It’s fitting that Kelly Ripa made her “All My Children” debut on Thanksgiving Day in 1990. After all, the fan-favorite actress has been nothing but effusively grateful for the opportunities she received from being cast as heroine Hayley Vaughan Santos on the now-defunct ABC soap opera.
Ripa arrived in Pine Valley, the soap’s fictional setting, wearing an Elvira-like black wig, playing the niece of Trevor Dillon (James Kiberd), whom she affectionately called “Uncle Porkchop.” The rambunctious teen had a smart mouth, but it was all a defense mechanism given her rough upbringing. Soon, “Children” viewers learned that Hayley was the result of a fling her alcoholic mother, Arlene, had with mainstay mogul Adam Chandler.
Sparks flew between Hayley and love interest Brian Bodine — and not just on-camera.
“The first year, we couldn’t really be in the same area together,” says Matt Borlenghi, Brian’s portrayer. “I was in my early 20s asking, ‘How do I bring “Brando” to daytime?’ I saw Kelly as this young girl with way too much energy. One time, a reporter on set heard screaming and furniture crashing down the hall. A makeup guy said, ‘Oh, that’s just Kelly and Matt rehearsing.’ In reality, we were in her dressing room having an argument. I was taking myself way too seriously and I asked Kelly how did you get so lucky to be on this show?”
“It turns out it would have been a lot easier on me if I had followed her path and just had more fun at work,” he adds. “But if I hadn’t left (in 1993) maybe she never would have met Mark (Consuelos, her husband).”
Today, Borlenghi happily reports the two are good friends. “People occasionally say to me, ‘Hey, I was watching “Live With Kelly & Michael” today and she just mentioned what a great guy you are.’ Who does that in an age when everyone is seemingly out for only themselves? Kelly’s a class act.”
One of Hayley’s husbands was Alec McIntyre, played by Grant Aleksander, who had sex with his mother-in-law, Arlene, on the night he and Hayley wed. The clueless bride can be a thankless role, but Ripa delivered the dramatic goods big time after the adulterous affair was exposed.
|“The nicest thing you can say about anybody is what you can say about Kelly — she’s just a great person. What you see is what you get.”
“Kelly’s beautiful, funny and full of energy, and it’s easy to not look past that,” Aleksander says. “But I was taken early on with just how good an actress she is. One of the great joys of working with her is that you could do anything in a scene and she’d respond. I never remember her being in a bad mood or bitching about her storyline.”
Additionally, Aleksander says, “The nicest thing you can say about anybody is what you can say about Kelly — she’s just a great person. What you see is what you get.”
Carrie Genzel played Ripa’s half-sister Skye, the raven-haired bad girl to Ripa’s golden girl — actually, make that platinum.
“We came back to the studio one morning to shoot a continuous day and Kelly showed up with platinum blond hair,” says a chuckling Genzel. “We were all like, ‘Oh, you are so getting fired!’ But she wasn’t, of course. She bent the rules, but she represented the show so well and always gave them what they needed. When I joined, she and Mark were both so welcoming to me.”
Cameron Mathison also recalls being embraced by Ripa after being cast.
“She has a way of putting you at ease,” he says. Fans are especially devoted to soap duos once they know the pair is romantically involved in real life so when a script called for Mathison’s Ryan to lock lips with Hayley, he knew it was going to be a challenge. “The director said, ‘You’ve got to go for it!’ I told Mark, ‘Blame the director!’”
Ripa received perhaps her meatiest storyline on “Children” when Hayley mistakenly believes she killed her mother and suffered a break from reality, assuming her mother’s identity in the process. “That was fun,” Ripa recalls. “I got to play this horrible, alcoholic, promiscuous version of Arlene. It’s so much fun to play a disaster.”
The actress juggled her duties on both the sudser and on “Live!” Once she became the show’s new host alongside Regis Philbin in 2001 she was written off “Children.” Hayley became host of a talk/fashion show on the West Coast. Ripa returned to “Children” in 2010 for the show’s 40th anniversary when Hayley narrated a documentary on Pine Valley.
“‘All My Children’ was home to her,” says Eva LaRue, who played Hayley’s sister-in-law Maria and is, in real-life, godmother to Ripa and Consuelos’ son, Michael. “He’s a great kid. All three of her kids are great. Kelly’s the quickest person in the room and a great hostess. As lovable as she is on TV, she’s even more lovable in person.”
“The training ground that ‘All My Children’ provided me was second to none,” Ripa says. “It taught professionalism. When I started to work on ‘Hope & Faith,’ they said to me, ‘Stop memorizing your lines! They’re going to change!’ But I couldn’t help it. Pat Fields (“Hope & Faith’s” costume designer) said to me, ‘I can tell you worked on a soap because you hang up your wardrobe at the end of the day. That’s the soap opera girls.’”