Rebecca Schaeffer gets her first big break on 'One Life to Live': Part 1

The beautiful young actress from Oregon traveled to New York and appeared first on a popular soap, then on primetime television in "My Sister Sam."
7:41 | 04/13/19

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Transcript for Rebecca Schaeffer gets her first big break on 'One Life to Live': Part 1
One of the most interesting aspects of Hollywood is the motion picture industry. Hollywood, for generations the place where people have come from all over the country to make their dreams come true. Rebecca Schaeffer would come here one day to make her own stardom dreams come true. Rebecca Lucile Schaeffer was born in 1967 in Oregon. She was the only child of Benson Schaeffer, who was a child psychologist, and Danna Schaeffer, who was a writer. She spent her early years, the family did, in Eugene. We were very lucky as a family. Each of us had a very close relationship with Rebecca. This is a picture of me holding Rebecca when she was probably 3 to 4 months old. And what can I say? I adored her. She was sort of a mystery because if she wanted to do something, she could do it. Rebecca was a very easy child to raise. When she was 2 1/2, her mother said, "Do you think that you could keep your diaper dry?" That was toilet training. I mean, that was it. Nothing else happened after that. And when she was 6, I taught her to ride. So she really sort of learned by looking and doing, and it was easy. When she was in fifth grade, we said to her, "We think you should get good grades." And she said, "Why?" And we said, "Because we want you to." She said, "Okay." And she got good grades. Even three decades later, it's still very hard for Rebecca Schaeffer's parents to talk about what happened. Rebecca and I met in the fourth grade. Very outgoing. Silly sometimes. She was a small person in terms of her physicality, but a big person in terms of her personality. We were outside a lot. We would take pictures of each other. She liked to pose. One of them is Rebecca hanging out upside-down out of the back of a tree in our yard. We did a lot of that. She was definitely one of my very best friends. We had a really fun going away party for her at my house before she moved. Then, around 1980, they moved to Portland, which is where Rebecca wound up going to high school. She was always in the center of the popular group. I don't actually think that she tried to be there. It was there. She was interested in drama. And so she had the lead in "The witness for the prosecution." She really wanted to be an actress. When she was 14, someone said, "You really ought to be modeling." In the mid-'80s, I had an agency here in Portland, Oregon, and I represented actors and models. One day this little girl walked in. Fresh faced, just magical, effervescent, charismatic. And before she even said a word, I just knew she had it. Rebecca has found some success modeling in and around Portland, but at the age of 16, she decides to make the big leap. She's gonna pack up, leave her family and move on her own across the country to New York City to peruse her dreams. You can see her in the taxi here. That was an extremely happy time for her. I mean, she was doing what she liked. One day she said to me, "Do you remember what you said to me, dad?" I said, "What did I say to you?" She said, "Sometimes you have to choose between adventure and regret." I had an actress who was in New York named Barbara lusch. I said, "Barbara, I'm sending this little girl to new Yo, and I really need you to watch out for her." When Rebecca and I were in New York together, she was 16. And that is so young. This was a big adventure for her, and things were going well. So she's in New York. She's modeling, and she's also going on auditions, looking for acting work. In the mid '80s, soap operas were a huge staple of television. Millions and millions of viewers. They're covered in various magazines. So Rebecca goes on one particular audition, for the soap opera "One life to live," and she gets the job. It's not like we know each other real well or anything. Annie, I mean, come on. Would you get yourself together? I mean, aren't you liberated or anything? Liberated enough to tell you where you can get off, buddy. She was signed on a contract for a recurring role on that, and she loved working on it. Ironically in this scene, Rebecca's character is being watched by an intruder who has snuck into her house. A melodramatic storyline that's typical of a soap opera from that era. My father and Irene, they're in his bed. I played Victoria lord, lots of last names, on "One life to live," the ABC daytime drama, for 42 years. I worked with Rebecca in 1984. She was remarkably good for somebody at that age. I thought I had friends here. You do have friends here. No, I don't. It's only on the surface, Dan. She had a certain -- a presence and a confidence that exudes on the screen. She then is catapulted into the big time by landing a roll on a primetime show called "My sister Sam." It's a huge, huge break. Life isn't this good. I must be dreaming. Landing a soap and then transitioning to primetime was almost unheard of, especially for somebody that young. I do remember when she got "My sister Sam." And I remember when I got the phone call, and then we met. And it was super exciting. I kind of get a kick out of having my kid sister live with me. I mean, of course it has its disadvantages. Urfew. She was just right. She was just right. She looked like she could be my sister. But sadly, her breakout role would lead to disaster. The first time there was a problem, Rebecca and I were sitting in her trailer and we got a call from the guard saying, "There's a man here who says he has presents for you, and he's saying that he knows you." I didn't think anything about it. She didn't think anything about it.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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