WHERE ARE THEY NOW: MARIANN AALDA (DIDI; EDGE OF NIGHT)
Mariann Aalda debuted on The Edge of Night in 1981 and played the role until that show went off the air in 1984. Since then, she's appeared on Guiding Light, Sunset Beach, and in multiple nighttime guest-spots. But that's not all! Since leaving EON, Mariann has branched out into multiple fields... some of which may surprise you!
PGP: How did your role on EON come about? Do you remember your audition? Your first day on the set? What were they like?
MA: There's a monthly publication called ROSS REPORTS that updates casting and production information...and as a young actor, I made it a point to mail a picture and resume to all the new casting directors on the scene. When I saw that EON had a new casting director (Whitney Burnett), I mailed her my picture. A couple months later, she simply called me in to read for the role of "DiDi Bannister" -- which at the time was only slated to be a recurring role lasting a couple months or so to create a love triangle between Calvin Stoner and his wife, Starr.
Previously, I'd auditioned for contract roles on OLTL and The Doctors...and I'd been a recurring day player on OLTL and done under-fives on ATWT (with Sigourney Weaver!) and Another World. Over 100 women auditioned for the role of "DiDi." I think I auditioned 3 or 4 times and then four of us screen-tested for the role. The test was on the actual EON set, with the regular EON crew, at the end of their regular work day.
All four actresses testing were brought onto the set and introduced to Irving...and then director, John Sedwick, gave us our blocking and told us we would be brought back one at a time to rehearse with Irving and then shoot the 11-page scene. We were then taken back to the green room to wait. Some of the cast came by to say "hi" (and to check us out)...Lori Loughlin (Jody) claims that she took one look at me and knew I was "the one!"
After several hours, I was the last person to test. By that time I was really nervous, and when I walked onset, I could see that the crew was tired and just wanted to go home. Soooooo, John asked if I would mind if they just taped my rehearsal...and that, then, if I wanted to, I could do it again.
Well, I knew I was only going to get one chance, but I said "Okay."
DiDi made an entrance into the police station. It was a confrontational scene, with her as a brand-new attorney representing a young punk client, and Det. Calvin Stoner, who'd been the arresting officer. Well, unbeknownst to me, as a cost-saving measure, EON would lay down the music tracks as they were taping the scenes, so all of a sudden I heard this sexy oboe music starting to play over my dialogue!!! Fortunately, I happen to be very musical and (having done a lot of improvisational comedy), pretty quick on my feet, so it didn't throw me. Instead, I played the scene the way the music was playing...still confrontational...but a little sexier. And I think that's what got me the job!
"The new kid on the block" is always gonna get checked out on any set. The regulars always want to know if the new kid can pull her/his weight. Everybody was very cordial to me my first day on Edge... and by the end of the week we were all pals. After three months, exec producer Nick Nicholson offered me a two-year contract... and head writer Henry Slesar said (with a twinkle in his eye) that he planned to make "DiDi" suffer... because I "suffered" so well! I was very flattered, to say the least!
PGP: What was it like to film the last episode of the show when it went off the air in 1984? Do you still keep in touch with any former cast members?
MA: The last day on the set wasn't that sad, really... because by then we'd known for months that we were being cancelled and had a chance to get used to the idea... and a lot of us were planning on moving to LA and looking forward to that. I still stay in close touch with Jennifer Taylor (Chris; she and I were long-time dressing-roommates...and then, she moved to Chicago, and I was from Chicago, so I'd hook up with her whenever I went there to visit) and Kerry Emerson (Jody #2) ...and I get together once a year at an EON reunion with Lisa Sloan (Nicole) and Terry Davis (April). I stay in touch with Ernie Townsend (Cliff), too. And I used to get together regularly with Lela Ivey (Mitzie) till she moved back to Michigan.
Julius Burnett is a big EON fan and kind of an EON historian, and he usually organizes it. The next one is this July 21... fortunately it coincides with my going back to LA for a week of rehearsals before Iona Morris and I take our new show to the National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, NC, in August... so I'll get a chance to see everybody then!
PGP: You have had small roles in movies ranging from "The Wiz" to "Beaches" to "Pretty Woman," plus dozens of guest-star appearances on primetime shows ("Designing Women," "Family Matters," "All Of Us"). How does going from set to set and part to part differ from playing the same role day in and day out on a soap? Which do you prefer?
MA: Along with tons of guest-star-roles, I've had regular roles on HBO's "First & 10" -- playing opposite OJ Simpson as his wife for three seasons... on CBS' "The Royal Family," as the daughter of Redd Foxx and Della Reese (it only lasted 15 episodes when Redd died on the set)...and recurring on CBS' "Designing Women" as Anthony's yuppie-from-hell girlfriend, Lita Ford... and on the NBC soap, "Sunset Beach" for a year-and-a-half as "the tragically disfigured Lena Hart."
Being a guest-star is a lot harder than being a regular because you're playing in somebody else's sandbox with somebody else's toys. Some sets are very welcoming and the regular cast is very warm... on other sets the guest-cast is pretty much ignored by the regulars unless you have a scene with them. It's not because they're cold or uncaring... it's just that they're preoccupied with all they have to do.
PGP: How did your 3-women show, 3 Blacque Chix, come about, and what is the message you would like it to send to women "of a certain age?"
MA: "3 Blacque Chix" ran in LA for almost two years, when one of the "chix" opted out. Iona Morris (she played Tamara Tunie's sister on ATWT) and I decided that we wanted to continue our message of women "of a certain age" still being sassy, sexy, vibrant and viable, so we wrote a new show premiering this summer at the National Black Theatre Fest, entitled "MOIST: 2Sxy 2B 4Gtn!" Our plan is to bring it to NY by next spring to a small Off-Broadway house.
PGP: You have so many other projects going on - please tell us about them.
MA: I'm doing re-writes on my book, "My Kid Is My Guru," and I've been working as an acting coach, using hypnosis techniques to tap into the subconscious and go deeper into character work and allow for greater relaxation and focus. And I'm also a distributor for Slumber Parties... another venue for women staying sassy and sexy!
But now that I'm back in New York, I've set my mind to being a regular again on a soap, and I've even been in touch with some of the producers.
I love it that "seasoned" actresses like Kim Zimmer (Reva; GL), Erika Slezak (Viki; OLTL), Robin Strasser (Dorian; OLTL) and Susan Lucci (Erica; AMC) are still getting great front-burner storylines... but it saddens me that with Tamara Tunie (ex-Jessica; ATWT) and Victoria Rowell (ex-Dru; Y&R) gone from daytime, there are no terrific role models like that for women of color... and I think they're needed.
Women have been "hypnotized" into believing that we lose value as we get older. Positive images in the media help to offset that. I'd love the opportunity to create a dynamic new daytime character... and I think that Edge fans who've been following my career since Edge went off the air 23 (Wow, has it been that long!!!???) years ago would be glad to have me back!
While we wait for Mariann to land back on another soap (which one would you like to see her on and as what kind of character -- tell us in the Comments below), you can also anticipate her first appearance on Edge of Night by watching episodes from 1979 on the AOL/PGP Classic Soaps Channel and getting to know Didi's love interest-to-be, Calvin Stoner!