I Must Leave Ryan's Hope"
Afternoon TV Magazine, March 1979
by Diana Whitley
Article Provided By Wanda
One of daytime's most beloved villainesses has taken her leave - and the screen will be darker without her. While we all wish Ilene the best of everything, we are sorry to see her go. But we don't think she'll be lost to us for long - with talent like hers, the sky's the limit!
Certain people on soap operas are so good at their parts it's nearly impossible to imagine them being replaced. Ilene Kristen is such a person. She's brought Delia Ryan Coleridge alive in all her complexities, making her one of the most popular characters on daytime TV. It shocked everyone when she decided to leave the show of which she has been such an integral part.
That Ilene can make a sometime villainous like Delia popular is proof of the wide scope of her talent. Delia is a very complicated person who until the last few months has had some very unattractive qualities. She's hurt a lot of people, been dishonest and manipulative, and was so dependent and over-emotional it was sometimes hard to watch her. Not exactly the stuff of which heroines are made - yet Ilene was always at the top of the charts. One reason for this is that Ilene truly likes - even loves - Delia, and she is able to win our symphathy no matter how much she acts up.
The deep sympathy Ilene feels for her alter ego is now causing her problems, since it means it will be painful for Ilene to give her up. She's decided the time is right for her to move on, but that doesn't mean the decision has been an easy one. However, she's been with Ryan's Hope since it first went on the air, and so is ready for a change.
"If you want to build a career, you can't stay in one place forever. I stayed an extra year beyond my contract, but now it's time to do other things."
Staying the extra year had its benefits. She was able to negotiate a contract that gave her certain things she wanted, such as a promise from ABC to give her a made-for-television movie.
It also gave her the chance to stay with Delia as she went through some very exciting changes. An unhappy, dependent Delia has grown up into a happy, whole person who can take care of herself and truly love someone else, instead of just needing him to survive.
Delia's transformation has provided some really fun episodes for Ilene, particularly since her marriage to Roger. After crying her eyes out for months on end, she's been doing some different and challenging scenes, running the gamut of emotions and adding new dimensions to the character.
Ryan's Hope is considered by many people to be head and shoulders above any other soap opera. Good writing and acting are augmented by high-quality production. In one scene alone, Ilene had to contend with 100 different camera shots, which is more like shooting a movie than a soap - in fact harder, with the tremendous limitations (mainly time and money) on soap operas.
One reason Ilene has decided to leave a job she has been so involved in is she feels the professionalism required is not recognized or appreciated by the people behind the scenes.
"Sometimes the actors work really hard and don't even get as much as a thank you at the end of the day. They'll thank the crew, but not the actors. The control room can be very inconsiderate in this way. They don't mean to be - they are good people - but they are, and I consider that a major problem with this kind of work. I like them a lot," she said emphatically, "but they have tunnel vision, and they don't seem to have a very good idea of what an actor goes through.
"When I say that, then people say 'if you don't like the work, don't do it.' Well,that is one of the reasons I am leaving. It could be one of the most unbelievably overwhelming and gratifying experiences, if they would let it be, but they don't. And it isn't a matter of having the time. It's more a matter of spontaneity."
"I'll miss Delia. I really love her, and she's definitely the most wonderful character I've ever played. But right now I'm really tired - actually physically exhausted from her. I could easily give her up for a month and not think twice about it. But after a while, I know it will be different. I don't even want to think about that right now."
When Ilene does have a minute in her busy schedule, she thinks a little about the things she would like to do when she's off the show. She'd love to work on some films, with some American directors like Robert Altman, because "he seems to have a nucleus of actors that really love working with him." She is working on her own film right now, and would love to do others.
She's appalled by the poor quality of today's TV programming, and would like to be instrumental in improving it.
"I think this season everyone must be embarrassed, including the people who produced the shows. I'd rather watch the news than most shows they have on the air. I'm not a big TV fan, but sometimes I like to sit around and watch different things, just to watch different poeple act. But there's absolutely nothing to watch this year. I used to like shows like Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman and Mary Tyler Moore, but there's nothing like that on now. Joe Namath has been trying hard but the people he has had on have been excruciatingly bad. Flying High is absolutely disgusting!"
"But eventually TV has to change, and get back to some kind of artistic standards. And I think I could do something that would be worth watching."
Ilene would like to do a show that's entertaining, but also instructive. She is the kind of person who really thinks and cares about what goes on around her. She wants to do something that will really affect people and the way they live their lives.
She would love to do a movie that would depict the life of a paraplegic. Or a good period piece (she has a wonderful photo album full of pictures of her in different period costumes, like the 40s or the Victorian era). She would love to do a good western. She would particularly love to do a movie based on the very special relationship she has with her sister Karen. Several friends have written plays she would like to be in, such as one written about two women in the '20s, by Raphael D. Silver, producer of Hester Street.
"I'd also love to do something about a person who has never appreciated her life, and then gets struck by a handicap or a serious disease." (Ilene has had to rely on her strength to live through this kind of ordeal herself, since she had a very serious and painful illness when she was in high school.)
One thing is for sure; Ilene is not the kind of actress who will take the easiest route. Nor will she accept whatever comes along just because it's the last lucrative thing to do. She has already turned down some very appealing offers because she didn't like the kind of thinking behind them. They were the kind of 'death and destruction' dramas that are so popular today, and Ilene refuses to give them her support.
So, while you miss her as the tumultuous Delia, you can be sure you have not heard the last of Ilene Kristen. She is simply on her way to bigger and better things.