By Michael Fairman
Originally published on Advocate.com November 12 2009 3:30 PM ET
On One Life to Live, Victoria Lord Banks is having one bad week. First, in her run for mayor of Llanview she may have trouble swinging the all-important gay vote, which her archnemesis Dorian seems to have cultivated by lying and saying she is gay. Now, with the votes in and the count "even steven," could it be the city’s most respected citizen might wind up giving her concession speech?
But all of that is nothing compared to Viki’s family drama. Her daughters, Natalie and Jessica, along with her son-in-law Jared, have been lured to Napa by Viki’s former rapist and devil incarnate, Mitch Laurence. As a shot rings out, poor Jared takes a bullet, which jump-starts Viki into action to protect the ones she loves. In tomorrow's and upcoming episodes, viewers. prepare for some 10-hankie moments!
Taking out the hankies is commonplace when watching Erika Slezak’s gut-wrenching and magnificent performances as Viki. After more than 38 years with the series, she is a bona fide daytime legend, and for the first time, the actress speaks with Advocate.com and addresses her legions of gay fans. The six-time Daytime Emmy award-winning actress chats about all things One Life, including Kish’s gay storyline, Viki’s battle with multiple personality disorder, and a look at what’s next for one of soaps' favorite heroines. Erika also opens up about her support of a causes dear to the LGBT community, namely the issue of same-sex marriage and equality.
Advocate.com: Viki is neck and neck with her nemesis Dorian in the Llanview mayoral race, and the results will be in on Monday’s episode. But this is not Viki’s first time running for mayor. She won previously but then had a stroke and multiple personality in the middle of her term. What did you think when they told you Viki was running for mayor again?
Erika Slezak: When I heard I was going to run for mayor, I went, What is going to happen this time? The race is close and Markko votes for me and he thinks it’s because of him that I may have won, and he feels guilty because now his girlfriend and Dorian’s daughter, Langston, won’t speak to him. In the meantime, terrible things are happening.
I thought it was brilliant how head writer Ron Carlivati used the gay vote as a pivotal part of the election!
When they introduced the gay story, and the fact that Oliver Fish was in the closet this whole time, and Kyle was a little bit, and then they bring Nick in who is working for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance of Llanview ... I thought it was brilliant! Nick forces the other two to force their hand and say, “Tell us who you are.” I watched last Friday’s episode when they started the same-sex weddings, and it was terrific! The world is populated by all kinds of people, so let’s show it. What pissed me off in Maine ... my God, what did they do up there? To repeal gay rights for same-sex marriage ... it’s idiotic! Who cares what people do together as long as they are happy? I don’t get the big difference between marriage, civil union, and living together, and I am Catholic. Marriage means you commit to each other and there is a piece of paper that says, “I want to be with you forever,” or as long as we love each other.
It’s not only the symbol of marriage but that same-sex couples should have legal domestic-partnership rights.
Marriage is the only thing that can really do that, although there are some states that will recognize civil unions and give partners the same rights and health benefits, etc. But marriage sort of seals it, and if you want to get married, you should. I am very liberal there. I was so upset when I picked up the New York Post recently and read that a cab driver had two guys who were partners in his cab around 10:30 at night. This was down in the East Village. These guys were at a friend’s house for dinner and they were going home. He went two blocks and the cab driver looked in the rearview mirror and saw the two guys hugging. And he stopped the cab and told them to get out! And he said, “There is no hugging in this cab.” They were just appalled, and thank goodness they lodged a complaint because that is so illegal, and it's just narrow-minded thinking.
As someone who has seen and played it all, what do you think of how the Kish story line is being played out?
I think it’s sweet and very nice. I think it’s being handled unbelievably tastefully. We do not want to see out-and-out sex between anybody, straight or gay. When they do that between Blair and whatever man she is after, I go, "Oh, no, please. I don’t want to see that!" But I think this story is being handled tastefully. I was a little bit weirded out by Dorian deciding to marry her campaign manager, Amelia. Robin Strasser [Dorian] was weirded out by it a bit. But she said, “No. I am going to play it.” What you have to realize at the end of the day, it’s Dorian who will do anything for anything. She needs to get elected, and so she thinks, Yup. I’ll become gay. Then, of course, she turns right around afterward and goes, “OK, I am not gay!” Then she tries to run off with David. If they get together, that really depends on how free Tuc Watkins [David] is from Desperate Housewives. [Laughs] Amelia at one point acknowledges that she has a partner she has been with forever, and the whole thing was just to get Dorian elected and to bring up the issue of gay rights.
What did you think about how Dorian was sticking it to Viki by saying she was gay?
In one show Viki went over to her and said, “I can’t go to the final debate because my family is in crisis. Are you still going through with this?” She says, “Yes, and I am going to be the first openly gay mayor.” I yell at her and I say, “You know, Dorian, there are lots and lots of people out there who care about their civil rights, and not tossing them around like you do!”
So if Viki wins, will she actually make it to office?
Dorian has a fit and decided to hunt down who cast the deciding vote, and Markko is terrified because he thinks it’s him. Then something happens and everything changes, and I can’t tell you that.
This week all hell breaks loose for Viki and her family when they all end up in Napa, and Jared dies and Mitch is revealed to be behind the scheme! Does he want to pay back Viki?
Oddly enough, Roscoe Born [Mitch] has an interesting take on this. Mitch wants Viki. I don’t mean sexually. He wants to own her and the type of power and class she has, which is what Dorian wants. Dorian has always wanted to be Viki, because she wants what Viki represents, which is money, class, elegance, and brains. Mitch wants the same thing. His way of trying to get it is ... he raped Viki and wanted a child with her! And the only person who can really hurt him is Viki, if she turns him down, or if she is mean and horrible and rude to him. We had a really good scene when Mitch fell apart because Viki slapped him and told him he is a monster and disgusting and don’t ever touch her family, and that is what fuels him.
