An exclusive interview with soap star Sandra Robinson who candidly discusses her career in daytime and her new business venture.
Pittsburgh native Sandra Dee Robinson, then Sandra Ferguson, first came to the attention of soap opera fans in 1987 when she took on the role of Amanda Corey on NBC’s Another World, a role she played from 1987-1993 and again from 1998-1999. Although the role was played by two other actress’, almost everyone agrees that her portrayal of Amanda is the definitive one.
Another World was not her only soap role. She filled in for Katherine Kelly Lang on The Bold & the Beautiful as Brooke Logan, a role that she almost ended up taking over, played the vampy Jade on Sunset Beach, took over briefly as Felicia Jones on General Hospital, and finally played the nutty Dr. Charlotte Taylor on Days of Our Lives. Outside of soaps Robinson has had roles on Two & A Half Men, The Secret Life Of The American Teenager, Zoey 101, Criminal Minds, and a recurring role on Renegade, and been in future films such as Pandemic, Sebastian, and Ice Dreams.
She next co-stars in the new web series The Bay, created by Gregori J. Martin, alongside other soap opera stars Mary Beth Evans, Lily Melgar, Tristan Rogers, and many more. Look for our continued coverage of The Bay in the coming months.
Sandra Dee Robinson is more than just an actress though; she is also a business woman. She founded Charisma on Camera, a company that helps prepare entrepreneurs, authors, business professionals and television hosts to share their message with effectiveness, confidence and their unique style through media training. She also hosts a short radio show, Charisma Unleashed, and offers free tips on site. For more on Charisma on Camera visit http://charismaoncamera.com/
Sandra is married to stunt man Allan Robinson. The two live Los Angeles, CA. She loves the outdoors and enjoys running, riding horses, hiking, and mountain biking, and staying active.
TVSource Magazine: Did you always want to be an actress and if so what was your parents’ reaction to that?
Sandra Robinson: I guess I did always want to be an actress. They tell me stories about how I would do dramatic things as a child. One of the family stories is that I went up the stairs off the kitchen in our house and as I reached the top of the stairs, my brother (who was visiting), who is eighteen years older than me, turned around and pretended to have a gun with his finger and pretended to shoot me and I dramatically fell down. Everybody found that so funny, ‘Oh she’s such a drama queen.’ I think I was about three.
It went on from there. I remember my mom telling the story, I think I was five, and I said ‘I’m going to be in show business,’ which is the most ridiculous thing a five year old could say who lives in Pittsburgh with no connection to anybody in entertainment whatsoever. It was very far reaching to think that could ever happen.
As it started, I went to a photo shoot once with my sister. [The photographer] took some photos of me and I ended up modeling at age eleven. That took me into doing local commercials and that eventually took me to meeting a manager who was in town from New York City and within a few months I was working on Another World, so it happened really quickly, and during the time things were building, my parents did support me. It was time for me to go back to school and really get started in college I said, ‘I got a job. I’m going to be on a soap opera and I need to move to New York.’ They said, ‘No, you’re going to finish school.’ I told them I’m getting paid, and at that time it was $800 a day and they said, ‘We’ll help you pack.’ [Laughs]. It was an extraordinary thing for us, to get paid hundreds of dollars a day. They were supportive from then on.
TVS: How was the audition process for Another World? Can you share a little about that?
SR: I sort of hesitate to say this now because in retrospect…it’s very rare that this kind of thing happens and I don’t want them to think that this is normal. It happened to be and that’s just how I thought it was, you audition a couple of times and you got a series. I was introduced to a local talent manager who brought me up in the summer, on my school break, and I started auditioning. I didn’t have the money to fly out there and stay at a hotel, so I would stay in his office and sleep on the sofa, and then I would pack everything away so he could see his clients in the morning. Then I would go on my audition and fly out. I did this on the money I made modeling locally because my parents would not support me, with money.
