Ilene Kristen has been a beloved part of the soap opera world since she landed the role of Ryan's Hope character Delia Ryan in 1975. She brought juicy villainous drama in spades at the ABC soap before going on to entertain fans as kooky One Life to Live character Roxanne "Roxy" Balsom. And she shares that it all might never have happened if not for a button that busted her blouse open during her Ryan's Hope audition.
"When I read the breakdown for the character Delia, I was fascinated by it, and I felt like I was the one to play it. And I had a feeling it would be a really unusual acting experience," the actress shares on a recent episode of The Mama Rose Show. "During the audition... I wore a white blouse, which flares in front of the camera, at that time. I think you can wear white now, but it used to flare, so you never wore white. But I wore white [laughs], so it was like flaring, and then a button popped off, and I just went right on with the scene. And [executive producer] Claire Labine saw that, and she saw that I didn't stop the tape and I just went on, and she said, 'That's Delia!'"
Kristen went on to play the character on-again, off-again until the soap's cancellation in 1989. As fans of the series may recall, Delia was a top-class villainess who to this day goes down in history as one of the baddest bitches of all. She was such a loved character -- or rather, love-to-hate character -- that General Hospital brought her to the canvas in 2013, where she was revealed as the mother to troublemaker GH character Ava Jerome (Maura West). And while most actors love to play the villain, Kristen admits that it was quite a tough adjustment for her when she originally landed the role.
"It was hard playing the villain... because people don't know you well enough to know what a good camper you are and what a trooper you are," she shares. "So, you're acting this role, and you don't want people to think it's you! But you get over that. You have to get over that."
ABC soap fans were thrilled when, after making quite a splash as Ryan's Hope villain Delia, Kristen returned to the network in 2001, playing wild and irresponsible One Life to Live character Roxy Balsom. The role lasted a little over a decade, and every moment was an enjoyable one for the actress.
"Let's just say it was ten years of sheer joy," Kristen says of her time on OLTL before sharing the unfortunate circumstances that made her love the job even more than she originally might have. "I got the part the day before 9/11. I found out that I was going to be doing this character, and then [we know] what happened the next day, and you really had to ponder what the role of an actor was in a world that had just become shattered. I didn't have to start for another two weeks, and in that two weeks, I thought, 'I will be doing a service. People really need to be entertained right now, and I am going to give them a show.'"
It also helped that the role of Roxy was a perfect match for Kristen -- a statement that everyone under the sun would agree with, including the actress herself.
"When I read the first script, I said, 'Oh, my God, it's like this part is written for me,'" Kristen enthuses. "And in fact, it actually was, because I had worked with Lorraine Broderick, who was the head writer. I worked with her on Another World [as Madeline Thompson], and I think at the time, when she wasn't head writer, she said, 'If I ever have an opportunity to work with Ilene, I'm going to write something for her.' Each day, I have to say, I never had one day where I didn't want to go to work. I had some days like that with Delia, because I had so much of a load, and Delia was so out of control that I went, 'How am I going to pull this off?' But I never really felt that way about Roxy. I felt like I was the right character for the right time and the right character for what One Life to Live needed at that time."
For more from Kristen about her various soap opera roles, check out her full Mama Rose interview below. She also opens up about her latest soap project, Mélange, a LOGO series that stars industry names like Morgan Fairchild (ex-Anjelica Deveraux, Days of our Lives; ex-Sydney Chase, The City/GH), Robert Newman (ex-Josh Lewis, Guiding Light), and Kristen Alderson (ex-Starr Manning, OLTL).
"To work with Morgan Fairchild is a joy!" Kristen gushes. "And if we get to do this as a series, we're going to have so much fun stuff. It could out-Dynasty Dynasty."
What do you think about some of the fun memories Ilene Kristen shared about her time on OLTL and Ryan's Hope? How much do you miss seeing her on a soap opera? What are your thoughts on Mélange? We want to hear from you -- and there are many ways you can share your thoughts.