Beth Chamberlin shares her feelings and thoughts on the cancellation of ‘Guiding Light’ and what the future holds for her career.
Beth Chamberlin, born in Vermont, began her studies in acting and drama at New York University, then studied ballet at American Ballet Theater in New York. Beth joined the cast of CBS’ Guiding Light in 1989 as Beth Raines Spaulding, leaving the show in 1991, only to return to Springfield in 1997. In 2001, her character suffered from a personality disorder and the character of Lorelei Hills was born. In 2005, Beth decided to go off contract but continued as a recurring character until the show’s cancellation earlier this year.
Beth turned author when she penned a book called Lorelei’s Guiding Light. The written about Beth’s alter ego and the soap opera she had been a part of for so many years. Beth took an interest in health and fitness, and in 2008, she released a fitness DVD called The Kettlebell Way To Your Perfect Body. In addition to the DVD series, she also created the website, Beacon-Fitness.com. Beth is also a certified kettlebell trainer and a member of National Strength and Conditioning Association.
Though Beth is known for her daytime role on Guiding Light, she has also appeared in several prime time shows including Silk Stalkings, Columbo, and most recently Cashmere Mafia.
TVSource Magazine had the opportunity to speak with the actress about her experience on Guiding Light, her thoughts about the cancellation of the longest running soap, and what her future may hold.
In 2001, your character developed a 2nd personality, was it challenging for you as an actor to portray 2 different characters simultaneously?
Yes absolutely challenging but challenging in a good way, challenging in the way that it excites you and it gets your creative juices flowing. I had the very good fortune in having Christopher Dun, and Lucky Gold, our head writers at the time, the two of them very generously allowed me to have input in who this character would be, which is very unusual to have something like that and they let me be a part of that so that was great. And I wrote this whole background for her, and the way I wrote it for her was I didn’t know, I didn’t start off the story knowing if she was another character or a part of Beth’s personality. That information I didn’t have, so since I knew it could be one or the other, what I did was write a backstory for her that would parallel Beth’s back story so that should we find that she was another personality of Beth down the road that it would work in that manner as well. It would be like Beth turned all these bad instances in her life and turned them into these other things. So that’s how I approached it and did a lot of base work and made some good fertile soil there, so by the time I jumped in and had the lines to say, it was just effortless because I had this full character behind me.
By the time this story happened, you were already playing Beth for 10 or 11 years.
Yeah it had been a while, and it was great that my multiple personality character, Lorelei, she was pretending to be Beth. So what was really neat was, I got to play, during that time I got to play 2 characters in a way, because I got to play Lorelei, and it eventually became 3, I got to play Lorelei who she thought she was, and I got to play Lorelei’s version of Beth, which was not just like Beth because Lorelei didn’t have it exactly perfectly and then later as it became revealed that it was another personality and Beth started to come out, then I got to play, Beth, Lorelei’s version of Beth and Lorelei. Yeah it was so wonderful, for an actor, it was wonderful.
So, you got to spread your wings a little bit and to get creative with your character that you wouldn’t have got to do with just one character.
That is one of the gifts that I got at Guiding Light. My character at a certain point, I think they decided she worked well to perhaps move story when they needed the story moved, they would do things that maybe seemed a little out of character at times. But they would do these things because they knew I didn’t mind justifying things and they have me do these things, at one point they had me tie up Alan and Gus in a cabin and just torturing them for a while, which seemed very out of character for Beth. Then they had written her for, they started to write her when I first came back to the show in 1997 as having some erratic behavior and as an actor that is such a gift. There are many upsides of doing a soap the very normal life you get to lead, and have a very normal family life, and all these wonderful things that a lot of actors can’t have because they have to be on location, doing night shoots and all of that sort of things. Those are the wonderful things, the down fall on being on a soap is you play the same character for years and the well can little dry because your playing the same character and also your flexing the same muscle and other muscles maybe get a little atrophy and that I am so blessed but really that was not the case for Beth cause they used her in various ways so I got do from A to Z with what I got to do with my character, very unusual in the soap world at least if you have a character for many years. I felt very blessed.
Playing the character for so long, how do you keep the character fresh and exciting for viewers?
I think for me, it really part for me it was really about the fact, they were always changing Beth just when it seemed she settled into sort of a boring rut, she would have an affair with some young guy. It was always changing. To answer the question generally, I think it’s that if you are always committed to the emotional story you have in front of you, then even though the character does remain the same, the story is compelling because it is a human story and you are seeing someone connected to the work they are doing, then it is compelling.
What are your feelings on the cancellation of Guiding Light?
