Thinking Fans salute Ms. Brier: John says, “It’s sort of depressing thinking how daytime has actually gone downhill in the time since Kathy Brier came on to OLTL, when at the time she was a breath of fresh air in a medium that was already pretty moribund” … while Jake says, “Brier’s acting chops stand out on a show that is showcasing some really questionable performances these days” … and more. See Comments below.
By Damon L. Jacobs
Kathy Brier’s fiery portrayal of Marcie McBain on One Life to Live has had a profound impact on me personally, as well as on millions of soap viewers. Unfortunately, news of her firing from the show came days after this interview took place on Soapnet’s “Rock the Soap Cruise.” The ABC publicist has declined to make Ms. Brier available for follow-up comment about the contents of this interview, pending the conclusion of her storyline.
So we’re left to wonder: Did she know she was leaving? Some have speculated she did, but I leave it to you the Thinking Fan to decide for yourself. Please read on to learn how she has dealt with weight issues, Nathaniel Marston’s absence, and what profession she truly wants to enter. (HINT: The answer thrilled the Soap Shrink!)
D: Marcie started off as a three day part?
K: Yes, three days.
D: My first memory of Marcie was in the diner, after Joey Buchanan rebuffed her, and she went straight for the sundae.
K: Oh yes. I made that up. I added that, it was not in there.
D: I have to tell you, that moment touched my heart, it made me interested in Marcie and want to know her better. I wasn’t interested in very many of the characters back then, but seeing Marcie’s response to being rejected like that was one of the most real things I have ever seen in daytime. And you thought of that?
K: I did. And it’s actually been a blessing and a curse since then. Because, when I did that moment, The-Powers-That-Be realized I had chops. I didn’t have to just be the comedic relief. They could actually put me in a serious role and I would do well. That was a really pivotal moment for me on the show because it showed them, “This girl can do more than just comedy.” It was a blessing in that they started giving me harder story lines, but it’s been a curse in that I miss Marcie’s funniness. I miss her quirkiness and her sense of humor.
D: And when she first came on she was so different from all the other characters.
K: Nobody had ever seen someone like me on a soap before. It was funny, I was doing this little dinky show downtown, and my agent called and said, “We have an audition for a soap opera.” And I was thinking, “What are you, on crack? No, I don’t look like a soap opera person.” They said, “It’s just for a bit part, just go in.” What got them to like me was the comedy I did in the beginning and then they thought, “I don’t know, this could work.” The-Powers-That-Be had the guts to put me with Nathaniel (Marston) and see where it went. And what happened was that the fans found me more relatable than most of the other women on the show because I looked like them. So I think that’s why Marcie has become such a fan favorite. She’s so relatable, and she’s always the underdog who tries to move through any obstacles that get in her way and I think people can relate to that, too. We’ve all been knocked down, and you have to learn to pick yourself back up again and keep moving. That’s typically what happens to Marcie. People bash all over her, then she gets back on that horse and keeps riding.
D: That was what made the antiwar story in 2003 so powerful. Marcie was actually thrown into a trash dumpster!
K: That was pretty gross that day. It was what they called, “clean garbage,” it was coffee grinds, paper, bananas that hadn’t been eaten. So it was “clean” but it was still pretty gross. (laughs) It was pretty disgusting and nasty.
D: Yet Marcie had so much dignity throughout that entire episode.
K: Well thank you. Even though Marcie gets scared she still finds the strength to push through and prevail. Which is hard for her, but she’s learned to do it.
D: And then you went from not working to having OLTL and starring in Hairspray on Broadway.
K: Oh yeah, that was nuts, and I don’t think I’ll ever do that again. It was hard to do both, but I would never take it back. It was my first Broadway show. It was a lead. How could I turn it down? I actually got put on contract and got the show on the same day. The only reason I could handle it was because I was naive. I didn’t realize how much it was going to entail. I just saw, “I have to take this opportunity,” because when you’re an actor you have to take it when it comes.
D: How do you see yourself as similar to Marcie?
K: I think I’m a very loyal friend like she is. I think when she’s pushed into a corner she shoves back and I do that. I’m a very nice person but you put me in the wrong corner and I will come out fighting. Most people don’t expect that because I’m very sweet and gentle and a shy person. But you put me in a corner and you don’t want to see what happens. I think the fans like that about Marcie, too.
D: I sure do.
K: Well, I think it gives me people courage, it helps them to say, “Yes, I can do it, I can stand up for myself.”
D: This is what is so profound about daytime when it’s done this way. Marcie gives us hope that we can overcome obstacles in our own lives.
K: And it’s just as inspiring to myself that they write this character that way. You know, sometimes I do wish she would go in another direction. But in some ways … and I would have to hope to get to this level … but I think she’s very much like Viki in that aspect. And it’s cool to mirror the grand dame of the show!
D: How are you different from Marcie?
K: She’s definitely a romantic, and I am not. At all (laughs). I would say she’s less confident that I am. But I can certainly relate to not feeling confident about yourself. Especially when I was a young girl. (pause) I felt really bad about my weight. I felt insecure. And then instead of focusing on what I perceived to be negative, or what other people perceived to be negative, I just focused on what I was good at. You know, I can’t change my body structure. I work out, I eat right, it is what it is … it’s round. So I just focused on singing and acting and dancing. I focused on things that I loved to do. I think that helped a lot because my self-worth then wasn’t in my body. It wasn’t in my appearance.
D: Marcie’s been really obsessed with babies these last few years …
K: (laughs) Oh yes she has.
