Power Performance of the Week- DAYS Galen Gering!
Galen Gering, you broke my heart in a million pieces. It was so terrific to get to see you do something other than be the cop, FBI guy, or construction worker! This past week, in sensational episodes of Days of our Lives. Galen as Rafe and Alison Sweeney as Sami, delivered touching, raw and heartbreaking performances as parents’ grieving the death of their little baby girl, Grace. Even though Sweeney, delivered raw peformances day in day out, (sans the Sami histrionics), it was Gering who really touched me.
In the scenes it was Rafe who was Sami’s rock, yet he let himself feel the loss and pain of the little girl, he wanted to love and be a father to. To watch Rafe sometimes quietly, sometimes very emotional, go through the process of grieving the loss of a loved one seemed so real! Alison Sweeney as well pulled out all the stops to make this compelling week of soap watching. Kudos!
Till next time,
Galen is a great actor. He is also drop dead gorgeous
Leaving Llanview: My Final Visit with the Cast of One Life to Live!
Saying goodbye to friends, and family, and loved ones is never easy. Sometimes it can be the most difficult moments in one’s lifetime. So it was with that in mind, I could not fathom how on earth I was going to handle this trip from Los Angeles to New York to say farewell to the cast of One Life to Live, and the beloved citizens and town of Llanview. Yes, as they say it’s “only a soap opera”, but as we know for myself and for many of you, it has touched our lives in such a profound way, and this series has been there for us through all the ups and down in our lives, as we followed our television family through its trials and tribulations. At the time of the flight, there was still belief that at the eleventh hour Prospect Park was going to resurrect the show and move it online shortly after its final episode on ABC. However, I just could not see it happening in the timeline they had laid out, and had a very uneasy feeling going on this trip that things were all not going to neatly work itself out …if at all. There were just too many unanswered questions. Now looking back, Prospect Park cheated not only the press and the actor’s proper closure for this final press junket, but misled people during a critical time in the show’s history … its ending! And as for how the fans were cheated; don’t get me started on that, because the show should have never been cancelled in the first place! One Life to Live is still as viable as a product as ever! In fact, this past year prior to its cancellation and through to the end, it was on a creative high coming up with unbelievable drama, and it reflected so in the ratings with the show being for most of 2011 at # 3 of all the remaining soaps, and not at the bottom of the heap, which is the usual spot reserved for a series when it is destined for cancellation and sent to soap heaven.
I considered it an honor and a privilege to have this opportunity to attend the final press junket of the 43-year old series! 43 years, and I have watched at least 41 of it. Imagine the nostalgia I was feeling! I had some traveling companions on this junket. They were a group of wonderful reporters from Los Angeles from different mainstream outlets, who knew I was the “soap guy”. And thus in turn, were there for me with warm hearts always checking in with me to see how I was doing knowing that soon we would be arriving at ABC Studios on West 66th Street and I would being seeing OLTL’s home for the very last time.
Being escorted through ABC’s hallways and seeing the images on the wall of Erika Slezak, Hillary B. Smith and Robert Woods, John-Paul Lavoisier and Michael Easton, I knew I was in an uphill battle on this day to try and hold it together and not fall apart in front of the amazing cast, who I had gotten to know for the last two decades, some for three decades! When the junket began and I began seeing so many familiar faces, with a lump in my throat it was time to get down to business, because I wanted to above all else to not let myself or the audience that follows me down. I wanted to come away with some parting words from the various members of the cast; young and old, newbies and the veterans, of what it was like to be part of life in Llanview, because they can take the show off the air, but they cannot take or erase our memories. (Unless of course, you have a syringe filled with some meds from Troy McGiver or Lindsay Rappaport, nearby) But on this day, it would be a day filled with lasting moments and final impressions that I will treasure. And so it begins …
It had been a while since I had seen Michael Easton who has played John McBain with such a quiet intensity that truly made him not your “normal” soap guy, and Michael agreed when he admitted, “John McBain is a character that can be hard to like, and we have this debate all the time because he is the one character in daytime, who didn’t say, ‘I love you’ for six years! That is pretty tricky, to be that contained and it’s hard to always be that. And in daytime the guys that do that are charming and rich, and they look great, and they are all the things you would think you would want. Then along the way you get these guys who don’t always give you what you want. I think that is the great appeal of John to the female audience that they are going to help this guy. They are going to be the person that changes him.” Of course, Easton’s on-screen love life has paired him with some very special ladyloves during his time in Llanview. “I have been the most fortunate guys on daytime,” Easton recounts. “I hear some of these tragic actor stories where you work with somebody that you are not fond of, but I have been lucky enough to work with Melissa Archer (Natalie), Renee Elise Goldsberry (Evangeline) and the lovely Kassie DePaiva (Blair) who I have to say that about her or she will hit me! (Laughs) You have to address her in that way! (Laughs) I also enjoyed working with Gina Tognoni (Kelly)! I have been wonderfully lucky. But since Melissa has had to put up with me the longest, I would probably say that I have a very special relationship with her.” And of course, all the women in America give a collective sigh of “HOW CUTE!” when John holds his son Liam! So just how is working with the babies? Michael told me, “I had a baby recently in real life, so that dynamic changed. I always imagined that John would not be very good with kids. So it’s fun to keep that in my mind in the scenes with his son, Liam. You know most of the daytime fellows are charming, so it’s nice to not be so much so, and play that part and have people respond to it. It is also nice to play the small gestures that you still have that connection for this child, and love for this child. On top of that, kids are great because you never know what they are going to do on camera! It’s kind of like working with Trevor St. John (Ex-Todd/Victor Jr.). You never know what they are going to do!” (Laughs)
As we parted company, I wanted to know if Michael truly knew how beloved he was from the fans of the show, and the special connection between the actors and their audience. With that, it was time for the first misty moment of the day, when Easton relayed, “It does make me feel good to hear what the fans have to say. I was down at ABC Super Soap Weekend one year, and there was a lady in my autograph line and she said, ‘My daughter goes for her chemotherapy every three weeks and she saves up your episodes. We watch them while she is getting treatment for the five and half hours we are there.’ You hear something like that and it changes what you feel about what you are doing here. And for one moment, you feel pretty good. I know everybody says they have the best fans, and I know there must be some drunk and gambling crazy fans somewhere, but it is really true … we have the nicest people. Their commitment and passion for what we do is extraordinary.”
Now I know I am getting up there in age, but to see sitting in front of me Eddie and Kristen Alderson (Matthew and Starr) and how they have grown and turned into quite the thespians, has been fun to witness over the years. Kristen acknowledged, “I think what is so special about our time on OLTL is that the fans have seen Eddie and me as their family members. They will go, ‘You remind me of my daughter!’ And, we relate to them as well, as well as all the cast and crew, and the press that have been there to support us, and influenced us, and grown up with us. We feel like we are a family, and that has been the best part of it. The thought of it coming to an end makes me weepy. On the car ride up here we talked and had these discussions of: ‘Has the ending of the show hit us?’ But I think last night and this morning doing these interviews and the cast photo, I have this big knot in my stomach.” Eddie concurred, “I feel that now it is ending!”
I then asked Eddie what he would want to say to Hillary B. Smith (Nora) and Bob Woods (Bo) for all the years they have spent together on-screen as the Buchanan family. Eddie took a moment, and with tears in his eyes said, “Just ‘thank you’ … they have been so great. We have spent most of our lives here at the studio, and they have been like second parents to me. Bob and Hillary have been so supportive and they are both so talented. They have helped me grow as a person and as an actor. I have gone countless times upstate to Bob’s country house and I am a good friend of Tanner, Bob’s son. I don’t know how to thank them, but everybody has been so great, and yes, people have come and gone, but everybody has helped us.” Kristen jumped in, “The number one thing is …we have to make sure that this is not goodbye. That we will still stay in touch with many of the people here. It’s just that we won’t be visiting this house anymore. But, Starr will always be a part of me. I love Starr. If Starr is still able for me to play again somewhere down the road, and I could do other things, I will do it.” Eddie added, “It’s almost, now as I look back on my time on OLTL, that we were not playing characters, because Kristen and I have been Matthew and Starr for so long! It’s almost like they are our alter egos. There is so much Matthew in Eddie… and Eddie in Matthew… that we are basically the same.”
Ah those Ford Boys… er men… were next! David Gregory (Ford), Nic Robuck (James) and Lenny Platt (Nate), who haven’t had that long a connection to Llanview, and because of that, had perhaps a different spin on how life in Llanview is coming to an end. Nic felt, “The nature of our business is that shows get cancelled all the time. No matter what show you are on, they get canceled. They don’t run forever. And so for us to have the experience we had on the show is incredible, but I am excited to move forward, and take what I have learned with me. I have become a better actor because of it. It’s exciting!” David said it is a double-edged sword, “The flipside is, it is scary. We have all been fortunate to be working actors in New York City for the past two and some years, and work is nice to have. I talk to crew members who have been with this show for 30 some years and I feel for them. This has been part of their life and something that they counted on. I do agree with Nic that being young in this business is exciting, but it’s also bittersweet like, ‘What’s next?’ It’s scary, but a good kind of scary.”
