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No Mission Is Impossible For Timothy D. Stickney

August 06, 1995|NANCY M. REICHARDT

"I consider myself to be kind of a nerd. R.J. is cool--far more slick than I am," says Timothy D. Stickney, responding to what he admires about his character, the dastardly though dashing R.J. Gannon (a.k.a. Jimmy Glover), on "One Life to Live."

It is hard to envision this imposing figure as a nerd, but he offers proof.

"For openers," he says, "I was hardly a snappy dresser in high school. It's funny, I dress basically the same way I always did, but now people are more casual--so now I seem cool.

"And my shyness turned me into a complete klutz when I tried to talk to a woman I liked," he says. Stickney has been married for eight years to dancer Laura L. Priestly. The actor's shyness kept him from asking her out for close to two years.

"We met working at the same place," says Stickney. "I watched as co-workers dated her while I only managed to say an occasional word or two to her. She must have been intrigued by my seeming lack of interest, so she became my friend."

When he finally got up enough courage to ask her for a date, he was turned down because she was not looking for a relationship. Stickney again backed off and says, "It was not the first time I'd been told that, but I kept her friendship until she changed her mind."

The actor grew up in Wilmington, Del. His mother taught preschool and his father was an executive for the YMCA. Stickney notes, "They worked hard to keep us in suburbia. My father, who has since passed away, felt that our being black made it crucial for me to know the people he felt I'd be in competition with for jobs."

Stickney also remembers his father's reaction to certain changes to his appearance and lifestyle.

"All he ever said about my hair was--as he looked up from his easy chair--'Is that for a role?' I said 'No,' and he went back to reading his paper. But, by then it was hard to shock my family. My first year away at school I came home with my ear pierced. Same chair, same look--just a different question--'Is that an earring?'

"Before that my parents realized I had chosen a lifestyle they would not have chosen for me," he adds. "Although they were not thrilled about my becoming an actor, I gave them no choice. I didn't tell them I had applied to nothing but acting schools, or that I had been offered a music scholarship at the University of Delaware."

When Stickney first moved to New York City, heeding warnings from home, he says, "I was terrified of everyone in the city. Then one day I was walking down Central Park West and saw an actress on 'The Flying Nun.' I loved the show as a kid and was excited at seeing her. But when we made eye contact, she clutched her bag and ran across the street. I thought, 'Wow, no one has ever been afraid of me before.' "

Her reaction became a common one, and his amusement turned to anger at being prejudged. It was not until Stickney grew his hair that he let go of the anger. The actor, who is known for his flowing dreadlocks, started growing his while avidly pursuing his interest in African and Caribbean dance. He says he discovered himself with dance, and his hair seems to symbolize that spiritual growth.

"My hair has now become part of a mission," he says. "I'm a fairly large black man; I realize I may scare people, but my hair forces them to look at me. I want them to look me in the eye--to judge me and not a preconceived notion of me.

"My mission is to open minds," he adds, "even in the roles I take. R.J. is not society's victim. He is a criminal by choice who can function in the underworld or the business world."

"One Life to Live" airs weekdays at 1 p.m. on ABC.

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