Since the 1980s the name Kim Zimmer has been synonymous with ‘Guiding Light.’ She won four Daytime Emmys for playing the one and only Reva Shayne. Today, she debuts on ‘One Life To Live’ as Echo DiSavoy, a character she briefly played on the show 27 years ago. Zimmer shared how Echo’s arrival will shake up Viki, Clint and Charlie’s lives, why former ‘Guiding Light’ fans will feel at home in Llanview, and who she thinks could have saved the Procter & Gamble soaps.
What is Echo’s back story?
She came to Llanview to basically destroy Clint Buchanan’s life, and almost succeeded, but was discovered in an attempted murder set up, a ruse and a ploy to ruin Clint’s life. Her brother went to jail and she was ostracized from the community, told to never return, and if she did return she would be arrested. Well, 27 years later she shows up on Viki’s doorstep and the door is opened by another ex-lover of hers, Charlie Banks. Viki immediately has her guard up and wants to know what Echo is doing in town since she’s not supposed to be there. Instead of having her arrested, she decides to play along with Echo so she can discover what Echo’s doing back in town. Echo has this secret that she’s going to reveal in the time that she’s in Llanview that will affect a lot of different people’s lives in a good way, in a bad way, [and] in an interesting way.
How does Echo’s personality differ from Reva’s?
Echo’s a little more affected than Reva. Reva was from Oklahoma. Echo prides herself on having been married to a Count and having the title of the Contessa Echo Di Savoy. She has since then lost her title and basically is on skid row. At this point the character really isn’t all that defined. We’re in the very beginning stages of who this woman is. It’s still a mystery to me.
Are you going to put on a red dress as a tribute to Reva?
No. But there’s a moment I have with Inez that will be an inside joke for a lot of ‘Guiding Light’ viewers. They should keep their eyes open for a fun little moment that Jessica Leccia and I have together in one of the bars.
What has it been like working with Erika Slezak and Robin Strasser?
It’s great. Erika was instrumental in bringing me to the show. I was thrilled to be able to work with her. She called me on several occasions to tell me how happy she would be if I would agree to come to ‘One Life To Live,’ which shows the kind of woman that Erika Slezak is. She’s an old, dear friend of mine. I’ve got to work with Jerry VerDorn in a way that I never got to work with him before. Reva and Ross never really had a whole lot to do together at ‘Guiding Light.’. I never knew Brian Kerwin, so working with him was a gas. [Yesterday] I was sitting in the make up and hair room. It was me, Gina Tognoni, Jessica Leccia, and Jerry VerDorn and one of the ‘One Life To Live’ castmates, Hillary Bailey Smith, walked in and she she went , ‘Oh my God. I’ve walked into the wrong make up room.’
How does the production of ‘One Life To Live’ compare to ‘Guiding Light’s’?
Oh my God. I keep saying that they stopped a scene one day because the lighting wasn’t right. I was like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me. This is fantastic!’ There’s real light, there’s real cameras, there’s real sets, there’s real wardrobe. They come in and touch up your make-up. Frank [Valentini] the executive producer runs a very tight ship, which is a sign of the times. You want to get the shows in the can as quickly as possible. It’s still the quality of the show being produced that’s the most important, which is lovely to experience because we didn’t have that towards the end there at ‘Guiding Light.’
Frank Valentini and Ron Carlivati’s contracts were just renewed for two years. Does that give you confidence that OLTL will be around for the forseeable future?
I would hope so for the non-working actors in New York City. We can’t lose another show. These jobs, whether they be contact jobs or non-contract jobs, or dayplayers or just extras, those jobs facilitate health benefits for a lot of actors in New York. It keeps people in their benefits. If you lose another soap opera in New York, you’re losing a huge amount of income for a lot of actors in New York.
Fans are excited about this storyline because it will give Viki, who has not been on much lately, a lot to do.
You have to remember that’s no one’s fault. Erika takes a long vacation in the summer. That’s the reason she was off the canvas. I don’t know because I haven’t watched in a while whether she’s had story or not but I am there to facilitate storyline for all those people, for Brian and Erika and Robin and Jerry and whoever else they want to throw in the mix, and I’m more than happy to be a little stimulus to create storyline.
The focus on the veteran characters is great. There have been whole episodes this summer about characters who are not old enough to drink.
There’s a big party scene coming up where I actually have an exchange of dialogue with Robert Woods and the fans will look forward to seeing flashbacks from 27 years ago of Viki and Echo and Dorian. They had to dig deep into the archives of ABC to find this stuff. That in itself should be fun for the fans.
What are your thoughts on the end of ‘As The World Turns’ and P&G leaving the soap opera business?
In researching the book that I’m writing, I looked up Procter & Gamble because I wanted to see how many soaps they actually produced. At their peak, they produced fourteen soaps. It’s hard to believe that something that aided their products for so long has been abandoned. It wasn’t the cash cow that it used to be so they wiped us out. I’m sure they had their reasons. Financially it is one of the riches corporations in America. The man who was in charge at Procter & Gamble [Ed Trach] used to say if we could just keep the ratings to a three soaps will be on forever. Of course we dropped to a 2.8 and he’d say, “If we can just keep the ratings at a 2.8,” and he kept roaring. That was who he was. He never would have let go of the soaps because he loved them. He loved the fact that Procter and Gamble was producing them. But he retired and so we lost our golden boy to corporate America.