DEBBIE: Hi Julie. Thanks so much for granting me this interview for SUDZTV.COM. While Kathleen left Bay City for the publishing world in New York City, I've learned that you've stayed busy in the acting field and started a company of your own, "The Actors in Process Studio" in Los Angeles. How did you end up on the west coast and what prompted you to form your own company?
JULIE: I decided to take my career and life to Los Angeles through the encouragement from my agent, Marilyn Szatmary at SMS. I thought I was a real "New Yorker" until I spent a year in LA and was hooked on the Southern California lifestyle. After years of constantly honing my craft between jobs under the mentorship of Larry Moss (coach to Oscar winners Hillary Swank and Helen Hunt - to name a few) I decided to put my vast knowledge and training to use out in the world in order to give back a bit of what I've learned. I'm a true believer in the artistic process and encourage my acting and voice students to do the same. In that way they can discover and hone their techniques in the craft without judgment and prepare their acting and vocal instruments for a lifetime career as artists.
DEBBIE: I was delighted to have caught you in two TV roles this past year—ER and more recently, THE PRACTICE. I hope viewers got a chance to see you last month in the role of Amy Henley (THE PRACTICE/"The Test"). How did the part come about?
JULIE: I had auditioned for roles on two previous episodes this season. The casting directors called me in for the producers for them even though they felt I wasn't exactly right for the roles. They were right. I didn't get them. But then they called me in for this episode, and funnily enough, they called me in for the other rape victim and cast me in that role. But the next day, my agent called me and told me they had changed their minds and wanted me to play the role of Amy. I was thrilled because Amy's scene had a lot more meat in it. And I was flattered that they had enough faith that I could play another part even though they hadn't seen me read for it. It's been my experience that it's rare in the Hollywood Television Land for anyone to have that much vision, so many kudos to the producers of THE PRACTICE! The exec producer called me a few days before the show aired to congratulate me on my performance and to let me know how thrilled he was that he had changed his mind about my playing Amy instead of the other part. That's also very rare, for a producer to call a guest star out of the blue simply to congratulate them. I couldn't have been more pleased.
DEBBIE: For viewers that didn't get a chance to see the episode, how would you describe Amy's storyline?
JULIE: Amy had been raped seven years ago and was called in to the DA's office to be informed that the man she had positively identified as her rapist, was not the right man. But Amy is too convinced of her own memories to be swayed and the DNA from her rape kit was corrupted and therefore useless. She convinces Helen Gamble that she put the right man behind bars seven years ago. Or so she thinks.
DEBBIE: I have to tell you that Amy had me 100% convinced that the police got the right guy first time around despite someone else accepting responsibility for it in this episode. In fact I'm still not convinced we've seen the end of that story. That was a powerful performance. Any chance THE PRACTICE will have you return later in the season to further the story?
JULIE: Write in! Let the producers know that you all want Amy to reappear! You never know!
DEBBIE: The role that really touched my heart was that of Bonnie Vogel in the ER episode "Where The Heart Is" which aired last May. I'll let you fill in your character's storyline for those that may not have seen it, but I have to say that I was in tears when Bonnie was escorted into the car that would take her away at the end.
JULIE: Bonnie Vogel is a mentally handicapped woman who had lovingly been raise by her brother after the death of her parents who were killed years earlier in an auto accident. As fate would have it, her brother and she are also involved in an auto accident and are rushed to the "ER" for treatment. Bonnie has only a bump on the head, but her brother isn't so lucky. Carrie and Jing Mae have to tell Bonnie that her brother died. But Bonnie isn't quite ready to understand that. Her hamster Ernie had died and her brother went out and got her a new hamster named Ernie, too, so death isn't permanent where her brother is concerned - only her parents didn't come back. Both Carrie and Jing Mae scramble to find a place for Bonnie to live, but can only find an empty bed in an over-crowded group home. Carrie takes Bonnie out to a waiting taxi and tries to explain to Bonnie that she has to go to a new home, but Bonnie wants her brother to fix her hot dogs at her old home. When she realizes this will never be, the reality of her brother hits as she pleads for Carrie to take her to her old home. Carrie zips up her jacket and closes the cab door and Bonnie rides away to her new world alone.
DEBBIE: It was such a touching episode. Since ABC (THE PRACTICE) and NBC (ER) both run reruns of past episodes I hope those who didn’t get a chance to see you in these parts will still have the opportunity. Of all your roles thus far, from theater to film, what role would you like to most be remembered and why?
