Vanessa Marcil is a daytime icon. Though she starred in two hit primetime series, Las Vegas and Beverly Hills, 90210, she is still best known as General Hospital's Brenda Barrett, the woman Sonny Corinthos (Maurice Benard) always left standing in the rain.
Marcil's latest project is a reality show, Pop's Queens of Drama. The show centers on her attempts, along with a half-dozen other soap alumnae, to create a scripted television series.
During the Queens of Drama premiere party, which took place at a West Hollywood Drag Queen Bingo night, Marcil spoke candidly about why she decided to take on the reality genre. She also shared her reasons for never watching her performances and revealed just how real Queens of Drama actually is.
Daytime Confidential: You have a very successful primetime career and you’re one of the biggest daytime stars of all time. Why did you decide to do a reality show?
Vanessa Marcil: People kind of know me as a risk taker. I like to do things I haven’t tried before, and [production company] ThinkFactory came to me. Leslie Greif, he’s the owner, he’s funny and anyone who can make me laugh can make me do almost anything. So he said that he had this idea and because it’s something I’ve never tried before and a genre I’d never been involved in, I want to step into it. I’m a person who wants to try every single thing there is to try. I loved it so much that now I’m doing [a reality series] with my family that’s like Wahlburgers. I’m Mexican, so we’re opening taco places. I love [watching] behind the scenes of everything . So I thought it was interesting to go behind the scenes of trying to put a show together. The reality is, on everything I’ve ever worked on, you always see people butting heads and having differences and then you see other people falling madly in love with each other. So it’s really no different from every job I’ve ever had except for that we’re seeing behind the scenes, which we don’t usually get to see. You usually just get to speculate about how do I really feel about Maurice [Benard] in real life. Do these people really like each other or not, and now you’re getting to see.
DC: It seems like, from what we’ve seen so far, the show has a lot of standard soap drama scenes, like people throwing glasses of water at each other and Joan Collins making a dramatic entrance.
VM: I saw that on Twitter [people thought I did that.] I don’t throw a glass at anyone. I get mad and I throw it down at the end of the table.
DC: Who in the cast did you end up working effectively with and who did you butt heads with?
VM: In business, a lot of times you butt heads with people over a lot of stuff, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t go out and have a drink together later on because that’s business and that’s personal. So, because it’s business, we butted heads over many, many things, more things than you even get to see. Then some of us have big, mad love affairs with each other — not literal ones, but [we get along well.] And I’m kind of known for that too. I’m either madly in love with a costar, and I’d help them hide a body at 3 am. without any questions asked, or the love affair doesn’t happen in real life and we don’t like each other. There doesn’t seem to be much gray area with me for some reason. So I have both experiences on this show.
DC: Who was the love affair?
VM: I can’t tell you, because you have to watch. But there is someone who I become best friends with and then there are some people who I absolutely have no interest in being close friends with.
DC: As a writer, I can’t imagine writing a script with six other people and getting everyone to agree on anything. How did that work?
VM: We all pitched ideas to each other and then we got a big showrunner and we all pitched ideas to him and then we let somebody else who doesn’t have a personal vested interest say what show idea they thought was the best. We take a show idea and we actually go and pitch it. So that does actually happen. Whose idea it is and what happens after that, all of that stuff, obviously I can’t say but I can say that all that stuff actually happens in this first season.It was really interesting to do.
DC: The show is very candid in the first episode about how there are only four soaps left and people in the industry have to explore other paths.
VM: I don’t agree with that at all. I say in the first episode, almost everything you see on TV is a soap.
DC: Right. It’s just the daytime soaps that are struggling.
VM: Not only that, the four soaps that are left have all been on like 50 years. What shows last for that long? So the truth is, these shows are an insane success because most shows are only on for [a couple years.] So even if the daytime dramas go off the air, how long they were on is like a phenomenon.
DC: Was there any thought to getting the daytime writers and producers and directors whose shows were canceled to help out with the project?
VM: Well, there’s a big debate about whether we’re going to make a daytime show or a nighttime show. But we’re definitely making a soap opera no matter what. We’re doing a continuing story that you have to watch every week to see what’s going to happen and we do make a decision. But for me, I’ve never given a s--t about what time something airs, whether it airs during the day or at night or at 3 am, on the computer or on TV [it doesn’t matter.] But my way of thinking isn’t common. I’m usually a little outside the box, so that causes some conflict too. I think it’s interesting that the characters I play are usually so different from who I am in real life. People are going to be like, “What? What do you mean you live on a farm?” because people probably envision me more like the bad-ass characters that I play.
DC: They think you’re Brenda.
VM: Brenda’s like a mob boss princess who has no family. She’s almost like an orphan.
DC: Were you concerned about letting reality show editors create a version of you that is going to shape the public's perception of you?
VM: No. If anyone’s thinking that, all these [reality] shows are lightly scripted. The conversations are real but, again, it’s me in the middle of business. You’re always in the hands of an editor, no matter what character you’re playing... It’s very much about fun and very tongue-in-cheek. It’s not meant to be, “That’s what Vanessa’s really like, that’s what Donna’s [Mills] really like,” at all, and I think that makes it a lot more fun. Our fans love that. The craziest stuff happened on set when I’m at work.
DC: Have you seen the entire season?
VM: I’ve never seen myself in anything. Once I make something I never watch it and I let it go.
VM: I just feel it’s a little narcissistic to be on set for 15 hours and then go home and watch myself for hours more. In our family too, our son has never seen us on anything. We don’t have TVs on our farm. It’s not really our thing. I didn’t grow up with TVs. But I’m fanatical about a lot of different shows. I watch them on DVRs back-to-back without commercials when I feel like it. And that’s why I love DVRs.
DC:You binge watch.
VM: I’m a total binge watcher.
DC: What are the shows you watch?
VM: I like comedy and I love dark shows. One of my favorites was Curb Your Enthusiasm. I binge watched that. I binge watched The Sopranos. My new favorite is Schitt’s Creek on POP. I’m a reality show junkie. I love to see what’s behind-the-scenes. I binge watched Duck Dynasty, The Wahlburgers, Jersey Shore, Snookie & J-Woww, the spin-off of Jersey Shore.
Queens of Drama airs Wednesday at 8/7c on Pop.