When did you decide that you wanted to join the world of performance for a living? Was it an early passion of yours? Or did you just find yourself in this life one day?
I think my life choice was kind of inevitable. I’m the 3rd generation of perfomers in my family…on both SIDES of my family.
My paternal grandfather was a clown in Ringling Brothers, my father was an actor from a very young age in TV and radio, my maternal grandmother was an amateur actress and my mother was a professional actor and writer and director. For a few years after I was born, my dad did the weather and operated the TV camera and hosted a childrens’ Television show in Harrisburg Pennsylvania. The show was called “Captain Rick’s Showboat “ and he often had kids in studio as his audience…you guessed it…my older brother and I were, sometimes a couple of those kids.
I made my stage debut at the age of 2 playing the little girl in a local production of “The Littlest Angel.” I still remember the first lines I ever uttered in front of an audience, “ Daddy, why is the star on top of the Christmas tree?”
I discovered a short-lived but ultimately hilarious show about 20 years after it originally aired, entitled Get A Life, in which you were a regular star. I absolutely adored this program, and can always go back to it for a good laugh. So, I am curious to know what it was like to work on such a bizarre and hilarious sitcom like this? Was it as much fun to work on as it was for the fans to watch?
Oh, we had a ball! The cast and crew were all such fun and I loved the character I got to play. “Sharon” was the nemesis of Chris Elliott
and got to say all the things the audience was thinking about his ridiculous behavior. I loved working with Chris. In fact an episode in which Chris and I played rivals in a community theatre production of “Zoo Animals on Wheels” was named by TV Guide as one of the 50 funniest moments in TV history….I’m very proud of that fact but its hard to work that into everyday conversation so thanks for giving me the opportunity to bring it up! 🙂
We have had the pleasure of showcasing quite a few folks who have worked in the world of Soap Operas. You have managed to work quite extensively in this world as well! I always like to ask folks on both sides of the camera what it was like to work in such a fast paced environment? And what sort of knowledge did you happen to draw from working in this field for the times that you have?
I’m very lucky to have inherited a tiny chip of my grandfather’s genetic material…he was an attorney with a photographic memory…so that is a great help in learning the pages of dialogue required everyday in the fast paced production of Soaps. I was also classically trained in the theatre so that’s a great help as well because, they do VERY few takes so if you falter in a scene but have the ability to cover the mistake and get to the other actor’s cue its a real asset. I never really aspired to working in soaps but when my agent called and asked if I’d be interested in accepting an offer to join the cast of Days of Our Lives for a while, I paused and then replied, “Well, yeah if its something interesting like a homeless woman who lives under a bridge.” There was a much longer pause on her end of the line and then she laughed and said, “She IS a homeless woman who lives under a bridge!”
Well, when the universe answers you so quickly and specifically you have to say yes! Soap Opera fans are so loyal and the soap world is a tight community so once you’ve acquitted yourself well on one of them it’s not unusual to be invited to other shows too. I was lucky enough to receive a couple of subsequent offers from The Bold and the Beautiful and then General Hospital as well.
You have worked extensively in the worlds of television, film, and the stage. You’ve had some great success in all of these forms, but I am curious to know what is your preferred method of performance? if you were destined to work in only one field for the rest of your career, what would it be? Why?
Theatre, hands down. There is nothing quite like telling the story from beginning to end every performance. The immediate connection with an audience of living breathing people only feet away from you is thrilling and dangerous and extremely fulfilling. One’s performance grows and evolves over the run of a show and you discover more and more about the character you’re portraying with each performance. I’ve often said that despite the rehearsal process – which I also love but you don’t get much of when doing a film or TV show – I feel just about ready to open a play the night it closes.
I understand you have a book available now that sounds very intriguing? Can you tell us a bit about what the book is about? And what inspired you put it out into the world?
Its called “A Survivor’s Guide to Hollywood: How to Play the Game Without Losing Your Soul.” I was asked to address the students in the theatre department of Wright State University in Ohio. The day before I spoke, I said to myself, these students have just gone through a couple of years of theatre history and scene study and all the academic aspects of acting so what do I have to share with them that they don’t already have freshly implanted in their minds? And then it came to me: I can tell them what its like to actually LIVE the life of an artist. The day to day struggles and the philosophy that can support you through those struggles. The perspective one needs to live a happy life even when you’re not booking the jobs and receiving the encouragement so vital to all of us – no matter what profession we choose.
I’m not teaching them how to “act” I’m suggesting ways they might want to ‘behave” in order to keep their creativity and their happiness intact. This business, indeed this world, has a way of diminishing accomplishments that aren’t “spectacular.” I show you ways to recognize that you are far luckier than you think, you accomplish far more than you give yourself credit for and that being aware of the company you keep are all critical to maintaining the sort of self support one needs to succeed as a person in any profession. In fact the reviews that have made me extra happy are the ones from readers outside show business – house painters, therapists, attorneys and political activists – who have said what a useful philosophy for life my book has been for them.
Thank you so much for asking about it! Now for a little shameless self promotion: “A Survivor’s Guide to Hollywood” is available world wide at Barnes & Noble, Amazon and through bookstores but if ordered from my website, I can personalize it for you! Its a very funny and good read, I’ve been told and I’m quite proud of it…can you tell? 🙂 robinriker.com
What does the future have in store for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?
I just shot a film for Lifetime called “Killer in a Red Dress.” I’m neither the Killer nor the Red dress but the role was a lot of fun.
I’ve just completed a pilot entitled “Hildy & Maude” which we are shopping around and I’m looking forward to launching into…I’ll keep you posted as to where and when that can be found and I’m starting a new book of short stories.
What was the last thing that made you smile?
This question 🙂 I just love the fact that you know how important it is to smile! There have been psychological studies done which prove that if you force yourself to smile even when every feeling in your body says “there’s nothing to smile ABOUT” the simple act of maintaining that reluctant smile will, in fact, uplift your mood! Wild isn’t it?
I think it’s important to realize the power of a smile that’s freely given, too. Just try it for yourself the next time you go out. Simply smile at a passing stranger. Even if they don’t smile back, you have changed the energy around them. All the technology we are immersed in every minute of every day tends to isolate us from each other even as we think we are connecting by text and instagram etc. Looking at a person as they walk by and smiling at them is a real and all too rare connection these days. It can change a person’s day…both for the smiler and the smilee!
A Survivors Guide to Hollywood
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