There are actors who start their careers in soap operas, using the experience as a springboard to films or episodic TV. Then there are those who love working in the world of soaps and enjoy creating a character who will be part of their viewers’ lives for decades. Heather Tom is one of those actors.
Tom is a legend in the world of daytime television. At the age of 15, she was cast as Victoria Newman on The Young and the Restless
and at 16 won her first daytime Emmy award in the category of “Best Younger Leading Actress”. She has since won four additional Emmys (for her work on The Young and the Restless
and The Bold and the Beautiful
) and has garnered an impressive 16 Emmy nominations.
These days, Tom divides her time between playing Katie Logan on The Bold and the Beautiful
, enjoying her new role as proud mom to her son Zane, devoting her time to charities close to her heart, and working with her musician husband James Achor
on the HGTV reality series Renovation Unscripted
I spoke recently with Tom by phone about her life and a career that has spanned almost a quarter of a century.
Where are you from originally?
I’m from Chicago but I’ve been living in L.A. since I was 12.
You started acting at a young age. How did that come about?
My mother got us into the business, my brother, my sister and I. We started doing commercial modeling in Chicago, auditioned in Los Angeles for three weeks and never went home.
Was your family involved in the performing arts?
No, not at all. My mother was just really determined.
It seemed once you got started in the business, jobs seemed to fall into your lap. Was it really that easy?
No, I think we went through rejections just like anyone in the business. I was lucky to get on The Young and the Restless
when I was very young and I’ve been on daytime TV for 23 years now. I definitely feel very lucky for that.
In 1983, you guest starred on Kids Incorporated and Who’s the Boss?, two extremely popular shows of the day. What was that like?
It was great. It was just such an adventure being in Los Angeles and to actually be working. It was very different than it is now. There was a lot of work to go around. It was very exciting. My brother and sister started having a lot of success at that point too. It was fun.
Judging by the your five Emmy wins and the comments I’ve read on YouTube, your work on The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful is legendary in the world of daytime television. How different is it working on soaps compared to theater, film and TV guest shots?
I would think the biggest difference is just the sheer volume of the work that we do. We do two shows a day. I think that’s the biggest thing. We move very fast. We don’t really get a lot of time to do two takes. We do one take and go. I think also [when] playing a character that’s been around for 10 or 20 years, that character kind of takes on a life of its own. I tend to be very excited about daytime. I like playing a character for a long period of time.
Are you impressed by how loyal and sometimes fanatical soap fans are?
We love our fans. We need our fans in order to be on the air. I love it when fans get excited about a story. I love to hear comments. I like it when they love a story, I like it when they hate a story. As long as they’re watching and they ask about the character, that’s all I care about.
How did you get involved with HGTV’s Renovation Unscripted? Tell us something about the show.
My husband and I run a design company and they decided to build a show around that. They follow us in our regular lives. They follow me to work and they follow him on gigs; he’s a musician by trade. And then they also follow us as we complete a project. It was a lot of fun. We did six episodes and it’s on HGTV right now. I’m really happy with the way it’s come out.
How is it working with your husband?
We work very well together. I think this is one of those things that shows how we connect. I’m usually in front of the cameras that was something he kind of had to get over. But we work really, really well together.
You have over 23,000 followers on Twitter. Do you enjoy interacting with your fans via social media?
You know, I do and it’s something I was late in coming into. I really like the idea of being able to connect one on one with my fans. I admit it’s so different than when I first started where it was basically [just] fan mail. Now we can connect one on one at any time. I actually really enjoy it. I like it a lot.
Can you talk a bit about your charity work?
I do a lot of work with SheVotes.org. I do a lot of work with Planned Parenthood. And I’ve also been working a lot with Freedom To Marry. Basically I just go where they need me most but those are topics that are very close to my heart. I feel like we’ve won some significant battles recently. We’ve got a long way to go but it’s been an exciting time for us regarding these things.
What are your plans for the future?
I just had a baby so that’s one thing. Basically I’m basing my life around that now because it’s a totally new experience and very exciting. He’s awesome and it’s better than I ever expected it to be. He’s my biggest priority at this point.
You can learn more about Heather Tom's HGTV show Renovation Unscripted here