In three months I had five screen-tests for three different shows and I thought that’s just the way it was. You go, you screen-test, you get a callback, you almost get the job, and then you try again. That’s very rare. I don’t think it’s because I was so exceptional. I think I had a look that was hot at the moment for what the shows were casting. That was it. It was very quick for me. I had one last screen-test, and I had read for Another World a couple of times. I had screen-tested for them but I had not heard back. I had one other soap that then called me and said, ‘we need you to come up and screen-test.’
I thought I really should try to get up there one more time, but at this time my parents weren’t supporting me. I had $60 and that wasn’t even enough for a cab once I got there. My manager said, ‘Don’t worry; I’ll pay the cab, just get up here!” So I did and when I arrived I called up to his office, he came down and paid the cab fare, and I walked into his office. In his office were all of the actors I had met [from] basically living in his office. All of the people said, “Congratulations on your first job! While you were on the plane Another World called and we signed a deal. You have a job!” That was how it happened. I guess tenacity is what shows through in that story.
TVS: How was your first day on set?
SR: Oh gosh, it was horrible. It was during a strike! I think my first day was 23 hours long and my second day was 22 hours long. I was terrified and I just wanted to please so I did whatever they asked me to do, but it was exhausting. It was during the [Directors Guild of America strike] and the crew was actually executives. They were the suits, down there trying to run the cameras, and that’s why it was taking so long. Nobody knew what they were doing and by the second day, I was completely fried. I was thinking, ‘Well I’ll do this but this job is a lot harder than I expected.’ To have my first days [last] 23 and 22 hours long, trial by fire.
TVS: Let’s talk about Sam & Amanda.
SR: Wow, this is so long ago to me.
TVS: Were you aware of how popular they became?
SR: Yeah, I was aware of it…and I was also very young and unprepared for that kind of reaction. I was extremely aware of it in that regard because I didn’t understand what the big deal was. I didn’t understand why some people would be so — aggressive — when they would see me in the street. I think being older now, I would know how to show appreciation as opposed to being fearful.
It scared me at times. We would have to have bodyguards take us up to Canada because our show was number one there. I remember at one point we were making an appearance at a club in Toronto and some guy came and put his hand up my dress. I turned around and I hit him and before I knew it he was being carried out. He tried that right in front of my bodyguard! That freaked me out. That did not help me get more comfortable with the situation.
TVS: The show did bring Evan into the picture and in doing so, Amanda wasn’t the perfect heroine anymore. She cheated and made a few mistakes. Was that fun to play a new side of her?
SR: That’s always much more fun. It was fun to do it, except the thing about being a good girl is when you do something bad you spend three years apologizing for it. It’s really much more fun to play a bad girl.
TVS: Now you played the daughter of two soap icons – Victoria Wyndham and Douglass Watson. Were they helpful to you or did that make it scarier?
SR: Doug was great. It seems like such a short time I got to work with him because he passed away not long after I was on the show, but he was just wonderful. My relationship with Victoria, in the beginning, was exactly how it was scripted. There was friction there and I think that’s actually why I got the job, at the time I had friction like that with my own mother and that translated. Victoria, she is hot and cold sometimes. I was set to win this woman over and we actually became very good friends. I kept in touch with her for a long time with her after the show went off the air.
TVS: What led to you leaving the show after six years?
SR: I had seen some of my friends, people who started at the same time as me, move onto other things and I realized I was kind of hiding out in fear, so I decided to get it together and go. I had been there for six years and I was kind of fearful of what else was out there. That’s part of being an actress — having that fear of, ‘What if I leave this job and there is nothing out there?’ I think I only had a couple of months of downtime and I continued to work. I was really lucky in that I came out to California and my manager had already come out to California, so I already had kind of a support group.
I was lucky in that I had a few series I guest starred on and I felt it was a good decision. The actual environment and feel of LA was a little more like where I grew up. A little more laid back. I think in order to love New York City as a place to live, you have to have a certain rhythm that clicks with it. I love to visit, but it was not easy for me to live there because I’m more of a country girl at heart. You can find that here in Southern California a little easier.
TVS: Eventually you did return to daytime in quite a few roles actually. The first was as replacement Brooke Logan on The Bold & the Beautiful. How did that come about?
