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2009 - 25 years of Santa Barbara

Signy Coleman : «I really loved the role of Celeste

 By Nicolas, exclusively for Santa Barbara : le site Francais, November 2009

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On last November 09 and 27, Signy Coleman 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 years as Celeste DiNapoli, her career since her departure from the show and her projects.

The beginnings before Santa Barbara

At first, I'd like you to tell us a little about you : How old are you today ? Where do you live ? And how old are your daughters ?

They is certain personal information I do not share with the public for obvious reasons. I will say that both my girls are healthy, beautiful and happy.

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

Celeste was a survivor, there was a great deal of my childhood that I had to "survive" as well. I had to learn to take care of myself at a very young age and as a result was very independent. Celeste had to think on her feet in order to take care of herself, although, personally, I would not have made the choices she did. Interesting that you should ask that question, my sister and I have just started working on book loosely based on myself and dodging the curve balls of life. The approach to the book is tongue and cheek, nothing too heavy, and very cathartic.

How did you start your career ?

Modeling. Started out in San Francisco, my home town, then worked in Paris, and all over Europe. I was cast in a couple of Huey Lewis and the News music videos which propelled me into television and film.

 

The time of Santa Barbara

How did you start in Santa Barbara ? Did you ever watch the show before ?

Right place at the right time. I had never seen the show before I auditioned but felt very drawn to the character. After the music videos hit MTV, everything just kind of snow balled. I was studying with Peggy Feury at the Loft Studio in Los Angeles which was like the west coast version of The Actor's Studio in New York City. I worked very hard on the audition scene and apparently won them over because I got the job.

How did Celeste was presented to you at first ? Did you try at first to invent to yourself a past for Celeste to explain her activities as a prostitute ?

Yes, I always create a life or back story for all of the characters that I play.

Was it difficult for you to play the true life of a hooker, considering that soap-operas often sweetener reality ?

No. I spent a lot of time down on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood studying the hookers. I approached a number of them and asked if they would be willing to talk to me openly about the circumstances of their lives and how they ended up where they were. Some of them were very receptive, others threatened to hurt me if I didn't leave them alone. It was a life changing experience.

It's hard to talk about Celeste not mentioning Scott Clark and of course Vincent Irizarry... Would you agree to talk a little about your first scenes together and how you turned to become a couple ?

There was a definite chemistry between Vincent and me, and that's all I'm going to say about that. The first couple of times working together was really all about fleshing out the relationship between the characters, and building the back story to bring an honest portrayal to the screen.

Three months after her arrival, Celeste turned to have two sisters who quickly became regular characters on the show. How did you appreciate to suddenly discover the rest of the DiNapoli family and what did it change for you as Celeste ?

It definitely added another dimension to the character. She carried a tremendous amount of guilt and fear that one day her father would find out that she had become a prostitute and knew the pain that would inflict upon him. Throw in two younger siblings that have always looked up to you into the mix... There's a lot of grief involved. I think there is a great deal of responsibility that comes along with being an older sibling, and with that comes (depending on the role model you have been for them) guilt, regret, pride, joy... The list goes on and on. I was really pleased when I found out that Celeste had sisters, because once again, it helped to create deeper levels of relationship, which of course give the character greater dimension.

Celeste was a great help in helping to arrest the video rapist, had a strong friendly relationship with Michael Donnelly, then get close again with Scott Clark and her sisters... What were your favorite storylines and the ones you particularly disliked ?

I enjoyed all of my storylines. The writers did an amazing job with the details of every character and creating interesting storylines. The producers were also just superb. I think most people know how my storyline with Vincent turned out... Vincent is such talented actor and so dedicated to finding the depth of the relationship between whatever character he is working on. He loves to rehearse as much as I do and so we really "clicked" in regards to our passion for our chosen profession.

What were your favorite male and female acting partners as Celeste DiNapoli ?

Vincent (Irizarry), Frank (Runyeon), Jane (Rogers) and Leigh (McCloskey).

You left the show one year after your arrival. What were the reasons of your departure ? What did you think of the end that was reserved for Celeste ?

I left the show because I was written off. The timing was horrible because Vincent and I found out we were leaving right before we were getting married. It was really very sad. I didn't care for the way Celeste was written off of the show, but you learn to have thick skin in this business and to just keep moving forward.

