April 14th, 2010  |  Leave a comment

The Jessica Tuck Interview – Days of our Lives

© JPI Studios

From 1988 to 1992, no other young soap actress made quite the splash as a performer to watch, then Jessica Tuck.  Her role as Megan Gordon on One Life to Live, as the daughter that her mother never knew existed, won Tuck critical raves and a Daytime Emmy nomination.   Megan suffered from Lupus and died a tragic death, and her on-screen love affair with Jake Harrison, played by a young Joe Lando, brought daytime audiences to tears.  After saying goodbye to Llanview, the talented actress came to Hollywood where she had appeared on countless primetimes series, including her current stint on the hit HBO vampire series, True Blood.

Now in 2010, Tuck returns to daytime in her new role as Madeline-Peterson Woods on Days of our Lives. While certain circumstances surrounding Tuck’s character are being guarded in secrecy, we know that she is the momma bear to Chad, played by Casey Deidrick, and the wife of the Salem D.A.  Jessica spoke with On-Air On-Soaps about her decision to take on this new role; the changes she sees coming back to the rigors of daytime, and gives us a preview of Judge Madeline’s plight (perhaps, she could go up against Judge Judy or Judge Cristina in a new courtroom show spin-off, too!).

We also step back in time with Jessica to find out how it was to lose a Daytime Emmy, work with Erika Slezak (Viki), create Fraternity Row, (a soap within a soap), and the hilarious spoof on the Daytime Emmys, The Daisy Awards… all during her time on One Life.  So read below, my fantastic chat with Jessica!

MICHAEL:

It is so exciting to see you back on daytime!  How has it been getting back into the soap grind?  It’s a lot different now than your last time at the races with One Life!

JESSICA:

It is great that I can take my daughter to school most days and can pick her up, but it’s the racing train of daytime that is tough.  I think the hardest part of it is the speed and having to think about things when it’s going a thousand miles an hour, which is something that is not the case in nighttime.  In nighttime, you get an enormous amount of time to work on your character and memorize your lines, and get more than one take.  In daytime, well, I have to get back into their rhythm.

© JPI Studios

© JPI Studios

 MICHAEL:

In 2010 the pace of taping a daytime soap is shocking!

JESSICA:

There is no time, and I used to think it was fast.  You have to invent a new word for it because “fast” is not even fast enough.  I was so shocked, and I have to admit I felt like I was hanging on for dear life.  I am also just a few years older now than I was when I was on One Life to Live (Laughs).   I remember the more mature actors that played moms and dads on daytime.  I would say, “God, why can’t they memorize their lines?” (Laughs).  I now have so much compassion!  They do seven and half shows per week at DAYS, and at One Life it was one show a day, and even five shows a week is insanity, and seven and half is extreme sporting! (Laughs)  It has been great and everyone here is so nice.  And one of the things I love about daytime is: there is no time for anyone to have a ‘diva’ fit.  You just have to get in there, hold hands, and run down the mountain.  If you don’t hold hands, you are going to be left behind.  So the nice thing about this and what is so great is that we are all working together.  I love that and it is what I loved about One Life to Live. It is nice to plug back into this on DAYS… everyone working together.

MICHAEL:

What about your new role on Days of our Lives as Madeline Woods made you decide to return to your roots?

JESSICA:

I did not know that much about her at first, but it was more the opportunity than the actual role, which is still being uncovered.  DAYS co-executive producer, Gary Tomlin, is so funny.  He came up and whispered something in my ear while I was doing a scene with someone, and I am not going to reveal what he said, but I was shocked.  It was something about my character that I hadn’t known.

MICHAEL:

Don’t you just love when the EP whispers something in your ear? 

