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Wednesday, September 30, 2009


INTERVIEW WITH ALICE BARRETT-MITCHELL (FRANKIE): Part #1


AWT: Do you remember your initial audition as Frankie?

ABM: I remember the screen-test. I really didn’t know much about Frankie from the sides except that she was originally named Francesca. What I was told about the character was that she was going to be brought in to shake up Nicole (Love) and Cass, and give Nicole a run for her money.

AWT: What do you think you brought to your screen-test that made it clear you were the actress for the job?

ABM: The scene for my screen-test was a pretty generic scene where Cass and Frankie were doing that quibbling thing they do and at one point I got the idea to inject something a little silly that might bring something else to the table. So I did a silly dance and allowed for a goofy moment. Then I had to wait because it took them forever to decide! Once I was tested, I signed a contract and was on hold for three weeks until finally I got the call. I found out that in those weeks while I was waiting they were tinkering with the character and made her a Frame so she would be related to someone on canvas (Sharlene) and also made her intro storyline to the show that she comes to Bay City to avenge her uncle’s death. Initially Frankie is convinced Felicia is involved and even got her arrested, which is how Frankie and Cass come together initially, at very extreme odds.

AWT: How much did you contribute to the character's evolution and direction?

ABM: Well, first my name was changed from Francesca to Mary Frances. Then I shortened it to Frankie because I liked her having a spunky nickname which I also had when I was on another PGP soap, The Catlins, where I played a character named Jackie.

Frankie took another unexpected turn when, in the scene where Frankie and Cass have their first kiss and recognize their attraction, they were at a hotdog stand, hiding from someone they were following and the scene called for me to eat a hot dog with sauerkraut and I told the director I don’t eat meat but would make it work with a bun with sauerkraut and everyone felt that worked for Frankie so she became a vegetarian. The crystal Frankie wore around her neck was initially my crystal as it was something I wore and the producers took that and the non-meat and decided to take Frankie on a New Age bent. It was a very flexible and creative that way. When Frankie went New Age she really took off.

AWT: What is your favorite storyline from your time in Bay City?

ABM: Kathleen/Cass/Frankie was hard, but it was the most dramatic stuff. It was difficult to retrieve the comedy considering that Frankie had a miscarriage and briefly died, but it was the best written stuff! In the later years, a storyline that I liked was when Patti D'Arbanville came on as Frankie’s high school friend, Christy Carson, who came to town and set Frankie up for her husband’s murder so she could go after Cass.

AWT: Do you have a scene that you think just went perfectly, couldn't have been done any better?

ABM: The ones that are the most fun are the biggest. A lot of the early scenes in Kathleen’s return story were great to play. One sequence that comes to mind is that just after Kathleen returns and before the triangle really begins, Cass gets in Carl’s face and warns Carl to stay away from his wife - referring to Kathleen and not Frankie - which Frankie overhears. At this stage, Frankie’s still trying to play it cool and act like Kathleen’s return isn’t driving her crazy. In a later scene, Frankie comes back in from a run and Kathleen calls for Cass and Frankie, who has been trying to not let any of this get to her. In that moment she just tosses off a line to Cass as she hands him the phone( I’m sorry I wish I could remember it!) that is just such a subtle knife to the ribs that was so very, very real and was the first time we got to see her anxiety about the situation show. I thought it was just a great, perfect subtle moment.

AWT: Is there a scene or storyline you wish you could make disappear from public consciousness? Or at least get the chance to do again?

ABM: There was one storyline with a woman whose child dies and Cass represented her in a lawsuit against the hospital and it involved prosecuting John for malpractice. Eventually the woman was to come between Cass and Frankie as Cass enjoyed being this woman’s white knight to her damsel in distress. Frankie was caught between growing more and more suspicious of Cass’ relationship with this woman and having torn allegiances between Cass and John. On paper, the story seemed great, but there was something about the execution and how Frankie’s part in it was written that just didn’t work for me. I liked that this was not another Cecile-type that was threatening Frankie’s marriage, but a woman who appealed to Cass’s need to be the hero. However, the way things played out and the roles we all played in the story just didn’t ring true to me at the time.

AWT: What do you think contributed to your fantastic chemistry with Stephen Schnetzer? How did the two of you go about creating it?

ABM: The screen test laid the groundwork. We made each other laugh a lot and cracked each other up really well. I tell anyone that the reason I’ve been married to my husband for almost 27 years is because my husband makes me laugh. We’re good friends as well as lovers and partners. Stephen and I approached our work relationship as a partnership. I haven’t worked with him in 13 years, but I still call Stephen my partner. There was a lot of respect between us and we had a shared commitment to show a different type of couple in daytime.

AWT: What did you love about Cass and Frankie’s relationship?

