INTERVIEW: Studio City actress Patrika Darbo on Emmys, Days of our Lives, serious acting, and more

Posted Wednesday, May 27, 2020 7:49:05 AM

Patrika Darbo (ex-Nancy Wesley, Days of our Lives; ex-Shirley Spectra, The Bold and the Beautiful) opens up about receiving an Emmy nomination for her über serious work in Studio City, plus she reveals some of the ups and downs of working in Hollywood.

Anyone who has seen actress Patrika Darbo in sitcoms like Step by Step, Growing Pains, Seinfeld, and Desperate Housewives knows that she is a master when it comes to comedy. Soap fans also know that she's hilarious and have loved her in the entertaining daytime roles of Shirley Spectra on The Bold and the Beautiful and Nancy Wesley on Days of our Lives. But the actress is especially happy about her recent Daytime Emmy nomination for her work in Studio City, because it shows the world that she can slay serious material, as well.

"I'm not just a comedic actress," she tells Soap Central. "I am first and foremost an actress. You want me to do comedy? I can. You want me to do drama? I can -- just give me the opportunity."

The person who gave her the opportunity was Sean Kanan (ex-Deacon Sharpe, The Bold and the Beautiful/The Young and the Restless; ex-A.J. Quartermaine, General Hospital), who cast her in his Amazon Prime series Studio City, which follows the cast of a fictional daytime drama as they navigate the chaotic world of soap operas and their own messy personal lives. As fans of the show know, Darbo killed it in the role of Violet, who she describes as "one of those characters that you just want to poke in the nose, and then all of a sudden, you see that vulnerable side of her."

During our chat to celebrate Darbo's nomination in the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Digital Drama category, Soap Central got the actress to open up about what it means to her to be acknowledged for her work, what was fun about recently returning for DAYS' digital Last Blast Reunion show, and which of Hollywood's biggest stars surprised her the most when she had the opportunity to work with them.

Soap Central: Hi, Patrika, how are you?

Patrika Darbo: I'm fine, honey. But I'm so confused. I thought today was Wednesday and then I thought I missed our call, so I've been on the phone with Anthony [my publicist] and said, "Oh, my God! I missed the call! I don't know what I'm going to do. I'm so embarrassed!" And he's going, "Honey, it's Tuesday. It's okay. There's four million interviews coming in. Just be calm." [Laughs] But I just hate this, because I don't know what day it is, and I don't know what I'm doing! So, please bear with me and the fact that I'm a dinosaur in a digital world, and I can't figure out what the hell is going on half the time!

Soap Central: I just love you! You crack me up. But, yes, you can totally feel calm because we are right on time, and this call is for such an exciting reason -- congratulations on your Emmy nomination!

Darbo: Thank you! I'm just thrilled. Awards are wonderful, but when you get the opportunity to do good work, it's even better. And then to be acknowledged by your peers, it's the best ever.

Soap Central: How did you find out that you'd been nominated?

Darbo: That was weird -- I had not slept the night before very well, and I don't know why, but like I said, I don't know what day it is or what the hell is going on! But I had gone in to take a nap, and when I woke up, there were balloons going off on Facebook and balloons going off on my messages! [Laughs] So that's how I found out.

Soap Central: How fun! I'll bet it feels so good to get all of that love from all of your fans and everyone you work with.

Darbo: It truly is. I think a lot of the fans found out even before I did, and then to hear from Sean and everyone, it just was a wonderful experience and I'm very grateful. Everybody reached out. I think Sarah [Joy Brown, Laurie, Studio City; ex-Madison James, DAYS; ex-Agnes Jones, B&B; ex-Claudia Zacchara, GH; ex-Julia Larrabee, As the World Turns] was the first one who sent me a wonderful congratulations, and she has always been in my corner. Of course, that was kind of a bittersweet moment, because she didn't get nominated. But she has always been gracious, and she's a wonderful actress, so I know that next year, I'll be sending her the first congratulations.

Soap Central: How sweet! And yes, it is a bummer that she didn't get nominated this time, because she's such a powerhouse actress, but fingers crossed for next year! So, who did you call or share your nomination news with first?

Darbo: My husband was reading in the backyard, and I went outside and told him. With my family, I'm just sort of Aunt Pat to them. They have no idea what the hell I do! [Laughs] It's kind of crazy. But my husband is my best friend, and he shares everything with me.

Soap Central: I actually love that your family thinks of you simply as Aunt Pat, because that keeps you grounded. You've got this whole glamorous Hollywood lifestyle part of the time, and then you've also got a very normal life, which I think is every actor's real dream, whether they realize it or not.