© JPI Studios

JESSICA:

I know!  Then everyone on set watches your shocked face, while you go, “What?”  I still don’t know everything about her; obviously what you see on the surface is just part of the story.  There is always a juicy past that makes it fun.  I was told that I was going to play a character with a certain past.  I thought it would be fun to go back and play, and it seemed like a win/win. And because they go fast, and I am not on everyday, it gives me time to do other things.  I am recurring, and so I can dip my toe back into things.

MICHAEL:

What if they say, “This is working so well. We want to put you on contract?”

JESSICA:

Well, I don’t even know if they do that anymore.  Daytime is so different.  Recurring is great.  I am about to do an episode of True Blood, where I play Nan Flanagan, and it’s really fun. They work so fast on DAYS, but they do three weeks on and one week off.  It leaves me the opportunity to fit other things in.

MICHAEL:

The state of daytime soaps over the last few years has been devastating for the business and the fans.  DAYS has been a true success story bouncing back in the ratings, while shows like your former soap, One Life to Live, seems to be always facing rumors of cancellation.

JESSICA:

© JPI Studios

Good for DAYS for hanging on, and OLTL is the only one left now in their tiny little island in New York.  I can’t imagine that show being canceled.  That is where I started.  Frank Valentini (exec prod, OLTL) is one of my best friends, and I adore him. We have stayed close through the years, and Bob Woods (Bo) and Erika Slezak (Viki) are like family to me.  How could that ever happen?  I was shocked when I heard All My Children was moving to Los Angeles.

MICHAEL:

Perhaps one of the greatest love stories on soaps was Megan and Jake on One Life. Do you stay in touch with Joe Lando (ex-Jake)?

JESSICA:

You know, we had fallen out of touch, although I saw him in an audition six or eight months ago. We gave each other this big hug, and I had to run into my audition and when I came out he was outside driving off in his car.  I jumped in, and we sat and talked for about an hour.  It was really nice to see him and catch up.  One Life to Live was Joe’s start as well.  I think when you are in the trenches together at the beginning of your careers you always have a bond, and it’s easy to reconnect.

MICHAEL:

The Daisy Awards and Fraternity Row!  Did you ever look back and go, “Wow, look what we did?  A spoof on the Emmys, and a soap within a soap!”

JESSICA:

It was really fun doing that on One Life to Live, and it’s the one thing that is so bad about these budget cuts. You could do so much more and really have fun, and we could never do a Daisy Awards now. We had to rehearse the big production number, obviously, and pre-record some things, and also some of the stuff we did required some more time.  I was talking to the kids on DAYS and I was telling them our old schedule.  We would go in the morning…dry block the whole show…. and people said their lines.  Now, on dry blocking on DAYS, you don’t say your lines, you just get told where you go. Then, there is no camera blocking. We used to do that at One Life, and then dress rehearse through the whole show, and then we would have notes like 40 some minutes after that.  Then, we would tape the show.  Now, granted it was a much longer day by dividing the afternoon and morning, but there was real time there.  Now, there are notes on the fly. At DAYS, eventually after two or three weeks of doing it, I feel now I can relax.  It’s hard. My hat’s off to anyone who does soap these days, because I really, really don’t think people understand how fast it is.  If they came and watched it, nighttime performers would be blown away. 

MICHAEL:

How is playing with Casey Deidrick (Chad), as your on-screen son in Salem?

JESSICA:

Oh, he is so lovely – aside from being six foot five inches tall! (Laughs)  You know what’s funny?  I think he thought I was an odd duck.  My first air shows I was supposed to hug him a lot and I would go, “I am sorry, but can I practice hugging you?”  I will tell you one thing; it’s fabulous when you have to look up at someone.  It’s so much better for the light.   (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

What brings Madeline on to the canvas? 

© JPI Studios

JESSICA:

That’s a very good question!  I think I pop up because my husband gets attacked.  I go to see him in the hospital and that is the device to get me there.

MICHAEL:

Where had she been?

