Whenever Jennifer Bassey hits the screen, viewers can't help but take notice. The former Playboy bunny has a certain je ne sais quoi. It was first evident when she debuted as All My Children's sexpot siren Marian Colby in 1983 and has carried through her entire career, from her 1989 role as Falcon Crest's Cynthia Wallace, to her recent role as General Hospital's Quinn Danvers, to her current role as Anacostia's Beverly Newman.
In fact, all it took was one episode of the digital drama Anacostia to earn Bassey a Daytime Emmy nomination in the Outstanding Guest Performer in a Digital Drama category. And the actress is over the moon about having been given powerful, Emmy-worthy material right out of the gate. But that's not the only thing the actress has to be thrilled about. She also reveals to Soap Central she's thisclose to walking down the aisle with her fiancé, George Bamford.
Soap Central: Congratulations on your Emmy nomination! How do you feel?
Jennifer Bassey: Thank you very much! I'm deeply thrilled and honored and happy about it. Everyone had said, "Oh, you're definitely going to be nominated," but you know, people can say what they like, but it is what is. And I said, "If I don't, I don't. I can handle it either way." I try not to set myself up. I've been there before; everyone said, "You're a shoo-in," and I didn't win. So, this time, I'm just going to go and expect nothing. I have no expectations. I'm just very happy to be nominated with a nice group of people.
Soap Central: You're keeping it cool in general, but right after you found out you'd been nominated, did you have a fun, freak-out moment of excitement?
Bassey: I got very excited, but I've just been having a lot of bad news ever since I got the nomination. My ceiling leaked over all my income taxes, and my computer was soaked and ruined, my dining room table was ruined, and the carpet, well, you could have gone swimming on it. And now the wood floors are coming up. And then, the worst thing that could have happened is that one of my dearest, dearest relatives passed away last night, and I just found out. So, it's been a few days of trauma, major trauma. But it's not taking away the fact that it's there, and I'm very, very honored and very grateful to be nominated.
Soap Central: I'm really sorry to hear about the passing of your family member, and I appreciate, even more so now, that you're taking the time to talk with us!
Bassey: Oh, you're welcome! I really love the show [Anacostia]. They're just great, great people.
Soap Central: Did you call Robin Strasser (ex-Dorian Lord, One Life to Live) to share the news? As I heard, she was quite instrumental in convincing you take the role of Anacostia's Beverly.
Bassey: I tried to reach her, and I don't know if she's away, but I couldn't reach her. I should call her again. But absolutely, she recommended me, and if it wasn't for her, none of this would be happening. So, if I do win, I'm certainly going to mention her, that's for sure!
Soap Central: I didn't even know that you two were friends! How long has the friendship been going on?
Bassey: Well, our shows were back to back, All My Children and One Life to Live, and we were only about three blocks away from each other. Well, first of all, we used to be a block away from each other, so sometimes we would all go out and have lunch, people from All My Children and One Life to Live. And if any of us were nominated at the Emmys, we all sat near each other. So, we all knew each other, absolutely.
Soap Central: One of the amazing things about your nomination is that you only appeared in one episode of Anacostia and managed to snag an Emmy nomination. That's incredible!
Bassey: Yep, just one appearance. It was my very, very first show. And Anthony Anderson, who produces, directs, and writes the show, wrote me an Emmy. When I read the script, I told my fiancé, George [Bamford], "What a shame. This is an Emmy script!" And when I got on the set, Anthony said, "You're going to win an Emmy." And I said, "No, no. I can't win an Emmy. I've not been on the show." And he said, "They now have a Guest Star appearance category, and we're going to submit you." And so, the rest is history. I'm going out next week for an Independent Series Award, and then I'm going at the end of April for the Emmy Awards.
Soap Central: Your performance from that one episode has gotten a lot of buzz. How does that make you feel?
Bassey: Well, as I said, I emailed Anthony recently, and I said, "Without great writing, you cannot do great acting." You just can't. So, when I read it, I told you exactly what I said, I said, "This is an Emmy script." It was wonderful. You get to cry, you get revenge, it's all about this man getting killed, and I had to give up my child, and she stole my child, and blah, blah, blah. It's really great soap opera. It's very moving. People say they get goosebumps and they cry. So, it makes me feel good that I nailed it for him, because he sure wrote it.
