Kim Zimmer Interview: Memoir 'I'm Just Sayin'!' Talks Life and Soap Career
Four-time Emmy award winning actress Kim Zimmer is known around the world for her twenty-seven year portrayal of the notorious troublemaker Reva Shayne on the popular daytime drama Guiding Light. While on the show, Zimmer played a vixen, a manic-depressive, an Amish woman, a time traveler, a Civil War belle, cancer survivor, a talk show host, a loving mother and devoted wife.
In her new memoir, I’m Just Sayin’! the Grand Rapids, Michigan native shares the story of the woman behind Reva – from her beginnings as a small-town Midwestern girl to landing one of the greatest roles in the history of daytime television and becoming a soap opera icon. The book takes readers on an insightful journey through the parallel lives of Reva Shayne and Kim Zimmer and chronicles the stories behind Guiding Light, the longest running drama in television and radio history (72 years).
"The fans were terrific. They were really angry that I was choosing to deal with it alone. That was the big controversial thing about the whole story."
Zimmer has also appeared in several episodic television programs including Designing Women, MacGyver, Models, Inc., and Babylon 5, and has starred in several made-for-television movies.
The actress frequently returns to Michigan to participate in summer stock at Augusta’s Barn Theatre and will take on the role of Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard August 23-September 4. She and her actor/director husband A. C. Weary have three children; Rachel, Max, and Jake.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Kim, I found your book to be very entertaining.
Kim Zimmer: Thank you. I hope so. I know many people have said that it feels like I’m just sitting there talking to them or whispering little things in their ears.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You and Susan Lucci both used Laura Morton as a co-author. Was that just a coincidence?
Kim Zimmer: Yeah, it was totally a coincidence and she kept it a total secret from me that she was working on Lucci’s book. I was a little surprised when I found that out to say the least (laughs). It’s a good thing I like her so much. Obviously they are two totally different books.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Laura never gave you a sneak peek into Susan’s book?
Kim Zimmer: No. I had no idea she was even writing it. I found out about it on the Internet when I was researching Lucci’s book. Hers, of course, came out before mine. I saw the front cover and I was like, “What?” So needless to say I sent her some interesting emails (laughs). My book was already done, though, so there was no conflict of interest or anything. It was all good.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What made you begin the book with the DUI incident?
Kim Zimmer: It was actually Laura’s idea to do that because she likes to grab a reader immediately in all of her books. She wants the reader to go, “What?” in the beginning. Obviously that was a very impactful moment in my life. It made me do a lot of thinking and re-thinking. Spending the night in jail will do that to a person. I knew that I was going to come back around to it and talk about it seriously because it was a very serious thing. I thank my lucky star every day and whatever higher power you believe in that I did get pulled over that night because I should not have been driving an automobile.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): After reading the book I now know the reason for the “shaky-cam” which began in early 2008 on Guiding Light. It was producer Ellen Wheeler’s innovation.
Kim Zimmer: Yeah (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I remember when they began using the different camera techniques and my cousin constantly complained about how bad it was.
Kim Zimmer: Oh I’m sure. I’m surprised she continued to watch because I know people were getting nauseous watching the show. And that was my problem. That was when I started having that glass of wine or two at lunch because otherwise I was going to chew someone’s head off.
I tried to say, “Why are we doing this?” They’d say, “Oh, we want to give it a younger hipper feel.” In doing so they alienated your mother or your aunt. There were many people who couldn’t stick with it because of that.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): My cousin did hang in there because of her love for the show.
Kim Zimmer: I’m glad she did.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I think the many outdoor scenes somehow made it worse.
Kim Zimmer: The whole thing … the sound was bad. You know, you had rain in one area in Springfield and sunshine skies in another. We were shooting so out of sequence. Whatever was available to shoot on any given moment we went in to that location and shot something. It was like being in high school all over again.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Did you speak to Ellen Wheeler after the book came out or do you know if she read it?
Kim Zimmer: I haven’t. I don’t even know where she is. I was told that she was on a farm and don’t know if that meant she was spending her summer somewhere working. I would guess that after that experience she’s probably not in any rush to do any more producing for a while.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I remember her from All My Children with a breakthrough AIDS storyline.
Kim Zimmer: She’s a brilliant actress and was a really good (what we call) line producer. That’s someone who sits in the booth and directs. She just had her hands full with trying to be an executive producer because she didn’t know how to delegate responsibility. She was a multi tasker and tried to do it all herself. It took a toll.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Well, we can all thank a chipmunk for giving us Reva.
Kim Zimmer: That’s cute (laughs). Yeah, I guess so because I’m a freak for animals and I really was going to be a vet. But I had to rethink that when I was trying to help this little critter that was biting me. I’m getting rabies shots … oh my God! Yeah, you’re right, you’re absolutely right! It was so stupid though (laughs). I was young. I was young.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): A favorite storyline is Reva’s breast cancer. How did the fan letters affect you during that time?
Kim Zimmer: Not just letters from fans but running into people on the street. They’d come over to me and say, “I’m a five year survivor.” It was just very powerful for me. My sister is a survivor. I tried not to do much research for that storyline because I wanted it to kind of hit Reva as a surprise. I chose to deal with the whole thing like she was in denial that this was something serious and was going to cause her to flatline and eventually succumb to the disease.
