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The Brad Bell Interview – The Bold and the Beautiful – Soapmaker Of The Year 2015

Photo Credit: Gilles Toucas

Inspiring bold choices, adding in long overdue diversity, garnering critical acclaim and mainstream coverage for being on the forefront of the national conversation of the plight of the transgender community, while continuing in the daytime tradition of classic soap opera storytelling, and sprinkling in a few shock and awe moments and major surprises, these were all major factors in deciding On-Air On-Soaps highest honor of Soapmaker of the Year 2015.  Without question this year that achievement and accolade goes to the executive producer and head writer of The Bold and the Beautiful, Brad Bell.

It’s been quite some time that a daytime drama has broken ground in such a comprehensive and compelling way with the story of Maya Avant (Karla Mosley), who viewers learned earlier in the year was born as “Myron”.   Maya’s story became one of the most compassionate tales told in soap opera history with new wrinkles and twists, while expanding the Avant family by bringing in Maya’s parents and sister to the canvas.  The soap was right on target with its story choices, as this was the year that also saw everyone in America and across the world watching the real-life story of Caitlyn Jenner unfold.  But Brad Bell and his fearless team continued to push the envelope in 2015, with the sudden death of Aly Forrester (Ashlyn Pearce) in virtually the same place her mother met her maker years before.  Then there was the inspirational story of actress Linsey Godfrey (Caroline) who returned to the show after a harrowing real-life accident, and Bell was able to utilize her and give her story through the classic, “Who’s the daddy?” tale with a twist.  Caroline’s pregnancy is fraught with drama for potentially years to come.

On-Air On-Soaps spoke with Brad about his honor, and took him through the year of storylines on the screen to get his comments, during a 2015 that was also somewhat transitional for him.  No longer did he spend all of his time in Los Angeles at the B&B offices at CBS.  Brad found himself writing in Hungary, while accompanying his wife, the ambassador to that nation, Colleen Bell.  And, why not?  B&B continues to be the number one show worldwide, while firmly remaining in the #2 position of the daytime dramas in the U.S.  It was a good year to be bold and beautiful in so many ways for our culture, and that goes for this soap, too.  Here’s our Soapmaker of the Year, Brad Bell!

MICHAEL:

2015 in the world of soaps will be remembered as a very impressive year for The Bold and the Beautiful.   As you have seen, I am not alone in my thought-process, as other critics/pundits have been extolling year-end accolades for your show.

BRAD:

Courtesy/CBS

It’s a year I will look back on and be very proud of, and one that was very unique in the history of B&B.

MICHAEL:

Let’s touch on the year on B&B, and discuss what you have done with the show that has you as our choice for Soapmaker of the Year.   Obviously, first and foremost, the transgender storyline involving the character of Maya has been front and center, and told so beautifully.  You touched upon several of the issues facing the transgender community.  What can you say about what you’ve told within that story as you reflect on 2015?

BRAD:

I think we really tried to analyze progressive thinking vs. traditional thinking.  Creating the character of Maya as this transgender character has opened our minds up as writers.  It hopefully had the same effect around the country and around the world, as we see what a beautiful person she is, and how she is being treated by the Forrester family.  But also, there were many obstacles and many ahead.  It’s not just a fairy tale for her, but something that hopefully mirrors reality in the good, the bad, and the ugly.

MICHAEL:

Courtesy/CBS

The writing of the wedding of Maya and Rick (Jacob Young) was such a poignant episode, and the showdown scenes between Maya and her father Julius (Obba Babatundé) were riveting.  It was also a great decision to bring Maya’s parents on to the canvas: Julius and Vivienne (Anna Maria Horsford).  Take me through how you and your writing team made the decision to craft the scenes, and the confrontation during the nuptials?

BRAD:

I thought that things were going so well for Maya that we needed to bring someone in who didn’t agree with her choices, and who had issues with who she has become.  The father was that character.  We created a character that was traditional, stubborn, stuck in his ways, close-minded, and charming all at the same time.  As soon as I saw Obba Babatundé’s tape, I knew he was the man for this role.  He is just an incredible actor. What he has found together with Karla Mosley has just been gold for us.  Patrick Mulcahey wrote the dialog for that episode, and he just killed it as he always does.  Those scenes really came together, beautifully.

MICHAEL:

Courtesy/CBS

Through this journey of telling Maya’s story, was there anything as the executive producer and head writer of the show that you were surprised to learn about the transgender community, or what they are facing?

BRAD:

Yes.  I definitely have a greater understanding of what they are facing.  Getting to know more transgender people and to be able to be part of the community now, you find out we are all much more similar than we are different.  We have the same basic needs, wants and desires.  Everyone should have the right to express themselves, and to reach their goals, and to be who they want to be.  The people in the trans community are brave, and they are original.  It is great to live in a country where this is possible.  I think there are many challenges, but yet there are many successes to be where we are far, and ahead of most countries in the world.

MICHAEL:

Courtesy/Pop

You took the transgender story one step further with the surrogate arc, where Rick and Maya want to have a child, but enlist Maya’s sister Nicole (Reign Edwards) to assist them in the most major way.  Was the decision to tell that story, basically about a “where do we go from here” with their relationship, because now Rick and Maya were a happy couple, or was it about exploring what would happen to a couple in this situation?

BRAD:

I just thought getting to know these characters, and what Karla and Jacob put into them also, and the natural outgrowth of who they are would be the desire to have a family.  So, how do we get that done?   It did line up beautifully for Nicole to come to talk to them, and for them to make this request.  You can see how on one side it makes complete sense – it’s a younger daughter’s gift to her sister – but you also see how other people might find it to be outrageous.  It’s a great arena for drama.  This story is not going to be a bed of roses for any of them; it’s going to be difficult.  Everybody’s going to weigh-in.  Now to have Rome Flynn with us playing Zende, and Felisha Cooper playing Sasha in the story mix, plus there is much more we will hear from the Avant parents that will make the next chapter, I think, as exciting as the first.

MICHAEL:

Courtesy/CBS

You continued to integrate the transgender community into your stories.  You had transgender models in a fashion show, and you had Scott Turner Schofield (Nick), the first trans male actor in a role on a soap making daytime history.  It was commendable that you did not take a sensationalistic approach to Maya’s story, but carried this initiative and weaved it within the show.  What has been the response from the trans community?  Have people reached out to you with emails, letters, or in person?

BRAD:

Yes, it’s been great.  The letters of gratitude has been very special.  People are actually using some of our episodes in classrooms.  To hear stories like that where they are looking at scenes and discussing them is so exciting for me.

MICHAEL:

Courtesy/ESPN

Soap operas always used to tackle, and were ahead of the curve and on top of it, on telling social issues.  I don’t feel the genre has been on top of it for a while now.  I feel you and your team brought that back with the transgender storyline.  As it turned out, it was kind of the perfect storm with Caitlyn Jenner’s real-life story happening at the same time.

BRAD:

That is what I am most proud about for 2015 in story.  This is something we need to be doing.  It is something that historically when soaps are good, that is why they are good, because they are mirroring and analyzing the sociology of our time, and what we are confronting within communities.  It’s great to be on the forefront of this, and to be writing this story and to be well into it.  And then, to have Caitlyn Jenner (formerly Bruce Jenner) making her announcement of transitioning, the timing could not have been better on this one.

MICHAEL:

You recently received a WGA nomination from the Writers Guild, and are up against General Hospital for the Daytime Drama series writing award that will be announced and handed out in February.  What episodes did you submit for contention?  Additionally, can you share with the fans of the show the collaborative process of your writing team?

