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Erika Slezak Library

Soap Opera Digest
October 26, 1999, Vol. 24 No. 42

When Blondie Met the Bartender

By: Randee Dawn

Pair A Brash Bartender (Really A Disguised Doc)And A Woman Of Independent Means To Get ONE LIFE TO LIVE'S Newest Supercouple: Mark Derwin And Erika Slezak

Their strength lies in their unlikeliness: Viki's a woman who's been through the wringer (altered personalities, molestation, time spent in an underground kingdom) while Ben's life as a bartender belied his doc-on-the-run-from-the-mob past. They never should have met, but OLTL's sure glad they did: This is one couple who, thanks to effortless interplay between soap vets Erika Slezak and Mark Derwin (who share over three decades in the biz between them) prove that there's life, love and... shh! sex after 40 on daytime. Ensconced in Slezak's dressing room between takes, Blondie and the Bartender discussed the very slight age difference, keeping the romance alive, and leg-sandwiches."

Digest: What did you think of each other when you first met?

Erika Slezak (to Mark Derwin): You can go first.

Derwin (feigning ignorance): What was the question? What was this for again?

Slezak: All right, he's not going to answer the question. The first time I met him, he walked down the hall with Jill [Farren Phelps, executive producer], and I went 'Oh, I know who you are!' And I felt stupid, because I thought, 'Oh my God, now he knows I didn't know who he was!'. Jill had said, 'I've got this guy, what do you think?', and I said, 'What do I know? It's your show, hire him!'

Derwin (bouncing his Spauldeen ball on the table): Does he have a pulse?

Slezak: We came in here and chatted for about half an hour. He was just a darling, absolutely adorable. And when I went home and my husband said, 'So, what's he like?'. And I said, 'He's fabulous, he's going to work out.' I wasn't entirely sure if our acting styles were the same [laughs].

Derwin: She still hasn't decided.

Digest: How do they differ?

Derwin: She knows her lines [laughs].

Slezak: In the beginning, I thought that we were very different, but it turned out to be the best marriage, because we're so different.

Derwin: I hadn't done this in over five years, so it takes a minute to get it back. I felt like the first day was confusing. After that... she's so damned good!

Slezak: Oh, stop it.

Derwin: Now, my first meeting with her - when I found out - I didn't know who she was [raucous laughter]! I'm just kidding. No, when Jill got me on the phone and said, 'We're thinking of hooking you up with Erika Slezak,' I was like, 'Hang on a second!' I was so flattered that they'd even think of it because I only knew her from reputation. I'd seen the show on occasion, but--

Slezak: This is such b.s.

Derwin (joking): I just knew what an amazing woman she was. And I was honored. And privileged. This is only the second time I've been in her [dressing] room. This is great.

Digest: How has the relationship between Viki and Ben changed?

Slezak: We had such fun in the beginning. And since then, it's been really underdeveloped.

Derwin: Not that we're being negative.

Slezak: They've lost a lot of the romance from the story. We keep trying to put it back in. The biggest thing between these two characters is that they can't keep their hands off each other. That's the attraction. They do have this slightly older woman - very slightly younger man.

Derwin: Very slight.

Slezak: A lot of the mail that I got in the beginning was, 'Oh, it's so nice to see that they don't just retire you when you hit 50 and say good-bye.'

Derwin: Wait a minute - you're 50?

Slezak: No, I'm not. I'm just lying.

Derwin: Round it off.

Slezak: And one of the things is the incredible sexual attraction that these two have for each other, as well as the intellectual understanding.

Derwin (deadpans): And we have it on camera, too.

Digest: You guys are going on the road with this routine, right?

Slezak: I'm sending him off by himself. He takes his Spauldeen and he goes off [pausing]. The relationship hasn't been developed. They kind of jumped us ahead to having been together for [the equivalent of] six years. A lot of the audience doesn't like that, because they want to see very little steps along the way. And so do we. Now I think they have to go back and work on this relationship, to find out how you move from step one to step B.

Derwin: That's what's wrong! They're going from one to B!

Slezak (ignoring him): They kind of went, 'Oh, this is fine. They had their [love] scene in the attic, now we can move on, we don't have to deal with that any more.' A lot of the audience wants to see that. And so do I!

Digest: Ben and Viki are good, honest people - how can they survive together in the topsy-turvey world of Llanview?

Slezak: You take the material they give you and you fix it [laughs] - and you adapt. Working with him, it's easy to keep things fresh, because we never know what he's going to do.

Derwin: The key, though, is we enjoy working with each other so much. When we go out there, we're happy to be there. And my goal is to throw as much as I can at her because Erika catches it and throws it back like [Yankee shortstop] Derek Jeter.

Slezak: He throws things in that are so charming and so sweet and so --Ben to Blondie.

Derwin: One week we sat on the sofa-- remember our legs?

Slezak: The leg sandwich thing. We were both sitting on the sofa like this [scoots toward Derwin] close together, and I was siting like this [sets one leg in Derwin's] and he threw his leg over mine in the rehearsal. So I just threw the other leg and he put the other leg over that. We had a little leg sandwich. That's what makes this relationship totally different from any other one. There's no other characters on the show who do that. Viki's never had someone who loved her, who treated her that way.

Digest: Clint wouldn't do the leg sandwich.

Slezak: No, no.

Derwin(deadpans): You know, once he tried to do one to me.

Slezak: I think it's absolutely adorable. We just have a lot of fun. We don't really care if it works, we're just having fun.

Digest: What has the fan reaction been like?

Slezak: They adore us. Why shouldn't they? We're the cutest couple on daytime[laughs]!

Derwin: Prime-time, too. They dig it.

Slezak: Of course, in the beginning I got some mail, 'Nobody will ever replace Clint, go get Clint back,' but all that has stopped. They did send fuzzy dice - Clint with a heart attached and Ben crossed out [pointing over her shoulder where the dice are hanging from a bulletin board.]. I took all the Bens that were crossed out and put arrows on them so that it became a heart. There were people who didn't want to let go of Clint, but you can't stop the show, you've got to move on. Move on, folks.

Derwin: I like getting dice in the mail. Feel free to send more. [Speaking to fans] I need a new ball, a little Spauldeen, if you want to write 'Ben sucks' on that.

Digest: Does Ben ever feel lost in the shuffle? He moves into Llanfair and it's like Grand Central Station in there.

Derwin: As long at they leave my blood on the stairs, I feel at home.

Slezak: He has to mark his territory.

Derwin: But not lost in the shuffle. Viki's made him very comfortable there. He gets along great with Kevin, they've become pretty good friends.

Slezak: Kevin doesn't live there, though.

Derwin: He shows up a lot. Jessica lives there and it's so obvious she has a crush on Ben [laughs]. Painfully obvious. I think Joey does, too. For now, what we're trying to regain is what we had in the beginning. Everyone's working to get it back, using the characters' strengths.

Digest: It seems to be working - and you two seem to be having a wonderful time.

Slezak: It's fabulous. There's plenty here for your story, right?

Digest: Definitely.

Slezak: I thought so. If you wanted, you could just put, 'Blah, blah, blah, blah all over the place and end with 'and then they laughed.'

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