The fans were terrific. They were really angry that I was choosing to deal with it alone. That was the big controversial thing about the whole story. It was based on a true story. Our head writer, David Kreizman, had an aunt or great aunt (I know I’ll get that wrong) who chose to do that. Her family had no idea that she had breast cancer until she was in remission and she succeeded in doing it. Reva didn’t succeed, but this woman did, so it was loosely based on a true story.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Some people say the show began to decline during the cloning storyline, but you entered an Emmy reel from that time period.
Kim Zimmer: Yes I did. I chose this particular day because it was when Dolly had succumbed to the rapid growth serum when she wanted to age herself to death. It was Reva on the phone and they were talking to each other through a door at Cross Creek which is where Dolly went to die and I submitted it.
My husband had always helped me choose my submission reels for the Emmys. I put the reel in for him and said, “Watch this and let me know if you think I should submit it.” I walked back in the room and my husband and son were both on the couch in tears. They were so moved by the episode they said, “Yes, you have to use this!”
The truth of the story I guess is in the room where they were considering it for an Emmy and people were laughing. It was totally out of context if you didn’t watch the whole story. People found it funny so I didn’t win that year.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Kim, will you be making the transition to the Internet when One Life to Live goes off the air?
Kim Zimmer: If they ask me, I hope so. I’m not under contract so if they want to keep Echo around I’d be happy to continue with it. I hope that it all happens to be honest with you. I know they’re very hopeful, but whether it happens or not is yet to be seen.
I know they have to negotiate with all of our unions to try to come up with a contract that works. But I’m staying positive because I do think the Internet is the future of this genre. We’ll see.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you think the fans really did have a voice in bringing All My Children and One Life to Live back or was the Internet the goal all along with The Powers That Be?
Kim Zimmer: You know, I don’t have an answer to that question. I know that fans are very powerful and I know that the fans of One Life to Live are like rabid dogs. They had rallies in front of our studios and were very pro active in trying to keep the show on the air.
I’d like to think that … you know, the numbers count for something. There’s still a great deal of fans that watch these shows so if they can believe they can turn it on the Internet I think they’re smart. I hope it’s a great success.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What’s next for Echo?
Kim Zimmer: Well, Robin Strasser has left early so when she left she took my story with her. Now I’m just kind of Rex’s mom. They have me working more with Ilene Kristen (who plays Roxy) and we have some very funny stuff coming up.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I’d like to see Echo become more multi-dimensional.
Kim Zimmer: Exactly, me too. I don’t know whether that’s going to happen or not because I’m not under contract and I do keep leaving to go off and do plays. Frank Valentini, the executive producer at One Life, whom I love and adore, gets so mad at me. I say, “It’s your fault for not putting me under contract!” But it’s fine. I’m actually enjoying what I do there and the fact that I do get to go off and do theater which is my first love.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): When is the last taping date?
Kim Zimmer: It’s sometime in November. We air until January 24 or something. We’re so far ahead. I don’t know if I’ll be there the whole time or not. I’m leaving for the month of August to go do Sunset Boulevard in Michigan.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You’re also getting set to celebrate 30 years with actor/director hubby A. C. Weary.
Kim Zimmer: I know! We’re going to be back in Grand Rapids because the play that I’m doing is in Michigan. He’s going to come and we’re going to go to the little church where we got married, go visit my mom’s grave, and probably stay at the hotel where we spent our honeymoon.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Sounds very romantic.
Kim Zimmer: Yeah, it’ll be fun.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What are the secrets to a successful marriage?
Kim Zimmer: You’ve got to have a sense of humor! I believe that you have to laugh at each other’s foibles and funny things and say, “I’m sorry, it’s my fault” and both of you have to be able to acknowledge a mistake or something you’ve said that was hurtful. We laugh a lot. My children are very funny kids, too. Humor plays a big part in our family.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Are your sons in show business?
Kim Zimmer: Jake is an actor and lives in Los Angeles. But he’s really a musician and is making incredible music. We’re just waiting for something to hit there because he must have 100 songs that he’s written and produced himself. My son Max wants to produce Jake’s music so hopefully they’ll be working together sometime soon. My daughter is a cardiothoracic intensive care nurse.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Wow, talk about a stressful job!
Kim Zimmer: She handles it very well, though, and loves it so much.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Let’s get back to Sunset Boulevard. Is Norma Desmond similar to Reva?
Kim Zimmer: Not like Reva, but she’s like Kim. I’m dealing with a fading career in daytime television and Norma, of course, is dealing with the movies going from silent to talkies and her career is over. I don’t think I’m going to have to dig too deep to find the desperation that drives Norma Desmond (laughs).
I’m trying to sing every day. I’m not really a professionally trained singer. It’s more of a hobby to me, but it’s a big singing show so the fact that I’m talking constantly these last three days isn’t helping the situation (laughs). It’s great, though, and all worth it.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): We all know that the demise of soaps is, in part, due to the cost of programming. Would you consider doing a reality show?
Kim Zimmer: No. Now I would die to do Dancing with the Stars but that’s where I’d have to draw the line because reality shows are the reason soaps are going off the air because they’re so cheap to produce. So no, I’m going to have to draw the line there.
I would maybe do a reality show on the Internet. My husband and I laugh about selling the house and buying a Winnebago, traveling across country and seeing all the little mom and pop golf courses one way and hitting all of the mom and pop ski resorts on our return. Maybe we could do a little web series for the Travel Channel or something.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I have the perfect show title, which I’m sure you’ve not heard of before (laughs) … “No Rest for the Weary.”
Kim Zimmer: There you go! Absolutely! And it’s not the first time I’ve heard it (laughs). But I do like it. It’s perfect.
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