Bearded lady tells of Dominic / Sophia role

 Daytime Digest, 1985

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"It was no easy task to convince people I was a man", says actress Judith McConnell, who has previously played the feminine Augusta McLeod on General Hospital and Valerie Conway on As the World Turns.

On Santa Barbara, McConnell got the unique opportunity to portray a dual sex role as Dominic / Sophia. Sophia has been in male disguise as Dominic, the photographer, while trying to solve the mysterious of her son, Channing Capwell. Dominic has since shed her wig, beard, mustache, bodysuit and men's clothing for Sophia satiny gowns and jewels.

"It was as grueling as it was fun" said the actress as she pointed out the physical discomforts her costume involved. "It took me two hours to get into makeup, and I would spend 10 to 12 hours a days, three to four days a week, on the set as Dominic". The wig gave her migraine headaches and the beard was painful to remove. The bodysuit that gave her muscles was too warm and made her hitch.

"I had to learn to walk differently and speak in a lower, gravely voice" said McConnell, who only had a day and a half's notice to prepare to the role.  "I just couldn't be the opposite of a woman as a man", she said. "I had to learn to walk like a man (with my hips straight) and to run and stand like a guy. It took me a number of weeks to get it down".

"I also had a hard time eating," she said. "While many in the cast went over to the NBC commissary, I preferred to stay in my dressing room. I love chili and couldn't eat any because it would stick to my beard and mustache. I ate a lot of dry food, like granola bars".

The actress did admit to one physical advantage : the fact that men dressed a lot warmer than women do. "I was always dressed comfortably on the set. While the others ladies were cold, I was snug and warm with all these clothes on."

"I didn't know it was going to change my views toward men and women as much as it did", said McConnell, who discovered an interesting transformation in herself and her relationship with others. "As a man", she said, "I felt more in charge and powerful. The crew on the set seemed to respond to me in a stronger and different way. I felt like I got more respect sometimes and my opinions were more easily accepted. However, I wouldn't trade being a woman for a man. I enjoy being feminine and being able to cry and, if I want, to be overly emotional".

The sex change did gave other drawbacks though. "I couldn't flirt with any good-looking guys on the set. What would they think ?".


Read also : The Dominic mystery