From the second Erica Kane’s daughter Bianca came out on All My Children, actress Eden Riegel secured herself a gay following for life. She’s back, and for fans who’ve long wanted to see Riegel in a committed relationship, actress Tamara Braun joins the cast as Bianca’s … wife! Riegel sat down with Advocate.com to talk about life on AMC, her dramatic return, and what she calls the role of a lifetime.

Riegel has played the role of Bianca off and on since 2000, during which time gays both embraced the character and bombarded ABC/Disney with complaints for not letting Bianca fall in love and have a stable — albeit, as they are all in daytime, doomed — relationship like everyone else.

Well, for anyone who ever complained, wish granted. Riegel returns to the role today, and she brings with her a wife and a secret. The 27-year-old actress sat down with Advocate.com to talk about what’s in store for Bianca, her first day back on the set, and what it was like to finally play a bitch—Imaginary Bitch, that is.

Advocate.com:First things first — congratulations on your return
to the show.

Eden Riegel: Thank you. Thank you very much.

In the interest of full disclosure, I feel I should tell you that sitting to my left is a mint condition Erica Kane Barbie doll that a friend gave me for my birthday.
[Laughs] Oh, that’s excellent. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So, unlike the last few times you returned to AMC, I understand that this time you’re sticking around for quite a while.
Yes, you’ll see a couple of things you haven’t seen in a while. You’ll see me sticking around, and then you’ll see Bianca in a full-fledged, committed relationship with another woman, played by an incredibly powerhouse actress that the fans already know and love (General Hospital Emmy nominee Tamara Braun) and who does just amazing work. So it’s a really exciting time for All My Children.

Do you think that will make a difference, Bianca’s partner being a full-time character? Because I know in the past the show has been criticized for not giving Bianca a full-fledged relationship, but now they’ve brought on this recognized name and they’re already together?
I think there has to be a difference. I don’t know if the criticism is entirely warranted. I know I was glad that the show’s priority was in giving me good stories, and I thought that they did go further than anyone else had ever gone, so I always thought that they should be commended. But I know that it left the fans and myself unsatisfied in the end because Bianca was so busy mourning the loss of her child and getting over her rape and also falling in love with a woman who was bisexual, maybe straight. She never really got to have the kind of relationship that she deserved. Just the fact that they’re bringing on Tamara Braun — she’s incredible, they’re going to use her. They aren’t going to waste her talent. I know that we’re going to have a lot of amazing scenes to play, and there’s no more truthful actress on the planet.

How did they convince you to come back this time?
It was the story line that got me excited. I always want to come back. I love All My Children, and they’re my family. I barely need an excuse — it’s usually just about timing. But this time it was the fact that they were going to have Bianca in a committed relationship. It was very, very important to me, and I was so glad to hear that. In the context of that, there’s some pretty exciting story line plot points that I’m aware of that are dramatic and fun to play and enticing as an actress…

And they’re making you keep quiet …
Yes. I know how to keep a secret now. I’ve learned.

I’ve heard you say in the past that you take playing Bianca very seriously. I’m wondering why you think Bianca has become such an important character for the gay community to identify with.
Those fans are rabid. I know people who watch AMC only when they know you’re coming back. Oh, God … that’s so great. That makes me very happy. I’m sure ABC wishes they would watch all the time [laughs]. First of all, I think it’s the nature of the medium and that people get to see this character on a day-to-day basis and she doesn’t have to do anything sensational ever. She can just be and live in this world and do the kind of things that every other character does on the show. That she has a family and her mom is a total diva, Erica Kane, who everybody already adores, especially in the gay community, I’m well aware. The fact that she’s not there for stunt purposes. That she’s a living, breathing human being — I think it’s refreshing. I think that’s still kind of a rarity.

And then, also, because Bianca is so special. She has such a big heart and such a pure soul. I think she’s a totally whole person with flaws, but her heart is in such the right place. I’m lucky to be able to play such a special character, and I love where she’s coming from.

Do you think having an openly gay sister brought a certain authenticity to how you approach the role?
Maybe. It’s possible. I mean, I’d call her up sometimes and I would ask her really dumb questions, like “What kind of music do lesbians listen to?” or “What was it like when you came out? How did you feel?” It’s a good excuse to talk to your sister about all of the intimate things that maybe you don’t always share with your family. What I realized in talking to her was that she’s not that different from me… it just made it all more personal, and made me not play into stereotypes out of ignorance.

Do you think it made you two closer?
Yeah, I do. I think my sister was really touched that I would play a character like this every day for so many years. I know I could tell her a million times that I love her completely for everything that makes her who she is, but this is the way that I could not just tell her but show her.

What was your first day back on the set like?
Is it just like going home? Yeah. Like I never left. But I was really nervous this time.

Why?
I’m so excited about the story and I really, really want to do a good job. I’ve been away for a while. I’ve been doing other things. I’ve been doing comedy a lot. I don’t know — maybe it’s that my entrance happens to be so dramatic. Ordinarily, when I come back, I have a few days of chats with Kendall, or “Hey, mom, how’s it going?” I’m not normally thrust into the middle of a story.

I know one of the things you’ve been doing in your down time is the Web series Imaginary Bitches, which reunites you with a bunch of your AMC costars, including Maggie, for AMC fans.
We’ve been dying to work together again, so this was a good excuse. It came about — my husband thinks it’s really funny when I curse because it sounds so foreign coming from me. So when I curse I sort of laugh and get bashful, and he always thought that was really hilarious. So when I was away shooting the movie that I did, Year One [with Jack Black, out next year], he came up with this story about a girl who has imaginary friends who are really bitchy who say really terrible, slutty, very wrong things, and the only way you know what they’re saying is that I repeat things. He thought it would be hilarious to get me to say those kinds of things.

Well now, I have to ask you, what was your absolute favorite thing to let loose and say?
Oh my God. The line that I barely could utter was, in the priest episode, we’re in the pool — I invite the priest over later, and he’s very, very sexy and he’s wearing only a Speedo. One of my imaginary friends, Heather says, that he shouldn’t wear a shirt so that she can wash her panties on his abs while she’s wearing them.

Yeah, that’s kind of harsh.
[Laughs] That image gets me every time. But yes, there have been some really good lines. They say all the things in conversation that you wish that you could say but you never quite get there in time.

Do we have more of those to look forward to?
I hope so. We usually shoot them in L.A., but I have this fantasy of doing bitches in the city, so maybe we’ll get there.

Eden Riegel returns to All My Children today. Visit ABC.com for more information. For information on Imaginary Bitches, visit ImaginaryBitches.com.

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