Darbo: It's always kind of been a separate thing. I guess I can be my own worst enemy at times, because I never think of myself as a celebrity or put myself into that "you're a TV star" category. I think that's how I was brought up. My mother always said, "Never ask for anything; you'll get what you deserve." You know? And our parents are sometimes our worst enemies and leave those scars that make us who we are.

Soap Central: Yes!

Darbo: Oh, you know exactly what I'm talking about!

Soap Central: I do! I think we all do to some extent, Patrika!

Darbo: If I can say anything to anybody, it's that it does get better. And some of those scars that are left make us who we are today. If we choose to wallow in our self-pity and feeling bad about the family we come from or the fact that we weren't treated the way we would have liked to have been, then we're never going to achieve the things that we can. Honey, I'm a little fat girl from Georgia, and they told me that I'll never go anywhere unless I lose weight. Well, here I am! [Laughs] If it's your dream and you believe it and you want it, you go get it -- and don't let anybody stop you.

Soap Central: Studio City has received so much positive publicity, and the fans seem to really love it. What do you think is special about the show?

Darbo: First of all, I'm working with some great people, so that first and foremost helps. I think, too, the vision of it, the fact that it's not shot in a three-camera or a four-camera soapy way, it's a little more of a dark, filmy way, and that appeals to people and made them want more. I think there's an appetite for these shows. At one point, I was part of The Bay, which is still doing wonderful, and I'm grateful for that. Gregori [J. Martin, creator] is amazing in his marketing and his writing and his storytelling, and he's getting all these soap people together to create this wonderful show. And then along comes my darling husband from television, Kevin Spirtas [ex-Craig Wesley, DAYS], who creates this fabulous show After Forever, and it got accolades last year. And now Studio City is getting accolades. I don't want to say that we're the flavor of the month, because I think we've got a great show that will go other places. But I also think that the other shows are great shows and will go other places. I think we're at a point where we're in lockdown, people want something new, they saw something new in Studio City, and it resonated with them. Hopefully, our second season will resonate with them again, and we'll be back up there. But you're never sure what's going to happen. I guess the best thing to say is that we know we're talented, we know we have a good show, and if something happens next year and we don't get the accolades, we will the next year. You just have to know when you have a good thing and keep it going. That's what The Bay has done, that's what Kevin has done with After Forever, and all of those other great shows are doing it, as well. There is so much wonderful talent and things out there, and this whole digital platform has offered so many more opportunities for people. It's incredible, and again, like I said, I'm a dinosaur in this age, but this old doll is still at it, and I'm very grateful.

Soap Central: What was really exciting for you about taking on the character of Violet, and did you kind of feel like you could try something new with her, as an actress?

Darbo: Sean and I have done so many things together, and listen -- whatever he asks, I usually go and do it for him, because I adore him. It's kind of like Kevin Spirtas. I've done so much with both of them; they're such good friends before they're actors, and if they ask me to help out with something, I'll do it. So, I just did it without really knowing [what I was getting into]. But I think the best part about Violet is that she is one of those characters that you just want to poke in the nose, and then all of a sudden, you see that vulnerable side of her, and you kind of see what made her the way she is. For me, as Patrika, the personal part of it was that it was an opportunity to show people that I'm not just a comedic actress. I am first and foremost an actress. You want me to do comedy? I can. You want me to do drama? I can -- just give me the opportunity.

Soap Central: What was the experience like of choosing material for your submission reel?

Darbo: I am not a good judge because I can't watch myself, so I have to trust the powers that be to pick what they think is the best thing for me and for the show. And they did that for me, because it would be very hard for me to look at something and pick it out. When I do a film or something, I don't go to dailies, because if I go to dailies, then I start saying, "Oh, I could have done that better! I should have done that better! I could have done that, I should have done that, I could have done this..." Then the next time I'm in front of the camera, I want to do it again, and again, and again. You stop trusting the director, who ultimately has that eye and sees what is going on. If I truly feel I can do it better, I can get that extra opportunity, of course, but again, you have to rely on the people that are in charge to make sure that you're doing the work that they want you to do and the work that is best for you and the show. So, as far as picking the reel, that had to be in somebody else's court, otherwise I might not be here! [Laughs]

Soap Central: After what happened in 2018, with your Emmy being revoked, were you at all nervous about this process?

