The Soap Shrink Interviews Ilene Kirsten On Her Insightful Creations — Ryan’s Hope’s Delia and One Life to Live’s Roxy

Ilene Kristen

By Damon L. Jacobs

Ilene Kristen is an actress famed for a having both enormous acting talent and an idiosyncratic sense of humor which helps her to steal every scene she’s in. But behind the wisecracks is a wise soul with unique understanding of human psychology. She’s used that understanding to create two iconic daytime characters: Delia on Ryan’s Hope and Roxy on One Life to Live. When we spoke at length recently, she described how she reached inside herself to create both Delia and Roxy.

Here Ilene talks about how she made Delia so startlingly real over her many years on Ryan’s Hope, during the show’s 1975-1989 run.  In Part 2 tomorrow, she’ll talk about how she made OLTL’s Roxy so entertaining and compassionate.

Part 1:  Ryan’s Hope‘s Delia 

D: So let’s begin talking about Delia on Ryan’s Hope.  The fans who read “Soap Shrink” regularly know the subject of Borderline Personality Disorder comes up frequently.  It is a personality disorder, typified by someone who makes frantic efforts to avoid abandonment.Delia Afternoon TV

I:  That’s Delia in a nutshell.

D: The only thing is BPD didn’t start getting listed as diagnosis until 1980, well after your first run as Delia from 1975-1978.  How did you know so much about Delia and these symptoms?

I:  Well, second to being an actress I would have been a therapist.  I wanted her to be real, so I observed those who were very needy. (RH‘s co-creator, co-headwriter) Claire Labine also wrote a great character description about her mother selling subway tokens, her father being a drunk, only getting love from her brother.  You then see how that manifests in the decisions she would make.  She had no occupation, she just lived in the shadow of the Ryans.  So she was [Read more...]

Farewell Dee-A-Palooza Week, Day One: Soap Shrink Says, “I Wanted to Be Dr. Marlena!”

Thinking Fans Comment Update:  Jonnysbro can’t imagine Salem without Dr. Marlena Evans … while Christine thinks Deidre’s “many fans would follow her to the ends of the earth” … and more. See Comments below. 

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To mark executive producer Ken Corday’s ver-ry curious decision to fire Deidre Hall and Drake Hogestyn from Days of Our Lives, we here at Marlenadelacroix.com figured we’d pull out all the stops to honor both Dee and one of the most popular characters in history, let alone daytime history, namely Dr. Marlena Evans –  32 years in Salem, 32 years as a daytime superstar!

Yes, it’s our own Farewell Dee-A-Palooza. On successive days our Soap Shrink Damon L. Jacobs, Patrick Erwin and moi will examine why both actress and character were so mega-popular over the years. And we’ll reflect on what they mean to us personally. Day One:  a man whose life was profoundly influenced by Dr. Marlena Evans — Damon L. Jacobs.

                                                                                                Marlena

                                                                                                XXXOOO

By Damon L. Jacobs

I must begin discussing Deidre Hall’s portrayal of Marlena Evans with a confession:  I announced to my parents at age five that I intended to become a therapist, and forced everyone who came through the house to tell me their problems. During graduate school people often asked how I knew I wanted to study psychology so early in life.  I made up answers about [Read more...]

Soap Shrink: From Savvy to Reckless, How General Hospital’s Alexis Davis’ Behavior Makes Perfect Sense

Thinking Fans fret over Alexis:  Purple Haze is puzzled by her treatment of her children … esther says give up a bit of mob air time and tell us what happened to Sam’s father … while Marilyn Henry wants to see her learn from her mistakes … and more. See Comments below. 

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By Damon L. Jacobs

If you’ve been watching Alexis Davis in recent years, you’ve probably been wondering what the heck happened to that whip-smart, savvy attorney who blew into town twelve years ago.

She came to Port Charles with integrity, intelligence, poise, and loaded with self-confidence.  Now she lies, gets easily flustered, and allows Jerry Jacks, a known killer, to grab her and shut her up with a kiss.  It may appear that Alexis (played by Nancy Lee Grahn) has been dumbed down, blinded by hormones and obsessed with mobsters and murderers.  But stick with me, dear Thinking Fans, and we’ll see how all of Alexis‘ behaviors are consistent with classic symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Now let’s not forget: early in her childhood Alexis was traumatized by witnessing her mother Kristin‘s throat get slashed at the hands of Helena CassadineHelena was jealous and [Read more...]

