Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Sharon Gabet Interview: A Journey From 'The Edge of Night' to Understanding 'Spiritual Magic'

Sharon Rose Gabet
Sharon Rose Gabet played one of the most memorable characters in the history of daytime television when she starred as Raven Alexander in ABC's The Edge of Night. Taking on the role in 1977, Ms. Gabet brought Raven to life for more than seven years, until the show's final episode aired on December 28, 1984. Viewers watched Raven's journey through a series of broken relationships, becoming a mother, and a supercouple pairing with Larkin Malloy's Sky Whitney. In addition to her mesmerizing two-time Emmy nominated portrayal of Raven on Edge, Ms. Gabet starred in NBC's Another World and ABC's One Life to Live. She's also followed a fascinating career path which includes writing two books, "From the Raven to the Dove" and "Spiritual Magic."

As we approach the 30th anniversary of the end of The Edge of Night, Serial Scoop will be featuring some of the beloved actors, characters and stories from the 28-year history of the series. We start with the life and career of Sharon Rose Gabet. Read our exclusive interview below:

SERIAL SCOOP: From 1977 to 1984, you played one of the most iconic characters of The Edge of Night's 28 year run, Raven Alexander Jamison Swift Whitney Whitney. Did I forget any of her last names?
SHARON GABET: I usually include Devereaux between the Whitneys to add to the fun. I know it was a fake marriage, but I still had a wedding, a dress and the full deal.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Ian Devereaux was played by Alan Coates from 1982-1983.

SERIAL SCOOP: When you started on Edge, had you done any TV work before? Was it difficult to adjust to the pace of a daytime soap opera and having to memorize a new script every day?
SHARON GABET: Edge was my first TV show. I arrived in NYC in 1976, did a couple plays and played Mary Magdalene in a production of "Jesus Christ Superstar." I auditioned for two other soaps during that time, don't remember which ones, but nailed the Edge audition in the fall of 1977, I believe. I was used to the theater where you had weeks to learn lines, block it out and develop the part. So soap work was difficult at first and nerve wracking. I was terrified. You got a couple of run throughs, dress rehearsal and then tape. I needed a couple of beers after the show to settle down, I was so stressed.

SERIAL SCOOP: If you had to describe the character of Raven to someone who had never watched The Edge of Night, how would you sum her up?
SHARON GABET: Raven Whitney was a combination of Scarlett O'Hara and Kate Hepburn. She was totally self centered, loved the good things in life and hated anyone who got in her way or crossed her. But deep inside she was an insecure child who wanted someone to love her for who she was. Sky Whitney did that. She started out a spoiled brat - almost evil at times, but over the seven years I played her, she developed into a more complex character who could be quite funny and endearing.

Cast of The Edge of Night.
SERIAL SCOOP: In 1983, The Edge of Night brought on a new head writer, and Henry Slesar was replaced by Lee Sheldon. What was that change like for the cast after such a long run by Mr. Slesar? Do you think they had the same take on who the character of Raven was?
SHARON GABET: For most of us, the change was extremely difficult. The show was in a bad place and cancellation was continually talked about so the producers felt desperate to change the show in the hopes ratings would increase. It wasn't really the show that was the issue though, it was our time slot. Many local stations opted to cut us for more inexpensive local programming at 4 p.m. That was the issue. The new writer and changes did not sit well with the cast members who had been there for a while. Characters were changed in an attempt to "update" the show, but The Edge of Night's mystique was that it was an old fashion, Perry Mason-like, murder mystery melodrama. The genre still exists on prime time and has always been used. Monk. Columbo. The Angela Lansbury one (Murder, She Wrote). Murder mystery is still going strong. So we had that old fashioned melodrama thing going for us which Henry did so well. Lee Sheldon tried to be hip, but lost the characters essence and I think most everyone felt the show suffered from that. The idea of Raven working as a detective is ridiculous, don't you think? The idea of her working at all is ridiculous. As an actress, I was open to shifting the way I played the role to support the show's changes, but the story lines were just stupid.

