When Tammy Blanchard heard about Guiding Light’s cancellation in 2009, she was as shocked and sad as the soap's legion of loyal fans. The Emmy-winning actress, who spent three years in Springfield as Drew Jacobs from 1997 to 2000, had a special place in her heart for the soap and says that it was on Guiding Light that she “really learned how to act.”
Now starring on Broadway in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying with Daniel Radcliffe and John Larroquette, Tammy took some time out of her busy schedule to chat with me about her memories of Guiding Light, playing scenes opposite Brad Pitt in the upcoming movie Moneyball, and of course, her role as John Larroquette’s love interest, the tough, sexy Hedy La Rue in How to Succeed… a role that earned her a 2011 Tony nomination.
Beth Cochran: Was Guiding Light your first professional acting job?
Tammy Blanchard: It was. I loved it so much. I loved Paul Rauch [then GL executive producer], Patti D’Arbanville [ex-Selena], Joie Lenz [ex-Michelle; now goes by Bethany Joy Galeotti on One Tree Hill], Paulo Benedeti [ex-Jesse]. I just loved Guiding Light. Lisa Brown [ex-Nola, GL; ex-Iva, As the World Turns] coached me on the show. That’s really where I learned to act.
When you’re in school and doing stuff, it’s play, but when you’re doing it professionally, it’s business and you gotta learn the and craft and technique so you can deal with things like fear and nerves. I learned a lot. One of the things I was afraid I would never be able to do was cry and then they gave me a crying scene on Guiding Light and I haven’t stopped crying since!
Beth: Why were you afraid you wouldn’t be able to do a crying scene?
Tammy: Growing up I was quite reserved, a shy girl and I didn’t really let a lot out. I would pray at night about my hopes and dreams, but never really let it out in other ways. So through Guiding Light and doing all those crazy storylines I went through, it really allowed me to do that and prepared me for a career in drama.
Beth: What did you think when you heard about Guiding Light’s cancellation?
Tammy: I was really sad. I was sad from the time I saw them doing a lot of outside shoots, and heard about their financial difficulties. When I saw the shape the show was in I was sad from that moment on. I was like this is a new day and age, television has totally gone downhill. I can’t believe they canceled it. There are high school kids and college kids who watched as a part of a regular habit because it’s dramatic and a magical. You can totally escape into it. These characters are with you every day and become a part of your life. I can’t believe they allowed something that beautiful to go away. It’s all these reality shows, and court and doctor shows. It’s all about the money and not the quality anymore.
Beth: How would you have described your character Drew Jacobs?
Tammy: She was a spoiled rich girl who wanted someone else’s man. She tried to take Jesse from Michelle, but through the course of three years, the writers get to know you and they use that to create stories you know you could be honest playing. Drew eventually adopted her brother, found her real mother. She became a decent human being.
Beth: What is your best memory from Guiding Light?
Tammy: I can tell you the funniest one. They had Jesse [Drew’s love interest] die three times in one day and come back to life. It was like, ‘Jesse’s dead! No, wait he’s alive. No, wait, he’s dead!’ I swear to you he died three times in one day! It was crazy but we did it!
Beth: Do you keep in touch with anyone from Guiding Light?
Tammy: I kept in touch with Paolo for a long time. He’s a good friend, but he moved to California and it got harder to see him. Joie Lenz has kept in touch. She is such a blessing to me. She has had her head together since the day I met her. I love her. Any time I’ve been a little shaky with things and or wavered in my faith, she’s put me right back on track. I share the same manager with Patti D’Arbanville so I always know what she’s up to. Elizabeth Keifer [ex-Blake, GL] came to see the show the other night. Michael Park [ex-Jack, ATWT; who is co-starring in How to Succeed in Business…] and I went out and saw her and her lovely daughter. The relationships I formed on Guiding Light were real and honest and I appreciate them so much.
Beth: How did you get involved with How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying??
Tammy: The show is being produced by the same producers who did the TV movie Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows [for which Tammy won an Emmy award playing a young Judy Garland]. Initially, I just went to see them again not thinking I would get the part. Because I was bombing at all theater auditions for some reason. I couldn’t book a theater show for years.
I read the part of Hedy and I loved it because I saw her as an exaggeration of the all the women in my life that I’ve grown up with. My mom and my aunt – single women raising kids and doing whatever they had to do to survive. Growing up, I noticed that when they were talking to a man, they’d suddenly start talking in this sexy voice – they knew how to work a man. So I really got the character. Then when I found out what an amazing cast we had and that every character is so unique and so funny and so relatable to every person, it just seemed like a dream come true.
Beth: So you identified with the character of Hedy because of the women in your life. How would you describe Hedy?
Tammy: I call her a tough broad. She’s an uneducated tough broad with survival skills who knows how to play men. I put that spin on her that she’s not stupid. In this day and age that’s what the audience wanted and what was required to make the show a whole. If I played a dumb blond, well I’m a red head so that wouldn’t really work anyway, but I’d be going against the grain of the show and how smart it is.
Beth: What was it like being nominated for a Tony award for your performance as Hedy?
Tammy: I’ve been trying to be as honest as I can playing Hedy and I think that’s why I was nominated for the Tony. I did take a risk but she stands out because she is so brash and bossy. It took a long time to develop the character, so I’m really happy that people seem to enjoy it.