Courtesy/CBS

BRAD:

We submitted episodes involving Maya’s story.   As the head writer I come up with the plots, and work very closely with Michael Minnis.  Then Patrick Mulcahey joins us on story conversations frequently.  Then I have a great team of dialog writers including; Michele Val Jean and Tracey Kelly, but we are all in it together.  This team has been together a long time now.  We have had very little changes.  One year you are on to something, and the next year you take a turn.  People drop out of the show, which allows you to highlight other people.  Looking at Jacob Young and Karla Mosley, who were a bit back-burnered, to have them come up and embrace these roles the way they have has been outstanding.  Karla has been such a great spokesperson for the story.  I have the same writing team, but the transgender story has totally reinvigorated us.  We are looking for the next socially relevant story.  We are not done with this story by a long shot.  We are going to follow these people in the next stage of their lives, which will be very exciting.

MICHAEL:

There were other major storylines on B&B, and performances as well.  Chief among them is Linsey Godfrey (Caroline), who after being in a terrible accident early in 2015, returned to the series and delivered dramatic performances in the Caroline/Thomas/Ridge story.  What can you say about the decision to create this story, where a kind of ‘out of it Caroline’ would have sex with Thomas (Pierson Fode) and we would find out Ridge (Thorsten Kaye) can’t father a child?   And oh-oh, voila’ she is pregnant?

Courtesy/CBS

BRAD:

First, Linsey is a very raw, and authentic actress.  This story falls into the category of classic storytelling, not just for soap opera, but from the beginning of time.  It involves a powerful man in Ridge Forrester, and the secret he is keeping from his wife, and from his son!  The architecture of this one is strong, and the actors are committed to the material, and this will roll out beautifully in 2016.  I am so happy to be working with Thorsten Kaye (Ridge), Pierson (Thomas), and Linsey.  This will be a tight one, but the drama that will unfold should be pretty potent.

MICHAEL:

So, were you sitting there one day and you went, “Ah!  I’m going to have her pregnant by her husband’s young son!”  How does Brad Bell’s mind work to come with these classic soap stories?

BRAD:

Courtesy/CBS

The thing is before the “Ah-ha” moment, there are usually months of grinding your teeth and pulling your hair out with me going, “What do I do?”  (Laughs)   I always say it’s like being in a dark room feeling around and trying to find a way out.  It’s been a very different for me this year.  I have been in Budapest for most of it.  So that has been a new dynamic.  I have had a lot of alone time, and a lot of quiet time.  I go to my apartment there in the fifth district. Colleen says to me, “Don’t complain.  I have heard you for 25 years complaining that you wanted this solitude.”  So, now I have it and it’s a bit painful! (Laughs)  However on the flipside, it’s also really great for a writer to be alone with their characters for hours at a time.

MICHAEL:

Did any of your stories exceed your expectations in 2015?  Were you shocked to see a certain story come out so well?

BRAD:

Yes.  There is always disappointment, and great, great surprises.  This story with Caroline, Thomas and Ridge, far exceeded my expectations.  The performances, the writing, and the production all fell together so well here.

MICHAEL:

Courtesy/CBS

Now you have “accidental serial killer” Steffy (Jacqueline MacInnes Wood) running around on the loose causing “accidental” havoc.  (Laughs)  She knocked Aly (Ashlyn Pearce) to her death, and then pushed Ivy into electrical wires on her way to being electrocuted!  Aly’s death was a surprise twist that was kept under wraps so well, that nobody saw coming.  It made for one of the most surprising moments in soaps in 2015.

BRAD:

It’s interesting when the pieces fit.  It’s wonderful, and when they don’t fit you have to kind of shock yourself, and shock your characters into making them fit.  Ashleigh Brewer (Ivy) has taken all of these tumbles, and been “electrocuted”, and been through so much from day one since she joined the show.  From the beginning she was falling into the Seine River in France (Laughs).  But, it is evolving into a new chapter of the story which is very exciting for Scott Clifton (Liam) and Steffy, and for the Spencer brothers, and also Quinn.  Rena Sofer (Quinn) has been awesome on the show, and she has been patient.  Now the spotlight will turn to Rena in 2016.

MICHAEL:

What can you say about having Jacqueline MacInnes Wood back in 2015 as a major component of B&B?  Steffy is such a polarizing, and popular character around the world.

BRAD:

Courtesy/CBS

Jacqui is a beautiful spirit on camera and off, really high energy, but a super sharp actress.  I am so glad to be working with her.

MICHAEL:

It must have been hard for you as well to have Ashlyn Pearce leave the show, who was finally getting a chance to shine in the material you were giving her, and then to have to sacrifice her in terms of story.  We understand that these are decisions that head writers and executive producers have to make along the way.  What can you share about killing Aly?

BRAD:

Ashlyn is a great actress, and she has a great career ahead of her.  I think the actors understand this going in that this is something we have to do as writers.  We have to surprise people.  We have to kill people, and do the unexpected.  They are players on the show until they can’t be.  Ashlyn just killed the material, especially at the end of her run.  She is phenomenal!

MICHAEL:

Courtesy/CBS

At the beginning of 2015, lest we forget, “Drunk Brooke”!  Katherine Kelly Lang (Brooke) got to deliver some memorable performances, especially when she was getting sloshed at Bill (Don Diamont) and Katie’s (Heather Tom) wedding!

BRAD:

I think Katherine did such a great job, and it’s great to see her character unhinged.  I mean, Brooke without a man, she would have to turn to something! (Laughs)  Brooke is one of two remaining run-of-show characters, and at an interesting point in her life.  She is empty nesting, which comes with a whole array of issues and challenges.  We are starting a whole new chapter with Brooke, and Bill and Katie in 2016.

MICHAEL:

Earlier in the year, you had a soundstage at CBS dedicated to you in honor of B&B’s milestone of producing an incredible 7,000 episodes.  Your plaque is right across the hall from the soundstage dedicated to your father, the legendary Bill Bell Sr. (Co-Creator, Y&R and B&B).  This has truly been special for you.  What do you think now when you sit back and take in what that dedication ceremony meant?

BRAD:

Photo Credit: HutchinsPhoto.com

It is an incredible honor, and we have had such a great working relationship with CBS. They are great network to be on.  They are very helpful, and they really care. They care about their fans, and their viewers, and their employees.  I am thankful to CBS for the honor. It’s an honor for everyone who works on that stage every day, and around the world dubbing us into different languages, and everyone in the office.  It was a great moment.

MICHAEL:

When you are at CBS, do you ever walk by the plague with your name on it, and smile?

BRAD:

Yes! (Laughs)  My son Oliver was here visiting with a friend from Budapest, and he showed him the plaque, and then his friend said, “Where’s the commissary?” (Laughs)  But yes, it’s very special that it is up there.  I am grateful to everyone who spoke at the dedication, especially my wife.  Now that I am the spouse of the Ambassador to Hungary, I am realizing, and fully appreciating, perhaps for the first time, what that role is about, and how challenging it could be. Colleen has been so wonderful as my partner all of these years.

MICHAEL:

Photo Credit: HutchinsPhoto.com

The production, marketing, and publicity team at B&B, under your guidance also needs to be commended for their accomplishments this year: you had the first Pop-Up fan event in New York in the series history, and launched a B&B You Tube channel in the UK.  No other daytime drama has done this type of creative outreach in so many different aspects, as well as consistently planning taking the show on remotes worldwide, and integrating story within it.  Tell me about the BOLD team.

BRAD:

These producers including: Rhonda Friedman, who has been with us from the beginning but left us just before Christmas; and the consistency and the enthusiasm of Casey Kasprzyk and Mark Pinciotti who are the creative younger producers; and veterans such as Cynthia Popp and Ed Scott, we have the perfect blend of creativity, and continuity.  We love being with each other.  So, if we say let’s go to Australia, or let’s go to Israel to do a location shoot, we are thinking first and foremost: “That’s going to be fun time and a party!” (Laughs)  And then we think that we have to get the work done, which we know we will do. (Laughs)  But honestly, we all just like to hang out together.  I think our enthusiasm comes through, and it shows in our events with the fans in the U.S and around the world.

