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The David Gregory Interview – One Life to Live & She Walks in Beauty

Courtesy/DavidGregory.com

Courtesy/DavidGregoryOfficialSite

It has been exactly one year since On-Air On-Soaps ventured to New York City to say goodbye to the amazing cast of the beloved One Life to Live.  And as hard as that was, we will treasure it for the rest of our lives.  But as this year has played out many of your favorites have gone on to new projects, new roles, and new endeavors.  One such performer is David Gregory, who as hottie Robert Ford, spent his time in Llanview bedding many of the young ladies, being the big brother to his two younger siblings, dealing with his abusive dad and the issues that caused, and finally finding love and becoming a dad in his own right shortly before his untimely death.

Now the multi-talented Gregory can add writing and directing to his resume, as this weekend (with a show tonight and on Sunday) his new play, She Walks in Beauty, has performances at the prestigious Manhattan Repertory Theatre in New York City.  David does not act in it, but tells On-Air On-Soaps how the play came about, and how he cast some folks with a close connection to Llanview in it.  David also filled us in on some very great news during our conversation that he has been cast in a recurring role on the upcoming NBC primetime soap, Deception!  If you recall, this was the opulent soap announced by the peacock network that was originally titled, Notorious.

Of course, there was so much to discuss about the final days of One Life, and how David felt about the way they chose to wrap up Ford’s story, what he thought of the final juggernaut of an ending to the 43-year-old soap, and his chance meeting post-Llanview with Erika Slezak (Ex-Viki) that put the loss of the series in proper perspective for him. With David, we looked at the past and what he has accomplished, and how important it is to remember to cherish memories, but also to move forward with a passion for life, and to more importantly, keep oneself open to new and exciting things ahead!  And certainly for David, dreams come true!

MICHAEL:

David, what a week for you!  Putting your first New York play on stage that you wrote and directed!  And, this was also the same time last year that we got together with the cast of One Life to Live for the final press junket, which was the last time I saw you in person!  How have things been for you post-One Life?

DAVID:

Courtesy/ABC

It’s been almost a year-to-the-day that we did all of those final One Life to Live exit interviews!  Of recent, I have been extremely busy!  This play that I wrote I submitted it to a festival, basically to have something to do.  This summer was a little slow, and as soon as it got accepted and we started rehearsals, I got another acting job.  It’s been a challenge and joy to juggle these two things, and we are putting the show on its feet this week.

MICHAEL:

But if I understand correctly, this is pretty fantastic for you!  The very highly regarded Manhattan Repertory Theatre chose your play from submissions from hundreds of upcoming playwrights.  How did this all go down?  It’s kind of thrilling, actually!

DAVID:

The Manhattan Repertory Theatre does a play festival each season of the year.  I submitted my play and they picked it, and the best part about it is they provide the space for you to perform it, and you have stock sets you can use.  They provide the lights, and the sound system, and that whole thing.  And, you get about three performances out of it, and more if it does well.  I took a play writing class in January because OLTL had just ended, and I wanted to get into acting class and do things to keep my chops sharp, but I did not want to get too burned out on it, especially because losing One Life was such a loss.  So I thought, “I will take up a playwriting class. That is something different!”  And, it’s something I have always been interested in.  This play I wrote in late August and finished in a decent amount of time.  I submitted it for, for a lack of a better term, “shits and giggles,” and here we are!

MICHAEL:

And … there are some familiar faces connected to the play that One Life to Live  fans will know! 

DAVID:

Photo Credit: Steven Bergman

So, I was able to get Barret Helms (Ex-Baz) from One Life to Live and I needed a middle-aged man to play the sort of father figure, doctor, kind of role.  I thought of Gary Donatelli for that, who was one of our directors at One Life, and it was just a shot in the dark.  I sent him email and said, “Hey, you are really right for this role.  I don’t know if you act, or if you would be interested, but I would love to talk to you about it.”  He sent me back an email that he was really interested, and that he was very flattered.  I had auditions for the lead female role, and Gary showed up to audition as well for his role, like everybody else!  And, you’ve got to give it to this guy.  He rose to the occasion! Gary was man of much power at One Life, and someone who I always admired, and one of the first directors I worked with.  He directed the famous “Ford and the Bucket Scene,” which was one of my first days of work.  We had a great time working together, and when would I have seen him again if not for this play, post One Life?

MICHAEL:

Did you know Gary even acted?

DAVID:

No, I did not know he acted, but I went with “type” first.  When I heard him read the part I knew he was exactly right, and my girlfriend Jen, who is an actress as well, sat in with me when I did his audition, just so I could get another perspective as well.  She said, “I think you have got to give it to him.  He is great!”   Not that I did not want to be surprised, but he brought it.

MICHAEL:

When we last talked a year ago, you had informed me that the end of One Life to Live probably would not hit you as much as would some of the long standing veterans of the series who gave decades to their roles.  Looking back now, do you still feel that way?  It must have a very deep emotional connection for you.

DAVID:

Courtesy/ABC

When One Life to Live ended, I had sort of had bits of panic the last week we were shooting.  We were sort of a family and people we going to miss each other a lot. And a lot of times, I wouldn’t remember certain episodes, but I do remember days I had with Bree Williamson (Ex-Jessica) or Brittany Underwood (Ex-Langston) or with my boys on set.  And the longer the show had been off the air, the more of a gap you start to feel from that.  Lenny Platt (Ex-Nate) and I still see each other a lot, and I see Barret obviously, but a lot of people moved to the west coast.  Months later it started to bug me.   You are back to a totally different life style of auditioning and hitting the pavement.   I went to get a hair cut from Wayne Bilotti, who was one of our hair guys on One Life, and he happened to be cutting Erika Slezak’s hair while I was there.  Erika started talking to me, asking how I was doing.  I think this was late January and I did not want to ask her, but I did want to know.  I asked her, “How are you?”  She said, “Great.”  She seemed to say she had time to do things now that she did not have time to do before, and by that she meant having time with her family. You know how she is … she is such a personable person.  I am sure she misses One Life so very deeply. And I do not want to put words in her mouth, but I got the sense from her that if she was OK, then I had to be OK myself, because she was trying to see the silver lining it.  I don’t mean that in a false sense.  I genuinely believed she saw the next step in her life, whatever that may be.  I thought whatever is going on in my head, if Erika Slezak has got her heard on straight, which she does, then I should absolutely too!  For so many years everyone looked to her, and now if she is not panicking, or freaking out, then what choice do I have?  That is also the same way she worked.  She was always prepared, knew her lines better than anyone else, and everyone else’s lines!

