Temple of Vanessa
Vanessa Marcil Tells All
SOD May 97
Since joining GH in 1992 as troubled Brenda Barrett, Vanessa Marcil has become one of daytime's biggest stars. Bothe she and Maurice Bernard (Sonny) have contracts that expire this summer, but checking out will not be easy -- as Vanessa explains here.
Digest: Where do you stand with GH now?
Vanessa: I am so emotionally connected to my character that the thought of leaving freaks me out. I've been so lucky. I came on playing 17 and now she's becoming a woman. So, whatever outside projects are going on, GH is always in the mix for me. If I did leave, I would always come back without any qualms. I feel good about myself as an actress here. It's great to work with people like Maurice and Ingo (Rademacher, Jax) because we're always challenging each other. We dont just walk through the day.
Digest: Which explains your popularity.
Vanessa: We really care. Sometimes Ingo calls me at 2 o'clock in the morning. 'Did you see the show that's going to air in two days? Can you believe they cut that line in our scene?' I'm like, 'Nuh-uh! Bring it over here right now!' He's so into it and I love that about him. We go upstairs to Wendy (Riche, executive producer) and say, 'Our characters love each other!' It's very funny.
Digest: What do you think about Brenda's current storyline?
Vanessa: It's great. Showing her go from man to man to man is not good. It's not what I would like to put out to young girls; that you always have to be with someone. They're both amazing men, yet she still wants to work on herself. Besides, I really wanted to show her deal with her drug addiction. If you decide something's not working in your life, you can change it. For me, personally, there are a million things in the last five years that I've gone, 'Yechh. Why am I doing this?' And then I try and change it. I've learned that from personal experience, going from boyfriend to boyfriend to boyfriend.
Digest: Getting sober was really brave.
Vanessa: I got sober before I was even legal. I'm really proud of myself for doing that. I realized, though, that I drank so much when I was a teenager that it stunted my emotional growth. It really does slow down the process of your life. I had to do a lot of my maturing in my early twenties in front of the whole world, which is hard.
Digest: But you did it.
Vanessa: Maurice said one of the coolest things about me that anyone has ever said. He said that the most beautiful thing about me is that I'm willing to work on myself. To me, that's more important than 'Oh, she's so pretty.' I am always trying to work on myself, but I get frustrated because when I was a kid, I would bring home all A's and one B and my dad would want to know why I got a B.
Digest: What are you working on now?
Vanessa: I'm too sensitive about things. Like in Soap Opera Digest, Linda Dano (Felicia, Another World) said she didnt like my dress at the Digest Awards. Most actors read that stuff and just laugh. But I was like, 'I cant believe she didnt like my dress!' And then, 'C'mon, Vanessa. Who cares?' I've learned that sometimes, instead of showing that I'm scared or hurt, I'll get mean. Or quiet. Rena (Sofer, ex-Lois) has been really helpful. She always explains to me what my reality is, because I get confused. If I hear three different people in one day say, 'Isnt Vanessa looking a little fat?' then my reality will be that I'm fat. Rena will sit me down and tell me, 'This is who you are.' Rena's only like two years older than me and I get really p----d off: 'How come she's so together?' She's married and has a baby.
Digest: Is Tyler Baker (Nikolas) someone who helps you deal with your reality too?
Vanessa: Yeah. It's so funny. I used to go and complain to Wendy: 'When are you going to hire a cute boy?' And she'd say, 'What are you talking about? Our whole show is cute boys.' And I'd say, 'No, my type.'
Digest: You have two of the 'cutest boys' in daytime fighting over you every day!
Vanessa: My thing is, I always want someone new to work with. When Maurice first came on the show, I was like, 'I want to work with Maurice!' and they wouldnt let me. They were doing the whole thing with him and Cari Shayne (ex-Karen). But I kept complaining, because he is such a great actor. And then one day, they gave us this itty, bitty, little scene...
Digest: On the dock with the suitcase?
Vanessa: Yes! Then, three weeks later, we got the most amazing scenes where we're both buying a car. He said, 'How old are you?' And I said, 'Eighteen. You got a problem with that?' And he goes, 'Not even a little.'