MICHAEL:

Courtesy/CBS

Now that we walked down memory lane, let’s look to the future!  In a broad stroke, what can you tease fans of B&B to look forward to in 2016?

BRAD:

I think we are going to have a great balance of issues, of villains, and some new villains appearing, and some romance.  I mean balanced in the most unbalanced way possible. (Laughs)   It will be an incredibly dramatic year.  The characters are all in a great spot.  It’s not a year of building or transitioning, but it’s a year of payoffs.  The New Year is going to explode.  I fully expect 2016 to be the best, if not the best ever, certainly over recent years, and the one to watch.  

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Callie
Guest
Callie

Great interview, Michael!

I’ve been glued to my screen watching Ridge and Caroline’s romance this year. I’m really hoping it continues for a long, long time and the baby turns out to be his.

Scoma60
Guest
Scoma60

B&B was so good a few months ago but it’s now awful. The storyline of Liam/Steffy/Wyatt/Ivy is vapid and the ping ponging of emotions makes no sense. B&B needs to ship Thomas back to Europe. No matter how they gloss it over he violated Caroline. He’s creepy as hell. He doesn’t respect women at all. He’s pushy with Ivy, making a bet to bed her, screwing underlings,etc…
Ridge/Caroline have disappeared. An 18 yr old being pushed to be a surrogate.

Aj
Guest
Aj

Time for the Return of Phoebe Forrester!!

Lynn
Guest
Lynn

The Maya story, and family are the utmost in poor storytelling, poor acting, and read the boards, UNLOPULAR. Maya is a bully, a liar and a greedy deceitful skank. The tranny story was offensive I every way possible. The show basically wrote it , that it’s all ok that Maya is a creep…a bigot…cause it’s a tranny. So it’s ok. And Nick?? That blow hard ass. He actually came across as another intolerant, judgemental bigot. Showed how hypocritical and pathetic the ten my community is. Who can forget that ass thinking that Brooke should be more concerned for the lying… Read more »

Maryann V.
Guest
Maryann V.

I couldn’t agree more.

denisefan
Guest
denisefan

Yep…….

Gigi
Guest
Gigi

Could not agree more. The worst story yet on B&B. Nobody was thrilled or liked it. The boards are overrun with disgruntled fans. Maya and Rick have never paid for the horrible things they did to others. Can’t stand Nicole and the parents. They are not good actors, boring and add zilch to the show. And now the Steffy show. Sorry, she does zilch for me as well. The mop of overkill extendions is pathetic. I certainly do not see this show as an award show. What planet is Fairman on that he thinks Bradley Bell is such a terrific… Read more »

Marc Lormand
Guest
Marc Lormand

I’d recommend you take out a mirror and look at it. Starting back at you will be the definition of a ‘bigot’.

The transgender story is outstanding! Very well written, acted, and produced. Kudos to Brad and his entire ensemble.

Shrly pab
Guest
Shrly pab

Bring Taylor back ,do not break up Liam and Steffy I read Ivy and Steffy will be at the top of the stairs and some one will fall just as Liam open the door and walked in the house it better be Steffy falling down those stairs and not Ivy so Liam can realize how much he Love Steffy and don’t ever want to lose her you better not let Ivy fall that is a bit too much we don’t want to see any thing happen to Ivy any more for Liam to feel sorry for her we are sick… Read more »

wendy
Guest
wendy

This crap of making Steffy the bad guy really stinks!! And now Ivy crawling back to Liam and begging him to come back is also stinkareo!!!!!! Brad Bell! COME UP WITH SOMETHING BETTER!! KEEP LIAM AND STEFFY TOGATHER!!!!!!

Mary
Guest
Mary

Keep Katie and Bill together. I really love them

Beth
Guest
Beth

Thanks for the interview. Giving credit where it’s due, the transgender story was not only groundbreaking, but the best kept secret in Daytime, second only to Aly’s death, which was the second best kept secret in Daytime. The ability to stun the audience, mostly in a good way, is as rare today as the telling of a groundbreaking storyline like Maya’s. For those reasons, kudos to Brad Bell for a job well done in 2015. However, so many of the other stories on B&B this year were repetitive, dull and often infuriating, and I’d include the Thomas/Caroline/Ridge storyline in those… Read more »

Geena
Guest
Geena

With the Ridge/Thomas storyline, we need Taylor!! If HT cannot come back, I am open to recasting. Taylor doesn’t have to be on permanently but I definitely think she is needed for this particular storyline.

Monica.
Guest
Monica.

The best of B&B? I Think not. Maya and Rick bullying everyone and getting a slap on the wrist for it because Maya is a transgender don´t fly with fans. So transgendrs can´t do anything wrong due to fact that they switched their gender? I agree on the crap pulled on Ridge, Steffy and Thomas. Why all the hate on the real Forresters of the show? Yes, real Forresters. Eric is Ridges father in the Eyes of the law. He should be with a woman his own age, not running around with a Little girl . Steffy Forrester is the… Read more »

Sharon
Guest
Sharon

What? The transgender story was popular and well-received? If you read the soap boards and polls, it was one of the worse story. And now it’s supposedly being shown at schools? That’s pathetic. So you’re telling students you can be a bully, feel entitled to everything, lie about having a child and signing those rights away when the child isn’t even your’s and once you become transgender, all is forgiven and no one can say anything because they’ll be called prejudice. Brad has never written a good social issue. They were all a joke, and I certainly would question the… Read more »

kevin
Guest
kevin

I wrote and asked Brad Bell to hire Jaime Lyn Bauer and have her play opposite of John McCook, wouldn’t that be wonderful to have John and Jaime together again. Do you all remember them as Lance and Laurie on Y&R? I never did get a reply back…Brad, please offer Jaime Lyn Bauer a job and bring her to the B&B.

Patty
Guest
Patty

Here is hoping that Liam and Ivy will be left in 2015 !!! They couldn’t find a more BORING pair. Send them both back to Australia !!!! This whole accident routine with Steffy is beyond ridiculous !!!!!!! Bring a man with some back bone onto the canvas for Steffy — no more boys — please !!!!

Ramona
Guest
Ramona

I’m loving the new storylines…love the way finally Steffy is feeling the hurt and pain from all her plots, scheme’s, and undermined, bully ways, its time for Steffy be hold responsible for her out of control bully ways…Y&R, GH,DOOL, has defective and police stations, hospital, rescues squares, along with love compassion storyline’s, which has brought them as #1, I think B&B Bradley Bell and writers need to reviews the storyline’s that draw attention and boost the rates up…..reviewing a lot soap websites and polls is requesting the re-cast of Hope Logan or bring back Kim Katual for Liam …his characters… Read more »

Linda
Guest
Linda

I agree on recasting Hope, we the fans has been asking for over a year for them to bring Hope back, I think it will bring a nice twist bringing her back, I’d like to see Hope and Liam back together, married and have a family with no interference from anyone else, Bil or Steffy. I don’t like Maya, I don’ t like what Maya and Rick did to Caroline and others and then everyone looks the other way. Now Maya is the wonderful model? Really. And all the crap Rick pulled is all forgiven. I think bring Mr. Avant’s… Read more »

Lisa Ann Nesbitt
Guest
Lisa Ann Nesbitt

Bradley Bells could you put in the show is because they need my help and also bring Hope Logan back so she can go back to liam and give something that know body can and also can you fine a man for Brooke and Sasha because theyonly go after other people man like Katie own and also Nicole make sure sash and Brooke fine they own man and leave them married men alone please Bradley Bells .

