Guiding Light Blog: Part Five: A Chat With Kim Zimmer
As my trip to New York City wound down, we were taken into the show’s green room for a few minutes so that we could have some time with one of Daytime’s greatest divas, Kim Zimmer. She’s always an exciting person to be around, particularly since you never know what she might say. She also provides an interesting contrast to many of her co-stars. Elements of the production which seem to drive her mad, tend to make many of the other actors happy. We were all a bit nervous as we waited, but when she arrived, she quickly put us at ease with her full bodied laughter and expressive body language. To my shock, Kim actually looks even better in person than she does on TV. Almost as soon as she came in, she went on a long, animated ramble about football before finally stopping to remind herself that she should probably be talking about Guiding Light instead. After asking us how we’d been enjoying the tour, she jumped into discussing the show, what’s coming up and how things have changed.
Zimmer is very proud of her training in theatre and she’s always worn it well. She proudly spoke of her son, Jake, who is now following her footsteps and studying theatre at the California Institute of the Arts. “Theatre,” she emphasized, not film or TV acting. “Theatre should be the base of everything,” she insisted. But that’s been one of the principle stumbling blocks for her when the show moved to its new, stripped down, more ‘naturalistic’ way of doing things. “It used to be wonderful… you could think of yourself as performing on stage. So, in reality, it was more real to me than the way we are doing it now,” she explained. Not only has she lost the proscenium arches of the old sets, and the audience made up of distant rolling cameras, she’s lost the space to make grand gestures, and sometimes even small ones. She finds the new sets ‘claustrophobic’ and the intimate way of shooting things doesn’t help either. It’s hard to give a performance in a small room with seven crew members surrounding you. But she loves to do the location shoots. There, she has more room to stretch out. It also helps that Peapack is an easy commute from her home in Jersey.
Next, she told us about her current storylines. “The more they pile on me, the happier I usually am,” she laughed. Lately, they’ve piled a lot on her, from leukemia to a menopausal pregnancy and a new marriage. Sometimes she even forgets all of the things she’s supposed to be dealing with. The writers seem to forget too, she added, saying that Reva always seems written to ‘go balls ahead all the time’ and then they all have to remind themselves that she’s actually sick. As for the pregnancy, she insisted that she wouldn’t play the story if they were going to kill another baby. Although she promised that the baby would be born, she wouldn’t promise that it would be healthy or that Reva would be doing well in the aftermath.
Taking the opportunity to tease us, she brought up the fact that her contract is up in June and listed all of the things that could kill her by then: Leukemia, child birth and Edmund. "They're covering their bases as far as I go," she joked. As for Edmund, the plot details are still being 'guarded', but she promised that Reva and her old enemy will have plenty of interaction. His return will be intimately connected to her and throw her into 'mommy mode'. Since he already tried to kill one of her children, she may become especially 'freaky'. In regards to the other big return, Phillip, she doubts she'll have much to do with him, but is excited to have him back (she actually watches the show on a daily basis and reads the entire script, something which is quite rare). Something else that has her excited has been the casting of Jeff Branson as her on-screen son, Shayne. "It's fantastic. They finally got one right," she said. Not only does he look eerily like her own son, she's also been a big fan of the actor since he was on All My Children.
Towards the end of the session, she returned to some of the things that have been troubling her. "Soaps across the board are in jeopardy," she warned. Despite the trouble facing the genre, and the compounding trouble of the current economic crisis, it still bothers her that people are agreeing to downsizing and pay cuts when she's sure that there is still money that could be thrown their way. Nonetheless, she's trying to be optimistic. "I have great faith that the show can recreate itself to keep going, but they have to pay close attention to quality. If it is going to be smaller, it has to be quality," she insists. Right now, she thinks that things, and not just on Guiding Light, often seem 'diluted'; stories get dropped and there is often no clear beginning, middle and end to them. Being on a soap is still pretty wonderful though. There's nowhere else that you can get the same degree of vicarious thrills. She even credits this for allowing her to have such a long and happy marriage. "Everyone asks me how my husband and I can be together so long. It's because I get to have affairs and get paid for it," she giggled.
This has been the last stop on the tour behind the scenes of Guiding Light. I hope that everyone has enjoyed reading about it and that many of your questions about what goes into making the show have been answered. I certainly learned a lot and came away with a greater appreciation of what they are trying to do and how hard they work at it. My thanks once again go out to the kind and generous people at the show who invited me to visit and showed me great hospitality.