An exclusive interview with former One Life to Live star and current All My Children cast member, Laura Bonarrigo-Koffman.
Best known for her role as Cassie Callison-Carpenter on ABC’s One Life to Live, Laura Bonarrigo-Koffman had taken a break from daytime to raise a family. After 8 years away from the daytime business, she has returned to soaps and can now be seen on ABC’s All My Children as Rebecca, a woman from Jesse’s (Darnell Williams) past and the mother of his daughter Natalia (Shannon Kane).
This past Thursday, TVSource Magazine had the opportunity to talk with Laura about her reasons for returning to daytime and her newest role on All My Children.
For years fans have wanted you to return full-time to One Life to Live, I’m sure you can imagine their surprise when it was announced you would be returning to soaps…only this time at All My Children. What was it about this role (Rebecca) that interested you?
They invited me to audition at AMC, Judy Wilson, who casts All My Children, knew that I was available and living in NYC, and that I was working again. … As I understand it, she didn’t want to bring me in for a role that was just a couple days long or something like that. And when I first auditioned for Rebecca, I had no idea of the character’s real name, nor did I know with whom I would be working, I was totally thrown off track. I had prepared the audition scene, and she explained to me when I auditioned, it was a scene for auditions, not an actual storyline; they were interested in seeing me on camera again. Then they had me come back in, and read a totally different scene-the first one was brassy, funny and seductive-the second one was very somber and serious, more melancholic. I guess that’s a good way to describe the scenes. Then my agent told me that the name of the character had changed and the people I was going to be working with had changed. All of a sudden I was working with Debbie and Darnell and the character’s name was Rebecca and then I met with Julie Carruthers to get the storyline. I’m taping about a month ahead of viewers…so everything that we have taped was exactly what she told me and is airing now.
I hope the fans find this an interesting story. I don’t know the Jesse/Angie history so I can’t comment on it, I sort of feel like the odd one out, it’s kind of funny. I know I’m having a great time and they are terrific to work with. I was wondering if this was a real pointed love affair between Jesse and Rebecca and was re-assured that wasn’t the case. I’m not clear how long Rebecca is staying in Pine Valley.
I was probably scared out of my mind. Totally enamored with Bob Woods, completely overwhelmed by working, hanging on the best I could. I remember Paul Rauch asking me if I wanted to see clips of Holly Gagnier’s work, I said no [laughs]. He said “oh no but you must, you must see the energy that Cassie has, she has a lot of energy.” The whole history of Cassie I don’t remember exactly, but we all know she had a great deal of enthusiasm, energy and angst. She had a lot of drama.
Was it difficult to step into the role of Cassie due to other actresses playing her before you?
No, I think there had been enough time between myself and the other actresses, I don’t recall having any trouble at all. I played Cassie for 8 years under contract so when people talk about Cassie, they sort of forget there were three women before me, I was the fourth actress to play that role. I never felt as if Cassie was always mine, even though she, me, we merged as the fans watched me develop her, and grow up with her.
The history of Cassie had a great deal of depth that wasn’t mine. I respected that, the other actresses. I never met them, but I never disregarded their history with her. When I had taken over the role of Cassie, there had been a break of one year or longer. I think that’s why I had a lot of leeway, and I don’t recall anyone complaining about my taking over that role.
Did you agree with the show’s decision to have Cassie begin an affair with Kevin?
Oh I had so much fun working with Kevin Stapleton. We had so much fun working together. It seemed as if it was the first time I laughed on that show. Kevin, the actor, played pranks on me and we just had a great time. I liked it because I had been the good minister’s wife for a number of years, so I was getting a little bored with that and I had a great time finding another dimension to Cassie’s personality and this story with Andrew gave Bob Krimmer and I great stuff to play cause it was so heart wrenching.
Bob Krimmer and I had grown very fond of each other; we knew each other so well. I see this with Debbie [Morgan] and Darnell’s relationship on camera. There’s an intimacy that happens, and a trust, that allows an actor, myself, to go very deep in a very personal way. I felt that Bob and I had that. I remember shooting a scene where Cassie talks about leaving Andrew. The sound stage was silent and after shooting the scene, the producers came out of the booth and just hugged me. They (the producers & writers) trusted Bob, Kevin and me to play those scenes and we trusted each other to go very deep, very personal and to know that it was transmitted to the screen for the viewers. And that’s the stuff that makes Daytime so special. And yes of course we get that on film and of course on stage but the history that Bob and I had was very special-we had 5 years of being husband and wife on OLTL and it’s something actors don’t always get.