Mary
Guest
Mary

Love Katie and bill. Please brad have them stay together . Brooke should be with ridge

Keriannb
Guest
Keriannb

Brooke made me laugh today saying Bill the love for her life!!!! WTH!! Yes her and Bill sizzle but Brooke sole mate and destiny as she said 5 million times is Ridge. Obviously not Tk version of Ridge but Come on those words rang hollow! Get Carter a SL stat and please don’t let Nicole keep this up I find it bizarre! Maya and Caroline personlalties been rewritten some many times I can’t keep up!!! Wyatt and Stepahie are fabulous. lIam turned into a border my dufus!! he way better as computer geek! Wake up Liam can’t possibly be so… Read more »

Laura
Guest
Laura

Really why Katie and Bill again… can’t we have ONE Stable couple on the show??? Quinn is a big waste of time … Steffy belongs with Liam and Wyatt belongs with ???? The new Avant daughter has Biotch written all over her face ugh!

Dianna
Guest
Dianna

Watch the show today been watching for 20 +years 2016 has got to be more not so predictable Wiatt & steffy come on Wiatt has to quit getting sloppy seconds or 3rds hope the writer has better story lines this year for Katie , Bill, & Logan -brook were is Caroline& ridge?

Peggy
Guest
Peggy

I think it would be extremely interesting to see Hope return to Liam while Steffy is with Wyatt and see all four of them all in love with each other and start acting like interchangeable couples. I also think the Quinn and Liam “Adam and Eve” thing is hilarious. However, Quinn having sex with Liam is shocking; almost seems like incest and I can’t see this ending any other way than Quinn getting fired by Steffy and disowned by Wyatt.

Interviews

Y&R’s Mishael Morgan Talks Amanda’s Gut-Wrenching Scenes With Her Mother, Romance with Devon & Vice-President Kamala Harris’ Historic Moment

Since Mishael Morgan returned to The Young and the Restless as Hilary’s twin, Amanda Sinclair, it’s been a slow burn for the character.  However, recent revelations of Amanda’s childhood past have exposed the emotional wounds and the inner fight of this legal eagle, who is now poised for a romance with her late sister’s husband, Devon Hamilton (Bryton James)!

And who better to take on the challenge of trying to make Amanda and Devon a couple to root for then the talented Morgan.  In recent scenes, viewers watched as Amanda learned the harsh reality from her biological mother, Naya (Ptosha Storey), that she gave her and her sister up at birth and never really regretted it! Mishael played those scenes as you would expect for all they were worth and then some.

Michael Fairman TV chatted with the Trinidadian-Canadian Morgan, as the United States marked Martin Luther King Day on Monday – a holiday that holds a special place for her – and then the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as President and Vice-President of the United States on Wednesday and its historical significance.

 

While Mishael shares her thoughts on these moments of our time, we also do a deep-dive into how she created a second life in Genoa City and the challenges of playing a twin and making her unique and different, plus what fans should look forward to in the months ahead, which to us looks like it could be a love triangle between Elena (Brytni Sarpy), Devon, and Amanda.  And, as the second anniversary of the death of Kristoff St. John (Neil Winters) is fast approaching, Morgan opens up about the impact her former co-star had on her daytime career.  Here’s what Mishael had to say about it all below.

Photo: AP

Yesterday was such a historic day watching the swearing in ceremony of Kamala Harris, as Vice-President of the United States.  She is the first woman, first Black woman, first Indian woman, so many firsts to hold this office.  I just wanted to get your thoughts from watching it.  What was it like for you?

MISHAEL:  For me it was such a beautiful moment, and such a defining moment because now there is no person in America who can feel like they can’t do it all, that they can’t make it to the highest level of office, or at least one of the highest levels of office.  I think that is going to transform this country and the world in many ways because the rest of the world really does pay attention to American politics, and to what goes on in America.  I think it will really have a ripple effect throughout the entire world.  For me, it was so exciting to see this moment actually come to fruition because I think that the impact is even greater than we all could imagine.  You never know who you’re inspiring.

Photo: Hustory.com

It was really amazing, and this was also right after Martin Luther King Day and I know you produced your “I Have a Dream” Project.  How was the holiday for you?

MISHAEL:  It was funny because even though I did the MLK project, I didn’t really think that it was something I could really explain to my son.  Then, yesterday my son really wanted to know: “What was Martin Luther King Day about?  Why was it a holiday?”  It was so interesting because I had to come up with a way to explain it to a five-year-old, and what I came up with was so basic but so true.  I just said, “This was a day when Martin Luther King, a very famous man, who was famous because he stood up for everybody’s rights, and he marched to make sure that everybody can do the same things in this country as everyone else no matter how they look,” and that’s what he was.  He wasn’t just a champion for just Black lives.  I think he is a champion for equality, and he is a champion for making sure that we always remember to see each other the same.

Is that what inspired you originally to do your project?

MISHAEL:  Yes.  100%.  I remember being inspired by Martin Luther King as a child when I was learning about him for Black History Month and stuff like that, and then when all of the social unrest happened, I just remembered him again, and it was something that I wanted to explore.  When I started reading about him again, I just became so inspired by him all over again that I wanted to do something, and that’s what really inspired me to do the “I Have a Dream” Project.

Photo: Getty

I just hope that we will make strides in our country in stomping out systemic racism – it’s such a deeply-entrenched issue in our society.  A lot of people talk, but we need action to bring change to the system.

MISHAEL:  That’s the thing, I think that this moment, you can’t stop – like the moment when Kamala Harris got sworn in as our Vice-President – you can’t stop the train now because strides will be made that the next generation will look at as normal, and of what it means to be a Black woman or a woman in this country is going to change forever.  It’s the next generation that is really going to continue to move it forward.  So, I think that at the end of the day.  This will always be something that’s remembered.

Courtesy/CBS

Now on to Y&R, I wanted to tell you that these performances that you gave that recently aired were just great.  I always love it when they give you the ball.  How did you feel about the scenes and the storyline, where we learn the deep pain and hurt of Amanda’s childhood and the truth from her mother?

MISHAEL:  I was so excited to play it because for me, I really love telling human stories.  I love diving into that part of myself, and I really know that a huge part of why I am an actor is because I just have this outpouring level of empathy for every life that’s lived.  When I talk to people, and they tell me their stories, I want to take it on because I want to show that beautiful side of humanity.  So being given this story, I wanted to be very careful with it, because I knew that this is a reality for a lot of people.  I also thought about the fact that twin stories have always been done before, paternity stories have been done before, but I have to make sure that it comes from a truly honest place inside of me and a truly empathetic place.  I was excited to take on the challenge to be true to myself, and be true to my artist, and just find the beauty and the honesty in this real human story.

Courtesy/CBS

Ptosha Storey, who played your on-screen mother, Naya, was amazing in the scenes with you.  What was it like working with her and the gravity of it, where this woman is basically unapologetic that she didn’t want her children and she gave them up, and she did not sugar-coat it.

MISHAEL:  Ptosha was amazing.  I loved working with her.  We really got to kind of know each other a little bit.  She has such an interesting story about coming to LA to pursue acting, taking a break from it, (and I don’t want to speak for her), but then really going full-throttle right now when Black, female characters are being played, and she’s getting an opportunity to get back out there and do what she loves to do.  Just listening to her story was so inspiring to me. We had a true respect for each other when we got on the stage, and I think we made some art.

Photo: JPI

It was almost like watching a two-person play in those scenes.  What did Amanda feel at this point?  Was she hoping that her mother would say, “I loved you.  I wanted you?”  Was she hoping for a different outcome in her head?

