Carolyn Neff has the kind of presence you'd expect to see winking at you from a glossy page, lighting up the TV or even shining down from the 'big screen'. In fact, maybe you have. She's been in VIBE, COSMOPOLITAN, NEW YORK & MADEMOISELLE magazines and done endorsements for COCA-COLA, THE WIZ and AVENA SKIN CARE on TV. Carolyn has delighted wide-eyed popcorn enthusiasts as a young assistant DA in the film HIGH AMBITIONS, and as one of the witches in Plus Film's MACBETH IN MANHATTAN. Not a witch of the old & warty variety, but rather "a very sultry witch" as she clarified in a hoarse whisper. Very sultry indeed.
Most recently, this Texas native casts spells on millions of concerned daytime voyeurs daily, earning the title of "home wrecker" on ABC's longstanding soap ALL MY CHILDREN. It hasn't always been all glitz, glamour & dressing rooms for Carolyn. As a young girl in Iowa she remembers "breaking eggs in the chicken coop" on a farm so far removed from our TV dinner society that her family had to stockpile gasoline for the car.
She rose through grade school entering beauty pageants and wanting to model, but when her uncooperative genes refused to put her over the 'you must be this tall to ride' sign on most modeling agency doors, she went on to work a succession of jobs in retail. "Retail was not my friend I have to tell you" she laughed. " Those polyester uniforms at Foot Locker?
Oh no, I could just tell we were not going to get along." Next came a string of nightclub promotional / management positions at the Iguana Mirage Club; a 20,000 sq. ft. megaplex in Dallas which carried her into her first break in entertainment. Co-hosting a TV program broadcast from the club, she accustomed herself to being in front of throngs of people and interviewed such heavyweights as George Wallace, John Henton and George Clinton.
IMNYC caught up with Carolyn on a recent rainy Saturday afternoon. The kind of day that ranks high on her "favorites" list.
IM: Do you have an expansive imagination?
CN: At times, but sometimes all I want to do is soak in a hot bath and be left alone. Sometimes I want to be my own boss. Sometimes I want to drive 110 mph. Sometimes I want to ride roller coasters and go really fast and get scared. Sometimes I want to be on TV. And sometimes I just want to float in water and have the sun hit my face and not feel or have to think anything else.

IM: What's your sign?
CN: Pisces. That's probably why I like water so much. I love rain. Love, love, love, love, love rain, thunderstorms, lightning, waves crashing. And blue is my favorite color.

IM: What is an issue of personal depth for you, something you like to think about?
CN: Human behavior. I wonder what makes people tick. I wonder why they dress like they do, make the choices they make, settle for things that they settle for. I wonder why people don't strive for more, why they have this 'why me?' attitude. Instead of 'why me?' How about 'why not me'? You know it's not ' oh, I can't because..'; it's 'I can because I know I can.
IM: Self-empowerment?
CN: Right. People shouldn't just say ' well, because I didn't grow up with a father, I am never going to have a healthy relationship'. Or 'I don't have to hold a job because I was abandoned'. You know what? A lot of us didn't grow up with fathers. I didn't have one, and if I sat around and said I can't because I didn't have the support', then where would I be now? I'd be slingin' hash at some waffle house on interstate whatever, in some backward ass part of Louisiana. Not that that's bad, because I really like the waffles there, but still...

IM: What do you think of the new & improved "Giulianized" New York of today?
CN: It's definitely not the scary, seedy New York I used to imagine being killed in.

IM: So tell me how your journey brought you from Texas to NYC?
CN: I got myself an agent in Dallas and I did a film and some national commercials. Then they told me I couldn't model and that the market just wasn't that great for me, but I didn't believe them. (laughs) so I just kept doing workshops until I got introduced to two commercial agents, one from LA and one from NY. I just decided that New York was the place I wanted to be. Up until '92, I'd never been to New York and used to say I would never go. I was scared 'til I came here for a visit and told myself I loved it. Well, so now I'm here. I think the variety is good for me.
IM: Tell us about your new character on ALL MY CHILDREN.
CN:
Her name is Raquel Dion Santos and she is a very misunderstood young woman. She was married at 17, ran away to Mexico with her husband, only to be found by their parents and separated, but not before they could consummate their marriage. She discovered she was pregnant, but never saw her husband Mateo again. Six years later, she saw his photo in a magazine. She was fully under the impression that they were going to pick up right where they had left off. They'd had the truest kind of love she had ever known and she stayed true to her vows since the day she was married...but he's now in love with someone else, and says will stay married to this woman.
IM: Do you draw on personal emotional material for your character?
CN: No, not at all. If I were to do that, I would probably close down. It's too personal to share in front of millions of people on a daily basis. It would be really nice if I could use it though, I think it would make it less difficult.

IM: So what does inspire the content of the character?
CN: The truth in the words, and hanging out with my character's 6-year-old son and his mother, which is really cool. Getting to know him and seeing the reality of what it is to be a mother. And it's hard, definitely hard.

IM: Do you see yourself having children of your own?
CN: I do, but I don't know when. I guess as soon as I find the right man, or the right man finds me. (laughs)

IM: Has your family been supportive of your choice to pursue acting?
CN: I don't know. I mean would you call three VCR's at home a day going on to record my show just so they have back up [being] supportive?

