February 15th, 2014  |  Leave a comment

The Sarah Brown Interview – Beacon Hill

Photo Credit: Lesley Bohm

There is only one word that best describes three-time Daytime Emmy winner Sarah Brown, and that is “powerhouse”.   Since 1996 when soap opera fans first saw her as Carly Corinthos on General Hospital, they knew that this was an actress who took every single moment that was given to her and played it to the hilt with a dramatic intensity seldom seen in the daytime genre, and at such a young age.  What followed was a succession of different roles on the network daytime drama landscape: Julia on As the World Turns, a return to GH in a brand new role as the evil Claudia Zacchara, Agnes on The Bold and the Beautiful and Madison on Days of our Lives.  In all her roles, Brown always played a woman with a complex past and present with such finesse!  Now in 2014, Sarah is starring in her first soap opera web series in Crystal Chappell’s Beacon Hill, which premieres on March 5th!

However, in her new role in Beacon Hill, Sarah plays strong-willed political rising star Katherine Wesley, and for the first time in her career plays opposite another woman, Alicia Minshew’s Sara Preston in a same-sex love story!  And, in this very insightful interview with On-Air On-Soaps, Sarah Brown tells us what it was like to experience playing gay for the first time in her career, kissing other women on-screen, the importance to her of taking on an LGBT role, and how she hopes to change some people’s perceptions of same-sex love, and much more!

Sarah also shares her insights on being an actress in the demanding world of daytime soaps, and how working with some dear friends and new friends on Beacon Hill was one of the most exciting and thrilling experience in her professional career.  And, when you have behind-the-scenes producers who are also actors like Ricky Paull Goldin, Hillary B. Smith, and Chappell working alongside of the incredible Sarah Brown to make Beacon Hill’s political drama and love story an exciting journey for viewers, it certainly seems to a winning ticket for everyone involved.  Here now is our conversation with the phenomenal Ms. Brown!

MICHAEL:

Let me start by saying it was so interesting chatting with everyone involved with Beacon Hill, because I am here to tell you, you were the person I heard so much about!  You have everyone talking about you (laughs) … in a good way!

Photo Credit: Lesley Bohm

SARAH:

That is so sweet.  I had a fabulous time filming Beacon Hill.  When you have a tiny skeleton crew, it’s really about the script, and the characters, and wanting to bring it to the audience that you know will respond to it.  It’s a great feeling to be involved in something new that has all those elements to it, because everyone is flying half way across the country and meeting up in strange locations (laughs) to do something of ‘heart’, and that is what was so joyful about it.  It was something that everyone cared about in the cast and the crew.  So, you have cohesion to a project that might not otherwise have that.  You know sometimes a lot of lower budget projects can be a bit of a nightmare, because people aren’t being paid well, and they are cranky.  It can be a ‘living in oblivion’ type of an experience.  I was so grateful when I got there that everyone on board, which you kind of assume wanted to be there because they love the script and had been in the public eye, and had never done anything like this before.  I think for me being out of the soap world, and a lot of us are coming from a soap background and being out of a soundstage, made it really exciting and fun.

MICHAEL:

So you got this primo leading role as Katherine Wesley in Beacon Hill, and she is a tough political gal, from what I hear!

SARAH:

Photo Credit: Lesley Bohm

She is very much daddy’s little boy, and like the son he never had, and she actually does not resent that … they went to ball games together and this was great! (Laughs)  Her father is a staunch right wing republican senator.  She is from a military and political family, and it’s a Boston family.  Scott Bryce (Ex-Craig, ATWT) plays my dad in Beacon Hill.  We just had a natural, easy chemistry together, which made everything wonderful.  It’s such a different experience from anything I have ever done, being with everyone on set at Beacon Hill, in that it had the smallest budget for a crew, yet there was so much love there, and it was such a supportive environment to work in.  We had a lot of people there that were volunteers who are fans of Crystal Chappell’s, or fans of Venice the Series that wanted to be a part of this project.  So, we would have this audience participation, and I had never seen this done before on a set.  What a great way to save money and excite your fan base all at the same time!  It is a great business model.  The cast ended up with some great people who were driving us around and talking to us.  It was fun.