MISHAEL:  I think anybody who goes into a search for their parents is hoping for a positive outcome.  I think for her, it was heartbreaking to hear that if Naya could go back and do it all over again, she would have made the same choices, and also knowing that those choices really impacted Amanda’s life in an incredible way.  I don’t think that all of it has come out yet.  I think a lot of the pain and hurt that she had to go through as a child, and the loneliness that she had to go through as a child, and hearing from a mother that she would put you back in that situation because it was more comfortable for her, and the level of selfishness is hard to take. Then there is the anger and everything that would come out of hearing that from your biological mother.  It’s funny because the way that those scenes were scripted, there was no stage direction, which to me, I love, because a lot times it will say like, “in this moment she is going to get a little angry,” or, “in that moment she is going to be sad,” but for those scenes, for some reason (and they were really juicy scenes) they really didn’t give much direction. I appreciated that because then it really allowed me to really just make the scene what I thought it was and just really live in the moment.  I know this was a roundabout way to answer the question, but yes, it was very heartbreaking because nobody expects that somebody would say that to them.

Photo: JPI

It was just so heartbreaking.  I kept thinking, “Maybe she’ll…” but no, Naya just stood her ground on it even though Amanda grew up in a foster home.  She wasn’t the “chosen” twin either!

MIHAEL:  No, and she was never chosen, and I think that’s an interesting thing that you said because she was never chosen, and I then even to this day, as a grown woman, she still isn’t chosen, and that I think is heartbreaking.  It’s an interesting thing because I do happen to have a bit of a personal experience with this.  My father wasn’t in the foster system, but he was raised… kind of farmed out to two aunts as a young child and didn’t really get to have a relationship with his parents until he was older, and with his mother, until he was in his 20s.  So, it was so fascinating watching my father.  I just remember always looking up to him and thinking he was so strong, and so powerful, and never cared about what anybody thought, and because of his upbringing, it made him a very driven person, very much like Amanda, but there was a weird sense of wanting to be good enough when his father was around, or when people talked about his father.  It was very fascinating for me to watch that.  It was like I would see my father almost turn into a child again, just wanting that love.  I think it’s because that is so organic to who we are as human beings that it just never goes away, that need to know that your parents love you, that there are two people in this world who no matter what will be there for you, and they will love you.  That’s a hard reality to come to when you realize that’s not true.  I think that’s something that’s really hard for the human spirit to let go of.

Photo: MMorganIG

Yes, and I think what you are saying is also true that you realize as an adult that we are so deeply affected by our childhood and how it plays into our choices, or how we perceive things that happen in our lives.  So, when you think of that, and because you’re a mom, doesn’t it make you feel even more that you want to do right by your kids? That you don’t want to do anything to screw them up in their later years?

MISHAEL:  Yes, it’s true.  It does make you want to be the best person for them and the best example, especially the best example for love.  You want them to feel accepted, and appreciated, and proud, and you want them to know that you’re proud of them.  You want to do everything you can because you think of every single person you may have met who felt like their parents didn’t love them enough, and you want to do every single thing to make sure that your child doesn’t feel that way.  I talked to one of my friends, and they’re like, “My parents never told me that they were proud of me,” and I’m like, “Alright!  Well, Niam, I am so proud of you!” Every day, “I am proud of you!  I am proud!”  It’s like every day I better make sure to tell my kids that I am proud of them, and that I love them.  I was talking to Bryton James about this because I had a disciplinary moment with my son, and you wonder if they are going to take it the way that you take it, but at the end of the day, that might get burned into his memory as “the worst thing that my mom ever did to me,” and meanwhile I thought it was a life lesson that I think he learned.  You kind of have to get rid of that fear that you are going to screw them up because I think it doesn’t matter.  You’re either going to love them too much, or you’re not going to love them enough, and you just have to do the best that you can, and you just hope that it’s good enough.

Photo:JPI

Now, you were brilliant as Hilary on Y&R and had this amazing story send-off, and then you came back to the show as Amanda, a new character.  How has it been to try to define Amanda as her own character without the ‘Hilary-isms’, or does it not matter anymore?  Do you feel you have made the distinction for yourself that they are two very different characters?

MISHAEL:  I feel like now they just are different.  It was active choices that I was making in the beginning, and it was important for me in the beginning.  That’s why, for me, when I was bringing Amanda in, I was trying to stay very steady in my tone and how I spoke because Hilary was very, very up and down, and everything was all over the place.  So, for me, that was my beginning moment, just really focusing on how Amanda spoke and how she conducted herself. I can’t change the way that I look, but I feel that the way that I speak and the way that I carry myself will naturally start to define the character.  After a while, when that becomes more second nature, I feel like more of the character comes through … more of how she is and how she takes things in.  That’s just sort of explaining a bit of my process. It’s just the weirdest situation that I never thought I would ever be in, but I definitely feel like a different character for sure!  I do feel like I know who Amanda is now.  In the beginning, when I read the script, all I heard was Hilary.  I really had to think about how I was going to say things because I didn’t want it to sound like Hilary, and now when I read the script, I see Amanda.  I don’t hear Hilary anymore.  It’s become easier for me now to lean more into the role and get more comfortable with it.

Photo:JPI

Amanda had said to her mother that she was also robbed of her sister.  How does that play into her whole psyche?  She does know that Devon was deeply in love with her sister, and now she has feelings for him too.  Did she want to meet her sister?  Does she feel robbed of that?

MISHAEL:  She feels very much robbed of that.  For me, it was very important that the time when she discovered that Hilary was her sister and that Hilary was gone, that I’m playing that loss properly.  It was important for me because if you couldn’t believe that Amanda’s heart is truly breaking for her sister, then you can’t believe anything else that’s coming afterwards.  This is a really defining moment for me as an actor playing two characters on the show.  It was really important, leaning into the fact that I had a twin, and I’ll have a connection to a person who doesn’t exist anymore, and really letting that break my heart, and break Amanda’s heart.  Once the audience believes that, then they can really believe that Amanda is a different character.  Then, our amazing fans will start to just buy into it, and they will figure it out, and they will work it out, and they will wrap their heads around it, but for me, it was that they had to believe that Amanda’s heart is truly broken for Hilary, otherwise we can’t hook them.  Amanda and Hilary have to become two separate characters in people’s minds.

Right.  So, after the confrontation with her mother, she runs to Devon, and she is torn up, and he consoles her.  This week he asked her out on a date.  She likes this guy, right? 

MISHAEL:  Yeah, I think she does!  He’s the first person that she met when she came to town, and I think she’s always been impressed by how he treated her even when he hated her, and the more that she learned of him, the more she became impressed by who Devon was, and his patience with all of this. In seeing his vulnerability with Hilary, and everything that he went through, and then seeing his heart being broken because of Elena and Nate, I think all of it together is starting to give these two characters reasons to be okay with exploring something that may seem strange to other people, but you can’t control who you love sometimes.

Photo: JPI

Hilary and Devon were such a hugely popular couple.  Do you feel pressure to hit lighting in a bottle, twice?

MISHAEL:  It’s really hilarious because we’re the same people!  Yeah, there is a little bit of pressure because you do wonder if you’re going to be able to create the same magic, especially because Bryton and I have known each other for so long, and we know each other so well now.  Looking back at some of the Hilary and Devon scenes, there is something that is so interesting about it and fun about it because I think Bryton and I were just getting to know each other at the same time.  So, wondering if we are going to be able to recreate that and just make it feel fun and fresh, I think is the worry or the challenge.  I think we will figure it out.  Bryton and I were talking, and the one thing that is missing, or the one thing that we have to get to in terms of the underbelly of Amanda and Devon’s attraction is that Amanda is more like Devon than Hilary ever was.  It’s almost like Devon realizing that the whole journey with Hilary was meant to happen just so that he could meet Amanda.

