Amelia Marshall talks scary moments, suspending reality on Passions, Guiding Light

Posted Thursday, May 21, 2020 10:42:25 AM

Soap alum Amelia Marshall opens up about her roles as Guiding Light's Gilly Grant, All My Children's Belinda Keefer, and Passions' Liz Sanbourne, sharing that she had to suspend reality as soon as she walked in the door.

Soap opera fans who miss Amelia Marshall (ex-Gilly Grant, Guiding Light; ex-Liz Sanbourne, Passions; ex-Belinda Keefer, All My Children) are in luck. The actress recently guest-starred on an episode of The Chat podcast, where she took a walk down Springfield and Harmony memory lane.

Like most actors who have starred on James E. Reilly's offbeat soap Passions, Marshall was asked about how she managed to take the show's incredibly wacky storylines seriously. Her answer: "You had to suspend reality when you walked in the door because if you didn't, you were going to be in trouble."

She continues, "You couldn't hold onto, 'Oh, that wouldn't happen and she wouldn't say that, and what, she couldn't see me, can't you see?' You couldn't do that; you just had to dive in head first and go for T.C. [Rodney Van Johnson] and break out the wine and the sexy lingerie. It was all so crazy; I think that's how we all survived, was by saying, 'This isn't real. We've got a witch and we've got all these things in a burning closet. Just go with it!'"

Though many of the show's storylines were over the top, Marshall says she actually wishes she'd had more of the "outrageous episodes that happened, just the really far out there things." Although, not too over the top, like one storyline that turned into a very scary incident for the actress.

"One thing that I always will recall is actually almost drowning in a scene where the water -- Ben Masters [Julian Crane] and I were in a closet, and the water was some sort of tidal wave and the water's coming up, and, quite literally, all we had were our eyeballs and our noses above the water, and Ben looked in my eyes and realized that I was really panicking and was no longer acting," she shares. "Basically, the way they shot the scene was that they were lowering the ceiling instead of raising the water. They were lowering the ceiling, and we're kind of like bending our knees, going down in it, but the ceiling was right here, and so he starts banging and banging on the ceiling, and they quickly raised it. But I was like, 'It's steamy and you can't breathe [in] humid weather.' Texas girl, you know what I mean, right? When it's humid, you just can't breathe."

Crazy shenanigans aside, Marshall says that one thing she really wishes she would have had for the character of Liz is a nicer ending.

"I would have loved to have had the opportunity to explore a different side, have Liz go to some really good therapy and exorcise all of her demons and actually become a citizen in that wacky world where anything can happen, anyhow," she says. "When I left, I missed that part. It was good to have the backstory sort of wrapped up, but I missed that part where the character gets a little redeemed or all the way redeemed."

Marshall also opened up about the first role of her career, Guiding Light's Gilly -- a character that was initially planned to be on for only three episodes.

"I started on Guiding Light in '89 as a dayplayer, and I thought it was going to be three days. And, at the end of the third day, I asked the director, 'Am I going to be called back? Am I going to be in more episodes?' And he said, 'They didn't talk to you?! Yeah, you're going to be here for a while,'" she recalls. "And I remember being really, really excited that this -- I did a lot of theater, but I was like, 'Oh, my God, I'm going to have, like, this television job!' And then they brought on Vince Williams [Hampton Speakes]... and he had this energy that would fill a room, and he was so embracing. He would say, 'I think I need to give us a love story.' I was like, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah,' and you know, in a strange turn of events, I was cast in a play, and my manager and agent went to Guiding Light and said, 'Can she be out for some number of weeks?' And they said no, and they turned around within a day and put me on contract, and in very short order, they'd written that amazing story for the two of us.'"

She says it was an honor to be African Americans carrying a major storyline in the early 90s, when that was a very rare occurrence. And it was made all the better when the writers brought on an entire family for Gilly.

"I really was on cloud nine and in disbelief and in awe and so grateful that Guiding Light, one of the old story soap operas, realized, 'It's time,'" she says. "Ever, ever so grateful for the seven years that I was there."

She also recalls a scene she filmed as All My Children's Belinda with the late Lynne Thigpen (ex-Grace Keefer).

"All you had to do was be real and be truthful in any scene that you had with her, and it was going to be great," she shares. "I'm remembering this crazy thing, and I might be mixing things up, but [singer] Leslie Uggams was on the show, and I remember this dinner table thing at Thanksgiving, and it was Leslie Uggams, Lynne Thigpen, and Keith Hamilton Cobb [ex-Noah Keefer], and it was this dinner scene, but it was written with all of this tension, and people are not saying anything and/or saying parts of things, and Lynne looks across the table and goes, 'Want some more pie?' and that was it! She just kind of like cut through the scene and all this other tension, like [a knife]. And just her delivery, it was like taking an acting lesson every time you stepped on stage."

For more from Marshall on her soap opera career, check out her full episode of The Chat here.

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