‘Ghosted’ Actress Ally Walker on Her First Big Break on NBC Soap ‘Santa Barbara’

ally walker First Time in Variety
illustration: michael Hoeweler; reference: FeatureflashSHM/REX/Shutterstock

Ally Walker is marking the end of her third decade as a working actor with a new role on Fox supernatural comedy “Ghosted.” Though her career hasn’t been limited to the small screen (she also appeared in films like 1992’s “Universal Soldier” with Jean-Claude Van Damme and 1995’s “While You Were Sleeping” with Sandra Bullock and Bill Pullman), television is where she got her big break (on NBC soap “Santa Barbara”). She’s cut her teeth on TV, honing her craft in recurring roles on 1993 crime drama “Moon Over Miami,” a mid-1990s starring turn in “The Profiler” and a stint on “Sons of Anarchy” from 2008 to 2010.

Walker was first mentioned in Variety on March 2, 1988, when she joined “Santa Barbara” as secret agent Andrea Bedford.

When did you first get the acting bug?

My mother likes to say I was always performing, and I would write stories too, so I think the bug was always in me. But that wasn’t my first career ambition. I worked at a genetic engineering firm where I was sequestered in a laboratory prepping cultures and spinning cells.

How did the audition for “Santa Barbara” come about?

I just happened to be at the right place at the right time. I was in Los Angeles, and a producer saw me goofing off with some friends and he asked if I wanted to audition. I thought he was a nut, but my friends said he was the real deal. So I did it, and I got the job, and it was so exciting to do something that I didn’t know I could do.

What was the biggest lesson you learned from the show?

More than anything, it was discipline. You had to learn 10 to 20 pages a night, you had to hit your mark and you had to know what you were doing. It taught me a lot. I didn’t get to go to a school for acting to learn about lighting or cameras or how to move, so “Santa Barbara” was a training ground for me.

How was “Santa Barbara” different from what you thought of soaps at the time?

Everything exceeded my expectations. I really loved working with Marcy Walker, A. Martinez and Robin Wright on that set. They were really giving and kind, and there was a lot of collaboration between artists. The stories weren’t very melodramatic by soap opera standards. I mean, I’ve never been a spy or murdered on a beach, but it was still more real than what some other soaps were doing at the time!

What storyline was the most challenging from your time on the show?

Where Marcy Walker, who played Eden, was raped. I had a girlfriend in high school who had been raped, and I remember it was very hard to watch some of the stuff they did. It really affected me. I was on set, and I found myself just very disturbed and mesmerized by Marcy’s performance. I really have to give a shout-out to her. It was just very powerful.

There wasn’t a lot of crossover for actors between film and television at the time. Was that a concern for you?

I was very open when I started, because I had to get things going and I had to learn and I had to feed myself. Everything was a good opportunity to me. I was only on the soap for seven or eight months, and I was bummed when they killed me off, but at the same time, it did allow me to read for some
films too. But for the most part for me, I just got better female parts on TV so I kept going back.