D: Is that a way you’re similar or different?
K: Oh definitely different. My biological clock is not ticking. But I relate to Marcie and I think any woman can if you can’t have a baby. There was a scene with me and Nathaniel where I have to tell him I can’t have kids. I loved that scene, it was the heart of what that story was about. The desperation of wanting to have a child and not being able to have one … that was my favorite part of it.
D: Did you ever think this would last six years?
K: No. Never.
D: What’s been your favorite part?
K: That’s hard to answer. I’ve loved all of it, really. One of the things I love about soap opera it is that the characters evolve. They are constantly changing. The first year or two I was there it was so magical. I loved the storyline, and I also do love the baby [kidnapping] storyline.
D: I’ve got to tell you, I’ve missed seeing Marcie lately.
K: Well thank you, I miss it, too. When I’m not working I get so bored, I don’t know what to do with myself. I’m very antsy when I’m not working. But I also know it’s cyclical, it will come back. And when they do write for me, they write really well, so I can’t complain.
D: What would you like to see happen for Marcie now?
K: I would love to see her for once not get over it. To not push past it. Like go in a totally different direction where she loses her mind and becomes a party animal or some thing like that. Because it’s not typical Marcie. Obviously she would make her
Kathy as Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray (Photo by Michael Portantiere
way back to sanity again but I think that would be fun. But Ron is such a great writer, no matter what is next, I’ll be fine. He’s so brilliant.
D: Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to Kathy Brier starting on OLTL six years ago?
K: I would have told myself to take more advantage of the times when you’re not working. Because when you start, you’re working crazy hours and you miss that relaxation. So, I still need to give myself that advice.
D: Do you miss Nathaniel?
K: Well, Chris (Stack) is so great, it wasn’t as hard a transition as I thought it would be. He’s an amazing actor, he was right there, we have great chemistry. But of course I miss Nathaniel. He’s one of the best young actors I have ever worked with. And deep down he is a great guy. We did some amazing scene work together. We had great chemistry, he’s a great actor. I wish him the best in whatever he’s doing now. How could you not miss someone when you were a part of their life? Even I leave at some point, how could I forget it?
D: Even though Marcie isn’t a member of one of the main families of the show …
K: She’s still surviving!
K: I was talking to Ilene [Kristen] about that recently. She’s so sweet, she said, “That’s because you’re a really good actress.” But it’s mind-boggling to me. Usually if a character doesn’t have any ties to anyone in the town, the characters tend not to last. She’s still not connected, she just married into the McBains. You can get rid of her (laughs). So it’s an honor, really. I love that they still find ways to write for me and they’re not bored with me yet.
D: No way! Most of us viewers really want to see someone we can relate to. I wish the powers that be understood that.
K: I think they do, I think they do understand that. But at a certain point a soap is structured a certain way.
D: You’ve had a gay following from the very beginning, not only because Marcie has a gay brother …
K: I had a gay following before Marcie had a gay brother!
D: Right, but Marcie resonated with those of us who don’t always fit in.
K: You know I have a lot of young girl fans, a lot of gay men, a lot of lesbians. I run the gamut. I remember I was walking in Hell’s Kitchen a couple of years ago, and they were doing a lot of construction then. And all these big beefy construction guys were like, “Hey Marcie!” (laughs). Who would think that these tough around the edges construction guys would have a clue who I was? I’m so lucky to have fans from so many walks of life.
D: The people who read this column have a very sophisticated knowledge of psychology. Is there anything you’d like to say to the Thinking Fans reading this?
K: You know, I actually wanted to be a psychiatrist.
D: Now this I did not know!
K: Yes, that’s what I wanted to go to school for. And I switched it at the last minute. I think they’re both (acting and psychiatry) very similar though, it’s the study of what makes people tick. And that’s what you’re doing when you’re acting, you’re putting yourself in somebody else’s shoes. You may not do something, but that character would. So even if your instincts are to respond a certain way, you have to retrain your brain to go, “No, she would do this.”
D: Do you ever think about going to school for that?
K: Actually I’ve been thinking about going to school to become a life coach. I think I’m a little too old to become a psychiatrist.
D: Oh, I disagree. I think this one of the few professions where the older you are …
K: … the more you’re respected. Listen, maybe, if I ever gave this up, it might be something I’d go into. I just think, what if I was the psychiatrist and the patient comes in and says, “Marcie!” It might be a little funny for them.
D: Well, it’s a great profession. And I think you are already now doing so much to help others as Marcie.
K: And that’s my favorite part of the show. I get letters from people telling me I inspired them, or I helped them get through hard times. To me that is what’s worth it. That’s the paycheck. Don’t get me wrong, the paycheck is good. But this is why I went into business – to touch people’s hearts, not for the money. Remember, I wanted to do theater, you don’t make a lot of money doing theater. So this has all been something I never expected to have happen.
D: I can honestly tell you that you helped inspire me to continue writing Absolutely Should-less during a time when I was really getting discouraged. I went to hear you sing in New York and realized, “Yes, I can do this my way, I can blaze my own path.”
K: That’s amazing, that’s amazing to me. It makes me feel so good to hear that. And now you’re inspiring me to keep going for my things. I made a CD because the fans asked me for it. I never would have produced a CD if they hadn’t said they wanted me to put one out. The fans inspire me to say, “I can do this.”
Damon L. Jacobs is a family and relationship therapist practicing in New York City, and the author of Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve. He blogs regularly at www.shouldless.com.