So what were the guys’ favorite storylines? The Ford boys had some wacky ones, that’s for sure. Nic revealed, “My favorite storyline was when I first started and I stole cars, and kidnapped Starr and her baby. We were shooting guns and stealing things and it was all very quick and exciting. Never in my life did I think I would be playing a storyline like that. Starr and Cole were an iconic couple and very popular. So for me, it was very intimating to try and take over from Cole. I am very grateful to have him bestow that responsibility on me, and that fan response has been positive. They really enjoy us. JARR … the fans call us! It’s a love/hate thing, which is a good place to be on a soap. They watch because they hate you, but they watch because they love you. You earned their respect, which is nice.”
David added, “You know there was not one specific storyline of Ford’s because it all just sort of took off, which was fantastic. I got family on the show with my brothers, and that took me to a new level. Then I got a mother and a father, and with that came a dark secret past. And then I got a son. And when you keep adding these elements, the writing went from the guy who sleeps with anything that moves, to dealing with my father, and then I have this son who I am not going to treat the way I have been treated. I feel like it is part of the same story but come full circle. I was in the make-up chair one day and someone said, ‘Who are you with now?’ And I said, ‘I am with Tess.’ And they said, ‘Well, you are with the right family.’ I was tied to the Buchanan family in that sense, even though that was in a negative light. I went through this whole thing with Tess, and then to restart with Jessica. But because they took their time with it, it was not about sex or the romantic side, but it’s that we had this child together. I feel like it gives you an obstacle to overcome, and that is good and I liked that.”
Now as for Lenny, should we safely assume his favorite moment had to be that Nate ended up in the porno film, Hold the Diploma shown at the “Vicker Man Premiere”? Platt confirmed our suspicion! “My mom called me and said, ‘I can’t believe you are doing that.’ But my mom is very Puerto Rican, so it was thrown in with some Spanish cursing! (Laughs) But I had a great time. I think soaps can be very melodramatic at times, and with this heightened reality I had such a great time playing this absurd storyline … being blackmailed into porn! I mean, no 18-year old guy gets blackmailed into porn! (At least I hope not!) I think it was funny to do this scene where I was forced against my will to do something so preposterous. And then the scene at the “Vicker Man Premiere” was a blast! I will tell you that no one in the cast knew what I shot, and a lot of it did not make it to air. Somewhere there is some risqué bootleg footage that we shot, just me and a cameraman, but I did do too good of a job, obviously. It was too realistic! (Laughs)
And there was this moment I related to Lenny… Where did the bubble gum chewing fixation come from that was the basis for Matthew getting caught for punching Matthew in the head? Lenny explained, “I chew lots of bubble gum! (Laughs) That was a weird thing, too. I was not chewing gum when I originally punched Matthew. That came after the fact. The producer said, ‘You know what? We are just going to have you chewing gum and that is the thing that will get you caught!’ The whole thing was so preposterous, and to embrace that and work with such great actors was great. Austin Peck (Rick) was so funny, and he helped me find my inner porn star!” Lenny also recalled his excitement to learn that he would be involved with Dani, (Kelley Missal) when he first landed on the series, “When I got here I remember they told me I was going to be involved with Todd Manning’s daughter. My mother would occasionally watch One Life, and I remember Todd Manning had this checkered past, to say the least. I thought it would be really fun to butt heads, and it was fun to work with Trevor St. John. I loved getting to work with the rapist/killer’s daughter.” (Laughs)
Jerry verDorn, who as Clint Buchanan has transformed from a real snake in the grass to almost redeemable, saw how many of his cast mates were walking around with some tears on this day, and also revealed how he would like to see Clint’s ending. I only got a moment with Jerry, as I was running back and forth from the interview press tables and back to the video interview area. I needed to clone myself on this day, clearly! (Calling Kim Zimmer!) Jerry noted, “It’s always interesting when you are ending a show to find out what your last scene will be. I would like Viki and Clint to be together at the end. I think some of the audience members would like that. I would just like to get rid of the ankle bracelet so I can leave the house and go somewhere else. But I hear people are crying around her today… Kassie DePaiva… she cries at the commercials! Kassie has a big heart.” (Laughs)
And as I was sitting there with Jerry, I remember looking up and seeing Ron Carlivati, Frank Valentini, Lorraine Broderick and …. Agnes Nixon. They had all shown up to take part in the cast photo shoot, but were not participating in the junket that day. It was like Llanview daytime royalty all showed up at once! I checked in with Frank and Ron on how they were doing, and of course, seeing this final press day wasn’t easy for them. I spoke a few words to Lorraine, but it was back to work as they headed towards the elevator to take what would end up being the final time the cast would officially be together as a unit. It was heartbreaking to think about, and incredibly sad to see.
As I turned around from that incredible scene, I spotted Terri Conn (Aubrey) who I have loved since her time as Katie on As the World Turns. Then it was our turn to talk along with On-Air On-Soaps “Newcomer of the Year” Josh Kelly (Cutter)! Josh revealed how he felt about his first soap experience, “I love it. I was optimistic coming into it and I was looking at it as a learning experience, but I liked it so much more than I thought I would. I did not think I would end up being with people who were so approachable and helpful, like Terri. Add to the fact, that the execs allowed me and encouraged me to be funnier. Frank and Ron were like, ‘Do more of your goofy stuff and we will work it in!’ I am always happiest when I am being goofy. I got to work with some great people here. I had heard about the character of Alex Olanov, so I loved that she turned out to be Cutter’s mom. I had met Tonja Walker (Alex) my first or second week here. I did a scene with Robin Strasser (Dorian), where Robin gets mad about David changing his MyFace status to: In a relationship with Alex Olanov. So that was funny. I loved working with both of them. When I first started working on the show, Tom Degnan (Joey) and I started right away being best friends. So our scenes were fun to play, because there was so much duplicity going on, and there were so many levels to play. I loved the one scene where Aubrey decided she was going to marry Joey. So I kiss Terri, and then I go kiss Tom to cover it up. I did not tell Tom I was going to do that!”
Terri piped in how much she also loved Cutter and Aubrey’s duplicity! “I was just thinking about when you would come out in a towel, and it was the first time Cutter came into the room. I was trying to talk my way out of it, and all of a sudden you end up standing there and I go, ‘What are you doing?’ And you go, ‘I’m your brother!’ And I am like, ‘Whaaaat?’ That was fun. And then running back and forth and putting clothes on and taking clothes off, that was fun. I miss working with Josh. We started out as this group of four relatively new characters. Gina Tognoni had been on before. That is really tough to do with the daytime audience, because they don’t want to watch new people all together. So that was sort of a strike against us starting out. I think with the way the writing was, and the way we all played the story together, we made the most of it. But I think ultimately they had to put us with other people so people would actually invest in it. I think it’s interesting to come back to our relationship now that we are more a part of the canvas. So who knows what will happen at the end?” And what about those rumors that it would be revealed that Aubrey might be somehow connected to Karen Wolek/Katrina Karr/Jenny Wolek, since her birth-name is Christine Karr? “I don’t know for sure,” revealed Terri, “But there was an idea of having Aubrey be a part of the history of the show, but it didn’t happen, obviously.” Looks like sadly, now we will never know!
When Florencia Lozano (Tea) walked into the room, I was all smiles and we hugged, and I think perhaps I was teary-eyed. I think Florencia and I really connected a few years back when we did the first video interview together for On-Air On-Soaps. To say that I think this woman is a powerhouse of an actress would be an understatement. I also got the opportunity to give hugs to Ted King (Tomas) who, because he took off for the Big Apple, I have not had the chance to see as much as when he worked on GH in L.A. Florencia admitted to me it’s tough to wrap up the series, especially in the predicament Tea finds herself in! “All of this is tough to play for everyone. There are a lot of goodbyes. Ted and I are left in sort of anguished positions, and it’s great for the story and where it can go. I love that Tea is pregnant now and that she is going through all this emotional sturm and drang, and yet there is this beautiful thing happening at the same time. This is a very big ending on a lot of levels for all of us. And the drama the fans are feeling, we feel that. We know what this means for them.” Ted echoed Florencia sentiments by adding, “Well, my character is not allowed to be happy, (laughs) and he is really stuck and in his final moments. They are difficult to play, and it’s hard to finish any show. I have been on quite a few and the emotions behind the scenes completely overlap with the work on the screen.” Florencia also shared, “I had an acting teacher tell me once, ‘Never forget you get to do this.’ And that is true. We get to do this and have a personal cathartic experience, and use our demons and express ourselves as human beings. People watch that and feel moved, and that is a pretty great life to get to have. I am tremendously grateful.”
