I Really Think That Women Are Stronger
Afternoon TV Magazine, September 1978
by Amanda Smith
Article Provided By Wanda
On Ryan's Hope, Nancy Addison plays the part of lawyer Jill Coleridge, intelligent, well-educated, attractive, wealthy, and strong - strong enough to be a single parent. Nancy feels deeply about the character she has created and what sort of statements she has been able to make with it. "A soap is national; it goes to all kinds of people, people who are not exposed to city life. I wanted to show that there is another way. There's another way for women to deal with their lives. There are other choices. Being a single parent on the show - I don't think that's terrific. I certainly think it's much better for children to have both their parents. But I want poeple to know that it's possible to do the other thing. It's okay. You don't have to stay in an unhappy situation 'cause you think that you'll die without a man, or a man will die without a woman."
"There are more single parents today than before. I know an awful lot of women who are hitting that age where they can't have children any more. They're coming to thirty-five and they can't have babies and they're thinking, 'I might like to adopt a child. I don't necessarily need a husband - I'm making a good living and I have a home and I can provide.' So that's a choice. I don't know that that necessarily would be my choice: But I know that there are women who feel that way, and that's okay."
Personally Nancy says, "I think a family's important and being committed to somebody's important. I think that's a good thing. And I think roots are important. And having a firm foundation."
We're seated in her cozy apartment on Manhatten's West Side, an apartment filled with wonderful antiques and curiositites. There's a round oak clawfoot dining table, a huge oak sideboard, and a four-poster bed. Tapestries hang from the walls, and an odd, box-shaped sculpture of a proper-looking, church-going lady with her hat on, sits by the little fireplace; Nancy's nicknamed her Ms. O'Dell after a housekeeper her family once had. Malcolm and Henry, Nancy's mixed-breeds-but-mostly-poodle dogs play at our feet.
"I didn't want to do a cliched soap part. " Nancy says, "I was in a great transition period when I got this part. I'd become a part of the National Organization for Women. I chose to do this show," she tells me, because of the possibility of developing a feminist character.
Ironically, she didn't audition for the part of Jill but for the part of her sister Faith. "I read her strong, feminist. That's how I saw her - young New York doctor, intern. I thought, 'Boy, she's got to be smart and she's got to be talented and she's got to have something special because women don't get into internships or into medical school that easily - the percentage is ridiculous.' So I read this character as being very strong. The following week I heard I got the part. I said, 'Oh terrific, it's going to be nice playing the doctor,' and my agent said, 'Doctor? What do you mean? You're playing the lawyer.'"
Nancy herself is a feminist--not a radical feminist, she emphasizes, although she has several friends who are. "I really believe in this human sort of liberation that's happening. I think men are having a very difficult time now - very difficult - with the woman's movement and they're getting spun around quickly and they don't know where to turn or where to fall."
Nancy narrates an incident that happened to her a couple of weeks earlier. "A friend and I were in a restaurant and in a very intense conversation. Two men about forty-five sat down at the table next to us and harassed us throughout the entire meal. They were high, and they wanted to be with us. The people at the two tables on the other side of us couldn't believe it. My friend has this very Irish wit and she tried to laugh it off. I finally said to them, "Do you understand - first we try to deal with you with a sense of humor, then we try to be nice, and now I'm telling you that we are having dinner and enjoying this conversation and you're intruding on that." My girlfriend has much more tolerance than I have. If it hadn't been for her, I would have stood up and physically done something because I have a violent temper when I get goaded like that. Finally we just picked up and left. But that offends my entire being when something like that happens. Would I sit in a restaurant and harass two men who were sitting next to me? Never in my wildest dreams."
"In the European culture, I'm convinced now, they do something very bright. Their resturants and their socializing structure is set up in a way that everybody talks to everybody. When traveling through Europe, and you're sharing a table with a group of strangers, you all sit together and enjoy the music. And nobody harasses anybody, and if you want to talk, you all talk. It's not that come-on that we do in this country. I went to Europe with a friend of mine, and it was nothing that two young men sat at a table next to us and started a nice conversation - not two drunks who were practically old enough to be our father."
"Those things really bother me. I think a deep respect for humanity--that's all we need for each other. We're equals. We're men and women, and there are biological differences. But I really think that women are stronger, because we deal with our emotions constantly where men have not been able to do that, so we're strong when it comes to a tough thing. You get a guy into an emotional situation and he doesn't know where to throw himself, or in a business situation where everything is coming down on him and the emotions are going and he doesn't know what do do with it. Women have been allowed to cry. We've been allowed to yell, scream, let all the fury go and we can handle these things. It's a big problem - it all has to do with communication. If it's dishonest, it's what I call the inner monologue. And what's the inner monologue inside each of their heads? The unspoken word or thought that should be spoken?"
"Some women like being put upon, and some women like playing the child that needs her masculine protector there to take care of her. That's fine for her. But I think she's missing out on an awful lot. You just can't blame people for being like that - you know that that comes from conditioning, certainly. But I also think that one has a mind and an intellect and one has to learn how to use that. It has to be cultivated. I do think soaps are very educational in that sense. We did a whole series on abortion, and we didn't make a commitment one way or another but what we did was show the pros and cons of both, which I thought was very good."
Ryan's Hope isn't the first soap Nancy's done. Afer her upbringing in New Jersey, college in Boston and New York, stage training with Sella Adler and Sanford Meisner, she worked for three years on Guiding Light and then about eight months later, took the role of Jill on Ryan's Hope.
"Ryan's Hope is a very different kind of show. It's much looser. It's much more creative, it's much more energetic. We are losing some people unfortunately and it will change. I hope it changes in a good way. I don't think it'll ever change in a better way, because I think the original cast was super, especially because we all started it together and that means a lot--a sense of family and making something grow and work."
One of the advantages of her working situation on Ryan's Hope is that it allows her certain freedoms. For instance, when she landed the leading female role playing opposite James Coburn in CBS's mini-series The Dain Curse, which was broadcast in mid-April, arrangements were made for her to be free enough to get to shooting locations on Shelter Island and in Easton, Pennsylvania.
Understandably Nancy was excited about the project. "Like all Dashiell Hammett works, it's a mystery-detective story. James Coburn plays the detective, Hamilton Nash. I play the young girl, Gabrielle Leggett, who thinks she's carrying a family curse which makes her commit murders. She is also a morphine addict. There's an element of a love story in it. It's the most exciting thing I've done so far in my career. It was like magic."
Nancy's changed a good deal in the nine years she's been acting. "When I was on Guiding Light, they could have told me to jump out the window and I probably would have done it for the job. Not that extreme, really, but I allowed myself to be manipulated. I will no longer let myself be manipulated in this business. I just won't."
Why the change? "I just feel more confident about who I am and what I have to offer as a person and as an actress. And I know that I habe to come first. If I don't respect myself and take care of myself, nobody else is going to do that. I'm the one who's out there. It's my whole being that's out there on the line, and I've got to like what I see, and I've got to respect it."
"You have to take it while you can. Be who you are. Make a statement. And the only statement you can make is you - who you are."
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