Isn’t Amanda going to be kind of worried that he was so in love with Hilary and the way that she looked…

MISHAEL:  Well, she doesn’t need to worry because Hilary is dead anyway.  It’s not like she’s coming back!  (Laughs)

Photo: JPI

Since the last time you played an on-screen relationship, Bryton is with Brytni Sarpy in real-life, and Brytni is on the show now, and there is all of that.  What has that been like working with Brytni?

MISHAEL:  Oh, I’m so Canadian!  As soon as I got back to the show, I was like, “I’m so sorry,” and she was like, “Why are you sorry?”  I said, “I just feel very sorry that I’m here.  You guys have your real-life love thing going on, and your on-screen love… I feel weird.  I’m happy to be back on the show, but I’m like breaking up the party!”  She’s like, “No!  It’s fun!  It’s fine!  Maybe we’ll be rivals!”  I’m like, “Yeah, okay it’ll be fun!”

I can see a classic soap bitch-fight on the horizon on Y&R!

MISHAEL:  Brytni has been awesome about it.  That’s been great.  We don’t know where it’s going to go, but it’s going to be fun.  They’re also playing with Devon’s love for Elena still.  They still have a pull.  Devon is still looking at Elena.  So, I think it’s going to be interesting either way.

Photo: JPI

We are going to have the fan wars again for the couples!

MISHAEL:  That’s even more fun!  I always said I’d rather people be fighting for me to be with this person and that person as opposed to just always with one person because then to me, I kind of wonder, “Is it just this one actor who makes me better?”  I want to be an actor who makes everyone better!  That I can work off of anybody and get that chemistry or that thing that audiences are looking for, that’s what I really challenge myself to do.

Photo: JPI

On February 3rd, it’ll be the second anniversary of Kristoff  St. John’s death, which is hard to believe that it will have been 2 years already.  I keep remembering when I first met you.  Kristoff and you were on The Price is Right, but it was also a crossover for your characters, and you were the new girl on Y&R.  Do you still feel his presence at Y&R?

MISHAEL:  A few days ago, I had asked Bryton, who is s actually in Kristoff’s old dressing room, “Do you ever feel Kristoff in there?  In your dressing room?” and he’s like, “No, not really.  Definitely not in my dressing room, but on set sometimes.”  Even though he’s not here, it’s like he’s still with us because you still see him in pictures and sometimes that happens while you are on set doing a scene.  One time, I was on set doing a scene with Christel Khalil (Lily), and I saw a picture of Kristoff in the background, and it’s just kind of a reminder that I think he is always going to be here in terms of his impact on me and my time on the show.  He means a lot to me because I think I am the artist I am largely because of his influence, and how he really took me under his wing and made me feel so comfortable.  He was such a light, and he made acting so fun, but he always had your back as an acting partner and as friend, and I miss him a lot.

Me too.  He was just a wonderful actor too, when you look back on some of the work.

MISHAEL:  Oh my gosh, yes.

Photo:JPI

What does Amanda think of Naya’s other daughter, Imani (Leigh Ann Rose)?

MISHAEL:  She’s just irritated by Imani because she basically got to live the life that Amanda should have had essentially. To watch her be up on her high horse to Amanda, it’s laughable because the amount of hoops and obstacles that Amanda has had to go through to get to where she is standing today, somebody like Imani is just a complete joke to her! In Amanda’s mind, she is who she is just because of the opportunities that she was given and because of the family that she was born into.  It was complete luck, and it had nothing to do with hard work.  In Amanda’s eyes, everything that she is and every ounce of who she is, is because of her determination, and the choices that she made, and the obstacles that she overcame.  So, the way that Amanda looks at Imani is like she is just a person who she doesn’t even think could fathom how insignificant Amanda thinks that she is.  There is a deep-rooted resentment for Imani because I just think that Amanda has been through so much.

Would you like to have more scenes between Amanda and Naya and Imani?

MISHAEL:  Yes.I want more scenes with both of them!  Both of them are so amazing.  So, I’d love to work with both Imani/Leigh-Ann and Naya/Ptosha again.

Photo:JPI

What can you say to the fans to look forward to?

MISHAEL:  I think I would say that Amanda coming to Genoa City was a really big surprise, and I think that those surprises will continue … ff we want to be as vague as possible! I think there are a lot of things to look forward to because this relationship with Devon is definitely going, and I think it will be interesting to watch how Bryton and I figure that out, which will be fun!

Photo: JPI

Big surprises? Hmm.  Are you going to tell me that there are four of you? That Naya really gave birth to quadruplets … and you are about to take on two more roles?

MISHAEL:  Well, you never know!  That’s all I’ll say!

So, what did you think of Mishael’s recent performances where Amanda met her birth mother? Are you rooting for Amanda and Devon to wind up together, or Devon and Elena? What have you thought of Amanda Sinclair vs. Hilary Curtis Hamilton?  Share your thoughts via the comment section below.

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Days Of Our Lives

Watch the Replay: GH, DAYS, Y&R, B&B & OLTL Stars at Michael Fairman’s Virtual Birthday Party for SAG-AFTRA Foundation Covid-19 Relief Fund

Earlier this week on Monday night, several of the stars of General Hospital, Days of our Lives, The Young and the Restless, The Bold and the Beautiful, and One Life to Live, took part in a virtual livestream “party” for Michael Fairman’s 60th birthday.

The event was held virtually to help performers in need who have been deeply affected by the Covid-19 pandemic by letting viewers know where to make a donation to the SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s Covid-19 Relief Fund.

Photo: ABC, NBC, CBS

Participating throughout the 90 minute livestream were: The Young and the Restless, Jason Thompson, Sharon Case, and Christian LeBlanc, General Hospital’s Maurice Benard, Laura Wright, Wes Ramsey, and Chloe Lanier, The Bold and the Beautiful’s Katherine Kelly Lang, Days of our Lives’ Rob Scott Wilson, Eric Martsolf, Galen Gering, Arianne Zucker, Shawn Christian, Santa Barbara favorite, A Martinez, One Life to Live’s Kristen Alderson and Eddie Alderson, and Studio City’s Sean Kanan.

You can catch the replay of the birthday benefit event below or on The Michael Fairman Channel on You Tube.

Throughout the evening, the actors shared stories of how they got their SAG card, played a game of Michael’s trivia, and revealed stories about themselves and other “party” guests in a wonderful display of community and camaraderie at all went down live!

Since March of 2o2o, the SAG-AFTRA Foundation has given out more than $6.2 million in emergency aid to over 6,500 SAG-AFTRA performers and their families facing hardship and uncertainty during this pandemic. Thousands of SAG-AFTRA artists have found themselves in dire need of assistance to help pay their rent, buy groceries, cover health care premiums and other bills.  You can still make a donation of any dollar amount to the SAG-AFTRA Foundation Covid-19 relief fund here. https://members.sagfoundation.org/donate 

Now, check it out below, and let us know if you enjoyed the virtual birthday party livestream via the comment section.

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General Hospital

GH Co-Head Writers Chris Van Etten and Dan O’ Connor Interview – “Soapmakers of the Year” Honors 2020

In a year which saw production of your favorite soaps shutdown for several months due to the coronavirus pandemic, everyone in daytime had to pivot.  As original episodes aired, they eventually ran out, giving way to rebroadcasts, while the audience eagerly awaited the return of the current stories.

At General Hospital, once production resumed over the summer, head writers, Chris Van Etten and Dan O’ Connor had teed-up: surprising homecomings (Dante, Britt) shocking twists and revelations, the conclusion of what will become an all-time soap classic, the Alzheimer’s storyline, dipping into the rich 57-year history of the iconic soap to tie story to the present (Laura, Cyrus, Martin), and crafting stories for its A-list cast which gave 2020 some of its finest on-screen moments.  GH became can’t-miss television again, coming back even stronger than its pre-pandemic self; which also kicked the year off in high-style with the reveal of Nikolas to his family, alive and well, and the long-awaited truth about baby Wiley.

