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DAYS Alum Kevin Spirtas Chats On His Heart-Tugging Series ‘After Forever’ & Love and Life In Your 50s

Courtesy/AfterForever

Filling the void in the digital drama series arena, the eight episodes first season of After Forever (available on Amazon), tackles the journey of a two middle-aged gay men in their 50’s in a deep romantic relationship, and looks at it through its various stages of love, loss, and moving on with one’s life when suddenly your world is turned upside down, when one of them has died.

While the LGBT community has seen other love-centric and dramatic web series, none have really taken a deep dive into the difficulties of starting anew in your 50’s or even older.  Leave it to former Days of our Lives alum and Broadway producer, Kevin Spirtas (Ex-Craig Wesley), along with another DAYS alum, writer, Michael Slade, and the two put their shared experiences, and dramatic ideas into this emotional series, that is not limited to anyone who is gay, but touches on the universal themes that anyone may have, or will experience, at one time in their lives.

Spirtas, brought along with him none some notables for his passion project.  First, none other than former Prospect Park One Life to Live EP, Jennifer Pepperman, to bring his vision to life, and some amazing co-stars: Mitchell Anderson (Ex-Party Of Five), MIchael Urie (Ugly Betty), Cady Huffman (Ex-OLTL), Anita Gillette, Colleen Zenk (Ex-Barbara, ATWT) to  name just a few.

While the series bowed a little over a month ago, if you haven’t taken a look, check out our interview with Spirtas for some juicy insight into the making of and the construct of, After Forever.  Following that, check out the teaser for the series, and the video for the theme song, “My Forever” by Lio Nicol which becomes available tomorrow June 4th on Amazon and iTunes.

Photo Credit/JPI Studios

What was the genesis of the idea for the series?

KEVIN:  Patrika Darbo, came to New York close to 7 years ago. She had called me ahead of time, and said, “I was asked to present at the ISA Awards, and you’re coming with me.”  She was getting very involved in the world of the web series. I looked at this amazing presentation of content that was being shown at the ISA’s.  I was blown away. It was better than half the stuff on TV, theater, or film. At that point, I made a mad rush for a gentleman by the name of Sebastian La Cause.  Sebastian had won several awards that night and his material was so well presented, and beautifully shot, and his acting was very unique.

Sebastian La Cause was the star of the web series Hustling, right?

KEVIN:  Yes, it was Hustling, the first season.  I went up to him and I said, “I’m Kevin Spirtas. I’m an actor, I did a soap …”  He goes, “Kevin, I know who you are.” I was starstruck, and impressed, and inspired, because he is exactly the kind of person I want to work with.  He is talented, and creative and I want to work with those kind of people. I said to him, “If you do a second season, I’d love to be considered for anything you might be doing.”  Wouldn’t you know? He wrote me in. I fell in love with the story. I was very clear to me, that you have to start creating for yourself, because creating your own content in this industry now is king.  The third season of Hustling then crossed me over to appearing in Winterthorne.  That was also the first year that NATAS opened up the judging to the digital world.  I got nominated for an Emmy. It inspired me to start thinking about, ‘What do I know?  What do I have in my life that I feel is worth sharing and putting out there to help heal, or inspire?’  I had been producing in New York City for 3 years at this point.

Photo Credit/JPI Studios

It becomes every performer’s concern, as they get older, that they can still be considered for the roles they would like to play.  Sometimes, actors can grow into the types of roles, and sometimes they’ve expired past those types of roles. Was creating After Forever also a way to re-enter being part of the conversation?

KEVIN:  Well, I was hoping to write something for myself … because I just didn’t see the roles coming toward me anymore.  My name wasn’t on them as I imagined them or had seen them in the past. I was worried about that. I thought, “If I have a chance to keep working, I’ve got to keep current.”

And somehow, you and Michael Slade ran into each other, and thus, a collaboration began that would eventually turn into After Forever?

Courtesy/AfterForever

KEVIN:  Then, I ran into Michael Slade at a gym… I had never met him before, he was a writer on Days as I was leaving the show.  And I remember saying to myself, “wouldn’t it be great to work with somebody, and see what kind of story we could come up with?”  Unbeknownst to me, Michael, at that particular time in his life, was working on the very same type of story and idea about what it’s like to be who he is, at his age, where he’s at, and what he knows.  I pitched him this idea: “I think there’s some really funny ideas I could express to the world about my experience as a single gay man at this point.” He said, “Call me.” In short, he was living life as a single gay man, and I was living life as a single gay man, and that’s how After Forever was born.  Michael had the experience of losing his long-time partner of 25 years.  There’s a part in the story where Brian and Jason are going along and they have everything in their life that they could possibly want, and then they don’t, because Jason is diagnosed with cancer and it takes him away.

