Afternoon TV 1985
As I sat waiting in the Ryan’s Hope lobby, watching TV with David Sederholdm (Bill Hyde), this fresh faced, vivacious woman entered the room and said “Hi, I’m Marg Helgenberger.” I was surprised that this was not only an attractive redhead, but a TALL attractive redhead, much taller than she appears on screen. Since it was during lunch break, we went to Marg’s dressing room to chat. On the way there was a piercing infant’s cry filling the corridor. “Oh, that’s just Molly-Siobhan’s baby-she’s on the set today.”
Somehow I had a bit of difficulty imagining the wild and carefree Siobhan Ryan tending to a crying baby. “There have been a lot of changes in Siobhan since I came here,” Marg explained. “I have all these scenes with the baby-playing with her, talking with her. They’ve totally wimpified Siobhan. The only thing that makes her somewhat strong is that she’s going to remain unmarried because she’s in love with Joe and willing to raise his child alone rather than hurting Bill. . . etc.”
After Roscoe Born departed as Joe Novak, they recast the part briefly and then wrote the character out after an accident. Naturally, the body was never really identified. Will he ever return? Marg doesn’t think so. ‘The same old problems would (rise, Maeve takes Joe’s side, Johnny hates Joe so he and Maeve and he and Siobhan are at each other.
The same old stuff they tried to recast Joe-or ather Roscoe-again, but they changed their minds, which was a wise decision. It’s so hard when somebody makes such an impression as a character. Recasting was futile.”
Marg really doesn’t know what’s happening with Siobhan. She does know that she’ll be there, since, after 2 and a half years on RH, Marg just signed another year-long contract. “I’ve really had a change of heart recently. I didn’t want to do this (acting). I wanted to finish out my contract, go to school and find another job-move out of New York. But I’ve had such good exposure on RH and I realized it was foolish not to pursue other areas of the business, so I decided to stay and signed another contract. You know, I was involved in daytime TV before I knew it?” And that’s no lie.
Marg has one of those all-time great discovery stories. “I’m originally from North Bend, Nebraska on the Platte River-a population of 1200. I went to Kearney State in Nebraska and then to Northwestern in Chicago. I was doing a play and an ABC casting director-Susan Scudder-was there as part of the Talent Search Program. She called me in and asked me what I wanted to do with my life. I said I wanted to stay in Chicago and she said ‘OK, well I’ll keep you in mind.’ I said ‘Sure, sure.’ I never even followed it up with a thank you note. I was just a complete klutz about it. Well, she found out when I graduated and sent me an airline ticket and flew me out here from Chicago for a screen test. I was shocked-I had long since forgotten about the whole incident.”
Marg was tested, hired and two weeks later moved to New York. My parents were thrilled about the part, although it’s not carried in Nebraska. We have no affiliates there, so they can’t watch me.
Her family has been extremely supportive of her career, and she’s the only one who is in “the business.” “Well, my sister is a jazz musician in Minneapolis so she’s also a performer, but that’s It.” ‘
Marg herself now has a firm commitment to her career. She’s finally exploring those other areas of performing, especially the stage. “I’m working with a children’s theatre group called TADA! (Theatre and Dance Alliance). We’re doing an adaptation of the book How to Eat Like A Child. I’ve done musical comedy and summer stock and children’s threatre. I let all that slide when I started RH, so when a friend of mine told me that her roommate, Nina Trevens, was producing this play, I just got involved. There’s one adult in the show and, at first, they wanted me to do the part. I decided that I’d rather not perform. Now we’re looking for some backers to mount the show. We did a benefit performance and raised some money, and hopefully we can do the show in the late spring.”
Doing work with TADA! has helped Marg to expand her work beyond RH, now that Siobhan isn’t in the central storyline. “The actors are all getting younger and there’s the accent on a youthful storyline. Sometimes they treat me like an old lady. I’m only twenty-five but they write Siobhan much older-in her thirties. There’s this new change in the look of the show-even to the new Ryan’s Bar.”
Part of the reworking of RH could be due to the demise of Edge of Night in December, the change of air time of the show, and the uncertain future of RH itself. “I know they changed the time to help Loving. As a lead-in to All My Children, which is very popular, it would be catching some of the AMC early tuners who turn on the set early to be ready for Pine Valley. They start to watch the previous show, and, before they know it, they’re into that show. That’s how Ryan’s got so popular, and hopefully the same thing will happen with LV.”
But what about RH? “No one really knows,” Marg said with a really heavy sigh. “With this EON thing (the cancellation) there’s a rumor that we’re going to an hour, or moving into their time slot .who knows? It would fit in at 4 o’clock because it would follow GH so well. Most of our writing staff is from GH. Actually, outside of the Ryan family, this show looks like GH-all the young kids.”
There are also the rumors that RH is going the way of EON, since they share similar problems. Both shows are not shown in all areas of the country. Unlike AMC, OLTL and GH which are shown nationally, EON and RH are not aired in many parts of the country, such as where Marg’s family lives in Nebraska, and also in Florida and many Midwestern areas. Since there is no national following, EON was low in the ratings and RH may face that same difficulty.
But the spirit on the set is not one of fear of cancellation. “We’re a really close group and that’s what’s important. I have a good time, I enjoy the people I’m working with and that’s great”
What Marg really wants RH to do is to give Siobhan back some of the spunk and energy she seems to have lost lately. “I liked Siobhan better before. The things with the baby are fun, but she’s really lost her spunk. All my fan mail says the same thing ‘What happened to her?’ It would be real nice to have her get more into her work again. Then a smile came over Marg’s face and she giggled as she said, “I’d really like her to put the kid in a backpack and take off on an adventure. Now that’s something the old Siobhan would have done.”
Although she’s not happy with the way things are going for Siobhan now, she does have the attitude that the RH writers will give her more to do in the future. “She was getting involved with the kids at Greenberg’s Deli and that’s a possible way to get her back into the intrigue where she belongs.”
As far as Marg is concerned, she’s going to stay with the show and still pursue work in the theatre and maybe even film, as her time permits. She did complete one independent (and, as yet, unreleased) film Blackmail Plus, shot in Vermont. The film also happened to be written, directed and produced by the fellow Marg lives with. She’s real secretive about his name, but she will say that they met in grad school, he’s a film maker and writer, and has done some work as a scriptwriter for Search for Tomorrow. Other than that, she’s mum. “It’s better that way,” she added with that little Siobhan Ryan twinkle in her eye that Marg does so well.
It seems that Marg Helgenberger’s campaign to have the old spunk and sense of adventure and daring return to siobhan with pay off. There’s no way that the writers of RH will allow her to be a housebound mommy much longer. And then-Riverside watch out-it’s Siobhan and the kid to the rescue!
contributor ~ Sabrina Hernandez
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