It's hard out there for a madam. Meredith Vieira guested on ABC's General Hospital nearly 10 years ago as Bree Flanders, owner of an upscale call-girl business who tried to hire one of Luke Spencer's ladyloves. Bree's back on the soap Friday, Dec. 14, only this time in a very different line of work. Vieira gave TV Guide Magazine the exclusive dish.
TV Guide Magazine: You were such a hoot as Bree. What's become of our girl?
Vieira: Well, she's no longer providing comfort to men! Lynn Herring returns to the show as Lucy Coe [also Friday] and it turns out Bree is her senior vp of marketing at CoeCoe Cosmetics. Sabrina and Felix are desperately trying to get a meeting with Lucy but first they have to go through me. [Laughs] But, really, not much has changed for Bree. Prostitution. Makeup. Hey, it's all sales.
TV Guide Magazine: Why'd she give up sex work?
Vieira: Bree probably saw the writing on the wall. She's getting older. Or maybe the law was on her ass. Heidi Fleiss wound up doing a reality show, didn't she? Everyone deserves a second chance.
TV Guide Magazine: So, as an actress, you're not disappointed Bree went legit?
Vieira: Well, maybe it's not as juicy to be in cosmetics but it would be so pathetic if Bree was still in the madam business 10 years later, sitting there with her scotch and her cigarettes. It would have been creepy. I'm just so surprised they're bringing her back at all. I just assumed something bad had happened to her. Or that she was like that famous kid in soaps who went upstairs to get his skis and never came back.
TV Guide Magazine: Word is, Bree will reveal she used to be a hooker who once worked for Renee Divine, a popular character that appeared for years on One Life to Live.
Vieira: Really? Yeah, before Bree became a madam in her own right she used to work for a madam named Renee at a whorehouse in Reno, Nevada, but nobody told me Renee was a character the audience would know! That's so cool! They probably didn't want to load me down with too much information. They were probably thinking, "Let's hope the poor thing can get through this!" These soaps move so fast, you know. So much faster than 10 years ago!
TV Guide Magazine: Isn't this GH stint part of a crossover with your game show Who Wants to be a Millionaire?
Vieira: Yes, we have Finola Hughes (Anna), Ian Buchanan (Duke), Jason Thompson (Patrick) and [head writer] Ron Carlivati coming on Millionaire. It'll air around GH's 50th anniversary in April. Such terrific people! I've had some wonderful opportunities thanks to these crazy jobs of mine, particularly Millionaire and The View and Today. I played a party planner on All My Children and someone threw a pot at me. I even got to dance with the Rockettes on opening night of their Christmas show at Radio City, which I took very seriously. That's sacred stuff and they normally don't allow it. Of course, I stood out like a sore thumb because they're all ridiculously tall compared to me.
TV Guide Magazine: For a TV host, you seem strangely comfortable acting.
Vieira: I know! It's weird. I'm all over the map. I can't seem to figure out who the hell I am. There's a certain level of performance in almost everything I do these days. [Laughs] There was certainly some acting required on The View!
TV Guide Magazine: Didn't you also just pop into The Lion King on Broadway?
Vieira: I was one of the bird women in the "Circle of Life" number — and it was almost ended my life! I wore this big headdress and a bird on each arm and had to walk up a flight of stairs with no railing. I was told, "If you fall, don't get up. Just lie there and wait until the ambulance comes."
TV Guide Magazine: Remember when you started on The View and were worried it would ruin the legitimacy you'd achieved on 60 Minutes?
Vieira: I was sure I was flushing all my credibility down the toilet. [Laughs] And I pretty much did. But it all ended up being great. Now, as you can see, I'll do anything