JESSICA:

I don’t know! (Laughs)  I have to make things up for myself and I don’t know where I have been.  I guess Madeline has been in Salem, but for some reason no one has ever seen me.  David Leisure (D.A. Woods) had been there for a while and he plays my husband.  Madeline has been there, but the camera has never focused on that aspect of Casey’s life.

MICHAEL:

Is she a smart woman?

JESSICA:

I am a Judge. Yes, she is a smart woman.  I am Judge Madeline Peterson-Woods.  She is very prominent in the town.  She and her husband have built reputations for themselves in Salem and have high hopes for their son, who is associating with people they are less thrilled about.

MICHAEL:

Such as? 

JESSICA:

His girlfriends!  As it was described to me, Madeline’s husband is more by the book and strict.  And, she has more of a motherly relationship with Chad, and he wants his own life, and there is another element to this.  I start to clash with someone, and there is another presence on the show that I clash with, that potentially can expose a past that I would like to stay hidden.  There is a device to bring me in, and things get more complicated.  I have tangled with some others on the show.

© JPI Studios

MICHAEL:

How is David Leisure to work with?  He is a very funny man!

JESSICA:

When he is not making me laugh?  I love him, and it’s implied we have a loveless marriage.  We have such a good time off camera, especially at the big tags at the end of scenes, and we look at each other and I am thinking, “Don’t make me laugh.”

MICHAEL:

Did you know anyone else from the DAYS cast before you got there?

JESSICA:

Peter Reckell (Bo) and I presented at the Daytime Emmys gazillion years ago.  So I knew Peter.  Peter is someone I connected with.  It was fun to catch up with him, but our storyline’s don’t inter-connect, so I don’t see him much.

MICHAEL:

I have my thoughts on what is up with Madeline, after seeing last week’s air show, where Kate Roberts (Lauren Koslow) and her gave each other some strange looks! Is Madeline a good gal?

JESSICA:

Madeline is a good person.  I have some sort of sordid past that I have moved beyond and there are others that I may have to ‘pay the piper with’, so to speak.

MICHAEL:

For those who have followed daytime for the last few decades, the death of Megan on One Life to Live was a 15-hankie moment, and you gave the most wonderful performances that to this day soap fans still talk about.  Did you ever watch it back?  And let’s not forget about the end, when she has died in Jake’s arms and he carries her to the window! Hankies!

JESSICA:

What was sad for me was this great device where they did this whole sherazade thing where they did sort of a retrospective of all my time on the show.  So here I was, also leaving the show, and then I got to have special moments with everyone on the show that ever meant anything to me.  And then we got to revisit all the special moments we had with Megan, and I was like, “Golly, this is so a sad.”  And Joe had left the show already and came back to wrap up my story, and through all of this there were a lot of goodbyes going on.  It was really hard for me to leave One Life to Live. I loved this show and I was not leaving because of the show.  I was leaving because I thought if I don’t sort of scratch the itch of what else is out there…I mean, its not like I thought I was too big for daytime…not at all!  I have come back over the years as an angel, and for me it was that I was young, unattached, and if I was ever going to come out west and see what ever else there was in nighttime, now was the time for me.  I left and I jumped, and it was hard.  I left New York and had to learn how to drive in LA, and it was a big transition.  I don’t regret having done it, because it was really important for me to grow, and to experience other things.  I always missed my One Life to Live family and it was not until, Judging Amy, that I got another six-year run with an ensemble where I felt that great kind of family.

MICHAEL:

The Daytime Emmys – the year you and Erika Slezak were nominated against each other for Lead Actress – many were expecting you to win it and it went to Erika.  Both of you, however, turned in magnificent reels that year.  Thoughts on that?

JESSICA:

© JPI Studios

Everyone just says that it was truly an honor to be nominated, and it is.  It was fun to be nominated, and my dad came as my date and my five brothers came, too.  Sure, it was disappointing not to win, but if you are not going to win, and Erika Slezak is going to win, if I am going to lose to anybody Erika is a great person to lose to.  It was great to be nominated, and it would have been great to win.

