Where are They Now? Darlena Tejeiro (ex-Anita Santos, 1995-1998)

Life as a Santos Sister was Never Easy, Especially in Pine Valley


Darlena Tejeiro (ex-Anita)

For a 20 years old Darlena Tejeiro (she used the named Darlene Dahl during her run as Anita Santos) getting to the West Side Studio for work on time was a daily struggle. "I would wake up at three in the morning," Tejeiro said about making her 6:00am call time. "I lived in New Jersey with my Dad… he woke up at 3:00am for thirty years… he was a butcher."

"I would wait for the bus in the dark. I was always scarred getting to Port Authority, and then I had to take the train to the studio," Tejeiro said. "By the time I got to the set, I was a wreck. I thought people were following me in the dark."

The early morning wake-up call and the long commute did not sway the young actress from giving up on her first major television credit, the role of conservative Santos sister Anita Santos on All My Children. "Anita did not have any malice," Tejeiro said about her onscreen personae. "That is what made her so refreshing, so beautiful."

Tejeiro landed the role after she did a national mailing of her headshot. "I did my read through with Judy (Wilson, Casting Director) and Francesca (James, then Executive Producer and former cast member)," Tejeiro said. "I auditioned, and they sent me straight to wardrobe… I didn't know I was a recast."

Jordana Brewster originated the bit role in 1994, and it was recast one more time with Priscilla Garita before Tejeiro was brought on as a contract player. Tejeiro loved her role but knew she was very different from Anita when she first went into wardrobe. "The outfits were horrendous… stockings, it was all very funny. They hid my figure as much as possible," Tejeiro said. "I am very fashionable. I am very feminine. Whenever I went to ABC parties, the Producers would be a little irritated."

Tejeiro's only headshot from her time at All My Children.

"Basically, Anita was a girl with strong values and high integrity. She came from a very strict household," Tejeiro said. "Her conflicts were about being young and doing the right thing."

Another wardrobe issue was Tejeiro's glasses. "I did not wear my glasses because Anita did not wear glasses. I had to take them off, but I could not see anything," Tejeiro said. This lead to two accidents her first day, "the Producers had to be on the speaker phone and be like, 'Darlena, they are cueing you!' Then, I lost my glasses, I could not see where I put them." Tejeiro continued, "I could not find my way out of the Studio."

Tejeiro's first day was reintroduction of the character Anita to the audience. "I worked with Mateo (Mark Consuelos) and Anton (Rudolph Martin)… it was a living room scene and Mark was like, 'Hi, this is my sister," Tejeiro said. "I was really nervous. I had to remember all these lines, and the blocking. They don't teach you that in school." Ironically, Tejeiro recently ran into Martin in Los Angeles where both alums now reside.

"I had to pick things up quickly, like meeting the cast, wardrobe, makeup… then the fans would wait outside the studio, it was all overwhelming," Tejeiro said. "I was trying to handle it diligently and gracefully. It could be an overwhelming experience when you are new to it."

Tejeiro quickly came to the front burner of storylines because of Anita's connection to the premier Latin American daytime clan, the Santos family. Tejeiro grew to relay on the strong actresses that made up her family including Eva LaRue (ex-Maria Grey) and Sydney Penny (ex-Julia Keefer). "I felt like they were my big sisters. Off-screen, I looked up to Eva and Sydney, they had been doing this for so long. The chemistry and connection was there," Tejeiro said. "It was real. It was defiantly a family sense there."

The closeness on set lead to some famous onset romances including the marriages of laRue to John Callahan (ex-Edmund Grey), and Consuelos to Kelly Ripa (ex-Hayley Santos). "They [The Callahans] had an intense chemistry that was obvious. I knew Kelly had a crush on Mark, and Mark had a crush on Kelly. It was all very apparent. You know when things are happening," Tejeiro said.

"I felt like they were my big sisters. Off-screen, I looked up to Eva and Sydney, they had been doing this for so long. The chemistry and connection was there."