I also wanted to note to those who read this special blog, that while Roger Howarth (Todd) was in attendance, he did not participate in any of the press interviews. Apparently, he had a heavy tape day. Also, if you look at some of the outfits the actors are wearing in my photo wrap-up, you might recall that some look familiar … as this was the day of the taping of the wedding of Rex and Gigi! And speaking of John-Paul Lavoisier (Rex) and Farah Fath (Gigi), I couldn’t have been more proud of this young couple and how far they have come as performers, and how much in love that they are and that they had found each other in the magical life that is created day in and day out at OLTL. Farah summed it up best when she said, “We are walking away from this with a tremendous amount of memories. I think for us in ten and fifteen years to go back to YouTube and see our first scenes, or kiss together, is such a unique way for a couple to have met. I think on our last day, it’s going to be nostalgic and sad. Rex and Gigi will always be in our hearts. One Life to Live is the foundation for John-Paul and Farah’s relationship, and so we will never forget this place.” JP quipped, “We will talk about this forever! Not a day will go by where we won’t think about One Life to Live. For the rest of my life, I am going to go ‘Remember this? Or, Remember that?’ It was very special. It’s hard knowing that I am not going to see 90% of the people here again. There are crew people who are moving to the Carolinas, and people are going to move on to other projects. This is the test about who cares about whom with anything when a big-shake-up happens. And as for my long-time scene partner, I would be shocked if Bob Woods (Bo) and I don’t stay in touch. It’s my understanding that Bob visits California, but it will be no where near as much as I see him now, and it’s going to suck!”
Perhaps, one of the more contentious on-screen relationships of the final season of OLTL was that of Shane Morasco and Jack Manning, played by Austin Williams and Andrew Trischitta. I had the opportunity to sit down with the boys and get some insight into the final social issue tackled by the legendary OLTL… bullying/teen suicide. Austin explained, “For me, the suicide scenes and the bullying were challenging to play, because I have not been through anything like that. It is terrible for anyone to go through it. For the storyline, I pretty much had to make myself feel like Shane and make it like everything that was directed to Shane was directed at me. I just made myself really depressed.” Andrew then explained how he made Jack so despicable! “You kind of have to put yourself in that place, and especially for Austin. And being a bully to him just takes a little bit to get that kind of anger out. Then once you have it, it’s easier to continue to play. It is certainly easier than what he had to do, which was being on a roof and trying to kill himself, and about to jump off! And by the way, I swear, I am not a jerk in real life!”
Austin, who as Shane, has had some very dramatic stories to play during his time at One Life… from cancer, to the bullying, to his on-screen mom “dying” revealed he was reluctant to look at this final script! “It is really sad having to say goodbye to everyone. I know tomorrow I am filming scenes that are pretty much the end for me. When I grabbed my scripts I was like, ‘No. I can’t read this now; I will save it for later!’” Andrew seconded that, “It’s hard, when you realize you won’t be here anymore. I have been here so much this year. It has been a second home to me.” I had to ask, “Does Andrew miss working with his first on-screen dad, Trevor St. John?” Andrew admitted, “When Trevor was working here, he was such a great person to work with … and his acting is so great, too. Because of that, to play Jack and Victor Jr’s relationship, it became a lot easier to like him and know that I have to think that he is such a great guy, and that “Scarface” killed him. Everyone knows Roger Howarth’s Todd as “Scarface” now! (Laughs). Roger is great too, by the way, but for the storyline it made it much easier to like Trevor’s Todd (or Victor Jr.) and not like Roger’s Todd!”
Sean Ringgold (Shawn) is that big guy that everyone has fallen in love with, who nobody thought would last this long on the soap, and neither did he, apparently. “One Life nurtured me,” the mild-mannered former bodyguard said. “They started me with under-five lines and then I got a little more, and then a little more, and then 20-30 pages. Imagine going to a workplace year after year, and you do it because you need the money, but you cannot stand the people you work with? Imagine to get the money … and love what you do? What more can you ask for – to love what you do and to be around people you love? It’s not an easy thing to deal with, being cancelled, as you see these people everyday and then you hang out and party. So it’s never easy to walk away from something so huge. This show has been on 43 years. Some people have been here much longer than me … 5, 10, 15, 20, 30, 40 years. These people are your family. And so when you see everybody getting together for the final cast photo shoot upstairs, it chokes you up. This has changed my life!”
Sean went on to say just how special it was working with his Little D., Shenell Edmonds! “Shenell is like my adoptive sister. I truly love her. She is a beautiful spirit and a loving human being. They could have not cast anybody better in the role of Destiny. When I am working with her you see our relationship on camera and that cannot be duplicated anywhere else.” When asked if there is anyone in the cast he wish he could have gotten the opportunity to work with more, Sean confessed, “I wish I could work with Erika Slezak (Viki) and Bob Woods. Those two are just so incredible. Robin Strasser was a phenomenal person to work with. As Dorian, she is so in character that you don’t know what’s real and what’s not! She keeps you on your toes. Robin just keeps coming up with things. She is a firecracker, and I miss her. I would have loved to do more with her.”
Next, I had the opportunity to speak with Little D herself, the scene-stealing Shenell Edmonds (Destiny) and her BFF, that other little scene-stealer, Kelley Missal (Dani). With Destiny pregnant and Dani’s mom, Tea, also pregnant, how did the gals see their storylines coming to an end? “I would like for everyone to be involved in Destiny’s pregnancy,” revealed Shenell. “Bringing someone into the world is a big responsibility, especially when you have such a tight family around with Mrs. Evans, Shawn, and Greg. They were always there for Destiny. I think if Destiny was able to bring the Buchanan’s into it, I think it would be one big happy family, and the child would grow up happy. I think Dani should be the god-momma to Destiny’s baby.”
Kelley added, “Danielle has reacted to so many things and so many people that it has made her into this strong, edgy, nervous, kind of girl. I would like to see her go into a battle with herself. I would like to see her take the stress and use it negatively, but then turn it around to a positive thing, because that is real, and that is what people do.” Shenell also said she was proud of how her role as Destiny just took off! “I am grateful for everyone who had helped, and bouncing off of Kelley and becoming best friends from enemies, and working off the same boys, and then working off different boys, and the musical. We are so grateful to all the fans that have kept us here and helped us keep moving up and up.” Kelly was also proud of her accomplishments, “If someone had told me when I was 15 that in a year I would be here, and then a year from that I would be at this place, I did not think that I could achieve this. Coming here and playing around with everyone , and learning the ropes, and sort of diving straight into it, I feel so blessed to have gotten to go in this direction with my career.”
In addition, Kelly also got put into the enviable, or scary position, (depending on how you look at it as a young actress) of being cast as the child of Todd and Tea, played by Trevor St. John and Florencia Lozano. Kelly revealed it is something she relished! “I loved Trevor, and Florencia was one of the first people I worked with. She said to me, ‘If I need anything, or have questions, come to me and ask.’ I felt that support from her right off the bat, and then getting to know her as a person and playing that strong bond on camera was really an amazing experience. She is so loving, so talented, and so genuine. Feeding off her and bouncing off of her is an experience. You are on set and you go, ‘Wow, that felt great.’ I thank her so much for that. And Trevor is just so fresh, and unpredictable. He always has such great ideas. He makes it so interesting to work with him, and he is hilarious. Trevor is so much fun and taught me a lot. He taught me most to react. Yes, the script on paper tells you the emotion to play, but react and bring something fresh to the screen.”
I have always been impressed with Mark Lawson (Brody) and through the years Brody has had his share of drama, babies, and a tortured love life! Mark revealed a little bit about Brody’s final days, “Brody is good at getting his teeth kicked in and getting back up. I know I am in the last two days of taping. So we will see what happens. I am going to be a snot ball after filming my final scenes. It’s going to be crazy! I didn’t realize on how being on a five-day a week show would impact how I understand to work as an actor. The first year, I proposed to my then wife, the next year I got married. This last year my wife and I thought, ‘It’s going to be over soon. I am not going to be on this show much longer.’ But my wife and I have looked at the show in three-month increments, and that never stopped, since I got on the show. I have never stopped thinking this is going to be it. I will have a bad day on set and think, ‘I will be fired now. That was not my best.’ And, they keep giving me the good faith to keep going, and they keep trusting me to do a good job. And even though when I think it might be a test like when I have ten pages of monologues holding a baby, (laughs) I think I either really pissed Ron off or he really trusts me.”
