Soap Opera News, October 28, 1997
by Sheila Steinbach
Article Provided By Wanda
Eight years after the demise of her beloved Ryan's Hope, and wounded by an unsatisfying stint on All My Children, Helen Gallagher finally finds the prescription for happiness - as One Life to Live's feisty physician.
Helen Gallagher will always hold a special place in daytime viewers' hearts - she was the beloved Maeve Ryan on Ryan's Hope for all 13 years of the soap's existence. Now Gallagher is bringing her extraordinary acting talent to One Life to Live as Dr. Mary Maude Boyland Hayes, Llanview's sexy therapist and mother to prickly journalist Mel Hayes. And the three-time Emmy winning actress is quite happy to be there.
"I'm having fun with the character," declares Gallagher. "I can't do it unless I can have fun with it. I like her. I think she's full of p--s and vinegar. She's got her opinions and she hasn't the slightest trepidation about stating them."
"It's a good character," the actress adds. "It has to be fleshed out, of course. She has to have more sides than just know-it-all, but I think that will happen. It takes time, because on a soap, scenes make the character. It's not just what is in your mind, but how these scenes drop and the relationships and all that. But it will slowly develop into something I think I can really be pleased with."
Gallagher had recently completed an unhappy stint on All My Children, in the recurring role of Nurse Harris, when One Life to Live called. She wasn't keen on returning to daytime.
"One day on AMC, I was there from 8:20 in the morning until 11 at night," she recalls. "That's a long day, and unless you're having a good time, there's no point to it whatsoever. I can't do that unless I can have fun with it, and on AMC, I just couldn't do it. It wasn't so much a waste of talent as a waste of time - and that's awful!"
But the thought of once again working with Claire Labine (OLTL's head writer and creator and head writer of RH) helped her overcome her reluctance. "Claire called my agent and my agent tipped it to me. Gallagher says. "I said I don't know if I want to do a soap, but then Claire got on and told me about the part. It interested me and made me laugh, so I agreed to come on."
"There are certain stipulations," she adds. "They're limiting the time they can use me to certain days so that I can still teach, because I love to teach. It also allows me to have a life other than soap opera, and that's important. If I want to go off and do something, they can write me out. That's if all the plans work out. With soap operas, it's how the audience reacts. If they react well to the plot, it continues. If viewers don't, they'll quickly write away from it and go on to something else because it's an audience medium. They have to please their audience."
"Maude is a character," Gallagher adds with a laugh. "I'll be interested in what they write when Maude actually starts practicing in that town. As Claire says, 'This is a town that definitely needs a sex therapist.' Claire's funny, she has a funny sense of humor," the actress adds. "Maude also definitely has a vulnerable side, but she just doesn't show it."
Gallagher has no idea what's ahead for her OLTL character. "I just don't know what it will develop into," she says. "I know there's the mother figure, the caring for the grandchildren because she's much more of a mother with them than with Mel. With him, it's an 'I dare you' relationship. It's love, but tough love."
Gallagher is just as happy with the people she's working with as she is her new character. "It's a good case," she says. "The whole situation here is the closest I've seen to Ryan's Hope. It's like everybody is in the same business."
"The actors want to rehearse," she adds. "The wardrobe department wants your clothes to look good. The hair people and makeup person are interested in how you look. It's not like, 'oh, this is the new kid on the block, let's just get this over with.' They're all very nice."
Not that anyone would mistake Gallagher for the 'new kid on the block.' The Brooklyn, New York native's distinguished career in the theater began with The Seven Lively Arts. In true theatrical tradition, she stepped out of the dance chorus of that show to gain recognition in the Broadway production of High Button Shoes. She then went on to perform in dozens of Broadway shows, including Sweet Charity, Pal Joey and No, No, Nanette. She's also had a successful career in nightclubs and regional theater.
But nothing, she says, can ever compare with her 13 years as the matriarch of the Ryan clan. "Ryan's Hope was the best," Gallagher declares. "First of all, it was a half-hour show - wonderfully cast and wonderfully written. There were plenty of times when it was boring, but as a rule, it was really interesting - the people were centered and had work to do. It wasn't just a matter of sitting around on couches talking about your emotional problems. There was a life going on in that place, maybe because it was centered on a bar. It was just magic."
"I can't believe the number of stars who came out of that show. Christian Slater, Ellen Barkin, Corbin Bernsen, Kate Mulgrew, Marg Helgenberger - the list goes on and on."
"There was never a better written soap than that one - or a better thought-out one. And it's not so much just the writing, it's the whole situation. It lent to the complications of ordinary life, but at the same time, it had a foot in reality, which made it so much easier to play. It wasn't Never Never Land. It was a person and a place. It was terrific!"
Gallagher starred on Broadway
in the original Sweet Charity.
"Ryan's Hope was the best," says
Gallagher, with Bernard Barrow (John),
far left, John Gabriel (Seneca), Nancy
Addison (Jillian) and Michael Levin (Jack).
Dr. Maude shared some non-motherly advice
about sex with talk-show host Joy Behar.
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