Toby Poser – The Interview (2020)

In 1995, after twelve years of absence, we were able to witness the return of Amanda Spaulding.

As often happens in Soap, the role was played by a different actress, the phenomenal Toby Poser, who gave a different imprint to the character we had seen in late 70’s.

Toby Poser is also a member of our SentieriOnLine Facebook group and we contacted her to talk about the time her Amanda was living in Springfield!

Sentieri OnLine – Tell us about you… When did you start acting?

Toby Poser – First, thanks so much for inviting me…. I appreciate your including me in the Sentieri fun!  Ok, so I truly caught the acting “bug” when I was 15. In high school.  I started in theater and eventually got an acting degree at Tulane University in New Orleans.  Then I moved to New York…. did lots of cool Off-Broadway theater and some TV and film…. then got my lucky break on Guiding Light!  I do think it was lucky,  because I was not what I’d call a typical choice for a soap.   The role of Amanda called for a model type with very long legs- not me at all!  But Betty Rae, our legendary casting director, took a chance on me.  And Michael Laibson valued theater actors. They really took a chance on me, and I’m so thankful they did.  

SOL – Have you ever watched Guiding Light before working in the soap?

TP – No, I hadn’t.  In fact, to this day I don’t even have a TV!

SOL – Do you remember your screen test for Guiding Light or your first day on the set?

TP – Oh yeah!  I love this story…. So at the time I got the audition, I was really hurting for money.  I was sleeping on a friend’s floor in his tiny NYC studio apartment.  I had $350 in my bank account.  And when I was told I would be screen tested for Amanda, I knew I needed to wow them.  So I found a very sexy but classy dress made of red silk…. and it cost $300.   I decided to be bold and bought it, thinking I’d better get the job because now I’d really be hurting for cash!    But that dress gave me confidence.  I’d never imagined being cast on a soap, and having come that far was exciting.  So I showed up for the screen test, and the wonderful hair and makeup folks were so kind and talented…. and then I met Kurt McKinney, who is such a friendly and easy going guy with a great twinkle in his eye and sweetness in his heart….. and I did the test with him. We had to kiss and everything.  It was wild.  And so much fun!!  I just decided to go for it, like jumping off a high cliff into bright blue water.  The other screen testers were beautiful women and surely very talented.   I got lucky.  Amanda was such a prize dream role.  

SOL – Have you ever met Kathleen Cullen who played Amanda in the late ‘70s?

TP – I have not.  That would be cool.  She was lovely and I know had adoring fans.  

SOL – When Amanda left town was a sweet, shy young lady, then she came back as a “manager” who ran an escort services in California and continued to be a sort of villain. Did you know about this change? What do you think about it? 

TP – I knew a little of her history, but decided this was an opportunity to make Amanda my own.  Playing a bad girl is so much fun.  But even wicked girls have hearts, and so I was very interested in making sure Amanda was motivated first and foremost by her heart.  She might make poor decisions, but those may be sparked by a great need for love or attention.   She could be mischievous, but perhaps a bit misunderstood.  I think the writers did a phenomenal job, and they really gave me a lot of freedom to explore Amanda’s humanity…. her many angles:  her vulnerability, her greed, her foolishness, her hunger, her big heart (sometimes hidden, but always beating loudly!).

SOL – When the writers changed Amanda’s origin (telling that Brandon was her father) did they try to bring back Jennifer Richards (Amanda’s mother)?

TP – I was never aware of that possibility.  

SOL – If you were given a chance to rewrite Amanda’s story, what would you have changed?

TP – I’d have given her a more compelling exit.  I think they just  needed to move on after Michael Zazlow’s tragic exit and recasting.  Amanda and Roger’s marriage was pretty much just mentioned and then they went away.  I think the characters were much more creative than that!  How would I have ended things?  Hmm… Maybe Amanda would open her own casino with lots of gambling and big guests performing..,  great musicians and -oh!  I know.  Roger Thorpe could be her big act…. as a magician!  Roger would be a natural magician.  So good with a con and quick with sleight of hand!

SOL – Do you know about some stories that the writers wanted to tell, but then scrapped?

TP – At one point there was talk of Amanda really being someone named Brittany.  Michael Laibson told me they were considering that,  it it didn’t happen.  I’m thankful- I like Amanda.  

SOL – Why did you leave the cast? Was it your choice?

TP – It was not my choice.  In fact, the day before I was let go, I discovered I was pregnant.  The producers did not know of this, but it was a surprise learning I’d be let go, and the timing was a little jarring, of course.  At the same time, I was distracted by the enormity and joy of my having a baby.  So perhaps the timing was perfecto!

SOL – Did the writers ever ask you to come back?

TP – And no, I was never approached to return.  I’d have treasured a return to the show.  But I have no bitterness at all.  It was a beautiful gift as long as it lasted.  And beyond, I’d say.  

SOL – What do you miss most of that period? You had the opportunity to work with some beloved actors such as Ron Raines, Marj Dusay and Michael Zaslow. How was to work with them? What’s your favourite memory?