JULIE: Of course, I loved Bonnie on ER so much! But I also loved Amy on THE PRACTICE. I must say, that of all my television roles, Kathleen McKinnon was right up there. I loved playing Kathleen and fought very hard to keep her fire and integrity alive. In theatre I was also very proud of my work starring on West End in London in the original stage production of HIGH SOCIETY, playing Tracy Lord.
DEBBIE: Is there anything in the near future that we might look for you in?
JULIE: I'm working on a one woman show right now. When I get close to getting it up on the boards, I'll let you know.
DEBBIE: Great! Please do. Hopefully some of the fans here will get a chance to see it. You've been wonderful to update us on life after ANOTHER WORLD but I know fans of AW wouldn't forgive me if I didn't ask you to share some of your memories from your time on the set. What memories would you like to leave us with?
JULIE: Two of my dearest friends to this day are Katie Layman and Sally Spencer - both of whom played my sister MJ on AW. I sat them next to each other at my wedding, although they had never even met before - a bit of irony! We all had a great time.
I still keep in touch with Steve Schnetzer. I loved working with him. We played off one another so well. Actually I could just pair that down to - we played so well. We could always clown around with the silly scenes and have a blast and yet be there right in the moment for those more dramatic, painful ones. He was a wonderful friend to me and was very supportive and I miss him. I miss Linda Dano as well. She always made me laugh and had such a gift for being there for people. Brent - who played Wallingford - was my angel. I truly believe he was one of those angels given to us for a very brief time. He was such a gift. Nancy Frangione - Cecile - was also a gas to work with. She knew the work so well and her sense of timing was great. And so professional. She taught me a lot. Throwing a pie in her face was a hoot.
DEBBIE: The time that Kathleen was on was among my favorite periods of AW, and I was there for all 35 years. Great cast, great writing. In my opinion the comedy and fun was what made AW great and why I enjoyed tuning in every day. I loved laughing right along with all of you guys.
I know this is asked often of actors but what would be your favorite time on AW?
JULIE: My favorite time on AW? Hmmm. The initial romance was truly remarkable. I loved the comparison to IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE themes that kept coming up. I loved failing miserably at my first attempt to cook and my dog Prometheus getting on the table and scarfing the whole thing and my hair still in rollers when Cass shows at the door. I loved my hate/love relationship with Bay City and my drive to make it and show the town that even though I was born on the wrong side of the tracks I wasn't going to stay there. So much rich material. I loved the fact that I kept doing all the wrong things for all the rights reasons. I loved the group of us - Cass, Felicia, Wallingford, and Kathleen stumbling and joking, and fighting, and celebrating our way through life. It was really a celebration, if you really think about it. And I don't know of any other soap who has been able to recreate what we had in that little group.
DEBBIE: I was so happy to see you and Cass marry and then was shocked to see your life together cut short by the plane crash. I can still picture Cass trying to reach you through the flames. It really had me in tears. I'm curious, did you know about the plane crash ahead of time and how did your return to Bay City years later come about?
JULIE: I left the show the first time to pursue the rest of my career. I was actually in London starring in HIGH SOCIETY when I heard they had killed me in a plane crash. My reaction was - "Yeah. Right." As soon as I got back in town I started getting phone calls asking me back to the show. I kept turning them down. By the time I was in LA, Michael Laibson took over as exec producer and called me as I sat on my little porch on the Venice Canals listening to the ducks. We joked about the ducks for a while and then he gave me the premise for my return to Bay City. A witness protection program. And I thought, "Yep. This is the one." So I went back to AW and boy was I glad I did. Such a good story. And though they yet again kept asking me to stay, I must admit it was I who insisted on leaving the show again and returning to LA. I confess, I was really sad when the time came to leave, but I was resolved. And though I may be poorer in my pocketbook, I am so much richer in my spirit. I think I made the right choice. But I shall always miss Bay City and my wonderful friends I made there.
DEBBIE: Thank you so much for taking the time to stay in touch with your fans. I know I speak for everyone at SUDZTV.com in saying that we wish you all the best in your endeavors and hope that we'll continue to see you on TV and on the stage.
JULIE: Thanks for all the well wishes and I love it that people miss AW as much as I do. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could get it back? Write NBC! Chat with you all soon! Bye - Julie