I played Cassie going crazy with Bob Krimmer for a long time and I wouldn’t tell him some of the stuff that I was going to do and I’d say to him “I’m not going to tell you what I’m going to do today,” and he’d say just do it. Again that trust was built over time and it was a real gift. He gave me that gift and I in return try to offer that to my co-stars.
One Life went through a series of behind the scenes changes in both writing and producing during your time on the show. How did those changes affect you and your cast mates? Did you at any time sit down with the new writers to find out their direction for your character?
I remember Bob Krimmer and I begging Linda Gottleib to put Andrew and Cassie together because we liked each other and had a lot of respect for each other. I know it was a risk because here were two good characters and the writers didn’t have that intention initially but that was one moment where perhaps they had thought about it and we chimed in and were heard. The only other time was when Linda told me the storyline of Cassie losing her baby.
Was acting a major part of your childhood? Was it something you were interested in at an early age? Who or what inspired you to go into acting?
I knew early on. I knew when I was in 2nd grade. I always knew I wanted to act. I went to college to be an actress at 17. It was always something I wanted. I was in my first public play when I was in 6th grade. I wanted to come to the High School of the Performing Arts in NYC, I applied and I received a little rejection letter because it was only for kids in NYC. I always wanted to come to NY and model and do that but my parents had 6 children and couldn’t split up the family.
You took a break from the acting world to raise your children. Was it difficult to walk away from your passion?
I missed it a lot. When my son was very young, I did a play. I hadn’t done any theater for a while, but I was asked to play the lead in an Alan Ball play called “Five Women Wearing the Same Dress.” It got me back on stage, it was comedy, and it was really fun to do. I was auditioning a bit and I screen tested for a series here in NY, so I had done some work. And then my son was getting older and I had my daughter and got involved with the children’s school. I completely left the business for 3 years to focus on parenting my children. I remember 2 years into that, my manager asked me if I was ready to go back to work and I said no, my children still needed me.
At the time I really didn’t think I was ever going to act again, and I wasn’t exactly happy about that, because I love acting. I was trying to make peace with it; I knew I had to focus on my family. But then in June of 2007, I was asked to audition for an Off-Broadway play which ran September through January 2008. From “Dorothy Hale” I got an agent and called my manager -starting modeling and acting again.
A few years ago you started a company, called Feed Your Mouths. What gave you the idea to start it?
I started this other business helping mothers primarily because of all the work I had done with my children. Other parents, professionals and teachers had noticed the difference in their concentration & spirit and had started recommending families to me. I was working one on one with other parents to change the way they were feeding their kids, in their homes.
I was really coaching, I was hand-holding, calling them every day, I was going to their homes, I was working with their children, cleaning out their cabinets, I was taking them grocery shopping, I was developing recipes. I was taking cooking classes and working with chefs, and I worked with young moms. For some families I was making big changes and with others I wasn’t skilled enough to help them so I would recommend them to professionals. I never sold myself as a nutritionist; I always sold myself as a mom. I haven’t ruled out going back to school to become a professional in nutrition and coaching. Food, nutrition and health have been my passion since growing up on my family’s farm, but I’m not focusing on getting certified at this time.
Since returning to work, has it been a challenge to juggle work and family life?
[laughs] Ask any working mom that, of course it is! My son is almost 10 years old. I was home a long time, almost 8 years; it’s not as if they haven’t had my attention. They don’t really understand because I haven’t been stopped on the street or anything like that, but they do think it’s very strange that my birthday was announced on the Internet last week. [laughs]
You launched your new website a few weeks ago, tell us about it.
Michael, my friend, persuaded me to do it and I had no interest in creating a website. I had never visited the unofficial websites, I had never seen the old clips or the YouTube clips, I just didn’t visit that stuff about me on the Internet. But he was able to persuade me.
I pulled 3 cases of archives out of storage and he worked on this for 6 months. He and Robert devised it and created it. When they launched it on October 17 I looked at it for the first time. I was pretty impressed and quite pleased with it. And since then we’ve been tweaking it here and there. I now have a bit more say in it, and I ask a lot of questions. The guys are doing a beautiful job managing it and we’ve gotten quite a bit of traffic. I give them all the credit and am so grateful for their work and the work of the fans who have been making Cassie YouTube montages for years.
Please be sure to stop by and visit Laura’s new Official website and see just how beautiful it really is. Michael has done a wonderful job. Make sure to catch Laura weekdays on All My Children. You can find her upcoming airdates on her website under the “All My Children” section.
Welcome back Laura! You’ve been missed!