Jill Larson talks All My Children, new projects, life and much more! Check it out here --->
This week I got the amazing opportunity to speak with All My Children alum Jill Larson (Opal Cortlandt). She was just so kind and entertaining. We talked about how there are many aspects of her decade's long career that she considers being serendipitous. She also gave her thoughts on soaps, other projects, life and much more!
Jill knew that she had an interest in acting from a very young age. She grew up in Minnesota putting on her own little productions in her living room. And when she was ten she was able to convince the local library to allow her to use the stage in the lecture room to perform a production of Cinderella. By the age of eleven, she was recommended for a role in a professional theatre's production of an Agatha Christie play by her acting class teacher. She ended up being the youngest cast member in the play. "That was a great thrill for me. And that was the beginning!"
Over the next several years she had a prominent career as a stage actress. She worked everything from community and regional theatres to on and off-broadway stages. She eventually received a call to audition for a three-day role on As The World Turns as reporter Judith Clayton. Jill got the part and they loved her performance so much that she wound up being on recurring status for about a year on the soap. After her tenure on ATWT ended, she was doing another stage show with the girlfriend of Paul Rauch, then Executive Producer of One Life to Live. He had come to see the show and afterward invited Jill to come audition for a small part on the show. The "psychotic bomb builder" Ursula Blackwell was meant to be around for eight days, but once again the show decided to keep the character on a little longer. She was then approached by someone at ABC with the offer to make her a recast of Opal Cortlandt on OLTL's sister soap, All My Children. "It was just an absolutely extraordinary bit of luck for me because it did indeed change my life." And it certainly did! She stayed on the soap from 1989 to its end in 2013 where she earned two Daytime Emmy Award nominations.
She recounts how in the beginning she found memorizing a large amount of dialogue so quickly overwhelming. "The challenge of finding time to do my laundry or cook a meal was really tough." Of course, the challenges came with its rewards as well. The steadiness of work that all actors crave and the hours they worked was more like the normal 9 to 5. "As a theatre actor you [were] always working while everyone else [was] playing." Another "huge blessing" that came along with her job at All My Children was the "the marvelous community" of people that she got the opportunity to work with every day. She noted how she loved working with Michael E. Knight, Cady McClain, James Mitchell, and James Patrick Stuart. And when she became a mother in 1996 that same community of actors embraced her daughter and became her family as well.
Larson recently reconnected with several fellow AMC co-stars on Strahan and Sara where they reminisced about their time on the soap. It was what she called a very "poignant" moment. She enjoyed seeing everyone again but it also reminded her just how amazing her time was on the soap and how much she missed it. And the fans miss it too!
I asked Jill what she thought about the show possibly being rebooted in the future. "I think it'd be wonderful!" Jill also noted that we are living in a digital world nowadays with Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, etc. Especially with the soap opera genre. We have so many amazing programs at our digital fingertips like The Bay, Venice the Series, Beacon Hill and more. But just a few years ago not that many soaps had ventured online. "All of these things are about timing." And maybe now is as good of a time as any to bring back some of the beloved defunct soaps!
Since All My Children ended, Jill has starred in some pretty impressive projects. She has worked with the famed filmmaker, Martin Scorsese on multiple occasions. She played in the award-winning Shutter Island and that enabled her to work on the HBO show, Vinyl. She has had roles in several shows and TV movies as well.
She also ventured into the horror movie genre with her starring role in The Taking of Deborah Logan, which was surprising to her. "I had never seen a horror movie. They were too scary for me." She said she had tried watching Rosemary's Baby but had to turn it off before the ending. She didn't know what to expect going into the project but credits the writers Adam Robitel and Gavin Heffernan for teaching her about the genre. She found the role "fun and expanding." She connected with her character on a much deeper level as well. Her mother had Alzheimer's just like her character in the film. She felt that bringing awareness to the disease brought substance to the movie that others in the genre don't usually have. She fell in love with horror and says that she'd love to do more. "I sort of discovered the horror genre in a way that's similar to how I discovered the soap genre."
Jill also recently filmed some scenes for the upcoming Amazon show The Hunt. The show will star Al Pacino, Logan Lerman, Jerrika Hinton and more. The Hunt centers around a band of Nazi Hunters living in New York City in the 1970s. She has other projects that she is in consideration for but is more involved with her writing at the moment though.
She is working on her memoir surrounding her life as a single career woman who becomes a mother later in life and how that changed her. She also has a couple of screenplays in the works. One that she describes as a romantic comedy and the other being the tragic and moving true story of a young woman who dies at the hands of her boyfriend during an argument. And how their lives and the lives of the ones around them are changed. The story is an important one in today's world with an extensive amount of gun violence in the United States. "We often don't recognize the power of a good story told." Stories that make us think differently and consider things in a different light. And in Jill's words, hopefully, helps us find healing and inspiration. "I feel very fortunate to have had a life in a world where I can help to make a contribution to people's lives through storytelling."
As for what her life is like when she isn't working? Well, she loves food! [Laughs] She loves shopping for food, cooking food and entertaining with food. She also loves to get outdoors and hike...and maybe even do her "silly walk". She loves to feel her whole body in motion and you can often find her bouncing and weaving as she walks much to the embarrassment of her daughter. She is also mentoring a high school student and aiding her as she applies to colleges. She loves to take in art through theatre and dance. She seeks things that enrich her life like she hopes that her work has done for others.
Jill's parting words to soap fans are "Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for all the years that you supported us and watched [All My Children]. Our lives were enhanced by your commitment."
We would like to thank Jill for a lovely interview and wish her continued success in all things. I am especially excited about her memoir!