Being discovered at a Hollywood lunch counter is the myth usually associated with Lana Turner. In the case of Robin Riker, however, it is actually true, although at the time Robin was behind the counter, serving burgers. Two months after her arrival in Hollywood, a television producer, who was a regular patron of the hamburger stand, decided to produce a story on the aspiring actress for his weekly magazine show. A few weeks later, Robin had 15 minutes of the most coveted tool an aspiring actress can have in her Hollywood arsenal: actual, professionally produced and aired footage. She hasn’t stopped working since. Being able to say you have an agent and film on yourself only two short months after arriving in town was an amazing gift. “I certainly can’t call it an accomplishment,” says Robin. “It was as though my immediate good luck was the universe’s way of saying ‘Okay here are a couple of signs that you made the right choice. Now… learn patience.'” Robin had been a theatre actress since the age of two. The third generation of performers from both sides of her family, she was “born in a trunk.” Actually she was almost born in a taxi on the Brooklyn Bridge, but that’s another story. Her parents, professional actors, who owned and ran theatres, had the very practical philosophy, “If you have children, use them.” Robin grew up on stage, backstage, in the box office and selling cookies in the lobby. Even after starring in many TV series, films and countless episodics, the stage remains Robin’s favorite version of soul food.
The family business took Robin all around the United States. From the day she was born until she moved to Los Angeles, she never spent more than two and a half years in one place. This gypsy way of life has served her well as an artist whose calling requires an understanding of human nature, its frailties and of the many ways people try to connect. As a child, Robin performed for two seasons with the prestigious Colorado Shakespeare Festival. As a teenager, she played in several theatres in upstate New York. She interrupted her schooling in California to travel and live in Europe and after finishing a production of “The Cherry Orchard” in Northern California, Robin packed her bags, drove to Mexico for 2 weeks and then on to Hollywood. Arriving with only a couple of head shots, an old convertible and $45.00 in cash she had her mind set for a career in film and television and the trip to LA has definitely paid off. Within a few weeks of her arrival, Robin had an agent, the job at the hamburger stand and a great boss, Larry, who allowed her the flexibility needed for auditions. The tiny stand at the corner of Sunset and Vine was frequented by record and television producers, musicians and directors. Larry, cook and owner, kept telling the customers, “She’s an actress. She’s fabulous!” which is a tribute to Larry’s psychic powers since he’d never seen Robin perform anything other than the act of making change. When Larry sold the stand, he took a couple of his favorite spatulas and a handful of Robin’s head shots and went to work at the commissary at Warner Brothers Studios where he passed out Robin’s pictures to producers and directors whom he knew. Within two weeks, she had her first job on national television, the illustrious role of “girl robber.” She appeared throughout the episode and all of her scenes were opposite the star, but her dialogue was so sparse that she had to audition by reading another character’s lines! Nevertheless, she saw this as another amazing blessing and further proof that her choice to come to Hollywood had been a good one. Not long after, she landed a starring role in a film that became a cult classic: Alligator, written by John Sayles. Robin is constantly receiving calls from family and friends about that movie. “It seems that at all hours of the day, somewhere in the world, Alligator is on television! I have a huge poster of it in my office in Turkish and another in Japanese.” Other films in which she starred include the title role in the comedy. Stepmonster, Disney’s Read It and Weep, Brink, Don’t Look Under the Bed and Body Chemistry II: Voice of a Stranger in which she played opposite Gregory Harrison. Films had to be squeezed in between her work as a series regular which, when it finally started coming, kept coming. One series, of which she is particularly proud, is the ground breaking Showtime comedy Brothers which ran for five years and for which she was nominated twice for Ace Awards as Best Actress in a Comedy Series. She starred as Ed Asner’s daughter in Thunder Alley on ABC, Chris Elliott’s nemesis in the cult classic Get a Life on FOX, an episode of which, in which Chris and Robin play rival stars in a community theatre production, was named by T.V. Guide as “One of the fifty funniest T.V. moments of all time.” In her second series for FOX, she starred as Matt Frewer’s beleagured wife in Shaky Ground and then moved on to CBS to portray the best friend of the late Gregory Hines’ in The Gregory Hines Show. Her guest roles are too numerous to list, but they include work with Danny DeVito, Malcolm McDowell, John Lithgow, William Shatner, Brooke Shields, Haley Joel Osment, Dakota Fanning and Angela Lansbury to name a few.
Robin continually finds time to return to her first and greatest love: the theatre. She has recently returned from New York where she was starring in an Off Broadway production of a new play entitled Pied a Terre. Most recently in Los Angeles, Robin played opposite Len Cariou, Laurie Metcalf and Neil Patrick Harris in a critically acclaimed revival of Arthur Miller’s classic All My Sons at The Geffen Playhouse and received a Best Supporting Actress Nomination for her portrayal of Sue Bayliss. At Garry Marshall’s Falcon Theatre, she starred opposite Tony Danza in Bernard Slade’s romantic comedy I Remember You. Other nominations include a Best Actress and a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her work in Les Liaisons Dangereuses and George Furth’s Sex Sex, Sex Sex and Sex, a play, as you might have already guessed, about gardening. Other theatre work includes shows at the Pasadena Playhouse, Theatre on The Square in San Francisco and various smaller venues around LA.
Recently Robin has resumed using yet another of her talents, writing. “I have been fascinated with words and language as long as I can remember. I wrote my first song when I was 4 and my first play in the 6th grade. It was produced in the auditorium and the 3rd grade teacher had all her students send me handmade “telegrams” opening night. It was great. I love language and since I was about 2, I was forever trying to spell something. My first success at putting letters together was the word z-o-o. I was SO excited! I was 30 at the time.”
A book and a television pilot are in the works at the moment . “I find the hardest part of writing to be just getting my ass in the chair. Once I’m there, I can get lost in the work for hours.”
Splitting her time between New York and LA, helps keep Robin grounded. “There is nothing like living in New York. You step out of your apartment and you are immediately swept into the molecular flow of the universe. Working there is such a thrill to me. One afternoon at a ball game, I got a call from my agents saying the producer of The Bold and the Beautiful wanted to meet me for the role of Beth Logan but I was living and working in the city and loving it. Going back to LA for an audition for a soap was not on my list of things to do. I asked my agents to see if an offer was possible. Scott, my agent, told me the producer needed to at least talk to me because he wanted to make sure he wasn’t bringing some kind of crazy diva onto the set. I said ,’Well I’m in the ladies’ room at Yankee Stadium. If he wants to call me now, I’ll be here.’ And he did! There I am standing in the last stall on the right hoping I’ll be able to hear him in there and we talk for about 15 minutes and we made the deal the next day! Who says show business isn’t glamorous?!”