The Soaps: Tune In Tomorrow

Slezak Looks Back on Long Career

Ask Erika Slezak (Viki Lord) how she spent the year and change that "One Life to Live" was off the air, and she can sum it up in two words.

"I slept," says the actress. "I slept for about a year and took care of a lot of stuff at home that needed doing. And I kept hoping and praying that the show would come back, and it did."

Slezak got her wish when the soap, which was canceled by ABC in 2011, returned in April of this year. Considering the long break, she was surprised by one thing: "How easy it would be," to pick it up again, notes Slezak.

"I went back to work and my husband said, 'Gee. I hope you remember how to do this.' I thought, 'I hope I do remember how to do this.' But at the end of the first day it was like we were never away; like it had been a long weekend, which was fabulous."

Slezak, after all, did have decades of experience on her side. She's portrayed Viki since 1971, not that she ever envisioned having such a long soap career.

"I don't think it ever enters your head," insists Slezak. "Every time that the contract negotiations come around you think, 'Oh my God! This is it. I'll never work again.' Then they say, 'Here's five more dollars. Do you want to stay?' The years go by and you think, 'This has just been amazing.' How many actors can say they've had a job for 41 years straight in one show?"

Embarking on year 42 has been equally amazing.

"This is a very different world we live in. Everything is faster," notes Slezak. "People are not content to sit and just watch slowly. Things have to happen. Things have to move.

"I think that 'One Life to Live' has always kept up with the times," continues Slezak. "Even in the beginning stories moved a little more slowly, but they were interesting. They were topical. (Show creator) Agnes Nixon was always very aware of what should be on the air. The show was fascinating in the early days and is still."

As far as summarizing the soap's legacy over its 45-year tenure, Slezak keeps it simple.

"It's entertainment," she says. "I think that all the head writers put together have been very, very careful to present real people in real situations dealing with them in a real way. We've never been a cartoon. We've never been a joke. Yes, we've had flights of fancy. You know, you go to heaven in your dreams and you go to Eterna for whatever, and crazy things happen. But crazy things happen in life and I think that's the thing. We've always tried to be real, and I think people appreciate that."

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