Soap Opera Weekly - May 9, 2000

This Side of Perfect

By Janet Di Lauro

With a beautiful daughter, a third Emmy nomination, and a storyline that promises big things, life for GH's Sarah Brown is

This Side of Perfect

Many a young woman in Sarah Brown's shoes might have a bit of an attitude. With two Outstanding Younger Actress Emmy's under her belt as General Hospital's Carly, and successfully breaking into this year's highly competitive supporting actress category - not to mention the constant praise of co-stars and critics - who'd really be surprised if Brown was a little smug? Refreshingly, this talented 25-year old is anything but.

"I'm certainly not in any place to sit up on a high horse," Brown states emphatically over lunch in the ABC commissary. "I'm trying to learn and get better all the time. I look at my whole life, in general, like I'm a sponge."

And there is plenty to be soaked up at GH. "I'm working with fabulous actors," she stresses, citing Maurice Benard, John Ingle, and Anthony Geary (Sonny, Edward, and Luke) as the "big three" she looks up to on the set. "They are among the best in all of daytime and beyond. To cut myself off [from the opportunity to learn] and think that I know everything would be detrimental, because I don't know everything. I know nothing. Zero."

Brown's modesty hasn't stifled her desire to take chances, however. Despite still being eligible for the younger actress category, "I just felt like, 'What's the point?' I have two Emmys in that category. I think it's more challenging, more fun, to branch out and try a harder category. To be looked at not as a younger actress, but as an actress in general," Brown explains, adding that after witnessing Sharon Case(Sharon, Y&R) and Kelly Ripa (Hayley, AMC) smoothly make the transition to supporting actress in 1999, she decided to give it a shot.

"I've actually gotten a lot of flak for [submitting myself] in supporting. People have said, 'You're a lead actress,'" Brown says. While she tends to agree, "the reality is that the Emmys are based on a certain among of ageism. If you're not in a certain age group, have not been on a show for a substantially long time, or are not very well-known, you don't have a shot in the lead actress category - or lead actor."

No matter, Brown assures that win or lose in 2000, "next year, I'm definitely going to put myself in the best actress, just for nomination's sake. If I don't get nominated, then I don't get nominated," she says with a shrug. "But I feel that it's important that it be different."

Brown's desire to strive for bigger and better challenges raises an obvious question: Why after three years of awards and accolades did she opt to renew her GH contract? "I can't really comment on that exactly because there are a lot of personal things going on," she says. "But from a business point of view, they offered me a story with Maurice, and that was an offer I couldn't refuse. I definitely have wanted to do that since I came to the show. As much as I love Vanessa (Marcil, ex-Brenda Barrett), I certainly was coveting her position on the show as his leading lady."

Just like many a co-star has gushed over her, Brown enthusiastically extols the talents of her new leading man. "Maurice is dynamite. Outrageous. Amazing," she raves. "When I come to work, I'm so excited. They're writing really good material for us. It's not even what we've done so far, but what I know the writers have in mind for us. And the chemistry between Maurice and me is getting better all the time as we get more comfortable with each other."

Another benefit is that working opposite Benard presents "a constant challenge. It's taken things to a whole other level." Particularly the comedic Carly/Sonny scenes offered up in recent scripts. "I keep thinking, 'Wow' The writers must have some confidence in us.' Because I've never done comedy. Maurice is not a comedian, either. So the two of us are sort of feeling around in the dark. Its fun. Interesting."

To compensate for her lack of comedic technique, Brown looks to the GH directors and her castmates for guidance. "A couple of our actors like Billy Warlock and Nancy Lee Grahn (AJ and Alexis), are really great at that kind of stuff. I ask them questions - whatever I can think of - and I soak it up," she says. "Billy's explained that you don't try to make something funny. You play the opposite of it and when the words come out of your mouth, people will laugh. Whereas I think there's a joke in there somewhere. I've got to tell a joke. And there's not."

As Brown has slowly let go of that notion, she's also had to stop her tendency to overanalyze. "That's what I do with emotional scenes. I pick them apart. I'm really good at intellectualizing stuff. But comedy, a lot of times, is natural," she says, noting that she's been picking up pointers from her favorite show, The Sopranos, and one film in particular. "I really studied Analyze This. I watched it over and over again. Because here's Robert DeNiro - the most straight-laced, dramatic actor you'd ever want to meet - and he's funnier than Billy Crystal. He's a riot. He was so serious, and that's what made it hysterical."

There's no doubt that the talented Brown will master this latest challenge in due time, just like she's mastered everything handed to her since her 1996 GH debut. Brown, first and foremost a tomboy, blossomed into glamorous womanhood onscreen. "That was who I was. It was not their vision of Carly," Brown reveals, recalling her GH screen test. "There were girls there who looked like Miss America - 6-foot-tall blondes with blue eyes - going up for Carly. I sat there and thought, 'Why am I here? If this is what they're looking for I'm never going to get this job.' But, ah you see. Beauty did not prevail," she says half jokingly, half with a healthy dose of pride.

