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57 August 16th, 2016 Renee Elise Goldsberry Talks The Frustration, Joy & Her Eventual Decision To Leave OLTL!

Photo: The Resident/Goldsberry

Now that Renee Elise Goldsberry (Ex-Evangline Williamson, OLTL) is fast becoming a household name, the Tony Award-winning star of the Broadway smash Hamilton, and  who has been cast in two exciting projects: Netflix’s, Altered Carbon and HBO films, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lack, opened up about the path of her career for a feature for Cosmopolitan.

In it, Goldsberry who first shot to noteriety on ABC’s One Life to Live,  related the inherant struggles of playing an African-American character on a soap opera, and then how being part of a successful soap formula triangle changed that, and why she made the decision to exit Llanview at the time in her career that she did.  Here are some key excerpts below from the Cosmo piece:

Goldsberry on the original difficulties she encountered joining  One Life:  “At the beginning of my time on One Life to Live, I was very frustrated. This was a time in my life when I felt extremely marginalized. The formula of soap operas makes it really hard for an African-American to get any traction. There’s always a family that’s central to the story on a soap opera, and if the show loves you, you will turn into the long-lost brother or you will get married, which is easy to do for a white character. But as an ethnic person, they bring you on to be smart. You get to be the lawyer or the doctor for the family. No one sees where you live, they never bring you home. There might be one episode in February where they talk about your family because it’s Black History Month. Your character might be on once every three weeks. You walk into a room and you say something really smart and noble, and then you walk out. And you only make money when they write for your character. You couldn’t win the game as a person of color, no matter how talented or beautiful you were.”

Goldsberry on becoming front and center on One Life in story: “But after the first couple of years, they put me in a love triangle and it just blew up. The love triangle was interracial, there was drama, there was a war between fan groups — it was the best thing that had ever happened to my career. I was featured in magazines and I was being voted a fan favorite character. I was being asked to co-host, The View. At the same time, I was doing Shakespeare in the Park, being seen by the elite New York theater community and getting unbelievable reviews. I had high visibility and there were moments throughout this period where people said, “This is it.” But it doesn’t necessarily make you A-list. I was probably G-list most of my life.”

Goldsberry on her decision to not renew her contract with One Life:  “In 2007, I left the soap. I wanted to evolve and do the next thing in my career. I used to joke that I wanted the Kelly Ripa deal. But I didn’t see that future for me in soap operas. Why would I give up another four years of my life for a new contract if ABC primetime’s not going to call me to do a job?”

So, what did you think of Renee’s thoughts and her experiences at One Life to Live?  Share your comments below!

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  1. elm1951 says:

    i have been watching soaps for over fifty years and everything she said rings so true for ethnic actors/actresses…………….
    i must say she was fabulous on oltl and i was very sad when she left but i do understand her reason for leaving. – i always knew she was going places and i have so much respect her her

    Reply

    Boes replied

    So very well said, both by you and by her.
    What a treat it was to see her talent on display during her time on the show and how great to see her continuing success.

    Reply

  2. Jimh(leave it to beaver) says:

    Great talented actress…i liked when they did introduced her family but their stay was unfortunately short-lived…Days did have the Grants in the 70s-an African American family with parents and a brother and sister-i believe they were daytimes first black family with both parents in the home…there were blacks on soaps befoe-really enjoyed them but other fans did not approve of black Valerie dating white David and the Grants soon came to an end…Tina Andrews should have been a daytime superstar like Debbie Morgan was a few years later and hated it when she left Days…Y&R for years did a fine job writing for the Winters family…B&B doing well with an African American family…what is more rare is an Asian family and Native Americans too!!!

    Reply

    Rebecca1 replied

    There are no Jewish characters let alone families.

    Reply

    elm1951 replied

    nora hanan buchanan on oltl was very much jewish – she celebrated jewish holidays with her son matthew………………

    Rebecca1 replied

    I know elm1951. Lol, who else? How many Jewish characters are on GH (or any soap…or prime time for that matter). How many characters celebrate Hanukkah instead of Christmas…Passover instead of Easter?

    Kristen Alderson, Sean Kanan, Nancy Grahan, Matt Cohen, Renee Sofer (Lois and now Quinn), Stuart Damon (Alan Q.), Kin Shriner…and so many more are Jewish (Kristen, Nancy, Kin are half) but none of them play Jewish characters. Weddings and prayers take place in Church, not a Synagogue. It’s not as obvious because Jewish people are “white” for the most part but it’s a very under represented “community” on soaps…more so than black people. I’m not talking about behind the scenes writers, producers, etc. I’m talking about people being represented and their religion, holidays, existence acknowledged.

