Soaps.com Talks to Martha Byrne!
(Martha Byrne website)
Martha Byrne is best known for her portrayal of Lily Snyder on As the World Turns, whom, aside from a four-year hiatus, she played from 1985 – 2008. Even though the soap community was shocked when she left the beloved role last year, Martha has embraced the opportunity to take on exciting new challenges.
Soaps.com recently had the pleasure of talking to this self-described stay-at-home mom about her new role on General Hospital (for which she commutes from New York to L.A.), her writing duties on The Bold and the Beautiful and the many other projects she has in the works.
Soaps.com: Congratulations on your new role on General Hospital!
Martha Byrne Thank you.
Soaps.com: What can you tell us about Andrea Floyd?
Martha: She’s married to the Mayor. She is one of those women, we don’t know much about her because apparently the character of the Mayor had been around for a while, but we’ve never really seen his family so this is the first glimpse into what his personal life is like and it doesn’t look pretty at this point. I think they have a very cold relationship and it’s nice for the press. It’s kind of really all for the press at this point and the scandal that comes out of the Mayor’s behavior kind of catapults Andrea into the spotlight, which I don’t necessarily think she minds, but she’ll play that role to keep her husband’s career on track. That’s kind of how it all starts out. That’s kind of how she’s introduced and it really starts out with a scandal at the hospital.
Soaps.com: I read somewhere that your character might be involved with Ethan. Is that a possibility?
Martha: I don’t know yet. I have no idea. Right now I’m really just working with Kimberly McCullough (Robin) and Jason (Thompson) who plays Patrick and obviously John Bolger (Mayor Floyd). Apparently, things are going to get twisted and turned around a lot. I got to work with Rick Hearst (Ric) on his last day, which was great and had scenes with him which were a lot of fun and really playful. Again, this is a character that you don’t really know where she’s coming from and what her motives are, which makes it really fun to play.
Soaps.com: Is this a recurring role, or just for a certain time set?
Martha: It is a certain time set. At this point we don’t really know the ending specifically or how or when. What’s been really nice is there’s been a nice understanding from General Hospital about my family and the commuting. It’s not something I’d want to do for a very long time, just because you know it’s not conducive really to my life as far as doing it for a long period of time. That’s how this role kind of started, as a short-term role and it is going to be longer than originally planned, but again we have to see how it works for everybody’s lives. It’s been incredibly understanding with me trying to find out how it works in general for me and my world and I can’t ask for a better situation. They’ve been very understanding and accommodating and I can’t ask for anything more.
Soaps.com: What made you decide to take this role?
Martha: My friend works at General Hospital, she works in production, and we were on Facebook together one day and she said, “Would you ever consider coming to General Hospital?” And I said, “Sure!” She said, “Bob Guza (Head Writer) just walked by my door. Can I talk to him about you?” And I said, “Absolutely.” And three days later the deal was done. They had already started writing this character and I jumped at the chance to do something new. I’m very much the kind of person that wants to experience everything and have some adventure and I can’t sit still for very long and I have to keep busy and I’m a worker. I’m a stay-at-home mom eighty five percent of the time and fifteen percent of the time I’m trying to get some projects off the ground and work and it’s worked out very nicely, so far. It was one of those fluke things that, they say timing is everything, but absolutely timing is everything. The fact that Bob was there, the fact that he walked by and the fact that we were just talking and the part was there and you have to just let it go and believe that the right things happen at the right time.
Soaps.com: You’ve also been writing for The Bold and the Beautiful. Are you still doing that?
Martha: I am. I call myself a swing writer, which is when they need people, not on contract, but if they need people to write extra episodes. Brad (Bell, Executive Producer, B&B) asked me to come on board when they need extra people for times when they get overwhelmed with scripts and they have a lot more work to do and that’s actually perfect for what I’m doing right now, which is kind of commuting and trying to juggle everything. So I guess there’s a few…going into summer, they get a little busier and I’m available anytime he calls me. I will do anything he wants me to do because, again, I’m so grateful for the opportunity. Anytime someone calls and appreciates your contribution, I’m there. (laughs) I’m totally there. It’s like anybody who calls and says, “We like your work and think you’d be a great addition behind the scenes or in front of the camera,” how can you say no? It’s quite a compliment and I’m flattered every time it happens, so I’m there.
Soaps.com: How does the writing process actually work? I’m assuming you do that from your home.