SR: Charles Grant, who played Evan on Another World, was working on B&B at the time and was a love interest of Katherine Kelly Lang’s Brooke. She had been unhappy there for awhile and said she wanted to leave. Then she went on her pregnancy leave and to cover their butts in case she didn’t come back, they signed me to her maternity leave and [in addition] they had me sign a three year contract that stated if she did not come back by x date my contract would kick.
Surprisingly, the fans were really great about that. Charles, I think, is the one who brought me to the Bells’ attention. So working with him again was fun and the time went by quickly. It was the eighth hour of the ninth day when I was leaving and I thought, “Am I coming back tomorrow?” I had one foot out the door when someone told me that she was coming back tomorrow. It was that close. It was a wonderful show to work for. You work from 9 to 5. It’s a beautiful set and a fantastic cast. It was the most pleasant experience I had in daytime, working on a Bell show. They treat their people very well. It is a great environment.
TVS: After that you went to Sunset Beach as Jade.
SR: That was fun, playing a bad girl. When I left they asked me if I wanted to keep my wardrobe and I thought ‘Do I have anything other than lingerie?’ I had one outfit — a green suede jacket and pants — that I think my character was murdered in. The one time I left my bed I got killed.
TVS: How did your return to Another World come about?
SR: My then-manager had been negotiating behind my back with NBC. They came to me said Another World wants you back and we told them we think you’re going to say yes. I had no idea. At that point I wasn’t really assertive enough to say, ‘I don’t think I want to go back there.’ Then they dangled the money and I said I wasn’t going back unless they give me this, this, and this, and I gave them some ridiculous amount of guarantees, I need this day off, and I need a flight back home once a month and they said yes!
I said those things thinking they will never want me back with all these demands because I thought I was being demanding. I had actually just moved into a new home here [in LA]. I hadn’t even unpacked and then I was packing up again to move out there [to New York].
TVS: Was going back to Another World like going back home or was it like going to a new show?
SR: It was like going back home, but with a bunch of step children you don’t know. I still had Victoria and I still had people that I clicked with that created that rhythm of how it use to be. They were also trying to bring back people from the past to [revive] the show and bring back old fans in order to save it. They brought me back. They got Mat Crane, Alice Barrett, and a handful of others to come back.
TVS: Did you approach Amanda in a different way when you came back?
SR: I think I approached everything in a different way when I came back. I had more experience, I didn’t lie down and take things, and I didn’t get walked on. If somebody mistreated me or went against the rules, I didn’t hesitate to go to the Executive Producer’s office and say, ‘You have got to straighten this out.’ I had a couple of situations with an actor I worked with where he was completely inappropriate and instead of taking it, I told the EP do something about it or I leave. That seems really bitchy but sometimes you have to do that.
This was an actor that they really liked, but he did something physically that was very, very wrong [to me]. Actually, if I had seen him do this to someone else, I would have walked into the office and stood up for them the same way. I learned to protect myself, I was a little more grown up, and I was able to take care of myself a little better.
TVS: Let’s talk about the Lumina/Jordan Stark storyline.
SR: What I remember of that is the sets were beautiful. I looked beautiful. He was exceptional to work with and I had great fun with that story. I don’t remember much more than that.
TVS: Can you talk about the final few months of Another World?
SR: We knew it was coming. It was imminent. You thought everyday they were going to call you down to set [to announce it was over]. What I found to be the most ironic thing in the world was that we were on a graveyard set. So here is the Executive Producer standing, literally, in a graveyard talking about the end of the show. In the most bizarre black sense of humor, Victoria Wyndham and I are giggling the entire time, which was just wrong.
TVS: Were there any relationships or stories you wanted for Amanda?
SR: Yes, Amanda & Jake. I wish they would have taken the chance on that.
TVS: If you were to picture Amanda now, where would she be?
SR: Wow. I would picture her happily married, living in a beautiful house, working with very successful charities, and happy.
TVS: Your next soap role was as Felicia on General Hospital. Was that supposed to be a longer term role?