But what did Mark take away from his leading ladies? He started with Bree Williamson (Jessica). “Bree taught me about protecting yourself on camera and making sure you get the coverage you need. Sometimes you do that in sneaky ways. I am not calling her sneaky, but I am calling her professional. And in watching the way Bree worked, it informed the way I worked. I feel like we have, and had, great chemistry, and I enjoyed playing variations on playing crazy together. (Laughs) I think fixing that relationship would be a really cool storyline. I think we got too sweet to quick, and too safe to quick. Having it be messy and breaking stuff on the walls would be fun to play.” Next, Mark talked to me about Melissa Archer (Natalie)! “With Melissa, I feel I was a little bit in the dog house before we started, because she knew how hot I think she is and how sexy I think she is. I had already gotten warnings from my wife about that, but she is such a giving and available and open actress. I mean who does not love a redhead! She is a firecracker! Melissa will say ‘good morning’ to everyone when she walks out on set and she will say ‘thank you everyone’ when she leaves. Everyone appreciates that. She brings it everyday.” And let’s not forget Farah Fath (Gigi)! “Farah was in my screen test. She was my first glimpse at how someone who has been on this show works and behaves, and the kind of work that they do, and how they prepare. We had a weird dynamic because of the story. I was supposed to be in love with her and she was supposed to be blowing me off. It was interesting, and when I was working with Farah, I had to learn the differences between who you are personally, and who you are as a character, because there can be some confusion, I think, when you get locked in to a long term role. She is very cool. It was so long ago, though!” (Laughs)
Most of all Mark has been most moved by the interaction with fans that have come at the most unlikely of places, proving there is no fan like a One Life fan! “There has been a moment and an accumulation of moments of how many times I will get noticed on every different subway stop in New York City. Or, I will be going in and out of a grocery store and I will be stopped once inside and stopped once outside. Those things are impactful to me. Another thing that is impactful to me is when guys recognize me. Guys can tell me whole chunks of the storyline and it blows my mind. I was up in Harlem and this little kid walked past me and said, ‘Hey, you play Brody, don’t you?’ Those moments are great for me, because it makes me feel like our show is reaching people, and I am reaching people. That is very special.”
Shenaz Treasury played one half of the last ethnically diverse couple to grace the town of Llanview, as India’s Rama Patel! Shenaz actually came up with a plan to diversify One Life if it can ever get a second chance at life, “I like that the Patels were not the stereotypical Indian couple. I am so thankful to Frank and Ron for that. They were like, ‘No speak in your own voice.’ A lot of Indians speak like I did on OLTL, which surprises people! That is why they should get characters from other countries and nationalities so it can actually be a global soap opera. That is the state of the world now. If OLTL ever moves to the Internet, people from all cultures could at some point be represented!”
The hardest part of the day was still to come. To go on camera and talk to Hillary B. Smith, Robert S. Woods, Kassie DePaiva and Kristen Alderson and Erika Slezak and say my goodbyes! But before that, I had to take this opportunity to ask Erika’s on-screen daughter’s (two other women who have delivered one amazing performance and performance after the other), Melissa Archer and Bree Williamson, what they learned from playing Erika’s on-screen children, as Natalie and Jessica! Bree told me, “I think that Erika has taught me how to navigate through this business with class. She is a leader within this cast and she handles things with class, and I am talking about even the hard stuff.” Melissa then told me, “I learned a lot from Erika. One of the greatest things she has taught me is to slow down sometimes, and I think that is a great lesson. Sometimes, I will be stuck, and I can just go to her, and she can so eloquently and so easily explain it, or change it, or change the perspective for me, so I understand it, and also how to just be. Erika is the matriarch of this show and the head honcho of the actors, and she is not snobby. She is someone to look up to, and that is pretty cool. You don’t get to be that fortunate some times in your career.” Bree then added, “I will miss Melissa. I will miss her friendship and I think she is an exciting actress. With Melissa, there is just not a malicious bone in her body. She is so honest and I just adore her. I love her.”
Next, when I went to sit down on-camera to speak with Kassie DePaiva and Kristen Alderson. I knew it would be tough. I gave Kassie and Kristen’s some hugs and we began. The one thing I remember is looking over at Kassie with tears streaming down her face as she explained what the fans have meant to her and the show. “It’s a beautiful thing to go out and do ‘meet and greets’ and to meet the fans,” she said. “You know how much your existence as Blair has changed their lives. But not only as Blair, but as Kassie, because of the soap magazines and the media, they also know about Kassie DePaiva’s journey. They know I have a deaf son and they prayed for me and prayed for my son. They sent blessings to me for my marriage. It is amazing genre. I don’t think there is any genre that has such a beautiful fan base. They search out information on us, because they love us and they love the characters. They have taken the ride and escaped in the fantasy, and it’s a beautiful thing. It saddens me that this is ending a chapter on network television. This show has touched fans in such a miraculous way. I don’t think what the network puts in its place will ever be like this was.”
When it was my time to speak with Hillary B. Smith and Robert S. Woods, two people who have been so beloved by this show and this industry, and to be sitting down with them to conduct this final interview, I knew that between the three of us, this was going to be difficult. I could barely bring myself to look at them. I love these two people, both on-screen and off. The fact that after the years we have all spent in this industry that this was our final time ‘officially’ together…it was a somber moment. But I have to say, I think what you saw on this video interview of us, was the real deal …high emotions, sadness, and while trying our best to celebrate the legacy of the show. But the quotes that stuck with me were when we discussed the fans as Hillary in tears said, “I want the fans to know, we know. They have been so generous and so kind. They have given to our charities, and making gifts and food… homemade rugulah for God sakes, we know!” Bob chimed in with, “And the fans would make trips to the studio for hour and hours to just say hello to us and say ‘thanks.’” And of course, what choked me up was how Bob and Hillary discussed what it was like to work with each other. Bob revealed, “I woke up to the fact that it was so easy, after we were broken up on-screen for ten years, to be back together. And, the fact that the fans waited for ten years for this reunion and that they stuck by it. And then, they were so happy when it finally happened. I was so struck by that, because I kept thinking and telling them, ‘No. It’s over. Don’t you get that? Their lives have taken completely different directions. Doesn’t anybody get it but me?’ But as it turns out, I was the only guy who didn’t get it until we were re-teamed. And then I went, ‘Wow. This is like stealing money and so easy!’ This last couple of years has been really fun. We came back together and it blew me away. I could not believe it.” Hillary paid ultimate compliments to her longtime leading man, “It was fun and exciting to work with Bob. I couldn’t wait to get to work to see what they had written for us. And what is really fun is when you find someone who you can play comedy and drama with seamlessly in one scene, and still hit all the highlights you need to as an actor. It is very special.”
It was time for me to interview on-camera Erika Slezak. I just couldn’t bear the thought of how I would sit there with the greatest daytime actress in the history of the genre and the lead performer of this show, knowing this could very well be the last time I am speaking to her during her 40-year run as Viki! But as many of you saw on our video interview, we both choked back the tears. It was a moment that as I am writing this to you still brings me to tears. But I feel so lucky and blessed to have had that time with Erika, to tell her for myself and for the fans how much she has meant to all of us, and how special her performances have been throughout the decades. But as fate would have it, after we talked for our all too short a time on-camera (I could speak with Erika for hours if someone would let me!) we got to sit down later off-camera, so we could chat a bit more about her One Life lived! I then asked Erika if there was any performance she would like to redo from her time at OLTL. And, surprisingly she said the final speech of her recent 40th anniversary episode where Viki recounts her life and that she survived everything thrown at her! “I would like to redo that speech right now if I could,” Erika revealed. “When I watched it, I thought I should have done something else, but that is after the fact and you can’t help it. But yes, at the end it’s that I will survive. And when Viki said to the alters, ‘I am stronger than you, and I am smarter than you, and I am not selfish the way you are, and you will never bring me down. I will have my ‘One Life to Live’. It talked about her father, and all the things she had been through in her life, and all the deaths of her husbands and dear loved ones, and that I will continue and go on.” And the fact that she will go on, that is who Viki is, and that is why I loved her so much. She can go down and she will always rise again. And that was my idea for Prospect Park’s name for their online network, The Phoenix… you know, rising from the ashes, but they did not like it.” (Laughs)
And as for the ending of the series, is Erika down for a Viki/Clint pairing? “I like Viki and Clint. They have a wonderful long history. She respects Clint and he recently went off the rails, and she understood that too. It had a lot to do with his father and the betrayal, but she knows who Clint is at his heart. We had a scene about that, and Clint and Viki have had a wonderful relationship all these years. I don’t think if Linda Gottlieb, who was the executive producer of One Life to Live at the time, would have said ‘OK. Now you’re going to be divorced and you’re going to be poor,’ that we would ever have gotten divorced. Clint was a very practical down to earth kind of a guy, and Viki comes from the other end of the spectrum, not money wise, but ideologically. Somehow they found a way to make it work. Jerry verDorn is a different Clint … a more sophisticated and educated Clint. I adore Jerry verDorn. He is like gift from God, and so I am very happy about that and how it ends on network television.”
