With Big Shoes to Fill, Landon's Meeing the Challenge Head On
It’s not always easy following in your parents footsteps, but when your dad was the late, great Michael Landon of Bonanza, Little House on the Prairie, and Highway to Heaven fame, one can say that you have a chore at task. But for Jennifer Landon, who plays Gwen Norbeck, the new kid on the block on As The World Turns, it’s all in a days’ work.
“It really is. My dad was great, but I’m my own person and out to prove myself,” Landon said. “I think dad would really be proud of me. He loved hard work, and did work hard. I think dad molded me into this business, but never pushed me into it. But I know he’d be thrilled in what I’m doing on As The World Turns.”
Soapdom needs to know, what was it like growing up in the Landon household, and what was dad really like? “Well...I was only seven years-old when dad passed away, but it was great. It’s strange! You idolize a parent, and the idolization increases. My dad was an idol,” Landon said. “Dad never showered us. He worked hard. He never just handed things out. He knew his roots. He stayed away from the Hollywood glamour and was a rock n’ roll of a human being.”
Landon confessed that the downfall to having Michael as a dad was to go to school telling the kids that she is Michael Landon’s daughter. “I always felt embarrassed because of his stardom,” she admitted.
The 21 year-old Landon started in the business at a young age appearing in an episode of Highway to Heaven. Since then, she has appeared in another of her dad’s projects, Us, and in the independent movie LA DJ in 2004, where some friends, including Tom Nichols, director of American Pie, recognized her talents and told her to pursue a career in show business.
Jennifer Landon (Gwen, at left) with Alyssa Diaz (Celia) from an episode that aired the week of 6-3-05
A native of Malibu, California., Landon moved to New York and attended NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, where she appeared in a production of Rhinoceros, and continued to pursue her dream of becoming an actor. Since landing the role on As The World Turns, however, she put college plans on hold for the moment because she wants to stay focused on what she really loves, and that’s to act.
Landon admitted that in her wildest dreams she never thought she’s be doing a soap, or did she realize the work involved. But she said that the role of Gwen is the greatest opportunity. She loves the character and the show, as well as the whole experience of the fast pace and the learning of the lines.
“It’s a blast! It’s a relief. I’m honest in life. Gwen’s honest in a physical way. I think Gwen is raw,“ Landon said. “If I were the viewer, I’d describe her as a lady of mystery, but not in an elegant way. She’s out to get something. She is what’s called a ‘real interesting character to play.’ I see her going places. But where? We’ll have to wait and see,” Landon said with a grin.
The young actress won the role on As The World Turns after auditioning only three times for various roles while living in New York. As The World Turns hired her first as a day player. Then it went to short-term role, and then a contract.
“I went in with the agreement of one day. To be honest, I thought I’d messed up my audition. Then I won the part,” Landon said. “My manager called and told me that ATWT now wants me short-term, and then it went to a contract. I was like OK. But really who would of ever thought that would happen? It was a tough decision, because to someone my age a contract can seem like an eternity, but I’m so grateful, I accepted.”
Landon said that her As The World Turns co-stars have been nothing but supportive and great. And to be in a building all day with such great folks makes the job all the more enjoyable. She also respects the hard work that the people in front of the camera and behind the scenes do each and every day. Her plans for Gwen are “To give it my all.”
Then, Landon revealed a secret. She said that she’s a little like Mary Tyler Moore. “I’m trying to make it on my own. I’m a people person, and I enjoy people, but sometimes I’m a loner,” she admitted. “But who knows, maybe someday I’ll throw my hat up in the air on Broadway like Mary.”
Growing up in Malibu, California, it took Landon a while to adjust to the New York lifestyle. “It did! Lets face it...Malibu verses New York? I think New York is the most romantic city -- in a literary sense. It’s the melting pot,” Landon said. “It’s a very addictive place to live, and I’m beginning to experience the fine things the Big Apple has to offer.”
Jennifer Landon (Gwen) with Jesse Soffer (Will) in a scene from an episode that aired 5-9-05
Describing herself as a bit curious, a little crazy, and carefree, Landon wants her fans to know that she appreciates all the support, and will not let them down. Away from the As The World Turns set, she enjoys writing, reading, dancing, but said that really misses her ten dogs that reside in California.
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