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by Stephanie Sloane

It took three auditions, but Julie Pinson finally found a home in Salem

It's Friday afternoon, and Julie Pinson has just finished taping an episode of SOAP TALK (see sidebar). The neighborhood is familiar to her--PORT CHARLES taped here-- so Pinson suggests a restaurant nearby to chat. Turns out, it's too late for lunch, so we walk down Vermont Avenue in the Silverlake district of L.A. and happen upon a noisy diner, where there is no air conditioning (it's in the 90s) and the waiter thins he's a comedian. But easygoing Pinson doesn't care. We sit, despite the head and the loud '80s music blaring, to discuss the long road that eventually lead to Salem.

Pinson hit the soap scene in 1997, when PORT CHARLES debuted to much fanfare. "It was a great experience, especially the very beginning because it was a brand new show," she recalls. "We were in People magazine. We were on the sides of buses! I remember driving around L.A. in my piece-of-crap car, and I came to a stop sign and there's my big old face on the side of a bus. And it was like, 'Hmmm, what's wrong with this picture? I'm in a piece-of-s**t car, and my face is on the side of a bus and in People magazine.' So, it was a great experience, very fun. All of us interns started together, and we bonded right away."



Pinson's PC stint came to an end when her alter ego was killed during the "Secrets" murder mystery. Being the "fifth chair" threw the actress for a loop. "It was a big surprise: I was shocked," she admits. "It was really sad: I didn't want it to end. I wasn't ready to go. I'd been playing Eve for five years. I was friends with the character: I liked her. And I had to stop being her." At the time of Eve's demise, because of PC's shooting schedule, Pinson filmed the exit months before it aired. That put the actress in a delicate situation in terms of looking for new work.

Julie with her family in 1976.

"It was difficult because the storylines were taped like three months in advance at this point, so they killed me and then I was supposed to be quiet for three months and ABC did not want me to get another job in that period," she explains. "But at the same time, they weren't paying me either, so, you know, I still went out and looked for work."

One of the places she auditioned was at DAYS, to play Billie. The actress had tried out for the role once before, a year after Rinna's 1995 departure. Krista Allen was cast. In 2002, Rinna reclaimed the role. Finally, two years later, Pinson won the part outright. Looking back on the process, she feels that she joined the cast at the right time. "If I had gotten Billie right after PORT CHARLES, I may not have appreciated it as much or maybe I wouldn't have stayed very long because I wanted to see what it was like out there," she reflects. "I saw it, and I hate it. I don't like to audition at all. I don't like being out there and since PORT CHARLES, I've hd work, but it hasn't been a steady job and that's what everybody wants in this town. So, it was really humbling going out there and thinking I'm gonna take the world by storm because I did this soap opera and then I go out there and nobody knows who you are. People in the night-time world rarely watch soaps, so it was a humbling experience and I was so ready."

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But because this was her third go-round with the NBC sudser, she didn't get her hopes up. "I wasn't as excited as in the past because the last time I auditioned for Billie was right after PORT CHARLES, and I kind of thought it was in the bag and then Lisa decided to come back and there goes the job," she grins, "So, this time around, I was cautious. What if they didn't want to have somebody that looked like Lisa? What if they wanted to go in a totally different way--I wouldn't have gotten the job." But when she did, she was thrilled. I felt like this was where I was meant to be, becuase if I didn't get it this time, then it was never gonna happen," she explains. "So, when I finally got the job, it was just so sweet."


And her experience so far has made it worth the wait, she reports. "My first day, I was running through a jungle, and I got shot by a dart and then Peter Reckell [Bo] wakes me up and I got to kiss him," she says. "I'm having the time of my life. I think this is the best I've ever felt."

And she wants it to last, "I'm hoping to be there forever," she exclaims. "As long as they'll have me, I would love to be there. I'm so happy. I think it's just the beginning. I'm looking forward to the wonderful things they have in store for Billie."


The Billie Club

The similarities between Julie Pinson (Billie) and Lisa Rinna (ex-Billie) are not lost to the actresses.


"I get the comparison all the time," Pinson says. "I've been geting it since I was on PORT CHARLES, and it's flattering." In fact, Rinna is responsible for Pinson's current hairdo.

"The first time I went on SOAP TALK, I had long hair and after the show was over, Lisa took me aside and said, 'I just had this epiphany. I don't know what it is, but I get this kind of psychic thing every now and then and I just have one about you. If you cut your hair short, you're gonna get work again.' I said, 'But Lisa, if I cut my hair, I'm gonna look just like you again.' She said, 'I don't care. You need to cut it. You'll work.' So, I cut my hair and soon after that I got [Y&R]."

Rinna has been equally supportive of the role reversal. "I saw her at the SOAPnet fall lunch party, and it was really funny because the two of us walked in around the same time together down the press line," Pinson recalls. "Harry [Hamlin, Rinna's husband] looked at both of us and couldn't figure out which one was his wife. And Lisa was so gracious and said, 'I'm so happy for you, congratulations. I think it's great, all for the best.'" The two even cooked up a funny intro for Pinson's recent SOAP TALK appearance.
"We played a joke on the audience," Pinson explains. "Lisa and I switched roles. I sat in her seat as the talk show host and she came out, pretending to be me!"

Thanks to KatLucas for the scans. For more on the Peter Reckell Group the contributer runs click on the image or the link above :)

Did you Know:

• The single actress was once engaged to Billy Warlock (ex-AJ, GENERAL HOSPITAL; ex-Frankie, DAYS)? "We're very friendly. He's a wonderful guy. I wouldn't have been engaged to him if I didn't think so."

• She's bought herself a pink KitchenAid mixer to celebrate nabbing the role of Billie? ($50 went to the Susan G. Komen breast cancer foundation.)

• Her favorite show is The Food Network's BAREFOOT CONTESSA with Ina Garten?