Can one soap possibly contain Erika Slezak, Robin Strasser and Kim Zimmer without imploding? We'll find out October 1, when Guiding Light alum Zimmer returns to One Life to Live as Echo DiSavoy, a role she was fired from 27 years ago. Back then, Echo sneakily seduced Clint Buchanan and tried to get him convicted of murder. And she's still a hell-raiser. "Echo is going to change the lives of a lot of people in Llanview — she's got some secrets and some scores to settle from way back," says exec producer Frank Valentini. "There's also something that happened with Echo in the more recent past that some of our characters will be very surprised to know about. It will mean great story for all our vets." TV Guide Magazine dished with the four-time Emmy-winning Zimmer about her trip back to Llanview. Good news! She's as marvelously mouthy as ever!
TV Guide Magazine: Leave it to you to find a job on the last soap left in New York!
Zimmer: I gotta stay put, baby! I'm an east-coaster!
TV Guide Magazine: But after GL was cancelled, weren't you out in L.A. flirting up a storm to get yourself a soap job there?
Zimmer: Yeah, and a lot of good that did me! [Laughs] Nobody wanted my sorry ass.
TV Guide Magazine: So you then hit up OLTL?
Zimmer: Not at all! The offer came outta nowhere. It's just so bizarre that I'm resurrecting this character. It's really lovely to be wanted. I didn't even try to get back on OLTL. I ridiculously assumed CBS would want to keep me in the family.
TV Guide Magazine: With all the campaigning you did to get a new gig, you didn't bother calling the show you came from? Seriously?
Zimmer: Hey! Hey! I didn't come from that show! I had four years on The Doctors before Echo came along. Here's what happened. Frank Valentini and I ran into each other on a rental-car shuttle in L.A. last year when GL was going off the air and we started kibitzing about how funny it would be if Echo came back. But we were just throwing it around. It was nothing serious. Then one day he calls me out of the clear blue. I'm so happy to be back. Working with Erika and Robin again is a gas.
TV Guide Magazine: When we last saw Echo, didn't she hold Clint [then played by Clint Ritchie, now Jerry verDorn] responsible for the death of her mother? Where was that left?
Zimmer: I believe that was all a fabrication in Echo's mind. She was a little wacked. She was looking for someone to blame but I don't think Clint had anything to do with it. She had a brother Giles — played by the fantastic Robert Gentry — who was coaxing her the whole time and he ended up in jail. They tarred and feathered Echo and sent her out of town. I was supposed to be there for three years and got the axe after three months, though Erika Slezak swears I was there six months. I still don't know why they fired me.
TV Guide Magazine: But ain'tcha glad it happened?
Zimmer: Are you kidding? It was the best thing that could have happened to me because GL came along almost right away. I would never have done Reva.
TV Guide Magazine: What was Kim Zimmer like 27 years ago?
Zimmer: My daughter, Rachel, wasn't even a year old when I did OLTL, so as much fun as I was having on the show, I was also preoccupied with my leaky breasts and wanting to be home with my little babies. But, as an actress, I was balls to the wall as always. I'd gained a lot of confidence after my time on The Doctors, so it wasn't like I was coming in blind or starstruck or nervous about working with Strasser and Slezak and Phil Carey [Asa] and Clint Ritchie and Bobby Woods [Bo]. I was their peer.
TV Guide Magazine: So what's Echo really up to? Cough it up, doll.
Zimmer: She comes to town with a juicy little secret I can't talk about but it should shock a few people. She's also flat broke and hasn't been able to find another sugar daddy so she comes seeking employment. She used to be a fashion photographer, so she wants to shoot for The Banner and Viki says, "Are you out of your mind? Why would I ever hire you? You tried to convict my husband on murder charges!" Echo also claims she's back to visit her old boyfriend, who happens to be Charlie Banks [Brian Kerwin], but she's really doing it to make Viki bristle. And then she tries to get Dorian to side with her because, after all, Dorian hates Viki too — but Dorian tells Echo she has a newfound respect for Viki, which of course makes Echo laugh. Robin and I had so much fun giggling our way through our scenes. She calls me a slut, so that's fun. Listen, if I'm only here to be a vehicle for these great actors to get some more good story, I'm fine with that. I got a job!
TV Guide Magazine: Let's face it, you're a powerhouse — you suck up a lot of oxygen when you do your Zimmer thing — and because of that there is some concern among fans that you'll take attention away from their favorites.
Zimmer: I know the fans are afraid that'll happen, and if it did that would be awful. Hey, I used to bitch about the same thing over at GL. "Why are you focusing on all these new damn characters when it's the longtimers the audience wants to see?" I was always pissed about that! So I am very sympathetic. I'm definitely not trying to step on anybody's toes or take anybody's airtime, by any means. And I've been made to feel very welcome. Erika called me three times before I agreed to the role, just to put a little bee in my bonnet about how fun it would be to work together again. She was very terrific and supportive. But I understand the fans. There are people on the show like Ilene Kristen [Roxie] who would love to be working more. I just think it's a sign of the times at OLTL that the producers and writers are looking for ways to shake things up.
TV Guide Magazine: You got a new look for OLTL?
Zimmer: Well it's not the look I had at the end of GL, thank God! I'm wearing some very nice upscale clothing. It's great to be on a show once again that actually has a wardrobe budget. I was laughing the other day because they wanted to stop and re-do a scene because the lighting wasn't quite right. I'm like, "You've got to f---ing be kidding me! Are you serious?" You know the awful lighting we had on GL! I love that OLTL is still shooting with three big old-time cameras, and you don't have to worry about staying out of the way of people holding their little goddamn lights and weaving in and out of the scene with their minicams. And we're shooting indoors so I don't have to wear special lipstick that takes away the purple when you're outside freezing your f--ing b---s off. I don't have to change my clothes in public bathrooms anymore. [Laughs] Logan, I'm tellin' ya! This is luxury! I'm in heaven!
TV Guide Magazine: It's been so long since you played Echo. Does it feel like you're stepping back into a familiar character, or is it more like you're starting a new one? Echo 2.0?
Zimmer: I don't know. It's strange. I think I shocked Frank when I started speaking as Echo, who always used sort of a phony stage dialect because that was her. She was actually the Contessa Echo DiSavoy because she married a baron or something, and she was always trying to be like Kathleen Turner, a bit affected. So, yeah, Frank was thrown by that, but he's accepted it. But he won't let me be mean. He keeps saying, "Echo is not a bad woman. You gotta find her heart!" And I'm like, "But I wanna be a bitch!" Of course, it doesn't help that so far I'm playing all my scenes standing in people's doorways because no one wants to invite Echo into their homes. [Laughs] No one wants her!
TV Guide Magazine: Word is, you've been writing your memoirs. How's that going?
Zimmer: I was so angry and bitter when I started the book after GL, and that's not what I wanted it to be. I've had to readjust my thinking a lot. That hasn't been difficult because now I am able to step away and see GL for what it was worth to me, to see it as the gift that it was, and how incredibly it provided for me and my family. Trust me, there will still be some fabulous dish in there, but at least I'm not spewing venom with my mighty pen anymore.