Do we see Jason die in this?

KEVIN:  You just might! … It’s how we incorporated him in the story…

Courtesy/AfterForever

After Forever bounces back and forth in time, obviously, that was part of the unique structure of the storytelling?

KEVIN:  It does do that.  It tells the story through a lot of present, and a lot of flashbacks.  There is also the present with Brian, and his memory of Jason. As Brian is going through the next chapter of his life as a single man, he has to look at his life and learn how to continue to love even though the person’s not there.  When someone dies, the love doesn’t die, the relationship doesn’t die, it keeps growing on a certain level. So, if he turns around, and he sees him, is it real? Is it him working it out in his own mind? It’s a tool to tell more story …

Tell me about casting Mitchell Anderson?  He had retired and moved to Atlanta, and he ends up playing the love of Brian’s life.

Courtesy/AfterForever

KEVIN:  When Michael and I were writing, we threw out, “Who do you think would play this part?”  One day, I just dropped the name “Mitchell Anderson” I said, “I just see him as Jason.” Michael said to me, “Kevin, he’s retired.”  I just knew Mitchell and I had great history in the business. We started off as actors together in class. He went one direction, I went another, then he left the business, but I just felt there was something about his persona – not to mention his talent – his unique humor, his sensibility, and style, so I said, “I think we should ask him.”  We did. Mitchell said, “Okay, Kevin. Let me read the script.” He called back immediately after receiving it, and said, “I would love to do this!” I have not stopped thanking him every day. He’s so good in it.

The main character of Brian goes on this journey: he meets other guys, some appear younger than others! (Laughs)

KEVIN:  It’s a year after Jason is gone, Brian is trying to settle into his new life, but he’s guilty that his partner has died.  He has sadness, grief, and so much love for Jason that he’s having trouble moving forward, and everyone is trying to push him forward.  Brian is not necessarily ready, but sometimes his body is ready, while emotionally, he’s not. It’s how we deal with all that navigation of seeing good-looking guys.  He meets a guy in the middle of the series, and it starts to open up the doors. That’s the beauty of what happens when he starts to let himself open up to the possibilities.  There are some great rollercoaster moments that you’ll see.

Would you do another season of After Forever?

KEVIN:  Oh, my God!  Michael and I have already started to script out seasons 2 and 3.

Courtesy/AfterForever

Middle-aged gay men do have it rough in the relationship department, if they’re not already partnered up by this point in their life.  Younger guys think they’re over the hill, older guys aren’t necessarily interested either, and unfortunately, the LGBTQ community is unforgiving to community if you’re not young and pretty, and not in your 20s or 30s. There aren’t a lot of LGBT-oriented shows out there like this.  On that level, I think the concept of the show is an important story to tell.

KEVIN:  We were absolutely committed to writing not just another gay story.  We’ve seen those. I think the beauty of After Forever is that it’s not just a gay story- even though it’s told through two gay men… but, it’s a story about love … it’s a story about loss.  Everyone is going to have to deal with this in their life.

Courtesy/AfterForever

Dealing with loss is part of the circle of life, whether it’s a parent, a child, a lover, a friend, or your longtime partner. Many in the LGBT community succumbed to AIDS in the ‘80s and ‘90s, which was a pivotal moment in the gay movement.

KEVIN:  We lost half of our community.  We lost half of our brothers. To jump back to that history with Mitchell, he and I had so many mutual friends who aren’t here anymore.  We would look at the scene that was at hand, take a breath, look at each other, and they’d say “action” and we’d step into these people. Yes, it’s gay themed, because it’s told by two leading male characters who are gay.  But, I have heard more people in the last two months since this has come out, who have not only stopped and said, “Thank you for writing such a wonderful story about love and loss, and new beginnings, but also, what it’s like to have to confront that loss.” They also went on to say, “For so many years, gay people have had to watch the heterosexual world. People are trying to fit themselves into our world now, into our story, and how they would feel navigating it.”

Michael Urie is in it too? And you have some pretty accomplished people in your cast.  

Courtesy/AfterForever

KEVIN:  Yes, there’s Michael Urie, Cady Huffman who sings in one of the episodes.  Tere is a scene in episode 3 that it still floors me, I can’t watch it without losing it.  Then, there’s Anita Gillette, Lenny Wolpe, David Dean Bottrell. Everyone is perfect, and everyone was able to show up, and everyone delivered a million percent.

