By Rick Bentley
Tribune News Service
When it comes to compliments, there’s one that means the most to Arianne Zucker.
“I have had some really wonderful fans tell me I have changed their lives,” Zucker says. “The best thing I can do as an actor is make a difference in somebody’s life.”
She’s done that through a variety of acting roles, including her latest project, the Lifetime movie “Web Cam Girls.” The film looks at the world of sex camming, wherein women earn money by performing on web cameras. This turns deadly for one high school student as she’s kidnapped and forced to perform or die in front of an audience on the worldwide dark web.
Zucker plays the aunt of the girl in danger, who begins searching for the location of the imprisoned teen when the police prove ineffective.
“When I first heard about this movie I didn’t know this really happens,” Zucker says. “I really try to live my life as a very positive, strong woman. I just didn’t understand how young ladies would put themselves in these situations.
“It was an exciting movie to do because this is something we need to put forward. It is a good thriller, but in light of what is going on in this day and age, it is a good time for it to come out.”
Zucker hasn’t touched people only with her acting. She co-created the nonprofit organization Arrow-Heart Adventure Camps in 2007 with her brother, Todd Zucker. The mentoring program is a way to give teens a chance to live to their full potential.
The opportunity to touch so many people didn’t start with acting, as her first work was as a model. It almost sounds like the plot for another thriller, but Zucker — who was 16 at the time — was skating on California’s Venice Beach when a man approached her and told her she could be a model. It was Zucker’s mother who investigated the agency and reluctantly agreed to go with her to an audition.
That launched a career in front of the camera that was during summer breaks or on weekends until she turned 18. That’s when she started traveling to Paris, Australia, Japan and New York for work.
“It was very scary because all I had ever known was where I grew up in California,” Zucker says. “It was a real culture shock. The first time I went, I was three weeks in Paris and I was ready to come home. But, it was good for me because it made me look at what just happened and how could I prepare myself to travel better.
The one piece of advice her mother gave her that scared her the most was to never leave a drink unattended because something could be added to it. Zucker praises her mother for showing her how to protect herself through knowledge. And, Zucker is passing that forward through work like “Web Cam Girls” that she hopes is a cautionary tale that will at least make some young women think twice before taking such a risk.
In recent years, Zucker has found herself being cast as mothers, a role she knows well because of her own child. Even if it isn’t written into the script, Zucker always thinks about how she would want to protect her own daughter if she were in a similar real-life situation.
“In ‘Web Cam Girls,’ here’s a mother who is trying to have a career in a business where she has to work triple as hard as the men,” Zucker says. “Her daughter is a good kid, but there is a separation.”
The trek to being able to take on such roles for Zucker started through landing national and international commercials. That was the springboard for the three-time Daytime Emmy-nominated Zucker to land the part she’s best known for, Nicole Walker on NBC’s “Days of Our Lives” for 19 years, but she has worked on films (“The Last Resort”) and primetime TV (“CSI: Miami”).
Along with the cable movie, Zucker can be seen in the new DVD release “Shattered.” The film is based on true events and inspired by T.T. Johnson’s novel, “The Shattered Faberge Egg,” about a prominent political family in the Deep South.
A lot of her acting work has been overshadowed in the past year as she found herself in the middle of a political whirlwind. It was Zucker who greeted Donald Trump after he made his graphic remarks in 2005 on the “Access Hollywood” bus in which he bragged about groping women. In recent weeks, Trump has insinuated the audio recordings sound fake. Billy Bush, who was on the bus, denied Trump’s false claims.
Zucker is surprised Trump has questioned the authenticity of the tapes, but she has used his comments as another way of trying to make a difference. She’s OK with how the Trump situation often becomes as big a topic with her as her acting career.
“I think we have to talk about this, because the question is: ‘Where do we go from here?’” Zucker says. “What happened has to be put out there and repeated. I am coming from the position of ‘what can I do?’
“This thing is unraveling, but the question in the meantime is what are we doing for the victims? It takes a moment for something to happen to you, and half a lifetime to get through it.”
‘Web Cam Girls’
8 p.m. Saturday, Lifetime