In 2011 I had the fortune to meet online via Twitter the Amazing Denise Pence. We started to email talking about Guiding Light and we realized that our conversation would have been a nice interview. I published it in Italian, and this is the first time that this interview is published in English. I have the pleasure to share it with the Fans of Denise Pence and Guiding Light. Enjoy!!
SentieriOnLine – Tell us something about the years when you played Katie Parker.
Denice Pence – I look back and kinda see what happened . . . most of which was a surprise to me and probably the powers that be that put me where I was . . . I came in under contract, but had auditioned for the role of “Jackie” — I was considered “too young,” but I was “pretty” and seeme d to be a fairly decent actress and one of the [regular GL] gals had given notice so there was an open slot in the nurses station. I was hired to . . . they didn’t know what. But I worked hard at everything I was taught as an actress and put a lot of my own heart and soul into “Katie.” She was more to me than “just a job.”
SOL – What kind of relationship was there between you and the screenwriters and directors?
DP – The writers picked up on anything and everything I brought to camera. PLUS, we had a theater director who was trying to learn camera technique and directed us like theater! He, John Pasquin, brought out my comedic timing — which was unusual for soaps at the time — and the rest is history.
SOL – Katie era diventata un personaggio centrale della soap…
DP – “Katie” clicked with the fans and I was having a ball. Then I got pregnant so as far as I was concerned I “had it all!” My future was coming up “Rosey!” They developed my own personal theme song.
SOL – What do you remember about your colleagues?
DP – I helped cast my brother, Tom Nielson, whose audition I loved — he was a fine actor and rolled with whatever improv I thr ew at him. Unfortunately, we lost touch over the years — I also have no connection to Marsha or John Shipp — I was personally closer to Lenore Kasdorf who played . . . Rita! (the writers, the Dobsons, named their new creations after 40’s film stars — I was “Katie Hepburn” and Lenore was “Rita Hayworth”)
SOL – And what about the other nurse, Leslie Ann?
DP – The actress who played Lesley Ann was a lovely little gal
SOL – But then something began to change…
DP – You, however, started watching about the time Doug Marland, the head writer for the “Nola” fantasies and the hall of mirrors and all those other major storylines that eventually won GL an Emmy. My character at that time was in the mix, but marginalized in favor of all the new creations (did you know writers get paid commission on the characters they create?) Because of my “popularity” with the fans, the “powers” dealt with me, but “Katie” got very (I thought) boring. She lost the humor and I seemed to polish a good girl halo most of the time. Not a happy camper really, but always hoping something would change again . . . I should have given notice, but by that time I had 2 children at home to raise.
SOL – Katie was involved in a love story with Andy Norris (Holly’s brother)
DP – Yeah – “Andy” was a “bad” guy and the fans were always rooting for “Katie.” I had a good time with that actor — very good actor really. We did some [ time – should be “fine”] work together I thought. All very “dramatic.” Not the same “comedy” I’d become popular with . . . and I was “the victim.” Can’t say I like being a victim in my own life or any other . . .
SOL – Katie still had an affair with Tony
DP – And Tony . . . no real charisma between us — and his “falling in love with Hillary?” Just didn’t work in my book. Very “forced” storyline . . .
SOL – In the meantime Kim Zimmer (Reva) joined the cast…
DP – As Kim Zimmer took over popularity, my character got more and more back-burnered.
SOL – I remember that Katie disappeared from the soap for some months
DP – If you remember, the “fat” storyline for “Katie” was designed to cover up her pregnancy. Lots of fans related to her gaining weight due to her frustrations with men . . .
Oh! And my first child, Jolan (now 31) was covered up with a “fat” storyline (which was a hoot to do). I loved every minute . . . then Doug came on board, my character changed & I got pregnant again thinking if they let me go, at least I’ve got my family. And that’s ultimately what happened. I came back after birthing my 2nd child to a whole new regime and 2 years later found myself unemployed. I still, however, feel a part of the GL “family.” Those were very formative years for me as a person and as an actress.
SOL – What happened then?
DP – Although “Katie,” you notice, found true love and lived happily ever after . . . I can’t say I was very thrilled for what happened to me as an actress. I was totally unprepared for being an unemployed actress with two small children to raise. My agent losing faith in me & dropping me when GL let me go really put me into a black hole. I’m still crawling out, but I gotta say . . . I’m a MUCH stronger person (and probably a better actress) for all the struggling.
SOL – Haven’t you played in other soap operas during your carrier?
DP – Came close at one point to booking on Another World, but the actress I was paired with as my “sister” gave notice, they scrapped the storyline, my [new] agent [at the time] dumped me and the rest is history.
SOL – However Guiding Light represented an important part of your life.
DP – Living through 3 sets of head writers is an accomplishment, I guess, but I lost “Katie’s” real soul when the Dobsons left. It then became a job — and that’s unfortunate. I like dealing with whatever tugs my passion strings. The Rehearsal Club gals and the “possibilities” inherent within all that get me excited. We’ll see here it all goes.
SOL – Could you tell us about Guiding Plight, the Guiding Light parody?