Darbo: As far as I'm concerned, I won the Emmy. I got the votes, I got the Emmy. It wasn't my fault that I was submitted in the wrong category, and it wasn't my fault that the people at NATAS didn't realize that. There have been a lot of changes there. I've moved forward, and looking at the things that they are doing, they have moved forward to try to make things better. Let's not dwell on the past and dwell on the crap, because it doesn't do either one of us any good. I did my work, I was acknowledged for that work, and now we're in 2020, and that's what I'm dealing with. I can't deal with that other stuff, because that's just too negative. It's not good for any of us to do that.

Soap Central: That totally makes sense. As you said, NATAS has made tons of changes this year, and one of the exciting ones is that the ceremony is going to be back on TV! What do you think about that?

Darbo: Well, I think it's kind of crazy when you think about it, because we're all going to be Zoom'ing and if they trust me to have to Zoom, there's probably going to be a blank screen because I don't know what the hell I'm doing! [Laughs] So it's going to be very, very interesting to see what goes on! But in this sort of lockdown, where we can't have more than ten people in a room, it's how it goes. I'm looking forward to it, but I'm also terrified! And I'm not terrified if I win or lose -- I'm terrified whether I'll push the wrong button and screw something up! [Laughs]

Soap Central: You are not the only one, Patrika! Don't feel alone, because several other actors have told me the same thing!

Darbo: It's going to be all of us sitting in front of our computers going, "What is happening?!" [Laughs] It's crazy.

Soap Central: You've got some really great people in your category, including Carolyn Hennesy [Diane Miller, GH], who's also up for her role in Studio City. What do you think about the women you are up against?

Darbo: None of us would be in any of these categories if we weren't talented, and we went through the pre-noms, and it just came down to five of us got a few more votes than the other people. They're still talented, wonderful actors, even if they didn't make this. I'm in a category with Carolyn, who is brilliant. Her work is always there; she's very creative. So, if either one of us wins, that's a wonderful thing for the show and moves us forward. But already, we're winners, or we wouldn't be there -- along with the other ladies there. It's a pig in a poke, you know? And I'm going to get emotional, but I'm just so grateful to be here. I mean, look at these wonderful ladies that I'm with! And no matter what happens, we're all winners. Yes, I want to have another statue -- that sounds vain, as usual! [laughs] -- but yes, I want that, I want that accolade, absolutely. But I already know that I've won because look who I'm in the category with, and look what happened, how we got here. Those are the things that count.

Soap Central: This is my favorite time of the year, because the soap world is so small, like a family, and I get to listen to how much you guys all love one another. It's a great feeling.

Darbo: Yes! It's also a very incestuous business. I mean, that was one thing I noticed with the soaps a long time ago, was that you may be in this one today and then your contract runs out and you're not renewed because they're changing up something, but then another soap says, "We want you on ours!" and they create a new character for you there. I mean, look at Judi Evans [Adrienne Kiriakis, DAYS]! What a career for her! And let's give a shout-out to her and hope she feels better after her horse accident -- and she's had a tough year, losing her son, as well. But what a consummate, wonderful actress she is! I mean, and look at her soap history: [she was Beth Raines on Guiding Light, then Paulina Carlino on Another World, then Maeve Stone on As the World Turns, in addition to DAYS]. It's amazing. We are in a great business, and I don't think the daytime community is acknowledged for the talent and the wonderfulness of it -- in every category! You've got wardrobe that has to make us look fabulous every day, and the creative stuff, the makeup and the hair. And it's every single day. And those hours when you're shooting a full movie script a day, those are long hours -- and we still like each other! [Laughs] So, I'm very grateful to be a part of this. Listen, I thought I was coming on to serve beer and peanuts, and it has just blossomed into the most wonderful thing ever. And I can't thank everybody enough.

Soap Central: You just recently went back and did a digital companion series for Days of our Lives, the Last Blast Reunion. How did that come about?

Darbo: That was so much fun! I got a call from [DAYS executive producer] Greg Meng, who said, "We're doing this little thing, would you be interested? We're going to bring back all the kids from the Last Blast group," and I thought, "How fun would that be?" So, I went back to see all these kids that were like 16 and 17 at the time, and let me grab my throat right now because, "Aaaggghh, they're 40!" You're just thinking, "Whoa, where did that time go?!" I don't have children in real life, and I've watched these kids grow up to be such wonderful people as well as wonderful actors. I mean, our Nadia [Bjorlin, Chloe Lane], come on, really? She's married now with two little boys, and she's amazing. And I remember when she came on as Ghoul Girl and we did that whole storyline. So, getting the opportunity to go back and do this digital thing, which again, I was like, "Okay, Greg, I would love to do it. I don't understand a damn thing we're going to be doing, but I'll do it!" And he said, "Don't worry! It's all the same. We're going to create sets, you're going to be right here at the studio," blah, blah, blah. And quite frankly, I think that The Bold and the Beautiful, The Young and the Restless, and General Hospital need to do the same thing. It opens more opportunities for the daytime people to come in and do stuff, which at one point could really hurt the independent shows coming up, because the soaps already have built-in audiences that love and adore them! So, to be able to come back and do stuff, it would be amazing.