IM: Uh, I think so. What kind of roles do you prefer to play?
CN: I tend to go for roles where I can identify with the person. I understand what it feels like when somebody just walks over you like you were a piece of trash or a nothing. And it's not because people intentionally make you feel like that in life, that's just what happens.

IM: What do you want people to gain from your performances?
CN: The pleasure of entertainment in itself, but also knowing that when you watch these shows , these things really happen to people. You can say 'Oh soap operas, they're so dramatic' or whatever, but in reality, a lot of the stuff that goes on is real. Understand that you're not the only one going through it, and it will always get better. And that's why you watch the show.

IM: What is your favorite aspect of acting?
CN: Freedom of choice...in choosing the jobs that you're right for. Maybe you don't get every role you audition for, but the ones you do get, you have the choice of whether or not you are going to take them. There's never anything that you have to do. I hate it when people say 'Well I had to..'. You don't have to do anything. The bottom line is, you always have a choice.

 

IM: What about your least favorite aspect?
CN: Sometimes people assess your value based on the job you are doing at the time. As if your worth improves because you're working, I don't like that. People should like one another because they are good, not because 'Oh you're on TV and if I'm hanging out with you, it's cool.' That's not cool, that's bullshit.

IM: Well, the fact is, you're in the public eye on a daily basis now. Has that changed your personal life?
CN: No, my dating life still sucks.

 

IM: Welcome to New York.
CN:
(laughs) No, I think it would be challenged anywhere. I'm just picky. It's more difficult to find somebody to date because I've learned more about myself in what I will or won't accept, and what I do and do not like. I've grown a lot since I've arrived here and there are some things I can do without. Life is complicated enough, why also be unhappy just because you don't want to be alone that one cold winter night? Just because you don't want your family saying "when are ya gittin married, when am I gonna git some graaandkids?"

IM: What are the qualities you look for in that person you're not finding?
CN: Honesty, ambition, individuality...honesty above all, definitely honesty.

 

IM: And that's in short supply among the people that you meet these days?
CN: Definitely in short supply. People can't even be honest with themselves these days, let alone with someone else. That's the problem. (laughs),. I honestly think that some people make a genuine effort. Then you have the ones that are completely pathological. They may think they're being honest in the fantasy world they've concocted for themselves to live in, and that probably is as honest as they can be, but that's not honest enough for me.
IM: Are the majority of your interactions with people in the acting industry?
CN: Umm...(she rolls her chestnut brown eyes) that does describe a lot of the people I run into at events right now, but I don't date them. I had an experience with an actor that I dated...umm...let's just say 'pathological'.

 

IM: All right, it's said. " Pathological".
CN: A very confused person.

IM: Who would you like to work with most given the opportunity?
CN: Goldie Hawn. I love that woman. She's got such energy and she keeps herself whole in all the work that she does. This woman's got it all. She doesn't have to make apologies for her work, she's had longevity in her career, she has a family, and she has it all...since LAUGH IN, I mean come on! She doesn't look like she's aged more than five years the whole time. She seems to love life.

IM: How do you decompress from your busy schedule? When you need to get away from it all.
CN:
If I could do what I wanted, I'd go for a really long drive playing the music that I like with the windows rolled down, but I can't do that here. So I'll go down and watch the water at Battery Park City and imagine that I'm floating on a sea of pillows. (She holds her arms out and slowly rotates her head and shoulders back until I too, have visions of pillows in my head.)

IM: What turns you on about this city?
CN: There's always something to do if you have enough money to pay for it. (laughs)

 

IM: True.
CN: Yeah, if you can afford it, you can do it in Manhattan. Whatever it is. Anything, 24 hours a day. "The city that never sleeps".

IM: That's right. Insomnia
CN: That's why they sell so much damn coffee.

IM: What is your biggest turn-off about the city?
CN: That there can be so many damn people out here but that it can be the loneliest place on Earth. That sucks.

IM: Do you have any messages for aspiring talent trying to get a grip on their careers?
CN: Don't believe the hype! (laughs) no, I'm kidding. Umm...believe in yourself and don't compromise anything because it's not worth it, it doesn't pay off, and it's not going to get you anywhere but into therapy.

IM: If, for whatever reason, you had to give up one of your senses, which would it be?
CN: taste.

IM: Why?
CN: Because then I wouldn't eat so damn much! (laughs) I don't eat food because I need to be full, I eat food 'cause it tastes good. Therefore I need to go to the gym and work it off my ass, so yeah (nods affirmatively) I'd give up taste.

IM: Can you give some parting words of advice to our readers?
CN: You've got to get back to the simple things, the important things, because there are more important things in life than excess, than I have more CHANEL bags than you do, or that my car is faster. Family is what's important and treating people well, because once you do things, you can never take them back. I'm a firm believer in "don't do it unless you mean it".

CREDITS

Interview : Shaun O'Rourke

Hair : Khamraj Anrud

Make up : Nicole Bryl

Location : Alan Mautino's bathroom

Photo : IMNYC

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