From the beginning, working with @antneya on @anacostiatheseries was wonderful. He is so incredibly talented, creating such a fierce role for me as Beverly. To all my #anacostia friends, THANK YOU! It's an honor and a privilege, my nomination for a #2018daytimeemmyaward wouldn't be possible without all of you! To all my fellow nominees, CONGRATULATIONS!!! ❤️ #dreambig @bzbenbryant @bridgetunnelcom @vgpmgmt @soapoperanews @soapdigest @generalhospitalabc @allmychildren @aaminshew @carriegenzel @soapoperanetwork @soapcities @abcsoapsindepth @welovesoaps #daytimeemmys #daytime #anacostia
Soap Central: You are the sole person representing the series at this year's Emmy Awards. Does that create an element of pressure for you?
Bassey: Well, I'm sorry and very sad that none of the rest of them were nominated. I think they should have. But should have and what you get are two different things. So, I'm sorry about that. But no, I don't feel any responsibility. I feel that it's already there. People have already been voting, it's already done, so whatever is going to happen is going to happen. But it's a statement to the show that I had a nomination. It's definitely a statement for the show.
Soap Central: What do you think about the competition in your category? Are you familiar with any of their work?
Bassey: Well, I know Patrika Darbo [Mickey Walker, The Bay; Shirley Spectra, The Bold and the Beautiful; Nancy Wesley, Days of our Lives], and I hear she's very, very good. And there's a standup comic who's doing something that is supposed to be very good. And then I don't know, I don't know anybody else in my category, no. But they are obviously good people. You don't get nominated if you're not good!
Soap Central: The last time you were nominated for an Emmy was in 1999, for your role as Marian Colby on All My Children. What do you remember about that experience?
Bassey: Well, my dress arrived, and it was the wrong color. It was a color I wouldn't be embalmed in! So, I couldn't wear it. Then I sprained my ankle and had to wear gym shoes, and I was pinned into an evening gown that didn't quite fit me. And when I think about it, at another award ceremony, my dress almost fell off me; the zipper opened, nobody could fix it, and the dress opened up in front of millions of people. So, I am awards challenged! And now I'm having dress problems for this one, so really, it's going along exactly as it's supposed to, I guess!
Soap Central: So, will you have a backup dress this year, just in case?
Bassey: I have a very nice St. John suit that is very pretty. So, if the dresses don't work, I'll wear that! Everybody makes it all about what you wear, but basically, it's more about whether you win or not and the experience. That's what it's all about.
Soap Central: In 1999, you were up against Kelly Ripa, who was nominated for her role as AMC's Haley Santos, in the Outstanding Supporting Actress category. Does that seem so surreal to you now, considering her career path and how famous she's gone on to be as a daytime talk show host?
Bassey: She went up for the job with Regis years ago, and I said and Richard said - Richard was the AMC hairdresser, who's a close friend of both of ours -- I said, "You're going to get this." And she said, "Well how do you know?" And I said, "I just know. You're going to get this job." A famous physic named Char was on Kelly's first episode of [Live!], and she was reading Kelly, and she said, "You're pregnant." And Kelly almost passed out because she hadn't told people yet that she was pregnant. And she said, "Oh, my God, I am!" And she flipped out on air, saying, "But my [boss] doesn't know!" And then Char called me and said, "She is definitely going to get offered this job." So, we all knew it. I'm not surprised. And Kelly has total recall. Kelly can read a newspaper and tell you everything she read in it, practically. She can read the paper, get on air, and talk about the NBA, talk about the stock market, talk about whatever. And she's super smart. She's a very smart businesswoman.
Soap Central: I feel like a lot of soap opera actors have that total recall ability, just due to the sheer amount of scripts y'all have to memorize every day!
Bassey: Erika Slezak [ex-Victoria Lord, OLTL] did. She had total recall. She could look at the script once, and she knew all her lines and all your lines. Very few of us could do that. I don't think even Kelly could do that! But, yes, if you're doing a soap opera, it's a lovely gift to have.
Soap Central: How about David Canary (ex-Adam Chandler/Stuart Chandler)? Could he do something like that with a script?
