The Soap Shrink Interview, Cont’d: Ilene Kirsten On Her Insightful Creations — Ryan’s Hope’s Delia and One Life to Live’s Roxy

Part 2: One Life to Live‘s Roxy

By Damon L. Jacobs

Yesterday, I interviewed the insightful  Ilene Kristen on the creation of her iconic role of Delia on Ryan’s Hope.  Today she talks about Roxy, her current, vastly entertaining character, who debuted on One Life to Live in 2001.

D: How did the events of 9/11/01 shape your creation of Roxy?

I:  I actually got the job the day before 9/11 happened.  But it affected me big time.  I felt I had to go out and entertain the troops.  They would need me, the audience would need me.  I would infuse the comic part but first I would give them the real deal of who this person was.  Then I’d put the humor in there because she was so open for humor.   Even the first scenes with Viki were funny. But I didn’t mind that the character was so emotionally ugly at first.

D: What is your take on Roxy?

I:  Roxy doesn’t live a life of lies … or she does, if they’ll explore that.  I wanted to play a grifter.  A hustler.  Someone not totally polite.  I watched the show for awhile and thought “everyone is so calm, and so polite, I can’t bear it!”  Dramatically speaking, everyone was reading at one level.  I said, “I’m going to be the fish that swims upstream … I’m throwing  a wrench into this.”

D: Is Roxy based on someone?

I:  Not really.  I have a friend who I think of at times.  I pick things, up sayings from her, like when she refers to someone as “a special kind of stupid.” I learned the word “fugly” from her, but they won’t let me say that on the air.  I wish they had kept the baby switch story going on so that Jessica was in fact mine and that Natalie was Viki’s.  But they reneged on that.

D: What led to changing it?

I:  I think they were scared for Viki to be without this child.  The good daughter.  The daughter who now has turned into three personalities.

D: How do you deal with that kind of disappointment?

I:  Not well. (pause).   I don’t know.  It’s been a thorn in my side for seven years.  They took that aspect away from that story.  And we could have found out years later that in fact Jessica wasn’t mine, the dramatic possibilities were amazing.

D: How do you still bring your heart to work when you’re feeling disappointed?

I:  It’s my job.  Screw that, I have to.  First of all I want the character to be the best character she can be no matter what.   I may feel one way but I can’t bring it to work with me. I feel a responsibility to the audience that they should get the best story that they can.  I like to feel that Roxy fans are very sophisticated and the audience is much more sophisticated than they’re given credit for.  And that they deserve the right story.  I don’t want to be like Madge the Manicurist, I don’t want to be the one who says, “So honey tell me all your problems, let me give you some advice.”  The problems are happening for Roxy.  She doesn’t need to solve everybody’s problems, she has problems of her own.

D: I was pretty horrified by her at first.  Then it was during Live Week [May 13-17, 2002] that she clicked for me.

I:  Live week was great, the wedding with Max was one of the funniest scenes I’ve ever been a part of.  He was brilliant.

D: You and Max shared a hysterical drunken wedding, and great chemistry after that.  What happened?

I:  They had to “Screw the Pooch.” [originally used by U.S. naval aviators to mean "crash one's plane into the water"].  I have a feeling that they didn’t want to keep paying Jim [DePaiva], for they needed his salary to pay Michael Easton.  They thought they’d just put him with Roxy as the cute little thing before he left the show, they didn’t think we would catch on.  But I knew it was a winner.

D: I heard you say in another interview that recently some important dialogue for Roxy ended up on the cutting room floor.  Can you tell me about that?

I:  I remember that scene because my father had died the day before.  It’s the show I came back to do, and it was a really good scene.  Charlie said to me, “So who do you think Rex’s father could be?”  And I said, “I don’t know, it could be anyone who lived in Atlantic City at that time.”  Charlie looks at me and says, “Well I was there back then.”  And I remember watching that scene when it aired … it wasn’t there.

D: And Charlie was frequently drunk and passed out during that time.

I:  Exactly.

D: These are reasons that myself and fans of this show often feel slapped in the face over and over.

I:  And they are.

D: What advice would you give to those viewers who love you and love the genre but just feel like they can’t keep caring anymore?

I:  I’d say they should still write, and write to Brian Frons, or the heads of ABC.

D: Do they really read the letters?  A lot of people don’t think they do.

I:  They do.  Whether or not they choose to do something or not is another thing. And they should write to Ron.  Ron is a very aware guy.  He does what he can.  Every letter should be copied to Frank Valentini, Ron, and Brian Frons.

D:  Is there anything else you want to tell the Thinking Fans out there?

I:  Keep on being there for me, and I’ll be there for you.  I think about the fans that are watching.  I care deeply about them.  I’m an audience member myself.  My goal when I played Delia was to make the women stop ironing.  And it’s the same way today, except I want to make them stop fast forwarding. 

Comments

  1. esther says:

    I just love her. You got her to talk about some great stuff. Awesome job!

  2. norn says:

    WELL DONE, Damon!!!

    I loved that you brought up the MAX & ROXY storyline…I *loved* that relationship, and how we got to watch it change!
    And those scenes with Sylvia Miles as ROXY’s mom!

    I felt that whole story played as theater; it seemed so much more adult and sophisticated (& FUN!) than anything else on television!

    I also appreciate the frank talk about what goes on behind the scenes.

    Damon says: Thank you so much, Norn, for contributing the wonderful illustration of Roxy. I appreciate your support and your comments.

  3. Dale says:

    Ilene Kristen is one of a kind. If I did not know I was watching an actress play a character on TV, I’d swear that Ilene IS Roxy. She is THAT good! The woman manages to steal every scene she is in with a wink and a nod to the audience without ever letting us know she is doing it! Brava!!!

  4. Thanks, Damon. You know how much I love Ilene. She is such a wonderful entertainer. I’m still surprised she doesn’t have an Emmy.

  5. Matthew says:

    Love, love, love. Wish more soap ‘actors’ gave as much (or any) thought to their characters.

  6. Pamela says:

    I adore Roxy! Any time she’s on the screen, I’m watching her.

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