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Miranda Wilson : «Sandra was such a fun character to play.»

 By Nicolas, exclusively for Santa Barbara : le site Francais, August 2013

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On August 05 2013, Miranda Wilson agreed to take on her time to answer exclusively the questions of Santa Barbara : le site Francais. The actress talks about her debuts, the Santa Barbara time as Sandra Mills, the place of extra sensory perception in her life, 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 ? Do you live in couple or have children ?

I'll be 53 years old on my birthday this year 2013, 10 September. I've been living in England now for just over 15 years and I've raised my children on my own ever since my children were very young. My ex-husband is English and French and I moved to England in order to work with a group of like minded friends in setting up a holistic primary school.

To know you better, what did you bring from yourself to the character of Sandra Mills in Santa Barbara ?

The first thing of importance was my strong belief in extra sensory perception.
And my own vulnerability, uncertainty and desire to be accepted and loved. When I watch these scenes, today, I'm struck by how I portrayed Sandra as being so fragile. And yet, I felt so much stronger in myself than I had when I played Megan on Days of our Lives. I suppose it is that stronger sense of self that allowed me to be so vulnerable with her.

How did you start your acting career ?

My first professional audition was for the role of Megan Hathaway DiMera on Days of our Lives. But my "career" started when I was a young girl and simply KNEW I was an actress. One could say it started by performing for my family at get together, at dinner parties. The first play I was in was age 11, called Shoo Fly Pudding. I just love that title ! The leading role was written for a male but at the auditions, Jan Rodak, now a sharp, insightful journalist, decided that I was the one person who auditioned who was strong enough to carry the show, so she cast me and changed the gender. After that I did community theatre, nine plays at my fabulous high school and then a Theatre Arts degree at UC Santa Barbara.
When I moved to Los Angeles, age 23, I had a plan. I worked two jobs (one day and one night) for two months, then with enough money saved, I quit the night job and audition for Terra Nova at the Morgan Wixon Theatre in Santa Monica. I was certain that all I needed was to be in a play and I'd be discovered. At the end of the run, I was still an unknown. And I had no more plan. A few weeks later, the sister of one of the cast members from the show rang me up and said that one of her clients was the head writer for Days of our Lives and was so stressed about the fact that they couldn't find an actress they liked to play Bo's notorious high school girlfriend who had broken his heart. She suggested me. And my professional career was born.


The time of Santa Barbara

How did you start in Santa Barbara ?

Santa Barbara was my third daytime series, after Days of our Lives and Capitol. By this point I had a bit of a reputation for being a great troublemaker. Plus, producer, Charlotte Savitz, had moved over to Santa Barbara when Capitol was cancelled. So when the role of Sandra came up, she suggested me.
Interestingly, I almost didn't get the role. When I did my audition I had the idea that a psychic had all the action take place inside their mind. So I played the screen test very subdued, inward, quietly haunted. And then I flew off to Australia for a spiritual conference which I'd already booked. So when the producers expressed doubts about whether or not I had enough "drama" in me to play Sandra, I wasn't around to do another screen test and Charlotte and my agent had to really push for me. I think they even had to bring in some video from my previous roles to convince them.
I obviously did get the role. And I cut my Australian adventure short to get back in time to start filming.

How did Sandra was presented to you at first ?

Well, they didn't really say much. Except that they wanted me to play her with a more dynamic energy than I had done for my screen test.

Weren't you afraid of playing a character with supernatural powers ? How did you succeed in your play to make Sandra credible for the public, with all her visions and trances ?

The question made me giggle. I consider "psychic" abilities as inherent in each one of us, rather than supernatural. I'm very clear that these natural talents are bred out of us by our fear based culture. It's my belief and my experience that we receive a great deal of information that we share when we're young that we're then told, by well meaning adults, is nonsense or only our imagination. And we're lead to believe that "our imagination" is somehow bad or less important or less trustworthy than our linear minds. And being the sponge-like beings that we are, we take this on board and start suppressing our innate guidance system. We replace it with an external guidance system that is non-specific to us, our lives, our gifts and talents. And we therefore craft our responses and live our lives as inauthentic beings.

Back to the question. I was overjoyed to have the opportunity to play such a character. And comforted by the fact that the show engaged a "technical advisor" for me to speak with. She was a psychic in Florida that assisted the police in solving crimes. Remember, this was back when (1) we had to wait til the show aired before seeing it. No digital playback. (2) No Skype or other method of seeing the person at the end of the phone line. Our first conversation was just fact finding for me. After that, I had to wait a couple weeks, until my shows started airing, before I could get any feedback from her. And soon enough my challenge was how to make it interesting to the audience that I was seeing something inside my head. Eyes open, eye jittering, eyes closed but facial muscles moving, etc. Once I ran out of new ideas, she did her best to make suggestion that would still be realistically accurate. In truth, the "images" or words that a psychic receives are pretty uninteresting to an outsider. Sort of like, watching a camera while it's registering photos. The action is all on the inside.

Was it something you were already interested in before Santa Barbara, or was it the part of Sandra which led you to get more concerned by it ?

I was already interested before Santa Barbara. I had had experiences when I was a child that piqued my interest.

Some other actors and actresses who played "villains" on the show (Sherilyn Wolter, Kristen Meadows...) often talked about the fans' violent reactions when their character was close to threaten the Eden and Cruz couple. Was it something you were confronted to ? If yes, how did you react to these reactions as an actress ?