Bassey: David was just a perfect man. He was perfect in every way. He was always jovial and charming and funny. He was very professional. Until he got ill, he never had a line problem. He was always solid as a rock and just a delight to be around. I cannot say enough good stuff about him. Because he was just so special and such a wonderful person. He is terribly missed. He was a great actor. I really think he was a great actor.
Words can't describe how much I miss David Canary ❤️ The on-stage love of my life! Soap Opera Digest's Favorite Couple Award (1999) #throwbackthursday #tbt #allmychildren #soapoperadigest #ripdavidcanary #amc @abcsoapsindepth @welovesoaps @sheknowssoaps @allmychildren @soapoperanetwork @soapoperanews
Soap Central: You've had such a wonderful history, having the opportunity to work with some of the most spectacular people in daytime: Susan Lucci (ex-Erica Kane), David Canary, Marcy Walker (ex-Liza Colby). Do you pinch yourself?
Bassey: I've been very lucky. When they hired me to do All My Children, somebody whispered in my ear, "You're going to be working with the best young actress on the show." And they were absolutely right. Marcy was a terrific actress, just terrific. And we had a hell of a lot of fun. David is my most favorite though! I love Susan as well. We had scenes, but we never really had any major storylines together. Basically, David and Marcy were my people. She was married to Adam, so I had scenes with Adam and scenes with Stuart and scenes with Liza. I was very sad when she left the show.
Soap Central: When you came into Pine Valley, it was truly with a splash. First Marian slept with Tad (Michael E. Knight), her daughter's boyfriend. And then it came out that she had murdered Zach Grayson (Robert LuPone). At the time, did you ever think, "Holy cow, I can't believe I signed on to play this crazy character!"
Bassey: Well, I thought it was such a gift. Everybody was doing comedy when I started, when I signed on. So, I decided to make her more Mae West. I did very significant pauses at very provocative words when I spoke. I learned the dialogue the writers wrote, but if I was with a man aged seventy or younger and my line was, "Would you like a bite of my hamburger?" I would say [she drops her voice and makes it breathy], "Would you like a bite of my... hamburger?" And I would make it very sexual. I made a pass at a doctor over the coffin of my dead husband. I mean, you can't get a part funnier than that! People said, "How could you do that?" And I said, "I didn't do it. The writers wrote it!" They always thought it was me, and I was like, "I'm just acting, for God's sake!" I made her character very dirty -- borderline dirty. And I got away with it. And the writers started writing it that way, because everyone was getting it, and they thought it was funny, which it was! I was only supposed to be on for three months on All My Children, and I ended up on-and-off for thirty-something years. And I think it's because I made her funny. I started talking in those dirty Mae West type lines. And as soon as you become a funny villain, people want to see you.
Soap Central: Did you have similar creative license when you joined General Hospital as Quinn Danvers?
Bassey: You know, I tried to. I purposefully tried to make her another person, another character, but they wrote a lot of Marian Colby lines for me, and Quinn made a pass at Nathan [Ryan Paevey]. And I thought, "Well, if they want me to do it, I'll do it." But, yes, because you only have one take and then you're done, you've got to come in really knowing what you're saying and really knowing what you're doing. So, in that way, I prepared as much as I could and put as much personality into her as I could. And even though I only did about seven shows over about a six-month period, they were good shows, and I was prominently featured. I was with Risa [Dorkin, Amy Driscoll] and Ryan. I loved them; we all got on really, really well. And it was a really nice thing to be involved in. Oh, and I got to see Finola [Hughes, Anna Devane], because we used to be on All My Children together, and we used to be in the same acting class. And Rebecca Budig [ex-Hayden Barnes, GH; ex-Greenlee Smythe, AMC] is an old friend. So, it was nice to see old friends. And Maurice Benard [Sonny Corinthos, GH; ex-Nico Savoy, AMC] used to be on All My Children, so we did a catch-up. And then I got to meet Michelle Stafford [Nina Clay], who I love, and a few other people. So, it was a lot of fun, and I had a good time.
Soap Central: Do you know if there are any plans to bring Quinn back to the canvas?
Bassey: You know, darling, on daytime, if you're still alive, there's a chance! Quinn isn't dead, and I'm still alive at this moment, so who the heck knows! I do think there are a lot of older characters on that show, and I could disrupt their marriages and things like that. There are places they could use Quinn. Whether they're going to or not is another story. I have no idea. They're very secretive about their scripts and their storylines over at General Hospital.
