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Taylor Miller Interview: Her Return to 'All My Children' and Thoughts on ABC Daytime

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Taylor Miller

Taylor Miller is best known for her role as Nina Cortlandt Warner on ABC daytime’s All My Children from 1979 until 1984 and 1986 until 1989. Her pairing with Peter Bergman as Dr. Cliff Warner formed a popular soap supercouple in the 1980s.

Miller also appeared on Another World for about a year and has guest-starred on television shows including Knight Rider and The Love Boat.

“I wonder if ABC daytime would be suffering the way that it was if they hadn’t gotten rid of those people”

Since her days on All My Children, Miller has acted in several Broadway plays and films. Her latest movie is Hannah Free, a movie that tells the story of a fiercely independent woman who fights to see her lesbian partner one last time in a nursing home. In addition to Miller, the cast includes Kelli Strickland, Ann Hagemann, Jacqui Jackson, and Sharon Gless in the starring role.

Miller visited the All My Children set once again to tape a special episode that will be aired on January 5 in honor of the soap’s 40th anniversary on the air.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Taylor, you were born in New Orleans, right?

Taylor Miller: Yes and we go down there every Christmas so we’ll leave in a couple of weeks. Our parents are all still alive, thank God … so we get a chance to see them every year.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you have siblings?

Taylor Miller: I have a sister who lives in Memphis.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): She’s not an actress?

Taylor Miller: No, I got all of those genes (laughs).

Taylor Miller

Taylor Miller (Courtesy of Taylor Miller)

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Were you always interested in acting?

Taylor Miller: Yes, I have always been interested in it and I got really lucky by getting on All My Children because I think it’s hard to (if you don’t have any positive reinforcement; i.e., cash) stay an actress, although you have friends who keep on doing community theater.

There is just something about acting that you feel alive when you do it and I really like acting. I was just back at All My Children doing the 40th anniversary and just being back there and being back in Pine Valley and seeing all of my friends from a long time ago … it was really a blast! I had a great time!

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Was All My Children your first break?

Taylor Miller: Well, I had done plays and stuff before, but nothing really momentous – nothing that I’d be able to support myself with. But, I moved up to New York to be a model. The reason why I went with the agency I went with was because they had a connection with an acting agency and that’s really what I wanted to do.

I think I got there on March 1, 1979 and I had my All My Children audition on April 1, 1979. So, it happened very quickly.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Yes, that didn’t take long at all. Were your parents always supportive of what you wanted to do?

Taylor Miller: Yeah, (laughs) what are you going to do with that? And I’m like … I don’t know! I know it’s hard because a mother of an acting friend has said, “You better get a degree in teaching or something so that you can make a living.” Nobody ever believes that you’ll be able to make a living acting.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You attended Tulane?

Taylor Miller: Yes, the H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College for Women.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You majored in Drama?

Taylor Miller: No, I majored in history because I believed her (laughs).

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): So, you’ve had no formal education or training in Drama?

Taylor Miller: No, I had a natural talent. That’s it. And a drive, you know, the belief that it was what I wanted to do and I was going to figure out how I was going to do it. I had some friends who I had acted with in Texas (because I had modeled there) and they were all up in New York. So, I thought if they were talented enough to work in New York, I certainly am.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): So, you went from New Orleans to Texas before you went to New York?

Taylor Miller: Yes, I went from New Orleans to Ft. Worth and then I modeled in Dallas – then I made my trip to New York.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You were doing some local modeling in Dallas?

Taylor Miller: Yes, and then Wilhelmina’s husband came down (Wilhelmina ran the modeling agency in New York) and her husband came down and I asked if I had what it takes to model in New York and he said, “Sure.”

My cousin was living there and I called him up … and I’ve got to tell you, Melissa, when I think about this, I think there is nobody in my family … I didn’t have a background of people doing that kind of stuff. You know what I mean? I just don’t know where it came from.

It was kind of like I didn’t even know what New York was. I had visited at one time but I didn’t really have any good idea what I was doing. I was so young so I didn’t know what I was in for or anything.

One day I just kind of went, “Well, I want to do this and cowabunga!” I just leapt off the bridge! And then I was very fortunate. If I hadn’t gotten the All My Children job I don’t think I would have stayed in New York because you have to be fully self-supporting and I was living on savings. I wasn’t working as a waiter or anything like that. I don’t know that I had the drive to do that or the belief in myself or whatever it was. But, I never had to find that out either.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): So, you ended up on All My Children and one half of a supercouple. That must have been a lot of pressure to live up to at such a young age.