And as much as Erika got to have some happy returns from Viki’s family members at the end of the run, there is one person MIA… Robin Strasser. Erika stated, “I miss Robin and Dorian, who is such a huge presence on this show. I am sure they could always find another villain, but she was so much more than a villain. I always said Robin brings something to the table, and I think I told you this, she brings a thanksgiving feast every single time she works…. so complete and so full and so rich, down to the rings on her fingers and the fingernails, and everything she does. You would go, ‘There’s Dorian in all her glory.’ It’s just awesome to watch, and awesome to work with. And I have always said the most important relationship, and the strongest relationship in the 43 years of One Life to Live, is Viki and Dorian. You know the final closure that we had on-screen, Robin objected to that, when it was written to say that they were ‘Frenemies’. Robin said, ‘Frenemies’ is not what they were, and so when she played the scene I think she said something else. But it was sad not seeing her here. Now, on the other hand, having Viki’s brother and sister back was great. Having Roger Howarth back is nothing short of brilliant. He is the most inventive actor. I love working with him and I have enormous respect for Roger. Having Andrea Evans (Tina) back as well was great. It had been a long time, but Tina has sort of grown up, and Andrea played it so nicely. Yes, there was a reason for it… she wanted Cord back. Andrea is also very interesting and very good. I have known her since she was a child of 17 or 18 with hair down to there. Now to see her grown into this woman with her family, it was lovely and a treat. It was a treat having all these people come back. Jessica Tuck (Megan) was back and that was a pleasure too! It was just amazing to see everyone one last time like this. I can’t tell you how much it all meant to me.”
As we concluded what would be our true final conversation, I asked Erika about how playing Viki has changed her personally. Erika answered, “Many episodes and stories that I have had the opportunity have changed me. But what we do is we live here for hours and hours a day, and it can’t help but affect you. When you play something that is important it is life changing … breast cancer … heart transplant … marriages and deaths … of course, it has to affect you. You couldn’t play it seriously if it didn’t affect you. I am very proud of the work, and proud of this show and the actors on the show. People do not have an idea of how hard we work. It’s not easy to come in here at 7AM in the morning and be on camera at 9:30AM and don’t make any mistakes. I am so proud of everyone who has stayed with us … the actors, the audience, and the people who put this show together. It was really awesome!”
The day had now come to a close. As I packed up my gear, and looked back at the now emptied-out room that for this day housed the chatter of the actors who made Llanview the thriving Mecca, where anything and everything can happen and is possible, I got on the elevator for one final ride to bring me to the lobby of ABC Studios. Dazed, I just stood there for a second thinking, “How can a show that is so vibrant and filled with so much love from the inside out be so easily snuffed out?” Sad but true, this is part of life. They say all good things come to an end, but I just wanted to believe that Llanview would always be on the soap map, and was invincible. Try as the network might through all the cancellation rumors over the last few years to bring it down, until they finally gave it the ax, it still went out in a blaze of glory! And, who says Llanview is truly gone? I will always, always, have Viki and her friends, families, and enemies and the town of Llanview, PA, in my heart and in my memory, God-willing for the next 43 years. Xo’s, Michael
To view my special photo gallery below make sure to click on the NEXT GROUP icon located to the right of the + symbol on the photo gallery thumbnail groupings. Or, you can watch it as a Slideshow!
Leaving Llanview Exclusive Photos
Photo Credit: MF SOAPS, Inc.
All My Children
How Do We Say Goodbye? – The Final Interviews with the Television Cast of AMC!
I never thought there would come a day that I would be writing this, and to have experienced and been a part of the final All My Children press junket. I am talking 41 years of a legacy soap opera with so much heart, at times bigger than life, and with such slice-of-life beloved characters that have fascinated Americana for four decades… and it was coming to an end as we know it on network television. As I sat and watched as the actors were circulating through the press, it was with anticipation, heavy heart and many times choking back the tears, that I conducted these final (for now) AMC interviews.
For many of the actors, it felt like this day was the day that the reality of the situation finally hit home… that soon, this unit that has gone through so much turbulence and had been tossed around from one side of the country to the other would not be seeing each other on a daily basis from this point forward. That like you, the viewers, and myself who covers the genre, this was to be a difficult process. And yes, Prospect Park is moving forward with their online version of the show, and that is wonderful news, but on this day, I think I felt, “What if I never get to talk to so-and-so again? I love talking to them! How can this be happening?” I will tell you this, after this junket and the interviews were concluded, I went home and was both emotionally drained, sad and yet uplifted at the same time. Odd, right? But you must understand. To be there with these actors who I have come to care so deeply about and have spent so much time writing about, and that moment in time, was like being part of a piece of television history, and was something I would recall as one of those rare moments in my professional career.
On this day there were remembrances, laughter, and tears. When Cameron Mathison (Ryan) and Rebecca Budig (Greenlee) spoke of the reality of taping the final shows, Rebecca said emotionally, “I remember when I taped these great last scenes with Kendall and it was weird though. It hit me. I started to cry and I got misty. I called Lisha (Alicia Minshew’s nickname) and I said, ‘I just read these scenes and they are good.’ Because in our character history together we have fought, we cried, and it was sweet. In it, I tell her I love her, and we have more scenes than that, but this was our one-on-one moment. It was just overwhelming. I think of so many years being here! I remember looking at Cameron and saying, ‘This is the last time we may ever make-out.’ I got so used to being intimate with him and kissing him and hugging him, and next time I see Cameron with his wife, I am not going to be kissing on him, and loving on him. It’s just weird.” Cameron replied, “After you just said that, I think I subconsciously may be in denial and that is probably not the healthiest way to feel that. Like I said to my wife Vanessa, ‘In exactly one week, our show ends on network television.’ And it’s a big deal for me. It may not be a big deal for everybody, but it feels like a big deal. My kids in the car asked me the other day who my best friend is … And I looked my wife. And then my kids said, ‘No. Like a real friend.’ And I sat there and I thought, and I thought, and Vanessa and I turned to each other and we said, ‘It would probably be Rebecca.’ (Teary-eyed) It’s true. It’s a moment like that in front of my kids, and it’s raw and honest and you have to answer it honestly. The show ending is not going to change that, but it changes externals, which can make things different. We all know the reality of that when family and life takes you in different directions. It has an effect.” Needless to say, after this exchange Cameron, Rebecca, and I, all tossed around the Kleenex tissues.
It happened again when the fabulous Jill Larson (Opal) recalled the recent AMC Fan Club Event when a fan came up to her and thanked her for all the years of joy and laughter she has brought her. Jill overcome said, “Emotions are close to the surface right now. I did not have any understanding of daytime, or the power and the potency of it in people’s lives. I feel so honored that I get to do a job that brings that kind of delight to people. That is extraordinary to me. My character has evolved over the years in a way that I did not necessarily intend, but the voice of my mother, and my grandmother, and aunt Edna, are in there with me, and they have come forth now in Opal after all my years of playing her. I thought she was a great distance from me, but I have become a lot like Opal as the days have gone by. That part is a huge honor. Then there is a piece that I had no anticipation of … that by attending charity events because of our visibility, we are able to help bring in money and support in a substantial way most of the time. I always wanted to have a way to participate, but being able to help raise money and awareness is a huge honor of having this job. I will miss Opal. The one reason she has been so popular is that she serves as a model for women who want to be daring and who have the courage to say whatever is on their mind without editing, and have the courage to wear what makes them feel good. The idea of it is; having the self-confidence to be your truth, no matter how outlandish it is. Women don’t always have that courage. I certainly don’t. She has given me courage. This has been an extraordinary ride for me. I will add this little anecdote: I was doing a scene with Michael and Jacob and Walt. I came off the set, and I went, ‘Oh my God! Nowhere else will I have the opportunity to work with people I know so intimately. I know how they are going to use their bodies, I know the sounds of their voices, and I know the timber of their humor, and I know the way they look at me.’ It offers an opportunity to relax into an acting moment and bring out a depth of truth that you cannot manufacture with a stranger. You just can’t. It doesn’t matter how good an actor you are. It’s just a kind of acting experience I will not have anywhere else. I know that, just because of the nature of what this is.”
Bobbie Eakes (Krystal) echoed Larson’s sentiments with her recent encounter at the AMC Fan Club event, “There was a grown man who sat down at my table and was well-dressed. And as we were talking to one another we both started crying. He was just talking about what this show has meant to him all these years. He has been watching it since it started. And I am thinking, ‘Wow! You just forget, what we mean to people.’ I got all choked up. It seems trivial to a lot of people. I think some primetime actor made some snide comment on Twitter about soaps. He said, ‘Oh, they are canceled? I thought they were already canceled. You mean, they are not gone yet?’ I thought, ‘Dude, let’s not go there. There are a lot of great actors on soaps!”’
Vince Irizarry, who has magnificently played Dr. David Hayward for all he is worth, spoke to what he and others will takeaway from the challenging times the show faced. “There is so much. You do forge relationships with the people you work with. And it was hard when we left New York for Los Angeles and left the crew there. We loved the crew there. They were amazing. Some had been there for 25 to 30 years. And, to say goodbye to them was like saying goodbye to your family. And actually, you are with them more than you are with your actual family! That is how I feel with the people here. The crew is wonderful, and the actors. We all went through something very unique. We moved together here. I think in some ways it brought us together as a cast. It is an unusual experience. I was saying to our executive producer, Julie Hanan Carruthers, ‘I have never been with a company before where every time we call a meeting there is some announcement of some ground-breaking thing going on, and then subsequently there were the meetings that we had been cancelled, and then the next meeting, ‘Oh, and here is the new production company, Prospect Park.’”
