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Erika Slezak Library

TV Guide Online

Erika Slezak Interview

By: Jonathan Reiner

Year after year, trial after tribulation, stately Erika Slezak breathes life into One Life to Live's Victoria Lord Carpenter, the seminal soap heroine. We can count on Viki to always do the right thing and never, ever use a contraction, and we can count on Slezak to always give the audience 100 percent, even when the material doesn't deserve it.

The same dedication extends into Slezak's personal life. She is blessed with a dashing, talented husband (Broadway actor Brian Davies) and two college-aged children (Michael and Amanda), and is quite devoted to them. Oh, and did we mention she used to breed dogs? What can't this woman do? Jonathan Reiner

I was particularly taken by yesterday's air show. [This interview was done immediately following Grace's death.] There were many scenes of Tim Gibbs (Kevin) crying, but I was also affected by your performance. You didn't have many lines, but something with your expression... you were able to convey so much emotion. Is it more difficult when you have long, heart-pounding monologues and you have to get a certain point across, or when you have so few words?

Very often it's much harder with the words. The words, as hard as our writers work to make it work, sometimes get in the way. If you have ever been in a real tragic or sad situation, the words that come out are hopelessly inadequate and kind of cliched. And that's real. And sometimes people sit there and they say absolutely nothing, and that is the saddest thing in the world but you can't do that on television. You have to say something. So when they give you a scene when you can just really react and listen and pay attention and play the emotion, it's a pleasure sometimes. And Timmy was so good, you know.

Oh, he was. I was also noticing how long the scenes were. In this day and age we don't get to see scenes that long anymore.

They really wanted to hang on that because [Grace's death] is going to have so many repercussions, so they were long. I was surprised.

The romance with Ben has sort of taken a back seat and now we're seeing stuff with Skye and Ben's vendetta against Asa, but through it all Viki hardly ever loses her composure. As an actress, is that sometimes frustrating?

Yes, it is. We have to imagine we [as characters] have a very full life off camera, that lots of stuff goes on off camera, because there's not enough time to put it all oncamera. She certainly lost her composure with Skye a couple of times. I'm sure she goes home and throws things.

But we so rarely see Viki cut loose.

And, you know, that's part of who she is. You probably won't see it. When she does, she does it in a very controlled manner. That's probably the saddest thing about her. That's how she was raised. And even though the alters are integrated now, she finds it hard to totally be Niki or Tori and just let it all go. Viki will probably end up with a terrible ulcer someday because she doesn't let everything out.

But I think that's something that the fans appreciate you know you can count on Viki for a certain stability regardless of what the situation is.

There are people in this world you always look to because they do the right thing. Viki is of those people, when she is all herself. She does the right thing and tries to think it through, and sometimes she strays but she eventually always comes back to it, which is why she is such a good character.

Is it more fun for you to play the stiff upper lip, or do you enjoy scenes where she gets into it with Dorian?

I enjoy them both. The stiff upper lip is hard to do because you have to convey exactly what you mean without being able to raise your voice. You know, if you think about it, the most powerful people on this earth probably never raise their voices they just say it and people hop to, because they have that power. They don't need to shout.

It's funny that you say that, because on the opposite end of the spectrum we have a character like Asa, who I don't think ever lowers his voice.

Yeah, but that's because that's just who Asa is. He has the same kind of power, where he can easily just sit at his desk and quietly say anything he wants and it will be done, but that's not the character he is. He's loud, a very extroverted person.

Before we started the interview you were talking about being a mother... now that the kids are grown

Well, not completely. My daughter is a freshman in college and my son is well, our daughter and our son is a sophomore in college. So they come home on selected weekends, they come home on vacations and they're home in the summer, although they have jobs. It's a gentle kind of weaning. I thought it was going to be awful, but in fact I'm quite enjoying it because when I do get to see them it's this marvelous kind of reunion.

