Actors in 5th Guiding Light Online Reunion Talk Drinking in the Dressing Room and Being Cancer-Free
Growing creatively, new roles, and unexpected directions.
Former Procter & Gamble publicist Alan Locher has been reuniting some of the alum from the company’s dearly departed soap operas for a series of special streaming events. Last week, he hosted the third and fourth online Guiding Light reunions. On Wednesday April 29, he was joined by Crystal Chappell (Olivia Spencer), Jessica Leccia (Natalia Rivera), Michelle Ray Smith (Ava Peralta), Frank Dicopoulos (Frank Cooper), and E.J. Bonilla (Rafe Rivera) for the fifth installment. Soaps.com has a few highlights from their chat below.
Catching up in quarantine
Dicopoulos talked about being stuck at his daughter’s house since the current health situation. He has been separated from his wife for more than 70 days. That’s the longest they have ever been apart. Chappell has been preparing a wedding for her son, Jake, and had workmen in her backyard building. Smith is at home with her animals and has enjoyed having time to herself. Bonilla says that he’s normally a hermit and likes to be at home anyway. He’s staying balanced by still doing other kinds of creative work.
First day on the set in Springfield
Chappell explained that she remembers things by her hairstyle. Her first scenes involved hiding in a bush and stalking Reva (Kim Zimmer). Dicopoulos remembered how excited he was to be shown around the set and realizing that he was part of a big family. He couldn’t remember much about his first scenes, only that he started out as a ‘bad boy’. Leccia’s first scene was a phone call. She had an accent originally which she had to drop over a few episodes. Smith could recall that her first scenes were with Jonathan (Tom Pelphrey) and she was worried about tripping over her shoes. Bonilla robbed someone in his first scene. He was still in university at the time and surprised that he wound up on the show for two and a half years. Chappell talked about how great dry rehearsals were when they could switch up the dialogue and let go on each other. Daniel Cosgrove (Bill Lewis) used to make it almost impossible for them to get through scenes because he would always have them laughing hysterically. Toward the end of the show’s run, they would just ad-lib while shooting and the directors would let them go.
Touching fans, famous co-stars, difficult stories
They talked about how much fans have touched them over the years, telling them their own stories. Dicopoulos said that the show really portrayed family in an important way and how much of a bright spot Guiding Light played in many people’s lives. People would write to them saying that they named their children after their characters. Leccia and Chappell were happy to build on the energy generated by their Otalia story and transform what they started there with Venice: The Series. The topic turned to Dicopoulos’ mullet and all the big hair and billowing pants they used have back in the day. Chappell recalled her big mud fight with Cassie (Laura Wright) and said it was great. She worked with two different Alexandra Spauldings. Marj Dusay was sassy and brassy and Joan Collins was an idol of her from her work on Dynasty. They used to go drinking in Grant Aleksander’s (Phillip Spaulding) dressing room. Dicopoulos pointed out that he was on Dynasty, playing one of Collins’ personal assistants. Smith said that one of her biggest challenges was the story where she lost her baby and she was pregnant at the time. Leccia remembered being excited to hear about the Otalia story and that it took a long time to develop. Chappell said it was nice to have a more old-fashioned development to a relationship instead of the more fast-paced ones that had become common.
More: Interview with Guiding Light alum Bradley Whitford
New projects after Guiding Light
Chappell talked about her leap to digital platforms, which was a huge learning curve. It involves spinning a lot of plates and crowd-sourcing to raise money for production. Lately, Dicopoulos has been on stage in the Unforgettable Mr. D. This is his first time on stage. Smith has just celebrated 8 years of being cancer-free and is currently hosting Press Paws, an animal rescue show on OnlyGood TV. She will also be hosting a new series called Naked Photo Shoot, featuring people who have been traumatized who decide to pose nude as therapy. Bonilla has been keeping busy, recently working with Melissa McCarthy in The Kitchen and with Will Smith in Gemini Man. These roles have given him the chance to become more of a character actor. He’s currently working with Jeff Bridges and John Lithgow on The Old Man. Leccia was been doing work on various shows and commercials and was supposed to be in an episode of Chicago Med but then the lockdown happened.
Bonilla talked about how influenced he was by watching Al Pacino and Marlon Brando when he was young and marveled at how the actors on Guiding Light could turn “sand into crystal.” Smith admitted that she never had much interest in acting; she just likes to interact with people. Leccia said that she was shy when she was young and would direct her friends in plays but wound up as a theater major. Chappell just loved movies and Katharine Hepburn. Dicopoulos loved movies too but never thought about being an actor, it just happened. He added that Beth Ehlers (Harley Davidson) is now working for the State of New Jersey and dealing with environmental issues.
Tune in below for the rest of the chat.
Video: The Locher Room/YouTube