Taylor Miller: No, I was so young that I didn’t have any idea what I had gotten into. I just liked the job and the people and I loved the pay. I was making in a day what I had been making in a month. But, I didn’t think, “Oh my God, this is so fortunate … I just thought, of course!” I just always knew that people would always know where I was and well, this was the ego of a twenty-year old.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Yes, they think they can take over the world at that age.

Taylor Miller: Yes, right.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Why do you think that you and Peter Bergman were a supercouple?

Taylor Miller: You know, Peter was always very generous with me. I think that he had a lot more maturity that I did and I think that he saw that we needed to work in order for him to work (laughs).

So, when he was being invited out on all of these personal appearances that we used to do, he would say, “How about if Taylor comes to?” That was like for the first two of them or something and then I started getting invited out, too. But, he understood more of the business than I did. I was more serendipitous, of course.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Nina and Cliff were married four times.

Taylor Miller: I know, you really gotta leave if they keep marrying you to the same person over and over. It’s like you need to come up with something else or I’ve got to go.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Well, there was such a huge fan base there wanting Nina and Cliff to get back together, no matter what.

Taylor Miller: Yes, and Palmer was such an evil man … with just that little twist of humor in there. He was just so perfect.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I just interviewed Daniel Kennedy, Nina’s brother Petey. He’s upset because his character was written out and not given a proper sendoff. That happened under the Charles Pratt regime. What do you think of Pratt being fired?

Taylor Miller: You know, I was not involved in the show. In fact, it happened when I was there for the 40th anniversary. A friend of mine called me up and said, “The head writer just got fired!”

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Lorraine Broderick was there when you were on the show. I believe she has taken over for him right now.

Taylor Miller: Oh good, she’s marvelous! Lorraine is wonderful, she really is. I had breakfast with Maxine Levinson (Executive Producer of One Life to Live 1996-1997) when I was in New York.

Maxine was the Executive Producer of One Life to Live and had hired Claire Simon to be the head writer. And I can remember being at the gym in Chicago and watching One Life to Live … and all of a sudden, it was interesting like old ABC daytime. I called up Maxine and said, “Is your story coming on now?” She said, “Yes it is.” And I told her that was much more interesting.

ABC daytime used to be brilliant. Then I have no idea what happened there. I like to come up with theories, but I didn’t work there anymore so they are all based in my imagination.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Well, there are some who say that All My Children has suffered in the last few years from bad storylines.

Taylor Miller: Oh yeah, it’s very sad. You know, all of those people that are brilliant at ABC daytime (the reason that ABC daytime was what it was) have been replaced. I don’t know by whom, but they are not people who understand ABC daytime.

I wonder if ABC daytime would be suffering the way that it was if they hadn’t gotten rid of those people … like, they fired Maxine, right when that storyline was coming on. She was bringing the show back and doing a good job. When I worked for ABC, it was a family. It was fabulous. I loved to work for ABC and negotiate with ABC. I loved the storylines because it was brilliant stuff and so much fun.

I loved the way we did the show – we got there at 7:00 in the morning and we rehearsed it all day long and then we shot it in sequence. Yeah, you waited around the studio all day long, but you were hanging out with your friends … your family. You got a chance to run the lines over and over again and you could say, “Wait a minute, we could make that mean that instead.” You got a chance to play with stuff. I was at ABC when it was the best and they treated me really well and I loved them.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): According to several actors I’ve talked to, they say that daytime actors now have a quick rehearsal and then you go right into taping. So, you have to be really on your game the first time.

Taylor Miller: Yeah, but it’s like it’s a misunderstanding of what acting is about. Everyone has a rehearsal period. Even when you’re in previews for the show, you get a chance to do it in front of an audience. I think it’s a total misunderstanding of what the business is. With people running it who don’t understand that, they are not going to be successful.

When I was on ABC daytime, it was a cash cow and I think that they started to take the money out of daytime and not put it back in they way they used to ,,, and these are the results of their actions.

You know for the 40th anniversary show, I think I had two lines but I did them as Nina because I understand the character. That’s the brilliant thing about playing a character for so long because you can look at those lines and you are that person. So, when I went back I went up to the studio and Teddy and Rusty were there … all of the stage managers who had lost their jobs after working there for 30 years – all of the people were there. They were like, “Hey Taylor!” And I’m like, “Nina’s back in town!”

