It's bad enough One Life to Live is going off the air. Now the show's soap-within-a-soap, Fraternity Row, has gotten the ax, too! But can Roxy Balsom save it? The dippy beautician, played by that irrepressible diva Ilene Kristen, is Fraternity Row's number one fan (who knew?) and is leading the charge in Llanview to keep the show on the air. TV Guide Magazine spoke with Kristen who will headline a special fantasy episode of OLTL airing Monday, Dec. 19 in which Roxy faints while visiting the set of Fraternity Row. When she wakes up, she's Lorraine, the leading lady of the show!
TV Guide Magazine: Just under the wire, Ilene Kristen gets her very own episode! It's about damn time.
Kristen: Thank you! I think the fans are gonna love it. This whole cancellation of Fraternity Row is a really brilliant way for our writers to comment on all the hell we're going through at OLTL. It's really great because I totally represent the fan base, all the wonderful fans who fought so hard to keep OLTL on the air. I represent the fans who showed up at the ABC upfront last May and booed [former ABC Daytime chief] Brian Frons when he walked into the building. And I'm proud to do so! They're a fervent group of people.
TV Guide Magazine: So Lorraine is the Erica Slezak of Fraternity Row?
Kristen: Yeah! Roxy falls unconscious and the next thing she knows she's the star. And everyone else in Llanview is in the show, too. Lorraine is married to David Vickers. Viki and Clint are her maid and butler. It's hysterical and a real valentine to our audience.
TV Guide Magazine: If only OLTL's cancellation was a dream...
Kristen: I do think I'm in the middle of a dream! A really, really bad one! It's just so sad and unreal. Somehow I keep thinking that if Roxy can keep Fraternity Row on the air, maybe Ilene can do the same for OLTL. Crazy, I know. I just don't understand why Oprah wouldn't save these soaps and run them on OWN. She is floundering. In the daytime she's running repeats of Medical Miracles and nobody's watching. I don't understand her master plan.
TV Guide Magazine: Speaking of master plans, what's your take on the Prospect Park fiasco?
Kristen: Did they have a master plan? Why would they start a project to save the soaps and then have it fizzle out like that? When Prospect Park said they weren't continuing with All My Children, I absolutely assumed it was because they wanted to put all their eggs in one basket with OLTL. Not that I wanted to see AMC die. But who thought this would happen?
TV Guide Magazine: Was it better to live for a few months believing OLTL had a future? Or would you rather have known the truth all along?
Kristen: I guess living in fairyland got us through the summer better than we would have otherwise but I think a lot of us would have done the last six months differently. I certainly would have started throwing out job feelers way before now. I thought I still had a job! We all did! [Laughs] I don't know that I would have given a $500 contribution to the Ensemble Studio Theatre. I bought one of the kids I mentor a $250 makeup case. Jeez. Now every little bit of money helps, especially when you don't know where your next job is coming from. But in a way I'm glad we thought we were going somewhere because it kind of kept me buoyant.
TV Guide Magazine: The upside of delusion!
Kristen: Yeah, right! Delusion. Collusion. Who knows what really went on there with Prospect Park? I'd like to know the real story someday. I was a little concerned when I heard the name of their [web platform] was going to be the Online Network. I thought, that's a little... dry. They needed a dazzling, great name. I don't know what was going on in their hearts and minds. I'd like to think they had good intentions, but a lot of people think it was all a ruse to keep the fans from being upset.
TV Guide Magazine: It all seems a bit epic for a ruse. These people ain't that smart.
Kristen: And it would be counter-productive for Prospect Park to be so deceitful. As it is, their reputation as a company is a little soiled at the moment. Our union, AFTRA, was only too anxious to speak with them, and the same goes for the Writers Guild. They cancelled a lot of appointments with the unions and I don't think that's been represented correctly in the press. The fans need to know the unions wanted to make this happen. I was on the AFTRA committee for this whole project and we did a lot of work — meetings, lots of correspondence — and it never really ever got down to the particulars. It's like they weren't serious. Prospect Park hardly went to any of the cast members at AMC, and yet they were claiming that the actors there were demanding this and that. And that was so not true. It's very enigmatic.
TV Guide Magazine: And now there are no more East Coast soaps. You've been a fixture on the New York suds scene forever. Did you ever think you'd see this day?
Kristen: Never! I grew up on the ABC soaps. I've worked there on and off since 1975 with Ryan's Hope. How can I not be on that network anymore? It's very bad for the New York actors to lose these shows. The Chew is so bad, as far as I'm concerned. I thought maybe there'd be this thing where ABC would go, "Oh, this new show isn't working. We better keep these soaps on the air. We're better off having them than not having them." But that's me and my daydreams. [Sighs] I'm really gonna miss it! The last six months they've given me such great stuff to play. There's such history at this show! I was looking at some old clips and I never realized Maggie Smith was on our show!
TV Guide Magazine: She was not!
Kristen: I saw a clip of her!
TV Guide Magazine: Not possible. It never happened.
Kristen: Well, you would know. Was I hallucinating? [Laughs] Maybe I am Lorraine! You know, it's funny. Not that I ever wanted Ryan's Hope to be over, but I'm sadder about OLTL going away. I had left Ryan's two different times and had such a strange history with them, but my last four or five years there were great. But I also knew I wouldn't get to play another great character if that show didn't go off the air. Roxy has been the most fun you can have doing something legal. I've been able to do some amazing things on this show. Why would I look for another part when Prospect Park said we were continuing? If you can still play Roxy, you don't look elsewhere.
TV Guide Magazine: You'll bounce back. You always do. You're Ilene Kristen for crying out loud!
Kristen: I know I will. I show up. That's what life's about. I show up places and things happen. I just find it so hard to believe that ABC no longer cares about the audience that has kept their soaps on the air for decades. [Laughs] Something in me just won't give up! If only I could get my goddammed set from Foxy Roxy's Hair Haven and set it up somewhere and start my own show — Ask Roxy! We could do it real cheap like the old-time Soupy Sales Show. We could bring on all the stars of OLTL. It could be, like, OLTL 2012: After the Apocalypse!