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MORE THAN ‘ONE LIFE’ FOR ERIKA SLEZAK

“Their bond will go on forever,” says Erika Slezak of the convoluted relationship between Victoria Lord Carpenter, the character she plays on “One Life to Live,” and Dorian Lord Vickers, played by Robin Strasser. “It is the strongest relationship on the show. What connects these two has been there from the beginning, and no matter how many writers we’ve had, they have always been intertwined.”

Currently the two are embroiled in a story line that deals with the aftermath of the incestuous relationship of Slezak’s character (Viki) with her long-deceased father, Victor Lord, who was married to--and may have been murdered by--Dorian.

The two characters are allies forced by circumstances to keep each other’s secrets. Slezak says, “Even if they are enemies again, their bond will never be broken.

“Robin Strasser is my dear friend, and not only do I love working with her, but I love watching her work. I even love reading her scenes. It was she who felt the show should deal with the roots of my character’s long-standing multiple-personality disorder.”

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Slezak says the credit for the exploration of this story, combined with that of who killed Victor Lord, goes to Michael Malone, one of the show’s headwriters and an author.

“You should read his books,” she says. “They are so complicated and full of incredibly rich characters--real page turners. You don’t want the books to end.

“This way, he can make his stories go on forever,” she continues. “Linda Gottlieb, our former executive producer, brought him on board, but she made no secret that she was interested in creating short-term story arcs. But soap opera is all about middles--not endings. Michael is brilliant at keeping it all going. And it is going to get more complicated--twisted tighter and tighter, bringing even more characters into the mix.”

The show has been diligent about medical accuracy in dealing with multiple-personality disorder. Most shows have dealt with it as having a “split” personality--"One Life to Live” itself began the Viki/Niki story more than a decade ago.

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Slezak notes, “We have a medical consultant on the show, and there are almost always many alternative personalities. Each one is created to deal with a specific thing. It is really an extraordinarily logical illness. I’m thrilled by the faith they have in me--of my being able to play six different characters at one time. It is the most challenging story I’ve had in these 24 years on the show.”

“Playing Viki is second nature to me,” says the actress, “and I’ve always loved playing Niki. But the first time I played Jean, I blew two dress rehearsals. I forgot every prop and move I had. I was too wrapped up in how to deliver the lines. Once I got a ‘handle’ on her, everything was fine.”

Although Slezak notes that in real life integrating personalities is almost impossible as the damage is so great, for the show’s sake Viki must return whole.

“I just don’t want it to happen too fast or unnaturally,” says Slezak. “When Viki had a stroke on the show one summer the character left town for a few days before Christmas. When she returned her cane was gone along with any lingering symptoms. The show just said that was not necessary--she was cured, although it can take years to recover full faculties. I don’t want that to happen again, and I don’t think it will in this case.”

“One Life to Live” airs weekdays at 1 p.m. on ABC.


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