Everybody was hugging me and it was so great! I can’t even tell you what a great experience I had going back. I feel so lucky to have been able to go back and see that again because it was such a great time of my life.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Did you have any scenes with James Mitchell?

Taylor Miller: No, it was not written as scenes. It was written as introducing clips. They didn’t bring the character back to interact with anyone. The things that they show happened back when ABC daytime was brilliant.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): So this is a flashback episode.

Taylor Miller: Yeah, a walk down memory lane. The people who have been watching the show for a while would totally enjoy it or if they have wondered why somebody did whatever they’ll go, “Oh wait a minute, that makes sense now.”

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You came back a couple of times in the 90s.

Taylor Miller: Yes. But, I called them a couple of years ago. James had been so sick, and I asked if I could come back. They said that there really wasn’t anything for me to do. I wanted to go back and be in his life on a more daily basis because he is such a dear man (James Mitchell).

They told me that there really wasn’t any place for me. I guess I just waited too long. It’s still fresh for me, but I guess it’s not fresh on the show anymore (laughs)!

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What do you think about the move to LA?

Taylor Miller: I think it’s a real shame that all of those people who have worked on that show who have stayed up until 4:00 in the morning … who have given their blood, sweat, and tears for the success of the show … that they can just tell them, “Oh, you can reapply for the job if you want to.” But, I think that’s the difference between what ABC used to be and the way it is now.

Have you ever seen that documentary called The Corporation? They explain very large corporations as dysfunctional families and they really are right on. I don’t know what it’s like to work for Disney. But, it’s an interesting time in our country, I think. There used to be corporate responsibility and they cared about their people … cared about their contribution to the community. But, if they stop playing by those rules, it would be interesting to see even if this way of life works anymore.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Have you kept in contact with any of the cast members over the years?

Taylor Miller: I keep in touch with James and Peter Bergman. I send Christmas cards to Susan. So, when I’m there visiting the show, she says, “How’s Eli, how’s Liza?” I mean, she knows my family. James is the person who is the nearest and dearest to me. He’s a great friend and a marvelous man.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What do you think about the future of soaps? I know the rumor is that As the World Turns is next (this interview was made the day before the official news of the soap’s cancellation).

Taylor Miller: I don’t know. I just can’t believe, though … I think they are marketing it wrong. It used to be about relationships and then they turned it into wacky stuff. Then they have all of these young relationships – that used to happen more in the summertime. Now they seem to do that all year long. I would just love to know what their demographics are … like, who are you making this for? But, since I don’t lie or work in the corporate world I don’t understand it.

I find it so difficult to believe that something that was so successful, especially if you look at the actions they’ve taken … why wouldn’t it continue to be successful? It used to be a story of relationships, of families. Maybe people don’t understand how to write about relationships anymore.

The stuff they are replacing them with … are you kidding me? Are they more worthwhile than soap operas? It seems to always come back to money. They can do reality shows so much cheaper. But, there is no entertainment in one more … I just saw there was going to be one more singing show. So, okay, more people are willing to give away their talents for free so that hopefully they can get their chance at the big one. But, again, I’m not in programming so I really don’t know.

I’m just curious because I know I’m not watching television anymore. They are not telling stories I want to see and supposedly they want to attract my age group.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): So, you don’t watch soaps either?

Taylor Miller: Well, I will turn on something if I’m at the gym. But, mainly when I turn it on and I look at what’s up there, I turn it off. Today I turned if off because I didn’t want to look at advertising while I was working out. Soaps used to be about the people and that’s not what it’s about anymore.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Well, what have you been doing since you left All My Children 20 years ago?

Taylor Miller: I have two children and that has kept me busy. I’ve been doing voiceovers because that allows me to have the majority of my time free. I’ve been doing some plays and just finished the movie Hannah Free. I’m going to go to New York on Friday for the opening of that movie.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): In my opinion, Hannah Free stars one of the greatest actresses out there … Sharon Gless.

Taylor Miller: Yes, she has done a great job! She has worked so hard to promote the film. She just did a fabulous job. She is a very nice woman.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): How is she to work with?

Taylor Miller: Amazing!

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Had you met her before or were you just familiar with her work?

Taylor Miller: No, I don’t think I had met her. I was familiar with her work a long time ago on Cagney & Lacey. But, I don’t watch television a lot and haven’t seen Burn Notice.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Cagney & Lacey was groundbreaking television, especially for the advancement of women in lead roles on the small screen.