Martha: I did. I was joking, I was making breakfast and I had a thought about Ridge’s line or I think about how I’m going to write Stephanie in this episode or what can I give Susan Flannery (Stephanie Forrester, B&B) that she could enjoy to say. It’s not the most conducive job to be a stay-at-home mom, even though it sounds on paper like it would be great, because you really have to separate yourself in some way to focus on the work and you only have four or five days to write the script, so you really have to juggle your time well. I got to the point where I could do that and I figured out a way to do it so I could focus on the work. You are really multitasking in a way I’d never done before. Even playing two parts and commuting, that was nothing compared to being a full-time mom and trying to have another career from working from home. It’s really a challenge and one that I wanted to take on. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, be behind the scenes on a Daytime show. I’ve always wanted to do that and this was a perfect, perfect opportunity that I was given and I was not going to mess it up. I said I gotta make this work somehow and I did. You just do. When you want something badly enough and you feel like you’re capable of doing it, you make it work.
Soaps.com: When you watched your episodes of The Bold and the Beautiful, were there any surprises as to how the actors interpreted your words? How did you feel watching it?
Martha: It was exciting! It was so exciting. I was really shaking; I was physically shaking watching it. I was nauseous watching it because I’ve been on the other side where I get a script and I go, “Wow! That’s fun. Oh, that’s just a cute thing,” or “I’m so glad they put that in.” I did a thing with Jackie and an iPod after she came out about dating Owen and I thought, “Oh I hope she keeps that because it’s funny and cute,” and she did. She did just a great job with it! That just shows you the fact that the actor didn’t cut it, they didn’t cut the business, that they liked it. They could have easily taken that out and it would have been fine and it would have set a different scene and I respect the actor’s decision because the bottom line is it’s their show, but it’s always exciting when they actually say the words that you’ve written and then you can see if it worked or it didn’t. If you can hear your actual words onscreen then you can judge, wow that didn’t work, or that really worked. It’s exciting. I can’t explain it. It’s one of those things that you have a goal in your life and you get there and it happens and you learn from it every single time and you get better and better at it. It’s not something where you go backwards doing it. It’s something you continue to get better at and hopefully improve enough where you really get the voices down and the characters and that takes time. I watched the show for so long and I knew a lot about the history, which helps, a lot.
Soaps.com: Did you write entire episodes?
Martha: Yeah. You get a breakdown from the head writer, Kay Alden, a breakdown of the scenes, what’s supposed to happen in the scenes and they give you a lot of information that they need to put in the scenes. You write the script and then Kay takes it and edits and changes what she feels needs to be changed and that can vary. Sometimes it’s a lot of changes, sometimes it’s nothing, sometimes it’s a continuity issue that has to be dealt with on the show that you weren’t aware of, sometimes by the time it’s gotten to the script they’ve changed their minds about what they want the theme of the show to be or the week. Once it’s out of your hands, it’s out of your hands. When you see it, you don’t really know how much made it to the screen and I was pleasantly surprised with what happened. I had some great support. A lot of the writers were very, they were all supportive. All of them were supportive and they work extremely fast and I just have a tremendous amount of respect for Brad and all the writers in Daytime. They really have a tremendous task in front of them and I always respected it. I mean I know how hard it is, but to actually do it and to get that excitement about how you feel as a writer, to see people do your work, was new. You kind of go back and go, “I hope I gave the writers, as an actress, what they wanted.” You know, all the years that I did it.
Soaps.com: Has being an actress helped you with the writing of The Bold and the Beautiful?
Martha: Sure. Of course. You know what doesn’t work. That’s the one thing I know, is what people like to say and what they don’t like to say. That I know. I’ve lived that and I know what as an actor I would like to portray and get through the screen. You can do that through dialogue, you can do that through action, you can do that through any little thing. Even that thing with the iPod sends volumes without saying a word. It definitely helps. It’s like I think every actor should really try to do it. Actors rewrite a lot and change stuff because that’s what we do, but it’s different starting from scratch and creating an arc of the story for that episode.
Soaps.com: Where do you get some of your ideas and inspiration from when writing a script?
Martha: Really from the page from Kay and Brad. They give you a lot of information and a lot of feedback as far as what works, what doesn’t work. They were incredibly kind. When you read a script that’s driven by Susan Flannery (Stephanie), that last episode I did was driven by her, that’s incredibly inspirational to step up your game and make sure you’re doing your best and giving an actress like that something to work with.
Soaps.com: Do have favorite characters to write for?