MICHAEL:

True that!  Well, Erika knew everybody else’s lines better than them!

DAVID:

She did!  (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

When we last talked, the final episodes of One Life had not aired yet.  What did you think of Ford’s big scenes in Hell with John Wesley Shipp (Ex-Eddie)?

Courtesy/ABC

DAVID:

What a blast! (Laughs) We knew we were shooting out of order.  I knew that Ford was hovering and Frank Valentini (EX EP, OLTL, now EP, GH) came up to me one day out of the blue and said, “You know you’re dying, right?” (Laughs) And I said, “No, I didn’t.”  And he said, “Well, someone had to go!”  And I almost said, “Thank you,” and here’s why:  In a show that has such a huge history, and that has characters on it that deserve a strong ending and deserve to be written for in the last week, I knew that if they were going to kill me off that meant they had to then write a story for it, which meant that I was not going to be twiddling my thumbs the last couple of weeks.  So I thought of it as a blessing in disguise … and great!  Then I got the script that said that John Wesley Shipp was coming back in and that we were going to duke it out in Hell! (Laughs)    They wrote these wonderful scenes, but to sort of cap off what it was about … has Ford changed?  Or, has he not changed?  In addition, Ford got to stick to his old man in the end. Ford has got to throw his father into the burning pit of Hell to survive, but then, Ford sort of runs into Heaven, and we all know how that ended.

MICHAEL:

Also remember, the original show title of OLTL was Between Heaven and Hell, and you got to play that throughline at the end of the show’s historic run.  You know, I thought maybe they would let Ford pay for being such a dog with women! And I mean more than making him dress up like a hotdog to pay his bills! (Laughs) Anyway, I thought Ford would actually end up in Hell, but in the end, he did get a reprieve, if you will, and he did wind up in Heaven.

DAVID:

I tried to explain this to my family before it aired.  I said, “I am going to sort of be in between worlds.  They are not sure if Ford is going to Heaven or Hell, and they want to show that.”  But I think it worked! They were able to bring back some very familiar faces for the Heaven sequences, and I think they utilized it beautifully.  I was actually in Chicago for an event on the last episode airing of One Life.  The actors in attendance watched it together with the fans in this huge bar area.  And … what a topper!  Having Trevor St. John (Ex-Victor Jr.) show up in the last scene!  I did not know that was coming.  I did not know ‘till it aired.  It was such a blast for us, because we were watching it with fans of the show, and it was such surprise to them as it was for us!  And we were all thinking, “This is the last one, and what a way to go out!”

MICHAEL:

Courtesy/ABC

OK, being the man who clocked the most shirtless scenes in soapdom … what happened with the infamous bucket scene?  Was that always supposed to be the plan?  Was it in the script that way?

DAVID:

It was written that way!  I got the script, and I will never forget this.  I am a big fan of Hugh Jackman, and ever since I was a kid, he has been the guy I want to emulate.  I got the script for the scene and it literally said, “Ford picks up the bucket of water in the barn to cool off.”  And then they wrote as a note, “It should look like Hugh Jackman in Australia!”  I saved that script, because I was so excited that, that is what they wanted me to go for.  There were a few episodes I had prior to that, but when it came to the bucket scene I thought, “Oh, now we are getting into soapy goodness!  This is good and fun!”   We literally shot it as plain as day.  It was supposed to be a little more in slow-motion, but they shot it and that was the first day I met Gary Donatelli.  I had no idea it would cause the tremor that it did.  I am so glad it did!  You know how this goes?  Fans can make you or break you in this soap business.  I was supposed to only be on OLTL for two and half weeks, and I was there instead for two and half years, because these people kept me in my job.  I am reminded of that all the time whenever I go to something someone says, “I miss your character, or we miss the show,” but you know what? “We miss you guys!”  It boils down to that.

MICHAEL:

I will never forget our special BlogTalkRadio OLTL final two-hour finale broadcast, where fans spoke to members of the cast live on-air telling them how much they will miss them and One Life.  It was heartbreaking!

DAVID:

Jerry verDorn (Ex-Clint) had his recent annual charity event, and the year before I attended, fans were saying, “We are so sad the show is going off the air,” and this year, it had been more of, “We really miss it” and some people were talking to me as if One Life had just finished, and I realized it was still that fresh to them.  If you watch a show, for say 25 years, when a year goes by without it, you still feel that void in your life.  I just sat and talked to some people about this for a while, and you get the sense that it was more than just a television show that people would sit down to watch.  It was families who would watch it together.  I talked to a husband who said, “I am not a soap guy, but my wife and I have opposite schedules, and the only time I get to spend with her and do something she likes to do, is watching OLTL with her.”  I thought that was really neat of him as a husband, and the fact that it brought them together.  So when something like that for them ceases to exist, that is a huge void. 

MICHAEL:

Courtesy/ABC

You got a lot of flack for coming on and stealing air time from some of the main characters of the series.  Your family then expanded to bringing on your two brothers, Nate and James.  You must have a special place in your heart for Lenny Platt (Ex-Nate) and Nic Robuck (Ex-James).

DAVID:

Listen, those guys are always going to be important to me, always.  No matter where we go, or what we do from here on out, we are going to remember this is where we started out.  I was raised to believe you never forget how you began and at OLTL, I learned everything that I needed to know.  Now obviously, I want to learn more, but I have done primetime work since, and it is never as stressful.  You are shooting fifty pages a day in three hours on a soap, and it can take its toll on you after awhile, but you can go do a guest spot on a primetime series, and it’s three pages in four hours.  One Life prepared me for anything that I could possibly have to deal with, and I did it with Lenny and Nic, because we often had scenes together, or stunts to do together.  We were all kind of in the same boat.  It sort of helps to have guys who are thinking what you are thinking.

