Monday, January 22, 2007
WHERE ARE THEY NOW: LOUISE SHAFFER (Stephanie; SFT)
Actress Louise Shaffer played Emily on Search for Tomorrow from 1967 to 1968. After stints on The Edge of Night and Ryan’s Hope, she returned in 1984 to play a different SFT role, that of a recast Stephanie Wyatt, taking over for Maree Cheatham.
Episodes featuring Louise are currently airing on the AOL/PGP Classic Soap Channel. We caught up with Louise in 2007 to chat about her days in Henderson, and the new career she’s embarked on since then.
PGP: Stephanie, it seems, was a very similar role to RH’s Rae. Did Rae have anything to do with your getting cast on SFT?
LS: My role as Stephanie came about because the producer of SFT at that time, Ellen Barrett, knew my work from Ryan's Hope -- so you are quite right about that connection. I'm not quite sure why Maree left the show, but when they were looking for a replacement, Ellen remembered me. She knew that I had been recently let go from Ryan's and she thought I'd be a good fit. The similarities in the roles are obvious. I think the differences were subtle. I think Stephanie was more girly than Rae-- she was more confident of her charms as a woman and more willing to use them to get what she wanted. Socially Rae was always a poor little kid from Oklahoma trying to figure out what fork to use, and no matter how successful she became she never got over that. I think Stephanie was more comfortable with her position and felt she deserved it more. At least, that was where she was when I inherited the role. It was an interesting facet for a character which could so easily have become a cliche over time. Of course, it's a huge credit to Maree that Stephanie never did.
PGP: Peter Haskell, who played Rae’s love interest on RH, also played Lloyd, the man Stephanie was after on SFT!
LS: It was always such a treat to work with Peter Haskell! He's a great actor, and a funny, warm man. And smart? Peter knows something about almost everything! He talked me through the early days of trying to train our sheepdog, Laverne, who was a puppy at the time and determined to rule our home. She actually did rule it for the rest of her life, but that was because we were wimps.
PGP: What are some of your favorite memories from working on SFT?
LS: My best memories of the show are what they always are -- working with the people. I got to know and love Lisa Peluso (Wendy). I have always loved Michael Corbett (Warren) -- and talk about making a success of all of your talents, aren't we all proud of him and his new ventures? And then there was (the late) Mary Stuart (Jo). God love her. I had worked on the show before -- back in the days when it was fifteen minutes long -- it was my first job when I came to the city. When I took over as Stephanie, Mary came up to me and said, "Welcome back, you've lost some weight, baby!" And then she proceeded to tell me all about her literacy program for the kids of New York. She'd probably kill me for saying this because she hated mush, but she was a total class act.
PGP: Stephanie and her daughter, Wendy, had one of the most charged parent/child dynamics on daytime. How was that to play?
LS: I thought Wendy and Stephanie had a relationship that was built on equal parts of guilt, control issues, competition and love. It's a fairly usual cocktail for daytime -- and it probably exists more in real life than any of us want to admit.
PGP: Currently, you are novelist. Your latest book, Family Acts, will be out this August. How did you make the transition from actor to writer, and how does your previous profession help with your current one?
LS: I'd always loved writing -- in fact that was my first love. And I hate to admit it, but I'd always re-written my own dialogue on shows. No disrespect, sometimes it just made it easier to say it my way. Of course I hated it when actors did that to my glorious words when I was writing! Anyway, as I started to get older -- and we all know what happens to older actresses -- it just seemed like a natural progression to start doing what I'd always done with my scripts. From there the jump to writing books was a little scary, but I knew deep down that I always wanted to do my own thing. I think the fact that I was an actor is the basis of everything I do. What I love most about writing is that I get to create all these new characters and I get to live in their world. As an actor, I learned to pay attention to tiny details. If you tell an audience in the first act that you have a certain mannerism and then you never use it again, they may not know exactly why they stop believing you, but they will stop. Also, I think you can get away with any plot, no matter how big, as long as you create characters the audience can believe would do all those things.
PGP: Your first novel, All My Suspects, took place on the set of a soap! How much of it was based on real life?
LS: Of course All My Suspects was totally fiction-- but the set and the way of working was accurate to the way soaps were done back then. It's a little different now.
PGP: Tell us about the book currently on the shelves, The Ladies of Garrison Gardens.
LS: We got great reviews for it, and the book clubs are having a wonderful time with it. By the way, if anyone out there has a book club, I love to talk to you guys on the speaker phone. Or I'll come talk to you in person if you can afford the airfare -- and I'll bring a cake. I have recipes for the cakes that appear in my books. But seriously, if anyone would like to talk to me, just check in with my website and we'll set it up. The Ladies of Garrison Gardens is what's known in the industry as a stand alone book which means you can read it without reading the first one, which is The Three Miss Margarets. That said, The Ladies Of Garrison Gardens is both a prequel and a sequel to The Three Miss Margarets. I think it will appeal a lot to soap fans-- we're used to that kind of mulit-layered story telling. Plus, The Ladies Of Garrison Gardens is based on a big secret that was buried for years, and the characters include strong women from the ages of twelve to ninety -- which soap opera audiences love. And it's got a surprise twist that no one sees coming -- at least that's what I keep hearing from everyone who reads it.
PGP: Is there anything in particular you’d like to say directly to the fans who followed you from show to show?
LS: I always thought I was one of the luckiest women alive when I worked in the soaps -- I got to act, which I loved doing, and I was paid for it. Now I feel lucky again -- I love writing, and I'm so grateful to the people who read my books because they are the reason why I can continue doing it. And if you haven't read one of my books yet, please do. My husband and I have quite a few elderly pets and several of them have had senior moments recently. So we need a new carpet. Thank you for remembering me and for giving me this opportunity to take a stroll down Memory Lane.
To see Louise Shaffer, as Stephanie, in action, view an episode of Search For Tomorrow, today!
Posted by Alina Adams at 8:59 AM