What’s the response you’ve been getting from people who have watched After Forever?  You mentioned it’s been very positive.  

KEVIN:  Everyone has been touched.  The majority who have seen this, are just moved to tears and full of excitement.

I saw that Jennifer Pepperman, ex-executive producer of One Life to Live, directed your series.  What was it like working with Jen?

Courtesy/AfterForever

KEVIN:  We had a lot of people who we could have pulled from.  Jennifer came up in conversation, because she had sent Michael an invitation to go see her new short film that she had done with Austin Peck (Ex-Austin, Days) and his wife, Teri Conn (Ex-Katie, ATWT).  I said, “Maybe if I go see the show and I like it, I can introduced myself to Jennifer.”  I called him right after and I said, “If we don’t get her, we’re crazy!” She’s so good. What she did is perfection.  We shot the whole thing like a movie. It was shot in 12 days. She knew everything she wanted to do and it shows in the edit.  And, this extraordinarily, talented girl named Colleen Kwok, who was the director of photography. She’s the real thing. She got it.  She got the style we were going for immediately.

So, we want to tell people to binge watch the series on Amazon.

KEVIN:  Binge it, or make it last for 15 days…

How many hankies will I need for this? 10? 5?

Courtesy/AfterForever

KEVIN:  I say Kleenex is not included … Anybody who has ever loved, anybody who has ever lost, must see this show, because it unifies all of us, it shows us that we are the same.  It shows us that we still have love in our lives, regardless of if that person is gone, the relationship never ends, it never dies. That’s what people are getting from this.  That’s what people are taking away from it. You and I were raised with the symbols of a straight world and how we had to fit into that certain way of life. That’s changed now.  We have Will & Grace … we have RuPaul … all these great things that are illustrating our diversity.  Now, people are going, “it’s just a story being told.”

What was Mitchell’s reaction when he saw the final product?

KEVIN:  We saw it together…We just sat there and cried.  It’s hard. Especially, the first two episodes and the last two episodes.  We served it up, Michael, we served it up!

Courtesy/AfterForever

I think you spoke to a greater issue, as you move through this career, you have to remain relevant as things change.  So, you’ve dipped yourself into this pool and now you can do more.

KEVIN:  I hope so.  You and I talked about this along time ago, when I first started on Days Of Our Lives, it was still a different world.

It was so different back then.  Actors couldn’t be out. There was still that stigma that if the audience at home knew they were gay, they wouldn’t buy into what they were portraying.

KEVIN:  That’s where I kind of worked it out, because I didn’t pretend not to be me, I just wasn’t very open about everything in my life.  Not that I still am. There’s certain things that I don’t talk about, because it’s not relevant, or it’s no one’s business.

So, do you get the obligatory question, “What’s a guy like you doing being single”? (Laughs)

KEVIN:  Michael said to me one day, “How come a guy like you is single?”  I made a joke out of it and said, “Have you seen me eat? Come on!”

So, intrigued to check out After Forever? What do you think about its central theme looking at what happens when one loses their partner at middle-age and more?  Share your thoughts via the comment section below.

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Chaz

Watched the first season in two sittings. It’s SO good. Pulls at your heart and makes you laugh as well. I can’t wait for more episodes. The entire cast is absolutely perfect.

jaybird369
jaybird369

Wonderful interview.

Days Of Our Lives

THIS WEEK: Billy Flynn and Kate Mansi Exit DAYS As Chabby Says Their “I Do’s” In Heart-tugging Moments

By now, Days of our Lives fans have learned that this week marks the end of the run, for now, of Billy Flynn and Kate Mansi as Chad and Abby.  But before they exit look for wedding bells to ring as Chabby remarries.

When Marci Miller decided to depart the role of Abigail, Kate Mansi returned to the role she played before Miller to finish the arc, which would have potentially left Abby to leave town and Chad to be without her, since Mansi signed on to just complete the storyline,

DAYS head writer Ron Carlivati told Soap Opera Digest  (in latest issue on newsstands now) the thought process of having the duo leave together: “While it was kind of agonizing to make the decision that Chad will exit the canvas with Abigail, I decided that was the best thing for the couple, it was the best thing for the fans and it was the best thing for the show. The way that they exit is very, very open-ended. It’s not like someone is going to die. They leave happy and the door is completely open for them to come back. As much as I’m sure some people will be sad to see them go, I think they’ll be happy to see them go together. It just seemed so unfair to not give them a happy ending. And I just didn’t see how that happy ending would work if Chad stayed in Salem and Abigail left.”   He added: “Obviously, if the time is right, the story is right, and the people are available, they’ll be back.”