Chris and Dan’s depiction of Mike’s heartbreaking battle with Alzheimer’s gave viewers many tears through its unrelenting and realistic storytelling, plus their commitment to air the standalone episode to honor the passing of the 19th amendment of the women’s right to vote in November.  Both were noteworthy, and illustrated what daytime can do best.

 

Each year, Michael Fairman TV gives our highest honor to a creative or creatives who most delivered to its audience and whose quality of work continues to keep us engaged, on the edge of our seats, or reaching for the hankies. That is why this year’s Soapmkers of the Year honor goes to GH scribes: Chris Van Etten and Dan O’Connor.  Shortly after receiving their acknowledgement, the duo spoke to us about some of the 2020 highlights in Port Charles, and how they work so well together to bring their stories to life.  Here’s what they shared.

Courtesy/ABC

First, and foremost, I want to commend you for the Alzheimer’s storyline  As I’ve shared publicly, my mother died of Alzheimer’s, and I have seen the progression of this disease and the effects it has on a family and loved ones, and the person afflicted with it.  You did a beautiful job of telling every beat of the story within the context of what you could do within a soap opera.  What can you tell me about crafting that and seeing it through to the end?  You never abandoned the story, which at times, can happen on daytime.

CHRISNo, we didn’t abandon it.  Soap operas have a power that I am sure we have acknowledged before, to allow audiences to really get to know characters in a deeper and more profound way than I think most other mediums do.  We get to see characters’ lives day in and day out.  For us to tell a story about Alzheimer’s, which is a disease that is devastating in so many ways, not the least of which is the fact that it can take years to develop and years to finally claim a life, we felt that among our audience, there had to be many people who had experienced this in an up-close and personal way.  So that to tell the story too expeditiously would really deny their experience and would take away from their appreciation of the show as a reflection of reality.  Of course, soap operas don’t do that in every sense on every episode, but when you’re telling a story about a disease that people experience every day, you have an obligation to reflect the real-world experience.  So, by bringing it to a close too fast and by doing it in a way that didn’t honor what at times is the horror of the disease, felt like it would be a cop-out.  We wanted to do our best within the constrictions of the medium to depict that; while at the same time, of course, not wanting to leave people so depressed as to not want to tune back in.  It was a really delicate dance.  We are very grateful to have had the support of the network and Frank Valentini’s (executive producer, GH) ingenious production team as well as a great repertory of actors who were willing and able to give their all to this story.

Courtesy/ABC

Maurice Benard (Sonny) did some of his finest work of his career in this story, and you gave him the ball to do it, and Max Gail (Mike) was amazing.  Two standout episodes included: when Mike passed and was taken to heaven by Courtney (Alicia Leigh Willis) and Mike’s funeral episode.  Did you realize when you were writing it, the impact it would have on the audience?

DANAs for the funeral, I’d say that we knew as we were writing it that not only did we want to give the characters and the audience a chance to say goodbye to Mike, but we also wanted to give the performers a chance to say a goodbye to their relationship with the actor, Max Gail as well.  Max is a fantastic, phenomenal actor, and he formed close relationships with many of our performers.  So, when we wrote the episode, yes, we did want to give the audience a chance to say goodbye to the character, but we also knew that because of the close relationships that these performers have made with each other that the actors were going to bring their all, and it was going to provide the audience with some powerhouse performances.

Did you get emotional seeing it? 

CHRIS:  Oh, personally, I cried.

Courtesy/ABC

I know you both love and appreciate the soap genre and understand that the audience often wants a good cry and is invested in these characters.  So because of that; what’s it like for you when you see these emotional moments play out that start in your mind, go to the page, then to the stage, and now are out in the world for people to see and experience?

CHRIS:  I can’t speak for any of the other writers, but I’m not crying when I’m writing it, but I’m crying when I see it realized and how the actors, and the producers, and the directors realize it.  I personally am always surprised by the nuance and the beats that they find that we, in our first draft kind-of-lifestyle that we have as soap opera writers; where we are writing six or seven episodes per week, we don’t have the time or the luxury to really sit with an episode and mine it for every single beat and every emotion. That’s why we have great directors and great actors who take these scripts and find these extra moments.  So, it is really gratifying to watch – yes, to see something that we’ve imagined be produced and personified, but then to see how the production then takes it in other directions, that’s the best.  I think that’s the most gratifying part of writing for a show, not seeing what you’ve written produced, but seeing how it was parented into life.  When you have a baby, I think you have all sorts of ideas about what the baby will be, and then the baby becomes something else as the result of its environment and of the people who are influencing and guiding it along and that may be a bit of a stretched metaphor, but it kind of feels relative.

As co-head writers of General Hospital, how do you work together to come up with long-term story?  What is your process?

DAN:  Chris and I will meet regularly and discuss the long-term stories that we are telling, and plan to tell, and maybe some adjustments that we have to make along the way.  We get to meet with our writers several days every week as we figure out the best way to tell that story in the form of however many episodes we write a week.  Chris and I also write episodes along with our great breakdown script team, and every week we figure out the best way to either stay on the path of the story we are intending to tell, or find new opportunities or new twists and turns we can take along the way.

Photo: ABC

Do you get into friendly, creative disagreements? Is one of you more protective of a certain character than the other? 

DAN:  Chris and I have known each other for close to 15 years at this point, and we are not just colleagues, we are also friends.  There is a certain amount of shorthand that we have with each other which is just invaluable in telling story.  What’s great is that we sometimes come at the story from different angles or we have a different point of view, much like any two fans of the show wouldn’t agree on necessarily everything, but in our discussions about the show’s needs, wants, and haves, and the story trajectory, we ultimately get somewhere better than where either of us could have come up with on our own.  At the same time, there are those moments where we both come to the same idea at the same moment, and that’s definitely when we go, “Okay, we’re onto something good.”

CHRIS:  I can add as a partial translation that I can get really snippy, and Dan has the patience of a saint.  So, often times, I need 24 hours to go away, and sleep on something, and wake up, and say, “Oh Dan, you were totally right about that.  I’m so sorry I was snippy the other day,” and he doesn’t seem to hold it against me.

Do you ever get a writer’s block; as has to happen often with scribes in the unrelenting medium of daytime drama, and if so, I would think having a writing partner would be an asset during those times?

DAN:  I think it’s the nature of the beast.  At a certain point, you might hit a roadblock somewhere, but that’s why having a partner is so valuable that there is somebody else that you can bounce ideas along with, and just as, if not more importantly, our team of writers are always there to sometimes give us even better ideas than what we would have come up with on our own.

Courtesy/ABC

This year you utilized and delved back into a lot of GH history.  How did the idea come about to bring back the character of Jackie Templeton and have former All My Children and NYPD Blue favorite, Kim Delaney, take on the role?

DAN:  Jackie Templeton is a character who has been an Easter egg on the show for many years now.  Whenever we needed to namedrop a famous journalist, she was always our go-to.  It always felt like the character was in the ether of Port Charles for awhile, and we were excited to bring this take-no-prisoners character back and explore her history with Robert (Tristan Rogers), and at the same time, we were finally teed up to tell the story of Finn’s (Michael Easton) falling out with his father and step-mother, and we realized we had a great opportunity to have the character serve both stories and collide with not just Anna (Finola Hughes) and Finn, but Robert as well. Those three played wonderfully with each other. When we heard that Kim Delaney was interested in playing with us, we were just over the moon.  .

Courtesy/ABC

You have also been delving back into Laura’s childhood past and her history. I love that you brought up the death of David Hamilton and her teenage years, which hasn’t been discussed for a very long time on the show while tying it into the present.