MICHAEL:

You had your first girl kiss, or shall I say, kisses during the shooting of Beacon Hill!  Did you feel a lot of pressure because of it?  I know that kissing both your love interests in the series, Alicia Minshew (Sara) and Rebecca Mozo (Laura), was the first time for you, in that you never have played a lesbian before, or kissed a girl before!

SARAH:

I had two first girl kisses on the same day, within hours of each other!  I felt a lot of pressure when Crystal put the script in my lap, and I read it.  I told her I wanted to do the role, but I wondered if I could pull it off, because I wanted to do it in such a way that my gay female friends would call me up and say, “Sarah, that’s hot!”  I know I saw this controversy on the news recently, where in this film they had two straight actors playing gay, and people online were saying, “Oh, it’s so not realistic.  They are not really attracted to each other.”  And of course, this is coming out while I am filming Beacon Hill.  So, I thought, “No way, I am going to get roasted!” (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

So, what happened when you finally had to shoot the kissing scenes?

SARAH:

Courtesy/OpenBooksProds

Alicia and I are outside at a restaurant in a flashback.  We share a simple kiss as girlfriends, but it was the first time I had ever had a kiss with a woman.  Then the second experience was with Rebecca Mozo’s character, on the same day which was so funny, but I can’t remember now which kiss was first, actually. (Laughs)  I think in the scene I grabbed her face, the same way you have seen me grab Maurice Benard’s (Sonny, GH) face on General Hospital like a 1000 times.  The producers of Beacon Hill loved that!   My whole way of going after it as an actor was to put myself in the position of, ‘well first of all, it’s not any different just because it’s a woman, so get that out of your head.’  It’s acting!  I remember making out with Brad Maule (Ex-Tony, GH) when I was only 19!  So that was also different, too.   No matter what project you are in, you just do whatever you have to do in the role, and it’s not necessarily going to be someone you are attracted to, but your job is to make it real.  So for me, I thought I could put myself in the position of one of the boys I made out with all the time on GH, and how they kind of manhandled me.  And, if I kind of do that little bit, maybe that will get me tuned in to how it might feel, naturally.  So once I kind of manhandled Alicia and Rebecca, (laughs) it was a very different side of me, and fun and funny, and there was nothing really weird about it, whatsoever.  I was just scared.  I thought in terms of Rebecca, ‘I am going to make out with one my best friends.  How weird?’  She is truly one of my best friends … ‘awkward’!  But we were fine with it.  It was only all strange in my imagination before the kisses happened.  I wanted it to come off well.  I am very competitive with my work.   I know that doesn’t sound good, but it’s true.  There is that perfectionist in me, where you want to do your best, and you don’t want to come out of the gate representing an entire community of people and have people call you out and say, “That’s false.  I didn’t believe you.”  I wanted to make my gay friends proud so they will hopefully watch the series, and make the writers proud of me to be able to do this type of role justice.

MICHAEL:

I have interviewed, over the course of  my journalism career, straight men who have played gay roles.  Often times, when I ask them about the kissing scenes, or kissing another man for the first time in their lives, they seem to make an off-handed remark, or try to be funny in their response, which makes it feel they are deflecting the question, when they were in actuality very uncomfortable doing it.  That is hard to comprehend when their job is being an actor, and inhabiting all types of roles in the human condition.

SARAH:

Courtesy/OpenBookProd

It’s interesting to me why they would play the role if they can’t find a way to pull it off, and then be proud of what they did, and try to sell it like anything else.  I think at the end of the day, if you don’t surrender to it and you have agreed to do it, then it’s harder to talk about to the press in the way that it feels positive, because maybe to the actor it did not feel positive, because they don’t feel they did a good job.  But I want to say, (laughs) that I think I gave myself over fully!  I watched the promo for Beacon Hill.   I went, “OK, how cool!”  I want to say this is just love and that is what the story is about, and what drew me to the story as an actor.  These are two characters that are gay at a time that gay marriage is legal in like only one state … remember this part of the story takes place six years ago.  It takes place before the majority of the battle had been taken on in the gay marriage fight.  The story takes place at that point in this very uproarious time in politics for gay rights.  It’s important.  I was driven to do this project for the challenge and the affirmation of people who trust my work that this is something I believe in … so I truly hope they are supportive.  I like to be part of things that are new, off the cuff, and different.  Crystal seems to be at the forefront of that, as far as making Internet content with soap stars for soap fans.  She is really leading the charge, and also doing a lot of work for gay rights, and bringing gay characters to the front of the web series soap genre.