TP – I miss the GL family.  The cast, crew, stylists, the doormen, the lovely woman who kept the kitchen well stocked (I think her name was Maria)…. they were ALL such loving and lovable people.  I truly miss that feeling of coming into work and knowing I’d be surrounded by such creative and kind family.  I miss sitting in the makeup or  hair chair just talking away about my love life with the fantastic stylists…. or laughing with Liz Keifer in her dressing room.  On the day I discovered I was pregnant, I only told Liz and Kim Zimmer.  I looked up to them both so much.  Had so much trust in them.  I loved listening to Kevin Mambo (Marcus Williams) play guitar.   And talking theater with producer and director Roy Steinberg.  And Ron Raines sneaking candy into my hand between scenes.  And you know, Grant Aleksander and I went to the same high school in Baltimore, Maryland!  We had the same acting teacher there.  Grant is such a wonderful guy.   The one of a kind Jerry Van Dorn and Mike O’Leary … I constantly watched Jerry to absorb just an ounce of his natural poise and talent.  Too many great people to mention, really.  So yeah, I miss the people.  I adored working with Michael Zaslow, who was such a sweetheart.  Working with him at such a vulnerable time felt very intimate and tender, and I’m so grateful for the time I had with Michael.  I learned so much from him.  I do wish the show had handled his diagnosis with more compassion and grace.  I’d have to say my favorite memories are working with Marj Dusay and Liz.  What fun that was!  Marj was such a classy but sassy woman, and acting with her always kept me on my toes.  And Liz (Blake!) is such a soulful and smart actor – LOVED our scenes together.  They wrote some really delicious stuff for us.  Again, just tremendously cool and fun and educational.  They’re all iconic and powerful actors.  I sometimes would wonder what I did to get so lucky! I still sometimes dream about going to my box in the GL office and seeing a new script sitting there.  I couldn’t wait to sit and read it. The most exciting thing ever!

SOL – And what about the other actors? Are you still in touch with your Guiding Light colleagues?

TP – I keep in touch with Liz.  When the pandemic fades, fingers crossed, I’m overdue to see her.  And on Facebook I’m in touch a bit with some others.  

SOL – What did you think when you learned about GL cancellation? Have you watched the last episode?

TP – I felt sad about the show ending after so many years.  Its broadcast history is formidable, so I was saddened that it was going to take its final bow.  I did not watch the final episode, no.  

SOL – What means to you have been part of a legendary show as Guiding Light?

TP – It feels like a gift that I will always cherish. Not only because it was alongside such fabulous people, but it was a joy playing a role as mischievous and multi-textured as Amanda.   She is not like me, Toby, at all.  And I certainly miss playing her.   (I’m simply too nice to get away with some of the stuff Amanda pulls off!  I miss her daring ways.)  But the experience was also a great way to hone my skills as an actor.  Soap actors have great work ethics- they become agile with learning lines and with making sometimes pretty far out material look natural.  When shooting scenes, you’ve got to be focused.  There’s not a lot of time to retake scenes, so you’ve got to be prepared and make sure the whole machine of making a whole episode in a short amount of time goes smoothly.  It was such a thrill to be a small part of the big puzzle that becomes a single episode.   And of course the fans are very loving and engaged.  It still feels good to have been part of something so beloved.    

SOL – What have you done after Guiding Light and which are your future projects? 

TP – Thank you for asking!   I’m a film maker.  Along with my creative partners (my husband and our two girls), we’ve made 5 feature films under our company Wonder Wheel Productions.  We’ve had great success on the festival circuits and now with our latest film THE DEEPER YOU DIG (which is a supernatural thriller with a bit of horror thrown in), we’ve been on some cool Best Of lists for genre films and celebrated in The New York Times and  Variety many other press outlets.  I do act in the films, but I also co-direct, write, produce and shoot the films.  It’s my passion.  Right now while the pandemic still has everything put on hold, my husband and younger daughter Zelda and I are traveling around the USA in a caravan while Zelda studies online.  We are shooting a new film (Hellbender) and enjoying seeing all the beauty this big country has to offer.   I’m blissfully happy at the moment, as we are in breathtaking  Oregon along the Pacific coast.  My older girl Lulu lives in Portland, Oregon. So I’m with both my girls and my wonderful handsome husband. I’m in heaven.   

SOL – Would you reprise the role of Amanda if Guiding Light were rebooted?

TP – YES YES and YES!  I’d be thrilled.  I have some silver hair now but my mane is still wild like a lion’s- and my smile is just as mischievous.  

SOL – Have you ever been to Italy?

TP – Yes!  I lived for a summer in 1986 on a small island called Palmaria, off the coast from La Spezia.   Right across from Portovenere near the Cinque Terre.  The best summer of  my life.  Again, what did I do to be so lucky??  My Italian family with whom I lived was the most loving and wonderful.  And the sea and the sun and the friends I made…. simply unforgettable.  I can speak broken Italian – I never learned to read or write the language, so my grammar isn’t so great!  I have been back a few times and can’t wait to take Zelda next time.  I love Sardegna and Sicilia.  Sienna….  Venezia.  I can speak a little Barese!  The nicest people….  I want to explore the entire country.   

SOL – Have you something to say to your Italian fans?

TP – Thank you for your kindness and enthusiasm.  Shows are nothing without the people who watch and love them.  I feel honored to be included in the Sentieri family and on your site.  Grazie e tutto il mio cuare!  (See?  My grammar isn’t so fancy!)

La prima risorsa Italiana su Sentieri nel web dal 1996

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