Looks like we all need to get out the hankies after checking out the latest NBC promo for Chad and Abby’s wedding and farewell.  You can watch it below.  Then let us know if you are sad to see Billy and Kate exit DAYS, and if you hope they will be back sooner than later via the comment section below.

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Breaking News

Drake Hogestyn Chats On John Black’s Latest Predicament With Diana and Leo On ‘Inside Salem: Days of our Lives Podcast’

The complex life of John Black (Drake Hogestyn) just got even more complicated on NBC’s Days of our Lives; thanks to the arrival of his ex-flame Diana Colville (Judith Chapman) and the bombshell that bad boy Leo Stark (Greg Rikaart), who has been causing so much trouble for Will (Chandler Massey) and Sonny (Freddie Smith), is actually his biological son!  Boy, John certainly has had some kids he never knew about pop up (remember, Paul Narita is John’s son, too).  But, is this all a tale spun by Diana, or the truth regarding Leo?

Longtime DAYS vet, Drake Hogestyn sits down with host, Michael Fairman on an all-new installment of NBC’s Inside Salem: Days of our Lives Podcast.  During the conversation, Drake talks about his surprise learning from the script that Diana Cooper was indeed his ex, Diana Colville.

The beloved actor reveals that at one point he thought Genie Francis (Laura, GH) might be coming back to reprise the role, but now that it’s Judith Chapman he is having a great time acting opposite her.  In addition, being a true historian of DAYS, Drake takes the listeners on some fun facts that they may not have remembered. Later, Hogestyn reveals why he and Deidre Hall (Marlena) have found such success as DAYS’ enduring John and Marlena.

Michael commends Drake on his Daytime Emmy Pre-Nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his emotional turn following Marlena being shot at the Jarlena nuptials, and the family saying their goodbyes believing she was going to die, especially she the good doc had a DNR request on her legal forms filed with the hospital.

Photo Credit: JPI Studios

In the backstage segment of the podcast, Eric Martsolf (Brady) takes Fairman on what a typical production day is like for him and others in Salem: visiting the wardrobe department, stopping to talk to the stage manager, and chatting it up with co-stars along the way including: Lauren Koslow (Kate) and Linsey Godfrey (Sarah).

The new episode of Inside Salem: Days of our Lives Podcast is currently streaming on NBC.com here, and will be available for download via iTunes on Monday.

So, do you think John will do next now that Diana is working her way back into his life, and Leo is his son?  Will he tell Marlena what is going on?  What did you think of the sentiments shared by Drake in the interview? Comment below.

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Breaking News

‘Days of our Lives’ Producer Files Lawsuit Against Sony Pictures Television

In a breach of contract and fraud complaint filed this morning, Corday Productions, the Producers of Days of our Lives, is seeking 20 million dollars in damages from its producing partner, Sony Pictures Television, as well as its Columbia Pictures and Screen Gems divisions, and to significantly take back control of the show.

In the 33-page court filed document this morning, Deadline.com noted some of the key points contained within.  Corday Productions is alleging that Sony has treated the show unfairly skewed in favor of its Sony-owned daytime drama series, The Young and the Restless.  The complaint indicates that, “While the domestic ratings for Days of Our Lives have remained largely constant, Sony’s distribution receipts have decreased by over 50%. This dramatic decline is directly attributable to a decision at the highest levels of Sony management to eliminate any competition to its own wholly-owned series The Young and The Restless also distributed by Sony.”

Sony Pictures Television distributes Days of our Lives in overseas territories, and in ancillary markets such as digital streaming.  The DAYS suit alleges that Sony has failed to sell the show in key territories including: Great Britain, France, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Canada, France, Zambia, and South Africa.”

In the lawsuit, the producers also claim that Sony has stiffed them by forcing the production company, Corday Productions, to absorb budgetary deficits . The filing also claims that Sony is “imposing solely on Corday the burden of absorbing the multi-million dollar annual operating deficits due to an inadequate NBC license fee and mandating an inefficient, costly production schedule.”

The complaint filed Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court, also alleges that Sony has provided Corday with inaccurate accounting and has failed to pay millions of dollars in profits.

Make sure to read more on the lawsuit click here.

So, what do you think about some of the key points that the Days of our Lives producers bring up in their lawsuit against Sony? Comment below.

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GH icon Genie Francis chats with Michael Fairman about her return to the soap as Laura after being taken off-contract earlier this year. Leave A Comment

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