Chrishell Stause (Amanda) is truly one of them most delightful and beautiful actresses to ever grace the soap scene, and her takeaway from AMC is one that in just hearing it brings tears and smiles. She lived her dream! How many of us can say that? Stause revealed, “Since I was a little girl, I was a girl with a dream from a very small town, and a very poor family. It was kind of a crazy dream to have. I had always wanted to be on a soap opera and be a soap actress. I grew up on The Young and the Restless, and so it literally was a dream come true when I got this job. I was freaking out and was so excited. And so looking back six years, I remember thinking every day could be my last. They set me up to know that when you sign a four year deal that doesn’t mean you will last that long. And I have seen people go in the door and out the door. Somehow, I felt like a cockroach that was still surviving and still here! (Laughs) I survived a serial killer, a tornado, and a bomb! After a little while, I could put some roots down and understand that I was here. I elbowed my way in, I guess, to be someone that the fans rooted for. I have to say, it has been a dream come true. I will always take away so much from this show, because it has opened up opportunities for me. No one can speak more highly of everyone that had a hand in the decision in putting me up there, because I know I was green and nervous at the beginning. But I am just so grateful that they gave me a shot. I will take away from this … family. It is like a home over here. We all protect each other. And I hear stories about other shows, and it is not like that here at all. You come in every day, and you spend hours and hours with these people. If you didn’t like them, it would be a miserable place.”
J.R. Martinez (Brot) who is now taking Dancing with the Stars by storm also took AMC by storm being the first real-life Iraqi war vet cast in a contract role on a soap! J.R. also had a personal connection to AMC long before he landed in Pine Valley! “For me, to have the opportunity to do this show is unbelievable. My mother is from Central America and when she came to the U.S she watched AMC, and that is how she learned a lot of her English …watching soaps, which can be a bad thing depending on what storyline you are watching (laughs). She watched it when she was pregnant with me, and when I was growing up. All I heard growing up was, Jesse, Angie, and Tad. So for me to have been here and to become close with Darnell Williams (Jesse) is amazing in itself. And, my first scene on the show was with Tad and it had been a whirlwind ever since. It has been cool to see how my life has come full circle, and for me to kind of be part of the ending of this aspect of it, I am honored. I know for the future, Prospect Park believes in it and the Internet is the way for it to go. So for a lot of fans it’s exciting. I know some people don’t know how to access the online thing, but it’s there. Once they get that dialed in and figured out, they are going to be excited, too”
Daniel Cosgrove, who has played Scott Chandler twice in his soap career, has the distinction of appearing in the final cast of the last three network soap operas to be canceled… ATWT, GL and now AMC. Daniel also has self-effacing humor about the whole thing! “People are going to think, I am the grim reaper or something! ‘Yes, just call me the show killer! Mr. Bell would you like to see the end of your Victor Newman?’ And, ‘Great news everybody! We got picked up for three years! Bad news, Cosgrove starts next week.’” (Laughs) Cosgrove on a more serious note spoke to the sadness of soap cancellations and the times we live. “I was on Guiding Light collectively for five years and I did not think it would affect me till the final days of work. It got emotional then. As the World Turns – I had no emotional attachment, but I was 40 pounds heavier then and heavier than I had ever been in my life. I have never watched one episode of me on that show, because it reminded me of where I was. But, I always felt regret, that as much as I was looking forward to working with such a great cast and opposite Terri Conn (Ex-Katie, ATWT, now Aubrey, OLTL), I felt if I was ready to go and was physically and mentally fit, I would be awesome. I kind of felt like a zombie through it, and the way they dressed me did not help either! (Laughs) I look back at those days and don’t even count it. I feel like I failed them and I failed myself. And with coming back to AMC, I was ready! My first question was: Is David Canary coming back? I was really looking forward to that, but it all happened so quickly once we were canceled. That sense of stability that daytime once provided us for decades is no longer there.”
Susan Lucci and Walt Willey have made Erica Kane and Jackson Montgomery a very popular daytime duo. And while Susan is the face of daytime soaps, it is hard to imagine life without her on our television screens as Erica Kane. I asked them, after so many years together, what would they want to say to each other as this show winds down? It ended up being one of those moments I wished I had captured on film. Willey started, “I came into this as an extra in a movie theatre scene on AMC when they debuted Raising Kane. And to think eventually I became the paramour, and the one that people want to go off into the sunset with Erica Kane! That is an honor. From a kid from the Midwest, and to come out and hang out with this woman is a huge deal.” Susan then responded, “First of all, Walt has been incredible. It has been a joy every single day. And I grew up in a small town myself, and it is thrilling to have given this a try in show business, and being received so well by the audience and my fellow actors. Walt and I never had a bad time. We have had such a trusting relationship. The sad thing is, if Erica Kane had the ears to hear and the eyes to see she would recognize that this is the great love for her, but she is wounded. That is part of a good thing, that she never got fixed. We are always rooting for her going, ‘Will she get it? Will she finally get it?’ Sometimes, I am on the set and I look across and see this handsome man and I go, ‘My goodness. This handsome man, plays opposite me. How flattering that they think this is the right one for Erica.’ And how lucky I am and how dopey Erica Kane is that she doesn’t realize it!”(Laughs)
Christina Bennett Lind and Sarah Glendening have made Minx a last minute favorite as the show was heading to its conclusion over the last several months. As Bianca and Marissa, it is hard to once again imagine that a same-sex couple may never be seen quite, to this extent, be in the future of daytime soaps. And these gals were feeling the weight of this situation this day, too. “I am feeling sad,” said Sarah Glendening. “The thing that is starting to really hit home, even though Prospect Park is on the horizon, is that we will be certain to lose key members of our crew and design team, maybe. No matter what it is, it will be different. So this is the end of something major!”
“It does feel like this whole experience with AMC has been cyclical,” stated, Christina. “From the day I flew in to start working I did a press junket, and I kept recalling what I said in those first interviews. I think it started with denial to take this role. I had to be a little bit in a denial, and fearless in that I was stepping into someone’s shoes that no one ever thought could be filled. And so now the denial is starting to wear off. I had a breakdown in the make-up room the other week. So that is starting. It is like saying goodbye to an old friend. I was not expecting that coming on to a soap opera. I always thought before I came on to this show, that soaps were sort of mirrors of what life was like for people who were living glamorous and crazy lives. This has really been eye-opening to me to perform to this show with its loyal fans and do something that is bigger than me, that is bigger than acting, and especially in the climate we are in with where we are at with gay struggles. That we are a part of changing at least one person’s mind of what a gay relationship looks like … that is huge!”
And Jacob Young admitted that playing JR as a short-sided, bigoted jackass in the Minx story was not so easy for him to do, but necessary! “JR is basically a homophobe and a gay basher. And some of the things that come out of his mouth, I just go, “Oh God.” But it is great politically, because for that stance it makes the story possible.”
One of the very special treats for me this day, was to see three of my long time daytime favorites, Thorsten Kaye (Zach), Michael Knight (Tad), and of course, Susan Lucci. When Thorsten and Alicia Minshew (Kendall) sat down for our interview, it was paramount on my mind to address one of the most beloved Pine Valley favorites who is no longer with us, Eileen Herlie (Myrtle). I asked Thorsten to speak of his late screen partner. “Oh, Myrtle. I loved that woman so much, not just because she was a cool actress, but she was such a cool lady,” a very emotional Kaye revealed. “She just ‘got it’ and yes she is gone now, but she had a good run. She was up there when she passed on and she knew it, but she always got her hair done. Getting the opportunity to work with Eileen, that is probably one of my favorite memories of the show.” Alicia then recalled, “When we did Zach’s memorial, I remember Opal getting up and talking about Myrtle and saying, ‘Zach is now sipping martinis with Myrtle.’ It was just a beautiful moment and I remember balling my eyes out. She was a great woman.” But while we took the time to talk about some of Thorsten favorite memories, we also talked about the worst. Anyone remember a small kiss between Zack and Bianca’s bride-to-be, Reese, played by Tamara Braun? Perhaps not one of my AMC greatest moments and the very honest Kaye thought it was dreadful, too! “This is where we get into how people write, and so they say we need a result. They say, ‘OK. We are going to go here.’ But you can’t get ‘here’. Not only is she a lesbian that has been accepted, but I never played that Zach was attracted to her. And she is also married to one of his dear, dear friends. So explain to me this kiss? And they go, ‘Well, Ryan sees it!’ And I go, ‘Ryan sees it? What does that have to do with us?’ I said, ‘Just let us please go into a room and close the door and let it be that Ryan’s imagination takes over. Don’t show something that does not make sense to anybody and it doesn’t help you tell your story.’ They never did that kind of thing to Zach and Kendall that much. You can’t work backwards.”