MICHAEL:

Jessica, one of the writers and producers of Beacon Hill, said she decided to make the leading female roles in the series a reporter and a political senator, because she wanted to show that there are very successful lesbian women who fall in love, which mirrored her real life story.

SARAH:

Yes.  In Beacon Hill these are intelligent women, who are very well dressed and made up! (Laughs).  They are not on the fringes of society, which I loved about this.

MICHAEL:

How was working with Alicia Minshew (Sara)?

Courtesy/OpenBookProds

SARAH:

It was amazing.  She is like one of the sweetest people I ever met.  When I got to the set and finally met her, I just wanted to intuitively protect her and make sure she was comfortable.  She felt like a little sister, or a friend I might walk in front of at a party.  I sometimes feel very protective of my girlfriends, and so she felt like one those girlfriends that I would want to protect, whereas I have some girlfriends who are very protective of me.  I think that ultimately helped us on the shoot.  It helped in the dynamics.  I felt so comfortable with Alicia and so not threatened, and there was no bitchiness.  And let’s be honest … girl’s can be bitchy! (Laughs)  I applaud Alicia.  She did a great job with the dialog and the sex scenes.  I think Crystal smartly knew that we would click, and did a good job at casting these roles.  I also worked with director Albert Alaar before.  Certainly, he was there during my Claudia Zacchara days on GH, and he was also a director to me when I was on Days of our Lives.  I trust him.  I understand the way he worked.  I think ultimately Alicia was a great choice.  I hear the producers and the writers were very happy the way the casting of Beacon Hill worked out.

MICHAEL:

Why are you always able to tap into playing such strong women?  Where does that come from?

SARAH:

Photo Credit: HutchinsPhoto.com

I am a strong woman, and so it kind of resonates out when I take on a role.  I think there is a little bit of “The Terminator” inside of me, definitely (Laughs).  Life was not a cake walk for me.  When I became an actor, it really transformed my life and all of those past experiences.  I had that which formed me into a very strong person that people responded to on General Hospital.  Early in my life I had to be strong.  I was raised that way.  My dad is like Clint Eastwood, in having no fear.  I was raised with a tremendous amount of boys.  Let’s be honest, I come from a half black multi-racial family, and on the African-American side of my family, they are very tall and very strong.  There is a lot of military influence, and teachers and very educated people on that side of my family too.  I also come from a family of very proud and strong women, and I think it’s hard to hide that.  I never get cast as the ‘girl next door type’!  When I go in for these guest star roles on primetime for ‘girl next door’, they just don’t buy it, because I think the strong part of me is just in my DNA, and it kind of has defined me.  I usually know what I want, and I will fight for it.

MICHAEL:

What can you tell me about Katherine’s political background, and how it’s intertwined with her love story with Sara?

SARAH:

She is in Beacon Hill, and she is representing that district as a junior senator, whereas her father is an actual senator for the state.  So you have the different levels in government where you are in the senate, but you are not a senator at that point.  This is a character who is a free spirit who falls in love with this young female reporter.  And this woman has this grandfather (played by Ron Raines) who I think is the democratic senator for Massachusetts.  So we fall in love, and her grandfather comes to me knowing that my father is a politician and asks me if I would like to join his campaign.  Now because he is a democrat, I never considered getting into politics the way my family has, because my family are republicans and that goes against all of Katherine’s views.  So now the grandfather comes to me and says, if we wins, he wants me to run for his old seat in the senate.  Katherine joins the campaign knowing if he gets elected senator of the state, he wants her to take over his seat.