MICHAEL:

Now let’s talk about Bree Williamson (Ex-Jessica)!  I know you two are once again on the same show!  Explain! (Laughs)

DAVID:

Bree is doing Haven on SyFy, and she is going to be on this new show on NBC series called Deception, which they just changed the name of to that.  It’s going to be a mid-season series. I just got hired on there as well!  I am about to shoot my fourth episode.  Bree and I ended up working the same day, and so we got to see each other for a little bit.  What the odds are of that?  Unfortunately, we do not have scenes together as of now, but she plays a very important role in the show.  I think it should start airing in January.  It’s a killer; it’s being billed as primetime soap.  I am playing Kyle, he is sort of a bad guy with a motorcycle, maybe with a heart, but we are not sure.  Does that sound familiar at all?  (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

Courtesy/ABC

You?  Playing that kind of role?  No! (Laughs)

DAVID:

He swoops in … and the show is about this big family, The Bowers, and he has his eye on the youngest daughter.  I think I start airing on the third episode.

MICHAEL:

Now let’s get back to your play, which I found the subject matter quite intriguing.  Tell me the basis of She Walks in Beauty?  What would you tell people is at the core of the story?

DAVID:

The way I have it structured is in the first scene, it’s a husband and a wife, and we get the idea that they haven’t been married very long, but there are problems developing in their relationship, and very soon after that we realize that she is in fact a mechanical human prototype!  Her husband helped invent her and his boss, who they just refer to as “dad”, is the mastermind behind the entire project.  So what I wanted to explore was – are the problems in their relationship because she is a robot?  Or, is it because she is actually starting to have human characteristics, and they are just normal problems everyone experiences, which sort of make this a dark comedy!  It’s what we would laugh at if it was somebody else, and what we would not laugh at if it was.  What ends up happening is, she gets very curious.  So the questions become: Is she capable of having children with her husband?  Can she go to school like everyone else?  One of the things her father says is, “We can input anything into your system? “  She says, “I don’t want to be inputted.  I want to learn.”  And it holds up a mirror to us in a sense, and shows us maybe that we are better off the way we are, because we have all the tools and the abilities and we just have to make that choice.  Without giving the story away too much, it sort of heats up when there are problems where she may have been made faulty, and maybe they should make another one … and so, if they make a 2.0 version of this woman, does this make it the same thing, or something different?  And, the guy ends up having an affair with the 2.0 and it starts riddling him with guilt, and so he actually starts to develop this guilty conscience about it.  The best way to describe it is ….  a sci-fi dark comedy.

MICHAEL:

Who plays the robo-woman?

Photo Credit: Steven Bergman

DAVID:

The robot woman is played by Andrea Leach.  She made me laugh when she read for the part and took it places I did not expect.  She reminded me of a Bree Williamson, in that they have a relationship a little like Ford and Jessica – like you get on my nerve, but you really don’t, but I really like you! (Laughs)  I could not stop laughing at Andrea’s reading, because it was like here is someone who found humor in something that maybe was not funny, but she sees the reality of the situation, and she is great.  I needed someone who could hold their own on stage against two very strong men.  She has Barret on one side and Gary on the other.  Gary is like 6’4” (Laughs) He can be a very intimating presence, and I can attest to that when he came in to direct my first scenes years ago saying, “Who’s that Ford kid?  What is a Ford?” (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

Many of your former One Life to Live co-stars are on the west coast, as we have discussed.  Are you content staying on the east coast?

DAVID:

I have definitely thought about it.  As of now, with Deception shooting now in New York, I am staying put.  My heart is in TV and film.  But what I am doing now, and what I had been doing, is exactly what I want to be doing, which is a wonderful thing to be able to say, because I don’t think a lot of people can say that about what they do for a living.  I guess, I would just know if it was the right project, or if the time was right for me to move to L.A.

MICHAEL:

Courtesy/ABC

Have you been auditioning for other daytime soap roles, although that would now bring you to L.A.?

DAVID:

I have not been. You know, I signed for another four years at OLTL before it was canceled.  In my mind, it was sign to stay in New York and see what happens.  I kind of left it at that.  Deception happened, and I felt like it was the right thing at the right time.

MICHAEL:

So, do you get a sense that this role on Deception could turn into something bigger for you?

DAVID:

I was talking to one of the writers today, and they told me they like the character I play and the chemistry they are seeing, so I am just taking each episode as a blessing and seeing what goes on.  I was kind of keeping this low key until I started shooting and got a few episodes under my belt.  Just because I know how quickly things can change, and when I auditioned for it, it wasn’t supposed to be a recurring role, but it was suppose to be an episodic and then done.  They are now getting back in their production offices once we got Hurricane Sandy out of the way.  I feel more confident now that I am really involved in this show in some small way.

MICHAEL:

The big question David … Will you be on Deception with your clothes on?  Or, off?

DAVID:

Courtesy/ManhattanRepTheatre

Believe it, or not?  I am wearing layers of clothing. .. A lot!   I am a motorcycle guy and I have my hoodie and leather jacket.  He is a little rougher around the edges than Ford.  It’s a blast.  I am working with a girl named Ella Rae Peck.  She was heavily recurring on Gossip Girl last year.  When I saw she was attached to it, I was thrilled.  She and I had actually done a Gossip Girl episode earlier in the year.  On Gossip Girl we were playing best friends, and on Deception we are playing lovers.  So, we are playing opposite of what we played before, which is great.

MICHAEL:

In closing, I just want to say kudos to you, David.  Best of luck with putting up your play!  You must be very proud. 

DAVID:

It’s a little nerve-wracking thinking about what you are doing, but my girlfriend told me, “You are creating something in the middle of New York City.  How many people get to do that?”