SERIAL SCOOP: You played a mother on the soap before you were a mother in real life. Now that you have three decades of experience, how would you rate Raven's parenting skills?
SHARON GABET: Hahahaha! She was such a needy child herself. Early on Raven was incapable of loving anyone or dealing with a child. I do think later, after she found love with Sky that she changed. I don't think she was ever going to be a "typical" mother, but at least she could love. She would have to hire someone to do everything else.

SERIAL SCOOP: Speaking of motherhood, you had your first child in November 1984, less than two months before the last episode of Edge aired on ABC. I believe you came back from maternity leave to tape your final scenes as Raven. Was there ever any doubt you'd be able to come back? I can't imagine Sky (Larkin Malloy) at the end without Raven.
SHARON GABET: I would probably STILL be playing Raven if the show had stayed on the air. I loved her and I loved the cast and crew. It was sad to get the news of the cancellation after such a wonderful personal experience with birthing my first child. But that's show business, isn't it? I did cut my maternity leave short - I think my daughter was only two weeks old, but I had a fabulous pregnancy, relatively simple delivery and felt great so it wasn't a big deal. In some ways it was probably easier being off the set those last few weeks before the news broke.

SERIAL SCOOP: We're quickly approaching the 30th anniversary of The Edge of Night's finale. What was the mood like on set at that time?
SHARON GABET: It was a sad and melancholy time. Many in the cast were unhappy with the story lines that came with the writer change and we went from that to cancellation. Like I said, I wasn't around the last few weeks and in many ways I'm glad. I'm sure the set was a glum place to be. There's nothing worse for an actor with a good job to hear it's over.

SERIAL SCOOP: What was your favorite Raven moment during her run on the show?
SHARON GABET: The Switzerland story line for sure. Jefferson Brown, wedding, Raven thought she was in the $$$, murder attempt, death of the fake Sky... The whole thing was just super good and Larkin and I (and Christopher Jarrett) had a blast. That was my first Emmy nomination.

Larkin Malloy and Sharon Gabet
SERIAL SCOOP: Raven and Sky have gone down in soap opera history as one of the greatest couples of all-time. What was it like working with Larkin Malloy? Have you kept in touch?
SHARON GABET: How nice of you to say that. We had something special, for sure. Best leading man I've ever had. The chemistry was effortless, we hit it off right away and laughed and laughed our way through years of story lines. My favorite scene to exemplify this was in the Whitney bedroom. I was sitting in the bed and Larkin was sitting on the side of the bed which had a very slippery satin bedspread. I was giving my line and watched as Larkin slipped right off the bed and onto the floor, still giving his line with his legs in the air. They kept the camera on me and I kept the dialogue going until he got back up on the bed and then they cut to him where he gave his line perfectly straight and we completed the scene without a cut. OMG, the laughter that happened afterwards went on for ten minutes. But we were pros. He was Cary Grant to my Kate Kepburn. Very special.

SERIAL SCOOP: We are planning a World AIDS Day (December 1) tribute to honor the beloved actors we lost to the disease. What do you remember about working with Joel Crothers (Miles Cavanaugh), Dennis Parker (Derek Mallory) and Irving Allen Lee (Calvin Stoner)?
SHARON GABET: I loved them all so much. Joel was such a beautiful spirit (and gorgeous man). We were very close. He took me with him to his favorite haunts on a "night on the town" once and it was an outrageous night, I will tell you that! He called me from his hospital bed a few days before he passed to say good-bye. His spirits were high and he joked around as usual. So sad. Of course, I worked with Dennis quite a bit and he was also one with a fabulous sense of humor who always had great stories to tell about his "unique" theatrical background. Dennis was getting ill toward the end of the show and we all knew there was something terrible going on, but no one knew how serious it was then. He was losing weight and did not feel well. We made fun of him for being cranky - no one knew what AIDS was then. But he knew we loved him. Irving, I lost touch with and only found out about his illness later. New York City's acting world was devastated by the disease. Everyone I knew lost so many friends in such a short time period. It was awful. Just awful.

SERIAL SCOOP: As an immensely talented actor with two recent Daytime Emmy nominations, I'm sure multiple shows were vying to add you to their cast. By March 1985, you had joined NBC's Another World as Brittany Peterson, Catlin Ewing's (Thomas Ian Griffith) supposedly dead wife who was now deaf. Were there any other shows in serious contention for your services at the time?
SHARON GABET: One Life to Live offered me the role of "The Countess" at that time. I would have gone on a remote shoot to Venice, Italy and worked with Bob Woods. I went with Another World because I felt loyal to Procter & Gamble, but I think I made a big mistake.

