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2011 - 27 years of Santa Barbara

Gina Gallego : «My memories of the show remain positive and upbeat.»

 By Nicolas, exclusively for Santa Barbara : le site Francais, August 2011

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On August 04 2011, Gina Gallego agreed to take on her time to answer exclusively the questions of Santa Barbara : le site Francais. The actress talks about her beginnings, the Santa Barbara years as the third interpreter of Santana Andrade, and at last about her career since her departure of the show.

The beginnings before Santa Barbara

At first, can you tell us a little about you : how old are you today ? Where do you live ? Are you still married to Joel Bailey ?

It is a tradition (at least in this country) that a woman never has to reveal her real age, so let's just say that I am "timeless".
Yes, I am still married to Joel, and we just happily celebrated our 28th wedding anniversary ! We live in Los Angeles, California. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, but I have enjoyed traveling and working many places. I particularly enjoy France, where I like to join my husband at the end of his business trips there. We love Paris and the Côte d'Azur, but have not had the opportunity to explore the rest of the country - yet, but hopefully we will be able to do so soon.

To know you better, what did you brought from yourself in the character of Santana Andrade in Santa Barbara ?

I believe I am someone who perseveres and looks forward to positive things happening to me. Santana always persevered, despite the difficult situations she might have endured. In this respect the character and I share the same quality.

How did you start your career ?

As a child I knew I wanted to be an actor, and acted in school plays and amateur productions. When I was 21 I looked for a job that would allow me to pursue my acting career. I was lucky enough to land a bookkeeping / office manager position with a camera store in Hollywood. They rented camera equipment to the studios. My boss was very supportive of my acting career. One day when I was walking to the bank, which was on Sunset and Vine, a man stopped me on the street and told me I should call his wife who was a theatrical agent because she was looking for someone my type. I called her the next day, and to my surprise she was a legitimate agent. I signed with the agency and the following day I booked my first commercial ! A month later I landed my first role in a feature film, The Champ, directed by Franco Zeffirelli, and starring Jon Voight.


The time of Santa Barbara

In 1984, you played for one year in the daytime soap-opera Rituals. Is it true that, if you didn't choose this soap, you were going to play Santana from the beginning of Santa Barbara ?

I auditioned for Rituals and Santa Barbara within the same month. Rituals offered me the role of Diandra without a screen test. Santa Barbara wanted me to test for the role of Santana. I had to make a decision right away, so I took the job on Rituals. I was lucky that when Rituals was cancelled a year later, I was offered an opportunity to test for Santa Barbara.

Do you know for what reason the character of Santana was recast in October 1985, at the time of your arrival ?

No. I was never given any reason as to why they decided to recast the role, but I felt fortunate they wanted me to play Santana.

How did Santana was presented to you at first ?

I remember the first day that I worked on Santa Barbara. Santana was in the middle of a very dramatic situation, but I don't remember the circumstances very clearly. The producers and director wanted to keep the emotions running high, but remain truthful to the circumstances.

Santana was never lucky in her life : she had to give up her son, she discovered that her love of life (Channing Capwell Jr.) was gay and never loved her, she married Cruz who just can't help but thinking of Eden... Did you see Santana as a kind of victim ? According to you, what were the strength that led her life ?

I didn't see Santana as a victim because I didn't want to portray her that way, even though she had to deal with many difficult situations. I think she believed that there was a brighter future for her, and kept that belief always in her mind. She was a survivor.
I think that Santana always believed that Channing loved her, even after finding out that he was bisexual. They grew up together and she wanted to believe that she knew him better than anyone. At times Santana allowed herself to be victimized, but she was lucky that she had a family that loved her and that she was strong enough to always persevere. She believed that she was a good mother and that she just needed to have the chance to prove it.
When Margaret Michaels played the role of Santana, my husband Joel Bailey played the role of Lindsay Smith. Lindsay was Channing's lover. Needless to say, Santana and Lindsay had many conflicts. I often thought it would have been a lot of fun if the producers had brought my husband back as Lindsay while I played Santana.

When you performed her, Santana was close to marry Mason, had an affair with Keith Timmons, married Cruz, get addicted to drugs because of Gina... So many great moments ! What was your favourite storyline as Santana ?

I had so much fun playing Santana. I was happy that the Dobsons, the show's creators and executive producers, and the talented writing team always came up with wild storylines for Santana. It seemed like anything was possible with her character.
I remember the drug storyline was interesting because the storyline came about so quickly that I had no time to even think about how I would play Santana on drugs. Everyday was a new adventure because her behavior was so unpredictable. I was lucky enough to have a stage manager on the set named Jerry Adler who had been a Broadway theatre director. He was very helpful in keeping my character on track.

What were your favorite male and female acting partners as Santana ?

Honestly, I enjoyed working with everyone on the show. Most of my scenes were with A Martinez, Justin Deas and Robin Mattson. It was great working with A Martinez because he had a very calm and steady way of working. Justin was interesting to work with because he was so unpredictable, and it was great working with Robin because our characters were always feuding. It was interesting to see what the writers would come up with. Also, although our characters rarely crossed paths, it was fun working with Robin Wright because she always made me laugh.

You left the show after one year and a half. What were the reasons of your departure ? What did you think of the end that was reserved for Santana at this time ? It seemed the writers wanted to pair her with Brick Wallace, who was also single at the time. Do you remember that ?

I was simply told that Santana's storyline on the show had been played out. Sometimes these things (a character's storyline ending) remain a mystery, but my memories of the show, even when leaving it, remain positive and upbeat. I thought the decision to send the character to the insane asylum was very creative, because it gave them the opportunity for the character to return to the show if they needed her to.
The romance between Brick Wallace and Santana never materialized, but I'm not sure why. Maybe the producers did not think the chemistry was right between the two characters.