-Tejeiro on Eva LaRue (ex-Maria) and Syndey Penny (ex-Julia)

Critics pointed out the fact that of all the Santos family members on contract, Tejeiro was the only one of Latin American descent. Her family emigrated from Cuba. "I tried not to make that an issue with anyone. It was kind of hard, but they were all actors," Tejeiro said. "They would make me say a couple of things in Spanish, but not a lot."

The Santos family was also famous for their propensity to be involved in "super-couple" pairings. Anita's most famous romance was with bad boy Bobby Warner (Brian Gaskill). "I never try to compare myself with the other couple because we are all so different," Tejeiro said. "I tried my best to connect with Gaskill."

"We were working everyday, and it became like a Romeo and Juliet storyline. Everything was about Bobby and Anita," Tejeiro said about her onscreen pairing. "They were trying to make this a popular couple."

"Bobby was everything wrong. Hasn't that happened to all of us women? We fall in love with the wrong man. It was a big lesson learned," Tejeiro said. "You try to make things work out, and try to change someone; they are just wrong for you. It was the case for Bobby and Anita." All the while, Scott Chandler (Shane McDermott) harbored a secret crush on his best friend Anita. "She was not in love with Scott. She really like him: he was sensitive, sweet, and from a good place," Tejeiro said. "He [McDermott] was lovely to work with."

Tejeiro's onscreen chemistry with Gaskill did not always translate when the cameras weren't rolling. "We weren't close, which was kind of funny. I just did not have a close connection him," Tejeiro said. "But when we were working, we did. Brian's very shy, and I think a little withdrawn."

"He is a great actor," Tejeiro said about her co-star, "but I think once the director said 'cut,' he was out."

"There was an element between us where we were from two different worlds," Tejerio said.

Tejeiro's closest friend onset was her onscreen rival TC Warner (ex-Kelsey Jefferson). "We were working together all the time, reading lines… I was either in her dressing room or she was in mine," Tejeiro said about Warner. "She was always very helpful. If I had a question about the scene, TC is very smart and very sharp. She had a lot of experience," Tejeiro said. "She came in with a wealth of knowledge from her other shows. I would pick her brain." The actresses keep in contact to this day.

Tejeiro's fans responded positively to Anita. "I know when you play a bad character, people would complain, like with TC," Tejeiro said. "A lot of girls related to my character. They really understood my character's conflict. The conflict where you try to battle the outside world and deal with your own upbringing," Tejeiro said, "to do the right thing and be a good person."

"That is where the conflict came. She [Anita] was trying to do the right thing, and people were trying to move her in the wrong direction," Tejeiro said.

Fans sometimes made the whole experience overwhelming for Tejeiro. "People were screaming 'Anita!' I was frightened at first, because so many people were screaming my name, and I was like, 'I am Darlena!'" said Tejeiro. "It was overwhelming, but I loved it."

One of the biggest days on set for Tejeiro was the day they shot her reel for the opening credits. "I was so nervous. They did a big hairdo on me, it looked so funny," Tejeiro said. "You have to do this pose where you turn way from the camera and then you look into it. I remember my eye twitching," Tejeiro said. "I tried to keep it open. I had a nervous twitch in my eye."

"When I saw it, I was like, 'I am really on the show," Tejeiro said. "Soon they started writing the storyline, and it got very heavy. I was interacting with my sisters more."

It was also typical to find the any one of the Santos sisters in tears onscreen. "You're body doesn't know the difference," Tejeiro said. "When you are crying or in agony, and you do it over and over again, you know you have to come up with the goods… it was draining," Tejeiro said. "I would come home tired and emotionally drained. You don't fake it, you really do it."

The experience also made Tejeiro feel like she belonged with the rest of the ensemble. "As soon as you have emotional scenes, you connect with everyone because it is a truthful experience," Tejeiro said.

Julia and Noah's wedding was one of the most extravagent celebrations in Pine Valley History. (Tejeiro is pictured second from the right)

The Santos family scenes sometimes called for most of the ensemble to be gathered for a shooting day. This was the case when Julia Santos married Noah Keefer in a wedding inspired by Walt Disney's Cinderella. "It was such a long day because it was so spectacular," Tejeiro said. "To see Sydney in that dress, she looked like a real life Cinderella."

