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The Erika Slezak Interview – One Life to Live

Courtesy/ABC

Six-time Daytime Emmy winner, Erika Slezak (Viki) should probably get ready to pick up a seventh after this coming Wednesday’s episode, in which she will play three sides to Viki’s personality in a very special performance created by the powers-that-be, to honor her 40th anniversary milestone with the series.  It was back in 1971 that Erika first graced our television screens as the central heroine in Llanview and the wealthy daughter of the ruthless Victor Lord.  From that point on, the soap world has been mesmerized time and time again by her flawless, fearless, and heart tugging performances.

Trying to fathom the daytime world without Erika and her Viki is going to be a tall order, but sadly after the decision handed down by ABC less than two weeks ago, that day will have to come. On-Air On-Soaps had the distinct privilege to speak to Erika yesterday, and while we had to broach the subject of the cancellation, the focus of this interview was to celebrate with Erika her forty years of a monumental television achievement, that if you think about it, most likely not many other actors will experience that kind of longevity.  From the storylines, her leading men, her various alters (and we have loved watching her play them all) her cast mates, to her current front burner storyline, and the upcoming major episode, Erika shared her thoughts with such grace, delight, sentiment, and passion for what she does best…act!

When you think of the consummate professional, who for forty years has left an audience in tears and standing with cheers, there is only one who has accomplished this feat, and that is Erika Slezak.
I hope you will be moved by and enjoy this fantastic conversation with the one, thee only… Erika!

MICHAEL:

It is your 40th Anniversary with One Life to Live, and we are celebrating it on air with tomorrow’s special episode.  It has to be bittersweet with the heartbreaking news of the show’s cancellation a week and half ago.  How are you doing with the news?  I know it is still so fresh, and I know you released a statement to the fans.  But since you may have had a tiny bit more time to process it, is there anything else you may want to add?

ERIKA:

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We have seven more months left. I have talked to Frank Valentini (executive producer, OLTL) and he had told me there are brilliant stories to be told.  And, that we will go out with a bang.  Right now, I can only look forward to the next seven months.  After that, I think I will sleep for a while, because getting up at 5AM is tiring.  I have done it for 40 years and I can’t complain, because it has been a brilliant job.  I am very sorry to see it go, and not so much for me, but for the incredible loss of jobs for everyone connected with the show.  And, I don’t mean just the people that work there every day.  I mean the hundreds and hundreds of actors who are employed as under-fives, and as extras and day players every year.  There is work for actors there, and now there is not.  I don’t know about nighttime shows hiring those people on that type of scale.  And I find that horrendously sad, and the jobs that are lost are so awful.  However, we have seven months to make some really good stories, and that is what we are going to focus on.

MICHAEL:

Speaking of your 40th, on my website we posted a fantastic photo gallery of your surprise party last month at OLTL.   I hear you were totally surprised!  What went through your mind when you saw all of the cast and crew there to mark this incredible accomplishment with you?

ERIKA:

When the notice went up that we were having a St. Patrick’s Day party, I was talking to David Coleman, who is our security guard.  He is like the Mayor of Llanview and the show would not exist without him.  He does everything.  If you have a problem with your life, or your computer, he can fix it!  David looked at me and said, “Hmm, interesting!  St. Patrick’s Day party on your 40th Anniversary?” And I looked at him and said, “How do you know it’s my 40th anniversary?” And he said, “Because I have always known it was March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day.”  I said, “Look, they have given me parties in the past and have said to me, ‘Look, we are going to give you a nice party and we are going to invite Agnes Nixon, and it will be lovely.’  And it has always been lovely.  No one had said anything this time.  And I said, “And it would be kind of dumb to surprise me, wouldn’t it? “   And I thought (regarding the St. Patrick’s Day party) that this is really nice of Frank.  It has been a really long rotten winter.  We moved down to that other studio, which is terrific.  But I thought, ‘It’s an excuse to have lunch on the floor and welcome in spring.’  Then the day of the party I was finished taping at noon, and lunch was going to be at 12:30.  I was really hungry, as I eat a little breakfast usually around seven in the morning.  And I said to Robin Strasser (Dorian) as we were leaving the set, “Thank God.  I am so hungry.”  And I went to my dressing room to change and Frank showed up at my dressing room door at 12:25.  And I said, “Oh good. Let’s go to lunch.” And he said, “No, I have to talk to you first.”  And he started talking about nothing. “Oh, I wanted to say this, and I saw the show that we aired, and it’s going to be interesting with the editing.”  And he is still taking about nothing!  I am looking at my watch and I go, “Frank, can we go to lunch?  I am really hungry.”   Well, he keeps talking, and he is walking ahead of me very, very slowly down the corridor – and I am thinking, “Geez! I am starving. Will you move it?”  And we go up in the elevator together and he is still talking away, and he pushed open the door and he is still talking…and…. everyone is standing there looking at the door.  They yelled, “surprise!”  I looked at Frank as I thought it was something for Frank.  I was so stupid!  And then, everyone started applauding and that is when I realized what it was.  I felt stupid, incredibly honored, and surprised, and of course cried, because that is what you do when you are that stunned.  It was quite amazing.

Courtesy/ABC

MICHAEL:

But then, there was even more in store for you once you entered your own party!

ERIKA:

Yes, there was.  I kind of walked into the room slowly and there are about 20 people wearing t-shirts that said “Erika” on them.  I thought “Oh, my God”, and my daughter. Amanda was there, too.  She had flowers for me. It was so sweet.  And my husband, Brian, who gets his hair cut at the studio, said to me that he was going to come in on that Thursday.  So Brian had been there in the morning and he vanished, and he was going to have the dogs groomed that day.  So I thought, I will catch up with him when the dogs finished their grooming. And of course, he walked in, too.  Apparently, everybody knew but me.  It was amazing!  And what kind of blew me away was the beautiful reel they put together, which had Nathan Fillion (Ex-Joey, now Castle) on it, my sweet boy!  He was on the reel, and that boy is not a boy, he is a man, but he is so wonderful.  I love him to death, I really do. And David Pressman was on the reel, Brian Frons, and Agnes Nixon, too.  I did have to laugh because Regis and Kelly were on it and the ladies of The View. Then, they had this enormous spread of food.  I finally said, “Gosh, I am really hungry. Can I get something to eat?” (Laughs) Then somebody else said, “No, you have to cut the cake now.”  And I thought, ‘OK, I will cut the cake.’  I never did get lunch, but it was OK. (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

There was one picture I saw of Robin Strasser applauding you with you in tears. And I thought, it looked like such a great moment.

ERIKA:

Courtesy/ABC

She is my great bud and she is wonderful!  Jerry verDorn (Clint) made a speech.  I said, “Jerry, you are not even working today, you drove all the way from New Jersey?”  And he said, “Of course I did.”  I was so touched by that and what Robin said.  I love Robin dearly.  I think she feels the same about me.  We respect each other, and she is so great to work with.  I have always said, “Robin, when you have to bring something to the table, you bring a thanksgiving feast every single day when you go to work.”  It was quite an amazing day and you look around and go: “All these people are here for me.”  I said to Frank, “You know, I could kill you for this, but at the same time, thank you, thank you.  It was awesome!”  I was kind of hoping it would go under the radar, because I don’t feel like I have been there for 40 years.  I am surprised that 40 years have gone by.  I am thinking of all the stories we have told and all the amazing actors I have worked with.

MICHAEL:

Continuing in the celebration, how did this upcoming 40th anniversary episode that airs Wednesday come about?  Was this the brainchild of Frank and Ron to honor you in this way?