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RobbyrobPhilipPatrickMBmomof3steve Recent comment authors
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Becky Cloutier
Becky Cloutier

God we all miss our soaps soooo much! And of course all the Actors Too!!

louisa
louisa

Lots of good information here! Still really missing OLTL…

SharonB
SharonB

Congratulations to David Gregory and his upcoming projects. I am so glad he is getting new projects. I miss One Life to Live so much as well as everyone that worked on it including the behind the scenes people. I wish great success for all of them. I love OLTL always!!

SharonB
SharonB

Thank you so much Michael Fairman for keeping us up to date on everything.

Patrick
Patrick

Yes, Sharon I am so glad Mr. Faiman is keeping us up to date with so many of the actors from cancelled soaps! I still miss OLTL and its been almost a year since it went off the air.

gloria
gloria

Wow, this brings back so many memories & makes me miss OLTL so much, all over again. I have the official cast portrait framed & hanging on my bedroom wall across from my bed. That is my big, wonderful family who I love & miss so much. Watched the show all my life. I’d give anything to have it back.

steve
steve

David my warmest congrats on ‘She Walks in Beauty’ I’m sure it will be hit & awesome
Interview You’re still missed on Daytime lol !

MBmomof3
MBmomof3

Thank you, Mr. Fairman for a great interview. Congrats to David Gregory. Miss OLTL & the cast/characters everyday. Always happy to learn what the actors are up to.

Philip
Philip

So happy David is staying busy with successful projects. Looking forward to “Deception” and wish him a very great future.
All of us miss OLTL very much and feel ABC should have found a way to keep the show on the air. Hope the other “Ford” boys, Nic and Nate are also doing well.
Had OLTL not been cancelled, I’m sure Barret Helms would have become a fan favorite also. Since his actual screen time turned out so minimal, we didn’t have the opportunity to get to know his character.
Just wish I could have gone to New York to see David’s play.

Robbyrob
Robbyrob

Thank you for keeping in touch with David Gregory. I was a big fan of his work (and shirtless scenes) on OLTL. I recognized him on the streets of NYC before OLTL was canceled (sniff…sniff). Can I just tell you…how nice and personable he was to me. He spent time chating with me about the show and let me take some photos of us together. He had no problems with guy fans coming up to him and saying hi. I was sad that Ford died at the end but it truly was a memorable run. I wish him the best of luck and hopefully I’ll run into him again and say hi. Keep up the great work Michael!

Interviews

Melody Thomas Scott Chats On 40 Years As The Young and the Restless’ Incomparable Nikki: The Men, The Booze, The Drama

Today marks Y&R icon Melody Thomas Scott’s 40th anniversary with the top-rated daytime drama series.  While CBS plans to air a special standalone episode (Nikki is in the slammer for confessing to J.T.’s murder, and she will reflect on her life in an emotional look-back), Michael Fairman sat down with the popular and beloved star for a deep dive into four decades in the life of stripper-turned-socialite, Nikki Newman for The Michael Fairman Channel.

During the interview, Melody first addresses her sadness at the loss of her longtime friend and co-star Kristoff St. John (Neil Winters): “I adored him.  I love him to bits.  I loved working with him; such a wonderful actor.  I don’t even know if he knew how good he was.”

When discussing Nikki’s colorful past, and when Y&R planned to have Nikki strip again decades later, Melody revealed she did refuse to play it: “That’s right, and I very rarely put the kibosh on anything on this show,  I was 48-years-old.  The head writer called me and I was up in hair and make-up.  They heard me say, ‘I’m 48-years-old .. that’s just not happening.”‘

Photo: TheMichaelFairmanChannel

Over the years, Nikki has faced many battles, perils ,and demons including her addiction to alcohol which has provided many a juicy story for Thomas Scott.  As to the fans always loving to see a ‘boozy’ Nikki, Melody remarked;  “Yes!  They love it!  I have great fun with it and I think it’s wonderful.”

During a segment of the conversation, Michael shows Melody some photos of Nikki’s past loves, and gets her thoughts on why Nikki fell for those men, and what it was like working with her co-stars through the years: John Enos (Bobby), Doug Davidson (Paul), Heath Kizzier (Joshua), Wings Hauser (Greg), Don Diamont (Brad), Vincent Irizarry (David), Peter Bergman (Jack), Sean Kanan (Deacon, and of course, her longtime on-screen partner Eric Braeden (Victor).

Later, Melody reminisces about her time working with the late great Jeanne Cooper (Katherine) and when asked by Fairman what she thinks Jeanne would say about her 40th anniversary milestone, Melody replied: “She would say, ‘I’m (bleeping) proud of you Mel!”‘

Photo: CBS

Check out the entire interview with Melody below (make sure to also subscribe to the Michael Fairman Channel on You Tube for more feature interviews), and following that the special CBS promo honoring Melody’s 40th anniversary with Y&R.  Then let us know, what has been your favorite Nikki Newman moment over the last 40 years? Share your thoughts via the comment section below,

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Interviews

Executive Producer Michael Levitt Previews The Adorable 2019 ‘American Rescue Dog Show’

Dog lovers everywhere get ready! Coming your way on Sunday, February 17th and Monday, February 18th, the good folks at the Hallmark Channel will air a two-night special event (8pmET/7pmCT) that puts a spin on the traditional competitive elite dog shows, while at the same time championing an important cause for man’s best friend.

The 2019 American Rescue Dog Show honors some of the cutest rescue dogs from around the country going paw-to-paw in categories that will tickle-your-funny-bone, bring a smile to your face, or, potentially shed a tear.  This marks the second year for this oh-so-heartwarming show, where in its first year, it beat the Westminster Dog Show in the ratings; much to the delight of rescue dogs and their families, who take these wonderful animals into their homes.

The brainchild behind the concept is the executive producer of the event. Michael Levitt (Skin Wars, Daytime Emmys, TV Land Awards), who spoke with Michael Fairman TV to give us all the inside dish and insight into why this dog show is so personally important to him, and how its goal is to create awareness about the plight of millions of abandoned dogs in shelters each year, and to inspire viewers to think about rescuing one of these loveable pups.

Levitt has a collection of notable hosts and judges along for the ride who bring this one-of-a-kind doggy competition to life from the world of TV, film, and animal advocacy.  So, for the lowdown on the competition and more, here’s what Michael shared.