"Just to have everyone there… it was like a family," Tejeiro said about the day. "We were basically laughing all day. We had a lot of big events where we had everyone there: weddings, funerals, the Prom night." But these long days on set called for some strong will power. "You just try to enjoy yourself and have a good time, that is the state of mind I try to put myself in."

The most rewarding day as an actress for Tejeiro was the court room confrontation Anita had with her parents Isabella (Socorro Santiago) and Hector Santos (the late Raul Davila) over her homosexual history teacher, Michael Delaney (Chris Bruno). "My father made some derogatory remarks. He did not like my teacher, Michael, because he was gay," Tejeiro said. "I had to stand up and tell the truth in court. Going to court is a scary thing, and being in a witness stand and speaking the truth against someone you really love, it was terrifying."

Tejeiro did not spend everyday on set in tears. She had a few lighthearted moments offset. "I was up and going on the set before everyone else. So many people would show up in their pajamas, but I was already ready because I came from New Jersey," Tejiero said.

But there was one day when the punctual Tejeiro reported to work late. "I was staying with my boyfriend in the East Village, and my alarm clock did not go off. I had to be on set in 15 minutes and I was all the way downtown," Tejeiro said. "I panicked because you cannot be late. So I threw on my boyfriend's long pajamas, my glasses, and got in a cab," Tejeiro said. "Two blocks before we get to the studio, my cab driver crashed the taxi! The window to the left of me shattered and I had glass all over me. I paid him and ran the two blocks to the studio."

"I was sweating with the pajamas on, and everyone was upstairs waiting for me already. TC remembers it too, everyone was cracking up," Tejeiro said. "I was like, 'I was in a car accident,' but that excuse was like, 'my dog ate my homework.'"

"I was like, 'I was in a car accident,' but that excuse was like, 'my dog ate my homework.'"

- Tejeiro on the concequences of showing up late on set.

"Everyone else lived in Manhattatan, so they jumped in a cab to get to the set," Tejeiro said. "The rent was too high in Manhattan. People think you're rich, but your not."

In 1997, Tejeiro was informed that her contract was not going to be renewed. "I think the time for negotiations were coming up, and they told my agent they were not going to renegotiate," Tejeiro said. "I just read the script. That was it."

"They had a party for me and Brian, a goodbye party. The Producer (Jean Daddario Burke) was there, she did not say anything," Tejeiro said. "It was a rough transition for me, from working everyday and making a paycheck. Then, it was all over."

Tejeiro also had a hard time saying goodbye to her cast members. "You are letting go of something you have been so close and attached to, and letting go of people who become like a family," Tejeiro said. "You are letting go of a part of your life that is very dear to you."

"I think the problem with Anita was that she was so one dimensional, she was not your typical bad girl like people love on soaps," Tejeiro said. "I think sometimes, some people got annoyed by the character because she was so good."

Tejeiro stayed in New York two more years before leaving for Los Angeles. She did a short stint on NBC's Days of Our Lives, and continues to do guest spots on some of Primetimes' biggest hits including Bones and Ugly Betty. "When you are not on a series, you try to keep yourself as busy as possible," Tejeiro said. "You sacrifice a lot. You have to be prepared to struggle a little bit. You have to pay your dues."

"I love comedy. I am at a point where I just want to laugh and do comedy." Tejeiro added, "I was very grateful every day I was working." Tejeiro is also in the upcoming Star Trek feature film, directed by JJ Abrahams.

In 2004, the show recast the role of Anita with Natalia Cigliuti. Tejeiro was not called to reprise the role. "I would have come back in a heartbeat," Tejeiro said. "Every once in a while, I'll watch the show. It is like a museum of memories."

Tejeiro sums up her time with All My Children in a positive light, "It was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. It was a learning environment that allowed me to get to the next level as an actress. I gained so much experience just working two years. It gave me the confidence I needed to do other things."


For more on Darlena Tejeiro check out her Website
For more on Anita Santos check out her Quick Guide Biography
Interview conducted on June 2nd, 2008