Russell Up
by Lori Latusek
Soap Opera Digest

Digest: How has working together for two years changed your jobs?

Tracey Ross: We get through scenes faster now than we used to. We know what’s expected of us on the job, so we get there and do it quicker. Your goal is to do it efficiently and quickly, with as much fun as you can.

Rodney Van Johnson: It’s a good feeling to know that when I stand across from [Tracey], we’re going to get the job done.

Digest: You’ve had some cast changes within your storyline. How did you feel when Lena Cardwell left, and Simone was recast?

Ross: I pulled down my shades and sat on my couch and cried my eyes out. Then, I called the makeup [artist] and said, “I’m coming in, and I’m all puffy. I’m really sorry. Please don’t ask me why ‘cause I might start howling again.”

Van Johnson: I was really sad to see her go. I miss Lena. She was my sugar bear. Nothing against Chrystee [Pharris, Simone].

Ross: Yeah, nothing against Chrystee. When you lose somebody on your cast, it leaves a little wound. In my case, I didn’t feel the inclination to have [Lena] replaced in my affections so soon, which is totally not [Chrystee’s] fault. She is a sweetheart and very talented.

Van Johnson: I told Chrystee that people are going to hate her. I said, “Your viewing audience is just not going to like you ‘cause you’ve taken the place of somebody very dear who was here in the beginning. It’s going to take awhile for the cast to get used to you, and that’s just the way it is.”

Ross: [Lena] is very sincere, completely authentic and without malice…besides being so talented and beautiful. I don’t know how you can know her and not adore her.

Van Johnson: I told her that I was going to teach her how to drive. She got so excited. It was moments like that where I really felt like a father figure to her.

Digest: What is your relationship like with Brook [Kerr, Whitney] and Donn [Swaby, Chad]?

Van Johnson: Brook is from Indiana, so we have the Midwestern thing going on. We don’t do a lot of conversing because Brook is very individualized. Donn and I have talked several times. I respect the guy’s work. He is going to be somebody big.”

Ross: Brook and I both have a son, so we do sleepovers or [her son] Chris will stay with us. I adore him to death; he’s like a second son. I love and adore Brook, but we’re in a different age group. And, I think of Donny as a little brother, in a way. He’s an awesome actor, and Donn truly will be a big star one day. I admire his work very much.