February 27th, 2009  |  Leave a comment

THE BREE WILLIAMSON INTERVIEW – ONE LIFE TO LIVE

breemain.jpgIf you have had the chance over the last five months to watch Bree Williamson navigate between Jessica and her two alters, Tess and Bess, you have been watching heavy dramatic story almost day in and day out, played by one singular actress.

In this “On-Air On-Soaps” feature interview, we go back in time over the harrowing and compelling plot points that all One Life to Live fans have been witness to. From Tess locking her sister Natalie and beau Jared in a basement room with a bomb ready to explode, to her losing her baby after giving birth alone in a cabin. Then, Bess popping out and switching Jessica’s baby for Starr’s and being admitted to St. Ann’s for some deep psychological evaluation and attempts at integration. Coming home and seeing the new animosity between her and her sister Natalie, and the reveal that Jessica did want Natalie dead. Then, connecting with a new man also in deep emotional trouble and learning to love again after the death of her husband, Nash. You could say it’s been quite an emotional roller coaster!

I chatted with Bree and we discuss the complexities, joy, and sadness of playing this intricate storyline.

MICHAEL:

It has been so amazing to watch your performances playing three personalities, Jess, Tess and Bess. Has there ever been a time during the storyline that it was confusing for you?

jess_chloe.jpgBREE:

No. The writers write them really well. The way that each one is written, you don’t have to put the name on each line because you kind of know who said what. That makes them a lot easier for me, and they are all three different. Posture helps a lot, and just changing the way your body is for each character helps me a lot.

MICHAEL:

Those amazing scenes awhile back where she is jailed in her own mind… Is it difficult to play the different parts in that scenario?

BREE:

There was one episode where we did all of them in one day. It was just me at the studio, which was kind of lonely, but it was a lot of work. Even memorizing the scenes where I say all the lines was difficult. You just have to get through it and do the best you can. The writing is great, and it’s exciting story.

MICHAEL:

Agnes Nixon created the multiple personality disorder storyline originally for Viki. It has played magnificently by six-time Daytime Emmy winner, Erika Slezak, over the years. Now you are the second generation taking over that storyline, which is fascinating. When you were handed this and knew what was going to happen, did you think, “Great” or were you fearful at all?

breenash.jpgBREE:

When I first found out I was so scared. It was very intimating. The first time I got to play Tess was when the whole Nash storyline happened. Even before Nash, I was having such a great time. I don’t even remember what my life was like on the show before I had these alters. It was so exciting to create Tess, because someone else played Jessica before I got there. Erin Torpey played her. So, I had strict guidelines in which I had to play Jessica. But with Tess, I got to do whatever I wanted with her, because she was so much fun, and free, and awesome. Recently with Bess, it’s been a great acting exercise and I learn so much when I go to work now. It’s so challenging, and I am very lucky.

MICHAEL:

We learned awhile back, the awful truth that Jessica did want harm to come to her sister Natalie, and that was not just Tess wanting that. Did you know that it was going to be written that way? Jessica just stood back and let all of the awful torture that Tess did to Natalie and Jared happen!

BREE:

I knew that was coming, and it’s only half the story. It’s awful! I love what they are doing with the sisters, with them fighting and having this whole sibling rivalry. Down deep it’s convoluted and confusing with different personalities. On the surface, it’s very normal, with both of them wanting the love and affection of their mother. I saw a recent air show where Natalie was asking her mother to take her side, and I think that’s true to life with siblings. Usually, they are always trying to vie for their parent’s attention. It’s great to play and a great story.

jessnataliefight.jpgMICHAEL:

The big secret, of course, is the “Baby Switch”. Chloe is really Starr’s baby. This all took place last November with brilliant writing from Ron Carlivati, with all the stories intersecting. It was so riveting for the audience to witness. Probably one of the best all time sweeps story delivered by “One Life to Live”, and they have had some of the best!

BREE:

It’s still continuing. Some stories have this great inter-connection and they fizzle out. But this one keeps going and the stamina it has is amazing. There’s going to be story forever and ever, and ever. That’s what soaps are all about!