ERIKA:

Yes it was.  Frank came to me about four months ago.  He said, “Listen, we do want to do something for your 40th anniversary, and we are writing a special show for you.”  And I burst into tears and said, “Whoa! That is like amazing!”  He said, “Yeah, it’s going to be great.”  And I said, “What is it about?”  And he said, “We don’t know yet, but it is going to be your show.”  Then, I did not hear any more about it till about three weeks before we were going to do it. Larry Carpenter, our director called me and said, “So, I am directing this show and it is all you and we need to talk about it.”  I said, “Great. Do you know what it’s about?”  And he said, “Yes, don’t you?”  It was then he told me, and then Frank came to me and we had a long sit down.  So I knew then it was going to be about Viki’s alters.  Frank and Larry came up with this incredible idea for a set that is so amazing.  Roger Mooney did such a terrific job designing this set.

MICHAEL:

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So give me the set-up of the special episode, which I hear is truly a tour de force by you!

ERIKA:

The episode takes place in the courtroom where Viki is fighting for custody of Ryder. And of course, I become Niki, so it’s Niki pretending to be Viki.  She gets outed in the middle of it and she is very funny.  Then Jean takes over, and it cuts back and forth to Viki’s subconscious mind.  So I played all three ladies in my mind, but Larry’s and Frank’s concept for my mind was this incredible warehouse that had all kinds of stuff from One Life to Live from Viki’s life.  I am talking about furniture, and mirrors, and in the middle is a cage, and there is a circular staircase, and guess where that came from? The secret room!  It has a cage and there are two locked doors to the cage, and Viki has to get out of her mind and get up the stairs to get back to where she belongs; and get back to life.  We shot it in two days.  The courtroom was one day, and the second day was this unbelievable set that took up half the size of the studio. I walked around the set and thought, ‘My God! These are chairs from the Lord Library.  This was Asa’s.’   I recognized most of the furniture, and I said to Roger, “This must have cost a fortune!” And he said, “No, we own all of this.”  And we did it in three separate segments.  I had two wonderful ladies who worked with me who were the doubles.  First we taped Viki, then Jean, and then Niki, which was kind of good because then it was a nice high note to end on.  Everything is a little larger than life in there, and Niki in particular.  I have said as you may have read, “I have officially joined Over-Actors Anonymous,” but I had to.  I had to seize that opportunity. (Laughs)  Larry said they had finished editing it, and it’s going to be really good.  I have not seen it, but I will see it on Wednesday when it airs.  I have made a date with myself.  I think I am almost in every scene.  It has a lot of me! (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

Last week, we saw Viki pushed to the edge by Tess; thus the emergence of Niki.  You make the shift to the alters so real and incredibly sad and painful for the viewers to watch.  You have done this time and time again, but of course, in different scenarios where Dorian triggers the alters, or other life-altering events in Viki’s life.  Are those scenes particularly difficult to pull off?

ERIKA:

It’s very difficult to do, because in my mind I know what triggers this.  We did a lot of research when Michael Malone wrote the multiple story; when we decided to give Viki’s DID a reason.  The sadness of that is what caused the mind to split.  I saw videotape with the permission of the psychiatrist and the patient of a woman who was a multiple, and it was during her session.  Again, we had her permission, and it was just the directors and I, and it was just incredibly sad, because the woman is a perfectly normal, very nice looking lady, who was horrendously abused as a child by various family members.  She has a whole bunch of personalities and they show up in the oddest way.  There is absolute silence, and then she comes back as somebody completely different. And it looks like ‘bad acting’ but its not.  It’s a whole different personality and very strange and sad to see.  So when we do it on our show, we have to make the personalities distinct characters.  This last time, I did not want to give it away because Viki was supposedly having a heart attack while Clint is having a heart attack.  So when I came back I did not want the audience to know instantly it was Niki.  There were like a couple of deep breaths, and I let them think Viki has composed herself. Then she turns around, and I actually wrote the line that Niki says to Tess, “God. You’re annoying!” (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

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How has it been having Kim Zimmer as Viki’s nemesis, Echo, on the canvas with you?  And then getting the opportunity as Viki to let Echo have it for destroying her marriage to Charlie.  Those were great scenes!

