"Everyone has either known or been a 'Chloe,' " Nadia Bjorlin says.
She's referring, of course, to the tormented, introverted teen who sticks out like a sore thumb amidst the other teens on Days of Our Lives. Bjorlin joined the cast in late 1999, and, shrouded in black clothing and hidden behind a pair of bulky glasses, her Chloe immediately became the pariah of Salem High School. She's been teased incessantly by her schoolmates, who have gone so far as to leave a dead chicken on her doorstep. "I can't say that I didn't experience a little bit of that type of thing in school, as well as see other kids being treated even worse,' the actress says. As if suffering through teen angst isn't enough, Chloe's life has been further complicated by Nancy, the mother she never knew she had. No wonder the girl is such a mess. "Chloe's had it rough, and she's bitter, but she keeps up a facade of being very strong and impenetrable," Bjorlin says, but reveals that the sourpuss has lightened up; if only a bit. "She's become a little more easygoing, and has developed a softer side that she rarely lets anyone see. She's been the victim basically her whole life, and her hard exterior is a way to avoid the real world."
During her first weeks on Days, Bjorlin recalls that the show's makeup department took extreme measures to make her look as "blah" as possible. "They used to put a lot of grease through my hair and makeup on to cover my eyebrows," she explains. "Then they got tired of it and now, I don't put any makeup on and the hair's a little cleaner." Despite her dowdy on-air appearance, the real-life stunner is surprised that she is recognized, and jokes that she's not sure if that's a good thing.
It is, because even Chloe's glasses can't hide the fact that Bjorlin is a gifted, memorable actress whose love of performing is in her family's blood. "I have three brothers and two sisters, and we have all been involved with the business at some point," she says.
Bjorlin's father, Ulf, a Swedish conductor/composer, and mother Fary, an interior designer, undoubtedly fueled their artistic interests. Music became the favorite pastime in the house thanks to Ulf, and went a step further when Nadia and two of her brothers took their act on the road, so to speak. "The three of us decided that we wanted to take piano lessons," she explains. "We started singing, too, and it just kind of happened." "It" was an incarnation of The Sound of Music's von Trapp family. Nadia began performing concerts with her father and brothers, mixing Broadway, jazz and pop music. During that exciting time, Nadia not only sang. she also played piano, harp and flute.
Although born in Newport, R.I., because of Ulf's career, Bjorlin spent much of her childhood in Sweden. When she was 3, her dad accepted a position as the conductor of the Santa Barbara Symphony. That California sojourn lasted about two years, and then the family returned to Sweden.
When Bjorlin was 7, Ulf uprooted the family once again, this time transplanting them to sunny Palm Beach, Fla. "My dad had received a lot of job offers all around the United States," she recalls, "but he settled on being the music director of the Florida Philharmonic because I think he felt the family would enjoy the nice weather."
Bjorlin did enjoy the balmy breezes and sun-soaked beaches, but admits that adjusting to American life took some getting used to. "I barely spoke English when I started school, and that was a tough barrier to overcome," she says. "Also, the European and American 'ways' are very different." She adjusted easily, however, and admits that the experience turned out to be more exciting than daunting.
Bjorlin cites her dad as her first music teacher, and she expanded on that education in her mid-teens when she headed to New York City and enrolled in The Professional Children's School. "It was scary at first to be in such a fast-paced, crazy city; I remember not wanting to leave the apartment," she says with a laugh. Her mom accompanied her to the Big Apple, which made the transition easier. Her siblings by this time, were either away at school or established in careers. "I adjusted quickly. I was so ready for the culture, and knew New York was where I wanted to be."
Bjorlin points out that The Professional Children's School was not a performing arts school. "You didn't take lessons at the school," she explains, "but they were very lenient about letting you leave to take lessons somewhere else, or go on auditions. It wasn't unusual not to see someone for a month." Some of the famous kids who studied alongside Bjorlin were Julia Stiles, Gaby Hoffmann and the "Culkin kids."
Immediately after graduation, Bjorlin signed with an agent. "A couple of days after signing me, the agency got a breakdown for a character, and needed an actress who could sing opera." That character was Chloe, and Bjorlin flew to California for what would be her first real audition. "I was nervous, but in a subdued way," she says of that experience. "I was happy with what I did but really didn't think that I was going to get it. So I flew back to New York and started to get back to my life. Three days later, on a Friday, my agent called to say: 'You got it. They want you to fly out there on Monday.' "
Mother and daughter have always been close, but drew even closer when Ulf passed away seven years ago. "To this day I still don't know how she managed to raise a bunch of children so well," Bjorlin says. "She worked very hard, never complained, and never put herself as No. 1. I really admire her for that."
Bjorlin's "family" has expanded a bit more since she's been on Days. She's developed close relationships with both Patrika Darbo and Kevin Spirtas (Nancy and Craig) that are both personally and professionally inspiring. "It's great to be working with such amazing actors; I couldn't ask for better role models," she says with obvious affection. "They are both wonderful, and welcomed me right away. Patrika especially; she took time out of her schedule when we weren't working to practice with me and get some chemistry going. She also helped me get used to soap opera life."
This past March, Spirtas and Darbo attended the Bjorlins' Oscar bash, and "When the awards were over, Nadia's younger brother, who's graduating from musical school, her older brother, and Nadia all started singing and playing instruments," reveals Darbo. "I was like, 'Excuse me, but I feel a little bit inadequate here."' The talent in the house, however, is definitely rivaled by love, says Darbo. "They are absolutely incredible people who have graciously taken us into their family. There's a lot of love there."
There's also a lot of love on the Days' set, says Bjorlin, who adds that her daytime initiation has been a breeze thanks to the support of the cast. The long hours on the set have whittled away at her voice lessons, though, and she's currently crying to figure out how to organize her time to include all of her passions.
So, in the end, will it be soap opera - or opera - for Bjorlin? "I'm having such a blast on Days," she says. "Sure, I'd love to record an album sometime in the near future, but right now, I'm excited to see what the writers have in store for Chloe I'm just taking things one day at a time."
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