DP – Guiding Plight: That was written and produced by Marsha Clark (Hillary). What a hoot that was . . . and I gotta give her credit for making it happen! We came to work that day to pick up our sides and I was totally turned around thinking it was for real! It was a total exaggeration on the theme of my “fat” storyline (covering my pregnancy). And, of course, made “Hillary” (the writer) the sex pot . . .
SOL – Even if many years have passed, fans still talk about you!
DP – The surprise and fun of Facebook and Twitter is that fans are finding me & actually remember me! At one point, a fan wrote Soap Digest to see if Kim Cattral (Samantha from Sex & The City) had played my role. I LOVE that fans still remember me though . . . and who knows? Think Twitter fans could help resurrect my career? Even at this age? I ain’t dead yet! LOVE them [the fans] for helping me maintain popularity for so many years on GL.
SOL – We’re happy to keep Guiding Light memory alive, and we often wrote about what former actor and actress are doing now.
DP – In NY, many continue to do theater. Or; you may see them crop up as guest players somewhere — one of my favorite actors from GL, Tom O’Rourke, that big tall Dr. at Cedars? Ross Marler’s brother . . . he did Law & Order as a judge a lot I heard. He passed to throat cancer awhile ago. Loved him.
SOL – After leaving Guiding Light you kept yourself busy. What have you dealt with?
DP – I’m doing some directing and videography — trying to learn Final Cut Pro. To this day, I still don’t have an agent and, therefore, have been out what I feel is true competition. However, I raised a beautiful family and continue to keep creative in the arts. One of our bigger current projects is connected to The Rehearsal Club (www.rehearsalclubnyc.com) and thanks to one of my new found fans from GL, I started my own YouTube Channel! I posted the GL episode that a GL fan found for me (I can’t seem to find anything) and also posted a promo video I shot & edited for another actress from her one-woman show this summer. . I submit periodically through Actors Access for indie films that sound like a challenge — got a call back for one really cute short — very satirical, but I couldn’t make the call back! Very frustrating! That’s the other thing . . . I usually put my family first and let a lot blow by
SOL – Does your husband work with you?
DP – My husband and I direct new writers, I read for and work with new writers, I do a weekly broadcast for Gavewave Radio (for the visually-impaired) – http://www.gatewave.org. with The Rehearsal Club women (www.rehearsalclubnyc.com). We have several projects in the pipeline and if just one hits — like a new series — I’d LOVE to be on board as an Executive Producer — not just an actress. But we shall see what the Universe will devise. I go where the door of opportunity opens.
SOL – And what about your daughters?
DP – Jolan (the elder) graduated from Circle in the Square, got herself an agent and booked quite a few things (Sopranos, Law & Order; also was one of the original singers for Pokemon . . .) She’s now Marketing Director for NY Health & Racket Club. If ANYONE comes to America, find her at the Astor Place location in NYC. Brette, the younger, is my Amazon Beauty — she lives & works in CT, fully independent and proud of it.
SOL – Have you ever thought to join a web soap?
DP – Venice — I’m hearing “stuff” about it — don’t know Crystal personally and would be glad to show up if they called, but they don’t even know me . . .
SOL – Have you watched Guiding Light last episode?
DP – Yes, of course, I watched the last episode! Boring (I thought). Can’t say I watched much in between but I, too, mourned its death.
SOL – If you let your imagination run free, what is happening to Katie now?
DP – Fantasy: I saw Josh meeting Reva a year later, but by then . . .Josh connecting to Katie — and then a year later, Reva returns . . . and the triangle ensues with Rive/Josh/Katie . . . crazy, I know . . .
SOL – Have you ever thought to come to Italy?
DP – Coming to Italy, however . . .We even have friends who are living there and trying to get us to come over . . .
SOL – Thank you very much for your willingness and kindness.
DP – My personal THANK YOU (to you) for keeping the fans alive for all the soap actors airing in Italy! Soaps seem to be going the way of the dinosaur here in American . . . it may be the beginning of the end as we know it. But it was great fun while I was there — and I’m thrilled we’ll be living on in DVD (from ’79 – I started in ’77 so that early growth will not be seen). And since pictures are usually worth more than a 1,000 words, I thought I’d attach a few roadmaps to the past and one update as to what my “look” is these days (do with them what you will) . . . the collage I made has become a testament to how the stories interconnected while I was on board (& will be published – hopefully by 2013 – in the book, “Cinderellas of West 53rd Street,” which is about the women of The Rehearsal Club, my first home in NY). Collage work is still my passion although now I seem to be telling stories in video, too – life is always a new adventure.
Update 2021 – Got an agent during Covid! Take 3 Talent. Doing their best to find the perfect role again for this ole lady. New year coming! Very optimistic.
and . . . The Rehearsal Club incorporated! All our passion “putting on a show,” is now big business (after leadership everything this past decade, I’ve stepped down to refocus on my own career). TRC pretty much consumed my life – but taught me sooo very much thru it all.
Meanwhile, my daughter, Jolan, is now married to an all-time “perfect man,” gone corporate & delivered our greatest joy: our granddaughter, River Demi Angstadt. Our other daughter, Brette, also found the ❤️ of her life, married & is creating her new life.
Steve (PopPop) is more “retired” than I am these days. Perfectly content running our History Alive Theater Company: www.historyaliveny.com
A BIG Thank to Denise Pence for this wonderful Interview and the update.