It is no secret, after reading listening and/or reading various radio and online interviews that Daytime Emmy winner, Robin Strasser (Dorian) has had a lot to say about the cancellation of her beloved One Life to Live and her upcoming on-screen exit from the series which is coming up next week.
Nelson Branco caught up with Strasser and shared this report with On-Air On-Soaps about the legendary soap actresses thoughts of what went down behind the scenes that precipitated her early exit out of Llanview and much more.
FOG OVER LLANVIEW – OLTL prepares its final voyage without its reigning diva, Robin Strasser
It’s not easy being a soap fan these days. Or for that matter a soap superstar. Just like a juicy plot twist on one of your favorite soaps, daytime-TV fans were dealt yet another harsh and stunning blow when one of the network’s biggest stars, Robin Strasser, announced she was leaving OLTL a whopping five months before the finale. — a month after ABC shockingly axed two of its beloved, Emmy-winning venerable soap operas, All My Children and One Life To Live.
In May, the disappointed soap legend announced on her titular Twitter account, @robinstrasser that she was leaving early due to upcoming back surgery, which would consequently put her out of commission during the show’s final months of taping.
Immediately, cynical pundits and fans worried and speculated that the Emmy-winning actress was being punished for speaking out against ABC’s controversial decision to cancel two of its iconic soap operas on the same day last April. Did she quit? Or was she fired? Just like any good soap – there’s always more to the story, er, melodrama.
The soap diva, who has been toiling on and off as uber soap bitch Dr. Dorian Cramer Lord since 1979, reveals the truth. “I learned I had to have back surgery [again] back in March,” she recalls. “I was told One Life would grant me the time off for a medical emergency — but it would impact my vacation pay. I was aghast. I had to ask my lawyers: ‘Did [they] really put that in writing?’”
In 2004, the 66 year-old former Passions character actress and Another World siren underwent her first back surgery but returning to work a mere “ten days later may be one of the reasons why I think my [chronic back pain] hasn’t been resolved– especially with the heels Dorian wears!”
This time around, the proactive actor asked for the right amount of time off so she could recuperate properly and finally nip her back problem in the bud. According to her notes, the native New Yorker was supposed to take her “medical/vacation leave” around August 19, which seemed like a no-brainer for the team player, who has taken more than her share of pay cuts over the past decade, since “the show is dark most of the time during the [summer season].”
However, according to Robin, executive producer Frank Valentini insisted she take her medical leave permanently on July 1 since the series was being canceled and the show runners were planning to bring back old favorites and write out existing characters anyway. “It was disappointing,” Robin sighs. “It is what it is.” Making matters worse, a few weeks later ABC informed Robin that her last day had been moved up a week earlier to June 24! It would appear that ABC nudged Robin out early — just like it did with its two soaps, a plan she theorizes has been in motion for a long time.
And she puts the blame squarely on ABC’s Daytime President Brian Frons’s shoulders. “For the record, I believe that ever since Brian Frons got his job as our president, he never liked nor understood the appeal of continuing scripted drama,” she continues. “He’s probably progenitor that all audiences are all ADD because he is ADD himself He’s [also] very selective about actor/character ‘types’ because not a lot can hold his attention, especially when you’re dealing with a multi-generational tapestry. He simply doesn’t understand or love the genre like millions of us do.”
With news that a new online network headed by new upstart company, Prospect Park, has seemingly saved AMC and One Life, Strasser is pessimistically optimistic about ABC’s intentions. In fact, some argue the online venture is simply a smoke screen to silence the deafening fan rallies and protests that prompted sponsor, Hoover, to pull its entire advertising from the entire alphabet network. But she has hope: “Hey, maybe this is the first step, ala the man on the moon, for a new venue to tell stories. But they are going to have to change the math in how people are paid and the structure, especially when you consider [various] unions are involved.”
Regardless of what transpires Robin doesn’t regret siding with the mobilized fans intent on saving the genre, especially since, “I’m no longer a member of the cast — and direct action against me is not possible. The pernicious blacklist is always available.”
La Strasser’s swan song as one of the most memorable soap bitches (and the original Dr. Evil) will air August 25 on One Life. How does Robin sign off? Apparently, Dorian leaves to become a politician in Washington, but will David tag along as First Hunk? However, we hear there are other key scenes and moments to look forward to as well.
But, let’s hope Dorian returns before January for a final scene opposite the love of her life, Viki.
- by Nelson Branco