Taylor Miller has lived in Chicago since 1988, but for soap fans, she’ll always be Nina Cortlandt of Pine Valley, Pa.
That’s where ABC’s “All My Children” unfurled the fraught romance (is there any other kind on a soap opera?) and multiple marriages of Nina and Peter Bergman’s Dr. Cliff Warner from 1979 to 1989.
She returned to the show occasionally after Nina and Cliff left town, and she also spent a year performing on “Another World” in the 1980s. Her last appearance on “All My Children” was in the memorial episode in 2010 for actor James Mitchell, who played her onscreen father, Palmer Cortlandt.
The vivacious Miller appears through December 4 in “Love, Loss, and What I Wore,” adapted by sisters Nora and Delia Ephron from Ilene Beckerman’s bestseller about the lives of women as cataloged by their wardrobes. With her platinum-blonde hair showing attractive hints of silver and pulled back to reveal cheekbones to die for, Miller takes the stage in a slinky Audrey Hepburn-esque black sheath and kicky black heels studded with huge rosettes. During the 100-minute show (which, like “The Vagina Monologues,” is structured so the actors read from scripts on music stands), she trades quips, anecdotes, and monologues with 4 other women, including two North Shore residents: Chicago stage legend Barbara Robertson and Cindy Gold, who teaches acting at Northwestern.
But offstage, Miller describes herself as a “jeans and boots” kind of woman, with a style “much funkier” than what Emmy Award-winning designer Carol Luiken put together for Nina. “We had a remarkable budget,” she notes of her soap days. “I wore Armani—everything and anything that Nina could wear. They were spending incredible amounts on us.”
And Miller, not unlike Robertson’s much-married character, “Gingy,” in the play, still recalls details of the many wedding gowns Nina wore. “The first wedding—you could still wear that dress today. Very classic. The second wedding was at Tavern on the Green with this amazing black-velvet-on-top, ivory-satin-on-the-bottom ball gown. The third was like a Diane Von Furstenberg wraparound dress. The fourth wedding to Cliff, the dress was by Mary McFadden. There was always fantastic jewelry and all that stuff.”
Miller has continued acting onstage, in voiceovers, and in front of the camera – she was in the 2009 independent film “Hannah Free,” (http://hannahfree.com/) based on the award-winning play by Victory Gardens Theater playwrights’ ensemble member Claudia Allen.
But in recent years, her focus has shifted to being a holistic health coach. Her interest in holistic healing grew out of her son’s diagnosis with rheumatoid arthritis at age 9. Miller says her son, now 20, is “doing great” after years of holistic treatments. (She also has a 23-year-old daughter, whose birth was the catalyst for her decision to step away from the grueling 12-hours-a-day world of daytime dramas.)
“I’m very passionate about this,” says Miller of her holistic practice. “The medical community doesn’t believe in the holistic paradigm.” She set up her business after receiving training at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.
Miller also notes that, in the image-conscious world of television, she had “my own journey, learning how my body works best.” Working with a personal trainer taught her that “I will never have broad shoulders and little hips. Having children has helped me to come to peace with my own body.” And with a laugh, she notes, “I am not an accessories person. I gave up on purses a while ago.” She also gave up on heels.
What clothes does Miller keep around, even though she knows she’ll never wear them again? “I went through the whole Harari phase,” she says, referring to the L.A.-based designer famous for his use of bold and exotic prints.
“The fabric is so beautiful. I thought maybe someday my granddaughter would want to play around with those dresses,” she says.
Meantime, she’s having a ball with “Love, Loss, and What I Wore”—even if fans still see her as Nina. “That character and that show always had a great pull for me,” she says.