It feels ridiculous to be shaken up about someone I never had the privilege to meet. But news of Lisa’s sudden passing was so heartbreaking to me.
I still don’t quite know what to say, but am giving it a shot here.
One gift of soap operas is that relationship the audience develops with the actor and the character. It’s weird and lopsided, but not at all one-sided. The actor performs and puts a certain emotional truth out into the universe, and the audience picks up the signal. One person may pick up a slightly different frequency than the next, but all of us respond.
Many actors make memorable characters, but every once in a while, a viewer like me finds a character that is telling THEIR story, their emotional truth. And Lisa captured that with both Nola and Iva.
I loved Nola’s ability to dream up a new reality, one that I dearly wished I was capable of during my traumatic teenage years. She failed to launch those dreams into reality with Kelly, but she and Quint reinvented each other’s lives.
I owe my ATWT fandom to Lisa, because it was her face (with blonde hair!) that I saw on ATWT one day as I flipped through the channels. I think it was the end of the second or third day I watched that I completely forgot that I was watching “Nola” and accepted her as Iva.
ATWT’s stories about the love of a child – both Lucinda and Iva for Lily, and Bob and Kim finding Sabrina – struck a nerve in me, when I wasn’t sure of my own status in my birth family, and hadn’t yet found my chosen one.
While soap operas thrive on the day to day narratives, viewers and creators alike recognize that there are occasionally scenes where the combination of a powerful story being told, and actors delivering that truth with great skill and emotion, can turn into something special, something that really hits us emotionally, something that we all remember.
Karen Wolek on the witness stand. BJ’s heart. Reva splashing around in the fountain. Alexandra scorching the earth at the country club.
It should be noted that Lisa Brown is remembered for TWO of those scenes – the Guiding Light scenes where Kelly calls her out on her betrayal, and the ATWT scenes where Iva reveals to Lily that she is, in fact, her mother.
There are some great scenes that FOLLOW those explosions that show her versatility. The GL clip has been deleted from YouTube, but in the scenes after Kelly rushes to Morgan, Nola confronted her mother and brother, showed little remorse for her actions, and vowed to scheme again.
My favorite scenes after the Iva/Josh/Lily confrontation are in an episode full of action (Craig might be dead! Lily is missing!) and were beautiful scenes between Lisa Brown, Larry Bryggman and Elizabeth Hubbard (Hubbard and Brown had a great chemistry as irritants in each other’s orbit).
You may want to see the whole episode, or the relevant scenes, but the specific scene that got me starts at around 28:00.
Iva was also a perfect choice for the first person that Hank Eliot would choose to come out to in Oakdale. (I think Barbara and Shannon were next, though those scenes are not on YT.)
As versatile as she was, I think Brown’s gifts were not well understood by non-Marland writing regimes. At GL, Marland’s successors seemed to lean heavily into Kooky Nola territory (Nolaerobics was not a story, but whatevs). I’m not sure if post-Marland ATWT couldn’t write for her, or if Iva just got swept away in the changes that came after Doug death in 1993, but Iva – and Brown – were gone the next year.
I know Brown did a lot of behind-the-scenes work in later years, but I missed her on our screens. I hope she knows how much her work meant to many of us.
PS: Lisa was very passionate about animals; her obituary said she’d had a dog at nearly every point of her life. If you’d like to honor Lisa and her love of animals, please make a donation to her local humane society in her memory.
PPS: HOW DID I NOT KNOW (or not remember?) that Lisa was in this video?