So how did the cast think that the show should bow out on network TV? What would they have liked to see happen to their alter egos? I came to find out when the original plans for the finale were scrapped, due to the exciting news that AMC will live on past ABC, there were many ways the stars felt things could have or should go. Vince Irizarry informed me, “Well, I think the way David would like things to end, is that everyone in Pine Valley would fall to their knees and thank him for all the good he has done, and of course, that is not going to happen. Eventually, as you see, some characters actually come and thank David for the things he has done, so that is good. It is a start in a community where everybody turns a blind eye on everything amazing that he has done. David has saved enumerable lives in this town – their children, their husbands and wives. He has moved one part of one person to another and kept them alive. But people always vilify him. He loves to tell people in Pine Valley, ‘Look at yourselves! You’re not so different than me. You are just lacking the brilliance.’”
Rebecca Budig: “I think I would have liked to have seen us have more character-driven scenes and Ryan and Greenlee talking about their feelings of Leo and Gillian and really having more exploration of that, and what that means to a relationship and how we get to the other side. And, so I think I would have liked to have seen that, more so than the same old thing we have done for years. It is just that I prefer more character driven story than plot-driven story, but that’s me.”
Chrishell Stause: “I don’t know what is happening with Prospect Park. I have no clue yet if I will be involved or not, but I did like the ending we shot. I thought it was cute and a nice ending for what we did. If they change it because they want to have a cliffhanger or something, I mean, how do you do that? I am a little torn. Do you do it like DALLAS and have a bomb go off and then see who survives, as opposed to this lovely ending? So I am not sure what would be good. It is hard to go that way if they were to blow up people, or it might be nice to have at the end looking into a window of a very lovely scene.”
I think Bobbie Eakes actually came up with the most controversial and interesting ending! “They have asked me what I would like to see happen to Krystal, if and when the show continues on. I told them and Debbi Morgan, ‘If Angie could just give Jesse his blessing that I could be with him, I would love that.’ Otherwise the fans would hate me if I went after Jesse. But I would love to work with Darnell Williams (Jesse). I mean, they are like the quintessential happy couple. No one can replace Debbi. Angie would have to die or be so mad about the baby-switch that she leaves. But she wouldn’t do that. She would truly have to die. And it would be so emotional, but it would have to happen quickly. So here is what I got… They kill Angie, and Krystal shows up at the funeral with something very sexy on and in the most Marilyn Monroe-esque way says, ‘Oh Jesse. I am so sorry.’ (Laughs) People also said to me, ‘Don’t you want to be with a man as a happy ending?’ And, I said, ‘Why, does being with a man have to be the happy ending?’ She came in single, and maybe she will go that way … sleeping with truckers! (Laughs) I started out in bed with a trucker and that is how I would like to go out!” (Laughs)
Jill Larson revealed what she would like to see happen for the one and only Opal! “I would like to see Opal have some promise of love. I would like to see her see that her child and grandchildren are in safe healthy places in their lives. And, that her gal pal, Erica, is by her side. I marvel at the creativity and genius of Lorraine Broderick and Addie Walsh and Agnes Nixon and everyone who is putting these last episodes together. I could not imagine how I would go about it to do something that is satisfying and opened ended enough so they also have a cliffhanger. I personally don’t think everything should be tied up and completed for a number of reasons. And even if we did not have the potential to go on like we do at this time, I think that something that has been evolving for 42 years… I think it would be sort of diminishing of what came before if you tried to tie it up in some neat little bow. I know the writers have sought to give each group of characters their moments. I feel it would be inauthentic to finish things up in some definitive way. It’s not accurate to the soap art form. I don’t think it would be real to the audience. I feel that the audience is so intimately connected to the characters that they would rather use their own imaginations as to where the characters go on from here.”
And speaking of Opal’s gal pal, Erica, what has it been like for Jill to work side by side with Susan Lucci all these years? Jill in deep sincerity said, “First of all, Susan is wonderful to work with. She is spontaneous and has a wonderful sense of humor. I feel the writers have lost track of her sense of humor in recent years. It is starting to come back again now, but she is very funny. When we are not acting together we are singing musicals! (Laughs) I have learned a tremendous amount from Susan about being a women and a celebrity. She has extraordinaire grace, and intelligence in the way she gives herself to everyone who approached her. I would love to be able to present myself with as much grace as she does. She is amazing to me. I have seen her in so many situations where I think to myself, ‘How does she do that?’”
Michael E. Knight has made Tad Martin one of the all-time most beloved and memorable characters on AMC. What are his thoughts on an ending? Michael related: “I think it just might be worth it to exit the characters. Lets face it, they can’t bring Dixie back from the dead a third time, we can’t get married a third time. It might be nice to give the audience one thing that is complete. The audience deserves a happy ending. ”
Knight continued, “And as for my character, you notice that the character is getting softer and softer and softer, so there is less than I can do. Tad is now the morale compass of Pine Valley. We went through four writing teams in six years. I think that is a lot to ask the fans who know it and know the legacy since they were watching since college and high school. I feel they played it as well as they could. Agnes was missed, and Agnes was out of the mix for the last four or five years. Therefore, the heart and soul of the show came with her. Agnes gave a piece of her heart and soul and put it in Pine Valley. And without that direction the show became confused, and the storylines got dismissed. Maybe it would have been better to be cancelled a few years ago, but then again look what’s happened? I think the network is being bitch-slapped by what happened. Good, bad, or indifferent, this show is a piece of pop culture. So it begs the question for me, what do you do when the show moves online? Do you make a clean break?”
Susan Lucci admitted that there should not be a definitive ending to AMC, “Like all great novels, it’s going to end with some cliffhanger. And like if you are reading a novel, you go, ‘Well, then what happened? Well, did they get together? Did they stay mad?’ So there won’t be things tied up in a bow.” Walt Willey chimed in: “I talked to Agnes Nixon just a few days ago. I asked her, ‘What are you going to do Agnes?’ And she said, ‘Well, I am not going to tie everything up in a bow!’ And God bless her. I don’t think she really thought anything was going to be over! Agnes knows things that none of us know. Her storylines come out and they are not ripped from the headlines … the headline are ripped from Agnes!” (Laughs)
And who better to speak to the abhorrent cancellations that still cut like a knife to the soap industry and their loyal fans… then the actors who lived through it! Jill Larson really said it best, “I understand for the network it’s costly to do these shows, and so many, and so on. But, I don’t think they really appreciate the value and the uniqueness of this form, and the power of it. They are looking at a much larger view than what perspective we are coming from. And I hope that they heard a loud and clear outcry and the passionate response of the fans. Look, there is no way to put a positive spin on it.”
Susan Lucci spoke to how the fans saved AMC from total extinction: “I know the fans have already had our backs, and have been there always no matter what. It is one thing to say you love the show, but they have been loyal and active. I don’t ever recall a response to a shows cancellation like that – in primetime or daytime. I feel so honored that the fans have embraced us so much and have remained actively making themselves known.”
In speaking to the future of the series of AMC as it heads to the Internet, while many of the actors are still in a state of limbo as to whether they are continuing, everyone is optimistically cautious. However, Thorsten Kaye made quite an interesting analogy: ”I like the idea of All My Children online. I think it’s all doable but they have to figure some stuff out. I think if a team is hurting in one city, and you move the team and it’s hurting in another city, there are other reasons. You need to figure out why it wasn’t working. Once they do that, I think it’s going to be fine.” Bobbie Eakes had another vantage point: “It’s a sign of the times, and the end of an era, and the beginning of a new one. But there is such an audience for soaps. Susan said it at the Emmys, ‘We are going off network television, but they are alive and well, and they are going to be fine.’ It is just like what happened with the music industry years ago and things went digital. Record labels started to disappear and the artist came up with their own stuff. That is what is happening with television migrating on to the web. It may mean lower salaries for a lot of us, but still affords a lot more opportunity, and the daytime drama genre is not going to go away. It’s just going to be in a new home.”
