Daytime actress talks soap, sexuality

Daytime TV will lose a longtime soap-opera legend later this year when “All My Children” goes off the air after 40 years.

The show earned a reputation for confronting edgy storylines, like the 2000 coming-out of preeminent soap character Erica Kane’s daughter, Bianca Montgomery.

Christina Bennett Lind, who took over the role of Bianca last year, had never portrayed a lesbian character but said she was eager for the new challenge.

“It was kind of a dunk in the deep end,” she said. “It’s a prerequisite for actors to feel like they can fall in love with anybody and make those emotions authentic, so I had no apprehension about it. I was excited to portray a character who’s so exciting and current and courageous.”

Once she assumed the role, she said she found the experience similar to other acting assignments.

“I don’t quite know what I was expecting but I found it really wasn’t much different. It’s quite easy to invest in that romantic feeling with a woman because personally I’ve always believed, and still do, that love doesn’t discriminate between genders. So it’s been a really comfortable fit for me.”

In February 2009, “All My Children,” set in the fictional Philadelphia suburb of Pine Valley, made history with the first same-sex marriage on daytime television, between Bianca, at that time portrayed by Eden Riegel, and partner Reese Williams.

Riegel exited the show early last year and, when the character returned last summer, she did so sans her wife.

Bennett Lind has navigated the character, who has two daughters, through a messy divorce with Reese, a storyline she said has provided a rarely seen picture of the challenges faced by same-sex couples.

“I feel like with the divorce storyline, I’ve appreciated how [the writers] have handled it, but I think I would have enjoyed diving into it even a little deeper to look at the climate in our country for people who are gay, married and then divorced. This isn’t something that’s talked about really at all. But I’ve really loved jumping into this and I wanted to do something romantic right away, but that’s been building slowly, up until very recently,” she said, referring to Bianca’s blossoming relationship with Marissa Chandler.

Bennett Lind said the show’s fans are just as invested in Bianca’s romantic storylines as they are in the heterosexual couples on the show.

“I haven’t seen any backlash whatsoever, people have been incredibly supportive. I’d love to talk to Eden one day about whether she got any of that back in 2000, but what I’m getting is fans wanting more attention paid to the fact that she’s gay. They’re saying, ‘We want more, we want more.’ I feel like people are incredibly protective of Bianca and have really embraced her story. I think that’s a real testament to the gradual changes in our country.”

Bennett Lind noted that even when certain topics have been too taboo by other programs, show creator Agnes Nixon never shied away from addressing them.

In the 1970s, “All My Children” featured the first legal abortion on American television, a decade later confronted the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic with an HIV-positive character and, several years ago, introduced daytime television’s first pre-operative transgender character.

“I met Agnes Nixon at the Emmys last year and she’s just this beautiful tiny woman who’s just so polite and lovely, and I remember her sharing with me about how she has always wanted to introduce these social storylines and see what boundaries can be pushed within the context of the show,” Bennett Lind.

But Nixon’s storylines will only be played out on the screen through September, when “All My Children” is scheduled for cancellation. The Nixon-created “One Life to Live,” also set in Pennsylvania, is slated for the chopping block in January.

Bennett Lind, who plans to remain in Los Angeles and fuse her passion for theater with television and film pursuits, said she doesn’t know much about what the next few months will hold for her character, but she’s eager for romance to be included.

“Bianca is someone who loves fiercely, just like Erica and [sister] Kendall. I think all three deserve to find that love, and they’re all in a weird middle place right now. So I’m hopeful that there’s love at the end of this for all of them.”