Well, as it was my third role as the outsider stepping between favoured couples, I was used to it, to a large extent. When I was on Days of our Lives, this sort of thing really upset me. I wanted to be the one everyone cheers for rather than the one people loved cheering against. But I so loved the work that I was willing to accept that this seemed to be the roles I attracted for now and I sunk my teeth into it.
And Sandra was such a fun character to play. I really did revel in the opportunity.

What were your favourite male and female acting partners as Sandra ?

A Martinez was unequivocally my favourite male co-star. He is a consummate professional and an outstanding actor.

You left the show after five intense months. What were the reasons of your departure ? What did you think of the end that was reserved for Sandra at that time ? Would you have liked a "real" goodbye scene for her ?

Well, yes, no, and at the time it wasn't important.
I had met my future husband when I was in Australia. And I had mentioned to Charlotte (
Savitz), when the Adriana storyline came to a close, that I was really feeling like it was time for me to get married and have kids. In my mind, that meant leaving my work temporarily while the kids were young so I could focus on being with them myself rather than having them raised by a nanny. As it turned out, NBC changed the Head of Daytime executive and the new boss didn't believe in psychics and didn't want to keep the character on the show after all. I do think the way it was handled was pretty weak for the fans. But at the time I was fine with it because I had my focus on my heart.

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

Everyone on the show was truly wonderful at what they did. Professionally they were the tops. Jerry Adler, our stage manager, was a great friend. Richard Bloore, costume design, was a darling. It's impossible to name everyone but it was definitely a family feeling on the set.

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

I moved to France ! So, not much contact - again this was before computers, email, Facebook. Jerry Adler and I kept in touch for a few years. But no one else, really. About six years ago I was in Santa Monica and got into an elevator in a parking garage and turned around to see that the other two people in the elevator were A and his wife ! It was such a surprise.

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

Well, Sandra was such a prize role. I can't really imagine playing any of the other Santa Barbara characters.


These 24 last years after Santa Barbara and now

Can you come back on the following years of your career after your departure from Santa Barbara ? I read you went to Cannes Film Festival in 2005. Can you tell us more about this amazing experience it must be ?

For the 14 years following Santa Barbara, with one exception, I focused on being a mother. The one exception was a film made by a good friend, Ra'uf Glasgow, called Salmon Run. Sadly it never managed to get distribution.
The low budget film I did in 2004 did make it to the Cannes Film Festival. And for me, the very best thing about being in that film was the fact that I was able to go to Cannes, as an actress in a film that was competing in the festival. I love France and it was such an amazing high to be interviewed and photographed and dressed by the fashion icons so that I could walk down the red carpet.
The film itself was a bit of a letdown for me. I was very interested to make sure that the violent ending was done in a way that was somehow artistic and yet still disturbing. He had agreed with me and shared his vision but in the end went completely against what he had said he was going to do. That made the end not just painful to watch but unartistic. Or let's say, not what I considered artistic. About a third of the audience walked out during this part of the film. And to me that completely nullifies the purpose of the film. If you want people to wake up to a message, which is what the direct said he wanted, then you have to at least keep their attention and willingness to participate in the new awareness.
The other disappointment for me was that they allowed the low budget schedule to override artistic needs. The one substantial scene of dialogue that I had, was shot at the end of a long day, 18 hrs. at that point, and we had been waiting around in wardrobe and make up doing nothing all day. The director knew the crew needed a break so he shot the first take and called it a wrap. I was horrified. I felt we were just warming up and the scene came across as just bad acting.

I read on your official website that you once lived in south of France. What led you there ? What is your point of view on the French and our way of life ?

My ex-husband is half French, half English. I've always loved all things French and when we married and friends would ask our plans, I'd say blithely, one day we'll live in the south of France, walking barefoot in the countryside picking herbs and having babies. After hearing this for several months, my husband said, well if that's what will make you happy, lets just do it then. So we did. His parents had a holiday home that they've since retired to, near Avignon at the foot of the Mont Ventoux. We started there then ended up in Forcalquier. Because I had a home birth, my oldest son was the only child to be born in the town since the hospital closed 50 years ago, or something.

Do you have upcoming projects for this year ?

Next month my oldest, Samuel, is expecting their first child so my project is to be with them and assist with the birth and all things that a new baby and family need.
Other than that, I'm finally making a focussed drive to return to acting, here in London. And open to acting in France if that would ever be invited.

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

Thank you ! Bless you ! Love you !

You can follow Miranda Wilson on Twitter : @MirandaCAWilson
And you can also follow the NBC Days of our Lives Twitter feeds with an objective to helping the old Days of our Lives fans to persuade NBC to bring back her character, Megan Hathaway Dimera :
@DaysofourLives, @WeLoveNBCdays, @nbcdays


Miranda Wilson's personal photo album
Pass your mouse over the photos to read their caption

Miranda's daughter-in-law, Lai-Si Fernandez, is a Cuban-American singer with a conscious fusion sound. She was in France a few years ago performing and recording with a rapper named Shabaaz : http://www.laisimusicinc.com - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q2DFEb6lwIA

Once again all my thanks to Miranda Wilson for her kindness and the interesting sharing of her deep beliefs.