MICHAEL:

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Does Katherine play dirty politics?

SARAH:

She doesn’t play dirty politics, but I don’t know if there are any clean politics.  That is what makes it a soap, because it’s based in politics, and not because the actors have all been on soaps before, and not because of the romance.  In the same way that House of Cards is a soap opera … Beacon Hill is a soap opera.  We definitely get into that!  There are mustache twirlers, and a lot of deals being made behind people’s backs from their own members of their party or staff.  Katherine is morally sound, which is why they want her for the seat, and also because her family name is very recognizable.

MICHAEL:

Rebecca Mozo plays Laura, and she is the current girlfriend of Katherine’s.  What is their relationship …”friends with benefits”?

SARAH:

Season one we are lovers, but it’s not a super commitment.  But towards the end of the season, you see that my character is developing more of a soft spot for this friend that she is feeling might be more romantic than she is letting on … and maybe she wants more from her.  The show gets very complicated. (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

Photo Credit: Lesley Bohm

Did you have the opportunity to get to work with John-Paul Lavoisier (Eric) at all on the set of Beacon Hill?

SARAH:

I never did get to work with John-Paul, but he did loan me his underwear so I could do a scene and not have my butt in front of the camera! (Laughs)  It was that kind of a shoot where you realized … maybe I needed to bring men’s underwear!  We were so busy shooting on a tight schedule that on one day I forgot to bring anything to wear anything under my nightgown.  I knew I had to do these love scenes where my butt would be up in the air.  So JP took off his pants and loaned me his boxers, which I still have here in my house! (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

So many of your soap fans are looking forward to seeing you again on Beacon Hill.  They have missed seeing you everyday on their television screens!

SARAH:

Photo Credit: HutchinsPhoto.com

I hope Beacon Hill is something that people will follow me in, even though it’s so different than the romance they have seen me play on General Hospital or on any other daytime soaps I have done.  And, if you respond to my work in that genre, I am hoping you will come with me and open your mind a little bit, and come on the journey with me as well.  The challenge is people usually want to watch a romance you can get wrapped- up in, because they can identify with it.  So when you are doing a lesbian love story, it will be very interesting to see how many of my so-called ‘die-hard’ fans will watch it, when they can’t relate to the subject matter, or get lost in the fantasy, because they want to be you.  Maybe they don’t see themselves with a woman, or falling in love with a woman, so they can’t.  So through my daytime roles, many want to be you.  They can fall away from their own life for a little bit, or their husband who yells at them, or treats them a certain way.  I think in the soaps, the women in the audience may think, “I can identify with you Sarah in the way that your work is, and the way that you approach your roles, and I want to be in your character’s shoes. Look at these handsome men you are frolicking around with, and all these fun stories.”  I hope they can make the transition with us in Beacon Hill with the politics, the quirkiness of it, the relationships in it, and seeing the actors that they love, and then this same-sex romance in it will not be a barrier.

MICHAEL:

It seems that seeing two women together in love story is more acceptable to mainstream audiences than seeing two men together in a fictionalized series.  How would you feel if you saw your favorite actor, who is supposed to be a sex symbol that makes female hearts go a-flutter, playing a gay role?

SARAH:

I will tell you this; if it’s my favorite hunky male action star and he is in a series where his character is a gay man, I am still interested in watching that.  As a viewer and as a fan, if it’s my favorite actor … then I am going to want to watch them do what they do.

MICHAEL:

Photo Credit: HutchinsPhoto.com

What do you hope is the takeaway for soap fans who have loved you and Alicia from your daytime roles, but may be resistant at first at seeing the two of you play same-sex lovers?

SARAH:

Our hope is that we can take a catholic, Middle America, country music loving part of the audience who love us from our other daytime soap roles, and say to them and those that might not be as open-minded, “I know you love watching us on these network shows. Here we are doing something a little bit different. We would love for you to tune-in and see how you feel, and if you can identify what the character’s journeys are, if not for their sexual identify, then maybe that is not as important to you as the storytelling.  This show is so tremendously written, which is why I agreed to it in the first place.