    Rebecca1 replied

    As a further example, imagine if it was reversed. That EVERY character on a soap was Jewish, Hannukah was the holiday everyone celebrated and people went to their Rabbi to get married. Instead of the Church in the hospital where our characters go to pray…a Temple. all weddings take place in a Synogogue. Oh. And maybe one non-Jewish character (which GH doesn’t even have one Jewish character).

    Llanviewer717 replied

    When One Life to Live started, in 1968, featured families included:
    the Lords – the wealthy WASPs
    the Siegels – Jewish Dave Siegel who was married to Irish Catholic Eileen and their children
    the Woleks – the working class Polish Americans
    the Greys – the African Americans – Initially only mother Sadie and her daughter Carla. As the series progressed, more black characters were added, including Police Captain Ed Hall (excellently portrayed by Emmy award winner Al Freeman, Jr.). Laurence Fishburne’s first acting job was as Ed and Carla’s adopted son, Josh.

    Rebecca1 replied

    And…Both Brandon Barash and Bruce Weitz are Jewish yet their characters aren’t. There are Jewish people in the mob, see Bugsy Siegel. But instead they went for the two Jewish characters I now recall…Bernie and Benny…the accountants. Lol…nah, that’s not stereotyping.

  3. James R. Poissant says:

    What helped her break the mold is that she really is a very good actress as well as being beautiful. I thought she was great on OLTL but I thought everybody was because the show was done brilliantly.

    Reply

  4. Peace & Blessings says:

    I remember the hoopla from her character on One Life being break-out to hosting the View and give the lady huge credit for being bold enough to leave the soap…and speak up about it today in Cosmo. I heard there may have been contract things at the time, too (she wasn’t offered enough), and that wonderfully in leaving, she had time to have kids (via her Tony speech)…so I have been following because to “walk away” is of interest to me–when should we, when should we “compromise”….it’s a quintessential life question. It worked for this exciting actress, and now her resurgence, her truly big-time is here. Her talent, her choices, set a great example on many levels.

    Reply

  5. KM says:

    This interview kind of leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It comes off as REG thinking she was too good for soaps (which is probably true) but there have been other soap actors who’ve found breakout fame but still manage to be gracious in acknowledging the genre as a great training ground and find some good words to find about their co-stars as. REG comes off as sounding like fame didn’t come fast enough for her so screw this. As an OLTL watcher I can say her character was front burner, paired with two of the most popular leading men and had a sister added to prop her. I’m not really sure what she’s complaining about.

    Reply

    Trophy Lady replied

    Did we read the same excerpts? She clearly said that being in that JoVan/JoLIE triangle was the best thing for her career. I think she was being pretty gracious about her time on OLTL.

    Did you just not like her honesty? Is that what offended you?

    Reply

    Boes replied

    Well said.

    blake replied

    I agree with you KM, she does sound stuck up and not very thankful for what she had there. I don’t remember her much on OLTL, she didn’t leave that much of an impression on me.

  6. Iakovos says:

    I recall with joy Ms. Goldsberry’s time on OLTL. OLTL was often at the forefront of social justice and social causes, a show with a genuine pulse on contemporary life. And it was based in New York, giving the program a feel that was exciting and alive. This is a lovely interview with a lovely woman, deserving of her post-soap success. I do hope casting agents will continue to see her beauty and talent for films, television, and stage.

    Reply

  7. dmr says:

    Her frustrations with her character sound like most of the characters on General Hospital nowadays-many, the viewers see every few weeks and storylines are lost and never heard of again. The Kelly Ripa deal? Good Grief. I, for one, cannot watch Kelly’s show; can’t even watch her Colgate commercials.

    Reply

  8. Kevin says:

    Great interview. Her take on her stint @ OLTL and her character’s limitations and shelf life is sad, but true. Good for her for realizing it and moving on. Goldsberry was excellent and underused on The Good Wife as well. Bigger and brighter things for this beautiful and talented lady – films, stage and television!

    Reply

  9. Longtimesoapfan says:

    I love Renee. And as someone who has been a soap fan for most of my life, she’s absolutely right. I like McBain and Evangeline, I loved Todd and Evangeline, but if she wasn’t getting where she needed to go career wise, I don’t blame her one bit for moving on.

    Reply

  10. Monica says:

    Love her and always loved her. So glad she spoke out about how she felt at the time. Such a good actress on OLTL, she had amazing chemistry with both Trevor St. John and Michael Easton. Was such a fan of Evangeline and Todd and very disappointed when they cast her aside for Todd and Blair. Was so pissed the way they killed her character off too… was it a coma or a catatonic state? Anyway, it was ridiculous! I’m glad she spoke out about it and thrilled she’s seeing the success she has earned!