Taylor Miller: Right.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What about your character, Marge, in Hannah Free? Tell me about her.

Taylor Miller: (laughs) I had a violent reaction to being Marge, I must say! I had just kind of decided maybe seven years ago that I just wanted to blend in a little bit, but after I played Marge I said, “You know what … screw this (laughs)!” So, I went blond again and started wearing form-fitting clothes again and just thought, “Marge is so ugly!” Well … Marge isn’t ugly. She’s just asexual, I  think (laughs). And I am not that way!

So, a lot of people don’t even know that it’s me that’s playing the role because they were so afraid that I was going to be too pretty for the part that they took care of that (laughs)! They really did. They did a great job with costumes and the hairdresser did a really great job with Marge’s hair.

In fact, Claudia Allen, the playwright, just wrote a book that goes along with the movie and I said, “Would you please do a whole chapter on Marge’s hair?” The hair was such a frightening thing! The hair was a character all in itself. Marge gets it done every week, you know, and puts the little hairnet on. So, I thought that the character was such a great one and also had such a nice transition.

When we did it at the Frameline Film Festival, Rosie O’Donnell said, “Marge is going to come on, but don’t hiss!” When I came on they did hiss some. But, at the end of it people got what she was about and that she’d had a childhood that formed her.

Being raised by two women in the 60s in a small town in Michigan was not a Swiss picnic. That was a really hard childhood for her and she just did the best she could to deal with it. But, on the other hand, she had always loved her mother and had always loved Hannah. And at the end having her heart break open a little bit … it was really cool to play that.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you think the film will be accepted worldwide?

Taylor Miller: You know, I have seen remarkable support from the gay, lesbian, and transgender community. There has been a lot of support for Sharon, for Claudia Allen, for the film itself, and for the story of the film, which unfortunately still is true today … that if you are in a same-sex marriage you don’t have the same rights.

It’s the same kind of restrictions that people are living with today. You see it in a way that makes you say, “Oh my God, that is a really cruel thing to do.” I think the film really shows people as human beings, which I think people forget. Sometimes they think of ideas or whatever … and prejudices.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Some people just automatically hate those who are different from them.

Taylor Miller: Right. Don’t you think, Melissa that it goes right along with everything else that is happening in the world now? I think it is based in fear. I just think that things are going downhill … but maybe people will start working together again.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You live there in Chicago with your family and have two kids.

Taylor Miller: Yes, they are both in college. I have to tell you that the mother’s thing is real. I told them they couldn’t go to college in Illinois so they are both out of state. I don’t mind if they return to Illinois, but they need to get some other … they’ve been to many different places. That is good for them.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Have either expressed an interest in acting?

Taylor Miller: No, oddly enough. When Liza was in New York she was asked to model. Somebody asked her to go to the agency and she asked, “Mom, what is that like?” I said, “Well, you go on a lot of go sees and you probably wouldn’t be able to play soccer anymore.” She answered, “I’m not going to do that.” But, she’s a stunning young woman. I have great kids – I love them a lot.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Any upcoming projects for you?

Taylor Miller: No, I’m going to New York over the weekend and then after the New Year I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m working on getting work. That’s what an actor does.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What do you like to do in your spare time?

Taylor Miller: I play a little golf … need to get better at that. I really have reached the point where playing the way I play is, well, I know I could get better with just a little more effort. I cook, we entertain, I have good friends. I take acting classes. I’ve taken a class on scientific prayer.

I have a really good life. I think I’m at a time of life where I don’t know what I’m doing next and I’m open to whatever it is. I just don’t know what it’s going to be. I’m getting a little impatient with it because I like to work. But, I’m trying to not be so busy that I can’t hear anything.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): So you’d be open to more plays and films?

Taylor Miller: I’ll do anything that comes my way. I love to act. So, yeah … I’ve done a few films and a couple of plays. But now, all of a sudden, my time seems to be really open. So, it’s like, okay what fits in there now?

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Just a shame you’re not back on All My Children.

Taylor Miller: You know, it would be the perfect place for me. I wrote the producer a note and said, “If you ever need me, please do call because I had such a good time.”

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I think there was great storytelling on All My Children in the 1980s.

Taylor Miller: It really was the best time and I am so fortunate, I really am. Actually, my whole life has been work and I don’t think that is going to stop now. I just don’t know what it’s going to look like (laughs).

© 2009 Smashing Interviews Magazine. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the express written consent of the publisher.

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