MICHAEL:

Do you miss the grind at all of doing a daytime drama series, when you had done it for so many years?

SARAH:

Being on a soap is a monster that you may be doing for years at a time, where you are learning 30-40 pages of dialog a day.  You are constantly creating something different on the fly, and something new and interacting with other actors and creators all the time. That is something I have been used to most all of my life.  It’s really hard to adjust to not being on that type of schedule.  You are growing as an artist every day on a soap.  You are making mistakes and correcting them.  So, for me to go months at a time without a project would crush me creatively, except I do a lot of other things.  I am writing a script, I edit and I direct, and I work with music videos.  I am trying to broaden my horizons as a creator.  I am not having as many opportunities as I had when I was younger, or working as often.  It’s been shocking, but I have been a full-time mom to my 15 and half year old daughter, and so that is my commitment when I am not working.

Photo Credit: HutchinsPhoto.com

MICHAEL:

I hear Rebecca Mozo (Laura) was a huge fan of yours from your work on General Hospital, and that was originally how you met.  Fill me in!

SARAH:

Yes!  We had met through Tom Pelphrey (Ex-Jonathan, GL and Mick, ATWT) who I met when I was on As the World Turns.  Tom knew Rebecca from college at Rutgers.   He brought Rebecca over to my house one year that I had a big Emmy party, and Tom had won an Emmy that year, and so we threw this big party.  He brought a dozen of his friends from Jersey, and Rebecca was one of them and she geeked out on me!  It was so funny and so endearing, and we have been such good friends ever since then.  When I got the script for Beacon Hill from Crystal, she said, “Now, who would you see as the other person who you might like to work with?”  My initial response was Ashley Jones (Bridget) who I love and had worked with at The Bold and the Beautiful.  Ashley had something else she was working on and could not make the commitment to do Beacon Hill at that time.  So as I worked through the script, I mentioned Rebecca Mozo to Crystal, who in fact was doing four other projects this year playing a lesbian.  For Rebecca, this was the ‘Year of the Lesbian’ (Laughs.)  So they set up cameras here in my house and read Rebecca.  They loved her and cast her in the role of Katherine’s lover, which in season two is going to be an even more integral role.  It’s been fun to have her be part of this process.

MICHAEL:

Ricky Paull Goldin is one of the producers and cast members of Beacon Hill, which is another very exciting talent attached to this project!  What are your thoughts on RPG?

SARAH:

I love Ricky Paull!  When they brought All My Children out here, he was trying to get me a role on there to play opposite him!  We have been conspiring to work together for a very long time, and again he is someone that I trust.  Hearing Crystal Chappell and Ricky Paull were attached to Beacon Hill, of course made me feel so excited to be a part of this, too.

Photo Credit: HutchinsPhoto.com

MICHAEL:

Finally, how do you see working on daytime vs. your experience working on Beacon Hill?

SARAH:

I have nothing bad to say about daytime.  I loved being a part of it, but the one thing about daytime is the repetition.  Every day you are saying things you said the day before, because they need to fill five hour long episodes per week.  You are doing a lot of exposition and recreating the day or week before events. You literally spend hours memorizing what you are already said a different way from yesterday, and that can be very frustrating.  However, it needs to happen to keep that machine going, whereas in a project like Beacon Hill, the episodes are short, you are cutting to the chase, you are working on a location with people that love acting, and are not there for the money.  That was really different, and super exciting, and so much fun.  I can’t wait for everyone to see it.

  1. Perla says:

    Wow such a good interview, Sarah is so lovely as a person. I can’t wait to see her in the role of Katherine. Nice to learn also about her backround how she became an actress and her family life etc etc. Strong lady.

    Reply

  2. Sarah says:

    Love Sarah Brown!!! Great interview!!! I will always hope to see her back on GH!!!

