, and they sure aren't letting me get bored this time! It is
thrilling to do this. I take acting very seriously, so I do it as best as I can
every day. All I can say is, if the job ended tomorrow I would say, “Thank you
for 24 fabulous years.”