Photo: Crown Media

For those who want to check out the two-night event, is the American Rescue Dog Show in the same vein as the Westminster Dog Show, where the dogs are competing? 

MICHAEL: The format of the show is similar to a fancy dog show, such as Westminster, however, on the American Rescue Dog Show, we aren’t “judging” the dog.  In our show, they all have to be rescue dogs that are spayed or neutered in order to compete, and we are not judging them based on their bloodlines, we are celebrating their cuteness in such categories as, “Best in Wiggle Butt,” “Best in Couch Potato,” “Best in Snoring,” “Best in Special Needs,” and  “Best in Senior Dog” – those are obviously some of the most important.   We have the fancy arena floor with the judges and the tuxedos.  We filmed it at the Pomona Fairplex, which is the same place that they film the Beverly Hills Dog Show.

And you have a bevy of dog-loving celebrity judges along for the ride, too!

MICHAEL: Yes, and this year we are lucky to have the support of celebrity animal advocates that include: Lisa Vanderpump, Debbie Gibson, Brandon McMillan, host of CBS’s Lucky Dog, Bill Berloni, who is the dog trainer to a lot of the dogs on Broadway, and Dirty Job’s Mike Rowe.  Our prerequisites for them to be a judge were: they all needed to be rescue-friendly.  So, they either needed to have a rescue dog of their own or support rescue in some way.  Rebecca Romijn and Jerry O’Connell are the hosts this year, along with Ross Matthews and Home & Family’s Larissa Wall, who served as co-hosts and cover all of the action ringside.

Photo: Crown Media

So, did the judges get along?  Did they differ on their top picks?

MICHAEL: The judges absolutely got along famously, but as a producer of the show, I was a fly on the wall listening to them when they were deliberating as they were picking a winner.  That was quite entertaining, because each of them had a strong point of view on the dog, or dogs that they thought should win the competition. We found ourselves throughout the filming just turning to each other and saying, “I don’t know how the judges are going to pick just one, because they are all just so incredibly special.”

How was Lisa Vanderpump? 

MICHAEL:  Lisa was wonderful!  When she was being interviewed by Rebecca and Jerry O’Connell, they asked her what she would say to a potential family that is about to buy a dog from a breeder, and it was such a profound moment, because as someone who comes from her socioeconomic level, from her privilege, to see that she has embraced rescue might be incredibly meaningful to someone who might think that rescue dogs are second-hand animals.  Lisa Vanderpump disproves that just by being there, and being a part of it.

Photo: Crown Media

How did you decide on Rebecca and Jerry as your hosts with the most?

MICHAE:  I have a long history with Rebecca from producing my show, Skin Wars, which she hosts.  I knew that she and Jerry had four rescue dogs of their own, and that she is incredibly passionate about rescue and shedding light and creating awareness about the plight of animals that are sheltered.  They were not only organic and authentic to the cause, but they were a lot of fun and clearly had a lot of natural chemistry.  They also brought their own rescue dogs to the show, as did Lisa Vanderpump.  So that was fun.

You have two wonderful dogs of your own.  So, this is your passion project!

MICHAEL: This is a true labor of love for me, because in 2011 when my sister, Jennifer was dying of cancer, my partner and I decided to rescue a dog, and we rescued a pit bull named Trooper, and Trooper rocked our world.  My sister met him four days before she died, and it’s that old adage of “Who rescued who.”  Trooper really was there for me during a really difficult time of my life. I learned first-hand how special not only rescue dogs are, but pit bulls, and that really was the beginning of my animal advocacy.  I ended up taking a year off from producing just to rescue dogs.  I realized at the end of that year, that as a rescuer, I am saving one dog at a time, but as a producer, I could do so much more to bring awareness to the plight of animals in our shelters by creating rescue-themed programming.

Pit bulls seem to always get a bad rap.  Do you feel that way?

MICHAEL:  They absolutely get a bad rap, and after we rescued Trooper, we rescued another pit bull named Nelson, and it was really the two of them who inspired me to get heavily involved in rescue and to be an advocate for pit bulls.  With pit bulls it is such a unique human-animal bond that you don’t find with any other breed.  All they really want to do is please their humans, and it is absolutely true that when you hear these horrific stories about pit bulls on the news, these are rare incidents of pit bulls who have fallen into the hands of bad people who have treated them badly.  It’s really unfair to profile and entire breed of dog, because all dog breeds have some dogs that have behavioral problems.  I have come in contact with thousands of pit bulls, and I have only met one that was human-aggressive, and that dog was severely, severely abused.  Every other pit bull I have come in contact with has been nothing but incredibly sweet.

Photo: Crown Media

So, last year’s American Rescue Dog Show is currently in the running to earn a Daytime Emmy nomination in the ‘Special Class Special’ programming category!

MICHAEL:  Yes, “Special Class Special”. (Laughs)

You obviously know who wins this weekend’s American Rescue Dog Show competition.  Were you happy with the winner? 

MICHAEL:  Yes, but you can imagine how difficult it is for the judges to pick a winner because every single dog in the competition is beyond adorable. It is really the dogs who deliver on the show, and that’s what makes the show so heartwarming.  The real purpose of the show is to inspire the viewers to rescue their next dog from their local shelter, or rescue organization, so that people who are watching turn to the person they are with and say, “Honey, I didn’t know you could get a pure-bred dog at a shelter!  Let’s rescue our next dog!”  We have really powerful segments in the show about the joy of adopting a senior dog, or a special-needs dog.  We do a segment on debunking the myths about pit bulls, and we have messaging on why it is important to spay and neuter your dog.  So, through this wonderfully entertaining program, we are also educating people and hopefully touching their heart and their soul and inspiring them to be a part of the solution by rescuing their next dog; instead of being a part of the problem by purchasing a dog from a pet store or breeder.

Photo: Crown Media

When you look at what you have to take on as a producer when you do this type of show; as opposed to any other type of production you have helmed, what are the major differences?

