Dream Weaver

Posted Sunday, November 13, 2005 10:02:25 PM
Dream Weaver: An Interview with Patty Weaver

Actress Patty Weaver knows a thing or two about turning dreams into reality.

She is an accomplished actress and singer, who has made guest appearances on shows such as Law and Order: SVU, The Love Boat, All in the Family and Maude. She has worked with George Burns, Bob Newhart and Jerry Lewis, as their opening musical acts on the nightclub circuit. And she just completed two films: Have a Nice Death, for the Sundance Film Festival, and Halloween Romance, with Patty Duke, for The Hallmark Channel.

And then, there's her day job.

Since 1972, Weaver has been a working actress in daytime television. She began her career as the popular Trish Clayton Banning on Days of our Lives, where she stayed for 10 years. Then, she landed the role of Gina Roma on The Young and the Restless, a role she continues to play today.

"Life is supposed to be full of heartache, laughter, fun, sadness. Life isn't supposed to be lived in one monotone way. It's supposed to be filled with sorrow and happiness, so when you die you can say, 'What a life.' I know it sounds Pollyanna, but I really believe it."

-- Patty Weaver
Not many actors can say they've been employed in daytime for more than 30 years, especially with the industry's severe budget cuts and continued focus on young actors. What's Weaver's secret to success?

"I think the secret is know your lines, know what you're doing, and never be late," she said. "I don't get into a lot of backstabbing and nefarious things that go on behind stage. It's not me. I'm professional, and hopefully, I'm good at what I do. When I walk on stage, I believe what I'm doing. No matter how crazy the line is, I believe it when I say it."

From humble roots as a minister's daughter in West Virginia and Ohio, Weaver knew early on that singing and performing was her dream. It was a chance meeting with legendary television producer Norman Lear that solidified her place in entertainment history.

As Genoa City's most famous restaurant owner, Gina Roma has been serving her legendary cuisine to the town's young-and-restless residents for years. Despite a fire that burned her restaurant to the ground, Gina is still cooking. Here, portrayer Patty Weaver gets into character to serve up some hilarious dish on life in Genoa City.

Q: What did Gina do with all that insurance money from the fire?
A: (Laughter) "She's living upstairs at the Athletic Club, so I'm not sure. I hope that money is getting a lot of interest. I'm starting to work out."

Q: What has been your favorite storyline?
A: "There have been so many, but it was probably when Gina was supposed to get married to Lauren Fenmore's father. Lauren found out about Gina's past and broke them up. I really enjoyed it."

Q: What's really in Gina's "famous" pasta?
A: "My loving touch. (Laughter) It's a little curry. The spice in curry makes people happy."

Q: When is young Daniel going to get some advice from his Aunt Gina?
A: "It's the writers' choice. She is the only person who can really offer him any advice, I think. His mother is a nut job and his father is gone. It would seem to me, he would come to her."

Q: Is there one of your storylines you wish had played differently?
A: "The John and Gloria storyline. And I wish Daniel had come to live with me, because all Gina has ever wanted in her whole life is a family."

Q: Gina and Phyllis don't get along. Neither did Gina and Lauren. Do you have something against redheads?
A: (Laughter) "Both of them (actresses Michelle Stafford and Tracey E. Bregman) are the sweetest, kindest, loveliest people in the world, and we love it when we have a bitchy scene. It's fun when you can let it all out. It's just so much fun to play, because when in real life do you get to tell someone what you really think?"

Q: Is Victor Newman really as intimidating as he seems, and how does he like his steak?
A: (Laughter) "He takes his steak rare, like his people. (More laughter.) I remember bringing my grandmother in to the set and all she wanted to do was meet him (actor Eric Braeden.) He took her and kissed her hand and spoke to her with such love and kindness that I will forever be indebted. There is a gentle, wonderful side to him. I have a great respect for him."
While working as an associate producer for Channel 9 in Los Angeles, Weaver and a friend often took their lunch break at the back of the studio rehearsal hall. They would sing songs and perform skits. One day, during an impromptu performance, Lear caught the girls' act. He was there producing a cutting-edge show All in the Family, about a working-class bigot named Archie Bunker.

"Norman had opened up the door and was watching us," Weaver recalled. "We had been making total fools of ourselves, and he looked at us and said, 'In a couple weeks, there will be a script for you.' And there was. It was the biggest shock of all time."

Weaver was cast as a guest star named Joanie.

"We sang a song to Archie about if communism comes marching at your door, don't answer it. It was a very funny little piece," Weaver recalled. "To work with Norman Lear and his writers, it was a gift. I firmly believe any chance you get to act like a fool in the back of a studio, do it. You never know who's watching."

Weaver's long career in daytime has given her the chance to utilize her love of music, too. Her character Gina is often called upon to sing at weddings, funerals and other celebrations. Although, it's been a while since she's stepped up to the microphone.

"I miss her singing on the show," said actress Jeanne Cooper, who plays Gina's former mother-in-law Katherine Chancellor. "That voice is so pure I could listen to her all day. She is an extraordinary talent."

Co-star Tracey E. Bregman, who plays Gina's former rival Lauren Fenmore, also misses Gina's music and the tension between Gina and Lauren.

"That was our favorite. We talk about it a lot," Bregman said. "Patty and I are trying to play that we're not 100 percent (friends,) but (Lauren) needed her help with the wedding, so I'm kind of relenting."

Whether it's a small scene or a major plot, Weaver brings a sense of fun to the set, her co-stars say.

"She's got the most infectious laugh you've ever heard," Bregman said, who grew up working with Weaver on Days of our Lives. "She's just so much fun and loves to laugh."

Weaver has had plenty of funny bloopers that didn't make it on screen, like the time a group of nuns was visiting the set, and she just couldn't get her dialogue right.

"I was so frustrated that day, I was going to scream. Several naughty words came out," Weaver said. "Sometimes, an actor will get a script, and you just can't remember the sequence of lines."

As for any upcoming storylines for Gina, Weaver is unsure of the direction her character will take.

"She's got no love interest. Nothing. She's resigned herself to being alone," Weaver said. "I'm hoping that something will jar her out of it."

That something, some fans are hoping for, is a love triangle with John Abbott and his manipulative new wife, Gloria. At one point, the show seemed to be toying with a romance for John and Gina, but the storyline was dropped, much to some fans' dismay.

"It has to do with age. Maybe they thought an older love story wouldn't work," Weaver said. "But it makes no sense for Gloria not to have any opposition."

Weaver has seen big changes in daytime dramas in the last decade. It's a change she hopes reverses itself soon.

"We've gone to lot of witches, evil and fake islands. There seems to be an aura of bad running through the soaps," she said. "There are very few soaps that still deal with family, romance and unrequited love. And I think that's what viewers want. I hope that we return to that."

For Weaver, that would be a dream come true.

Jennifer Biller is a professional writer and television columnist. Her TV column Tube Talk has been published for almost two years in The Exponent Telegram newspaper. Her work has been honored with numerous West Virginia Press Association awards for writing, including Best Written Lifestyles Feature and Best Written News Feature in 2003 and Best Written News Feature in 2004 for Division 2 newspapers. She is a featured columnist at Soap Central for the CBS daytime drama As The World Turns.

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