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Erika Slezak Library

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 to her.

Q: What was your reaction when you learned about this current storyline?

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 easily.

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 pain.

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.”

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