MICHAEL: The biggest distinction is that on this show we are dealing with living animals, so I take that responsibility very seriously.  First and foremost: is the safety and well-being of the dogs that are participating on the show.  We have to consider everything from making sure that the animals are up-to-date with their vaccinations to having veterinarians on hand, having production personal on-hand standing by with treats and pooper-scoopers. This also means that the dogs are being treated like VIPs.  So, we have a VIP room, but that stands for “Very Important Pooch”, and all of the dogs that are participating have their own dressing rooms with a star on it and their name.  There were over 130 dogs that actually participated from all over the country.  In addition, we had a gifting suite like they do on the Oscars and Golden Globes, but on this show, they didn’t get swag bags, they got “Wag Bags”.

Knowing you as I do, it seems a lot this creative from the categories in the competition, to the backstage VIP room, are very YOU!

MICHAEL:  I have an incredible team of producers who I collaborate with.  None of this would be possible without the good people at Hallmark being such incredible animal advocates.  Specifically, Bill Abbott, who is one of the few network executives in the industry who is really walking the walk and doing so much to be supportive of dogs and cats who need homes.  So, this is right up my alley, because creatively I am so passionate about it that it is so easy to come up with fun ideas that hopefully resonate with the viewers.

Photo: Crown Media

Are there any other fun moments that you can tease?

MICHAEL:  We are celebrating the perfectly imperfect.  So, we love when a dog decides to roll on his back in the middle of the arena and decide he wants to get a belly rub in the middle of the competition.  We had a dog decide that he had to go potty on the middle of a flower arrangement on the arena floor.  Those are the moments that give the show its heart and feel-good sensibility.  We had a couple of dogs in the “Best Wiggle Butt” category where one of their forever parent brings them out initially, and their other forever parent was on the other side of the area, and we removed their leash so that they can run from one parent to the other so that we can really see their butts moving, but … we had a few dogs get so excited that they ran right out of the arena! (Laughs)  They ran right through the tunnel off stage and come running back in, and the whole audience erupted into laughter.  It’s just magical.

How did you find these dogs to compete? 

MICHAEL:  We put out a call-to-action on social media, and we got thousands of responses. People submitted their rescue dogs in as many categories as they qualified for, and they submitted photos and videos. Then, we have a team of producers and rescue experts who go through all of the submissions, ultimately picking the top semi-finalists in each category who come to Los Angeles to compete.  We had a wonderful partnership with Pedigree Foundation in which they provided $100,000 in grant money for the dogs that win for the rescue that saved him or her.  So, in the ten semi-final categories, each winning dog received a $5,000 grant for the rescue that saved him or her, and then the ultimate winner of the competition, which is crowned the title, “Best in Rescue,” received an additional $30,000 for the rescue that saved him or her, again, courtesy of Pedigree Foundation.  We also had a partnership with adoptapet.com, which is the largest online resource for people to find rescue dogs in their own communities. Throughout the show, we have a call-to-action for people to go to hallmark.com/bestinrescue and look for the adopt a pet icon … they click it… then enter their zip code … and they are instantly linked to thousands of available dogs in their own community who are patiently waiting for a loving home.

Photo: Crown Media

The dog handlers are the owners of these pets?

MICHAEL:  Yes.  We call it a member of their “forever family”.  Several of the dogs on the show are service dogs now, or companion animals, working in senior homes or working with military service people suffering from PTSD.  We celebrate each and every one of them.

Is your hope to do a third annual show, and keep the dog rescue competition going?

MICHAEL:  Yes!  My hope is that this show continues to be on for many years to come and be a platform for the 8 million animals that enter our shelters each year and are patiently waiting for their forever home, and that we can continue to be a voice for these dogs that don’t have voices of their own.  Of all of the shows that I have produced over the years, this one is going to be the most meaningful to me, and is going to be my legacy, because it is such a beautiful thing that I can bring my work and my passion together to hopefully make a difference in the lives of all of these animals.  As a result of this show, we heard from numerous shelters across the country that there was a definite uptick in adoptions.  That warms my heart beyond compare.

In closing, you know what they say:  it’s easier to work with animals than humans! Thoughts? (Laughs)

MICHAEL:  Every show has its challenges, but I would much rather deal with a diva Chihuahua than a diva celebrity.  So, on that level, this show is pure joy to make.

So, will you be watching this heartwarming, creative two-night rescue dog event?  Share your thoughts via the comment section below, but first, check out this behind-the-scenes video of how the American Rescue Dog Show is put together with co-host, Ross Matthews.

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Interviews

Y&R’s Jason Thompson Talks On: The Self-Destructive Billy Abbott, Victoria, Phyllis, And Katie’s Disappearance

As February sweeps kicks in to high gear on The Young and the Restless, Billy Abbott (Jason Thompson) and his ex-wife, Victoria Newman (Amelia Heinle) are once again in each other’s orbit.  First, Billy was not too happy to learn that his nemesis, Cane Ashby (Daniel Goddard) shared some passionate kisses with her.  In fact, he went running to Cane’s imprisoned wife. Lily (Christel Khalil), to give her the lowdown.  Next, their child, Katie has gone MIA, but as viewers saw on Friday’s cliffhanger she is somehow heard singing through the walls at the Newman Ranch. Previously, Katie said she was playing with an imaginary friend, but someone is lurking around and watching the Newmans every move!

And let’s not forget, Summer (Hunter King) is back in Genoa City!  The last time she hit town she all but destroyed Billy – his gambling addiction returned, she tried to seduce him, and he slept with her as revenge against Phyllis for her having sex with Nick (Joshua Morrow), and we could go on!  After all the hurt, and the dissolution of their relationship, Phyllis (Gina Tognoni) and Billy are not seeing eye to eye on much, but saying they will try to work together.  Can they?

To fill us in on all the drama, Jason Thompson chatted with Michael Fairman TV and weighed-in on: the future for Villy, Philly, what he has learned from working on two major soaps; General Hospital, where he played the popular Dr. Patrick Drake, and Y&R, his thoughts on his recent Daytime Emmy Pre-Nomination in the Lead Actor category in what was a banner year of storyline for him in 2018, and much more.

Insightful, driven, and talented, Jason is one of the standouts in our genre.  Check out what he had to share below.