    Reply

  11. RichInIowa says:

    So glad she “evolved” and seems to be happy and *really* so glad she made the decision to leave.

    Reply

  12. k/kay says:

    Very dissapointed that she plays the race card when does it stop ? She has had a very successful career I don’t get it somebody enlightened me! The same thing with Victoria Rowell I don’t get it we are so in this country wound tight like a dorm about every word that is uttered out of our mouth every gesture we might do every movement we are drowning in political correctness and we are lost.

    Reply

    Trophy Lady replied

    How was she playing “the race card” when what she said was TRUE???

    Are you saying that black people on soaps aren’t typically “the doctor,” “the lawyer,” “the judge,” etc.? Or are you saying that because she got do to more than just be “the lawyer,” she shouldn’t speak out about how black characters aren’t typically developed on soaps?

    What exactly is your issue? Would you have preferred that she lie?

    Reply

    blake replied

    Do you always feel the need to control? You must do that at home and in every day life.

    KM replied

    Trophy Lady, it’s a soap. EVERYONE is playing a relatively stock role. To your list I’d also add “the cop”, “the born wealthy”, “the scrappy or screwed up long lost kid deprived of their birth right by their wealthy family” and so on. They’re all stereotypes.

    REG’s talents are obviously theater and musical theater in particular and good for her in that respect. She’s done well for herself but to make it sound like she was held back on soaps because of racism when she was actually pushed forward (her character, besides being cast as the brilliant lawyer, also got to sing now and then) comes off as a little bitter.

    So she didn’t get “the Kelly Ripa deal” but what did she REALLY want? To be a talking head on The View? A “gimme” role on an ABC primetime show? What?

    That’s show biz. Not everyone gets to the star of the show. But she has been in Hamilton so I’m not why she’s even mentioning her soap roots if she can’t say something nice about how she got her start.

    Trophy Lady replied

    KM — c’mon! Are you kidding me??? When was the last time a black person on a soap was part of the “wealthy family”? When was the last time the black family was “the wealth family” so that when a black person comes on the show they can actually be “tied” to said wealthy family? Seriously, now, you MUST understand that, by default, since these types of black families don’t exist on soaps, Renee was absolutely telling the truth.

    And, I think you missed the point of what Renee actually said. She said that, initially, Evangeline was portrayed as the stereotypical black female attorney — no home, no family, just on air three times a month to say something noble, only to vanish until needed again. She then said that she got put into a love triangle (with John and Natalie) and that’s what got her exposure. By being in that love triangle with Michael Easton — that’s what made Evangeline a “main” character, because she was now FRONT AND CENTER in a HOT romance with the show’s heartthrob. That made all the difference in the world. She was with John McBain, Todd Manning, and Cristian Vega. Three HOT guys, and none of them black. When have you seen that on daytime before? Have you seen it since Evangeline on OLTL? The answer is NO. NEVER.

    Her point was that, typically, that doesn’t happen for black actresses on daytime. If you disagree with her personal assessment, PLEASE give me examples of where black women have been front and center in daytime with white men who are the centerpiece of the show? And I’m talking REAL DEAL ROMANCES — not a kiss here and there, and then the storyline gets dropped or they are NEVER on screen together. I’m talking leads that are portrayed as such. And please, don’t mention Maya and Rick Forrester on B&B. That entire story is BEYOND ridiculous.

    Boes replied

    Not the same as VR at all.
    And as for “playing the race card”, I guess you’re saying you’d rather she not speak honestly about the reality of being a woman of color in the entertainment industry. Too bad. Why the truth offends you, I don’t know….but you probably do.

    Reply

    Rose replied

    k/Kay…I there are PC topics that I should be addressed, but I get tired of them being overused for what seems as anything and everything as well. But when you look at the demos of soaps compared to % of US demos there is certainly a big case to be said for under-representation in a meaningful way with all racial groups in soaps. Actually “real life” does a better job than soaps…just look at the President. :)

    Reply

    blake replied

    I agree k/kay, it’s never ending. even after you win a tony award. Stop playing the victim and make changes.

    Reply

    Trophy Lady replied

    Wow, Blake — You must LOVE me because you’ve commented everywhere that I have.