    Reply

  3. Shawna says:

    Sarah is a one of a kind talent. There hasn’t been any female who has come on GH in the last 20 years for me as a viewer and been as surprising and unpredictable. I hated both Carly and Claudia but I couldn’t take my eyes off Sarah. She was so fun to watch even though she played women I rooted against all the time. I followed Sarah to Bold and The Beautiful, Days, As The World Turns even caught most her primetime guest spots and Television movies so I don’t give a fig about her playing a lesbian. I don’t care if she turns purple and makes out with frogs who turn into princes, I love Sarah and have always watched her because of her skill as an actress. She usually plays characters I am opposed too as women and the only commonality I share with most of them is their strength so I will follow her to Beacon Hill too. If you haven’t ever seen Sarah act, I suggest you watch Beacon Hill because she never disappoints. I’m here for Sarah’s talent, no other reason! I should have that put on a T-shirt. Thanks for the interview Michael.

    Reply

  4. Otalia69 says:

    Sarah/Katherine can ‘manhandle’ me anytime, and she should put her John-Paul boxers up for auction to go towards Season 2 of Beacon Hill…xo

    Reply

  5. Harry says:

    Great interview–wish she could come back as Carly because who ever that is Laura Wright is playing, it ain’t Carly!

    Reply

  6. Josephine says:

    I can only hope and pray that Sarah comes back as Carly.
    No offense to Laura Wright. I love her but she has ruined the character
    Carly completely and is not even bothered by the direction in which they are
    taking her. It’s so ridiculous, i now have a hard time watching her.

    Reply

    rebecca1 replied

    How exactly did Laura Wright ruin the character…I think she’s great as Carly. Loved Sarah …and then Tamara Braun knocked it out of the park. Though the two resembled each other…and Laura bares no resemblance…I thought she came in and owned the role from the start!

    Don’t get me wrong; loved Sarah as I said…also loved Tamara…but so glad they found Laura to keep Carly kickin’!

    Reply

    Harry replied

    Laura Wright as Carly is making moon doggy eyes at Franco, the man who orchestrated the rape of her son, who tortured and tormented her beloved Jason, and who made Sam think he raped her. Sarah Brown’s Carly would have played the fiercely protective mama bear and ripped Franco to shreds.
    Not Laura’s fault, it’s as written, but as Carly she doesn’t seem to have much spine. Right now, she and Franco have his and her fair styles and pretty soon they will be playing tennis wearing his/her sports attire with matching visors. It’s all just soooooooooo cute and tame.

    Harry replied

    That would be hair style, not fair style. Anyway, this Carly bears so semblance to Sarah Brown’s Carly.

    rebecca1 replied

    Hey Harry…

    As you said…that’s not Laura’s fault; that’s the way the character is written! And that’s the relationship that the writers have decided to write! I for one love it…probably because I love Roger and I find this version of Franco likeable.

    I think everyone confuses actress/actor with character. It’s not the actor’s choice to make “mood doggy eyes” at “Franco.” It’s the way the storyline that dictates it.

    Laura Wright has certainly showed how fierce she can be…how vicious/tough and able to “mama bear” and rip anyone to shreds if the scene calls for it.

    If she doesn’t resemble the original Carly…blame the writers. Laura seems capable of playing the role whichever way she’s written.

    rebecca1 replied

    And that would be…the way the storyline dictates.

    Also wanted to add I love James Franco…and this version of Franco is not James version. Again..that’s the story that’s being written.

    As usual, some of us will love the SL…and some will hate it. I think the writers need to be really clear that Franco was NOT responsible for any of the evil he did before the tumor…otherwise it would make no sense for Carly to even look at him let alone love him. They have yet to make sure they’re absolutely playing that way….

    If it’s a certainty that Franco was not responsible for any of the damage he inflicted…then I’d like to further my ability to suspend my disbelief and see these two together. I think they have great chemistry.

  7. Scott (ATWT Fan) says:

    I love Sarah with a fiery passion, and will be so happy to see her in this webseries. I do wish she’d make a return to Daytime; I would’ve loved to have seen her on AMC opposite the talented cast. Daytime continues to miss the mark when it comes to Sarah’s talents, but I’m sure we’ll be living in wonders when this serial debuts.

    Reply

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