Daytime soap opera fans know them as As the World Turns’ iconic Lily and Lucinda, one of the greatest mother/daughter duos of the soap genre.
Online fans will soon get an extra special present come Christmastime, when they can see them together again, but this time as Alexis and Eva in the hit web series, Anacostia. Of course, we are talking about multi-Daytime Emmy winners Martha Byrne, and Elizabeth Hubbard.
Hubbard, who first came into soap prominence with her classic daytime role as Althea Davis on The Doctors, and later became the scene-stealing and riveting Lucinda Walsh of Oakdale, has not been seen on-screen in some time, while her fans have been clamoring to see more of her. Byrne, who began her soap career on the now defunct CBS daytime drama in 1985, and returned to the series on three different occasions before departing permanently, and Hubbard had been searching for an opportunity to collaborate with one another again. Now, thanks to very wise Anacostia creator and star, Anthony Anderson, and the always creative Byrne, the drought is over with Hubbard about to debut in her new role. In addition, Martha has been busy working on a docustory on Elizabeth’s life, and career.
On-Air On-Soaps had the opportunity to talk to these two dynamic women to not only find out about their Anacostia season four experience, but to learn some insight into: the final years and end of As the World Turns, Martha’s decision to exit the series, and some of their favorite scenes together. But most of all, we learned about their love, deep respect and admiration for each other that is so evident and quite beautiful. So, without further ado, here’s Martha and Elizabeth!
Martha, what transpired and how did this all sort of unfold, that you were able to entice Elizabeth to get her feet wet into acting in the world and the production model of an online series such as Anacostia?
MARTHA: It was always a dream for Anthony Anderson to have Liz in Anacostia for a long time, and the show takes long breaks in between tapings. Anacostia is taped on the weekends, and it’s really a zero-budgeted show. Months would go by, and we were planning this coming season, and I asked Liz if she would be interested, and we discussed what the character would be. We discussed that we wanted us to work together. I started thinking how we could do that, and how we could facilitate that and making it easier for Liz shooting-wise since Anacostia shoots in Washington D.C. I thought the only way was for us was to go to her, and make it as easy as possible for Liz to be a part of the show. Anthony and I brainstormed about the plot, and what would make sense with my character. We filmed up to where my ex-husband comes back to find me and hunts me down. It has not aired yet. We kind of leave him choking, and we don’t know what happened. I thought what a great idea it would be for Liz’s character to come and find me! She whisks me away to the country to interrogate me about where her son is. It started from there. It was a pleasure to write it, and to give Liz a starting point to work from. I told Liz, “I not only expect, but want your input and your thoughts,” and that is where it started.
ELIZABETH: How many producers, writers, and fellow actors can say something like that? I am very touched. Martha is my “daughter”, the only “daughter” I have. We were back in Oakdale, and now we are in Anacostia. Now, I’m playing her mother-in-law. It’s been exciting to have this kind of freedom that we can talk to each other, and discuss and try things.
MARTHA: I also knew the freedom that Liz would have with this kind of a show. I think Liz would agree that as time went on with As the World Turns, creative choices were discouraged, and most of the time because of time constraints. I think the beauty of doing something on the web is to make choices, let them live, breathe, and see what feels right.
LIZ: This is completely new for me to work on the web, but it has the feeling of in the olden days when we had choices, and there was collaboration of people coming together to do something.
Martha, not only did you co-write the scenes for Liz, and performed on camera in your Emmy-winning role as Alexis, but you also directed your former ATWT mother on-screen. You wore many hats. Was it daunting?
MARTHA: I did direct the scenes with Liz, but I think by the end of the night the ghost of Martha Byrne was directing the scenes, (laughs) because it was such a long day. I am very pleased at what we got, and I am not just saying that because I love her, but I think we realized we weren’t playing Lily and Lucinda, but our Anacostia characters.
ELIZABETH: It’s marvelous, because Martha and I have been talking to each other for years. When As the World Turns went off the air, we still continued to talk to each other. I’m hoping the scenes will show that even in the direst of moments there is this kind of a female understanding between the two women.
Elizabeth, what can you tell us about the character you play, Eva Montgomery, who from the Anacostia Season 4 promo is a bit of a mysterious lady?
ELIZABETH: I know Eva is the mother of the horrible man that Martha’s character is divorced from. We know the back-story, but we don’t know who wants what, and why are they doing it, and that is something that was and is being developed as we went long. But, I’m proud to be there.
MARTHA: When you see my character, Alexis Jordan for the first time, Liz had this wonderful idea of laying my character out on this beautiful stone slab of a table in her outdoor garden area. Liz said, “What do you think about that?” I said, “I love it! I think it’s great.” It sort of sets the tone for this sort of sacrificial life-moment, and setting up the story of where this is going to go, which will take us to next year. We shot a lot of scenes in one day. I think we did 27 pages, or something, which is a lot.
