Flo Jo Hopes the Training Pays Off for Her Role on ‘Santa Barbara’


You’ve seen her run. Now see her act.

Beginning Thursday, Olympic gold medalist Florence Griffith Joyner begins a recurring role on the NBC soap “Santa Barbara,” playing an Annie Leibovitz-type celebrity photographer. Joyner, who did a TV movie in Japan in 1989 and has studied with acting coach Jeff Corey, says her experience in front of the camera has also helped prepare her for the role. “I’ve always watched photographers: the way they hold the camera, do the meter reading. And they always want one more shot.”

A Los Angeles native and UCLA graduate, “Flo Jo” dates her interest in acting to a play she did in the sixth grade. “I’ve always been shy,” she allows. “But somehow, I’ve never had stage fright. After running 23 years, with thousands of people watching, it’s never bothered me.” Now, as an actress, she admits, “I feel comfortable, but a little anxious. If I just take my time, don’t get intimidated and frightened, speak the words nice and clear, I’ll be fine.”

While she sets course for her new career, Joyner, 32, continues to train with her husband, Al, preparing herself for the Marathon at the 1996 Summer Olympics--and playing mother to 20-month-old Mary Ruth Joyner. “She’s very active, very athletic,” says proud mom. “She tries to get on the treadmill with me; she’s at that mimicking stage. And she watches the Olympics every day. She loves the gymnasts: she tries to do their flips, jumping off the couch.”


Joyner, who also has designed her own sports and fashion lines, hopes the public will accept her in this new guise. “I care what people say,” she acknowledges. “I want to give the best performance I can--and I don’t want to give ‘Santa Barbara’ a bad name.” As for her on-air attire, don’t expect any of Joyner’s trademark one-legged leotards. “No heels, no tennies,” she says. “I’m dressed very loosely: a long skirt and cowboy boots.”