TV GUIDE ONLINE, March 16, 1999

Forget Meryl Streep — versatility, thy name is Lisa Peluso. The raven-haired beauty has played four distinct roles on the soaps, culminating in her triumphant portrayal of lusty Lila Roberts on Another World. The character, who came to town to win back her husband, Shane Roberts, has done a 180-degree turn, and is now a romantic heroine who can make us laugh and cry in the same scene. Plus, Peluso is now paired with longtime fan-favorite Stephen Schnetzer (Cass). Will the return of Frankie, Cass's dead wife, spoil things for our Miss Lila? Not if Peluso has anything to say about it!— Jonathan Reiner

Why do you think it took so long for the powers-that-be to pair you and Stephen [Schnetzer, who plays Cass]?

I think it's a process that involves other stories and how the writers were going to get to a certain point first. Wrapping up the whole Shane/Vicky/Lila/Jake story took some time. The Cass/Lila story has actually been going on for quite a while — it's been about a year of them at least being friends. I think the writers did it right when they didn't put us together too fast. They did it so that the audience started to say, "Please put them together," and then they used us to tease the audience. That's the right thing to do when you're trying to establish a romantic couple.

In true soap opera fashion, as soon as they got together, "Frankie" showed up. Are you concerned that the fans might be torn, or might start pushing for Cass to get back with this woman who looks like Frankie?

No. Actually, I think it's wonderful. It's conflict, and I'm so happy to have Alice [Barrett] back, as are the fans.

What do you think of all this Lumina stuff?

Lumina I would do without, but I think they've really got a romantic story planed for that plot. I just wish that Jordan would leave me alone! At this point, I'm really glad that Matt is de-Luminized.

What was it like to have three different Matts within the span of a year?

It was a little confusing. No, it was great, but I'm happy to have Matt Crane back. I liked each one of the Matts in a different way. I'm having more fun now because Matt is de-Luminized. Lila could never respond to Matt when he was Luminized, because she knows it's not her he wanted — it's hypnosis! People question why Lila has turned away from Matt, but it was obvious he was Luminized, and deep down she only wants to be loved... but not because her husband is programmed to love her.

Well, Cass certainly loves her. What does she want now? The Cory money and the Cory name for Jasmine?

I think I've played a scene where I said, "Here I thought it was the Cory name and money that would make me happy, and I realized it's not. Love is the thing that makes you happy, and I love Cass." If there really was a way that she could've loved Matt and have the Cory name, it would've been ideal, but she just fell hopelessly in love with that incorrigible, self-centered lawyer.

Do you miss Lila's scheming?

I'm not so sure she's through with her scheming. Let's see what's happens when Frankie hits their little love tryst.

Are you aware that you're slipping into your southern accent?

Am I? I guess I do it from time to time when I'm talking about Lila.

Is it hard to sustain a southern accent for so long?

I worked with a dialect coach, and my sisters are from Louisiana, so all I had to do is call her up and say, "Talk."

Does using the accent make it easier to stay in character?

Well, I've had a lot of southern friends most of my life growing up, so I've been around it. Maree Cheatham played my mother on Search for eight years, and she's from Texas. When she was at the studio, she used to get rid of her accent for the show, but whenever she got mad she would slip back into her southern accent.

I think the accent is cute, and it's one of the endearing aspects of the character.

Thank you. I really enjoy the accent. I'm also a big Tennessee Williams fan, and I've done Designing Women, so I guess people see me as a southern belle.

Do you live the life of a southern belle offscreen, or do you try to distance yourself from Lila?

I'm very different from a southern belle. That's just a character I like to play on TV.

So you don't make dresses out of curtains?

No, it's not something I would do.

How is married life?


Do you ever think about having kids?

I think about it, but I haven't done anything about it yet.

I ask because you spend so much time holding Jasmine... has that made you anxious to have one of your own?

I know, but I get to give these babies back though. There are three babies that play my baby. I just love those babies and I like to spend time with them when they're at the studio. I feel like they're partly mine.

Hopefully the show won't age Jasmine too quickly.

She'll be 15 tomorrow — didn't you know?

Don't laugh, because one day you'll turn around and she'll be a teenager.

I know, and she'll be Matt's new love interest. Oh, no, that would be incest! She would be Nick's love interest, or something.

You've spent most of your life in soaps. Are there other projects that you'd like to try, like theater or prime time TV?

My start was in theater. I was on Broadway at age nine in Gypsy. We did the national tour and then we were on Broadway for half a year or so. I did mostly theater as a kid, and I love doing it, but I'm really at home in daytime. I think, if anything, I'd like to do nighttime TV, but I think I'm pretty happy where I am.

A lot of soap actors who leave their shows usually come back to soaps because all the prime time roles are so lame.

On a sitcom you don't get to develop a character the way you do on a soap. You can, perhaps, do it more on a drama, like ER, and that's pretty much what I'd like to do, a show like ER or The Practice.

How is morale these days?

Well, it's certainly not a lot of fun wondering whether we're going to stay on the air, but I think we're all confident with Chris [Goutman, the new executive producer] at the helm because he's a mover and a shaker. We all have a lot of confidence at this point that we will probably stay on the air. Our rating were up quite substantially for some time, so I think we've proven to NBC that we can get the numbers up.

It's so odd that actors care so much about the business. Until recently, how often did you hear about actors being interested in ratings?

I think actors in any medium, be it nighttime or daytime, have an interest in something when it affects the future of their show. If you're No. 1, obviously, you don't have to worry about your ratings.

I think it's wild that people still ask you what it was like working with John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. Do you ever get tired of that question?

No, because he's a big deal, and people want to know. I don't have much to tell, though, because I was 11 at the time. I'm sure he was nice to an 11-year-old. He was a very nice man. I had a crush on him, and the only thing I kept thinking was, "Why am I 11?" But that's like my place in history. It makes me two degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon.

How is John connected to Kevin Bacon?

John is connected to Kevin Bacon through someone who was in Get Shorty, and John was connected to me. No, actually, I'm one degree of separation from Kevin Bacon because he was my first on-screen kiss on Search For Tomorrow.

Really? I know he was on Guiding Light, I didn't know he was on Search.

Nobody really knows he was on Search, but I know because I kissed him. I was about 16. It was terrifying because I had never kissed onscreen and I just thought he was so cute. The kiss wasn't very good because I was so afraid.