Soap Opera Digest
October 8, 1996
By: Kathy Henderson
Slezak Celebrates Her Five Emmys
And Answers Critics Who Claim
Time To Bow Out
In a 25-year run on ONE LIFE TO LIVE, Erika Slezak has
made Victoria Lord Burke Riley Buchanan Carpenter into one of daytime's
most memorable characters. Her work has earned five Daytime Emmy awards
and two more nominations for Outstanding Lead Actress. Particularly this
year, however, Slezak's achievement has been shadowed by Susan Lucci's 16
Emmy losses as Erica on ALL MY CHILDREN. Recently, Slezak talked about the
controversy surrounding her five Emmys.
Digest: How does it feel to see five Emmys on your
living room shelf?
Slezak: It's a little startling. My husband says it
doesn't look like our house; it looks like Mary Tyler Moore's house.
Digest: Were you surprised to win two in a row?
Slezak: Several other actors have done it, as well. Yes,
I was surprised. I've taught myself never to expect it because the one
year that I thought I was going to win, Helen Gallagher [Maeve, RH] won
Digest: What were your impressions of this year's
Slezak: It was like a Beatles concert. RadioCity
seats 6,000 people and maybe 1,000 Of us were from the industry. The rest
were fans, who are wonderful, but CBS sort of roped them off, so the
atmosphere was frenzied and hysterical. If you're going to have a big
awards show and have the fans come,you have to treat them better than
that. It was a thrilling night. Afterward, I got in the car with the kids
and I went, "Yes!" I did a lot of very good and very hard work this year,
and I was delighted to win.
Digest: How did you feel about Susan Lucci fans
being so verbal?
Slezak: Susan, of course, has a very big fan club, and
when they started to announce the nominees for best actress, her fans were
all screaming "Lucci, Lucci, Lucci." I understand that. They want her to
win, and that's terrific. I didn't appreciate that they yelled through
Digest: Let's talk about the press coverage
surrounding the event.
Slezak: Someone said afterward that the reason I won was
because I have a knack for picking the right tapes to submit to the
judges. What am I supposed to do – pick bad tapes? I'm not going to
apologize for winning, although certain people believe that I should
because they say I "beat" Susan Lucci. I hate that word. I didn't beat
anybody. A panel of judges on two coasts picked my tape over four others.
I'm not the only person who' s won when Susan has not won. Unfortunately,
that's what the media has made the Emmy awards all about.
Digest: You and Susan have always handled it in a
Slezak: She's a very classy lady. None of this negative
publicity is her doing. I think she must be embarrassed about it. I know
Susan, and I like Susan. One year, I won when she was the host of the show
. The audience gave her a standing ovation and she said something
like, "I vote for Erika Every year. She's a wonderful actress." You can't
be more gracious than that.
Digest: Take us through each of your Emmys and
nominations. Actually,you lost your first time up, in 1983.
Slezak: Robin (Strasser, Dorian, OLTL], Susan, Leslie
Charleson [Monica, GH] and I lost to Dorothy Lyman (ex-Opal, AMC]. My
father had just died, and I wanted very much to win so that I could thank
Digest: Did you win for playing Niki in 1984?
Slezak: No, my first win had nothing to do with any alters. I
submitted a sweet scene with little Kevin and an argument scene with
Clint. In '86, I had some great scenes as Niki and one where Niki was
pretending to be Viki.
Digest: After two wins, you lost to Helen Gallagher
Slezak: That was the year Viki spoke at Clint's "funeral"
and went to heaven and faced off with Niki.
Digest: How about your win in 1992?
Slezak: That was when Llanfair burned down and I had wonderful
scenes in the house. I also submitted scenes after Megan had died.
Digest: That brings us to your back-to-back wins.
Slezak: Last year was Sloan's death and the scenes that led up
to Tommy coming out. Tommy pushes Dorian down the stairs, and Jean comes
out, just at the end of it. And this year was a therapy sequence where
Tori came out, then Viki came back, then Tommy came out, then Viki came
back. The second scene was at the church where I tell the family that I
killed Victor Lord, and for just a second, Victor comes out to say, "You
will not tell." It was 85 percent Viki.
Digest: That sounds like a very daring tape! .
Slezak: It was very moving stuff, beautifully written.
The hardest thing is always picking the shows. I'm very lucky in that my
husband [actor Brian Davies] does not watch the show on a regular basis,
so he sees my tapes with a fresh eye. If he says to me, "I don't buy
that," I trust him.
Digest: Some people feel it's not fair to judge a
year's work on two tapes.
Slezak: I agree that it's difficult; but every nominated
person has the same opportunity to pick the two tapes that they think
represent their best work. So, what's unfair about it? It would be ideal
to have the judges view every episode you appear in, but logistically,
Digest: Is the nominating system fair?
Slezak: The system is difficult, because we're nominated
by the entire academy, and how can actors watch other shows every day when
we' re working? We can't.
Digest: How do you feel about the blue ribbon
judging panel ?
Slezak: I think it's fair to get a group of industry
professionals, judging totally independently.
Digest: Did you feel a lot of support after winning
for the fifth time?
SIezak: Yes and no. Certainly, there was a great deal of
support from my own show, and I received lovely letters from some network
executives and many fans. I was a little surprised that ABC didn't
publicize it. After all, it's an achievement that brings only honor to
their own show and their own network.
Digest: What's your reaction when people say that
five Emmys are enough?
Slezak: That is preposterous. Steffi Graf just won her seventh
Wimbledon title- should she give two back? Oprah Winfrey has collected
more than five Emmys and I don't hear anyone suggesting that she should
take herself out of the running. Only one media person has suggested that
after three or four wins "one" shouldn't be allowed to win any more. That
was unfortunately a pointed criticism of me and it had nothing to do with
my winning but rather with someone else, whom the writer favors, losing
again. Had I not been nominated, someone would have been in my place and
there's no saying who would have won.
Digest: After 25 years on ONE LIFE TO LIVE and five
Emmys, are you content?
Slezak: My life has always been what makes me content,
and it just gets better and better. My children are growing, up to be
wonderful people. My husband and I have a wonderful marriage. I turned 50
this year, and I suddenly realized that I've been on this show for more
than half my life. I'm enormously grateful for everything that has
happened to me.