SERIAL SCOOP: What was your experience like at Another World? Did you ever have any regrets about joining the show?
SHARON GABET: I liked my work the first few months. I thought it was some of the best work I've ever done - when Brittany was deaf and describing her ordeal with sign language. Then AW became a nightmare. I had to commute to Brooklyn, my new daughter was young and I never saw her, the hours were so long. I was very unhappy. Linda Dano gave me the name of her shrink, I was so unhappy. I got pregnant again and left as soon as I could.

SERIAL SCOOP: In 1987 you went back to ABC to play Melinda Cramer on One Life to Live. I thought the writers could have made something more of this character than they did. What was your take on Melinda?
SHARON GABET: Yeah, it's too bad. There were many possibilities with Melinda. I had a lot of fun with her - the fantasies with John and the storyline in the asylum... I was disappointed. I lived only a few blocks from the studio and really enjoyed the cast and experience. It just kind of poofed out. I wasn't even told I was being let go. My character just disappeared.

SERIAL SCOOP: Over the years you have worked in a diverse cross-section of jobs and careers, including nurse, actor and certified yoga instructor, Which career has given you the most happiness?
SHARON GABET: There were rewarding things about everything I've done. I think the happiest time in my life was when my kids were toddlers. I had three kids, a newborn, three-year-old and five-year-old. I lived in a big old Colonial on the Hudson River and my kids were just adorable to watch. I had the best time being a mommy and letting go of all the fast paced New York life. I loved acting, but motherhood gave me a chance to open things within me that were deeply fulfilling as I focused on other people and not just myself. I wore sweat pants, no make up and barely had time to comb my hair. It was a relief to just be me for a while instead of performing for others.

Nursing is a very noble profession. I saw and learned a great deal and have tremendous respect for nurses. I did it for about ten years. It was grueling. I don't know how people do it for thirty years. I write now and I am really enjoying it. I always have a few creative projects going at one time.

SERIAL SCOOP: Your new book "Spiritual Magic: Conceive it. Believe it. Receive it." is available now. What was the inspiration behind this project?
SHARON GABET: I spent about twenty years, after my third child was born with autism, studying alternative medicine, philosophy, Eastern medicine, hermetic wisdom and spirituality. I was looking for my soul connection. I was looking for answers to what happened to my daughter. I was looking for peace within a hectic and wacky world. I read a million books, went to a multitude of workshops and really searched for answers. Yoga and meditation became a focus of my daily routine. After writing an autobiographical book on my journey from soaps through motherhood to spirituality, "From the Raven to the Dove," I wanted to write something that organized and synthesized the things I'd learned in twenty years. I think I will teach eventually and I wanted to write something I could use as a text book for my first classes; something that summarized the scope of what I wanted to teach. So that is where "Spiritual Magic" came from. I live the principles of this book. This is how I live. It's a book that takes the principle of The Secret - how to manifest what you want in your life - and explains the process in more detail with lots of metaphysical background information.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Buy "Spiritual Magic" at Amazon.com.  The book is filled with beautiful photography and artwork by Barbara Jeanne Gabet.

SERIAL SCOOP: If you could go back to the early days of your career, to when you first started playing Raven on The Edge of Night, and give yourself one piece of advice knowing what you know now, what would you tell young Sharon Gabet?
SHARON GABET: Get Procter & Gamble stock options in your contract and hold on to them. The stock market was at 2000 then. It's 16,000 now and P&G stayed hot.

***

Roger Newcomb is a producer and writer in New York City. He has written and produced a full-length indie film, Manhattanites, and two radio soap operas. He founded and produces annually the Indie Series Awards, which honors the best in independent entertainment on the Web. He was executive producer on the indie short May Mercy Lie and, from 2009 to 2013 he created and hosted We Love Soaps TV. He has also made acting appearances in shows such as Imaginary Bitches and Empire. Recent film appearances include the documentary Soap Life--ruminating alongside Agnes Nixon and Eileen Fulton--and James Franco's indie feature, Francophrenia.

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