Soap Opera News- 12/15/98

Sarah Brown: My Babies, Reel & Real
by Rosemary Rossi

Sarah Brown was in a tricky spot. Her job required her to go to work every day and pretend she had no maternal instincts whatsoever. But in truth, as she carried her first real-life baby, her hormones were singing quiet a different tune. In fact, they were churning out lullabies. It was hard for her to face the story of Carly, who finds it so easy to leave a newborn child behind so she could escape and come to terms with the idea of parenthood. Recalling the GH plot where Carly had an affair with Tony Jones, Brown thought, "I can cheat on my mother with her husband, but I won't abandon my baby!"

For an actress, the hardest thing is when you come into a part that you cannot identify with. When you pass judgment on your character, you're doomed. If the actor doesn't believe, how can the audience? "If you play a villain and say, 'I'd never do that because that's evil,' the point is, it's not you, it's a character. And the character would do that," Brown explains. "You have to find a way to accept that and not say, 'I can't.' you have to abandon yourself to what you're doing."

The first thing Brown read after Carly had the baby was that she goes away. With her own child on the way, Brown felt a strange conflict brewing between her own morals and Carly's. "I told the producers, 'You've done a lot of things to Carly. You've made her a mean person, but you left a little strand of hope. But now? I don't know how I can play this storyline and have people still enjoy watching Carly because of what a bitch she's being. After all this, she just leaves the baby? I can't.'

"After a long conversation, the producers said this really happens to people. People do horrible things to their children. It's a real thing that nobody wants to talk about. A lot of women suffer from postpartum depression and can't look at their children. I talked to mothers who bore children that had something wrong with them. They talked about not loving the baby when it was born, not feeling like its mother and having no connection to it. They had to learn to love their child, something I could never imagine."

"I liked that they'd been playing Tony as the bad guy. It got the pressure off me. I was always the bad person who everybody hated. It was hard for me to get viewers to like me. What it took was a whole lot of trying to figure out what there is in Carly that's redeemable, what can I punch up that people can cue into. When I came back from my vacation and Michael had been with Jason all that time, they wanted to play up the story of Carly's panic. It made me feel so impotent as an actress. I couldn't go there as a mother. It was a very trying time for me."

Brown found a rather odd but effective way to release the nurturing side that was surfacing. "I had to buy a puppy because I had so much maternal instinct and nowhere to put it that I thought I was going to go insane. The puppy gave me an outlet. It was actually like my baby. I brought her to work and would hold her in my arms."

Realizing that her character had to go through growth and metamorphosis, Brown really began diving into the idea of motherhood. "I was thinking, What can I learn from this to bring into my own life? When I started doing a storyline that's a complete antithesis of the kind of mother I want to be, it freaked me out. Is that going to happen to me? Am I going to not want to touch my child? This is scary because it really happens. Then I told myself since it really happens, it's my responsibility to do a really good job and show them that Carly really isn't an evil person- neither is any mother who goes through this. It's postpartum chemistry. Your hormones just go nuts and you don't know what you're doing. My mom even told me things she went through when I was a baby. It helped me a lot. If it happened to my mom, it can happen to anyone."

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Now, when the camera's not rolling, Brown's off playing with the twins that play Michael. And those same boys who, in storyline, aren't supposed to like the woman playing Carly, are crawling all over Brown. "It's supposed to be, 'Michael doesn't like me, does he?'" she laughs. "It's very hard for my brain to let go of it. With a baby, you can only say so much about him not liking you when they're falling all over you and giving you kisses."

And in real life, Brown is adapting beautifully to motherhood. Her 4-month old daughter Jordan Alexandra is turning out to be a chip off the old block when it comes to flair. "We went to Las Vegas this weekend. She'd never been on a plane before. There were nine of us and her. We got on the plane, a 12-seater, so they're louder and bumpier. She was like a little princess. She was looking around like, 'Where am I?' We had a speed boat ride, a house boat ride, an airplane ride, a bus ride and were in a casino all for the first time. She was so good it was unreal. She was only interested in looking around and taking in her surroundings.

"You start to see now the cognizance, the intelligence in their eyes and how they're staring at things," she adds. "Between two and four months, the change in the baby is unreal. That's when the personality develops. I believe more in ESP between mother and child now. I know what she wants and I never thought I would. I used to wonder, 'How do you know the difference between the types of cries?' The answer is easy. 'I just do.'"

The first time Jordan looked at her mom with that "Hey, you're my mom, aren't you?" look is forever planted in the actress' heart. "It was when she smiled at me for the first time. She was five weeks old. I came in to get her at 6 a.m. When I put her on her changing table, she looked at me and smiled. She's got the biggest ear-to-ear grin," Brown says. "I knew that she knew who I was and why I was there and she felt good about it. I melted because her first smile was to me! Six hours later, she smiled at her dad. A few hours after that she smiled at her nanny. But," Sarah Brown adds joyfully, "I got the first one!"


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