Martha, for those who don’t know the back-story of Alexis on Anacostia, what can you tell them about who she is, and what she has been through?
MARTHA: Alexis was a stay-at-home, abused housewife of this man named Jason, which is Liz’s son in Anacostia. She was physically abused by him, and left him in the middle of the night, and never looked back, and was pregnant. She really had no choice but to go into this lifestyle with the lowest rent you could possibly imagine, and kind of climbed her way out of that, and became a madam. But madams are not what you see on TV, and Liz and I were talking about it. She could be the woman next door, or she could be any woman. That’s what I liked about this character, in that she kind of just fell into it. She tries to survive, and she has this child, and her ex-husband is trying to track her down. She tells him there was a miscarriage and there is no child, and so her life has been desperate. Liz and I play two women who are adversaries, but yet there is a common denominator between the two of them. I think the audience will enjoy it. I think Anthony was overwhelmed with appreciation to have Liz involved in Anacostia for all of this, and to see how she works. I think the audience will love to see Liz. That is why over the years people come up to us and go, “I remember the one scene that you did …” Someone just tweeted about the scene Liz did with Larry Bryggman (Ex-John Dixon) in the bathtub on ATWT.
ELIZABETH: And I wrote that! I put that into the scene! Some people think that daytime television is such foolishness, and only about sleeping with your sister’s husband, but it’s something else. It’s about a lot of little moments that have utter truth, and if you put those things together it becomes something important. The soaps are even a teaching medium. I used to get people coming up to me when I began to play Lucinda saying, “You’re bad” while I was on the bus, and then the woman would follow up with, “I learn so much from you.” So you respond, “That made my day.” The audience is in it with us, and that’s why it’s wonderful for me. Since ATWT has been off the air, I performed in the Dutch soap opera, Goede Tijden Slechte Tijden (Good Times Bad Times). Now with Anacostia, I can reach out to the fans again, and we can have this dialog, because you always know when they get it. I miss them.
Martha, when you decided to leave As the World Turns, did you tell Liz your plan?
MARTHA: Liz was the only one who went to the executive producer and said, “This can’t happen!” Liz spoke to Chris Goutman (Ex-EP ATWT) about it, and it’s all sort of blurry. I think I called Liz and told her what was going on. I feel like my relationship is stronger now.
ELIZABETH: I learned so much from you as a little girl, and now as you’re grown-up with your three children. I think there is something nice about that, and to have respect and affection in one package! Isn’t that wonderful?
MARTHA: I feel the same way. Without Liz, I would never have become the human being than I am, because of her influence in my life. That is really why I wanted to work with her on Anacostia. I felt there was a void personally, and professionally working with Liz. I had to find a way to utilize Liz. She has so much to give to the world as an artist, and as a person that we weren’t seeing more of it. Liz should be seen!
Absolutely! Liz, at this point in your career, what type of role would excite you to want to play?
ELIZABETH: Roles with scope is what I would like to do, not just that I’m playing the nasty old woman. That’s no fun.
MARTHA: You know, Liz and I would talk about the auditions we would go on, and how ridiculous they were. Look, I did not go to the Viagra commercial callback (laughs). I felt now I could give Liz a platform that was creative for her, myself, and for the audience.
Liz, when you look back at the final episode of As the World Turns some five years later, where do you sit with it now?
ELIZABETH: I saw them recently, and what bothered me so much when I saw it was that the show had been reduced to one tiny set – that was the bed, the prison, the house, everything! And watching me in scenes with Larry Bryggman at the end, I hated the costumes. I would not choose those clothes. We no longer had the freedom to discuss our costumes. I felt sorry that Larry and I did not have a set, or a room to show all of the things, and that’s what happened to ATWT. It just got squeezed tighter and tighter with money, and also it was the same from the point of view from management. In the beginning, there was freedom that all kinds of things could happen. They would say, “Do it” and actors love that, and the audience likes that, and good things come of it.
The budgets were so squeezed. I remember visiting the set in Brooklyn and talking with the cast members, and seeing first hand how there were no extras anymore in scenes, and that the budget didn’t allow for many common things necessary to facilitate a network soap opera. Yet, the incredible cast soldiered on till the end.
ELIZABETH: I think it could have lived on, but I don’t think anybody wanted it too. I was on The Doctors when it went off the air, and there was no need for it to go off. It was a wonderful show.
MARTHA: I did watch the ATWT finale the day it aired. I am glad they did not put Lily (then Noelle Beck) and Holden (Jon Hensley) back together just for my own historical reasons. I think the original plan was to put them together at the end, and then someone kyboshed it. I think Chris Goutman wanted them back together.
ELIZABETH: Yeah, he wanted to marry everybody off, as if life was OK and perfect if you’re married. Sure! It’s really the beginning of the real trouble! (Laughs)
MARTHA: Right! And you know I stay in contact with the fans on social media, and they miss it more now, I think.
