Rolanda Watts on B&B’s Julie Shoemaker, The Rolonda Show, Deacon's Big Blue Eyes and More!“Gulp Life, Don’t Sip It!”
Rolanda Watts is poised, self assured, with just the hint of a southern drawl. Which is perfectly natural, as she hails originally from North Carolina. When we caught up with her on the set of the Bold and the Beautiful, it was only her second day of taping. A gaggle of soap journalists gathered in her dressing room in between scenes. She was lively, candid, and just plan fun to interview. Here’s what she had to say about playing the role of attorney Julie Shoemaker on B&B, her popular talk show, “Rolonda,” and much more!
“I’ve talked to so many attorneys!” she exclaimed. “Between doing my show and being a reporter, I did a lot of custody cases. I know a lot of attorneys, and I think there is the perception of what people think of attorneys. It helped put it together all the way around. As a journalist, I’ve worked with attorneys, as a person I’ve worked with attorneys, and also as an actor, I am able to pull together that sensibility from all different angles.”
It was clear that Watts felt her past experience gave her a certain edge when she went in to read for the role of Julie Shoemaker on B&B. Along with a head start on the legal lingo, her past experience gave her an understanding of the custody process.
“You just can’t go and say give me my kid back without the process,” she said emphatically. “The drama in law, the drama in family custody cases, is the doggone process! That in itself is a ‘character’ that makes us all have our conflict with each other.”
But like any actress, Watts had to audition for the part. “I heard about the role from my agent, Michael Eisenstat,” she said. “I went in and auditioned, and got a call back. I may be known by one name, but I have to go in and audition like everybody else. They don’t care. We know you can do Rolonda, but can you do this attorney?”
There were six other actresses who were called back, but Watts knew that Julie was in her somewhere. “I just felt so comfortable,” she said. At the call back the actresses were different ages, different ethnicities. “They could have gone any way,” Watts admitted. “Like most casting directors, they were just waiting for Julie to walk in!”
Her first day of taping was the day before this interview, so she was still rather new to the set of B&B. Her dressing room was a comfortable space complete with TV, phone, and her own personal laptop computer. Several reporters got to question her at once, almost like a mini press conference. She sat center stage on a comfy couch holding court and fielded questions from all sides.
I wanted to know how she got from anchor woman to talks show host to actress!
“From being a journalist in NY to the talk show was a fluke,” she admitted. “I did a favor for Roger King, Chairman of King World (a major television syndication company). He had been trying to get me to do a talk show for five years before I did it. I kept saying, I am a journalist. I don’t do talk shows.”
But King was persistent. He offered Watts work as a senior correspondent, weekend anchor and producer on Inside Edition. “I said, okay, I’ll do that,” and she took the job.
As fate would have it, however, it wasn’t long before King would need her help. “I was hooking up my microphone to do the weekend anchoring at Inside Edition and was going to finish up that show and then catch a plane to cover a murder story in Washington, D.C., and Roger came in and said ‘I need a favor.’ When Roger King asks a favor of you, you do him the favor,” she said with a laugh. “They were producing another talk show that was failing miserably, and he was afraid he would lose his plumb time slot, and I’m known for live TV. So -- he said I need you to walk in there in two weeks and do the show. And in two weeks, with no pilot -- it was like walking out on stage buck naked...
...putting on your costume going I don’t know what show we’re doing, but we’ll figure it out as we go!”
By the time King went back to the syndication convention to regroup, people wanted to buy the Rolonda Show. “I said but y’all don’t understand, this isn’t a show, and four seasons later, we did pretty well,” she laughed. “I am one of those people who is open for anything. I believe life should be gulped and not sipped. You never know what something might fall in your lap. An opportunity you might never think of for yourself may come through. I think that being open to opportunity, and believing in yourself, and that way -- opportunity comes to you.”
But how did that lead her to acting?
“Acting is something I’ve wanted to do since I was born,” she shared. “That is always something I wanted to do. But when I was a little girl there weren’t Cosby Shows, there was no Spike Lee, there was – Julia! – that one role. I was too young for that one. There just weren’t those opportunities. I majored in Theater Arts and English, because my mother was real big on – you better have a back up plan!”
Watts went on to get a Masters degree in Journalism and took the journalism route. “I fell in love with Journalism and that was such a great career,” she said. “I had so many different jobs (and assignments). And then, when the Rolonda Show was over, I said this is the first time in my life I am not locked up in a contract. I’ve done everything everybody wanted me to do in my life, (and now) I was going to take a shot at something for myself. Even if I fall flat on my face – I could at least say, I tried. So, I just upped and moved out to LA. My first gig was on Sister Sister, and yes, I played an attorney on another soap. I love the soaps. Hard work, but I love them. I’ve done a lot of different things.”
The other soap attorney Watt’s referred to is none other than Cameron Reese, a recurring role on Days of our Lives. To refine her craft, Watts studied with acting coach Aaron Spizer and took Paul Ryan’s comedy workshop. “That was great fun. You have these acting exercises, you develop characters. You feel so liberated! You should take it,” she bellowed.
Another reporter asked if the character of Julie has an opinion as to whether Deacon and Macy should get custody.
“I think Julie knows how important children are,” Watts said. “I think she has a real thing for children and for children to have their parents in their lives. I think that’s a big thing with her. That it’s best that this child has the father in their life. I also think she wants to be clear with Deacon that this is not going to be easy. That this is going to be a battle. Sometimes attorneys say that if the devil comes out of me, I hope you understand that this is for your best interest. This is not going to be sugar and spice and everything nice.”