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

Santa Barbara was my first big break in terms of a contract role and so I was given the opportunity to really absorb great technique from some very talented actors. You tape an entire show a day, so you are completely immersed in pages of dialogue and creating a life for your character, you either "sink or swim." Getting the role of Celeste gave me the chance to really hone my skill in an environment that was very supportive. I was so frightened my first day on the set. I just kept thinking to myself, "How did I get here, these people must have made some kind of mistake ! I mean, who am I fooling, I have no idea how to act !" I sat in a dark corner and got very quiet and still and prayed that my knees would stop shaking. When my scenes were finished being taped, people came up to me and had very kind things to say, I have never forgotten that day. On a personal note, I just love working with Frank (Runyeon), who is one of the most generous actors I have ever had the privilege to work with. He was so kind and really very funny !

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

I kept in touch with a couple of my friends from the show, and did continue to watch until the show was cancelled. Years go by and you move in different directions with your life and lose track of people. Vincent and I are in touch because we share a child and actually live fairly close to one another. He has a lovely family who I care about very much.

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

I really loved the role of Celeste. Eden would have been fun as well.

 

These 20 last years after Santa Barbara and now

Can you come back on the following years of your career since your departure from Santa Barbara ?

After Santa Barbara, I went on to a series with Rick Springfield called The Human Target, which was really a wonderful experience. Rick is just one of the most down to earth people, kind and funny, who really cares about the people he works with. I went on to do a number of films Lord Protector, Relentless III, Indecent Proposal, 20 Dates, as well as a re-occurring role (Susan Modeski) on The X-Files. Guest starring roles on Chicago Hope, Jake and the Fat Man, Law and Order, too many to mention in an interview... I then went on to play another character on The Young and the Restless, Hope Adams Newman, which became very popular because Hope was blind, and yet very strong and independent. I was nominated for an Emmy six months after the character started airing and went on to win a number of awards for my portrayal. At that time, no soap had ever maintained a handicapped character for any length of time, so Hope really helped to tap into a whole new audience. The fan mail I received was so beautiful and inspiring. People with loved ones who were blind or deaf or had some handicap in their life they had to overcome, would thank me for giving hope not only to them, but to their loved ones as well. It was so powerful to feel as though I had touched so many peoples lives in a positive way. I have kept many of those letters as they are a reminder of what a powerful statement and message an actor can bring to the screen. I moved to New York in 1998 to do another soap, Guiding Light, which recently went off of the air, very sad. I continue to work in television, but have moved into a very successful voice over career. The bottom line is, I just LOVE to work, television, film, commercials, voice over, this is a girl who loves to be productive !!!

As you mentioned it, you played Hope on The Young and the Restless from 1993 and 1997, and made several appearances since then. As an actress, what differences do you find between this daytime soap-opera and Santa Barbara ?

Santa Barbara had a much smaller cast which made the work a little more intimate.

Do you have projects for this year ?

I have written a book with my sister Bethany, (who has lived in the south of France for ten years now, "Google" Sophie Simone Tours) called Love Dish. We are looking for a publisher for the book and hope the project will become something much larger. We would love to have a show based on the book with our home in Carry Le Rouet as the "starting off" production facility. Scott Hillier, who is based in Paris and an Oscar winner for his short documentary about 911 in New York City, shot footage for a small pilot regarding the subject of the book, and wants very much to be a part of this project. If you log onto my official website, The Official Signy Coleman Website, there are links for Love Dish as well as our property in France. I have a very successful voice over career in New York City, and continue to audition and work in television and film. There was some talk about bring back Hope's sister to The Young and the Restless, but nothing has happened just yet. I am happily single, writing a children's book, working and raising my children on the east coast. I dream of living in France full time but would find it difficult to work in my chosen field as my French is not very good. Someday though, someday !

What would you like to say to all the Santa Barbara fans all over the world ?

I have so much gratitude for being a part of the acting community for all of these many years. I thank each and everyone of you that has watched and supported my career with your kind letters and e-mails. It has been an honor to be a part of your lives in whatever capacity I have been. I wish you all peace and love !

 

Once again all my thanks to Signy Coleman for her time, her kindness and her positive energy.