MICHAEL:

Erika had that scene where she barricaded the door to say her goodbyes to Megan, which was so sad.  So, I presume it was a tough choice for some of the voters.  

JESSICA:

Sometimes, I feel like nominations are great. The win is frosting on the cake and the cake tastes pretty good without the frosting, as far as I am concerned.  I got so many great letters of support and I love Erika Slezak, and Erika was a huge part of my storyline.  It did not bother me.  To say it would not be more fun to win would be a lie.

MICHAEL:

When you did the scenes where Erika barricaded the door and you had to lay there dead, how do you do that without emotionally losing it?

JESSICA:

The good thing about daytime is they do a lot of single shots on people, and on daytime when you are dead you are not supposed to breathe.  And so I had a string tied around my toe, and the stage manager, Ray, tied a string around my big toe under the blanket and when he pulled on it… it meant don’t breathe Jessica, because they are filming a two-shot. They would pull it again and it would mean, now you can take a breath.  If you are playing dead, there is nothing worse than having the blankets go up and down because someone is breathing!  I had to close my eyes and hum in my head, because I could not have a tear come out of my eye, because that would be terrible.  I had to distract myself.

© JPI Studios

MICHAEL:

What would you say about working with Erika as your on-screen mother? 

JESSICA:

One Life to Live was my first grown up job.  Erika was a mother figure, friend, and a great teacher, and she was really disciplined.  I always felt I got great advice from Erika.  She knew how to have a life and devote herself to the show and to the fans. She knew everyone else’s lines and her own.  Erika was so solid and relaxed, and it enabled me to relax.  Working with her was great, because I felt safe and very supported.  She is a wonderful actress, and it was a real treat to work with her.

MICHAEL:

Turning to your other gig on True Blood, Nan Flanagan is the vampire spokesperson?

JESSICA:

Yes, for the Vampire Rights Association.  If you know the premise of the series the Japanese have developed this stuff called, True Blood.  So now Vampires do not have to prey on humans, we can drink the True Blood.  I play the person, who says about the vampires, that we can do this and we are going to integrate into mainstream life, and it’s all fine.  Meanwhile, in the background, I am putting out fires with vampires who are doing things they should not do. I mean technically, they are only supposed to be drinking True Blood.  I am a vampire and I have yet to show my fangs.  I have my on-camera persona and then Nan has her off-camera persona, which is different.  I am sort of the Diane Sawyer-ish type on camera.  And off camera, I am a bit more aggressive and bitchy when the vampires misbehave, because then it creates a nightmare for me.  I am usually on television as a spokesperson most of the time.  So I am always doing interviews, and I work a lot with the Green Screen. (Laughs)  I have an episode coming up this year that I can’t say much about yet, but let’s just say I come out from behind the camera again. This time, I am not in my spokesperson mode.  I am in my off-camera Nan Flanagan mode.   

MICHAEL:

So back to DAYS, as we wrap up, give me a good teaser to tune-in to watch you as Judge Madeline?

JESSICA:

She may come across as the dignified judge in Salem, but her past is surfacing and threatening to ruin all she has built!

  1. Jeffrey Moree says:

    It is good to see Jessica back on daytime she is a lovely actress and i have watched her over the years to grow even into a better actress

    Reply

  2. Polly says:

    I’m happy to see a new character, as the storylines of late have gotten a tad stale, imho. I always thought Chad was an interesting character, so I’m glad to see his story’s been built up. I also get more drawn in by storylines that have a more real life bent—as in, not thrilled about the friend choices your kid might make!

    Reply

  3. michelle says:

    i love jake and megan….. please come back on the show…. why did you have to leave and die on their.. you and jake loved each other so much please come back… i didnt get to watch you very much, i was in school at that time i cry with tears ever time i watch bit of pieces of what happend.. jessica please come back

    Reply

Leave a comment