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She also loved the time Olivia spent snowbound in the cabin with Colton after
hijacking and crashing his helicopter in the wilderness.  "The two weeks, just the
two of us in the cabin, where we find out all the reasons why.  That was just
brilliant that they figured out how to explain how as the only woman in an Italian
household of men who are chauvinistic and Soprano-esque, that there is no way
that, even though she is the smartest and the sharpest, she is ever going to get a
fair shake in that family."

She’s most effusive when discussing Olivia's obsession with Duke.  "It was just
plain old true love that she really felt was reciprocated, because she wanted to be
loved so much.  Then, when he decided to go back to his wife, it was exactly like
Fatal Attraction.  I tied that into, again, to her family, and it turned into 'Nobody is
going to treat me like this,' you know, or, 'I can’t take that he didn't love me.  He
has to have loved me.  Somebody has to have loved me.'  That is where her
tremendous torture was, from 'Somebody, somebody, has to have really loved me,
because obviously my dad and my brothers didn't,' and then to believe he did and
then have him, you know, say 'I was drunk and I didn't mean it,' it was just more
than she could take.  At the same time, she had to prove that she could run that
damn family, and she did.  I thought that was just terrific."
One person who doesn't love Olivia's travails is Tonja's young daughter, for whom
the story is a bit too intense.  "I've gone through my tapes from time to time, and
Isabella won't watch it.  I said, ‘Honey, it’s just a TV show.'  'No, no.'"  

She remembers General Hospital as the best work environment of her daytime
career.  "I really, really have a tremendous respect for the people that are on that
show today and were on that show at that time.  It was the absolute best show
on the air, on daytime television at the time, and I still think that it is.  When I left
there to go to New York to do One Life to Live, it was like stepping into a whole
other world, because working with General Hospital is, it just doesn't get any
better than that, as far as I'm concerned.  We would have an opportunity to do a
scene again, even if there was nothing wrong with the scene.  Just to see if we
could make it a little bit better, a little bit tighter, if there was anything that we
wanted to change or add or play with.  That just doesn't happen anywhere else I
have ever worked, except in nighttime and film where you get tons of time to do
things.  On General Hospital they figured out how to do it so that you could really
work on things and make it exceptional.  You know, I'll just never forget that.  It
was magnificent."

She made some lasting friendships on set with Jennifer Anglin (Cheryl Stansbury),
who went on to be in her wedding, and Tristan Rogers (Robert Scorpio)-- "I love
him, he's just the greatest."  She reflects that Olivia's onscreen relationship with
Anna might have carried over a bit off screen, as she and Finola Hughes were
never especially close.  "It did sort of help our work together, but I always wanted
to be friends with her because I think she's great.  We did Oprah together and we
had such a good time.  She's always been one of my favorite actresses.  I think
she's just so talented.  She makes everybody look good.  And Ian, what's up with
him?  He just goes from one to the other to the other and he just does great
everywhere he goes."  She reports that he lives near a friend of hers, and that
when she was visiting that friend "I was so hoping I was going to run into him."
Moving On

Her time at General Hospital was a happy one until a
regime change put Joe Hardy in charge of the show.  
Despite earlier assurances that they intended to
keep her on "forever", it was decided that Olivia
would be killed by her brother Julian.  "I remember
saying to the producer that I was really angry
because we had done so much work to turn her
around.  I was really angry.  I said, 'God forbid
anything happens to you and they want to bring me
back here.  Please don’t show me in a coffin.'  Well
he said, 'Oh you remind me of Joan Crawford and
you shouldn't be on daytime anyway.  You can
always come back as your twin sister.'  Oh, I was
just very angry."  
The character certainly had a major
impact not just on the General Hospital
canvas, but among fans as well.  As a
love-to-hate villainess, the response
was huge, and her fan mail bag was a
mixed one.  "I got some mail that was
really scary.  Where people tore up
paper and glued magazine pieces
together like I had done, or they tore up
my face and glued pieces of my face
together.  It was really something, but
most of the time it was, 'Don't tell
anybody, but I love your character.'"
As disappointing as the end of her tenure was, she is philosophical about the
experience.  "I'd realized in my life that when things happen, they happen because
you know, there's something else that you're supposed to do that eventually will
make you fulfill whatever destiny you have.  So, I tried to get that, but boy it was
hard, really.  That broke my heart worse than any other job.  It was very traumatic
to have worked so closely with a producer and writers and everything to turn
something around, to have somebody just come in and yank your rug right out
from under you.  But you know what?  If I hadn't done that I wouldn't have gotten
One Life to Live.  If I hadn't gotten One Life to Live, I might not have gotten the
Emmy nomination.  If I hadn't gotten that, I wouldn't have gotten to open the
Emmys at nighttime and do the big song and dance number, and if I hadn't left
that show and went to Hollywood, I wouldn't have met my husband.  So,
everything is just the way it's supposed to be.  But it doesn't always feel like it at
the time.  That's the big lesson."

And it's another lesson that served her well both in her career and her personal life.
Tonja went on to another love-to-hate role as Alex Olanov Buchanan on One Life to
Live, where she remained for eight years, earning an Emmy nomination for Best
Supporting Actress in a Drama Series in 1993.
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