So the turn of events reveals shocking secrets for Viki’s husband, Charlie! And he is already a recovering alcoholic!
Viki’s real focus and aim is to take care of Charlie because when Jared dies, he falls apart completely. He thinks it his fault because of something he did years ago and Mitch knows. Mitch was blackmailing Jared about Charlie. Jared was covering for his father the whole time so Mitch would not reveal this secret. And when the reveal happens it looks as though it was Charlie’s fault. He was completely drunk at the time and has no memory of this whatsoever. Mitch knows everything, and I don’t know how that is. He has followers. [Laughs] Charlie is just destroyed, and you know where that is going to go ... to a very interesting place. Wait till the funeral!
Viki was shuffled into a double wedding with Charlie and Nora and Clint. It felt like they shunned the couple a bit. So it’s good they have new story coming.
I kind of wished they would have made a bit more out of that, but Viki has been married so many times before. Just replay an old wedding! [Laughs]
How is Viki going to handle helping her daughter Natalie through the
death of her husband, Jared, and Jessica with the return of her evil
Viki is going to be strong, and she will put other
people’s needs before her own forever. Right now her big concern is
Natalie and Charlie. Jessica seems to be dealing, and Jessica has Brody
and he is very supportive. Even Natalie is dealing with it a bit
better. So Viki’s focus is Charlie.
How is it working with Melissa Archer [Natalie]?
think she is one of the best actresses we have ever had on our show. I
know Melissa personally, and I know what she does on-screen and it’s
riveting. I adore that child and I think of her as my own. Now I think
she lives on another planet, but I have told her that. She cuts through
all the nonsense and gets to the heart of who Natalie is. She has
passion and she is the sweetest goofball.
You have played
DID [disassociative identity disorder] as Viki, and then recently your
daughter Jessica suffered from it. Did Bree Williamson [Jessica] ever
ask you for pointers on how to play multiples?
Bree said, “If I
have any questions, can I come to you?” and I said, “Of course you can,
but be aware you are playing Jessica and your alters are not like mine.
They are slightly different," and she said, “Oh, I know that.” We had
talked about who Niki was and the whole psychology behind multiple
personality disorder, where each personality is symbolic of an emotion
of yours that is completely separated, and it deals with the secrets
that the "host" has to live with and deal with. Each personality is in
charge of a part. So for Viki there was Jean Randolph, who was the
gatekeeper, and Bess, in Jessica’s case, who was in charge. They say,
“OK, you can come out now. This is how much we can let her know.” Then
there is the one who had to deal with the abuse who is kind of an
incredibly amoral person who says, “It doesn’t matter. I don’t care
that I was raped,” and that was Niki and Tess. But Bree created her own
characters completely. She is an incredible talent.
Would you like to play five different personalities again?
course — it's fun! But, I think I am getting a little long in the tooth
to wear those short skirts that Niki wears. [Laughs] They are
incredibly fun and a challenge to play. In my life I met one multiple
and I really did not know what to say. I felt so sad. It is such a
difficult illness to deal with, and it comes from such a horrible place.
What is your feeling on the rumors that One Life could be canceled and that you are set to move into All My Children’s old studios in the new year?
feeling is, if they were going to cancel us, they would not spend the
money to move us, and even though it’s down the street, it’s still
expensive. They are giving us a much bigger studio and it will be much
more cost effective. I had a conversation about a different subject
with Brian Frons (president, ABC Daytime) and he said, “No. I have great
faith in One Life and I have great faith in Frank Valentini.”
As long as the status quo is maintained and our ratings stay up, I
think they have an investment in the show to keep it on the air as long
as they can. At least I hope so.
Fans were in an uproar when a rumor came out that you may not resign with the show, and then many were concerned over Viki’s lack of story. What would you say to this?
The contract negotiations… I don’t know who stirred that up but I had contract negotiations that were so easy. They said, “Do you want to stay?” and I said, “Yes, please,” and that was it. Contract negotiations are nobody’s business, so I don’t know where people get this information, because I was never leaving the show. Would I like to work more and have a story? Sure, but you can’t have everything, and my God, I have had story for 38 years. So I am not complaining.
Viki and her brother Todd, played by Trevor St. John, have interesting dynamics. How is playing with Trevor?
It’s a very good relationship. I am not taking anything away from Trevor, but it was created by Roger Howarth (Ex-Todd), that relationship and everything that Viki and Todd are for each other. He set the tone for that. Trevor has obviously continued it. It was a slightly warmer relationship in the old days; it is now played completely differently. Basically, Todd wants to listen to his sister, but he doesn’t want to listen to her because she always tells him what the right thing to do is and he never wants to do this. Trevor’s Todd has matured, and I know he is enormously popular!
Robin Strasser said any day she can work with Erika Slezak is a good day.
Oh please, right back at her! If I look at the script and see I have scenes with Dorian, I go “Whoopee!”
Gay men have viewed Viki and Erika Slezak as daytime icons. Do you feel that love and admiration from your gay fans?
Recently, there was a cute cop who went, “Hey Viki!” and he wanted to talk to me. I don’t know if he was gay or not, but he enjoys the show and there are all these guys who stop me and go, “My wife makes me watch you!” Yeah sure, they watch because they love it. I think why people, gay or straight, identify with Viki is because she has overcome so many obstacles and is a survivor, and that is something pretty universal. I have been proud to be able play her and communicate that to the audience.