Stagedoor Secrets: What Really Goes On Behind the Scenes
TV By Day, January 1978
by Francine L. Trevens
Article Provided By Wanda
To watch the conniving, whining Delia Reid Ryan manipulate her way through life on Ryan's Hope; to see placid, tolerant Pat Ryan stoically try to be the kind of husband Dee wants - quite an exercise in futility as not even Dee herself knows from day to day what she wants from anybody - one would never guess that their real-life counterparts could even bear the sight of one another, much less enjoy each other's company. Yet believe it or not, Ilene Kristen and Malcolm Groome are the best of friends off-stage, teasing each other mercilessly one minute, warm and sincere the next. Laughing is very much a part of the relationship Malcolm and Ilene share. They can turn almost everything into a joke and often do.
Malcolm and Ilene met several years ago when they appeared together in Grease. She had learned only the day before rehearsals began for Ryan's Hope that she and Malcolm would be on the show together.
"As would Nancy Addison, whom I'd known for eight years, and Justin Deas, who had also been in Grease," Ilene added. She was at the studio for a costume fitting when she glimpsed the cast list.
Malcolm chimed in, "I'd known Nancy for about three years, and Justin from Grease, of course."
That night Ilene, who had not seen him in years, called Malcolm to discuss the fact that they would be on the show together. At that time two years ago, of course, they were not playing husband and wife, but they knew they'd still have lots of scenes together. That was fine with them for as Malcolm said, "We enjoy acting together." It was the beginning of many nightly phone calls.
"Sometimes we call each other late at night and run lines for the next day's scenes," Malcolm said.
They didn't have a big reunion their first day on the set, though it would have been very much in their natures.
"Well, I mean, everybody was looking," teased Ilene. "I think out of everyone in Grease I was closer to you than anyone else, because I didn't get to know you all that well," she gibed at Malcolm.
"That's why we're close," he agreed. "All it takes is getting to know somebody."
The one who surprised Ilene on the first day was Justin Deas. She went over to him and said hello and he said, "Who are you?" It was the kind of gag Malcolm might have played if he and Ilene hadn't just chatted the night before.
One of the hazards for everyone working on Ryan's Hope is known as "Ilene's water." Ilene is always drinking water just before going on camera, and she puts the cup down wherever she happens to be standing in back of the scenery. "We're at countdown," Malcolm said, "Five, four, three and I spot a styrofoam cup I have to dodge as I run on the set."
Ilene admitted she also waters down her coffee, which is another one of "Ilene's water" tricks the rest of the cast and crew turn up their noses at.
Another specific time they had a big laugh on the show was the incident Malcolm calls "The Knish" and Ilene refers to as the "I Love Lucy Disco."
"I fell asleep" Malcolm said, explaining the set-up of the incident. "With a knish in my hand because I was so tired, that's what they were developing in the scene. Delia comes out of a bubble bath...."
Ilene picked up the story "I was supposed to take the whole knish away." But Malcolm held on for dear life. "Till I pulled it away." Ilene said, "And the sound girl played the I Love Lucy Disco Music."
"The knish fell in half at dress rehearsal, but they decided to keep it in for the taping," Malcolm said. He added "You gotta make it light whenever you can. It's the only way you can survive the hectic pace."
One day they taped for 12 hours straight. It was one of those more than 100-degrees hot days and the air conditioning had quit on them.
"We were making up part of the work missed due to the blackout," Malcolm explained. "It was so hot in there, you couldn't touch the metal around the bar."
"The metal!" echoed Ilene. "The bar stools were so hot you could fry an egg on them!"
"And you can quote that," Malcolm added.
These co-stars agreed the funniest incident ever to occur on the show involved not them, but Bernard Barrow and Helen Gallagher, who portray Johnny and Maeve Ryan, Pat's parents.
"Bernie had to sing a song to Helen about Mother's Day," Ilene recalled. "He was singing and singing and singing it and we had a lot of takes. The time for taping came and he couldn't remember the words to the song!"
"He couldn't remember a word and hardly the tune" Malcolm emphasized.
"So, Ilene continued, "He made it up and it took so long and it was unreal and very, very funny."
Malcolm had once told me he wanted to be a monk, so when I asked what he did in his spare time and he echoed "spare time?" as if he never heard of such a thing, Ilene quipped, "He goes to church." That got us all laughing.
Socially, Ilene and Malcolm have gone together to cast parties and publicity parties for the show, and to private parties such as the one Andy Robinson held for a few friends recently. Often they are together, but with dates of their own.
Ilene feels her character of Delia has given her more courage to speak up in her own behalf. Malcolm feels he personally is not as passive as Pat in real life.
"He lets anything happen to him and that's not quite the way I live my life," Malcolm said.
I said he was still one heck of a nice guy and Ilene zinged in with "That's a crock of ....." Again we all laughed at what I was obviously not going to quote.
"I'm being very silly. My hair is not only down, it's uncombed!" Ilene said, referring to the kind of "Let your hair down" interview we were having.
Working on Ryan's Hope is not all fun and games; it's hard work, like the 12-hour day without air conditioning and exhausting, like the many retakes. Still, Malcolm and Ilene are determined to have all the fun they can while they're working at it. And they're doing a great job.