Soap Shrink to Thinking Fans: Ways to Cope with Recent Soap Deaths

Thinking Fans on the passing of beloved soap characters:  BL says, “Feelings are feelings, and if someone did something magnificent in their career or touched you emotionally, it should be honored” … while renee says, “I know they’re not physically real, but if we’re blessed they’re emotionally real” … and more. See Comments below. 

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By Damon L. Jacobs

This is not an easy time to be a soap fan.  Already we are coping with declining ratings, pre-emptions, time changes, and signs of behind-the-scenes instability.  But this week the Thinking Fans are coping with not one, not two, but three significant creative and artistic losses.  What’s worse, the NAW’s (Non-Addicted-Watchers) in our lives usually have a limited ability to relate to our pain and sorrow.  

Unlike stars of prime time TV shows or movies, soap actors/writers form unique relationships with us viewers.  They are in our homes several times a week, sometimes for decades at a time.  We often go through school and college

Respect your relationship with the person who has died …  Appreciate the values they brought into your life.

watching our favorite character go through similar struggles.  We may enter and exit relationships; we may give birth to children and watch them grow up, all with that comforting surrogate family member entering into our homes during the day.  They come to symbolize [Read more...]

The Young and the Restless’ Victor Newman In Crisis: Our Soap Shrink To the Rescue!

Thinking Fans Comment Update October 10: Matthew Cormier argues for more long-term, in-depth character development instead of  ”crazy plot-driven one-day-at-a-time crap.” See Comments below.

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By Damon L. Jacobs

It’s not easy being The Young and the Restless’  Victor Newman.  Finding love with a woman half his age and somehow getting her pregnant after two vasectomies were initially happy occurrences for this mustachioed maverick.  But when his young bride Sabrina perished in a tragic car crash along with their unborn child, Victor slid into a downward spiral of anger, depression, and even a near suicide attempt.  He made a mysterious trip to Mexico, shunned the family members who were trying to help him, stopped eating, and began having visions of his deceased wife.  

And this was all before the Stock Market crashed! 

Indeed, Victor (played since 1980 by Eric Braeden) may be having his hardest year ever.  But how do you help someone who doesn’t want to be helped?  Perhaps we would be assisted by [Read more...]

A Soap Shrink Special: The Valuable Lesson You Can Learn From The Bold and the Beautiful’s Stephanie Forrester

Thinking Fans Comment Update Sept. 30:  Matthew Cormier wonders why Stephanie is so jealous of Brooke … jefhamlin says it all started with Beth Logan … and Cherry Ames says the marvelous Susan Flannery almost makes her want to watch B&B, but not quite. See Comments below. 

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By Damon L. Jacobs

Soap operas are unique in their ability to slowly portray a character’s bad behaviors, tragic downfall, and ultimate redemption.  But lately I’ve been troubled by the vehemence of the anger, blame, and finger-pointing OFF screen.  We have all recently seen actors, producers, anonymous bloggers and even journalists engage in attack, blame, and judging.  My feeling is that many are ignoring the most consistent and essential thread in the soaps’ history:  Good people do messed up things when they are afraid.  If someone is in pain or insecure, they are more likely to lash out at others than to ask for help.  They deserve empathy and understanding, not attack.  Case in point: Stephanie Forrester.

When we first met Stephanie in 1987, we were introduced to a stylistic, calm, rational business woman (played from the start by Susan Flannery) who had a tendency to meddle a bit too much in her children’s love lives, especially [Read more...]

Soap Shrink: Is One Life to Live’s Blair Cramer a Tramp or an Icon of Female Empowerment?

Thinking Fans Comment Update Sept. 4:  Matthew Cormier suggests a no sex vow might help Blair heal … Johnny, however, can’t fathom the randy Blair in therapy … and more. See Comments below. 

