Changing Shoes–Talking to Tina Sloan

As I mentioned earlier this week, I was incredibly excited to get to read Changing Shoes, the new memoir by Tina Sloan–so imagine how thrilled I was to get to do a blog interview! 

Tina was on Guiding Light for 26 years as Lillian Raines Cooper.  Her part on the show waxed and waned, but ended on a high note when she married Buzz Cooper (Justin Deas) just before the show went off the air in 2009.

“Justin would come up with the most ridiculous things,” she said.  When they left the woods, they were confronted by all their costars laughing.  “You can see me starting to laugh, so he pulled me into a kiss.”

“[Show head writer] Jill Lorie Hurst is a very good friend, so that helped with getting the relationship with Buzz started.” 

Hurst worked her way up through the ranks of the show and told Sloan, “The people that were nice to me then, I never forgot.”

“So I could say, `What about Buzz and me?'” Sloan said.

When she originally started playing Lillian, she (Lillian) was married to Bradley Raines, who was abusive to her and to her daughter, Beth.  After learning that he raped Beth, the plan was to have Lillian shoot him, but Tina lobbied hard to get that changed because the show had gotten lots of mail from younger viewers in similar situations.

“Bradley was so important–we knew [if Lillian shot and killed him and went to jail] these girls would never tell.”

The story ended up being rewritten with Bradley being confronted, arrested and sent to prison.

“It was so important that these young girls would get some help that they were willing to change,” she said.

But soap actors don’t always get input into their storylines.

Years later, Beth was presumed dead (for the second time) and came back as Lorelai–a different person, presumably, but played by the same actress and so therefore a dead ringer for Beth…except that neither Lillian nor Philip Spaulding recognized her. 

“You bite your cheek and decide to play it as best you can.  It’s ridiculous,” she said.  “You know your child’s face.”

Despite the occasional storyline blip and the time she spent as background (she says there was plenty of time where it seemed like every line she had was some variation of “Where’s Beth?”), she remembers her time on the show fondly.

“I loved being on the show,” she says.

And she’s still close with many of the cast, especially Beth Chamberlin (who played her daughter, Beth), Grant Aleksander (Philip), Liz Keifer (Blake), Maeve Kinkeid (Vanessa) and Ron Raines (Alan Spaulding). 

“Because we worked together so many years, you don’t let go of that,” she said.

She’s currently doing episodes of Venice (Crystal Chappell’s web-based soap opera) and also episodes of Empire with Orlagh Cassidy (Doris).

“It’s so much fun to play different characters,” she said.

When not acting, she can usually be found with a book.  “I read constantly,” she said. 

Suggestions include Bridget Jones’s Diary, Brazzaville Beach, The Lost City of Z, Union Atlantic, Too Much Happiness and Noah’s Compass

Not surprisingly, then, she started writing Changing Shoes first, but soon decided to turn it into a play, as well.

“I’m an actress; I should be acting this,” she realized. 

But doing a play–with a live audience–is a lot different than acting on a TV show.

“You get nervous but you do it.  I did the play in Atlanta and I looked at my assistant and asked why I was doing it, and she said, `You’re going to help people.’  I want this to resonate.  We all have successes and failures.”

In the book, “I try to come off as self-deprecating.  I wanted to show it as a normal life.  I was hoping it was relatable and I hope people think, `Oh, maybe I can do it, too.’  Not necessarily climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, but take a risk–leave the job you don’t like, marry the guy, whatever.”

She tends to do that sort of thing, she says, and through the course of the conversation, she kept repeating “Just do it.”  As an example, she said, “I’m not smart enough to know when things aren’t possible, in a way.”

In other words, if you stop to think about all the reasons something’s hard or unlikely, you’ll never actually do it–you’ll just be paralyzed by fear.

For example, she continues, if you’re a would-be author, “Just write.  If you want to act, go to classes and audition.  You can sit and talk about it or you can do it.  If you talk, nothing happens.  Don’t worry about what others think.  People can get paralyzed by worrying about what ifs.”

Thanks to Beth Parker from Gotham Books for setting this up and, of course, to Tina Sloan for being gracious enough to do a phone interview. :)  The book is out today and is available online and at bookstores everywhere.


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