I'm going down to Washington tomorrow for Parents' Weekend (Michael attends Georgetown). I'm so looking forward to it. Michael said to me, "Well, what do you want to do Mom?" and I said, "I don't care. We'll just hang out." Were going to go to the zoo they have baby tigers there. He said, "Do you want to see the Hope Diamond?" I said yes, so were going to go see the Hope Diamond and do a little antique shopping because there are some nifty little stores in Georgetown. Sunday morning we'll go to mass together because they have a beautiful chapel there, and then I'll fly home in the afternoon.

You've raised such a great son he goes to mass without even you forcing him.

I have to tell you something curious. From the time he was a baby I would say every Sunday, "OK, we're going to mass at such and such a time," and both kids would look at me as if this were the first time they had heard it. They would say, "What? What?" and I would say, "Why are you asking me this. We go every Sunday", or almost every Sunday."

I thought, well, Michael is going to college, that will be it he'll never see the inside of a church again! And he called me the second week of school and he said, "Yeah, I went to mass last Sunday...." I didn't say anything and my heart just started pounding, and I said "Really, you're going to mass on your own?" And he said "Yeah, there is a bunch of us we go at 11 at night." Georgetown is nothing if not accommodating to Catholic students. And I have to say thank you to the friends, too, because they call him and say, "Come on, let's go."

I don't know how important his religion is to him. I certainly know what it means to me. My goal was to give them the basis and the beliefs. That's very important, certainly, in my life. I want it to be a part of their lives so they will always know who they are and where they come from. And it's been very good for both of them, I think.

That's wonderful. I think it's a mother's dream come true to see it work out that way. Not just the mother, but certainly parents, to know that their children have a very solid moral foundation and religious foundation.

Now Brian is not going down to Georgetown because he's in the musical version of The Dead -- he seems to be doing more projects than usual.

He's in this very sweet movie call Man of the Century, which just opened, but yes, Brian really kicked back on his own when Amanda was a baby. We had a long talk about it, and he was spending a lot of time in California working there and he didn't really want to spend all his time out there and have his children and his wife on the East Coast. He said, "I would rather just come home. I will work when I can but I don't really have to. I'm going to get great pleasure out of raising my children." And that's what he's done.

He's worked when there's been work, but there's not a lot of work. He drove them to swimming. He supervised the homework when I wasn't there. He picked them up from school and he drove them to school in the morning. He was wonderful and he was always there for them. And I was there a lot of the time not most of the time but a lot of the time. I was always home in the evenings. But during the daytime there was always a parent there. And it's very important you can't just turn them over to somebody else to raise them. So we worked it out, and he started rehearsals [for The Dead] the day before we moved Amanda into college. So the timing was so unbelievable.

Now that both kids are in college, are you sort of itching to do outside projects that you couldn't do because you needed to be home?

Oh, absolutely.

What sort of stuff?

Oh, God, I would love to go and do a play someplace. I mean, I don't necessarily want to leave because I have this job, but I would love to do a good play. I haven't been on the stage in a long time. I've probably forgotten how to do it, but "I'm sure Brian will help. He'll remind me." [she laughs]

I know that you gave Robin Strasser (Dorian) some advice during her dog Scooter's pregnancy. I didn't know you bred dogs.

Yes. We owned a bearded collie for many years. Sophie. She was old, and she died last year. Sophie had two litters, both born at our house, and we did the whole thing. We bred her to the best Beardy in the country and we were the midwives. We learned a lot. It's quite an experience. We did it because she was a beautiful dog and we wanted to continue the breed. But also, it's a wonderful thing for children to see the birthing of puppies, to see nature at its best when it works and to have the experience of the puppies. At one time we had four dogs, but we only have two now a Beardy and a Maltese.

Do you keep track of the puppies?

Not really, no. They went all over the country. One of them actually lives in Puerto Rico. I don't even know where the others are. I have no idea. I know who they were sold to, but people come into New York if they know there's a breeder there and then they go back to wherever the heck they came from!

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