Gina Tognoni (Phyllis) was a visitor on Digest’s podcast, Dishing With Digest, and traced her cleaning soap roots, from ONE LIFE TO LIVE to Y&R.
Cleaning soap Opera Digest: Inform us what you keep in mind about your [OLTL] audition.
Gina Tognoni: Oh, you understand, I used to be a younger lady. I used to be in my ’20s. I had come out right here to develop into an actress. I used to be learning performing on the time and oddly, I used to be about to let it go. I had given it a protracted shot. I had been auditioning straight for a few 12 months and a half and actually wasn’t choosing up something, however studying fairly a bit, however I used to be getting a bit of annoyed and I believed, “Effectively, perhaps this isn’t for me.” … I used to be at Santa Monica Faculty and I had gotten a name from my agent on the time who mentioned, “There may be this contract position for Kelly Cramer at ABC’s ONE LIFE TO LIVE and it’s a terrific position. Why don’t you give it a shot?” And I believed, “Effectively, it’s in New York. I’m right here in L.A. I’m gonna be going to highschool.” … In truth, I used to be taking exams for anthropology or one thing like that. The audition took place that week that our exams had been starting and I ran out, did the audition, got here again and scheduled to take some checks the following few days, received a name that I used to be imagined to fly to New York and do a display screen check…. I believed, “Oh, my gosh, I’ll give it a shot.” I went again, did the display screen check, and received the job. I keep in mind it was on set at ONE LIFE TO LIVE. I believed the entire course of was so wonderful. However at the back of my thoughts I believed, “This isn’t gonna occur.” And it occurred. They mentioned, “You’re our Kelly Cramer,” and that was it. Straight away my life modified. I needed to go and ask to be excused from my lessons and I received so many credit, however I misplaced a whole lot of credit, however on the identical time — I at all times say it was like a divine order. It was just like the universe telling me, “Nope, you’re gonna go this manner proper now.” And I did. I mentioned sure, and nothing’s actually been the identical ever since, actually and really. I imply I used to be 20-something years outdated and my first contract. What a terrific alternative. My first boyfriend was Nathan Fillion [ex-Joey], on-screen. He was the primary love curiosity I had. I imply, how fortunate might I be? We turned very quick buddies. I met a few of my finest buddies there, Erin Torpey [ex-Jessica], Darlene Vogel [ex-Melanie], I nonetheless keep in contact with cameramen. Kassie DePavia [ex-Blair; Eve, DAYS], I’m nonetheless in contact with, who’s out right here now. It was such adolescence. I discovered every little thing I might consider so far as tv at ONE LIFE TO LIVE. Simply the fundamentals. I’m simply so grateful to all of them.
Digest: I used to be watching a few of your very first episodes on YouTube not too long ago. It was Kelly dressed so outrageously when she went to the Gold Star Gala. It’s so enjoyable these data exist of you reducing your tooth as an actress.
Tognoni: Precisely. That’s precisely what it was. I used to be actually, actually inexperienced. I used to be terrified most day-after-day ’trigger I simply didn’t know what to be afraid of, however I simply knew to simply maintain going ahead and the folks that I used to be working with like Robin Strasser [ex-Dorian] at all times inspired me to maintain going and I felt so at residence. After which I might use what I discovered so far as my fundamentals and every little thing was simply serving itself. I felt that I used to be in the correct place on the proper time. I stayed there for about, I wanna say, nearly seven years. It was simply such a house. It was probably the greatest methods to study. I had an unbelievable studying floor, and I received paid for it, which was further cool.
Digest: Did you ever take into consideration leaving after your first contract?
Tognoni: Yeah, I did. I imagine at the moment Nathan would possibly’ve left. I believe so. Nathan was at a time that it was good for him to depart. He needed to. It was time for me to remain. Every little thing is available in seasons, and I’ve at all times form of simply taken one step at a time and I’m glad I made that call. After which once I left and it was time to go I imagine I went again to Los Angeles. That was actually essential, too. Every little thing was precisely because it was imagined to be.
Digest: You got here again to the present after which settled at GUIDING LIGHT for a run.
Tognoni: A pleasant little experience.
Digest: What do you keep in mind about making that transition?
Tognoni: Now that one I did a bit of with a query mark. I used to be in Los Angeles. I had been out right here, they referred to as and mentioned, “There may be this position, Dinah, and it will be a recast. It will convey you again to New York. What do you assume?” And I had a giant query mark, I’m not gonna lie. I simply didn’t know if I used to be prepared. I took a bounce: “It’s not the tip of the world. Let’s see what occurs.” I got here again to New York. I used to be actually having fun with L.A. on the time, really. I used to be form of discovering my very own rhythm once more. After which this popped up. I used to be speaking to my mother fairly a bit about it and she or he mentioned, “Yeah, embrace it.” And it ended up being one of the crucial essential strikes I made. Initially, I met my husband [Joseph Chiarello] throughout that time period. I met some fairly unbelievable folks and I believe opened up differently as an actor. From that, I began form of branching out and I did some episodic. I used to be choosing up some pace and simply form of doing different issues, however I received to expertise — I did some [LAW & ORDER] SVU in New York, I did THE SOPRANOS in New York. Nonetheless at GUIDING LIGHT, the writing I discovered so good. I discovered the performing so good. This to me was an actual New York cleaning soap. It had such a realness to it. I set to work with folks like Beth Ehlers [ex-Harley], who to this present day I believe is critically probably the greatest actresses that I’ve ever labored with. She would most likely proper now be rolling her eyes. “No matter!” However really, this lady would make it such as you had been in her front room. I received to be round folks like that and study lots. So once more, it simply fed me in a approach that I wanted to be fed. I used to be in the correct place on the proper time.
