From Soap Opera
Digest 1996; Kathy Henderson
It's almost like family therapy when Marcy
Walker and Jennifer Bassey settle in for a chat about the dysfunctional mother/daughter
duo they began playing on ALL MY CHILDREN almost 14 years ago. Through sheer talent and
the kind of chemistry writers pray for, Walker and Bassey take any outrageous situation--
from dueling affairs with Tad to toxic flirtations with Adam and Jonathan-- and make
viewers believe it. In real life, the actresses share a warm relationship, often
addressing each other in character. They become surprisingly serious when discussing Liza
and Marian's endless cycle of hurtful behaivor, but with Bassey in the room, no
conversation can stay too serious for long.
DIGEST: Do you remember the first time you
BASSEY: I remember hearing about Marcy
before I met her. When I got cast, someone told me, "You'll be working with the best
young actress on the show-- and you're going to have to go to bed with a
17-year-old." I said "Well, that doesn't sound too difficult."
WALKER: I remember our old house set like
it was yesterday. And I remember the guy they cast to play Mr. Colby, because he had those
little hairs growing out of his ears.
BASSEY: He also had a problem remembering
his lines! [They laugh.] he conveniently died after a couple of months.
DIGEST: Refresh my memory: Did Marian
steal Tad from Liza?
BASSEY: Oh, no, I got him first. And I was
paying him good money and buying him gold chains and making him very happy. Then he
started getting involved with Liza, not knowing she was my daughter. Eventually he slept
with her, and I caught them in bed. That's basically what happened in the first six
months-- which all families go through, don't they [laughs]?
DIGEST: Did Marian and Liza ever have a
BASSEY: No, no, no!
WALKER: Never. There's a desolation of
spirit in Marian, and emptiness that she's passed on to her daughter-- just wanting to be
BASSEY: But Liza's syndrome is that Tad
was her first love and she's never gotten over what happened with him. [She turns to
Walker.] You ran away, you know, and got raped by a truck driver.
WALKER [with mock exasperation]: I
BASSEY: I have those scenes on tape. You
come in, bruised and beaten, and say, "I'm going to tell Daddy." And I say,
"You can't tell him. He's got a weak heart." And you say, "Are we talking
about caring here, Mother?" It's a fabulous scene- you should have gotten an Emmy for
that one. The whole crew applauded when you told me off. And I'm sitting there crying,
full of self-pity. Oh geez, this woman is a sicko!
DIGEST: Marian should probably never have
become a mother.
BASSEY: She's a terrible mother, darling!
A lot of parents simply aren't there for their children and should never have any. If I
had a child in my real life now, I would be a great mother. But if I'd had one 20 years
ago, it would have been a disaster.
WALKER: I've always seen the character of
Marian as having had an oppressive childhood. She lived a narrow life and married a man
she didn't love. And now she wants to relive adolescence. Marian searches for that feeling
of freedom through young men, because it's a part of her life she never had.
BASSEY: That's right. I want young men,
period. I wasn't competing with Liza for Tad-- I met him first.
WALKER: Now she's going to defent herself.
DIGEST: Fast-forward to 1997, and Liza and
Marian are still at it.
WALKER: What's nice is that when they
brought these characters back, they didn't have them fixed. They have the same problems
with communication and stubbornness that they always did.
BASSEY: We are damaged goods. Oh, yeah.
[She turns to Walker.] You're trying hard not to emulate me, but you're very like me.
You're into money and power. Of course, Marian's getting to the age where she can't get a
man anymore. I have a line today where I say, "They aren't exactly lining up at my
door, Liza. Time is a woman's enemy."
WALKER: But it's killing me, because I
look at Jennifer on-camera and I go, "She's starting to look like my sister."
I'm aging, and she looks fabulous. She says, "Well, I don't eat meat, and I don't do
this and that," and I'm thinking, "I'm going to start living that life."
BASSEY: But I also... well, you know.
WALKER [laughing]: She'll tell you! Lee
Mariwether [Ruth] almost fainted at a fan gathering listening to Jennifer.
BASSEY: We were at this fan club thing,
and one woman came up and said, "Look at me. We're the same age. Don't I look
old?" What am I supposed to say? She said, "You look better than when you
started on the show 15 years ago. What are you doing?" I said, "I have a great
plastic surgeon." Well, Lee Mariwether fell off her chair. The woman said,
"You're kidding." And I said, "I never joke about surgeons." My cousin
is a Mexican citizen and I had it done in Mexico. I didn't want it to look too pulled or
phony, and I think it's a good job. I'll tell you something else-- the earlier you do it,
the better. I waited too long before I did mine because I was afraid.
WALKER: Well, gosh, yes! What if you were
anesthetized and they're picking your eyelids up and joking about your nose? It creeps me
out that they basically move your whole face. That's scary.
DIGEST: Off the set, are you more like
colleagues than mother and daughter?
BASSEY: Sometimes, we're like mom and
daughter; sometimes she's the mom.
WALKER: We switch roles all the time.
We're actors, so we're both psychotic; we have our moments.
BASSEY: Luckily, we never lose it at the
WALKER: When Jennifer's having a bad day,
with five million props and scenes getting picked up in the middle, I can support her and
say, "It's cool-- we're going to do this. Everything's fine." And on days when I
feel that way, she's there for me. You hope for that in any acting partner, much less
somebody who's playing your mother or your daughter. You can be a fabulous actor, but
unless you've got a great partner, you're nothing. And I've got a great partner.
BASSEY: Thank you for saying that,
darling, but I've watched your work over the years, and even if the person you're acting
with is not very good, your work is good. Marcy has never had an acting lesson in her
life; she just has it. She's gifted.
DIGEST: Should Liza become a mother?
WALKER: I'm not sure that's a good choice
right now. A lot of the issues involved in having a child, like postpartum depression,
don't go on forever. [In real life] I have more problems with child-care help than I do
with my child! [Walker has a 7-year-old son, Taylor.]
BASSEY: I think I should have your baby--
WALKER: Here's my idea. I think the reason
you cheated on Mr. Colby is that he had another family out there. I could have a young
half sister or half brother who shows up, and suddenly you're in charge of them. How
horrible would that be, to see you being a good mother?
BASSEY: You should be a head writer.
DIGEST: Will Tad and Liza ever get
WALKER: They seem to think our characters
are "action" characters who can move in a lot of directions.
BASSEY: I think it would be too much of a
happy ending. People are going to want it and want it, and when it happens, it's going to
be very hot and successful.
DIGEST: Liza has been almost unbeliveably
sweet to Gloria.
WALKER: Let me tell you this: If it came
down to a rumble, Liza would win. But seriously, I think it would be nice for Liza to have
someone in her life who accepts her exactly as she is-- warts and all.
DIGEST: Your characters are at each
other's throats every day, yet the two of you seem totally supportive of each other.
WALKER: We play these things that are
cruel, but it works because what's really there is a lot of love. In terms of Liza and
Marian, I truly believe there will be a cathartic experience between them.
BASSEY: It would be devastating.
WALKER: Devastating, but beautiful.
They've got to share it. Eventually.