Soap opera stars Robert Newman and Kim Zimmer spent 28 years as a star-crossed couple on Guiding Light. When the classic soap opera ended in 2009, fans were devastated. But now Newman and Zimmer are together again in the current Theatre Under the Stars production of the Broadway musical, Curtains, at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts.
CultureMap had a chat with the dynamic duo to discuss life, love and the pursuit of a Galleria shopping spree.
CultureMap: Tell us about your transition to a career in theater.
Robert Newman: When Guiding Light went off the air, I was already working on another musical. That was an easier transition for me, because for the last seven years, I've taken four to six weeks off a year to do theater. As an actor, I thought that would always keep me on the ball and keep my muscles moving. It would also rejuvenate me for soap opera work. I'd shot about 100 of the 150 Guiding Light episodes each year. It wears you out, and you need to work different muscles. Otherwise, I've been having a great time. I've shot three different prime time shows including Criminal Minds and Law and Order: SVU, and have done a couple of commercials, including one for IKEA, which is a company I adore.
Kim Zimmer: I'd slip away to do summer productions — I also love doing Shakespeare — but it's really been a dream of mine to get back into theater. Actually, I have a casting application on my computer. I went onto testing sites, and of course there were very few things for me. When i heard that I got the offer for Curtains without auditioning, I said, 'This I like,' because I don't get jobs that I audition for! It was totally incidental that Robert and I ended up working on Curtains together. It wasn't until I was in negotiations that I found out that he was on it. What can I say? It was fate.
CM: What was most surprising about working on Curtains?
KZ: We both have numbers where we're working our asses off. I have no excuse to be out of breath at the end of this one number. I'm kicking myself for not getting in better shape.
RN: We compare aches and pains every day. 'It's my shoulder;' 'It's my back.' I wake up and I'm like, 'What the heck?'
KZ: I walked into a Massage Envy yesterday and Robert was right there getting a massage, too. Of course, I'm a Massage Envy member in New Jersey.
RN: I actually put my massage on her credit card!
CM: To what extent do you interact onstage?
KZ: We don't have a whole lot to do together onstage. However, the little bits we do together are precious. His character's with another girl, which I don't like!
RN: Kim and I try to make out once or twice before we go onstage. It's an old relationship. I remember way before I saw the show a year and a half ago, I thought, 'Gosh, she's so great for this show.' It's been really fun to work with her in a completely different format than the one we worked in for two and a half decades. Just standing across the room and watching her work through a number is a joy.
CM: What do you miss about acting in a soap opera?
RN: Soap opera work really narrows you down. What I miss primarily are the people I worked with there for 28 years. There were lots of births and weddings and deaths amongst the cast and crew. There were just a lot of great people and we became close in many ways. And that's what makes this a complete joy with Kim.
KZ: I can echo that. I'm actually currently rehashing a role I did 29 years ago on One Life to Live, so I still experience that whole life. But when you spend 28 years of your life on one show, it's like being divorced and losing that whole side of the in-laws. I miss that family — the crew and the jokes. And I miss the paycheck. I do have a book coming out in August about my experience on Guiding Light.
CM: Do you plan on exploring Houston during your time here?
KZ: I myself haven't even been to The Galleria. I'm like a rabid dog without a bone because I am a shopaholic and I have not had the opportunity to go over there. It's like I can see it, and I can smell it. Hopefully once the show gets underway, I can go during the day and manage that. Oh, and I have every intention of getting a couple of pairs of boots from Cavender's.
CM: Any interest in the NCAA fanfare?
RN: Actually, Kim is the sports person in this relationship. That's something my poor son has had to put up with.
KZ: I've been trying to get my hands on some tickets to Monday's game. If Charles Barkley is out there and reading this, he needs to give me his extra ticket!
Curtains plays at the Hobby Center through Saturday.