Certainly initial reaction was a little surprised because our ratings had been up at that point and many of us were feeling positive about things it just happened that a few months before I think many of us weren’t feeling so positive because our ratings were down and we had gone through an upswing so it sort of hit us when we thought we were up. So it was surprise and then certainly at times great sadness over it but also some acceptance. You do as an actor, we certainly knew what we signed on for when we got in this business, not to say it’s easy but that you are, chances are if you are an actor in this business, you are always looking for another job. So, I’m fortunate that for so many years I wasn’t, as are my other cast mates on the show, so I think there is some acceptance and also to sort of understand to this, it’s deeply distressing but to understand the people on other side of making that decision which is it’s a business like any other business and it was a business decision that was made. It’s very upsetting to us who love the show but there are two sides of this coin and there comes some acceptance when you look at it that way.
What are you going to miss the most about GL?
It’s the people. I mean I love the show and this character and so many of the stories she was involved in. Over this many years, you develop very close relationships with people, cast and crew, and although I’ll be in touch with those people, I won’t be having coffee with them on almost a daily basis and that is a real loss for me. And also some of the people, Tina Sloan, Grant Alexander, Ron Raines, and Michael Leary, people that I have done scenes with and worked together for years with, a trust develops and also an understanding of one another’s rhythms, how the other person works develops over the years, you just start to dance very well together and that happens over years and I will certainly miss that that kind of working relationship.
What was your most memorable moment at GL?
I guess I would have to say, my most memorable storyline was playing Lorelei. Those of us who were involved in that story it was just, it was meant to be and was for a long period time really sort of a lighter story on the show and we got to go in and laugh every day and there really is nothing better than going into work and laughing. We hear a lot that the cast and crew become a second family and when something like this happens it becomes difficult to move forward. Some look at it like a new challenge and some it takes a lot longer to adjust.
As I look at it, chances are, some of the very particular relationships I had at Guiding Light will not be repeated, they were relationships that saw me through the death of a parent, becoming a mother, my marriage, they saw me through all of those stages and those things will probably get repeated at least not in the same way, and so I won’t have those experiences that create depth with other people so I’ve sort of accepted that and said that probably won’t happen in another work situation but I’m sure I’ll have a different experience in a different work situation that will also be gratifying in its own way.
You are very active and keep a healthy body. You released a fitness DVD in 2008 called “The Kettlebell Way To Your Perfect Body.” What inspired you to release the DVD and why?
Yeah I guess one came out a year ago this past March, and the other one came out just before Christmas. I had started doing kettle bell work with the fellow I’m in the DVD with, Anthony Dilulio, I had started using his DVD about 9 months before I shot the first one. The results were just out of this world, just amazing where I had a different body in 6 weeks, and I started doing it because my husband was doing it, I said he was crazy at first, then I started seeing his body changing in a month and I decided to eat some crow and went to my husband and asked what size kettle bell should I use, I want to try it to. I just got such phenomenal results that I just thought this was the answer, this is the answer women are looking for because it’s not a big time commitment, you can’t do it more than every other day cause you need a day of rest in between, it’s cardiovascular and strength training so you get both done at the same time, and it’s a 40 minute workout. And especially for busy women who are working and have a full plate, mothers, it really works perfectly and one of the reasons I said it was perfect for me because I would do it when my little guy was napping, so I didn’t have to go out of the house, I was right here with the monitor and it didn’t take a long time. So even if I didn’t get to it till he went to bed at 8 o’clock at night, it’s only 40 minutes, I was able to fit it in and also I had been a runner before and really to maintain my weight, more than anything.
I am a big eater, I’m just not a believer, I’m a believer in helpful eating, I’m not a believer in dieting, depravation, just doesn’t work for most of us, I think if you tell us we can’t have something, we may not have it that day, we’re just going to make up for it the next day, so I just don’t think it works in many ways. So I was running to maintain my weight, and running caused problems with my left knee, I got to the point I had problems walking, and I didn’t know what I was going to do to maintain the weight and then this came along and my knee had completely healed up. While I was running I still had belly fat, I couldn’t get rid of belly fat, I couldn’t get rid of back fat, I had flabby upper arms, I had things I hated but I hated weight training, I hated all that stuff, and I just couldn’t get rid of it no matter what I did.
I did this literally in 6 weeks, belly fat was gone, arms had firmed up, back fat I can’t exactly tell you when that disappeared because I didn’t notice it until one day I put on a top that I used to have always had to wear something over, and I put it on and I started to walk out of the room and went “oh this is that top I got go put something else on” and I walked back in and saw myself in the mirror from behind and went “oh my God, there’s no back fat, oh so I can wear it, great!” So I just got such phenomenal results that I just thought people had to know about this they have to know about this. So I ended up contacted Anthony and said “would you do one these with me” and I’ll pay for it because I am such a believer in this, because he’s such a big guy and he uses a big kettle bell, I thought it would scare off a lot of women, they are going to think it’s just for men and so that’s really how it came to be.