Speaking of Jon Hensley, I thought he was wonderful, and gave his finest performance on As the World Turns in the very last episode as Holden.
MARTHA: Yes, he was. Jon called me on the way home after his last scenes on the set, and he was very upset. He just wanted to say he missed me. People wanted me to come to the farewell parties and I didn’t go. I just didn’t feel it was my home anymore. I didn’t feel it would be appropriate for me to be there. I kind of said my goodbyes when I left. It’s interesting though; the lady at the bank still calls me “Lily”. I love that, and that people still have such a warm memory of that show, and being in their lives for so long.
ELIZABRTH: I had a cab driver who told me, “You helped me when my mother was dying,” and he told me the story, and so I knew he was telling me the plot on As the World Turns. So, he got me to my door, and as I got out money to pay him, he said, “No, no, no. You never pay in my cab.” And guess what? I met him a year later again, and he said, “No, no, no. You never pay in my cab.” It’s deeply touching when people come up, and that often happens, because we were on the air, and when big things were happening in people’s lives they took some kind of solace from what was being done on screen. It was helpful to them. I liked that, and I miss that, and I would like to do that again for people.
Martha, have you had the chance to watch Elizabeth as Dr. Althea Davis on old episodes of The Doctors airing on Retro TV? Legendary!
MARTHA: I have been watching it now! People sent me clips. My mom watched The Doctors. I am watching the clips, and what is so interesting to me is because Liz left the show for a time, another actress stepped into the role. I called Liz up and said, “What is this person? Why did this happen?” (Laughs) I wanted all of the answers. I felt like a soap fan. Liz was so good as Althea.
What is the best advice Liz gave you when you first came on to ATWT?
MARTHA: I will never forget when I first came on As the World Turns. I came from the background of kids come on the show say their lines, and then go into the background, and they must be quiet. Working with Liz was an eye-opener. It was my first two weeks on the show and she told me some great advice. She said, “Who cares if you mess up the lines? Who cares if you fall down? You get another chance! Who cares? So what! You do it differently next time. You have to not be afraid of it.” It was just the best of the best back then.
It was amazing to see how you were able to take Lily Snyder from this young ingénue to the next level as a major heroine of Oakdale. Why do you think this all worked out the way it did, and that the audience fell in love with you as Lily?
MARTHA: I think I was very fortunate that I was allowed to keep my job at that point in time, because I was an awkward teenager, and Doug Marland (former head writer, ATWT) wanted to write this sexy story with Jon Hensley. I was very fortunate that I got my feet planted on that ground, and I learned to get better. I was always happy to just have a job, and to me it was a great job, and I got to work at my craft.
ELIZABETH: We had so much fun. At one point Lily wanted a kitten, and in the script Lucinda was allergic to cats. We had a huge set with two sofas, and so I walked around giving her a hard time with Lucinda’s secretary following her around with hankies while she sneezed! It was funny, and yet the woman is not being kind to her daughter. It was funny, and sad, and had texture.
Elizabeth you have won two Daytime Emmys and Martha you have won three …
ELIZABETH: … I had all those nominations too, and no one would ever write me a plot or story.
MARTHA: The Emmy episode you need to win!
If you had to encapsulate it, what makes the two of you so special, and so endearing to each other?
ELIZABETH: Martha could cry from here to July, which is extraordinary. She never looked more beautiful than she does right now, by the way! Isn’t that nice? And why not! She is funny when she wants to be, and she can be tough, but we are women who can understand what life is, what is hard, and what is easy, and what is in between, and what’s not worth it.
MARTHA: I am so fortunate to have Liz in my life, and it’s so rare. I can look back, and realize that not only was Liz a part of my life growing up to help me, but I realized how valuable it was at the time, meaning I appreciated Liz from the moment that I met her. I always valued her in my life. On a professional level when we do this as a living, and reach out into our sub-conscious and the audience, we are doing it for ourselves, as well. What else in this world, in this universe, will you spend your entire life with people, other than your children, where you are going through emotional experiences with someone on such a personal level. Sometimes those relationships expire and you don’t ever talk to them. You share storylines with them and you are then stripped apart. You still cherish them, but they are not part of your day-to-day life. The fact that Liz and I are able to do this again, and work together again, and still be a part of each others lives is incredible!
The final $64,000 question is for you Elizabeth. Would you entertain becoming a cast member on a network soap opera on the west coast if the opportunity should arise?
ELIZABETH: I have no idea, because no one has even thought of it!
MARTHA: They should! You are preaching to the choir here, believe me.
So, excited to see Elizabeth Hubbard in Anacostia? Do you think Martha and Elizabeth created one of the most enduring mother/daughter combinations of all-time on the soaps as ATWT’s Lucinda and Lily? What did you think about their longstanding relationship that has lasted over decades? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!