by Diana Schwaeble
Soap star Gina Tognoni doesn’t need any introduction with fans! A winner of two Daytime Emmy’s, this actress has graced the screen of daytime television for years. This smart and beautiful blonde is centered, gracious, and charming in person. But it is not just her outer beauty that makes this actress so radiant. While acting is her passion, this talented lady has other outlets for her creativity, including shoe design and a community empowerment series for women. Recently, she took some time to discuss acting, Hoboken, and life so far.
DS: You landed the role of Kelly Cramer while you were in school. What was it like working on One Life to Live?
Gina: At 21, I had a great job. I really cut my teeth on the soaps. I was working with such good actors. Many of them had theater backgrounds. It was like watching a matinee it was so good. I’m fortunate and grateful that I had that opportunity.
DS: After you left One Life to Live, you moved to L.A. to work on pilots. What happened next?
Gina: Then CBS called with an offer. As much as you love auditioning, you like the offers. I knew I was going back to the soap opera community and I went to Guiding Light.
DS: What did you like about the role?
Gina: My character was Dinah Marler. She was incredibly confident and insecure at the same time. Playing that role taught me more about myself than anything. She had nothing to lose, where as Gina, I had everything to lose. I had health, family, and a career. But this character had none of that. She had chaos. She was desperate. What it taught me is that it is the attachment to comfort that sometimes holds us back. No matter how much you care about something you have to be willing to let it go.
DS: You won an Emmy for that performance.
Gina: There was a great head writer, David Kreizman. He wrote and I was nominated that first year and I won. And I credit it to him because the writing was so raw. I was extraordinarily lucky. He writes me this great arc where she loses her father and is left with nothing. It was vulnerable and fantastic.
DS: You lived in the city for awhile. What made you move to Hoboken?
Gina: I got married in 2009 to my Joe. He’d been living in Hoboken. We got engaged and got a great apartment. His friends are incredible and they welcomed me. Hoboken is so special. You are welcome here.
DS: Do you miss working on the soaps?
Gina: I miss the community. You miss that daily. One thing when you’ve done a lot of soap, it’s consistent work for an actor, which is a rare thing.
DS: What do you do to stay fit and focused?
Gina: I’m a big believer in yoga. I believe in working the core, really engaging that core. I believe in getting things done as efficiently as possible. I dedicated my time to go to the gym, because if I do not, I will explode. I used to be a smoker and I didn’t want that anymore. It’s hard but you can do it.
DS: What do you want to work on next?
Gina: Nighttime Television – there is a lot of great stuff out there. Blue Blood, White Collar. Good Wife, Royal Pains. So I’m going to try my hand at that. I’ll stay here and audition for shows that are here. Because my agency is bicoastal I put myself on tape. I recently interviewed for a Steven Spielberg series called “Under the Dome.”
DS: Tell me about your series at St. Ann’s.
Gina: I said I want to help, I have free time. I said, is there a group for women? Can I talk about what it is like to be a woman today and how I use my faith?
DS: What was it about?
Gina: I explained how I look at things through acting. Thoughts are words. Words create thoughts. We have thoughts and then we have behaviors. And if I was able to jump into a character, how could I apply that to my real life? If I changed the way I thought about things. Change exists inside us. Sometimes we have to be stronger than our own feelings. You know, this is coming from an actress, who makes a living from her feelings! I know about feelings and I’m saying we are stronger than our feelings.
DS: Why did you do it?
Gina: It fed me. It grounded me. The series is called keeping your power. When you get angry at circumstances in your life, you are actually giving your power away. That was my biggest accomplishment in 2012.