    Are you starting to agree with me? It’s okay. You can admit it. And if you just want to comment on my post to say “hello,” you can do that, too! I’m not trying to control you, dear; I just want to “encourage” you to see the light. See the truth! :)

    viewer88 replied

    I remember being very disappointed when she left, and disappointed with her as well. OLTL knew what they had, that is why they put the character into a coma. If anyone could have broken through Elise was the girl. Who knows, maybe OLTL would still be, had she not bailed. Glad she’s doing good, but she lost me as a fan a long time ago. The same way Oprah lost me as a fan 6 years later. OLTL should have recast the character.

    Reply

    k/kay replied

    I will reply ! I think the actress is awesome she is a great singer etc! Just worn out that Hollywood and Washington, D.C. Have the answers they are no where in the realm of what is going down in this country ! We are in deep trouble our answer is a criminal HC and a blow heart! Our family has decided we back off we slide into the wood work and hope we can live our final days at oeace

    k/kay replied

    Peace ! Never intended to insult her she is phenomenal but she has no idea what is going on in the AA community

    k/kay replied

    So if I insulted her in anyway I apologize just worn out we are drowning and I wish someone anyone would throw a life jacket

  13. Shelley Denman says:

    Wow, I don’t think she sounds very appreciative of OLTL. They gave her a start to her career. It kind of ticks me off that she so down on daytime soaps.

    Reply

    blake replied

    Same here, it is annoying.

    Reply

    Lillian replied

    If you have not, please read the whole Cosmopolitan article for a better perspective.

    Rebecca1 replied

    Agree. I wrote that as well further down the page. Perhaps she says more positive things in the full interview.

    Reply

  14. fginaspy says:

    Smart girl. I respect REG on her decision to leave OLTL. I am so looking forward to The Henrietta Lacks movie. The book is fantastic. I high\y recommend it.

    Reply

  15. Adam says:

    Wow she sounds like a big narcissist. Her Tony win was a big upset. The Tony’s just caved into the PC crap.

    Reply

    Trophy Lady replied

    I’m sorry — EVERYONE EXPECTED that she’d win that Tony. Were you not aware that she was on everyone’s talk show/couch because of her role in Hamilton?

    She won her Tony because she deserved it. What “PC Crap” are you talking about? If she shouldn’t have won, then who should have?

    Reply

    Boes replied

    Well said

    blake replied

    do you have to comment on everyone’s post that you don’t agree with? people have the right to voice their opinion. You must always control people in life, huh?

    And it’s not true that everyone expected her to win. every award show is now caving in to the Oscars protest of nominations. it’s why the Emmys went crazy with nominations in the same way. throw a dog a bone.

    Boes replied

    Must be hard to see your prejudices take a knock.

    Reply

  16. Elizabeth says:

    LOTS to love about Renee Goldsberry. At the top of the list is that we GH fans can breathe a sigh of relief she will not be the next friend of FV’s to join the cast! Seriously, I also loved seeing her as one of the three backup singers on Ally McBeal.

    If she has won a Tony in Hamilton, she won’t ever be around a daytime soap again. Kudos to her!

    Reply

    Patrick replied

    she also “won” a grammy for “Hamilton”… as a cast member
    she’s an emmy nominated actress

    I don’t know… for me… I think winning a Tony award is the crème de la crème
    with the Oscar that close

    she’s certainly known in the inner circles of her peers

    Kudos to her… I can certainly understand how she felt … about being a supporting player… ie: OLTL

    that’s a lot of patience and time .. to get to where she is currently

    plus she has a bachelors and a masters degree

    wow and woah

    she’s got her two children… and a loving husband

    moment of silence

    peace

    Reply

  17. Trophy Lady says:

    I just LOVE Renee’s honesty! Her frustrations were not only felt by her, but by her fans as well. We all knew she was better than what they were giving her. I was a tried and true JoVan fan, and I loved every minute of it. What I didn’t love was how they eventually acted like JoVan NEVER existed! Anyone with good eyes could see that John and Evangeline were great together — that they made total sense. To belittle their storyline and their connection was a slap in the face to viewers.

    I still hate that we never got to fully see all that JoVan could’ve been. But I must say that I’m glad we got have John and Evangeline for the short time we did. Evangeline Williamson was a groundbreaking black character for daytime. She wasn’t pigeonholed. She wasn’t just a lawyer; she was a woman with a full life, family, friends, and romance!

    What other black woman on daytime gets that???? She dated John McBain, Todd Manning, and Cristian Vega! What other black female on daytime gets that kind of diversity and exposure to white A-List love interests? NONE!!! We hadn’t seen anything like Evangeline Williamson before, and sadly, we haven’t seen anyone like her since. That really needs to change ASAP!