Digest: So about Tyler...
Vanessa: When he came on, I said, 'I want to work with the new guy.' And Wendy said, 'Listen, you have the two biggest men on the show. You are not working with the new guy, so get over it.' Then we met and we were instantly best friends. This has been the toughest year of my life.
Vanessa: Well, I lost two really close friends to drugs. Nathan (Fillion, ex-Joey, One Life To Live) and I broke up. That was really hard for me. At the same time, I was doing my TV movie (To Love, Honor And Deceive) in North Carolina. I was working like crazy. I had two days off in three-and-a-half weeks, and I had to fly home on the redeye and do 30 scenes at GH. Then fly back on the redeye and finish the movie. I was so exhausted; I was crying every day. Tyler was there for me -- as a friend and nothing else.
Digest: This was last fall?
Vanessa: Yes, right before Super Soap Weekend at Disney World. You know when someone just says, 'Hi,' and you burst into tears? Well, that was me. Nathan was there and even though we stayed very dear friends after we broke up, it was hard to be around each other all weekend. Someone would say something that reminded me of my friend (who had just died) and I would start crying and put my sunglasses on. Then it was all over the Internet, 'Vanessa's rude.' I felt so bad, like I was letting down my fans. But I still sat there the whole weekend and signed millions of autographs with Ingo, clutching onto him. Ingo is like my brother.
Digest: You were physically exhausted.
Vanessa: Yeah. That's one of the reasons why I think my relationship didnt work out with Nathan. You really have no time for a social life when you're doing this. Especially if someone lives that far away (in New York).
Digest: Where do things stand with Tyler?
Vanessa: Tyler and I are now dating. First official statement to you. Never been said before. Everyone will be just floored. [laughs]
Digest: It was just funny that you went on TV (at the Soap Opera Digest Awards, were both won) and declared your love before you admitted you were dating.
Vanessa: You know what? I didnt even realize that I told him that I loved him until after! First of all, I never expected to win. So, as soon as I won, I thought, 'S---~ Why didnt I write something down?' It's the most nervewracking thing in the world to be on live television. I kept saying, 'Um,' because I was trying to think of what to say next. Then the sign starts flashing: 'Oh, God, I have to cut it short!' Then these other actors go up and they're thanking everybody and then I realized, you can just ignore those flashing red signs. Who knew? So I went backstage and said (to publicist Elizabeth Much), 'Tell me everything I said,' and she said, 'You told Tyler that you loved him.' Oh, my God...
Digest: It's not such a bad thing to tell someone you love them.
Vanessa: The truth is that Tyler and I had just started dating. We were really good friends before it ever got romantic. I think that if we broke up tomorrow, we would still love each other and we'd still be friends, because we were friends first. Now I'm like the spokesperson for Become Friends First! People thought we were dating before we were because we were always together. But dating means you kiss and stuff, and we didnt do that. We were both just out of relationships, so we figured, 'Let's chill out for a while.'
Digest: How did you guys get serious?
Vanessa: Too personal.
Digest: Okay. Did you talk about it first?
Vanessa: No. The way we started dating was really romantic and out of the blue for both of us. We were both like, 'Oh, my God. Is that what's going on?' Because we really, honestly werent going in that direction with each other. It was cool.
Digest: Do you still want to work with him?
Vanessa: Sonny/Brenda/Jax is one of the most successful triangles ever. People are so torn, which is really cool. The only reason I want to work with Tyler is because I think he's one of the best actors I've ever seen, especially for being new. He's way better than I was when I was new.
Digest: If they wrote you a storyline with Tyler, would that be more incentive for you to re-sign your contract?
Vanessa: I dont need any incentive to stay. I want to stay. But, I feel like its out of my hands. Whatever job comes up, its the time in my life where I need to go and do everything that's out there for me to do. But I've never been happier than I am here right now.
Digest: One of those projects is the new ER-type show for ABC, LA Med?
