After the success of the popular lesbian leaning web series Venice, Crystal Chappell partnered up with Bella Productions to bring us Beacon Hill the Series. Beacon Hill takes place in Boston, and follows the lives of Katherine Wesley and Sara Preston, former lovers who despite their devastating break up still hold a candle for one another.
Playing the Katherine and Sara are soap opera stars Sarah Brown and Alicia Minshew. All My Children fans will know Minshew as the tough but lovable Kendall Hart. Sarah Brown originated the role of the audacious Carly in General Hospital, for which she earned three Emmy Awards. AfterEllen sat down with both actresses to talk about their onscreen chemistry in Beacon Hill, working with wonderful Crystal Chappell, and the future of soaps.
AfterEllen.com: How did the two of you end up involved with Beacon Hill? Was it Crystal Chappell’s siren song, which seems to draw so many people?
Alicia Minshew: Well, I was in the middle of doing another web series called Tainted Dreams and I guess maybe she had seen that I was doing that. We’ve never worked together but we’re friendly. We follow each other on Twitter, we’ve seen each other over the years. She sent me a little message saying, “Let’s talk, I have something cool I want you to”—you know. We ended up talking over the phone and she told me all about it. Because I’m a fan of her work and I’d seen some of Venice, and I know how good she is, I was like, “Wouldn’t it be cool if I got to work with Crystal?” Then when she told me I’d be playing Sarah’s girlfriend—I’ve always loved Sarah’s work from when she was on General Hospital. I hold Crystal and Sarah in high regard as two very talented women that I’ve always wanted to work with.
I’d never played a gay woman before and that appealed to me as a whole other aspect of acting that I hadn’t done. I was so happy to be able to do it with someone who is such a strong actress. Then I read the script and I was like, I have to do this. It was a no-brainer. I get to go to Boston for a week—I live in NYC anyway so it was a quick trip for me. I get to go to a beautiful city that I love. I love Boston. And not just Sarah, but everyone in the cast! I’m friends with Ricky Paul Golden, I love Melissa and Jessica. When I saw this whole group that was attached to it, I was like, “Sign me up. No, really.”
Sarah Brown: (Crystal) came to me first when she got the script to see if she could cast me as Katherine. There were no other actors on board yet that I’d be working with. I read it and really just wanted to work with the material so much. I trust Crystal, and I like her as a person and I really, really like her work so much. So with all of that combined, I called her back and said “I’m on board, alright! Let’s do this. Bring me some good co-stars.” I put 100% faith in her and she came back with an incredible team. I just knew I could count on her to get the best people involved and she did a really fabulous job.
AE: Everyone I talk to about Beacon Hill comments on the amazing chemistry the both of you have together onscreen. I know from speaking with CC that you had not done a screen test or anything together. So when you actually got together to work of it, was it like, “Wow? This is kind of amazing?”
AM: It’s funny because we had never really met each other. I think we met each other once at the Emmys, years ago. We talked on the phone, and had great conversations. There was instant, great chemistry. We both kind of have the same work ethic. We worked on the script and we worked on the characters. We would actually read the scenes over the phone while she was in LA and I was in New York. We just discussed where our characters were coming from, who they were to each other. We actually had a really nice rapport on the phone, and we were like, “I can’t wait to actually meet you in person.”
Once we met, there was an instant kind of ease around each other. We both have similar senses of humor, and we would have moments of silliness when we would sing and act silly between takes. But then for the emotional scenes, we rehearsed, we ran our lines. We were both really focused on doing this together. It’s really nice when you have someone who works the same way as you. Then when we got along so well, it was like, “Oh, this is going to be easy.” You immediately feel safe around that person. I’ve got your back; you’ve got my back. You’re there to support each other and we kind of felt that from day one. We knew,”OK, I can go there with this person. I could choose this person, I could be in bed with this person, I could yell at this person, I could cry with this person. I can have these emotional things,” and I just knew she was going to be 100%, and she was.
SB: We did kind of mull it over a bit, how funny it was that Alicia’s personality is such that from the minute I met her, I just wanted to take care of her, protect her, and make sure she was ok. That really worked for the character. In a great way it sort of settled the dynamic. It gave it a direction for the dynamic of the characters, which I wasn’t anticipating because I’d never spent any time with her. We kind of laughed about that. Crystal really knew what she was doing when she put us together, because I think she knew intuitively our very different personalities. Alicia’s a girl’s girl. She’s just a lot of fun to be around. She’s delightful and funny and you can’t help but love her and just want to take care of her, which makes perfect sense for the characters, Katherine and Sara.
Sarah Brown (top) as Katherine Wesley and Alicia Minshew (bottom) as Sara Preston