MICHAEL:

Jessica is not going to know what Tess and Bess did for quite awhile. Is that safe to say? Although she has been having more memories of things here and there.

BREE:

You are right. I have not read the script on that yet, so it could go on for a while. And Kristen Alderson as Starr is just the sweetest. It’s so great to work with her, and I am really excited for when those scenes come out and I get to play with Kristen.

MICHAEL:

I loved when there were scenes between Todd and Tess! It was like Evil and Evilene. How did you like working with Trevor St. John?

BREE:

It was so much fun! I loved going to work everyday to work with Trevor. I loved going to work every day and being his partner in crime.

MICHAEL:

Did Erika Slezak give you pointers, tips or advice regarding the Disssociative Identify Disorder storyline and playing the beats of it?

bree_erika.jpgBREE:

Erika is really great with that. She has this quiet guidance that she gives. I kind of ask for it. I will get stuck and she will just gently guide me a little bit. I never asked her for help, but she quietly guides me and I think it’s so nice. I think that’s the kind of mentor you would want to have, and that she is. She is the best-case scenario. She is an amazing mentor, and the woman to look up to of the cast.

MICHAEL:

How do you like working with your new “hot” love interest, Mark Lawson as Brody Lovett?

BREE:

I am such in a good place at One Life to Live. I mean, look at the people I get to work with! Mark is the sweetest and the best guy, and I adore him. When I heard they were putting us together, I was so happy.

MICHAEL:

I hear Mark is a dedicated actor.

bree_mark.jpgBREE:

He is very committed and has an excellent work ethic. He takes it all very seriously. Jessica and Brody have built this terrific friendship, and there is a kiss coming up. It’s complex. But their relationship will stay complex and heartbreaking for a while.

MICHAEL:

Do you ever watch the air shows or look at your work after it is completed?

BREE:

I do watch it. I think it’s important to have an interest in yourself and your show. So, not only do I watch myself, but I watch most of the shows when I can. It’s a really good show right now! We put on really good TV!

MICHAEL:

Did you do a lot of research in preparing for your multiple personalities on “DID”?

BREE:

I did. I was a psychology major in school. I did some research, and of course, you rent “Sybil”. In order to write “DID” in the way it’s been medically documented is not good for story telling. They try to remain as accurate as they can and keep the momentum going, but it’s not as medically accurate. For instance, there are some cases with people who have really distinct personalities, and most of the time it’s more of a fluid thing between the different people. It just makes it more interesting to tell the story that way, having them so distinctive.

bree_dress.jpgMICHAEL:

And what did you think of Sally Field as “Sybil” when you did your research?

BREE:

She is amazing, and she was incredible in it. I took a lot away from that performance.

MICHAEL:

One of the most gut-wrenching scenes I have ever seen was when Tess was giving birth in the cottage, with the bloody graphics and the way it was shot. It was so intense and well told. And Erika was playing Niki Smith, who helped Tess!

BREE:

It was so sad. I loved working with Erika that day. It was really interesting to see Niki in such a different way. She was so
hard, and then she repented for what she
had done to Jessica, and she was kind!
They were really smart scenes.

MICHAEL:

And then Tess realizes something went terribly wrong!

BREE:

That I didn’t like. She was saying, “Why aren’t you crying?” It was awful and so sad. I hated going to work that day. It was too sad for me.

MICHAEL:

You are one of the best crier’s on daytime right now. Is it easy for you to have the tears flow? I mean, the emotional stakes are always so high if you are performing a scene as any one of the three gals you play.

bree_glamourshot.jpgBREE:

I mean, yeah. I cry easily. It’s sad. It’s sad material, and as long as you allow yourself to feel it and to understand it, and go along with the journey, the tears are the easiest part. That’s how I do it. You have to be available, and Ron (Carlivati) will write you a good story. He has already written it for me, and it’s sad and I just have to feel it.

MICHAEL:

From a character perspective, of all the people on the Llanview canvas, who would you like to have more scenes with?

BREE:

There are tons of people. I would love to work with Tika Sumpter (Layla) more, and I would like a friend on the show. I’m a big jerk, and I lock people in rooms, so who wants to be friends with me?
(She laughs)

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