"I don't believe in sitting around and waiting for things to happen, or take what you've given. I have to do things for myself," emphasized Ilene Kristen. And you must admit, in no way does this sound like the character she portrays - Delia Ryan on Ryan's Hope. In real life there is very little resemblance between the two ladies, and that is perhaps why Ilene likes Delia so much. The role has been a challenge for her.
"I'm leaving Ryan's Hope in December," she told us, "and I'm looking forward to doing other things. Television is not the ultimate but it's what I'm dealing with right now. A step beyond is television films.
"Personally, I like the things they're doing with Delia right now. She's trying to piece things together. She'll be investing money in tea, and I think she'll make out well financially. I never considered Delia a villainess," Ilene reminds us. "Paul Mayer and Claire Labine, the creators-writers, write the character well. They think about her. They have an affection for her, as I do."
"I'm not interested in doing another soap," Ilene continued. "The only thing I'd do if asked is go on a soap for two weeks to play a hooker or something that is a real stretch for me. The money is great, but not that important. You see too many people around who get complacent. They're not on the edge. It's too comfortable. I like to be on a continual edge."
To prove her point, Ilene went through all the projects she'd undertaken this past year while working on the soap.
"I've just finished producing a film called The Aftermath. Karen Allen, who is in Animal House, and Tom Nolan, who is in Yanks, are in it. It's a non-commercial film which means it can't make money from admissions, but we can probably make something with it at film festivals.
"I had the best time this year back in February," reflected Ilene on an ultra-busy period in her life. "When I was doing the soap during the day, a play at 8 p.m. at the W.P.A. Theater, and at 11 p.m. I was directing and performing in a show called Street Venus. It's a collection of poems presented in a dramatized way, and we had a 'cult' following. The Village Voice gave it a spectacular write up."
Getting back to the present, Ilene's schedule hasn't let up that much.
"Leonard Melfi, the playwright, wrote a play for me as a work in progress. We presented it at Summit High School in New Jersey. They have a very fine drama department. It was called The Flower Girl. That was a wonderful experience for me. And, I just did one day's work in a film called Night Flowers. I play a member of the Hari Krishna sect."
Recently, Ilene closed the Renoir Theater, of which she was part owner.
"It was impossible to take the next step," she explained, "which was to get out of where we were and move to a theater that was worthy of the films we were doing. I did find a location, but it would have cost $50,000 just to rent for 18 months. I had a backer who was ready to put up the money, but only if I could guarantee that the theater would get 100% of my time and effort. I couldn't guarantee that, and I couldn't lie about it."
"In the time I had the theater, it did fine, but I'm too busy with my acting to devote all my time to the theater. I did what I was capable of doing. It was a good experience and I learned a lot from it. I felt that I won. We had a steady stream of people who came to see the films, and got fine reviews."
Then Ilene went on to tell about her recent impromptu four-day visit to London. It was particularly exciting for her because it was the first time she travelled anywhere outside the U.S.
"I had four days off and needed to get away. I decided to do it on the spur of the moment. I just felt that I needed to get out of America for a while. You know, some days you just walk out onto the street and everybody recognizes you. I usually don't mind that because when you're on television, you become known. But I just felt like being someplace where nobody would know me."
But don't think Ilene was without companions. "I called up my American friends who were working in the film, Yanks, and went to the studio to hang out with them. I also met Robert Duvall and Paul Gleason (ex-All My Children). They were filming Ike."
Since Ilene did go away for some privacy, she did get it. "I did a lot of walking and got lost in Hyde Park. I did some shopping on Bond Street, but didn't get to go to the theater. The funny thing is, that once I hit Bond Street, I was recognized. That's where the Americans shop. Also, when I went to Victoria Station to book my flight back home, I walked in and there were American's booking their flights, and they knew me." All in all, though, "It was the best time I've ever had," sighed Ilene.
Presently, Ilene is involved romantically with a young actor who had appeared on daytime television, but she prefers that his name be kept secret. She laughs about that fact and says they call him her "incognito boyfriend." But since we respect her wishes, we're sorry, folks, we can't spill the beans.
concluding our morning together, we took some pictures in front of the
building where the film, The Goodbye Girl was made, and then walked
over to a playground near Ilene's new apartment. Once out on the street,
everyone recognized her, and in the park she was surrounded by young girls
asking all sorts of questions about Delia. We came away with a complete
understanding of why Ilene ran off to England for four days. We also came
away with the feeling that Ilene has enjoyed every minute on Ryan's
Hope and will miss many of her friends there - especially Delia.