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A Modest Aim Is Her 'Guiding Light'

July 04, 1993|LYNDA HIRSCH

Maeve Kinkead, who has played "Guiding Light's" Vanessa for 13 years, is nothing like an actress until she starts playing her part. Then she becomes the perfect thespian.

How not like an actress? Ask the woman with the bell-toned voice if she wants to say anything about herself and she doesn't list her stage or screen credits (although she has them), or her philosophy of life. She mentions her parents, Eugene and Katherine.

"My parents were on the original staff of the New Yorker. My dad was an editor and staff writer, my mom a staff writer. I'm so proud of them."

What does she think of the New Yorker now under new editor Tina Brown? "Why don't they just change its name," says Kinkead, nominated for a Daytime Emmy as best actress this year. While many actors love to prattle on about all the rewriting they have to do on their soaps, she says she has only asked the producers once if she could change anything major.

"I felt the central theme of the scene had been missed. So the producer asked me to help rewrite it."

What of castmates who think changing every if, and or but in a scene is worthy of a filibuster?

"I just stand back and watch. It can make things interesting, even amusing. I never say anything to the actors because it's not my place."

In the baker's dozen years she has played Vanessa, the character and the actress have gone through lots of changes.

"Doug Marland created a very specific character. On the surface Vanessa was so much one thing--nasty, spoiled, manipulative, willful--but inside she was something else and I got to play that. With different writers came different ideas of who Vanessa was. The most painful was when she became a goody-goody for no reason. Also, the time she only existed to be Reva's foil."

So why stay on "Guiding Light"?

"Lots of reasons. Bill Roerick, who plays my father, Henry, has always been a wonderful sustaining force ... never a false note from Bill. Those scenes with him keep Vanessa true. Also, I enjoy acting and the steady employment."

Married to Harry Streep--yes, her famous sister-in-law is Meryl--and mother of two children, Kinkead hardly ever watches herself on the show.

"Sometimes I'll watch at the studio, but when I first started I couldn't stand to watch myself. I couldn't believe I looked or sounded that way," says the woman many women would love to look and sound like. "Now I can sit through shows to pick an Emmy reel and know what's good and what isn't."

"Guiding Light" airs weekdays at 2 p.m. on CBS.

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