ERIKA:

I love Kim Zimmer, just let me say that.  When Frank told me he was asking her to come back I was so excited, because it was brilliant, and it was part of the history of the show. Kim is a wonderful actress and a great person.  From the first day she showed up we have laughed a lot and had such a good time.  And those scenes where Viki confronts Echo, I thought were particularly good.  It is hard to be really angry with Kim because she has such a sweet face on her.  But I loved playing those scenes and I think she did, too. And after that, I had scenes in the carriage house where I told her to get out, which I loved!

MICHAEL:

Niki now has the confession tape showing Echo knew all along that Clint was Rex’s father, not Charlie!

ERIKA:

Dorian gave her the tape, and Niki could care less. And then she realizes Echo could cause a problem for her with Charlie, and then she just figures I will go over there and threaten her. Niki is going through Echo’s closet when Echo comes in the room, and Niki just thinks everything she owns is just so ugly. (Laughs). And the rest you have to watch!

MICHAEL:

How do you feel about Viki losing another husband, as we know, Brian Kerwin will be leaving the series soon?  Many felt that Charlie was just not a good match for Viki, but yet they had such a sweet and pure love story originally at the Bon Jour Café.

ERIKA:

Courtesy/ABC

I think real life intruded on it.  There were some very sweet things that Charlie says that Viki realizes are kind of right.  He never could live up to what he thought Viki expected of him.  She didn’t.  She was quite happy to have Charlie, who was an incredibly good person… flawed, but good.  He says, “Echo understands because she is a drunk, and understands the failings and the flaws of another human being.”  And it probably was not a good match for Viki, because there is a lot to live up to… living in that house, everybody loving her, and being so rich.  Even though that is not her as a person, it is the trappings that come with her that Charlie realizes.  I think at the end she should realize it too, but she is heartbroken because she loves Charlie.  He is a really a good guy and Brian Kerwin (Charlie) is such a doll.  The whole Paris, Texas story I loved so much because it took Viki out of Viki.  It made her just the person who she is, but without the trappings.  She was so content being there, serving coffee, being a waitress, and meeting real people.  Viki and the audience met wonderful characters there: Mo, Noelle, Gigi, Shane, and Charlie, and all the people in and out of the café.  It was such a release and a relief for her to be away from the litany of problems in Viki’s life.

MICHAEL:

Have you and Brian said your goodbyes?

ERIKA:

Yes, unfortunately he is finished already, and I miss him.  He is a really good actor and a delightful person, but I wish him all the best, of course.

MICHAEL:

How have you enjoyed the pairing of Tess and Niki working together, as they are attempting to do in the custody case for Ryder?  Do you and Bree get a kick out of those scenes?  Yet, there is such great back-story there for what Niki did that left Jess vulnerable when she was a child and split in to Tess.

ERIKA:

Courtesy/ABC

Yes, because we never played that.  The one thing we talked about was that Tess was initially supposed to be like another Niki.  Bree Williamson (Jess/Tess) does not play it that way, which is brilliant.  Tess has a lot more feeling and heart.  Niki doesn’t care about anything except her own freedom.  She is the most selfish, self-centered person on earth, because that is what she was created to be.  It did not matter what happened, she would deal with it.  Tess is meaner than Niki, because Tess has more dimension.  When multiples are created, they are individually created to deal with certain problems and secrets.  Niki was created to deal with the sex, and so that is all she cares about.  It does not bother her to go sleep around, drink, and be totally irresponsible.  She is the antithesis of Viki.  We were very careful to be very separate as alters.  Bree is such a good actress and she has played this character of Tess so well, and we have lot more coming up with Viki and Tess that is really good!

MICHAEL:

Did you ever take issue with the back-story that was created for Jessica’s abuse, because of the behavior of Niki?

