Tracey Takes On …
By: Adam Kelley
Soap Opera Digest Magazine
January 25, 2000

After Learning All About Eve, PASSIONS' Tracey Ross Finally
Ended Her Self-Imposed Exile From Daytime

Call it a mild case of post-traumatic stress: While reading for the role of Passions's Eve Russell last summer, Tracey Ross was still so haunted by her mid-'80s stint on RYAN'S HOPE that she secretly hoped she wouldn't get the job. "RYAN'S HOPE was like working in a morgue," sighs the actress, who played Diana. "And I didn't realize that was only because it was breathing its last breaths. I just assumed all soaps were that depressing, so I hadn't auditioned for one since." Finally, just to appease her agent, Ross ended the 15-year boycott by consenting to an initial meeting with NBC. "But I had the worst attitude," she laughs "I was all huffy, like, 'Oh, okay.' And then they wanted to sign a deal with me, and I was like, 'Why can't they just leave me alone?'"

Lucky for her, they didn't. "This show is the exact opposite of everything I thought it would be," grins Ross, who knew she'd struck gold once taping began. "I got the first week's scripts, and I thought it was gonna be the same old drivel, but then it was so weird and crazy – and I love weird and crazy. So I was like, 'This is my kind of show.'"

Paradoxically, Ross's own life story resembles the most basic and traditional of soap sources: the serialized Charles Dickens novels that first popularized the genre in the 1800s. "We were pretty deprived," she recalls of her childhood in New York City . "My mother was a single parent, so it was rough. And to this day, I equate being poor with being hungry. When I hear people say, 'We were poor, but we had enough to eat,' well, that doesn't compute to me. I always go, 'Then you weren't poor.'"

Under that definition, the Ross family was destitute. They slept four to a bed ("My mom across the bottom and three kids across the top"). When supermarket flyers arrived in the mailbox, they fantasized about what they would buy if they had any money the way most kids fantasize about toys. "It was a very catch-as-catch-can existence," she says. "Sheets for curtains, sheets for tablecloths. I remember one day, someone said something about a comforter, and I said, 'What's that?' And they were like, 'You know, what you put on the bed when it's cold.' And I was thinking, 'Oh – you mean an overcoat.'" For lunch, she and her siblings had to split a single can of chicken soup. "I remember we used to walk around the apartment crying from hunger and just looking for any little thing to eat, like picking up pieces of dust and trying them out."

While there certainly were welfare programs that could have benefited the family, Ross's strong principled mother staunchly refused any handouts. "Meanwhile, my father was running around being a totally irresponsible womanizer. Up until the time I was 12 or 13, he was the pits. For one thing, he was a card-carrying communist. He was always kind of focused on the great Bolshevik revolution, and if some small people – like his children – had to fall on the way to that greater good, so be it." Then, suddenly and unexpectedly, he "just got into his right mind again and became a model father. I have no idea what caused that change, and I guess I'll never know, because he's since passed away. But he started making every effort to look out for us."

Around the same time, Ross realized that she wanted to act. "I went to Rutgers to study theater, but I dropped out before I graduated because I started modeling and that took off," she explains. Her career advanced slowly but steadily – she worked on soaps and guested on prime-time shows.

And somewhere in the middle of that, she had a son, Bryce, now 11. "When I look back now, I kind of feel like all I was doing before I had Bryce was hanging out." She muses. "I wasn't doing anything important. Now, there's a purpose to what I do." Though Ross and Bryce's dad, an L.A. restaurateur, split up before his birth, the actress had no qualms about single parenthood. "I was so confident, I had him at home," she smiles. "It was just me and a friend of mine. Bryce came before the midwife arrived, but I knew it would be fine." That said, Ross later opted to keep Dad in the loop for Bryce's sake. "It was a totally uphill battle at first because he's one of these guys who changes one diaper and thinks he deserves a Father Of The Year award, you know? But he's getting better, and he and Bryce just dote on each other now, which is great."

During all that male bonding, Ross spends her own quality time watching PASSIONS. "There are two different me's," she laughs. "There's the me who acts on the show, and then there's the me who watches it like any other rabid fan. I love it! When Luis takes off his shirt, I scream right along with the rest of the fans. I mean, you'd never think I work there, the way I act. I get to the set and I'm like, 'Oh, my God, did you see when Gwen caught them in the cabin?!' And everyone else is like, 'Okay, Tracey – get a grip.' It's embarrassing."

Alas, that's not the only downside to her devotion. "I'm not dating anyone right now," Ross sighs, "and the guys on PASSIONS are spoiling me for all other men!"

Just The Facts:

Birthday: February 27
She Drives: A Red Land Rover
Musical Cheers: "Whatever my son likes. Lately, it's been Len, Sugar Ray, Blink 182 and Smash Mouth.
Shoe Size: 9 ½
Caught In The Web: "I read this one post about me on the Internet that said, 'Debbie Morgan (ex-Ellen, PORT CHARLES) should play Eve; she's such a better actress.

A Star Is Born Back in 1984, Tracey Ross was watching STAR SEARCH on TV when inspiration struck. "I sent in my picture and said I wanted to be in the acting category," recalls Ross, who by then had amassed a handful of dramatic credits. Alas, all those slots were filled. "They were like, 'You can be in the acting category next season, or be in the spokes model category this season.' And back then, STAR SEARCH was a brand-new show, so I didn't have any reason to think there would be a next season. So I was a spokes model." It was a smart move: After earning 12 straight victories, Ross was named the $100,000 grand champion. "I totally did not expect to win," she recalls, "because back then, black girls didn't win beauty contests. And what was good was that white people as well as black people could see the merit – that I deserved it, that it wasn't a gift. It wasn't affirmative-action STAR SEARCH."