Eden Riegel, who played lesbian icon Bianca on ‘All My Children’ for a decade, chats about the resurrection of the citizens of Pine Valley … online


NO SOFT SOAP | Actress Eden Riegel, above, plays queer soap character Bianca on ‘AMC,’ who will now have to deal with her sexuality with her teen daughter Miranda, opposite. (Photos: Eric Leibowitz/OLN)

STEVEN LINDSEY  | Contributing Writer

It’s common knowledge that nobody on a soap opera is ever truly dead — even if the actor portraying a role dies, the character simply comes back to life after some remarkable plastic surgery and a whole new look. Sometimes even a new ethnicity.

So it should come as no surprise that two entire soap operas that went to TV heaven in 2011 would come back to life eventually — looking mostly the same, but somehow different.

Prepare to meet the evil twins of All My Children and One Life to Live, both bringing sudsy action back to daytime via the Internet. Fans can once again catch new, 30-minute episodes streaming online in HD on Hulu and Hulu Plus, which pushes content to connected TVs, mobile phones, tablets and desktops. (Episodes will also be available at the iTunes Store for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Apple TV, Mac and PC.)

For 10 years, Eden Riegel played Bianca Montgomery, the lesbian daughter of Pine Valley’s most notorious citizen, Erica Kane (portrayed by Susan Lucci for more than 40 years) on the TV version of AMC. Now she’s back in character in the new incarnation.

“It is a lot alike, I have to say,” Riegel says during a break from performing in a play in Los Angeles. “A lot of the same people are involved. [Not, however, Lucci.] A lot of our producers are the same, the writers, of course the actors. We’ve all come back for this sort of family reunion with lots of cameras,” she says. “It does feel somewhat the same except the Internet kind of lends this greater freedom to us.”

That includes the ability to use curse words (though Riegel promises not gratuitously) as well as show more skin than network TV allowed.

“I’d say the biggest difference is that kids are able to use sort of the slang they’d really use. They sound like authentic kids,” Riegel says. “We’re really catering to the fans this time, not catering to advertisers.

This is really a fan-driven resurgence. It’s because the fans never gave up hope that this even happened.”

The series is filmed in Stamford, Conn., which doubles for Pine Valley on location shoots. The cast films multiple episodes over a couple weeks and then OLTL moves in to produce their chunk of shows. It’s a fast production schedule, but none of the network gloss has been lost in the new medium. If anything, they’re just working smarter.

“I heard somebody say that they wanted to do 250 episodes a year or something,” she laughs hesitantly, “and we can do it.”

All My Children ended its TV run with a cliffhanger that seemed like it would never find resolution. But audiences may finally get closure.

“I would say the cliffhanger more than gets addressed,” Riegel hints. “The effects are felt basically by everyone in Pine Valley. It’s five years later, so we get this exciting time jump and catch up with these characters’ lives. The cliffhanger definitely impacts my character in particular and she’s reeling from the effects. It’s affecting her family, so it’s definitely a big part of the show. Moving it forward means that people don’t have to stand around in black and mourn for weeks.”

Riegel says to expect plenty of familiar characters and a few new ones, plus lots of drama for her character.

“I’m not allowed to say much, but I can say that Bianca’s daughter [Miranda] has SORAS: Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome. She’s a teenager now dealing with high school drama and taking after Erica Kane in a lot of ways. Bianca has always taken more after Mona [Erica’s mother], so you get this interesting symmetry from the early days of Erica being a teenager rebelling against Mona. Now it’s my daughter rebelling against me.”

Miranda must also cope with her mother’s sexual orientation.

“Miranda is dealing with things at school that have to deal with her mother’s sexuality. The fact that Bianca is gay is really sort of first and foremost in her life and the plot. We deal with that fallout, too, because we’ve never seen Bianca with a grown daughter having to deal with maybe her daughter feeling the effects of intolerance,” she says. “Bianca has certainly dealt with that, but it’s a lot different when the person you love more than anyone in the world has to deal with it because of you. So I think Bianca feels some guilt about that and is trying to help her daughter deal with that. Bianca’s sexuality definitely plays a role in the context of her family.”

Ever since the Bianca character came out of the closet, she has been an icon of sorts to the LGBT community, a role that Riegel cherishes.

“It’s been a great experience,” she says. “I love how the audiences really have embraced her. Certainly it’s attracted gay audience members to watch the show and they connect with Bianca and they identify with her and that makes me proud. Also, straight audiences adore Bianca and they root for her. In a way, I think she’s possibly opened a few minds and introduced people to their first kind of gay friends.”
Most of all, she sees Bianca as a positive role model.

“We tried really hard not to make her a saint — she’s a whole person. We don’t want somebody representing this sexual orientation and not have her be a real human being. That’s the whole point of all of it. Give people an image of themselves on TV,” Riegel says. “If it makes people feel a little more comfortable about who they are because of the fact that they see it on TV, that’s great.”

All My Children premieres, along with One Life to Live, online Monday at TheOnlineNetwork.com. Riegel comes to Austin in June for the ATX Television Festival. ATXFestival.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 26, 2013.