Soap Central: I love that you consider yourself a dinosaur when it comes to technology, and yet, your face is in all of these technologically advanced shows!

Darbo: Listen, I am a soap super fan! You get around John Aniston [Victor Kiriakis, DAYS], you get around John McCook [Eric Forrester, B&B] and everybody. I remember my grandmother saying, "Shut up! My stories are on!" And now I'm working with some of them. I mean, it's absolutely amazing.

Soap Central: You have so many credits to your name. I mean, when you look at your IMDb page, it just keeps going and going and going. You've also worked with so many big stars over the years, and I'm wondering if there have been any major stars who surprised you in terms of how they were in real life?

Darbo: Listen, when I find out that I get to do a show or a film, the first thing I do is hit my knees and say, "Please, God, let them be nice people! Please don't let me work with anybody who is bad and destroys my illusions." Because you never want somebody that you watch on television that is your hero to be a bitch or a bastard, pardon the word! [Laughs] I have been so fortunate thus far. I worked with John Malkovich [in the Clint Eastwood film, In the Line of Fire], and I knew going in there that he was going to be the bad guy, but the man was incredible. At the time, I was doing a stage show, and one of the young actresses said to me, "If I don't get to go there, I'll kill you!" I asked for permission to bring her to the set with me, and John Malkovich spent a couple of hours talking theater with her! At the same time, when he was in between scenes, he was sketching, because he was redoing his kitchen in France. These little things I remember out of that. And of course, they say, "It's time to go on stage," and he goes on and kills it! [Laughs]

Soap Central: That is so awesome.

Darbo: It really was crazy. And Sandra Bullock, she's the girl next door. She's wonderful. I've also seen her direct stuff, and she was terrific. Clint Eastwood, I can't say enough good about him. Beau Bridges, as well, and Bevery D'Angelo. I mean, I've worked with some really great people. Along the way, there have been a couple of little shits, but you kind of go, "Mmm, you're in a tough time right this moment. You need to get your act together." But most of my people have been great. As I'm sitting here, I'm going, "Man, I've worked with some really great people! Some really nice people!" [Laughs] And Suzanne Somers and Patrick Duffy [ex-Stephen Logan, B&B; ex-Bobby Ewing, Dallas] when I did Step by Step. And I've seen all of those kids grow up. And if I hadn't been let go from Step by Step, I wouldn't have been able to do In the Line of Fire, which gave me these other opportunities. So that's why I was saying what I said earlier, which is so cliché, but when you get the lemons, make lemonade -- move forward, do stuff, don't let it get you down, and if you really want to do this business, don't sit in a bar, whining about what's not happening; get your ass in a class! [Laughs] Surround yourself with positive-thinking people who are just moving you forward.

Soap Central: That's a fabulous way to look at it, and a really great place to leave this. But is there anything else you'd like to add before I let you go?

Darbo: No, because I just run on at the mouth! I mean, like I said, what is today? [Laughs] Listen, I put on a bra, and I put on makeup, thinking it was Wednesday! When I'm doing this lovely interview with you, I don't have to look good. But when I'm doing a Zoom, I've got to put on makeup and stuff, so I'm a day ahead of myself and now, damn it, I've got to do it all again tomorrow! [Laughs]

Soap Central: Well, you know what, Patrika, now I know that you got dressed up for me, even though you didn't have to, which I really appreciate. So, thank you for that!

Darbo: [Laughs] Thank you, I mean, I even put on a bra, what can I tell you!

Soap Central: Well, congratulations again on your nomination. We'll keep our fingers crossed for you -- and I hope you push the right computer buttons on Emmy night!

Darbo: Oh, my gosh, me, too! [Laughs] Thank you, honey, very, very much.

What do you think about Patrika Darbo receiving an Emmy nomination for her work as Violet in Studio City? Do you think she'll take home the gold this year? We want to hear from you -- so drop your comments in the Comments section below, tweet about it on Twitter, share it on Facebook, or chat about it on our Message Boards.

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