Martha: No. I mean I really liked writing the whole dynamic between Bill, Jr. and Eric. That business, back and forth, cut throat stuff in the business world, very dry and unemotional was fun to write. I really enjoyed writing the Nick/Bridget/Owen/Jackie stuff. That was fun. It was a lot of fun and it’s light and has some romance. I really get to write a lot of different things so far. Different emotional arcs for the characters. It’s been great.
Soaps.com: Do you have another episode coming up soon or have you written one recently?
Martha: I just had one on [May 26]. There was a lot going on in that show. It was all Stephanie kind of manipulating and trying to get her children back into Forrester, become heads of Forrester again and how she’s going to do that and how is she planning on doing that. So it was challenging in a good way.
Soaps.com: You also recently produced a movie with some of your former As the World Turns co-stars. How was that experience?
Martha: It was awesome. I mean, [I worked] with Paul Leyden who played Simon on As the World Turns. Malin Akerman was in it who was in “The Watchmen” and “Heartbreak Kid.” It was a movie called, “Bye, Bye, Sally” and we just found out we got distribution, international distribution, for the movie. Again, I really feel like, I enjoy being behind the scenes, being a part of it, but I also like to support my friends that I believe in and Paul was somebody that is going to be a major player in the industry and I knew that years ago and when he came to me and he said, “How would you like to produce a movie, a short with me?” I said, “Where do I go? Let’s do it.” We talked about it and Paolo Seganti (Damian, ATWT) was in it and he was great. I think I’m trying to find out what I want to be when I grow up right now. Really. I’m trying on a lot of different hats to see what makes sense, what feels right. I think as a woman in this industry you have to do a lot of everything and I’m learning a lot. I’ve learned more in the last year being off As the World Turns and being a part of the industry and for the first time in a long time where I’m really just out there, trying to find out who I am in this industry, if I am anything. I don’t know, we’ll see.
Soaps.com: Do you see leaving As the World Turns almost as a good thing then since it opened you up to more experiences?
Martha: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. I tried at ATWT many times to help and contribute in a different way and sometimes it was welcome and sometimes it wasn’t and it got to the point where it wasn’t anymore. I knew I wasn’t going to have a future there behind the scenes, that I had to do it somewhere else. It wasn’t going to happen there. And I felt like that was the best place to do it because I knew so many people and felt like I could actually contribute something more than just saying lines and I needed to do that and I couldn’t deny that anymore in my life. I had to do it. I felt like something was calling out for me to do it and so there you go. And I leave and I do a play and I’d never done a play before, ever. I’d done musicals, but I’d never done a play. So the first thing I did was a play and be home with my family more. This is the first time in years that I’m putting myself out there to see what’s next and it feels good. It’s fun.
Soaps.com: Lot’s of things are coming your way so it’s obliviously working out for you.
Martha: So far, but you have to work at it. It’s not going to just fall in your lap. You have to go out and pursue it and really be open to everything. Try everything because if you don’t try it you don’t know if it’s not for you. For me to say, “No, I’m not going to commute for a little while just because,” there’s really no solid reason [not] to go, “Well, my family’s supportive, I’ve got the support of my husband and my kids and my parents and my support system here, why would I not try it?” If it doesn’t work, at least I know I tried. You have to put yourself out there and take chances. I really am a fearless person and I had to put my money where my mouth is, as far as that. Because I say I’m a fearless person, I say I’m not afraid of anything and I’ll try anything, then do it. Don’t just talk about it, do it. It feels like it’s me. It feels right on me. It’s not for everybody, it’s not their nature, but it’s so [mine].
Soaps.com: Are there other projects you’re working on right now?
Martha: I am. I’ve got a few things in the hopper. A feature film that Paul Leyden (ex-Simon, ATWT) has written. We’re working on that, getting that together and a web series that I’ve created that I really think is going to be unique and fun. Again, a fun little project. You know when you just have an idea that you know is going to work, there’s just no down side to it? I can’t imagine it not taking off and people [not] following it. So I’m trying to get that off the ground and I just did a single for a record, which is a green album. All the songs are about the Earth and being Earth friendly. So that will come out in August. I’m just trying to throw everything out there (laughs) and see what happens. See what works.
Soaps.com has no doubt Martha will continue to find success in whatever she chooses to do and looks forward to all the upcoming projects she has in the works. In the meantime, we will be glued to our sets on June 18 when she debuts as the enigmatic Andrea Floyd on General Hospital.
- Lori Wilson