Saturday, June 20, 2009

Terri Garber: Plum soap roles, on top of a great career

Our BRBTV interviews with stars of the classic '80s soap "Santa Barbara" continue, and this time we've got a double-shot: The lovely Terri Garber was not only Suzanne Collier in the latter days of "SB," she also was the incredibly memorable Leslie Carrington on our beloved "Dynasty."

Years before that, however, Garber had what many would consider her kingpin role, that of the feisty Ashton Main on the wildly popular "North and South" miniseries of the '80s. It's that role, a role she seemed downright born to play, that most fans remember her by. We had to ask her, when we spoke with her earlier this month, if she had any concerns about being forever labeled a "bad girl."

"I wasn’t concerned about being typecast," she replied. “'Bad girls' are the most fun to play."

Well, on "Dynasty," she was a mixture of good and bad, truth be told. Though Leslie initially played a bit wicked, there were elements of her character that showed a softer side. Take her daughter-like relationship with her Uncle Blake, for instance.

"I never really think of any of my characters as 'bad girls,'" she says. "I try to think of legitimate reasons why they do the things they do. I don’t think a person that does bad things ever really thinks of themselves as a bad person. They feel justified in what they are doing. I think the wavering was because the writers couldn’t decide how they wanted to portray Leslie. At the time I had just completed 'North and South,' and Ashton wasn’t the sweet girl next door (ha-ha) and that’s what the audience liked about my acting ... So the writers were having some issues on how to bring that into a character that started out sweet and searching for her father. Leslie did soften with Blake. How could you not? What a wonderful actor to work with. He brought the vulnerability out of Leslie where no one else could. I guess the father figure she was searching for was in Blake."

Perhaps a bigger challenge for the writers, however, was in Garber's entrance onto daytime soap "SB." It was 1991, and fan-fave Marcy Walker, as Eden Capwell, had just left the show. Eden was suspected to be dead, then was really alive and disguised as her friend Suzanne Collier, then she up and left the love of her life, Cruz Castillo, and her family! How much trauma can a fan endure? Enter Garber as (gasp!) the real Suzanne Collier ...

"Yes, it was very difficult to step into that show, and the character was never accepted, so off she went," Garber says. "The fans were rabid for Cruz and Eden and didn’t want anyone else coming in there. I got some vicious fan mail."

(BRBTV has no trouble believing that!) But the work on "SB" was not all drudgery, thankfully.

"I loved working with A Martinez," she says. "He was a joy. He really worked hard, came prepared and was a complete professional. I like that from someone I’m working with because I try to do the same. Everyone was really nice on that show. There really wasn’t anyone that I didn’t enjoy working with."

Beyond "SB," Garber took roles here and there on various TV shows, then landed another soap role, Iris Dumbrowski on "As the World Turns," from 2005-2007. New York-based these days, Garber enjoys volunteer work and a whole lotta baking -- she graduated recently from what she calls an "intensive pastry class."

You can read the complete BRBTV interview with Ms. Garber in the next edition of the reference guide "Send Me to Santa Barbara," as well as in the next e-book version of "Dynasty High."

Photo courtesy of Terri Garber; copy at your own risk

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