The little lady with the big emotions, wrapped tightly in many of our memories in a sequined red dress.
In Guiding Light’s rich tapestry of characters, no character elicits a strong of a reaction as Reva Shayne Lewis Lewis almost-Sampson Spaulding Lewis Cooper Lewis Lewis O’Neill. (I don’t think I forgot anyone.) Reva’s been played by Emmy-award winner Kim Zimmer since 1983.
She may be a mother of five, grieving widow and, in her own fashion, a matriarch of Springfield, but Reva sure didn’t start out that way.
Let’s talk about those strong reactions for a moment.
On the pro side: Zimmer has been recognized with four Emmys for her work as Reva. Reva’s life, and tumultuous romance with Joshua Lewis, has been a linchpin of the show for years and provided fuel for dozens of stories. The Josh/Reva pairing is, arguably, the most popular supercouple Guiding Light has ever had (or at least the one that’s been sustainably popular for many years).
On the minus side: In the early Reva days, the character was an airtime hog and fans were burned out by “The Reva Shayne Show.” Reva’s history on the show has made it a challenge to give her a throughline – is she the town slut? The nurturing grandmother? Or somewhere in between? And do fans love Zimmer’s intensely emotional performances – or does a little go a long way?
What’s my take on it all?
The Lewis/Shayne clan are now GL vets; Reva, Billy, and Josh have all been on our screens (on and off) for over 25 years.
But it’s important to remember that Red Dress, Slut of Springfield Reva came on at a time where GL was undergoing some substantial changes. In the year or so after Reva’s introduction, the Bauer family was nearly obliterated and the Reardons left the canvas soon after. Some fans directly blame Reva – or Kim Zimmer – for those changes.
As for me? I am first and foremost a Guiding Light fan, and have loved the show (or at least stuck with it) in all its iterations.
But I’m definitely a fan of Reva, and of Kim Zimmer. And I think I can attribute a great deal of my appreciation and respect for Reva as a character not only to Zimmer herself but also to her creator, Pam Long.
Zimmer has been consistently wonderful as Reva throughout the years, but Reva’s motivations were never so strong or so crystal clear as when Pam Long was writing GL. Long’s template for Reva has really helped to define the character through the years.
Long had an incredible knack for writing smart, engaging, captivating female characters, and Reva was one of her greatest creations (Harley and Alexandra are also on that list).
During the Pam Long years, Reva did some crazy things, but you always understood why. Her bravado masked the scared little girl inside – the one who had to grow up way too fast.
There are two Reva scenes that are etched in my memory. One played out in 1987, when Reva was concerned about Marah’s paternity and Josh was about to reunite with Sonni. Reva came back into Alan’s orbit, and he offered to pay her $250,000 to tell him a story.
She shared a painful childhood memory about eating garbage. It may sound corny or ugly, but words don’t do it justice. It was a perfect set of scenes: Kim Zimmer and Christopher Bernau were perfect, and the scenes exquisitely outlined the characters of Reva and Alan.
The other Reva scene played out a year or so earlier. It was the scene where Reva had lost Kyle to Maeve. She had no Josh, no Kyle, no Billy and no H.B. For that Reva, who had always depended on a man, she felt she’d lost everything, and she attempted suicide by jumping off of a bridge.
When she landed in the water, she fought to live and fought back. She ended up being the subject of a story Fletcher wrote for the Springfield Journal. Let’s just say that for personal reasons, Reva’s fight for survival had a big impact on me at a time where I was a struggling high school student, also fighting to survive.
Reva’s changed so much over the years, and sometimes it’s been hard to recognize her. The current GL regime has given Zimmer a mixed bag, I think, in terms of good story. The Jonathan story was, in my opinion, the best material Zimmer had been given since those Pam Long days.
Her chemistry with Tom Pelphrey was just amazing; I believed every word and every action in every scene they’ve done. It blew the dust off of Reva’s emotional side, and allowed her to come to life again.
I’m confused about what direction GL had in mind for Reva in the last few years, though. The promise of having Reva deal with menopause and cancer were both botched. The focus of those stories SHOULD have been that a woman who defined herself by her sexuality was coping with changes to her body.
Instead, the menopause story was all but forgotten and the first cancer story, which started out wonderfully, turned into a mechanism where Reva sacrificed herself for Josh and Cassie (so wrong for so many characters on so many levels).
And if there was any one character who suffered from the new production model, it was Reva. She’s a larger-than-life character, and the new model was much more suited to quiet, slice-of-life conversations.
There’s something about Zimmer’s performance that I’ve always liked, and I couldn’t define what it was for a long time. I realized what it was a few years ago: I know Reva.
Reva is, in many ways, someone that’s been in my life. She reminds me at times of my sister (who even had her second wedding at a lakeside gazebo that reminded me of Reva and Josh). Reva is so many women I’ve known, women who fought hard and loved hard and lived with the music up to 10 and the lights on high beam (with a bottle of Jim Beam).
Zimmer is able to bring all of that to life because she’s so real, and that authenticity is what fans have always responded to. So here’s to Reva Shayne, and to Kim Zimmer, the real deal.
POSTSCRIPT: I’m glad that Reva’s seeing most of her children as the show comes to an end, and the scenes where Jonathan and Shayne meet were entertaining. But it would have been nice if all of Reva’s children were in town – and being a family together – as the Light goes out. (That means you, Marah Lewis.)