It was at the end of a very long day and the last interview that I spoke with Susan Lucci and Walt Willey. But in that moment of seeing Susan, I was just overcome with emotion, and we discussed it between us. I recalled being there for her greatest triumphs – in the audience when she won that long awaited Daytime Emmy – and at the opening of her Broadway debut in Annie Get Your Gun conducting a very special interview with her after the show, and all the other times in between. When Susan spoke of what she thinks her legacy will be and that of Erica Kane, she humbly stated, “I have been traveling around the country a lot with my book tour, and women would come up to me and say, ‘It is because of Erica Kane that I became a lawyer. It is because of Erica Kane that I believed in myself enough to start my own business, get my masters degree or go back to school.’ Erica gave them the courage do whatever it was they wanted to do. That in spite of all her flaws and naughtiness what they get from her is her spirit. In addition, that she refused to live her life as a victim, and that she picks herself up and goes forward. That has touched me a great deal. Also women will come up to me and say, ‘I learned to speak English by watching Erica Kane.’ I was always taught as an actress that a really good sign of acting is if you really don’t understand what they are saying in words, but you know what is going on anyway. It’s amazing to me that people would be flipping around all the channels and they decided to watch me. And, learn to speak English through me. So I often ask them, ‘So, did you then become a big diva?’ (Laughs) People will call Erica, ‘Vixen’ and ‘Femme Fatale’. I have no problem with those titles… that is fun as an actress. But what makes me really, really, happy is that they also got the heart from her. That she wasn’t nasty and a bitch for its own sake. Erica was looking for love and I think they got that, and I think they understand that. I think Erica is viable and relatable. I don’t know if that is an answer to what legacy I left behind, but I guess time will tell.”
And with that the press junket ended. Susan got up, and I got up. We gave each other a big hug and she said, “We will see each other again. I know we will. Thank you for your beautiful words.” And I mean, where do I go with that? Except that I was tremendously moved and very proud, and overcome. And how do I exit this blog? I feel like it has to be in the words of Agnes Nixon, and as corny as that is and you may have heard it, or read it a million times, it gets you every time ….. “The Great and the Least, The Rich and the Poor, The Weak and the Strong, In Sickness and in Health, In Joy and Sorrow, In Tragedy and Triumph, You are All My Children.”
Here’s to you AMC for 41 years! Till we meet again in the very near future!
Share Your Story… Here is Mine: One Life to Live
It has been a week since the devastating bombshell announcement of the cancellations of All My Children and One Life to Live. The double-whammy, which will now live in soap infamy, hit mainstream press and our culture as an unbelievable news flash that spoke to the state of our society and a slice of Americana that is dwindling fast. It is so hard to be witness to what looks like soaps are on their last legs, or perhaps soon to have their final cliffhanger.
I have attempted to write this several times, but each time I did not feel the words could express my utter disappointment, anger, and sadness by this decision by ABC. But it’s even more than that for me. Someone who has championed this genre for decades, and who for lack of a better way to put it, never left its side and continually forged ahead believing in its viability, its performers, and its far reaching effects to its long enduring and faithful audience. This pains me to see it happening. I know many of you have that one soap opera above all else that holds a very special place in your heart, and all of us for different reasons. But there is still a commonality to it. Comfort, extended family, escape, living vicariously through some of our favorite heroines and baddies on daytime, these are just some of the things that come to mind which make daytime soap viewing something we can all bond over.
Well, I don’t think it’s any secret to everyone, that my favorite soap of all-time is One Life to Live. I certainly have made no bones about it over the past week, once the news delivered by Brian Frons threw the industry into a complete tizzy! In fact, I owe my life to One Life to Live. It threw me a lifeline when I needed one so desperately. At a very young age, guess who was an asthmatic like Shane Morasco? Guess who was bullied at school, so much so that they could not face or bear to walk into the hallways? Yup, that would be me; being a sickly child with no friends, and feeling isolated with no contact with people my own age. I started to hang out with my mother, who would watch the soaps. I remember just loving the stories, the characters, and the actors in this unique daily entertainment format. But it was One Life to Live that captured me from the very beginning, with the Woleks, Lords, and the Craigs. Does that date me way back to the beginning of OLTL? You bet. I have seen almost every episode. And in giving me something to look forward to each day, and through the genre’s ability to touch us and strike a chord in humanity, it would be cathartic for me. I could cry and let out my sadness at my life, or laugh and escape when the stories unraveled on-air.
I remember when I finally went back to school, after six months of health issues and facing my fear of the bullies, I would still run home for lunch to catch OLTL. It became appointment television, which is something that we should not forget during these soapy turbulent times we are facing. And who was the actress who was acting circles around everyone at that time and took the genre by storm? Judith Light as Karen Wolek. The courtroom confession scene to this day is the all-time classic and the quintessential soap opera performance. And who can forget Karen’s cohorts Marco Dane, sister Jenny Wolek, and hooker Katrina Karr? Later when I grew up I moved to Los Angeles and then to New York, and back west again, and I had the good fortune to meet Judith. I told her how much I loved OLTL. And what do you know? Judith got me on as an under-five on my favorite soap! So here I was years later, trying to be an actor and I landed a tiny stint in none other than Llanview, thanks to the two-time Daytime Emmy winner. Well, I realized I stunk as an actor, so that was not going to be my calling. But the magical world of soap operas, now there was something that I thought I could thrive in, understand, and knew about, unlike many others. I immersed myself in the world of daytime through the many incarnations of a daytime career, but I owe it all to OLTL.
Last year, I think fans know of my trip to the new digs, which sadly to say, will now be their final digs at ABC. I say that with a heavy heart. But again, it was a magical experience to see the cast and everyone in the Big Apple. I do have the show publicist, Lauri Hogan, to thank for that and for opening the doors so you all could see the video interviews on this website with the various Llanview residents. And if it can be arranged, and before all is said and done, it is my hope to get back there one more time before the series ends its run. And as of today, an offer has been extended. But, I don’t know if I could get through the on-camera interviews without losing it. But hey, I am a professional, right? I can do this.
Sitting here a week later, it still boggles my mind. How can a show that is so cleverly written, and well run and executed, and features some of the most talented veterans and young performers in the business, be facing the ultimate doom? I cannot wrap my head around it, though I have tried and tried. Yes, I understand network and economical business decisions, but are we really going to be intrigued by watching an everyday woman lose twenty-five or two hundred pounds each week and go through some kind of doctored up, and edited metamorphoses, instead of watching Viki, Dorian, Natalie, John, Todd, Tea, Nora, Bo, Rex, Gigi, Clint, etc? The answer is a resounding NO.
Think of the history of OLTL, and the unbelievable memorable moments that would take a whole other blog to detail what makes this soap incredible. Here are a few: Viki’s biggest battle with DID when we first saw Jean, Tori, Princess, Tommy, and not to mention Niki, (who was seen many times previously) played by daytime’s very best actress, Erika Slezak. And the heart tugging and timely AIDS quilt storyline that addressed the issue of the day so majestically, and the stirring remote with the quilt and the performance of Roy Thinnes. As Sloan he comes to term with his son’s sexuality, while mourning his death at the same time by adding his panel to the fabric of one of the most important social issues of our time. Also, the rape trial of Marty Saybrooke and the amazing performances of Hillary B. Smith and Susan Haskell, who both won Emmys for this knockout story. And of course, the arrival of the Buchanans at the height of the Dallas-craze, that changed the landscape of the series forever. Those beloved ‘Buchs’ are a staple of the show continuing on through today.
There were the 80’s adventures of Eterna, Fraternity Row, and Time Travel. There was the saddest death scene in the history of soapdom, that of Megan Gordon as her beloved Jake held her in his arms at the window of her hospital room. There was Marty and Patrick. There was Paris, Texas, and Marcie McBain and the Tommy hostage crisis. And there is, and has been for decades Dorian Lord, played with delicious delight every day by Robin Strasser, who along with her ultimate on-screen partner, Erika Slezak as Viki, comprise soaps’ true super couple. I have only scratched the surface here. There were so many gems and nuggets on the series for the last forty- three years, and yes, Kish was one of them, although short lived or shall we say, cut short.
Over the last week, I have seen and read all of the comments and outpouring of support for both OLTL and AMC on my websites and throughout the online community. I am just amazed, overwhelmed and heartsick, reading your extremely thought-provoking remarks. I have read every one of them. We are all suffering this loss together. While I don’t feel anything will overturn ABC’s ill-fated decision, all we can do now is celebrate the legacy of the series, tune-in like there is no tomorrow, and let the ratings go up while the final months of the airshows hit our TV’s. Let’s hope that some other SMART outlet will pick up the show and see that it has legs, an audience of loyal viewers who are still important, and amazing production and talent pools that any programmer would be remiss if they let an opportunity go by to snatch it up. If that does not happen, we will have to prepare ourselves for the final goodbye. We have done it before with Guiding Light and As the World Turns, and that was tough, tough, tough! So to do this all over again is a tall order! In the end, we might have to face another huge mourning process. I wish and hope not. But, ABC already pulled the plug.
Now, I have told you my story and connection to One Life to Live. Now please share yours with me. Let me know how OLTL or AMC impacted or affected your life, and what memories you have of the series. If all we will have left will be YouTube, and our recollections, it will be sad, but at least it’s something to hold on to. In the end, that’s what soaps have done for me and I think for many of you. They give us something to hold on to and look forward to, so we are not alone… and they gave us so many family members that we never knew we had.
Love to all during this difficult time,
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Video du Jour
The Michael Channel
- Damien: “100% You could really feel the agony of Scott Evans trying to fight his true feelings while Brett Claywell was…”
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- Scott: “what a wonderful article Michael.”
Scott Clifton as Liam
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