What did you think about the plot point that had Billy going to visit Lily in prison, and once there, he informs her that her husband, Cane has been kissing on Victoria!?

JASON:  What I think about it is somewhat irrelevant.  It wasn’t hard for me to rationalize it.  In the moment, Billy was hurt and pissed off.  He is irrational sometimes.  Once he got to the prison, I think he second-guessed himself.  Lily did a pretty good job of convincing him that she needs to know what is going on in order to just live in a certain amount of truth in this situation.  Billy felt that it would be worse for her wondering what was going on on the outside without knowing the truth.  I think that in that moment, he was convinced that telling her the truth was the right thing.  There was a part of him that wanted to get back at Cane, and when Billy gets hurt, he seems to lash out a bit and then sometimes he kind of recoils.  Could he have let it go?  Probably.  I think it’s an interesting thing for Lily and Billy’s relationship; to be honest.  Billy has always respected Lily.  I think that he’s always looked at Lily as someone who does the right thing, and was a good wife, and a good mother, and all of those things.  He thinks that she is in a rough place and wanted to offer her a little bit of support, and that’s the way that he did it.

Photo: JPI Studios

Where do you think the show can go now with his relationship with Cane?  They have been contentious all this time, anyway, and now this has happened.   How do you think this will resolve, or would it ever resolve?

JASON:  I think it’s one of the most interesting relationships Billy hasI don’t know that it will ever resolve.  I don’t know that Billy thinks too much about Cane either way, but in saying that,  there is still no one that can get under his skin and quickly!  In an instant, Cane can be Billy’s enemy and I think that’s great.  I always think there is story for Billy and Cane.  In our working relationship as well, I think we both get a different energy out of each other that inevitably ends up in the characters.  That’s always fun.

Photo:” JPI

How does Billy feel about Victoria now?  She’s been struggling since her relationship with J.T., making out with Cane, etc. 

JASON:  Billy does have feelings for VictoriaI think it’s a number of things that contributes to this.  I think it’s where he finds himself in his life.  He has been kind of hurt by the woman he loved (Phyllis).  He had everything for a moment that he wanted … he had the job, he had the girl, and if he had just done the right thing and had a little bit more self-control, he probably would have been in the best place of his life.  So, when all of those things get pulled away, the one constant is just when he goes to see his kids and they smile, and they don’t know what’s going on in the outside world.  I think the only people who don’t judge him are probably the kids.  There’s something really comfortable about that situation.  No matter what happens, there’s always going to be a little something with Victoria.  She’s always very supportive (not that she hasn’t been very, very upset with him, at times), but there is always something about their relationship that will keep him wondering if they should be together.  I think it will probably be like that for the rest of their lives.

Billy is still unaware that Victoria, Nikki, Phyllis and Sharon are all part of a cover-up in J.T.’s murder.  How aware is Billy in the depths of the abuse Victoria suffered at the hands of J.T.?

JASON:  There was never really a big realization about how dramatic, hurtful, and volatile the whole situation was.  It was a shock to hear all of that obviously, but he has no idea about the depths of it all.

Photo: CBS

If he found out, how do you think he would react knowing what Victoria had gone through?

JASON:  I think he would probably want to kick him again and then re-bury him. Billy has got a lot of flaws, but there is one thing that he will do, and that is always stand up for his family, and that includes Victoria.

Currently, it is just devastating for Billy when Katie goes missing.   He’s like, “I can’t go through this again after what happened with Delia,” and I know you didn’t play the Delia material, because you weren’t on the show at that time.  However, this does give you the opportunity to tap into all of that.

JASON:  Yes!  I mean, that is his biggest fear … going through all of that again.  I think that he would rather not be on the planet than go through all of that again.  What happened to Delia is never going to ever leave him.  I can’t imagine that something like that ever really does.  You just deal with it on a daily basis probably, and things come up, and you feel it all over again, and this is one of those moments.

Courtesy/CBS

I think that you being a father of two children now in your own life; really gives you a perspective when you play these things types of emotions and scenes out.

JASON:  Definitely.  Peter Bergman (Jack) and I were having a conversation about how much life and living, and trying to live a full life, really helps you with your acting.  I work really hard on my craft, but the most important thing that I can do for my work and my career is live a full life.  With the kids and everything else in my personal life, that to me is something that I can always draw upon.  It’s hard to even let myself go there sometimes, because of how scary it would be.  But yeah, I think Billy is not far off from that.  That character has a lot of life and is tied to this volcano and it’s just waiting to erupt, and that eruption is good and full of liveliness fear, and anger.  Some of that comes from hurt, and some of that comes from pain, and some of that comes from a good time, and some of that comes from addiction, and it makes it fun for me because there’s always something to play.  When I talk about what I think of a particular story line, I don’t think of it as, “Oh, I would never do this,” or “I would never do that.  That doesn’t make any sense.”  I try and make sense of everything.  That’s my job.  I just try to find a reason why Billy would be in that situation; instead of trying to find a reason why he wouldn’t be.

Photo: JPI Studios

Would you say that the situation with Katie will draw Victoria and Billy closer together?  At the end of Friday’s episode, they hear Katie’s voice in the wall, so they know she is alive.

JASON:  I think so.  One step up is often two steps back with them, but they are always connected in that way.  The kids do that, and what they’ve been through in the past, and like you said, I wasn’t necessarily there for a lot of that, but it’s in this character.  I would never say never with Victoria.

Photo: CBS

So, where is Billy at with Phyllis?  You and Gina Tognoni played that coupling to the hilt and the show separated them.  Major romances are never really ‘done, done’ on soaps.

