She played one of the most captivating and intriguing femme fatales in the history of daytime television — and the mystery of Cassandra Rawlins was finally resolved at the conclusion of what remains one of the medium’s top-rated storylines, “The Bermuda Love Triangle”, shot on location on the island.
With her sculpted Scandinavian features and lion’s mane of tawny blonde hair, Norwegian-American actress Nina Arvsesen was an immediate stand-out when she joined CBS’ “The Young & The Restless” in 1988 — a daytime drama never wanting for alluring actresses.
But it was the fact she was a throwback to the classic 1940s film noir anti-heroines played by the likes Gene Tierney, Barbara Stanwyck and Rita Hayworth rather than just her classical elegance which grabbed the attention of audiences — and sent the venerable soap opera’s ratings ticking upwards.
Ms Arvesen brought an edgy intensity and enigmatic quality — what’s been referred to as “beauty lurking in the shadows” – to the role of Cassandra; her impenetrable air of mystery stood in stark contrast to the actress’ super-abundance of outdoor good looks and the furlongs of toned legs which seemed to go on forever.
Born in the United States to a Norwegian career diplomat and his former actress wife, Ms Arvesen grew up all over the world as a result of her father’s international postings.
“Before I moved back to the United States, I’d had my own talk show in Norway for three years and I had worked as an actress in Egypt, Brazil, Costa Rica and Norway,” she told Bernews. “I made the decision to leave Norway in 1986 to pursue my dream of pursuing an acting career in the United States ..
“But the casting directors in the United States refused to accept my overseas acting credits, so when I moved to the US I had to start all over again as an actress; I finally got my first US acting credit — and my Screen Actors Guild [SAG] membership card — in the 1987 movie “Dragnet” with Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks.”
Ms Arvesen — a classically trained pianist who also studied ballet as a youngster — joined the cast of “The Young & The Restless” the following year.
“I’d been testing for soaps for quite some time,” she said. “I’d read for the ABC soaps in New York, for ‘General Hospital and ‘Bold and the Beautiful’ when they were first casting.
“Then I heard ‘Young and the Restless’ was casting for Cassandra. I went to the audition and wound up getting the part.”
Originally conceived by series creator William Bell as a scheming Black Widow-type murderess, the character of Cassandra became more nuanced — and far more compelling — as her role expanded.
In the 1990 “Bermuda Triangle” storyline, haunted architect Cassandra Rawlins is meeting a mysterious stranger called Adrian Hunter who blackmails her into marriage after she tells him she is desperate to leave Genoa City and start a new life.
Having already committed the perfect crime by-framing Cassandra’s former lover — private detective Paul Williams [Doug Davidson] — for the death of her former husband George, Cassandra takes off with Adrian for a Bermuda vacation.
But things go downhill fast when she arrives on the island; Cassandra starts hearing the voice of Paul, who she believes has committed suicide.
But Paul — very much alive and actually on the island with his policeman father Carl — are in hot pursuit of the pair. Paul and his dad torment Cassandra — who they still believe may have been involved in her husband’s murder — by staging a series of ghostly visions of Paul to try and send her over the edge.
To make matter worse Adrian is plotting to kill Cassandra so he can inherit the George Rawlins multi-million dollar estate.
The show made a great choice for its first shoot outside the United States,” said Ms Arvesen. “This was my first opporrtunity to get to go to Bermuda.
“The trip to Bermuda was the ultimate adventure for me — I think Bermuda is the most beautiful island in the world! And I still receive thousands of fan letters and emails from fans all over the world who want to see ‘The Young and the Restless’ return to the Bermuda to for another storyline .”
CBS Studio Centre, located in Studio City, California, shipped the cast and crew and a dozen truckloads of equipment to Bermuda for the location shoot.
“Life in Bermuda was great, I really enjoyed it,” said Ms Arvesen. “I was lucky enough to work in Bermuda for for 10 days.
“But it was hard work. The cast and crew actually worked 18 hours a day in Bermuda. After we first arrived in Bermuda, the shooting of the outdoor scenes had to be cancelled and re-arranged due to a few rainy days.”
Ms Arvesen — who speaks six languages fluently as a result of her peripatetic childhood — said she still looks back with fondness at her days in Bermuda.
“I had an opportunity to meet some of the best people in Bermuda,” she said. “Bermuda truly put me on the map I made headlines in all the newspapers in 1990 when ‘The Bermuda Love Triangle’ achieved the number one ratings status.”
Bermudian Wendi Nixon-Fiedler, whose production house Panatel helped to coordinate the local end of the daytime drama’s Bermuda shoot, said the island not only gained worldwide exposure thanks to the picturesque footage featured in the “Young & The Restless” episodes but also received a welcome boost to the economy.
“I remember this well,” she has posted. “We [ended up] employing 150-plus Bermudians for this production from personal assistants/runners, wardrobe, stylists, camera crew, gaffer, grips, caterers and some serious Bermuda on-camera talent [ranging from veteran hotel and nightclub entertainer Gene Steede to lawyer/playwright Warren Cabral].
“It was demanding and great fun!”
Ms Arvesen — who went on to appear in the NBC soap opera “Santa Barbara” after leaving “The Young & The Restless” — is now retired from acting and runs a dance studio in Santa Monica, California.
But her days in Bermuda are never far from her thoughts — or those of the legions of “Young & The Restless” fans around the world.
“The’ Bermuda Love Triangle’ storyline and the elaborate George Rawlins murder mystery seems to have made the greatest impact on ‘Young & The Restless’ viewers worldwide who still remember its vivid characters,” she said. “After more than 20 years, the Bermuda plot has demonstrated it still has remarkable staying power!”