SR: No, and I am kind of glad it wasn’t. They had quit really writing for the character and when I got there they didn’t think much about writing at all. I found that show to be the biggest disappointment I had in daytime. I was so looking forward to working there. When I got there, the storyline [consisted of] horribly irresponsible writing. It was nonexistent parents and troubled teenagers. I had a problem with that because I don’t think it’s a smart idea to show kids in trouble with no parents around. I wasn’t the only one disturbed by those scripts and I was glad that came to an end. I found out after I left that my character phoned in a good luck on her daughter’s wedding day. [Family] is one of the great, great things about the old shows.
From what I remember [General Hospital] use to be one of the shows more about family. When I was younger, I loved GH because of the Quartermaines. You knew the dynamics but you trusted that the family would be there for each other. They would fight but still be a family. By the time I got there that entire flavor was gone. I didn’t like playing a seemingly uncaring mother. That was very difficult for me. GH was the pinnacle show. I always wanted to be on it. I had actually tested for GH five times and every time they said they really liked me but I looked too much like Kristina Wagner (ex-Felicia, GH).
TVS: Your last role in daytime was on Days of our Lives. Can you talk with us about being a part of it at such a turbulent time?
SR: I auditioned. They called me and a bunch of lovely former soap actress in for the role. I remember looking around the room and thinking wow, they have an awesome pool of talent here. I loved the role and that in fact was supposed to be a longer, much longer, role. However, thank you very much to our economy, GM pulled their advertising when they got into trouble and through being forced to make major budget cuts, some of the most expensive actors on the show were let go and I was working with them. Immediately our storyline was changed, scripts were rewritten, and we were all rushed off the show. I was really happy. I had a great storyline that was all laid out. I was feeling like this was great, I was doing some good work, and I didn’t feel that about GH. It was a little too short lived.
TVS: Let’s talk about your current project. It’s a departure, somewhat, from acting.
SR: The company name is Charisma on Camera and Charisma Unleashed is the radio blog that goes along with it, and I keep that short because 10 minutes is all I can fit in on a busy day. Charisma on Camera came about from my own personal struggle with being asked to be a spokesperson for charities and skincare and that kind of thing, and not being comfortable being myself on camera. That sounds funny because as an actor you would think that comes easy, but I like a lot of actors hide behind a character and found comfort in that, so when someone said be yourself nothing was more terrifying.
I spent years taking classes, meeting with coaches, trying new techniques, so what I did when I started my company was take all the things I learned that had worked for me, and the things I seen work for others, and applied them. It’s all still developing with private workshops, courses, and our next step is to get some downloadable stuff so people can do it without actually being in LA. We also have free training on the site. Charisma means the power to influence and who couldn’t use the power to influence in their field?
TVS: Now let’s move onto The Bay. Can you tell me a little bit about your role?
SR: It’s just starting. We are still seeing some things develop. I had a certain image in my mind about the character when reading the script [and when coming in for the photo shoot] my image changed. They had this really low cut, sexy, red dress that was super tight. So she’s sexier than I expected. Apparently she is quite aggressive. She sees the man that she wants and she goes for him, she’s a little bit of a vixen and that’s a lot of fun for me to play.
TVS: Now you have done a lot of guest starring roles. Can you compare that to soaps?
SR: Soaps are a lot of work and I think the pace of guest starring is cushy. My favorite things to do are sitcoms. The few I have done have been a blast. I love the wit that the writers have. I have worked with people like Jon Cryer who have just blown me away. On TV Movies you get to work with different people, so it’s not boring. You never know who you will get to meet. That’s the coolest thing about it. You also never know who you’re going to know. When I did Criminal Minds I worked with Thomas Gibson, who played Sam on AW. I sat across from him at the read through and he looked at me. I asked him, ‘Do you remember me?’ And he said, ‘Of course I remember you!’
TVS: Would you return to network soaps?
SR: I wouldn’t say no. I mean, I’m a business woman now so I don’t think I would ever let my company go. Maybe, yeah, let’s just hope there are some soaps to come back to!
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