One on One Interview
Soap Opera Weekly
Ben Masters: How do you learn all those lines?
Kim Johnston Ulrich: (Laughing) Oh, shut up!
BM: No, I’m serious.
KJU: You’re only saying that because the other day I couldn’t remember them!
BM: No, really. How do you learn all those lines on a daily basis?
KJU: I just repeat them over and over again. If I haven’t repeated them over and over again, then I get in trouble like the other day. What’s your secret?
BM: Hard work. I think it is my job to come in and not keep the crew until midnight, and not hang up other people by not knowing my lines. This job is not just showing up when your call time is, but showing up and knowing your stuff.
KJU: When did you start acting?
BM: I started doing plays in high school.
KJU: Did you play sports?
BM: No. I don’t trust people who play sports. Were you a cheerleader in school?
KJU: You betcha. Both junior high and high school.
BM: (Laughter) What color was your hair then?
KJU: (Looking at her hair) Blond, actually.
BM: What color was my hair then? Who was your first boyfriend?
KJU: Kurt. He was the quarterback of the football team in high school.
BM: Of course he was.
KJU: So, what was your first kiss in a working environment?
BM: It would have to be in college. I played Romeo, so, of course, I had to kiss Juliet.
KJU: Your first television or screen kiss? You know, a heightened kiss?
BM: I think it was probably Christopher Plummer in Shadowbox. I don’t know. I do remember a very interesting kiss, though. There used to be a very interesting series called Nightstalker. There was this episode where I played the college kid. I had this beautiful girlfriend, and she was a witch. At the end of the episode, I’m kissing her. I kissed four women, actually. One of the women playing the college girl was in her mid-30s. The next was a woman in her 50s. Then one in her 70s. Then one was like this 85-year-old woman who looked like a wizened old crow. She had her tongue in my mouth. I swear that’s the honest truth. What was your first impression of me?
KJU: Let’s see…I remember…
BM: She doesn’t even have one! She doesn’t even remember.
KJU: No, I do remember. It was in the dressing room.
BM: And you thought, “This guy is so old to be playing my husband?”
KJU: No, I was very thrilled when I heard you got the job. You’re a fine actor.
KJU: Well, at that time I thought you were a fine actor. I was under some illusions back then! I remember being in the makeup room when we met, and you were very kind when you introduced yourself to me. I was very impressed. Obviously, I am your favorite co-star, but who was your most memorable co-star?
BM: I wouldn’t say co-star, but when I was a young fellow I was in a play in New York with Ingrid Bergman. I have a lovely memory of her sitting on the floor at someone’s apartment, sipping wine after the show. She was very kind and gracious. What do you like most about Ivy?
KJU: Her age, actually. I like that she’s not young.
BM: Yeah, but you still have to do nude scenes (Laughs)
KJU: I know, I know. I’m so mad!
BM: Isn’t that the worst?
KJU: You don’t understand. I got this job and I thought I wouldn’t have to do this anymore.
BM: I know. It’s been a while. Now I have to slip from being in bed into a robe really fast. You see Luis and all these other ones and you think: “Uh, I need to get in shape.”
KJU: The other day Luis was in the buff, as it were, and he had the flesh colored Speedos on. And I thought, “OK, if Galen (Gering, Luis) looks stupid in that, then I will look totally ridiculous.” There’s no way I’m doing this!
BM: We are looking forward to this episode where you are naked.
KJU: Well, you won’t see anything. All you see of a woman who’s naked on daytime is the shoulders. That’s all you can show.
BM: Oh, décolletage.
KJU: What would be your philosophy of life? You’re old enough to have one.
BM: Old enough to know better. Walk between the rain drops.
KJU: You’re walking between hailstorms!
BM: I think my philosophy now is: Don’t try to cause trouble, and enjoy oneself when things are good. There are enough bad things around the corner to worry about. I try to be happy, but I’m just so neurotic. I also believe that everyone carries around a thermos full of angst and anxiety, and if you pour a little out… if you’re like “Oh, good, I don’t have to worry about the mortgage payment for another year,” then you fill it back up with something else, like, “What’s this rash?”
KJU: So you live in angst?
BM: I live basically in angst. When your real-life son watches, what does he think of his mom?