Soap Central: We'll keep our fingers crossed that there's more to come from Quinn. It was so wonderful to have you back on a network soap. So maybe after you win that Emmy Award!
Bassey: I would love that! It would be so much fun. I'd really love that.
Soap Central: Will you have time? Because I've heard you're continuing filming for Anacostia soon, right?
Bassey: I'm going to be on Anacostia this season, yes. I don't know if I'm going to be in all ten shows of the season, but I know I'm going to have a major storyline with Elizabeth Hubbard [Eva Montgomery, Anacostia; ex-Lucinda Walsh, As the World Turns] and Martha Byrne [Alexis Jordan, Anacostia; ex-Lily Snyder, As the World Turns].
Soap Central: Ooooh! Three powerful women!
Bassey: I think it's going to be a lot of fun. Actually, I know it's going to be a lot of fun! I don't know who the men are going to be, but Anthony is so good at what he does, and I know he's going to tie it in and make it really interesting for everybody.
Soap Central: That show gets a lot of attention for pushing boundaries, and I find that it's actually similar to All My Children in the way it tackles social issue storylines. AMC was the first soap opera to really press societal issues, and I think Anacostia is strong in that regard, as well.
Bassey: Yes! I mean, having male rape? That was stunningly provocative and unheard of on daytime. It hadn't ever been done. I think they're innovative, I think they take risks, and I think they want to tell the story. Anacostia is a very rough neighborhood of Washington, DC. It's a very, very dangerous neighborhood, so there's a lot of danger on the program.
Soap Central: Has being on Anacostia or playing Beverly taught you anything new about yourself?
Bassey: No, it hasn't taught me anything about myself. I really like what he wrote, and I really got into it, and I felt like I had put on an old coat; it felt very comfortable to play the character. But I don't think I've learned anything, no. But I've enjoyed playing the role a great deal, yeah.
Soap Central: My last question: Who are you bringing as a date to the Emmy Awards? George?
Bassey: Yes, I'm going to bring my fiancé! And we're getting married any minute.
Soap Central: You're getting married any minute?! When!
Bassey: We're not sure yet when, but it's going to be very soon. And it's kind of wonderful to be getting married at this age. My third, his second.
Soap Central: I would imagine there's less pressure and you don't stress out as much about the little things at this age, right?
Bassey: Oh, I don't know. You can stress about a lot, anyway! [Laughs] Relationships, you really have to work at them. I think with any relationship. Especially because he was with someone else for fifty years, and I was with someone else for thirty years. And that's a very long time.
Soap Central: We wrote about your "second-chance relationship," actually, after your People article came out. And your story is so beautiful!
Note: Read more about Bassey's tearjerker love story here
Bassey: Thank you! Because I tell people, you know, a lot of people are going on Match.com, and I say, "Look, sometimes when you give up, and you think, 'Okay, I'm not going to meet anybody,' then you usually meet someone." But I tell people, my grandson, who is married to a stunningly beautiful woman, he met her on Match.com. And he told me he had to go through a lot of really boring situations, but he said, "The moment I saw her, she hadn't seen me before I saw her, and my first thought was, 'I'm going to marry her.'" And they now have two children, and they're devoted to each other and madly in love and having a wonderful life together. If you have a great loss in your life, you... have to put yourself out there. And I tried a couple of times, and it was just a nightmare. And I thought, "Maybe God doesn't want me to meet anybody. Maybe I've had the best. I've had a wonderful thirty years with somebody spectacular." So, I kind of gave up, and in giving up, I really reached out to try and help George. I met him through a friend, because he had lost his wife, and I had taken a grief recovery course, and I wanted to help him with his grief. And then one thing led to another.
Soap Central: Well, I guess we'll start to prepare ourselves for a wedding article!
Bassey: [Laughs] Thank you! I would love that. And I look forward to seeing you at the end of April!
What do you think about Bassey's Emmy nomination? Do you think she has a good chance of winning? What are your favorite memories from her time as AMC's Marian? Would you like to see her return as GH's Quinn? We want to hear from you -- so drop your comments in the Comments section below, tweet about it on Twitter, share it on Facebook, or chat about it on our Message Boards.