ABM: Stephen and I took the standard soap couple and tried to go beyond that. A convention of soap is infidelity and one thing I loved about Cass and Frankie was she was one woman with one man from the time she came on the show to the time she left. She never slept with anyone else. Yes, she left Cass and she had that one moment with Joe Carlino (played by Joseph Barbara) who was originally supposed to be Frankie’s first possible affair. We played it for one episode where he grabbed Frankie’s hand and they shared a moment of connection and the reaction was ‘What in God’s name is going on?!’ so that was that and Joe was sent off to shake up Paulina and Jake because they were a couple that was always in trouble.

When Cecile returned again and gave Cass a love potion, Frankie originally was supposed to enter, see them in the throes of passion, and she assumes the worst, gets mad and leaves. But Stephen and I fought to give the relationship a higher level of respect than that. They had been through a lot and there was an earned baseline of trust. Given how long Frankie and Cass were married and that they were in a mature relationship, and that Frankie knows Cecile’s game, Frankie would give Cass the benefit of the doubt and accuse Cecile. So that’s what we ended up doing! We played the scene as a joke where Frankie finally moves in to punch Cecile and hits Cass instead. One of the things I am most proud of about Cass and Frankie’s relationship was that Stephen and I were able to forge a stable loving relationship which was pretty unusual for daytime.

AWT: Can you tell us about learning about Frankie’s death and filming it?

ABM: I think that sometime in the last years I was on the show, the writing for Frankie wasn’t there anymore. In the last few years, Frankie was serving coffee and acting as the soundboard for others to bring up to speed on their story. I knew it at the time but didn’t know how to get her back in the thick of things. You have new writers coming in over the years and they prepare for the show by watching who is playing and create story for the characters that are already working so those characters continue to get the storyline and the airtime. There became so rapid a turnover of producers and headwriters that soon there was no one who was really familiar with Frankie. Frankie’s creators were gone and the newbies didn’t know who she was and so after a while, when they’re looking at the budget to trim costs, your name comes up.

I think it was a bit of a miscalculation on the part of the show to kill her off and in such a brutal way. They wanted something dramatic and her murder ended up being the entire hour. I think that they forgot who their audience was - they’re mothers. I really fought against giving Frankie a ‘beautiful’ death. There was something about ‘Take Frankie beautiful and at peace’ originally in the script and I countered that Frankie would’ve begged for her life and fought to be with her daughter so her death wouldn’t be beautiful. I allowed myself to make a few demands because I wanted Frankie’s death to be done realistically and I told them to have make-up put a big ring bruise around my neck, which they did. The audience was going to see the ugly realities of her murder.

A few weeks later, I happened to be at the studio and observed Stephen filming a scene that was supposed to be just three weeks after Frankie’s murder, where Cass goes to a disco and Cass the Cassanova was supposed return. Felicia and Morgan (played by Grayson McCouch) were going to confront him about it and Cass was going to defend his actions saying this was his way of moving on. Stephen saw me observing and we got to talking and I just told him ‘Wow. I have to tell you, this just makes me sad. This scene doesn’t respect Cass’s growth at all.’ And Stephen listened and talked to the producers. He ended up playing the scene with a more tragic tone, with it being Cass in denial and trying to lose himself in his old ways to avoid his grief.

Come back next week for Part #2 of our interview, where Alice discusses her return to Bay City as lawyer Anne, as well as Frankie's resurrection in "Another World Today!"


6 Comments:

OpenID marcqmarc said...

I thought when they killed Frankie, it was one of the most horrible things the show could have done. J.F.P's ruined that show when she became executive producer.

September 30, 2009 at 3:51 PM  
Blogger BeLynda said...

I still just SO miss AW. I quit watching soaps altogether when it ended. From the time I was a little kid, it would be The Doctors, Days, Another World. Then The Doctors was cancelled, and for years it was still just Days and AW, and NBC cancelled AW. I quit watching Days too. I have to confess to missing Frankie's death.

When Jake "died" it tore me up. That funeral was so emotional...I just loved it...Tom Eplin, Jensen Buchanen and Judi Evans gave AMAZING performances.

September 30, 2009 at 11:30 PM  
Blogger Thomas said...

Excellent interview. I remember the desperate letter writing campaign against the killing of Frankie. I spoke with Alice a few times and we did our best to save the character (we the fans) but no one was interested in continuity at this point. Maggie DePriest used the same formula to get rid of extra cast at AW (The Sin Stalker) and the same formula was used to clean out much of the older Days cast.

October 2, 2009 at 7:49 PM  
Blogger Mscan724 said...

Frankie Frame is and always will be one of my favorite Characters on Daytime. Alice you were wonderful and I miss you and Another World very much!

October 27, 2009 at 9:11 PM  
Blogger YELLOWDOG GRANNY said...

that's what killed another world..when they killed frankie..it took the heart out of the show...I'm still pissed about it..plus I'm still pissed they took off the show..

October 27, 2009 at 11:29 PM  
Blogger Joe Pettengill said...

What was the frist episode that Christy Carson was in,and where do I find it?

December 17, 2016 at 11:51 AM  

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