Brown admits she stuck out like a sore thumb with her newly acquired "bad haircut. When I first auditioned for General Hospital I had shoulder length, pretty hair," Brown says. "Then I did this movie (The Heist) where I played an assassin, and they cut my hair about two or three inches." Upon the film's completion Brown opted to fix her cropped locks - "Make it a little more feminine" - but the results "were awful. I ended up with this short, masculine haircut. Plus, I was chubbier then; at least more muscular. And I don't think they knew how to dress [this character who was] coming from the streets. I disagreed with the whole wardrobe issue from the beginning. There was this pink sweater set that I had to wear over and over again and these white jeans. I was like, 'Please. Help me," she cries out in mock pain.

Once settled into her new surroundings, Brown instigated major changes in Carly's appearance. "I'm a complete perfectionist when it comes to my work," she says. "It goes from my hair to my makeup to everything. I would see certain eyeshadow and lipstick colors and go, 'Yuck. Hate it.' Not necessarily because [the make up artists] were doing a bad job. There are a lot of factors involved. The lighting is bad on some sets. Sometimes it looks like you're wearing eyeliner when you're really not."

Brown's biggest makeup peeve was the heavy foundation that's been around for eons. "You just feel gross if you have six tons of some pancake makeup on and look like Benny Hill," she cracks. "I'd look at it and go, 'This makeup is passe. It's not hip. It's not hot. It's not what I look like when I'm walking around in person.'"

Over time, Brown gained "a whole lot more control" over all things Carly, and the results have been a lighter, gentler look. "You have to preserve yourself," she says. "If you're not looking out for yourself, nobody else is going to."

Brown maintains that philosophy in her personal life as well. She describes herself as a "strong individual. I'm not a weak woman. I have never been the type to let people talk down to me," she asserts, noting that despite her slight appearance and soft features people get exactly what she's about "the minute they meet me. It's just who I am. I'm very forward. A lot of men say I'm very intimidating to talk to. I'm not demure. I have my moments, but not unless I really know somebody. I'm more sort of in your face. I say it like I see it."

The subject of motherhood, however, quickly restores a comfortable smile to Brown's face and an eagerness to ramble on. "Jordan is the love of my life. She's so beautiful, so smart, so much fun," Brown says, noting that her little girl, "looks exactly like me," although there are a few characteristics from her father - namely, Jordan's greenish eyes and olive complexion. "But her hair is more like mine - my roots, anyway," she cracks.

Brown, who acknowledges that she is indeed "single" and that Jordan resides with her, concedes that motherhood is "very tough. I imagine it would be very hard if I wasn't working, but because I am, it's twice as hard."

A nanny helps ease the load - especially during long work days on the GH set. "I do bring Jordan to work with me once in a while when I have a short day or a long break between scenes and I know the other babies are going to be here," Brown says. "Nancy Lee Grahn's daughter, Kate, Vanita Harbour's (Dara) son, Ezra, the babies (Dylan and Blake Hopkins) who play Michael...And Julie Carruthers (Port Charles' executive producer) and her son are going to go to the same Mommy and Me class as Jordan and me."

Brown has already tackled Gymboree with her daughter. "That was the first organized thing we did together," Brown says. "I loved it and so did Jordan, although she was a little shy in the beginning. I have one of those kids who has that highly advanced intelligence. She's responded to it by being extremely extroverted when she's at home and around small groups of adults. When she gets around children, she's much more introverted and cerebral. She doesn't interact with them as much as I would have thought she would. She loves kids around 3 or 4 but she doesn't care as much about kids her age. It's funny, because she gives them all the pointers. 'No, no, do that. No, no, color on the floor.' She knows all those things, even though she still does them sometimes."

While Brown wouldn't exactly call herself a strict mother, she isn't a pushover either. "I'm definitely into rules and regulations as well as fun and free time. My daughter is obviously very privileged to have what she has in her life. I don't want her to grow up taking it for granted," she says. "I want her to be very conscious and conscientious about the world around her and people who are less fortunate."

To that end, Brown doesn't cater to Jordan's every whim. "If she throws a tantrum or wants and demands [something], it just doesn't happen," Brown says matter of factly. "I'm not one of those mothers who thinks, 'Oh, my baby won't love me if I don't spoil her.' I don't do it. Although Jordan has everything she could ever want and need, we don't go to a toy store and buy everything. When I do buy things, I bring them home and give them to her one at a time. I don't make a huge deal about birthdays and holidays yet. She's not even 2 years old. I think everything has a time and a place."

As Jordan gets older, Brown plans to instill in her the values that are important to her, things like compassion, appreciation and humility. "When she's at an age where she's able to comprehend better, I'm going to make a point of taking her to give food away and doing charitable things like that. I want to instill in her that she's fortunate and that there are other people that aren't. Because I certainly didn't grow up [with the luxuries she's growing up with]."

With Brown's guidance, Jordan will likely turn out like her mom - humble and attitude-free.

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