(SoapOperaNetwork.com) — Columnist Liz Smith of the website wowOwow (The Women on the Web) sets down with “One Life to Live” matriarch and six-time Dayime Emmy Winner Erika Slezak to find out what the future holds for both her and the legendary Victoria Lord.
Slezak, who recently celebrated her 40th anniversary on the show, which had not quite been on the air three years when she joined the cast on St. Patrick’s Day, 1971, becoming the third actress to take on the role of Viki.
When asked what it has been like playing the same character for four decades, Slezak tells Smith that “You know, nobody has ever asked me that before! I know Viki very well. She is so familiar to me. The minute I get to the soundstage, I go into Viki mode. She’s not like me at all, but I love her. She’s a wonderful, flawed woman, who always makes a huge effort to do and be better, and sometimes to the pain of friends and family. To do this sort of work — soap work — requires extreme focus and concentration.”
She always recalls the time in 1974 when her father and fellow actor Walter Slezak appeared on “OLTL” as Viki’s godfather. “My father played a role on the show for three days. After the first day was over he said, ‘This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life!’ I said ‘Really? Why?’ He said ‘There are no rehearsals! They just throw you out there!’”
She also remembers her father’s exact words when she first told him she wanted to be an actress. “Erika, this is terrible business. Unstable, full of rejections, over and over — you are too tall, too short, not pretty enough, too pretty. Too old, too young. I’m warning you.” Reflecting on those words, Slezak tells Smith that “Well, I appreciated my father’s warning, but look how it ended up for me. In my entire life I’ve been unemployed six weeks. And for the last 40-something years I’ve had one job, and made a nice bundle of money. It’s over now, but I’d be a fool to complain.” Slezak will turn 65 in August.
In reference to Robin Strasser, who is exiting the role of Viki’s long-time nemesis Dorian Lord this summer, Slezak reveals that “We just did our goodbye scenes and I sobbed like a baby. I can’t believe I won’t have the joy of that magnificent talent to play against every day.” She also admits that she isn’t sure how the show’s various storylines will be wrapped up by the time the show ends production in November, but tells Smith that “I hope it ends cleanly, I hope it’s all neatly wrapped.”
And what about her life after “One Life to Live?” Slezak confesses that “The first thing I did when I knew the show was ending was call my agent. I said, ‘Okay, get going!’ I’d love to go back to the theater. TV movies. Feature films. My kids are grown, and my husband is very supportive. He said, ‘We can go to Hollywood for awhile if you think you need that.’ Anyway, I’d go mad staying home.”
Lastly, Smith asks Slezak if she was planning on taking any souvenirs from some of the sets when the show comes to an end, to which she responds jokingly that “Actually, when I walked into the Lord Library set the other day, I thought ‘Oh, this is where I did my very first scene. And I saw the big overstuffed chairs and thought, ‘I like those!’ But I don’t know if ABC would let me have them. Of course, I could go into my alter personality, Niki Smith, and just take what I want, as she would!”
Click here to read Liz Smith’s full interview with Erika Slezak.
wowOwow is a free daily Internet website created, run and written by Lesley Stahl, Liz Smith, Joni Evans, Mary Wells, Sheila Nevins, Joan Juliet Buck, Whoopi Goldberg, Julia Reed, Joan Ganz Cooney, Judith Martin, Candice Bergen, Lily Tomlin, Jane Wagner, Jean Chatzky, Cynthia McFadden and Marlo Thomas, reads a statement on their website.