Miranda Wilson joined Santa Barbara in 1989, playing the role of messed-up psychic Sandra Mills. In July 2011, Miranda took some time out to share some memories of her time working on SB.
Capridge.Com: Miranda, thanks for agreeing to do an interview. Can you tell us where you were born and raised?
Miranda Wilson: I was born in Omaha, Nebraska. The center of the United States. It's called the Mid-West. In fact, this is the part of the USA that all of the Wild West references are talking about. This is the area of the US that had the covered wagons full of pioneers crossing the plains and fighting the native indigenous people for the territory. My ancestors were amongst these pioneers. My paternal great grandparents came from a line of immigrants who set out from the Netherlands in the 1600's. Included in this line were both the Vanderbilts (cousins of some kind) and the 8th President of the United States, Martin Van Buren. My maternal great grandparents came from a line of immigrants from Germany and from the United Kingdom, also in the 1600's. The one exception to my European heritage is my father's mother who was a first generation immigrant from Lebanon.
Capridge.Com: That's an interesting bit of history. Did you always want to be an actress?
Miranda Wilson: I remember wanting to be an actress from my early youth. I remember being an unquenchable performer at my parents' cocktail parties and dinner parties as I was growing up. The earliest I remember speaking this desire to the world was age 10, in answer to the inevitable question, "What do you want to do when you grow up?" The usual response when I said I was going to be an actress, was, "Well, what are you going to do as a back up?" A question I found completely ridiculous. 'Why would I need a back up?' I thought. I always answered, "I don't need a back up, I'm going to be an actress."
Capridge.Com: Can you tell us a bit about your early career, including your role as the nasty Megan Hathaway on Days of Our Lives?
Miranda Wilson: My first professional audition came when I had been in LA nearly five months. I had set myself a schedule, I had a plan. I had decided that I would work two jobs for two months, once in the day and one at night, save up enough money to then quit my night job and get into a play. And that way, I would be discovered. So I did exactly that.
However, the run finished and I had not had one single agent, director or producer come up to me and offer to make me a star. So, I was re-evaluating. In fact, I was lamenting woefully one afternoon when a call came from the sister of one of my cast mates. She is a masseuse and her cleint was the head writer on Days of Our Lives, Sheri Anderson. Apparently, in the pre-treatment conversation, Sheri was explaining the considerable stress they were under to cast the actress to play Bo's high school girlfriend and first love. They had had many rounds of screen tests and still were unhappy with the choices. So, Diane mentioned me and my performance. Sheri said she should have me give her a call.
When Diane finished, I was completely certain that this was it. This was the "discovery" I'd been waiting for. I was on my way! I did call Sheri and I took my photo and resume in to Fran Bascom in the casting office. Fran had me do a cold reading for her and she immediately picked up the phone and called three different agents, suggesting they saw me. Two months later I was in my first episode on a national television show.
And boy was I tense! In those days, I never let it be known how I was really feeling. I was determined to cover up my nerves and sense of insecurity. It's a shame, really. I would have had a much richer experience on Days if I had been willing to let myself receive some advise and comfort and help. As it was, I felt very isolated and alone on Days. I was too worried they'd find out that "I really didn't know what I was doing." Such a classic syndrome! Nevertheless, I had fantastic co-stars in Peter Reckell, Kristian Alfonso and my show father Joseph Mascolo. And I won the Soap Opera Award in 1985 for Best Villainess on Daytime TV. A real treat!
Capridge.Com: Megan Hathaway, your character on Days, was killed off. What happened next in your career?
Miranda Wilson: A year after Megan so dramatically died on Days, John Conboy selected me to play Kate Wells on Capitol. Another wicked woman, goodie, goodie! I loved working on Capitol. I had relaxed a bit since Days and felt more confident in my own skin. Compared to who I am today, I was still quite neurotic, but I had certainly improved!
I was on Capitol for a year before the network pulled the plug on the show, to everyone's dismay. My storyline had been such fun; stealing a wealthy tycoon, played by Richard Egan, from his dynamic wife, played by Marj Dusay. Killing my sister, played by Christine Kellogg, and then being haunted by her ghost. Deceiving my sister's fiance, played by Todd Curtis. Blackmailing my lover when he jilted me with a threat to divorce his wife or I would disclose to his son, played by Nicholas Walker, that the child he thought was his was really his father's. Your basic average day in suburbia.
Once Capitol ended, Debra Farentino and I were cast in a B gothic horror film called Cellar Dweller that was shot at the Dino DeLaurentis studios outside Rome. We had a blast! She brought her husband along and I had my then-fiance with me. We spent our Sunday off strolling around Rome soaking up all of the sights, sounds and ambiance. As we were searching for a restaurant, a crowd of teenage girls formed behind us calling out, "Capitol! Capitol!" It was a real sign of affection from loyal fans. So heartwarming.
Capridge.Com: How did Santa Barbara come about for you?
Miranda Wilson: One of the producers from Capitol, Charlotte Savitz, ended up being hired to come on to Santa Barbara and inject it with her magical touch. When the character of Sandra Mills came up, Charlotte had the casting director call my agent and get me in for an audition. The funny thing is, between Capitol and Santa Barbara I had started the spiritual practice that is the center of the essence of Subud. And I had this (false) idea that spiritual mean quiet and passive and, quite frankly, not very dramatic. When I did my screen test for Santa Barbara, I was transferring my belief at the time onto the character. I had decided that a psychic was a more spiritual and evolved soul and would therefore come across as very even and peaceful. As the story goes, Charlotte had to real talk the producers into taking me on because they thought my portrayal was a bit boring!
Capridge.Com: How would you describe Sandra?
Miranda Wilson: Well, she wasn't boring! Once I was cast and I had been filled in on what they really wanted from me – my drama doll, hyper emotional usual – I completely embraced the quality in Sandra that was always on the edge. The sense of not being at all in control of one's own perception or emotions.
I saw Sandra as a hyper dramatic version of how most of us feel when we're in love. Swept away, unstable, riding a roller coaster of emotions from one extreme to the other. And, I incorporated my own tentative understanding of the connection to an energy/power that is higher than oneself. But mostly, I used my own history of trauma as a source for the instability that the character embodied.
I loved playing Sandra and I loved working with the innovative production team. Especially directors who were really able to be present with the actors and let the camera "follow us around" sometimes. We still had blocking of the scenes but there always seemed to be a finger on the button to switch cameras in the case something more interesting came up than they had planned. It was exciting work.
Capridge.Com: How else did you prepare for the role?
Miranda Wilson: One of the important factors was the fact that I had a technical advisor with whom I could brainstorm and from whom I could collect feedback. She was a psychic in Florida who worked with the police to solve cases. We spoke before my first appearance in order for her to share with me how it was for her when she received her information.
As the show progressed, one of my challenges was to maintain an interesting visual presentation for a largerly internal process. I would often ring her just to see how she felt the character was coming across and to ask if she had any new ideas about how to "look interesting." She was very encouraging even though she had little to say about the appearance of channelling. I suppose she hadn't ever actually seen herself from the outside.
Now that I've seen many different channels, I have to say, they don't necessarily look any different than anyone else who "comes up with a good idea." There's no real drama to it. Lucky I wasn't aware of that at the time.
Click here for Part Two of the interview with Miranda Wilson, in which she discusses holistic living and shares memories of A Martinez (Cruz) and her departure from SB.
Click here for a character profile of Miranda's character, Sandra Mills.