Soaps.com Interviews Guiding Light’s Bonnie Dennison
I had the chance to do a lot of interviews while I was in Orlando, but among those that I looked forward to the most was Bonnie Dennison (Susan “Daisy” Lemay). Ever since she joined the series in the fall of 2006, she’s impressed me as one of the strongest additions the series has had in years. Her performances seem effortless, natural and lived in. She also manages to carry on the mantle of the women in her character’s family, both the Shaynes and the Coopers, without resorting to histrionics.
When she joined the cast of Guiding Light, she was very aware of the past her character already had. In addition to reading up and having a lot of information relayed to her by the cast and crew, she even studied videos of Brittany Snow (who played the role from 1998-2001). “She kind of has history with everyone,” Dennison says of her character, but she knows that the writer’s can’t always acknowledge this. “It can be frustrating. I’ll have a scene with Lizzie and I know that I lived with her for awhile but they can’t necessarily write it like that, which I understand. They can’t write everything in,” she explained. All the same, even if the character is the victim of a little history re-writing, there are other advantages that she allows. “That’s the fun part about Daisy – she’s related to so many talented actors,” she said with a smile. Working on location only adds to the fun, offering them even more stimulus to work with and allows the actors more time to bond and hang out.
We discussed one of the dangers that often seems to haunt soap characters, especially the younger ones, that they they seem to be written to simply have romantic interests. Although the series has tried to build a small pocket of younger characters, the depth of their relationships is often given short shrift. “Actual young adults… so much of their lives revolves around their friends,” she commented. With an entire network of friends, there is far greater potential for interesting things to happen. “As you see with ‘Gossip Girl,’ you just need a bunch of young adults to all be friends and then you play with all the permutations,” she said. Unlike it’s Primetime progeny, however, soaps don’t have that degree of generational concentration. Instead, they’ve attempted to carve out their own unique niche by trying to balance several generations on-screen together. This provides it’s own unique rewards and challenges. The relationship between Daisy and her estranged mother, Harley, would be a good example. “There’s a core strength that Daisy and Harley have… it’s interesting. I really miss Beth Ehlers (Harley Davidson Cooper) a lot because there was a duality to the character,” she added, hoping that some of that has rubbed off on her portrayal.
While Daisy may have inherited her mother’s strength and vulnerability to a degree, Harley also left behind a lasting sense of loss. Daisy became unfocused and has increasingly drifted around Springfield, often without any clear storyline. Dennison admitted that the times that is is often the most difficult to play the character is, “When it’s not something concrete. I had the abortion storyline for just a little bit of time, but that wasn’t actually challenging; it was fun – something to sink my teeth into… it wasn’t so much challenging as satisfying.” These lulls with the character make it difficult to keep things fresh. That’s about to change though. “I like the way they set it up,” she enthused about new developments. Coop is gone, Grady is gone and Daisy is stuck in a war against the Spauldings just like her mother and grandmother before her. She hasn’t worked through all of her issues and it’s been bubbling over into anger. “It’s more fun when she’s angry. It’s more fun when she’s acting out,” she said with a mischievous grin. But things quickly get complicated because there is a new guy in town: James Spaulding (Zack Conroy). “She’s drawn to him, but she’s still kind of bitter about all of the bad things that happened and doesn’t want to let herself be happy,” she explained. James will also be a rather different relationship from the character’s last because, unlike with Grady, this relationship will actually be allowed to develop on-screen.
Outside of her time working on Guiding Light, she is attending her second semester at the Galatin School where she is enrolled in a design your own major program. This allows her a great deal of flexibility to work and advance her education at the same time. When I asked her if fans could expect to see her on stage or in more independent films, she said, “I feel lucky to be working in such a great environment with such great people, but there is something I like about a play or a movie that that there is a concrete beginning, a middle and an end which is very different from television.”
– Matt Purvis