Erika Slezak makes no bones about her current view of her former TV home.
And she’s earned that right, having won six Daytime Emmy Awards for outstanding lead actress as the iconic Victoria “Viki” Lord on “One Life to Live.” Along with its former ABC-mate “All My Children,” her serial will get an innovative relaunch — via the Internet and iTunes — on the Online Network with a new half-hour episode each weekday starting Monday, April 29.
“People stop me on the street, total strangers, and literally put their hands on my shoulders and say, ‘We miss you so much!’,” the energetic Slezak tells Zap2it. “I think the fans had a lot to do with (production company) Prospect Park’s willingness to try to get this back up again. They were just outraged when ABC canceled both shows on the same day.
“I have to say, they replaced them with real rubbish. ‘The Chew’ is hanging on, but how many cooking shows can you have? You have a channel called the Food Network; you can go there 24 hours a day, so do we need another show where they’re all talking over each other? And ‘The Revolution’ was so bad, they canceled it in five months.”
Slezak adds that “probably” to ABC’s “great chagrin, after canceling the other two [soaps], ‘General Hospital’ is doing incredibly well … even after the time slot was moved, which is generally a death knell.”
When “One Life to Live” ended production on its ABC tenure in late 2011, “we were all very sad,” Slezak notes, “but the wonderful thing was that we had a dynamite producer, Frank Valentini (who since has taken over running ‘General Hospital’). He said, from the minute it was announced that we were being canceled, ‘We’re not going out sad, we’re going out on top.’
“And our ratings kept getting better, and the stories were better. There was wonderful, fun stuff, like a soap within the soap where we all played different parts. He kept everybody’s morale up so well, and we all said, ‘We’re going to go through with this and go out the way we started, very excited and very happy.’ What an awesome thing.”
A theater performer before she succeeded Gillian Spencer as Viki in 1971, Slezak — the daughter of veteran actor Walter Slezak, who played the villainous Clock King on TV’s “Batman” in the 1960s — says she would have maintained a positive outlook on the supposed end of her “One Life to Live” run anyway.
“I just kept telling myself, ‘I can’t complain. I’ve had a job in the same place, pretty much, for 41 years.’ And it’s been brilliant. It’s been wonderful. I try very hard not to be sad.”