Vanessa: I had a development deal with ABC, which means I only go on pilots for them. I went in on LA Med and got it.
Digest: When do you start filming?
Vanessa: We already did the pilot. We find out on the 19th of May if it's being picked up.
Digest: Do you think it will be on ABC's fall schedule?
Vanessa: I have no idea. I think its a good show, but I just go in and do the best work I can and let it go. If it goes, that's great. If it doesnt, it wasnt meant to be.
Digest: What else do you have cooking?
Vanessa: I'm testing today for something else. I have a movie in the wings and I want to do Broadway.
Digest: So what's going to happen?
Vanessa: I dont know. If I could juggle all of it, I would.
Digest: If you had three months off, what would you do?
20 Great Faces
TV Guide - May 97
Let's start with that mole, strategically placed next to Vanessa Marcil's come-hither smile. Then scan up across her creamy complexion to dark eyes gleaming with mischief and soupcon of mystery. Vanessa's is an exotic, traffic-stopping beauty that shines with self-assurance but also hints at forbidden secrets -- a perfect complement to her role on GH, where her sexy fashion-model character is at the apex of a torrid triangle between her husband and a mobster.
Dont Give Up On Brenda And Sonny!
Is there hope for GH's currently estranged supercouple, Brenda and Sonny? "Absolutely," responds head writer Richard Culliton.
Of course, the degree of hope that the S&Believers can look for depends largely on whether Maurice Benard and Vanessa Marcil renew their contracts, which expire this August. Rumor has it they're considering leaving together.
"Who knows what will happen?" teases Vanessa. On the one hand, she says, "It is tiring to work five days a week on this show for a few years. It's exhausting. I want to check out other things, different possibilities. But I have no qualms about coming back after taking a break." On the other hand, Vanessa continues, "Maybe I'll decide to stay! I have never been happier here."
Time will tell. In the meantime, Culliton offers this hint of things to come: "Their confessions to each other in the catacombs were a moment of truth for both of them. This moment will sustain them for whatever may come their way."
GH Costume Designer Bob Miller discusses Brenda's look.
Digest: What's distinctive about Brenda's style?
Miller: Brenda's clothes are streamlined and simple, in solid colors: white, beige and black. The look makes her stand out as rich. We buy designer labels like Calvin Klein and Polo. They're expensive, but not frilly - no lace. They're well-tailored. She never wears anything decorative, like ornate buttons.
Digest: Does fabric play into the effect?
Miller: I dont think of fabric content as much as her silhouette outline. But she wears silk, wool, cotten, linens and a lot of satin.
Digest: Most of her clothes seem to be body-hugging.
Miller: She's so small that the more body you show, the better she looks. Otherwise, the clothes overpower her.
Digest: Does being wealthy mean never having to wear the same outfit more than once?
Miller: Brenda gets a new wardrobe every season. She may wear the same outfit three or four times within that time period, but we do mix and match. For instance, she has about eight blouses in different shades of white. Some are fitted, some are baggy.
Digest: Is it the actress's choice to wear her shirts tied at the waist and to leave the sleeves unbuttoned?
Miller: It just happens. That was the look when the producers, designers and I were pulling out Dolce & Gabbana ads for ideas. It's sloppy rich. It has a hip edge to it.
Digest: What about her accessories?
Miller: Brenda wears diamonds and pearls, that's it. It's what makes the characters style so clean and classic. Less is best for her.
Digest: Her dream outfit?
Miller: The dress she would marry Sonny in!
Call Waiting: For Vanessa Marcil, balancing a demanding soap role, two on-screen hunks, a burgeoning film career, a new house, and two playful dogs is a breeze. But the little things are another matter entirely. "I lose my keys," Vanessa laughs. "I forget how to get places I've been a million times, like my house... work. Sometimes, I look for my cordless phone while I'm already talking on it!" Definitely not supermodel Brenda behavior, but in real life, you wont see Vanessa strutting down a runway. "I'm really just a tomboy," she insists. "I stay home alot, play with my dogs, climb trees. I dont think people perceive me as all that glamorous anyway."
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