Lawyers can be found on every soap opera, but on mystery-themed serial Edge of Night, attorneys were especially vital to the storytelling. Actress Mariann Aalda joined the ABC soap in 1981 as legal eagle Didi Bannister and stayed with the show until its late 1984 finale.
Mariann Aalda — Exclusive Interview
During her tenure in Monticello, the show’s fictional setting, Didi found romance with Det. Calvin Stoner (Irving Allen Lee), practiced law alongside partner Cliff Nelson (Ernie Townsend), and was pals with Mitzi Martin (Lela Ivey).
Soap Hub recently caught up with the Chicago-based actress, who can currently be seen on Ted Talk, to chat with her about Edge, which continues to have a strong online fanbase. Read on to catch up with this fan favorite!
Soap Hub: Do you recall how you came to be on Edge?
Mariann Aalda: When I came onto Edge, it was supposed to be for a three-month story arc, but I remember having to do a screen-test. Both ABC and Procter & Gamble signed off on my casting. That told me they had something longer in mind. My story started out as a love triangle with Calvin and his wife Star [played by Yahee]. After I was there for four months, Nick Nicholson [the producer] asked me, “How do you like it here? Are you having a good time?” I said, “Yeah!” He said, “Have your agent call me.”
I remember meeting Henry Slesar [Edge’s head writer] at the first Christmas party I attended. He had this devilish little grin. He said to me, “I have big plans in the story for Didi. We’re going to make you suffer because you suffer so well!” Henry watched the show religiously. He wrote for the characters. He would take cues. He saw something in my portrayal of Didi and he wrote to that.
Didi was an anchor for Cliff, who had a habit of looking at cases a bit differently.
Yes. I read on a message board that someone loved Calvin and Did, but someone wrote after that that they loved Didi and Cliff. Ernie and I were like a couple of school kids. In rehearsal, Ernie would say, “Why don’t we try this?” Director John Sedwick would just roll his eyes, but sometimes he’d keep in what Ernie suggested. When Edge went off the air, a whole bunch of us migrated out to California. We can still pick up the conversation about the show like it was yesterday.
Do you recall any memorable legal cases?
I remember my first client. Didi went to see Mike Karr [Forrester Compton] to get her client off. She said, “He’s a good kid. He won’t do it again.” Mike said, “Oh, okay.” [Laughs] I thought, ‘Oh, Lord! If it were only that easy!”
What was it like after Henry left the show?
Lee Sheldon came on [as head writer] and he told us he had plans for everyone, but he didn’t have plans for Didi. My contract was coming up. The show started a story where Didi was losing her mind. I took that script home and worked on it really, really hard. I didn’t play it like she was losing her mind. I played it like Joan of Arc. She was the only person who knew something was wrong and she was trying to rescue the town of Monticello.
I think I was a favorite of casting director Whitney Burnett Voss because I was the first contract player she cast. She came onto the set one day and told me I had a “Q” score. I said that’s nice. She said, “No, you don’t understand. This means the audience is responding very well to you.” This was during the time that Didi went off to the mental hospital. She told me that there were people who’d been on the show for 10 years who didn’t have a Q score! I think that helped Didi stay on the show.
Do you recall Edge’s finale in 1984? The gang in Monticello was left facing a new mystery that was set on Wonderland Lane!
Except for the mystery part, they tied up a lot of loose ends. There was the wedding [with Miles and Beth, played by Joel Crothers and Sandy Faison]. Didi told Calvin she was pregnant. Can we talk about Irving? I was really, really lucky to be with him. Most of my scenes were with Irving, Ernie, or Lela. We had a great time on that show. Irving, bless his heart, … he said to me one day, “I can look into your eyes and see you willing my lines into my head!”