KJU: Well, I don’t know, because he just likes Timmy. (Laughs)
BM: But how does he distinguish? Does he think that his other little friends’ moms are on TV?
KJU: Well, yeah, because most of them are! And where he goes to school, some of the little kids are on TV, too! It’s what he’s used to. We were in the mall once, and this girl recognized me, and said, “You kind of look like the woman on Passions.” That’s what I always get. “You kind of look like…” So, Cooper says to the girl, “She is on Passions.”
BM: One of the weirdest things that ever happened to me was I was living in New York with a woman who was a fairly well-known actress and comedienne, and she was on a big hot hit. She was on Saturday Night Live. Actually, it was Gilda Radner.
KJU: Now I’m getting the goods.
BM: We were on an elevator in Midtown Manhattan and two women, girls, whatever, got on. They looked over and they said, “Is that her?” Really just sort of bovine women. “No, I don’t think that’s her. She looks better than that. Is that her?” They get off saying, “No, I don’t think that was her.” Never said, “Are you…?”
KJU: Having brought that up, were you in contact with her when she was ill?
BM: No, I wasn’t. That was another point in my life, and we had moved on. We had lived together for four years, probably 22, 23 years ago. She was married to Gene Wilder when she was sick and so…
KJU: Have you had a midlife crisis?
BM: Why would you think I would have a midlife crisis?
KJU: Because everybody does.
BM: When I turned 40, within a year both of my parents died, I got married, and I bought a house. Thank god I’m divorced now, and I don’t have the house! (Laughs) Does that answer your question? No, I didn’t have a midlife crisis. I’ve always had a crisis. A mental crisis. Do you ever log on to the chat rooms on the Internet about Passions to see what people are saying?
KJU: Not often. My husband does it a lot. There’s only one chat room that I can get into, because it is the only one that’s bookmarked! I am completely computer illiterate.
BM: I think those things are dangerous for actors, especially some of the young people who are still impressionable, because you can see these hideous things that are said about you.
KJU: It could be that you start adjusting your performance to please the audience.
BM: I like it when they say, “Julian sucks. What a slimeball. What’s he drooling over that young woman who plays Ivy for? That old pig.” It amuses me. What do you think of the infomercials?
KJU: I wish I had one.
BM: That’s a good answer. Did you ever see the one with the two women who used to be on that terrible show The Mommies? Now they are doing one about this pressure cooker, and they are both wearing mumus, and on the hoof they are both coming in at 300 each. Have you ever seen this one? “No more cooking, no more fat?” (Mimicking) Then there’s one with Nancy, this bubbling blonde, who’s always with this guy from New Zealand. (High-pitched voice) “I can’t believe this really works. I’ve never seen anything like it.” I started watching when the Flowbee came out. It’s the vacuum cleaner that sucks your hair and cuts it. Remember that one?
KJU: You are scaring me. You obviously at one point took your craft very seriously. I think you still do. You’ve done a lot of theater, movies, TV – everything. Did you have a different opinion of acting when you were younger?
BM: I guess I was a brooding, serious actor. Before I started doing Passions, I was basically relegated to the heap of doing a TV-movie once a year, and occasional guest episodes. Then this came along and recharged me. I am having a lot of fun.
Soap Opera Weekly: How much of yourself do you bring to your characters?
BM: I think in general there is a lot of oneself in any character one plays. With Julian, I get to do things that I have stewing around in my psyche anyway. I get to use things that I don’t get to use in real life. Like power, and running around with guns, and kissing beautiful women.
KJU: In acting school, I remember the teacher saying, “Don’t change what is innately you. The only thing that is going to make you different from everyone else is you. If I tell you how to do this part, it is not your part.” I bring things to Ivy that I’m not even aware of. How she’s different from me is that I come in, I put on the clothes, the hair and the makeup, I walk out and suddenly I’m channeling something else. I take on a voice. I don’t even think about it, but I do. I also react to Ben when he’s in his little sweaters and in his Julian persona. The hair and makeup is all Ivy. I run around in sweats and no makeup.
BM: If you won the lottery, would you still play Ivy? If you say you would, then you’re a lying witch! (Laughs)
KJU: I do enjoy doing it. I might continue to do it for a while, because there is a certain level of ego satisfaction that we as actors obviously need. If you could change one feature, what would it be?
BM: About me? Why?
