"When I first came to New York, I wondered if I could be an actress because I'm just too happy," says Anna Holbrook, now acclaimed for her portrayal of Sharlene Hudson, a victim of sexual abuse and multiple personality disorder on "Another World."
Holbrook, who is married to her high school sweetheart, Bruce Holbrook, and has a child, a home in Connecticut, a dog and a cat, is always described as having an idyllic life. Now she will be adding the birth of her second child to that life.
"The most important thing I ever did was to bring my daughter Johanna into this world on Oct. 16, 1990," says the actress. "We had been married for 11 years, but her birth changed my world and my perspective on everything around me. My life is pretty rosy. But I want people to realize I'm just as human as anyone else and make more mistakes than most, too."
"We have dear friends who got divorced," says Holbrook. "Not only were we shocked, but even though Bruce and I thought we were communicating, their failure showed us there is always more we can do. I hate confrontation, but this has shown us it is healthy to say what is on your mind before it gets blown out of proportion."
Holbrook left "Another World" after the birth of Johanna. For her second child, the actress would like to stay as long as she can.
"The last time," she notes, "they were able to write my pregnancy into the show. But because of Sharlene's hang-ups, she and John (David Forsyth) have not done the deed. I guess I'll be shown behind a lot of planters and grocery bags."
After Johanna's birth Holbrook reveled in the joys of motherhood, and as she calls it, "retuned her instrument."
"Before I left the show, I told Alice Barrett (who plays Frankie Winthrop) that I didn't know if I could draw up one more honest emotion," says the actress.
During her time off Holbrook covered the spectrum. She appeared in several plays, an episode of "Law & Order" (she did another episode this season), and had a small part in the movie "I Love Trouble." She even returned to acting classes.
Holbrook also returned briefly to soaps to play Lindsay Butler on "One Life to Live" (1993), a few months before she rejoined "Another World."
"I came back revitalized, she says. It was such fun working my instrument in different ways. An actor who is stagnant is no good to anyone.
"Yet, even now," she says candidly, "there are times I leave the set knowing I have not nailed it and didn't do my character justice. And there is never enough time.
"It's the days I fail that even when I'm at home thinking I'm being 'Miss Perky,' Bruce will turn to me and ask, 'So, are you going to brood all night?' "
At times, Holbrook can be her own worst critic.
"I'm the worst person for beating up on myself," says the actress. "Luckily, I do have days I leave elated. I know I 'got it.' Maybe it was just a small moment or maybe it was one of those gut-wrenching scenes so unsettling that I didn't even want to approach the material. Those days I can leave Sharlene at the studio."
"Another World" airs weekdays at 1 p.m. on NBC.