Catching up with Judith McConnell

 By Suzy Byrne, Soap Opera Weekly, 2002

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What do you remember about your character ?

Everything. I remember always trying to take what they wrote and make her more interesting, feistier. I wanted to give Sophia more depth and color. I was frustrated because she was so namby-pamby and nice. I remember talking to one of the writers one time and I said "she's so nice. Everything she says sounds like it can be stitched on a pillow." And he said, "I think of her as very nice. She has great wisdom." And he really helped. I remember thinking : maybe she isn't namby-pamby after all.

Do you have any funny on-set stories ?

Todd (McKee, ex-Ted) and I used to laugh together all the time. We would always make each other laugh, like two little kids, but he was a kid. We used to giggle so hard that tears would stream down our cheeks in the middle of scenes. We were so silly. It was so much fun.

What made Santa Barbara unique ?

One reason is that we worked our asses off. Most shows worked with a schedule - they'd start at six a.m. and they'd be done at eight p.m. But from the beginning Santa Barbara had seven a.m., calls and we worked until two or three a.m. Even later on, after a couple of years, there was this drive for excellence. Jill Phelps had a lot to do with that. The concept that the Dobsons had - a 5-year story - was wonderful. They based a lot of story on classic material like Medea and Shakespeare, the Greek Tragedies. It was wonderful. They had thought about it for a long time. Until everyone who had their fingers in the pot said the show wasn't making enough money, we turned out some gorgeous work. We used to stand and watch each other on the monitors. A scene with A (Martinez, ex-Cruz) and Marcy (Walker, ex-Eden) would come up and I would just stand and watch it. I was riveted.

Who do you keep in touch with ?

Jed Allan (ex-C.C.) and Louise (Sorel, ex-Augusta). I haven't talked to Lane Davies (ex-Mason) for a while, but we try yo touch base every six months. I run into Todd. I saw him on night-time program and he was so good. And I keep in touch with Nancy Grahn (ex-Julia). She's wonderful. That's about it.

Do you tune in to soaps now ?

I haven't watched them that much, but sometimes I watch Nancy on General Hospital. I used to watch Louise on Days. She's a hoot.

Would you return to a soap ?

I would love to. I didn't want to when Santa Barbara first went off the air, I wasn't ready. A lot of people were talking to me, but I didn't want to. I thought: after eight I need a break. And my daughter, Gwen, was little. But I would love to go back to regularity of it now.

What have you been doing since Santa Barbara ended ?

I've been doing episodic works, theater and I'm writing a play, which is so difficult I can't stand it. I would much rather go back to a soap so I can quit working on this play. (laughs) I recently finished directing part of Gwen's class in a variety show. Actually, I choreographed, directed, staged and costumed it. We did a dance number to Men in Black. She's a great dancer.

She doesn't mind when you come to school to participate ?

She likes me to come and participate to an extent. We just had a big fight last week where she said, "Mommy, you embarrass me." I can only do certain things now. I can't dance in the car.

What do you and Gwen like to do together ?

I just picked her up from school and we went to Pizza Hut. She likes to pitch in softball, so we went out and threw a few pitches. I caught and she threw. Then it got too hot and we came home. We are going to have dinner and watch the Lakers game. That's pretty much, what we do. Normally on Friday nights we go to the movies or have sleepovers if she doesn't already have one.

Does she have any interest in acting ?

I don't think so. She loves to perform, she loves to dance. She can do anything she wants, as long as she gets her medical degree. (laughs) Just kidding. I think she'd like to try out for commercials, but I don't have the energy.