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By Damon L. Jacobs

You’ve got to hand it to Blair Cramer.  She may have grown up in foster homes, she may have a nasty temper, she may soon be one of they youngest grandmothers on daytime.  But she has more than proven her capacity to be resourceful, resilient, and to have a seriously good head for business.

Unfortunately, most would say that’s not the part of the body she’s usually thinking with.

That is because very few soap vixens match the sexual tenacity of our dear Ms. Cramer (played by Kassie DePaiva).  When it comes to notches on the bedpost, she has most of them beat.   Young or old, poor or rich, liar or upstanding citizen, these labels matter little to Blair.  She is best known for her on again / off again shenanigans with Todd Manning and Max Holden.  But her conquests also include Asa Buchanan, his grandsons Cord and Kevin, as well as heroic Patrick Thornheart, murderous Spencer Truman, virtuous Sam Rappaport, struggling Christian Vega, and now uptight John McBain.

On a sociopolitical level, I find Blair’s sexual attitude refreshing.  Male characters such as Max, John, and Christian have a new woman in their bed every year or few months, and no one seems to finds this outrageous or offensive.  Heck, Asa had at

I would encourage her to take a honest look of how she has used sex to distract herself from painful emerging feelings.

least eleven wives and was considered a Texan stud.  But when a woman sleeps with a man for no other reason than seeking sexual gratification, this sets off moral alarm bells.  It seems to me [Read more...]

On the Soap Shrink’s Couch: Adam Chandler, All My Children’s Supreme Control Freak

Thinking Fans Comment Update Aug. 22: norn sees Adam as a fierce competitor … while Trey thinks Adam is driven by love. See Comments below. 

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By Damon L. Jacobs

“If I don’t take care of this, no one will.”

Does this sound familiar to you?  Have you ever known someone who thought that way?  Or, dear Thinking Fans, have YOU ever been the one who believed you had to solve everyone’s problems, handle every issue, and be in complete control of every situation?

If so, you can understand how the twisted and tortured mind of Adam Chandler (played by David Canary) operates.  Born from humble beginnings in Pigeon Hollow, Adam became a self-made business man early in his career.  He has been driven his entire life by [Read more...]

Soap Shrink: Why Can’t Women Be Allowed to Age Naturally on Soaps?

Thinking Fans Comment Update August 5:  Ryan offers kudos to the bigger but still sexy Kim … esther wants to see more age appropriate attire … Aaron says the issue isn’t pounds, it’s Reva’s “white trash” look … and more. See Comments below.

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By Damon L. Jacobs

There has been a lot of discussion on the boards about Guiding Light these days.  The shrinking budget, the shrinking ratings, the shrinking cast list.  Yet there is one thing obviously not getting smaller in Springfield: Reva Shayne’s waistline. 

And for this the Soap Shrink couldn’t be happier!

Personally, I am exhausted by the pressure in daytime (and all media) for women to stay skinny and unhealthily thin.  It alarms me to know the lengths some of these great actresses will go to in order to [Read more...]

On the Soap Shrink’s Couch: Days of Our Lives’ Marlena Evans and John Black

Thinking Fans Comment Update July 30:  Kim wants Marlena and John to fall in love … Casey thinks John is having a middle-age crisis … but Angela thinks Carrie can help. See Comments below.

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By Damon L. Jacobs 

OK, Thinking Fans, Pop Quiz:

Which couple’s problems are most like the kind the Soap Shrink would treat during the day:

A.  The Young and the Restless‘ Niki’s growing fears around David’s criminal background;

B.  One Life to Live‘s Clint’s anger at Nora for blasting the truth about her ex-husband fiancé’s crimes in the middle of their wedding; or

C.  Days of Our Lives‘ Marlena’s aggravation and disappointment that her husband John Marlenahas permanently changed into someone she’s not sure she even likes.

ANSWER:  C

What?  Days Of Our Lives portraying a realistic problem?  Does the Soap Shrink need treatment of his own?

Not so fast, TFs.  Hear me out.  Although it is not common for me to deal with brainwashed patients coming back from the dead, it IS quite normal for couples to struggle when one person has gone through a life altering change.  If one person is happy with that change and the other isn’t, then there is potential for much sadness and resentment. 

Marlena (Deirdre Hall) likes to [Read more...]