You made a brief comeback in November 1989, when Santana tried to kidnap Brandon again. Can you tell how this short comeback occurred ?

The producers wanted a reprise for my storyline, a dramatic revisiting. Santana escaped the sanitarium to be with her son, but her presence was meant to be short-lived.

When Santana came back at last in 1991 (for an almost one-year run), have you been contacted by the show's new producers ?

My understanding was that the Dobsons were interested in bringing me back to play Santana but that the new producer wanted to work with Wanda (DeJesus).

What are your best remembrances from the show, on a relational and on a professional level ?

I thought the Dobsons, and the producer Jill Farren Phelps were amazing to work with. They are real pros who know what it takes to keep a demanding schedule moving forward.

Did you keep in touch with members of the cast or the crew after your departure ? Did you continue to watch the show ?

I was friendly with everyone on the show but never close. Once I was off the show I focused on what was in front of me. Also I understood that working on a soap opera is very time intensive so once I was off the show I understood that the other cast members were engrossed in their roles. I too became very busy with my career, working and auditioning for films and guest star roles. Also, I became pregnant several months after leaving the show, so I had a lot to look forward to. It was a very happy time for my husband and me. We had been married for five years and we were excited about starting our family.
Recently I worked with Robin Mattson on Days of our Lives, and we got along like old friends. It was wonderful to work with her again.

If you hadn't play Santana, what character would you have liked to play ?

I never thought about other characters in that manner, so I honestly wouldn't know how to answer this question. The actors who played those characters are etched in my mind so strongly that I can't imagine me playing any of their roles. And I also believe that the characters that I am supposed to play present themselves to me.


These 24 last years after Santa Barbara and now

After Santa Barbara, you continued your acting career in many TV shows and movies. Can you come back on the following years of your career after your departure from Santa Barbara ?

I've been fortunate to enjoy a very diverse career, playing opposite Julia Roberts as Ms. Sanchez in Erin Brockovich which became an Academy Award winning performance for Julia. I've also had the pleasure of working with Adam Sandler a couple of times, specifically in the comedies Mr. Deeds and Anger Management.
A year after our son was born my husband was producing a late night television show for ABC called Studio 59. It aired Monday through Friday evenings at 11:30 p.m. It was a talk show with musical guests and a sketch comedy ensemble. I was lucky enough to be part of the ensemble. As part of the ensemble we performed different comedy sketches every night with new characters and circumstances. I was grateful that my training as a soap actor came in handy since we had to work very quickly. After honing my comedic skills for several months, I landed a guest star role opposite Jerry Seinfeld, in the NBC network series, Seinfeld.

You also played a recurrent doctor (Dr. Gina Santana - a private joke ?!) in The Bold and the Beautiful, and last year you arrived in Days of our Lives in the part of Warden Jane Smith. What comparison can you make between all these soaps you played in? Can you tell me more about your reunion with Robin Mattson in Days of our Lives ?

One of the producers of The Bold and the Beautiful, John Zak, was a director on Rituals. John also directed my test for Santa Barbara. When I was hired on The Bold and the Beautiful as a Doctor, John suggested that the Doctor be named Dr. Santana. Dr. Santana didn't have a first name for a long time and Hunter Tylo decided her first name should be Gina.
I was so happy when I was hired on Days of our Lives. I had an amazing time playing the role of Warden Jane Smith. I wanted her to be very different from any other character I'd played on the other soaps I had worked on. Thanks to Gary Tomlin and the writers they gave me some interesting and outrageous things to do. I had never played a character that was so evil. Because she was evil I wanted to make her a little ridiculous too. I had a great time working with Peter Reckell and Kristian Alfonso who are both talented and consummate professionals, but working with Robin was great because I felt very comfortable with her. It was as if we had never stopped working together, and we just picked up where we left off, only this time our characters were both on the same side - The wrong side.
I honestly had a great time working on Rituals, Santa Barbara, The Bold and the Beautiful and Days of our Lives. Part of the enjoyment for me was that each character I played on these shows was so very different from the others.
Santana was the longest role that I played so I have a special affinity for her.

Do you have some upcoming projects for this year ? I saw a movie untitled Periphery on the IMDB. What is it about ?

I recently played the role of Lucia Torres, Callie Torres' mother on Grey's Anatomy, which is a series airing on the ABC network in the USA. Lucia is a very complex and interesting character.
In Periphery I play a maid whose life is closely intertwined with the dysfunctional family she works for. Unfortunately the young man that she helped raise gets caught up with the wrong people.

Is there something you'd like to say to all the Santa Barbara fans all over the world who didn't forget you as Santana ?

I want to thank all the fans for continuing to enjoy and support Santa Barbara through the years. It makes me so happy to see that the show and the characters continue to interest people worldwide.
In 2003 I was visiting Amsterdam with my family. As soon as I got off the plane people recognized me as Santana because the show was currently airing every morning.
I also get approached a lot in Los Angeles by fans of the show that are here from various parts of the world, and it is always interesting because you can tell where the show is either currently airing, or has recently aired. In recent years I know the show has aired in Russia, the Ukraine and India, just by the fans that recognize me on the streets. I am always happy when this happens.
And lastly, a sincere thanks to you Nicolas, for keeping the show's interest alive with your wonderful website. It gives people an opportunity to revisit their favorite characters.


Once again all my thanks to Gina Gallego for her kindness, her availability and her love for the show.