    Reply

  18. Rebecca1 says:

    I like Renee. I’ve mentioned this before but I met her on my lunch break in Manhattan; we were shopping in the same organic market. Spoke to her just for seconds but she was very nice and seemed down to earth. I loved her character Evangeline; one of my favorites and I actually preferred her over Natalie. Liked her with Michael Easton and Trevor St John.

    With that said I have mixed feelings about the excerpted interview above. What I took away from it was that even though she broke through in the soap, had a great storyline and a huge fan following, she left because, “why would I give up anothe four years of my life if ABC wasn’t going to offer me prime time?” (Computer’s freezing on and off as I’m typing so that’s as close to verbatim as I can get without scrolling up. Point is there was a way to phrase that that wouldn’t come off like she didn’t want to “waste her time” which can make the viewer feel like an idiot for “wasting his or her time watching if soaps are so inconsequential. As for the race card that a few have mentioned, I’m not sure if Renee was implying they didn’t offer her prime time because she was black. ninety-nine percent of soap actors are white an how many of them are on heading their own time time shows? Not everything is about race. On the other hand, maybe she wasn’t attributing that part to race and I misinterpreted.

    Reply

    Lillian replied

    Selective excerpts can be a disservice. I read the whole Cosmopolitan article and came away with a better perspective of her viewpoint.

    Reply

    rebecca1 replied

    Hi Lillian…yes, I acknowledged that might be the case. It’s sort of like being taken out of context in many instances if it’s just a fragment of what someone said. Still, I think it could have been worded differently other than “why give four more years of my life if I’m not going to be offered prime time…” An actor can want to leave the genre or get into others but the way she said it puts a negative, insulting spin on soaps, which I think actors and fans are trying to get away from. As for the race thing, again, I don’t know, (as we both said) maybe that’s not what she meant in terms of being offered a prime time show. Again, not many white soaps actors are heading those spots either.

  19. Patricio says:

    Does no one remember that when OLTL began on the late 60s it centered on three diverse families? The Lords rich Wasp family, the Woleks, a working class Polish family and the Greys, an African American family. This went on for about 10-15 years before the focus moved to the rich and powerful Lords.

    I don’t think OLTL ever left its multicultural roots and in its last years made a real effort to bring Destiny and Matthew together to begin a future together In fact that was one of the beautiful last stories when Destiny gave birth the Bo’s grandson.

    I think Ms Goldsberry knows what she is talking about, but a hat should be tipped to this Soap!

    Reply

    mgb357 replied

    I agree, and it is not unusual for soap actors to feel like they are in a box.
    There should never be a ‘black’ storyline just for the sake of diversity, because that would be pandering…

    What OLTL was great at doing was showing all sorts of people, living and reacting to a diverse world.. And most of the stories grew out of decades long attachements to their characters and situations (just like life).

    While there is no denying she is a fabulous and brilliant actor, Miss Goldsberry might have seen more stories about the black culture in American society had she stuck around a bit longer. and maybe we would have discovered that she was actually one of Victor Lords long lost child, or Asa Buchanon’s? The possibilities were endless.

    Reply

    Patricio replied

    I liked your well thought out response . You are obviously a big fan! Still miss our days in Llanview.

  20. MBmomof3 says:

    I am a big fan. But I do find this story ironic in that one of the main stories that drew me to OLTL and blew my five-year-old mind was the story of the Gray family. OLTL was a soap known for its diversity. I suppose it’s all a matter of perspective.

    Always wishing her well and continued success!

    Reply

    viewer88 replied

    Lol, maybe abc wrote the story and paid her to say it, to tarnish our memories of OLTL.

    Reply

  21. GemmaG says:

    OLTL made strides and had many epic stories, talented cast, and memorable characters. As a 30+yr fan, I agree – she broke an invisible ceiling – not too many people of color in Llanview… first there was Hank, Rachel, then a really boring Sheila, maybe a few others…. and then came Evangeline – she had hot romances with John and then Cristian,even though she had came to town as just the smart lawyer, but we fell in love with her – and were heartbroken when her character ended up in a permanent coma. She and her sister (Tika Sumpter, another talented actress who could sing) were on for just a week together before Renee left the show. She paved the way and I’m so happy to hear of her deserved success.

    Reply

  22. Mr Jason says:

    I love Renee..She is a star, a good actress, and wonderful singer. She is right about black people on soaps. On OLTL they brought on Tika Sumpter and BARLEY used her in any story-lines until her last year on the show, and now Tika is doing hit shows and movies. #BlackGirlMagic

    Reply

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