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Erika Slezak Library

Soap Opera Digest
October 8, 1996


By: Kathy Henderson

Erika Slezak Celebrates Her Five Emmys
And Answers Critics Who Claim
It's Time To Bow Out

In a 25-year run on ONE LIFE TO LIVE, Erika Slezak has made Victoria Lord Burke Riley Buchanan Carpenter into one of daytime's most memorable characters. Her work has earned five Daytime Emmy awards and two more nominations for Outstanding Lead Actress. Particularly this year, however, Slezak's achievement has been shadowed by Susan Lucci's 16 Emmy losses as Erica on ALL MY CHILDREN. Recently, Slezak talked about the controversy surrounding her five Emmys.

Digest: How does it feel to see five Emmys on your living room shelf?

Slezak: It's a little startling. My husband says it doesn't look like our house; it looks like Mary Tyler Moore's house.

Digest: Were you surprised to win two in a row?

Slezak: Several other actors have done it, as well. Yes, I was surprised. I've taught myself never to expect it because the one year that I thought I was going to win, Helen Gallagher [Maeve, RH] won [1988].

Digest: What were your impressions of this year's Emmy ceremony?

Slezak: It was like a Beatles concert. RadioCity seats 6,000 people and maybe 1,000 Of us were from the industry. The rest were fans, who are wonderful, but CBS sort of roped them off, so the atmosphere was frenzied and hysterical. If you're going to have a big awards show and have the fans come,you have to treat them better than that. It was a thrilling night. Afterward, I got in the car with the kids and I went, "Yes!" I did a lot of very good and very hard work this year, and I was delighted to win.

Digest: How did you feel about Susan Lucci fans being so verbal?

Slezak: Susan, of course, has a very big fan club, and when they started to announce the nominees for best actress, her fans were all screaming "Lucci, Lucci, Lucci." I understand that. They want her to win, and that's terrific. I didn't appreciate that they yelled through everybody's clips.

Digest: Let's talk about the press coverage surrounding the event.

Slezak: Someone said afterward that the reason I won was because I have a knack for picking the right tapes to submit to the judges. What am I supposed to do pick bad tapes? I'm not going to apologize for winning, although certain people believe that I should because they say I "beat" Susan Lucci. I hate that word. I didn't beat anybody. A panel of judges on two coasts picked my tape over four others. I'm not the only person who' s won when Susan has not won. Unfortunately, that's what the media has made the Emmy awards all about.

Digest: You and Susan have always handled it in a classy way.

Slezak: She's a very classy lady. None of this negative publicity is her doing. I think she must be embarrassed about it. I know Susan, and I like Susan. One year, I won when she was the host of the show [1992]. The audience gave her a standing ovation and she said something like, "I vote for Erika Every year. She's a wonderful actress." You can't be more gracious than that.

Digest: Take us through each of your Emmys and nominations. Actually,you lost your first time up, in 1983.

Slezak: Robin (Strasser, Dorian, OLTL], Susan, Leslie Charleson [Monica, GH] and I lost to Dorothy Lyman (ex-Opal, AMC]. My father had just died, and I wanted very much to win so that I could thank him.

Digest: Did you win for playing Niki in 1984?

Slezak: No, my first win had nothing to do with any alters. I submitted a sweet scene with little Kevin and an argument scene with Clint. In '86, I had some great scenes as Niki and one where Niki was pretending to be Viki.

Digest: After two wins, you lost to Helen Gallagher in 1988.

Slezak: That was the year Viki spoke at Clint's "funeral" and went to heaven and faced off with Niki.

Digest: How about your win in 1992?

Slezak: That was when Llanfair burned down and I had wonderful scenes in the house. I also submitted scenes after Megan had died.

Digest: That brings us to your back-to-back wins.

Slezak: Last year was Sloan's death and the scenes that led up to Tommy coming out. Tommy pushes Dorian down the stairs, and Jean comes out, just at the end of it. And this year was a therapy sequence where Tori came out, then Viki came back, then Tommy came out, then Viki came back. The second scene was at the church where I tell the family that I killed Victor Lord, and for just a second, Victor comes out to say, "You will not tell." It was 85 percent Viki.

Digest: That sounds like a very daring tape! .

Slezak: It was very moving stuff, beautifully written. The hardest thing is always picking the shows. I'm very lucky in that my husband [actor Brian Davies] does not watch the show on a regular basis, so he sees my tapes with a fresh eye. If he says to me, "I don't buy that," I trust him.

Digest: Some people feel it's not fair to judge a year's work on two tapes.

Slezak: I agree that it's difficult; but every nominated person has the same opportunity to pick the two tapes that they think represent their best work. So, what's unfair about it? It would be ideal to have the judges view every episode you appear in, but logistically, that's impossible.

Digest: Is the nominating system fair?

Slezak: The system is difficult, because we're nominated by the entire academy, and how can actors watch other shows every day when we' re working? We can't.

Digest: How do you feel about the blue ribbon judging panel ?

Slezak: I think it's fair to get a group of industry professionals, judging totally independently.

Digest: Did you feel a lot of support after winning for the fifth time?

SIezak: Yes and no. Certainly, there was a great deal of support from my own show, and I received lovely letters from some network executives and many fans. I was a little surprised that ABC didn't publicize it. After all, it's an achievement that brings only honor to their own show and their own network.

Digest: What's your reaction when people say that five Emmys are enough?

Slezak: That is preposterous. Steffi Graf just won her seventh Wimbledon title- should she give two back? Oprah Winfrey has collected more than five Emmys and I don't hear anyone suggesting that she should take herself out of the running. Only one media person has suggested that after three or four wins "one" shouldn't be allowed to win any more. That was unfortunately a pointed criticism of me and it had nothing to do with my winning but rather with someone else, whom the writer favors, losing again. Had I not been nominated, someone would have been in my place and there's no saying who would have won.

Digest: After 25 years on ONE LIFE TO LIVE and five Emmys, are you content?

Slezak: My life has always been what makes me content, and it just gets better and better. My children are growing, up to be wonderful people. My husband and I have a wonderful marriage. I turned 50 this year, and I suddenly realized that I've been on this show for more than half my life. I'm enormously grateful for everything that has happened to me.

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