Like a lot of young girls, Lois Robbins grew up watching the “soaps.” With stars in her eyes, she made a promise that one day she would be on them, too, specifically “Ryan’s Hope” – which was her childhood favorite. True to her word, she made good on that promise, appearing not only on that show but three other ABC daytime dramas as well: “One Life to Live,” “All My Children” and “Loving.”
Childhood Dreams Flourish
At the tender age of 5, Robbins caught the acting bug after appearing in a school play. “The sound of the applause was what got me; I was completely smitten,” she recalls. Her parents were supportive of the path she declared early on but made sure being a child came first. They made it clear that until she was able to take herself to auditions, she wouldn’t be acting professionally. “Like many parents, I think they were secretly hoping I would find a more stable career.”
Fast forward a few years later and with her love of acting still as strong as ever, Robbins took a soap opera acting class in college and wound up landing a small speaking part on “One Life to Live.” It was there she met fellow actress Brynn Thayer who took Robbins under her wing and arranged a meeting with her agent.
After signing on with her first agency, the budding actress was on her way to the beginning of a career in daytime television. Robbins spent approximately two years on each ABC show, recalling how it was at a time when the networks had a strong loyalty to their actors. When you were off of one show, you found work on another,” she says. “There was really no other type of job like it out there in television.” Not only was she gainfully employed as a working actor, it was the only type of job where she was able to bond with her co-workers so closely.
“It was a special time in my life,” she recalls. In fact, Robbins says she is friends with many of the “phenomenal group of actors” she worked with from that time.
Around the time “Ryan’s Hope” was going off the air, Robbins became pregnant with her first child and chose not to go back to work right away afterward. “I was enjoying my role as a mother,” says the actress. While she never stopped working completely, the roles she took on were smaller, mostly on episodic TV. Not a lot was happening in New York at that time in TV and for this native New Yorker, moving out to LA was not an option.
As her family grew (Robbins had two additional children), she kept working on small parts and performing in cabaret shows but turned down numerous projects. “With this type of career you need momentum and when you’re not available, people – agents especially – get frustrated. I did my best to try and have it all,” says Robbins, “but I would not have forfeited those years with my children.”
Recommitting to her Craft
Once the time felt right to get back to acting full time Robbins was excited to conquer some extraordinary roles. She starred in the New York revival of Abe Burrows’ classic farce “Cactus Flower” in the role of Stephanie originally played by Lauren Bacall. Because it was not critically acclaimed, the stint was short-lived.
Knowing that she needed the same tenacity as when she first started out, Robbins was determined to get back out there and refresh people’s memory of who she was. She auditioned for and joined “One on One,” an industry education-based networking studio that provides actors with the opportunity to meet and work on-camera with industry professionals. Reconnecting with industry people she’d worked with before while also making new connections helped Robbins catch the eye of casting director Adrienne Stern. After numerous auditions for various projects, she landed a role in the indie film “Blowtorch.”
The film, an edgy murder story set on the waterfront in Brooklyn, tells the story of a struggling single mother, played by Robbins, who decides to take the law into her own hands to try and solve her son’s murder.” The role is not glamorous; she’s a hard working waitress and most of the time I didn’t even look like myself, but it was a great character to play and I’m really proud of the work.” The film also stars Billy Baldwin, Armand Assante and Kathy Najimy.
Robbins also filmed “Juvie” this past April with Eric Roberts, and has begun work in a new film, “Ithaca,” a Word War II coming-of-age saga about life on the home front in which Meg Ryan makes her directorial debut. The film, an adaptation of the classic 1943 movie “The Human Candy,” also stars Melanie Griffith, Sam Shepard and Jack Quaid.
Whether it’s in front of or behind the camera, Robbins says quitting has never been an option in anything she’s doing. Her love of acting is what kept her going despite some challenging times.
“It’s what I’ve always wanted to do, and I know the best roles are still in front of me!”
A Labor of Love
With all she’s had going on these last few years, Robbins took on an additional project with her husband, Andrew Zaro, building the home of their dream out in the Hamptons. The couple purchased the small beach cottage situated on the Mecox Bay in the town of Water Mill nine years ago. Six months in, they knew their cozy home was not large enough to accommodate their family of five.
The couple worked closely with an architect to make sure they were involved in every aspect. Zaro contributed ideas for the structure and Robbins handled the interior details. In fact, the majority of what you see inside was done by Robbins (although she admits to seeking the help of interior designer Kenny Alpert toward the end to help finish things up). She describes the style of the home as “contemporary, yet comfortable,” and loves that the warm tones throughout give off a soothing, “beachy” feel.
The couple was driven by their love of entertaining and designed certain rooms with family and friends in mind, including the fun-filled game room that’s become the center of the house. Whether it’s pool, ping-pong, video games or darts, there’s something for everyone, she says.
In addition to their annual Thanksgiving dinner in the Hamptons, summers are filled with casual weekend dinners and a big summer cocktail party, Robbins explains. “There’s a lot of energy all of the time!”
Having an empty canvas to work with was perfect for these two avid art collectors. While they own many beautiful pieces, their favorite is one that has generated the most reaction out of all –an 8-foot-tall statue named “Murray” created by the artist Evan Penny. “Murray is so realistic in detail it’s as if he’s part of the family.”
“A lot of work went into creating our vision,” says Robbins. Although it took five years to finish, the couple believes it was well worth it.