“Julie is a real woman,” Watts continued. “She will fight for children and families to any depth it takes. Like a lioness. I think she is very protective of people who love their children and want to take care of them and want to be in their lives.”
She went on to compare the character of Julie on B&B to her former role as Cameron on DOOL. Although they are both female attorneys, they are in no way alike.
“It is interesting because this attorney is very different from Cameron Reese on Days. Cameron is a snake,” Watts said. “She takes money under the table. She will extort. She’ll take your man. She loves jewelry. Why am I taking the case? For jewelry! The more cases she won, the bigger her baubles got; the more fancy her clothes. She is just the worst of the worst of lawyers. Julie is a very smart caring compassionate woman. She cares so much about children, custody, and families. Maybe that’s why she became a lawyer. That’s what I am thinking. Maybe something happened in her life that makes custody (important to her.) Maybe we will find that out. I don’t know,” she then said with a laugh. “I’ve only been here two days! “
In seeing her portrayal as they taped the scenes that day, it was obvious that she was going for strength and compassion. It came across on screen that Julie meant business, but that she was caring and wanted what was best for Deacon and his children. Watts continued:
“When Julie first meets Deacon she says, I know that you’re anxious. She’s knows parents. She’s seen this. Like a journalist. You’ve seen the victims. You know that their child is missing. You know what that parent is going through. As a journalist, when you walk into a scene, you have to say; look I am really sorry for your loss. It’s that same kind of thing that carries through to (this storyline.)”
Another journalist wanted to know what surprised Watts about working in daytime as opposed to the talk show. What was different about it?
“I had no clue what hard work (daytime) was. You have got to have your character developed when you walk in,” Watts said. “You have to know those lines and have them mean something, not just to you – they’ve gotta mean something to all the other characters. When you come on B&B, you better have yourself together. You don’t come on the #1 show in the world and not be prepared. Plus, I have so much admiration for soap stars. It’s hard work. When you walk on a show like this, where many have Emmys, I just want to do the right thing. I just want to be good.”
Rolonda has been a fan of soaps “since Phillip washed up on shore. That’s how far back I go,” she said with a big laugh. Naturally, she was referring to Phillip Brent on All My Children, thought dead, turning up very much alive, way back in the early 70’s.
What talk show hosts does Watts admire?
“I really like Dr. Phil. I watch Dr. Phil,” she said. “I really like him because he brings integrity (to the show). He is a therapist. A lot of us sit up there and go, let’s go to the therapist, but he is one. It’s amazing what he is able to do. He has a comfort zone with women and men and he can talk to both and help people. I think he tapped a nerve in America. I think that...
...people said that all that Springer stuff is fine, but we have to get back to what matters. Our values have to mean something. I hope that Phil is setting a trend back to that. I think that television is so weird right now. And now they want to move reality to daytime.”
Would Watts consider returning to her broadcast journalism roots? “I am a working actor…but I leave everything open,” she said. “Thank God I have had the opportunities to develop a lot of different skills. It’s a whole different set of muscles. I can’t see myself reporting any more, being an anchor person, doing the news. But if there was a special, something I could do a documentary on, if I am a producer, if I found a great talent – but right now, I love the acting. It’s going to be hard to kick me off the stage.”
Would she like to see Deacon’s case go to trial?
“Absolutely! I love those feisty court room dramas. I love that stuff. In fact, we were getting it goin’ in there and the director had to cut and say, let’s get back to the compassionate side. I was like, Deacon, we need to get to court! Yeah, who doesn’t like that stuff – that’s great drama.”
It was clear that Watts was having fun playing Julie Shoemaker. “This whole show, The Bold and Beautiful, the opening alone should get an Emmy,” she said with a laugh. “(There are) beautiful boys! Deacon ain’t bad to work with. Ain’t he gorgeous! Just the sweetest blue eyes. During the break he goes, okay, is it time for the kiss? And I am like Yes!! (laughing) The show has been so successful and we all know how hard it is to keep anything on television, especially world wide, so it is just an honor to be here. I am thrilled.”
One thing is for sure. Rolonda Watts is good people, talented people and cares a great deal about her work, her credibility and her journalism roots. She attributed the longevity of the Rolonda Show (it was on for 4 years) to the following:
“Number one, we had King World who supported us. They gave us the chance to get legs. Had Roger King not stuck with our show we would not have been on the air. The first year – well it wasn’t disastrous, but it was like pulling teeth. We had a great deal of integrity. One of the tones I set on the show was look, I am a journalist. I can’t blow my credibility. But there are ways that you can do a story. We did a show called “There are too Many Babies Calling My Man Daddy.” While that got the audience to tune in, it was also a story about single parenthood; kids without fathers; deadbeat dads; and, hope being dashed in children’s eyes – daddy didn’t show up for Xmas. What does that do to a kid long term? So I think it was compelling without being sensational.”
But eventually, Watts’ high standards didn’t work any more. “Audiences would say that was really nice of you to be so respectful, but where’s Jerry (Springer)? We had to make a tough decision – either we go that route, or we find something else to do.”
“In life, you will be challenged by decisions. You will have to lean on your integrity to decide. There is no way I could back to Spellman College, and Columbia University, and my mom and daddy’s house having done the kind of schlock that was out there at the time. That’s just me. It’s my personal choice. There is not that much money in the world that will make me give up my integrity or my credibility.”
Along with appearing in guest starring roles on prime time TV, Watts also does VO work, and guest stars on kids television shows. She begins airing in the recurring role of Julie Shoemaker on B&B on July 17, 2003.
|< Prev||Next >|