In this interview (which was conducted late Summer/early Fall, 2014), Bill Murphy (BM) focuses on Udana Power’s (UP) career in commercials (print and television), as well as her appearances on stage. Thank you, Udana, for your time – and for providing all of the photos.
BM: Tell me about General Hospital. What was it like getting that gig? What were your impressions of being in it? What did you like about it? What did you not like about it?
UP: I loved it because it was a steady job. And I got to be acting for a living. At that time, daytime TV was not as hip as it is now. Even so, that was about the time that some stars were springing out of daytime TV to go further in their careers, to become major careers. We were heading into a strike, and to have a semi-recurring in anything was wonderful. I got to work regularly. I would show up a couple of times a week for General Hospital. I played a character named Fran Woods…and in every script they had her breaking down sobbing. I looked at the scripts and said, “Oh my God! I have to do that every day I’m there!”
UP: [laughs] Jeez, you can’t fake that. I have to prime myself so that I really break down sobbing.
BM: Your character looked like she was constantly emotionally on edge. What was going on at the time? What was that plot about?
UP: My husband or my lover, the man I was living with had disappeared, and we figured the Mob had killed him. They found his watch and one of his shoes in the river. And I was like a really nice ’50s housewife who never asked any questions, and I’d never met any of his friends. It was kind of like an alcoholic marriage, the very strange, dysfunctional marriage where I just stayed home and raised the kids. I didn’t know where the money came from, I didn’t know anything about his friends. He was a traveling salesman and did something with restaurant supplies. So all of a sudden he didn’t show up, and then I go to Anna to start investigating it and find out where could he be. Anna says, “Oh my gosh, they found this. Do you recognize this watch?” It was a watch I’d given him for Christmas. So I break down in tears and sob, “Oh my God, he’s dead, he’s dead.” Then they find his shoe. And then somebody’s sending me money, and then they’re starting to cut down sending me money, so there’s all this trauma going on. And I have children to support.
I actually don’t remember much more of it. What I do remember is having to break down and sob almost every show, because it said in the script, “She breaks down and sobs.” So I was kind of on edge. And you can’t make that stuff up – you have to really go there. It was…I think the word could be “turgid.” [laughs]
I would come in early to prepare, learn all my lines, make sure I knew where to stand and didn’t bump into the furniture. I would record everyone else’s lines on a tape recorder while leaving room for my own lines and go over it again, and again, and again, and again, because that way I could have the cue in my ear – I could hear it, I could feel it, and bounce back with the line. It would start becoming automatic. It wasn’t just reading it on the page and then hoping I’d hit the cue when the actor threw it at me. I didn’t have someone to rehearse my lines with, so I had this little cassette tape recorder… Do you believe it? Today I’d be using my iPhone. I would just put everybody else’s lines on it, with room enough for mine, and stay in character as I practiced. That’s how I learned my lines for daily shows. So when I got on the set with these really emotional scenes, Continue reading