Digest: You received two Daytime Emmys as Dinah. What did that imply to you on the time?
Tognoni: Large. Large. It simply meant, “Oh, you are able to do it,” and it additionally meant lots that my neighborhood would assume the identical, that I moved them on some degree, proper? So I simply thought that was so cool. So far as outward acknowledgement, it’s most likely one of many coolest issues of in terms of doing this. I had my mother with me on my first expertise of successful that and I used to be capable of thank her and my household. That is when the Emmys had been aired, you understand, televised, in order that’s essential to me that I had the chance in that point when it was very particular. Not that it’s not particular now, but it surely’s modified a lot. After which the second was simply as unbelievable. I forgot to thank my husband, in order that was a little bit of a shadow on that one for a bit of bit. I had a tricky time letting that one go, however finally I did. After I received my third one at Y&R, that’s why I got here out with him immediately. It took me like seven years. In a approach, that’s type of how I put that each one collectively in my thoughts.
Digest: GUIDING LIGHT went off the air in 2009. What was that like so that you can dwell by way of the present’s cancellation?
Tognoni: You already know, it was a humorous 12 months as a result of right here we had been, this unbelievable present was coming off the air that I believe was devastating to so many followers. To the business, issues had been actually sloping at the moment. Issues had been simply actually altering in daytime. ALL MY CHILDREN was shifting. They had been going to L.A. However that was the 12 months of my marriage as nicely, 2009. I had gotten married in Might and my husband and I had been simply starting our journey collectively, in order that was actually taking middle stage, however on the identical time, this unbelievable expertise was coming to an finish. I used to be full of reverence and gratitude, however on the identical time, I knew that instances had been altering. It was bittersweet. It was a tough 12 months and but it was stuffed with a whole lot of emotion, however primarily optimistic ’reason behind the wedding. However I gotta let you know, we misplaced one thing very, very particular after we misplaced GUIDING LIGHT and I’ll at all times say that. You possibly can watch these scenes through the day whether or not it was with Justin Deas [ex-Buzz] and he simply would do a scene and it will be like a matinee. His scenes can be like watching a matinee. And the extent of efficiency, Kim Zimmer [ex-Reva], God she was good. She was so compelling and only a actual unique. I received the prospect to get to know her and work along with her and I cherished that. I don’t know if it was the time, but it surely was simply extremely particular. It was a time everybody knew what they had been doing. They made it look really easy. And I believed the writing was actually character-driven. We knew who these characters had been. No person was performing like the opposite particular person or talking like the opposite particular person. You didn’t want enormous units, you can have a small set but it surely didn’t matter. Folks had been moved by the connection between the 2 characters and that’s what saved them coming again day-after-day as a result of they felt one thing.
Digest: What was your unique strategy to taking part in [Y&R’s] Phyllis? Did you need to look into her backstory? Create one thing of your personal?
Tognoni: So, I used to be an enormous fan of Michelle Stafford [ex-Phyllis; Nina, GH]. I believe that she was simply — oh, my goodness, if she hadn’t have accomplished the work that she did, no person would’ve recognized who Phyllis was, however she made positive that everyone knew who she was. She was superior. And her braveness is loopy. So from that, I used to be like, “Oh, man, okay, so I gotta go there.” That’s how I knew immediately there was a purpose why I used to be supposed to do that. I believe one factor Phyllis teaches me is to cease pondering and simply do it. Take your little wings and go. That’s simply who she is. In my life, I at all times want that. Michelle Stafford did that in a approach that was very uncooked. I began from there, after which I at all times keep in mind, and that is true, Robin Strasser at all times mentioned, “Put your fingerprints throughout it,” and it really works. You acknowledge what is part of it and what folks count on, however then you can begin making it your personal. I like doing that. I believe it’s a very good factor to have as an actor. You gotta take note of her core persona. I at all times must remind myself of that as a result of once you undergo so many adjustments in head writing typically these issues will be undefined, so it’s as much as the actor to proceed to remind as a lot as she or he can as to what that character is about. This has not been straightforward. This has not been a cakewalk. And the truth that folks accepted me and thought that it was a very good factor I’m very, very grateful for, ’trigger it’s not one thing I walked in and did, I had to consider it. Undoubtedly difficult.
Digest: What do you assume once you look again in your Y&R journey up to now?
Tognoni: I can’t imagine I survived it! I fly a lot. I fly again residence lots. You already know, it was crucial. I wanted to do that. It has taught me greater than I might have ever imagined. It has additionally introduced me again to why I received into this within the first place. I do love what I do. I like the artwork of expression. This place retains me trustworthy about why I do that. I’m in such a loving atmosphere. It isn’t a imply atmosphere. I’m simply so grateful. I actually am.
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Filed Below: The Younger and the Stressed, Gina Tognoni