Erika Slezak Goes to Heaven One Last Time on One Life to Live
Erica Slezak and Jessica Tuck
ABC's One Life to Live will come to an end next week after 43 years on the air. But, first, Victoria Lord will have one more chance to visit Heaven. The grande dame of Llanview — played by six-time Emmy winner Erika Slezak — is famous for her near-death, out-of-body experiences that land her at the Pearly Gates. She's back there again Monday, Jan. 9, along with her soulmate Clint (Jerry verDorn), after the two of them are shot in a shocking denouement to the Statesville Prison break. This time, Viki will be escorted to the afterlife by her late daughter Megan, played by returning fan fave Jessica Tuck, best known these days as the bitchy vampire activist Nan Flanagan on True Blood. TV Guide Magazine spoke with Slezak about Viki's latest brush with death and — dare we say it? — a possible reprieve for OLTL!
TV Guide Magazine: It seems only right that our Viki does the Promised Land one last time before the show ends, don't you think?
Slezak: I do! This will be the third time Viki's been to Heaven and, thank God, they're always round trips! Even this time. [Laughs] Or am I giving something away? It was so great to have Jessie back. So fantastic seeing her again! The whole thing was shot in a very lovely way. Lots of blowing curtains.
TV Guide Magazine: And Clint's there with you. Kinda perfect.
Slezak: I have a lot of company this time, and I'll say no more!
TV Guide Magazine: How will fans feel about the ending of the series for Viki and Clint? He's been such an evil jerk this past year, especially during his Asa period. Do they go off into the sunset together, a couple for the ages?
Slezak: It ends on a bit of a cliffhanger for them...but a nice one. I think they shot some alternate endings for some of the stories. Not for mine. Jerry verDorn had fun being Asa for a while there, but even when Clint was the bad guy he was always the good guy on the inside. So I think it works. You'll see.
TV Guide Magazine: We're suckers for this Heaven stuff.
Slezak: This is pure fantasy and the audience loves it. They know it's outrageous. They know it's not real. It's just fun. What really annoyed me about our cancellation was the reason we were given. We were told the daytime audience doesn't want entertainment anymore and that they just want information. Well, that's the biggest load of bulls--t. People always want entertainment! I've had so many emails from people who are really upset that soaps are being replaced with reality shows. They don't want to watch food at one o'clock in the afternoon and weight loss at two o'clock. They want to sit down, put their feet up and relax and enjoy for a bit. It's really the death of the genre. General Hospital will go on, hopefully, but ABC does not believe in the genre, or at least Brian Frons said he didn't believe in the genre, and obviously his bosses didn't either because they cancelled us. Hopefully, the other networks will hang onto their soaps as long as they can.
TV Guide Magazine: You were all gung-ho and the first to sign up when Prospect Park announced it was taking OLTL to the Internet. What are your thoughts on the collapse of those plans?
Slezak: They seemed so full of hope at the beginning. I do believe their intentions were honorable, but they bit off more than they could chew.
TV Guide Magazine: How were you emotionally through this roller coaster experience? First, you're cancelled. Then, you're saved. Then, suddenly, you're dead again.
Slezak: It has been a roller coaster! When we were cancelled, I think we all went into that mindset of "OK, it has finally happened. The rumors were true. Now we must get it together and move on." Then Prospect Park came along and we thought, "Hey, maybe this might work! We do have a future!" Ah, well. Actually, they still own the rights and I think they're still hoping to do something.
TV Guide Magazine: Really? Can these guys be trusted at this point?
Slezak: [Prospect Park CEO] Jeff Kwatinetz called me a couple of weeks ago and we had a lovely conversation. I had never met him. He said, "We're hoping somehow somewhere that we can revive this thing." And if they can, that would be awesome. I don't know if they can anymore, since so many people have moved on. But it was really nice for him to call and say, "Thanks for sticking by us." I was their biggest cheerleader because I thought it would have been brilliant to do original programming on the internet.
TV Guide Magazine: Speaking of brilliant, how brilliant were you — and everyone else — in Roxy's Fraternity Row fantasy? We know you can be funny. After all, her alternate personality Niki is a total hoot. But when you played that German maid you were channeling some fantastic inner clown we've never seen before.
Slezak: I went to the market the day after it aired and one of the checkout ladies said, "I watched it and was laughing my head off. My husband came into the room and said, 'Who are those people?'" It was everything I could do to keep from laughing while we shot that. It's impossible to keep a straight face around Tuc Watkins [David], who started the morning saying, "I'm going to do [his fantasy character Durwood] British, very British." By the time we got to the stage to tape he'd decided to be Colombian. We had so much fun! I'm glad you enjoyed it. Larry Carpenter was the director of that episode and he's freakin' brilliant. I believe he's going to GH when [OLTL exec producer] Frank Valentini moves over there. He edited that episode and directed the whole thing.
TV Guide Magazine: So, as the end draws near, any regrets?
Slezak: None. What I'm sorry for is the loss of other people's jobs. It's just horrendous. It's not just the people who work on our show who will suffer here. It's everyone who supplies the show, from the florists to the little food truck that rolls up out front. There are so many people now out of work. But me? I can't complain. Hopefully, I will continue to work. I want to play some villains! I am not retiring voluntarily. [Laughs] If I retire, it will be kicking and screaming!
TV Guide Magazine: And you got to celebrate your 40th anniversary with the show last year — just in the nick of time!
Slezak: I'm so proud of that! Who in this business gets to do a role like this for 40 years? I have had fun every single second of every day. Viki has been a dream to play, with all her marriages and [alternate] personalities and her health crises and transplants. I think the only original organ she has left in her entire body is her appendix! The only thing she hasn't been through all these years is an alcoholic. [Laughs] Though Niki is! I am so grateful for it all. I have been one very lucky girl!
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