The former 'All My Children' star chats about her soap opera days, the joys of motherhood and her passion for healthy living.
Reflecting on her 9-year stint as Kendall Hart Slater on the iconic daytime drama All My Children, Alicia Minshew is decidedly nostalgic. “I miss playing Kendall. She was a big part of me,” the actress says.
Alicia nabbed the coveted lead role of Kendall Hart in 2002, following in the footsteps of actress Sarah Michelle Gellar, who had previously played the character. The stakes were high, but Alicia’s stellar portrayal of the willful, hotheaded Kendall made her an instant fan-favorite, earning her two Daytime Emmy and Soap Opera Digest Awards nominations and helping her win over the hearts of All My Children’s devoted fan following.
Now that All My Children is off the air after its storied 44-year run, Minshew is entering the next chapter of her career with the launch of two highly-anticipated web series, Beacon Hill (premiering March 5) and Tainted Dreams. When she’s not running back and forth between rehearsals and tapings, Alicia is spending time with her young daughter, Willow, and her husband, Richie Herschenfeld. We caught up with the busy-bee actress to reflect on her All My Children days, hear more about her exciting new projects and chat about her passion for healthy living.
When you initially found out that you would be playing the role of the Kendall Hart, what was your reaction? Were you nervous about playing a lead role on All My Children?
Yes. In fact, when I initially auditioned for the show, the casting director, Judy Wilson, called a few girls in for the role. Nobody knew we were auditioning for the role of Susan Lucci’s daughter. Afterward, when I got the part, Judy said, “I want you to know…this is the role that Sarah Michelle Gellar played.” That’s when I got nervous. I knew I had big shoes to fill. At the time, I was in my twenties and I had never done anything this big. I knew that the role of Lucci’s daughter was a huge deal. So I definitely had doubts, but I just thought, “Well, let’s just see what happens.” My first day on the set, everything was so great. That’s when I realized how amazing this experience was going to be.
Kendall was a very complex character, a sort of villain-turned-heroine figure. Did you have anything in common with Kendall? Were you able to relate to her at all?
It’s funny; even though Kendall went from being this sort of trashy mean girl to this strong, head-of-the-company mama bear, I was always able to relate to her in some way. She has this edgy side to her that I may have a little bit of. It sounds strange, but I also think that playing her has actually given me a bit more strength as a woman. I’ve found myself having more strength because of Kendall. But the biggest way I can relate to Kendall is the fierce love that she felt for her family. It was easy for me to play that strong mama, because I felt that each and every time. As the years went on, I got to impart my sense of humor onto Kendall’s character. I would find little ways to lighten her up every now and then and give her some of my personality.
What was it like playing Susan Lucci’s daughter?
I knew who Susan Lucci was and was very intimidated to play her daughter. But the very first day I showed up in set she could not have been kinder or sweeter. She was so welcoming. Over time we started to form a really wonderful friendship. We have done so many intense emotional scenes and really bonded doing those. Now we are good friends who keep in touch from time to time. I really miss working with her. I learned a lot from her over those 10 years. She was such a professional and always treated every single cast and crew member with such respect. I admired her for that.
You had a 9-year run with All My Children. Now that your stint with the show is over, do you miss it, or are you looking forward to some of the exciting new projects you’ve got coming up?
Both. I miss seeing the cast and the crew every day. They were my extended family for almost 10 years. I saw the same people day in and day out. They were my friends, and I miss them. I miss the producers and directors of cast and crew. I also miss playing Kendall. She was a big part of me. I grew up with her, in a way…I got married with her; I had a baby with her. At the same time, after 10 years of being on the show, I was a little antsy to do something different. A part of me was excited to start a whole new chapter in my life. That’s kind of where I’m at right now. I’m at peace with ending the show and looking forward to what’s coming up next. I feel very lucky that I was on All My Children for so long. The show really opened many doors for me—for the films I’ve been in, for the family that I have, for the life that I have.
Tell us a little bit about your new web series, Tainted Dreams.
Tainted Dreams was written by one of the producers of All My Children. It’s sort of a behind-the-scenes look at the making of soap operas. It’s a funny, silly, sad sexy story. It’s sort of a soap-within-a-soap, because you follow the lives of the actors that are on the show and also follow their character’s lives in the soap opera. You get to see what really happens behind the scenes. I play one of the producers.
Traditional soap operas are sort of a dying breed, but it sounds like this show is trying to keep the genre alive, in a way.
You’re right; soap operas are definitely a dying breed. People nowadays love reality shows, which are sort of like real-life soap operas, if you think about it. They’re entertaining, but they’re cheap to produce. So I think [Tainted Dreams] is definitely keeping the genre alive, like you said. But the show is edgier than your typical soap; it’s sort of like an indie film and a soap opera rolled up into one. There’s nudity; it’s real; it’s raw. It’s about real life. That’s what I think makes it so unique, and that’s why I think it can draw a different audience.
How do you create a healthy, environmentally friendly home for your daughter, Willow?
From day one, I resolved to do whatever I could to keep her healthy. But realistically, I know that I’m not going to be able to shield her from every bad, terrible thing out there, so I try to do everything in moderation. You know, she’s a kid, so I let her have sugar every now and then. But I try to eat organically whenever possible because I want to keep her pure—nowadays, there are so many hormones in meats and pesticides in foods, which is why I purchase organic fruits and veggies and grass-fed beef. In terms of the environment, I use a lot of green household products. I try to keep our house a good breathing environment, but it can be challenging to do so when you’re living in New York City.
I imagine that with a daughter and a demanding career, it can be difficult to fit it all in. How do you sneak fitness into your everyday routine?
When I was working with All My Children, I primarily worked out on the weekends. I was on my feet morning til night, which, believe it or not, burned a lot of calories. I’m naturally skinny, so my main focus has always been not getting sickly-looking and trying to keep muscle on my body. I wanted to stay toned after Willow was born, so when she was taking her naps, I would put in one of my yoga or Pilates DVDs. We have a gym in our building, so I had a trainer for a little while, too. These days, I work out 3 times a week, which is perfect for my body. Now that Willow is in preschool, I can run to the gym and do some light weights when she’s off at school.
What’s your favorite healthy meal to make for your family?
I’m not going to lie…my husband is the cook of the family! I’ll make suggestions or requests, and he’ll make the food. How fantastic is that?! One of our family favorites is salmon. We’ll do salmon and brown rice and these fantastic Brussels sprouts my husband makes. It’s a good way to get my daughter to eat veggies, and it tastes delicious.
What is your health philosophy?
I’m going to quote my grandmother, who is 103 years old and is a completely healthy, vibrant woman. I once asked her what her secret to good health was, and she said: “Everything in moderation.” She doesn’t believe in overdoing any one thing. You can eat whatever you want, but eat it in moderation. She also believed in loving life and having a good attitude. Living life with a lot of gratitude. So now her secret to healthy living is mine. I try to have a lot of gratitude, which isn’t always easy.