Slap Happy
By: Lori Latusek
Soap Opera Digest Magazine
February 4, 2003

Last year, Liz moved from simple St. Lisa's Island
to happening Harmony and her life turned upside-down.

Digest: How do you feel about NBC promoting the Russell story so heavily?
Amelia Marshall (Liz): I've stood on my head about how the networks, with their daytime programming, were addressing the African-American community. I've seen such a swing from when I started 12 years ago. I am so psyched and so flattered that they are realizing that African-Americans comprise a disproportionate amount of daytime viewers. It should be an inclusive market. Sheraton [Kalouria, senior vice president of NBC Daytime Programming] has made such an effort to make sure that not only is it on the screen, but that the African-American community will know we're on the screen. I'm ga-ga.
Tracey Ross (Eve): I always felt tremendous support from NBC and PASSIONS that the black characters and/or Hispanic characters are all essential parts of the story. With no Lopez-Fitzgeralds, there's no Harmony. No Russells, no Harmony.
Marshall : I don't feel like they're telling an African-American story per se. I just think that they are committed to making sure the African-American community knows they are telling tales with African-American actors.

Digest: Both of your characters have been involved in interracial relationships. Do you wish they focused on that aspect?
Marshall : No, I think the best story is simply told. The fact that Antonio and Julian are not African-American doesn't make the feelings any different. What they've highlighted with Eve/Julian is the social class difference, which is a lot more interesting than the obvious racial difference.
Ross: I agree. It is much more about class distinction on PASSIONS. It didn't even occur to me that they would point out [the racial difference]. I just think that it's those two people. It's incidental to me.
Marshall : It occurred to me because I've had executive producers, during the periods where I was the only [African-American] on-contract, tell me that we're not going to tell an interracial story – meaning that it had to be an interracial story. Here, we're not even dealing with the fact that it's an interracial story. It's a story. It's like a breath of fresh air.

Digest: What is something invaluable that you've learned from each other?
Ross: I've been watching Amelia ever since she came on and I try the very best I can to see what she is doing, take notes and copy it.
Marshall : Oh, Tracey!
Ross: Oh, I have been. When they said we were going to be working together, it was like, please let me not drag her down … because she is an Emmy-nominated actress.
Marshall : (laughs) I was not nominated.
Ross: I heard you were nominated, and I wasn't surprised.
Marshall : No, it was a very good dream.
Ross: (laughs) The thing that I want to know most is how she makes her eyes flash. She does this thing, and the light flashes like a lightening bolt in her eyes. I'm standing in the scene going, "How the hell does she do that?"
Marshall : I have a battery pack.
Ross: I try and nothing happens. I'm going to have lightening-bolt tattoos on my eyeballs. I want to pick that up and make it my own.
Marshall : [What I've learned from Tracey is] trust. She trusts me a lot when I go to slap her. She takes a really good slap. I want to be very clear – I have not touched her. But when I pull back my hand to slap her, she has to trust me and also be in the scene.
Ross: She still hasn't told us how she does the eye-flash thing.
Marshall : Three triple-A batteries. They're right back here, under the wig (laughs).

Digest: You have had pretty tense scenes, such as that slapping scene. How do you get through them?
Marshall : Some days laughter is the only thing that I have. There are days that I have such hateful things to say that if I don't laugh about it, I'm lost.
Ross: I thought it was great that we really didn't know each other that well and we, right off the bat, had to go at each other. I didn't have a previous relationship with Amelia to work off of and to stop me from just going there. I liked the distance in the beginning.

Digest: Is it a benefit that you don't know where Liz's animosity comes from?
Marshall : For me, in order to play it, if you're not going to tell me, I have to make it up. And because I get to make it up, I get to make it as huge as I want it to be. I think that allows me the freedom to go for what I see as Liz's level of anger and betrayal.

Digest: Do you have any sisterly advice for each others' characters?
Marshall : The short answer would be: "Watch out!"
Ross: On the Internet boards, they asked, "How is Liz going to take Eve's career and make it so that she's not a doctor anymore?"
Marshall : There's an old song from the '80s that goes, "Take your reputation, change your name to dirt."
Ross and Marshall: (singing) Change your name to dirt. The way they talk about you …

Digest: Do you think you'll ever sing on-air together?
Marshall : I want to sing the sister song. It's in White Christmas. The tag line is [singing] "God help the mister who comes between me and my sister."

Digest: TC, are you listening?