DAN:  We were always aware of the story just because we love General Hospital and we love the character of Laura, and there is nothing else like daytime drama, and one of the great things about it is that you can reach decades into the past and expand on stories and themes that the audience actually witnessed. Long reaching history is a tool in our toolbox that not many other series have.  Chris and I love honoring and using our characters’ histories to propel the show into the future with some serious momentum.

Photo: ABC

You created and brought the character of  Cyrus Renault (Jeff Kober) on to the canvas. Was it originally a case of, “We need an uber-villain to come and shake things up,” and then you decided to connect him to Laura?  It’s been an intriguing shocker for viewers.  Jeff is playing the multi-levels of Cyrus with great finesse, and whenever you give Genie something, the fans go nuts, and she, in turn, delivers every time.

CHRIS:  The story of Cyrus has a couple of phases to it.  We wanted to bring on a villain who would not only be an adversary to Sonny, but someone who we could use to really test Jordan (Briana Nicole Henry) and Curtis (Donnell Turner), and we knew going in that the first phase of this story would really hit the Corinthos family and also the Ashfords, and as we developed it, we thought about what the act two would be, and we knew that we had an opportunity to really engage Genie Francis and to expand her sphere and expand her footprint on the show, and by connecting her to Cyrus, who is not your typical face or presence for a soap, but is also not your typical person who I think Laura would encounter in her daily life.  So, we knew, as we really developed Cyrus as a villain, that for Laura to find out that this man is her brother, would really allow us to play with Laura in a different context and in a different light and really give Genie a new kind of challenge.

Speaking of Genie, what did you think when you watched back her performance in the episode where you wrote that Laura has to say goodbye to her comatose daughter, Lulu (Emme Rylan), before she was sent off the canvas to a long-term care facility?

CHRIS:  I mean to me, that’s vintage Laura.  I came to General Hospital personally in the late 80s to early 90s, so my experience of Laura really only begins with her, and Luke (Tony Geary), and Lucky (Jonathan Jackson) at the Triple L Diner.  I think that what we’ve gotten to see with Genie is really reflective of the high emotion that she is capable of delivering.  At the same time as the high emotion, you’re also seeing really small human moments that she really breathes a lot of life into.  I can speak for Dan and myself when we say that we are just really thrilled with what she has been able to bring to the screen.  Thrilled, but I guess not surprised.

Coutesy/ABC

Nelle (Chloe Lanier) was such a great interloper and threat throughout the year in story; whether it’s hatching plots to gain custody of baby Wiley, or her “death” scene and confrontations with Carly (Laura Wright).  However, through all of this, when was it decided to make Nina (Cynthia Watros), Nelle’s biological mother?

DAN:  There are very few things that are as exciting on a soap as a character that makes you wonder what they are going to do next, and Chloe and Nelle provided that role with just gusto.  The truth is, the idea that Nelle was Nina’s daughter has been a part of the conception of that character, and over the last few years, the story evolved, and we ultimately got to reveal the truth to the audience.

Courtesy/ABC

As writers, there has to be characters that are just so delicious and treacherous to write for that you have to get a kick out of it! Chloe Lanier is so good that she makes the audience want to slap Nelle when she takes the dialog and then brings it to the screen.  

CHRIS:  It is tremendous fun.  Yes, yes, we love writing for these characters who are willing to do and say anything to get what they want.  We are constrained when writing for characters who have morality.  It takes a moral character a lot of really difficult circumstances for them to make a decision that might go against the grain, but when you have a character like Nelle, who is not shackled by certain societal norms, then you really get to live out the worst impulses that a person could have, and it’s really fun, especially when you take a really great performer like Chloe and see her as Nelle unleash all of the poison that she’s capable of.  At the same time, she can turn on a dime and rip your heart out a little bit when she turns on the water works.

Photo :ABC

Ava Jerome’s (Maura West) story this year had her moving into a relationship with Nikolas (Marcus Coloma).  We, the audience, didn’t know how that was going to go – if they were just going to use each other, or ultimately fall in love.  Was that the plan all along … that they would develop deep feelings for each other, or did you want to see how it progressed and played out on-screen, and then make that determination?

CHRIS:  I think that once we saw the chemistry between the two actors, we knew we had gold. So, we wanted to take our time, especially the way that it was constructed.  These were two people who had little use for each other emotionally, and in fact, probably wanted to see one another’s downfall, and that’s what makes it so great to write – that these are people who, in a similar vein as Nelle, don’t live by the same rules as most of the rest of us, and therefore, they might do things to each other that the rest of us would not do to anyone let alone whether we like them or not.  That’s what makes Ava and Nikolas so delicious is that from one moment to the next, you don’t know if they’re going to hatch a plot against each other or fall into bed and ravish each other. That’s what I think we hope to continue to play as we go forward because they certainly have very strong, passionate feelings for one another.  When you’re talking about Ava and Nikolas, these are two people who do not have a lot of fans necessarily in Port Charles, and there are a lot of people who don’t necessarily want to see them achieve happily ever after.  Knowing that there was so much initial mistrust and suspicion between the two of them could really provide the foundation for their own undoing or their undoing from someone who does not want to see them happy.

Photo: ABC

Back in November, GH made good use of a standalone episode spotlighting the history of the women’s right to vote and the suffrage movement; just as the presidential election was happening.  What made you decide to write this special show, and how do you feel it turned out as it also spotlighted the female cast?

CHRIS:  We had long intended to honor the one hundred years of American women’s suffrage with a special episode to air on the anniversary of the 19th amendment’s passage, but we missed the date due to the pause in production.  We realized we had a second chance as the election neared.  Going forward was a no-brainer. The biggest challenge was in distilling such an epic story into one episode. We think ABC would do well to consider a spinoff: “Port Charles, 1920”

Courtesy/ABC

You have such a powerhouse cast to write for.  It’s loaded.  It’s got to be a challenge for you to construct the story for GH when you’ve got to front burner people and back burner people, and then you’ve got these huge daytime stars all in one show.

DAN:  It’s an embarrassment of riches to have a cast as talented as we do quite frankly.  We are fortunate enough that we know that we have these amazing performers that we can trust with whatever stories that we throw their way.

CHRIS:  I will say that we do have a great cast.  They’re all wonderful, and when you have a show that is only approximately 35 minutes of airtime on any day, it’s a real balancing act to make sure that everybody gets a story that really is worthy of their talents, and we’ve got one for everybody.  Sometimes it’s just a matter of which story takes precedence in which moment, which is why occasionally some characters aren’t featured on a daily basis, but you can bet your bottom dollar that they will be.  If you were to ask me, “Who are the standouts?”  I would say all of them.  You saw this year: Maurice Benard, Nancy Lee Grahn (Alexis), Maura West, Genie Francis, and Laura Wright (Carly) to name but just a few.  They’ve all done such fantastic work, and we can’t wait to give them more material to give them more moments to shine.

DAN:  A priority of ours is every week, we meet up and look (well, it’s virtual now during Covid-19) at the big board of our cast photos and we go through each character and always make sure that they have some story percolating even if it’s not on the air at the moment.

Photo: ABC

As we close out 2020, and look forward to 2021, any parting thoughts, and perhaps a tease of what GH fans can look forward to in the New Year?

CHRIS:  In general, I would just say that despite all of the challenges of the year, we are really grateful to our cast and the crew back in Los Angeles for realizing and improving the show that we imagined, and we are so excited for everything that is coming in 2021.  We hope to continue to throw a lot of surprises at the audience, and at the same time give them a lot of moments and stories of heart and love and excitement.

So, what did you think of the year in story on General Hospital in 2020? Share your thoughts on Chris and Dan’s comments and their year-end honors via the comment section below.

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