It was all about believing I could really help people with this and it’s become a real passion of mine, and a passion for other people who have become involved with it and it’s really gratifying. We get letters every day from people saying “thank you this has completely changed my life, I’ve gotten great results”, people have gotten their lives back, people that weren’t able to move, they had problems from injuries, and just so overweight they couldn’t leave their house, they got their lives back, so to me, this has really been great, so amazing, I get fed in that way and I feel like I’m living on purpose and in fact I’m helping other people.
The kettle bell culture was kind of closed, the attitude inside that culture was if you can’t work with an 18pound bell then we don’t want you, it was sort of the elitist kind of thing, well what about the rest of us, we’re not at that level. I started with a 10 lb kettle bell but you tend to use things that are heavier then what you would with just weight training because you are using your full body it’s just not isolation work, so I instantly went to a 12lb kettle bell but I stayed with a 12lb kettle bell until after I shot the volume 1 DVD, one of the reasons I did that was, because Anthony was saying you could up in weight, look how strong you are, but I didn’t want to, I want people to see this is what I started with and I’m still using it and the results you see in my body is just from this 12 lb kettle bell. I didn’t want them to think “well she’s there her body looks like that now but where did she start and how long did it take her to get there. ” So I just refused to go up until after we shot that one, but then I did go up in weight, and if you look at volume 2 you can see, if you look at my body you can see I went up another level. The great thing about this too, is you don’t get bulky with this, there is no isolation work so women don’t have to worry about bulking up. It gives them the body they were meant to have, but having said that, it creates a long lean muscle, my body looks like I did when I was a dancer and I was a gymnast, it’s that kind of look you get from it. It’s really more of a toning and defining, I mean your muscles definitely get more defined but it is no way bulky, it’s a long lean muscle and at the same time it burns fat, up to 1000 calories an hour. The workouts are not an hour workout, and I doubt too many people want to do it for an hour, they are 40 minute workouts, but that is the rate it’s burning calories. Because of the way the program is put together, it’s put together to maximizing fat burning and to reveal muscle too.
Is there a DVD 3 coming?
Lou was great. He is such a professional. He really is comfortable on the set and works very hard. He was a good match for me because he really wanted to do it right and get it done, but was still really fun and always entertaining the crew. Then Pam came on for her supporting role. It’s fantastic to watch people like her. She’s so iconic, had a lot of ideas about her character and was very creative. Actors like her keep you on your toes.
Are you looking to do more in film?
The next thing we having coming out is we have a downloadable work out that will be available. The really cool thing about this is too, you don’t need to have your DVD, people that do it, if you do it for a couple times at home, and I recommend you watch the tutorial in volume 1 the first time they do it so they make sure they do it correctly. We have an insert that goes with each of our DVDs too, that has the exercises so once you know those, you can take it on the road with you, or you can take it outside and do your workout outside on your lawn, so you don’t really need to have the DVD after a certain point, but I do recommend also people go back to it periodically because form things get off at times, you’re going to forget that you’re shoulders should be back on a certain exercise and various things and it’s good to go back and remind yourself. You can fit this into your life.
What are your plans for the future? Would you like to continue in daytime or would like to pursue a new direction, behind the camera or to do more films?
Not so much directing, but a little producing, I really am interested at the moment in different experiences in doing some things I haven’t done. Having said that, part of that is in also taking a little break at the moment, I feel like as actors often times, especially on soaps, you’re working continuously and what can start happen is the well can get a little dry just because you are taking from it all the time. I think sometimes actors just need to not run around and say “I gotta find that next job” but they need to just say “Let me just take a little time to live life” which is exactly how an actor replenishes their well.
That’s kind of where I am at the moment. Certainly I have some other projects and some other things I’m pursuing but I’m also interested in just being, in taking care of things that I haven’t had the chance to take care of when I’ve been busy being a working mother, so I’m just going to do that for a little bit. I said to myself “Oh my gosh it’s been almost 2 months since my last day of shooting” because I’ve been gone almost every week, I’ve had something to go away for every week since that, it seems to me maybe only 2 weeks since my last taped show, so now I’m thinking let me be home and calm for a little bit and then I’ll be able to be ready to throw myself, cause when I work I throw my whole being into, I’ll just spend a little time replenishing and then throw myself back into it.
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