KJU: Then you wouldn’t?
BM: I wouldn’t want to look like Galen Gering or one of those perfect people: It’s too much of a burden. I would probably change my intelligence, so I wouldn’t be quite as intelligent as I am, so that I could deal with people. (Laughs) I don’t really think I’d change anything. What would you change?
KJU: At different points in my life, it would have been different things. Right now it would be my chest.
BM: You can do that. You can pay for those, can’t you?
KJU: You can, but I don’t have the money and I don’t have the time.
BM: Get them made bigger, or what? They’re already a pretty good size.
KJU: Huge. No, I would have them reduced. What do you like least about acting?
BM: I think when it’s acting with a camera, it’s the waiting around. I like the action of acting. What do you like least?
KJU: Having still pictures taken.
BM: But you’re so photogenic.
KJU: I like to be in front of the moving camera. With that, I’m fine. But with a still camera, I see the results and I’m like, “Oy.”
BM: That’s just silly.
KJU: That and exercising. Now a major requirement of acting is exercising. Have you looked at a television today?
BM: They are all kids.
SPW: How do you feel being the adults on a show populated with teens?
BM: I don’t think the focus of the show is strictly on teens. Right now, the Luis/Sheridan thing is very hot. Maybe teens like that sort of thing, but it is more toward 20-somethings.
KJU: There’s Juliet (Mills, Tabitha).
BM: Right. I guess the teens love her story too, with Juliet and Josh (Ryan Evans, Timmy) and the supernatural stuff.
KJU: I don’t know about you, but I’ve so enjoyed the stuff that we’ve had to do; we’ve had a lot of fun, good lines. It doesn’t really bother me to be older. Tell me, what is the best part of working with me?
BM: That you are an intelligent, beautiful woman and a good comedienne. I think we play off each other well.
KJU: Note that I did not pay him to say that. Do you consider yourself a romantic?
BM: Does that mean that when you see movies that are sad or happy they bring a tear to your eye? Then yes. I have a romantic soul, but the problem is that it sometimes comes up against reality. Trusting people is a tough road to go down sometimes. I’m romantic with myself. I love myself. Self love is the answer. (Laughs)
KJU: If given the opportunity to go into space, would you go?
BM: No. Don’t need to.
KJU: Been there, done that.
BM: If you had a whole day to yourself, what would you do? You love your son, you love your husband, you love all of your religious books, but what would you do for you? Would you sleep in?
KJU: I would sleep in, but now I’m no longer able to. My sleep pattern has been disrupted. Half of me says I would take a nice walk, go to a spa, get a massage. The other half says I’d stay home and clean my closet.
KJU: There’s something really therapeutic about having a whole day in my house to myself, and cleaning.
BM: I like cleaning. I have no housekeeper.
KJU: You live in a hotel.
BM: Well, I live in a hotel here when I’m working. There’s maid service here, but at my home in the desert I don’t. (Laughs) So, how long do you think this show is going to last?
KJU: I hope a long time. I hope I’m like Ruth Warrick (Phoebe) on All My Children. Talk about winning the lottery. Obviously if this woman won the lottery, she’d still be working. From Citizen Kane on. I don’t think she needs the money. She just likes to do it. Good for her.
BM: I’m sure we both hope it goes a long time.
KJU: I’ve been out in the real world, and I don’t like it out there. It’s cold and dark.
BM: This is kind of a rhetorical question, but don’t you think it’s been fun to start originally with a group of people in this format?
KJU: I had this thought the other day about how All My Children has just celebrated 30 years. A lot of those people started with the show. We’ve all been doing this together now for nine months, and you know that people will be coming and going. Contracts will be coming up, and there will probably be a mass exodus of kids, because they are all foolish and want to go out and try nighttime. Stupid children, don’t do it. Stay here. Stay here.
BM: This has been like a weird extended family, the last eight or nine months.
KJU: What do you like best about being here at Passions?
BM: I like the character that I get to play, acting-wise. And I like being around all these young people and watching their lives unfold. See their twisted logic about life and try to set them straight. I like to come in to work. I find that if I have to come into work early in the morning, I’ll stay around.
KJU: We have a good group of people.
BM: There’s not a troublemaker in the bunch. Not yet.
Well, who’s it going to be? Let’s dish. (Both laugh)