JASON:  I mean, it only gets worse with Phyllis.  I’ll say that.  They’re not in a good place.   We have gone through some changes behind the scenes.  So, I have no idea what is happening as far as storyline.  I think there is always going to be something unresolved with Phyllis, but that’s the good thing about this kind of stuff.  You can put these two people together when you have two actors who kind of embrace it, and work at it, and have a natural chemistry, which in turn helps the characters have chemistry.  When Gina and I talk about what we did and accomplished with our characters, to be honest, it’s a little bit of a bummer that they are kind of apart right now, because we had a lot of fun.  We really enjoyed working with each other.  We felt like there was a lot more there to continue to explore, but like you said, it’s never over.  As far as the way that he sees Phyllis … it’s interesting.  I think as an outsider, he kind of looks at her as a selfish person who is going to get and grab whatever she wants, but I feel like he does understand her differently than other people do.  I think he’s looking at Nick and Phyllis and shaking his head like, “You can’t be serious.” (Laughs)

Photo Credit: JPI

You have had quite a gold mine of leading ladies in your daytime career from: Kimberly McCullough (Robin) to Kelly Monaco (Sam) while you portrayed Dr, Patrick Drake on General Hospital, to Gina and Amelia at Y&R.  I have to say that of all of the leading men on daytime, I think you’ve had consistently some major romantic kickass scene partners.  What are your thoughts on that?

JASON:  Yeah, I have been very fortunate.  I can go back thirteen years now and talk about how much Kimberly helped me out in the beginning, and how patient, and impatient (laughs) she was in a lot of ways.  Kimberly taught me a lot about how the business is, and to hold onto your values, and that it is very important to collaborate with your directors, and your writers, and your producers, and with other people that you work with.  You then see new things.  I’m constantly seeing things in other characters where I’m like, “That would be really interesting to shine a light on.”   I think there’s something really interesting about Sharon (Sharon Case) and Billy.  I think Billy could bring something out in Sharon that somebody else can’t.  That’s what is exciting for me as an actor – trying to find something different and trying to bring life that is not necessarily there yet.  I have had a lot of trust from writers, from producers, and from networks.  I have been very fortunate in that way.

Hunter King has returned to Y&R as Summer.  She played havoc in Billy’s life her last go-round.  I know now she is currently after Kyle (Michael Mealor) and not after Billy, but does Billy blame her at all for his spiral back into his gambling addiction?

JASON:  Realistically, if  Billy were really being dead honest about it and trying to really work soberly in his life, he would say there’s nobody to blame but himself.  There’s definitely that conversation that could be had between them about the situation that they found themselves in.  They both hurt each other pretty badly, and the people surrounding them.  I think there is probably a little bit of blame that can go around on both of them, but I don’t think he really sits back and blames her for falling back into addiction.  She might have been one of the triggers, but I think that he was really responsible for that.

Congratulations on your Daytime Emmy Pre-Nom in the Lead Actor category!  It’s quite a talented group of ten actors that made it through to the final round of competition. You certainly had a stellar year of material!

JASON:  I had a ton of great storylines last year, and it just kind of kept going, and kept going One thing I will say that really helped me out is my relationship with Mal Young (Ex- EP and head writer, Y&R).  We got along really well.  He helped me out by letting me know six months ahead of time where we planned on going with the story.  So, I was able to understand and slowly build the depths of hurt, and the gambling, and how it got further along, and the lies.   I was able to understand where we were going and the plateau that we needed to get to, which was very helpful for me. I worked with amazing people constantly; every day was like something different.  The hard part in this next round of voting is trying to find something that represents the whole year.  When I look at that list of pre-nominees, I’m proud of the work that daytime actors do … everybody from a little bit of a younger guy like Billy Flynn (Chad, DAYS) to icons like Eric Braeden (Victor, Y&R) , and Maurice Benard (Sonny, GH).  What Maurice brought to my life as an actor and still does has been wonderful, and on the other side of that you’ve got Peter Bergman, who is like a real brother to me now, and we’re really close.  It’s a nice comradery between everybody in the category.  It’s a great group of people to be included with, and aside from the competition part of it, that’s the really cool part.

Photo Credit: JPI

So, let’s talk about your on-screen, mom, Jess Walton (Jill).  I’ve heard you say publicly how much you really like working with her, and she with you.  What can you say about when you do get some scenes with Jess, and get to play that mother-son relationship?

JASON:  That’s another one that you can loop in with all of the other women I’ve worked with.  It’s a different kind of relationship, but talk about a soap icon! Jess Walton is right up there.  She’s a pro, and she’s got this little girl inside that is the sweetest thing alive, and her little giggle.  I can say that relationship is just there with her.  I would love for her to be there more.  If there’s one person that can tell Billy to just, you know what, she’s somebody that can give him a little whipping, and he’d be like, “Okay mom, you’re right.” (Laughs)

Photo: JPI

Finally, you are on this juggernaut of a show that just celebrated yet another milestone, 30 years at #1.  You go from a historic show like GH, to another here at Y&R that keeps celebrating these milestones that nobody will ever overtake.  All of this has to be a ‘pinch yourself’ moment for you?

JASON:  Yeah, I definitely pinch myself.  I think at this moment, all four soaps that are left are having monumental anniversaries and celebrations, because the truth of it is, it’s really incredible what soaps have done in our history.  With playing Patrick on General Hospital, I still look back on that time and that character, and am just so grateful that I was able to bring him to life.  Every once and awhile I wonder what Patrick’s doing.  On the other end of that, to come over to Y&R with a show that is now 30 years at number #1, and the pride that they have, and the support that they have from the network, there’s a real kind of challenge that we have in order to keep that up.  It is not about the slogans, or the glitzy ad campaigns in the magazines that say, “Hey!  We are #1 for 30 years.”  While that’s very important, what’s more important are the people who have gotten us there for the last thirty years.  We have to show them respect by doing the best that we can and continue that. That’s what drives us. You can feel it in the building.  To take on a character like Billy, who has been a part of that for a very long time, there is a pressure that comes with that, but at the same time, there is an excitement of taking on this character and continuing to make him relevant, and a part of this great soap’s history.

So, do you want Billy to end up with Victoria, Phyllis, perhaps Sharon, or someone else? Who do you think has got Katie and is watching the Newmans?  Are you rooting for Jason to receive a Lead Actor nomination for his work on Y&R in 2018?  What do you think about the other sentiments shared by Jason in this interview, and what was your favorite part of our discussion? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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

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Kate Mansi as Abigail

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Airdate:12-24-2018

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