Soap Opera Digest
Dec. 23, 2003
"English Lessons by Mara Levinsky
Birthday: February 8
The First Person She Greets At The AMC Studio: 'Usually it's Cleveland, the security guard.
And then I kind of go down the hall going, "Hi! Hello! Hello! Hi!"
On Whether She's Ready To Be An On-Screen Grandmother: 'Do I have a
choice (laughs)? And hey, who says it's Jamie's? But honestly, to me,
it's neither here nor there.'
Length Of Her Commute: 'Depending on the time of day, it can be 18 minutes door-to-door, or a little over an hour.
What She Does During Her Commute: 'You mean, besides swearing(laughs)? If I'm stuck in traffic, I get business calls
She Has Subscriptions To: Newsweek, Rolling Stone, National Geographic, New York, The Nation, Entertainment Weekly,
Leisure and Harper's
That soap-opera storylines will ebb and flow is a given, a characteristic as endemic
to the genre as the never-endingness of its tales. As for what factors determine which plots will ebb and which will flow....
Well, those are frequently a mystery to We Who Care About Such Things (fans, critics and, of course, the actors themselves).
But this much we do know: There is nothing--not emmys, not a devoted fan base, not many years of loyal service--that can
a juicy, front-burning plot to every performer eager to sink their teeth into one. That is simply the nature of the beast,
reality that just about every career soap star must eventually wrestle with--and sometimes, more than once.
Barr (Brooke, ALL MY CHILDREN) is no exception. She has the Emmys (for Outstanding Supporting Actress, in 1990 and 1998),
the passionate fans (a group of whom banded together to form The Barr Association, which just celebrated its first
anniversary by sending flowers to the actress--she got them, by the way, and thought they were 'beautiful' and 'classy'--and
gifting this reporter with
customized cholate bars that arrived, coincidentally, while she was waiting for Barr to phone
for this interview) and, save for a 15-month long break in the early 1980s, she's been a devoted AMC player since 1976. But,
for well over a year now, what she hasn't had
much to do in Pine Valley.
This is not the first time Barr has found
herself in this position, and odds are it won't be the last. She is not one to complain about
this part of the Pine Valley
package, this business of coming in to say a line here and a line there when just a few years back, with no
in her talent or passion for the work on which to pin the difference, she was entrusted with th ekind of material designed
to fill out a trophy shelf.
But when asked about it--and, let's face it, we had to ask: to ignore Brooke's diminished
screen time would be to turn it into that dread
500-pound gorilla--she won't pretend it doesn't affect her. She's a smart
woman, opinionated and savvy about the industry she's called home for so long. Still, she's wary of making statements that
might come across in print as bitter. This is because, to hear her tell it,
she is not. Her tone is so light-hearted when
she tells it, and so frequently punctuated by that still-girlish giggle of hers, that you
believe she's sincere.
she will grant that this has not always been the case. 'I've definitely complained in the past,' she offers. There have been
when I've been frustrated and gone in and said, "A disservice is being done to my character!" But you know, you can
make yourself nuts. Which,' she chuckles, 'I have also done over the years. Now I'm more like, "I'm just going to go with
A less stress-inducing strategy, to be sure. But what makes it possible? Does she care less than she previously
did, or has she simply mellowed and matured? Barr is quick to lean toward the latter. Now being given the opportunity to strut
your stuff creatively, the
actress says, 'has a frustrating quality to it, when part of your whole identity and substance
is a character that you and the writers have worked to create. Your ego and your creative outlet obviously get affected when
there's a slow period.
'I'm always going to have a certain energy and a certain sort of expectation from my work,'
she continues. 'But I do think there is a
maturation that happens in (one's view of) what is important in life. I know
this sounds so general, but it really is true: I feel lucky. I
have had a wonderful job for a very long time. Okay, it
has not always been creatively satisfying, but that comes with the territory
in any job. I have been frustrated, I have
been upset, I have been this, I have been that. But when it's all said and done, I am at a place where it's like, "Hey, I'm
having a pretty good life!" (How much I work) is something I have very little control over. When I lose sight of that, I remind
myself, "If Brooke doesn't get a love life this year, hey, big deal, Julia! Your life will go on!"'
It's a life she
enjoys living so much that while she would relish the reanimation of Brooke (and is, in fact, thrilled with the prominent
role she's been given within the Jamie/Babe/JR storyline), the prospect of working more does give her some pause. 'My life--taking
care of my family, my home- generally keeps me pretty busy,' Barr explains. 'Sometimes I think, "How did I do it 12 years
ago? How did I have a front-burner story and a kid and move and make Thanksgiving and Christmas?"'
somewhat sheepishly, that she recently had an experience on-set that crystallized that quandary. 'I had a scene with David
Canary (Adam/Stuart) that we had to stop and start a couple of times because I was messing up. I said, "I'm really sorry:
not used to having four lines in a row!" So, as much as I still occasionally run around complaining to my husband, "Why don't
a storyline?" part of me is thinking, "Hey, I was sort of having a nice time only working two days a week!" I know,
I know,' she sighs, 'Be careful what you wish for.'"