ERIKA:

I did not have trouble with it, but I thought it was the only way to deal with it.  They decided to have Jessica become Tess, and I was chatting with Frank one day and I said, “Where did Tess come from?”  And he said, “We hadn’t quite figured that out yet.  It probably should have been because of one of your alters.”  I said, “The only one that it could be is Niki.  The other ones would not have done that.”  And he said, “That is where we are going, we think.”  And that is where they did go.  Of course, it was so hard for Viki to have to deal with that because it’s her fault.  It is not her fault, but it is her fault.  But truly, it’s Victor’s fault for abusing her in the first place and creating her alters.  But Viki is not responsible for the actions of the alter.  She feels she is, but not really.

MICHAEL:

One of the comments I loved from OLTL head writer, Ron Carlivati, in this current story is; he loved when he flips Erika into Niki, and then you are Niki trying to pretend to be Viki.  Are those some of the most fun for you?

ERIKA:

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They are so much fun for me, and that is what the first half of the courtroom scene is about.  Niki is pretending to be Viki, and she thinks she is doing a really good job.  And so everything is slightly exaggerated because that is what she thinks Viki is.  It is terrific fun.  I am like the kid in the biggest sandbox in the world!

MICHAEL:

No matter what goes on in their lives, Viki and Clint are there for each other, even after the horrendous things Clint has done that have now hurt Viki.   Do you think there is hope now for a Viki/Clint reconciliation?  How has it been acting alongside Jerry verDorn?

ERIKA:

There is love there.  She understands Clint and the difficulties he is having now, and the difficulty he had with his father’s passing.  She has known Clint for a very long time and she always loved him.  And yes, they couldn’t be married anymore because then executive producer Linda Gottlieb decided we shouldn’t be married anymore.  I hope there is a reconciliation for Viki and Clint.  We have seven months to do it, so let’s do it. And Jerry verDorn is one of the most awesome human beings on this earth, and you can’t be mean to him.  I don’t care what he does.  He is just fantastic.  Jerry is amazing as a bad Clint!

MICHAEL:

Viki is going to have an internal struggle in the courtroom during the Ryder custody case this week.  This is not the first time she has had her alters come out on the witness stand.  At one point, didn’t they drag Niki out on the witness stand years ago?

ERIKA:

Yes, after Mitch Laurence killed Harry O’Neill, another awesome guy.  Have I been a lucky girl!  I remember working with Frank Converse (Ex-Harry). And I remember a scene where I was Niki and we were dancing some place, and I looked up at him, and it was in rehearsal, and I could not help myself, and I said, “God, you are handsome.”  And he was so embarrassed he did not know where to look. This is one of the most handsome men on earth.

Courtesy/ABC

MICHAEL:

And speaking of handsome, there was also Mark Derwin, as your Ben?

ERIKA:

I love him. He sent me the cutest email after my 40th stating that he was sorry he could not be on the tribute reel, but his mother had been ill and he could not make time for that.  But I thought it was just as well, because God knows what he would have said.  He is so disrespectful, but I love that man. (Laughs)  He sent me a cute email afterwards stating, “You know, people ask about our time together and we never had a day we did not have fun.”  And it’s true. Mark is like a big wonderful child.  I used to call him “My favorite 14-year old.”

MICHAEL:

When you look back at playing truly one of the all-time most memorable characters in soaps for forty years, what moments, either as Viki or personally to you as Erika, stand out in your mind?  Certain Emmy wins?  A little nugget, or a moment that may have happened on set, or a favorite storyline?

ERIKA:

I think the sixth Emmy win was the most stunning.  To win against seven other awesome actresses was incredible.  And, that is when we had the lunch the day before and Susan Flannery (Stephanie, B&B) had organized it.  It was fantastic!  We closed the restaurant. I think they were ready to throw us out.  There we were drinking champagne and laughing and screaming.  And Susan kind of vanished near the end and came back and she settled the bill.  I can’t imagine what the bill must of have been. We easily drank 8 to 10 bottles of champagne among the eight of us.  So to have a fabulous lunch and to have laughed and laughed and tell stories, it was just unbelievable!  And I had never met Michelle Stafford (Phyllis, Y&R) and Juliet Mills (Tabitha Ex-Passions) before.  I knew Martha Byrne (Ex-Lily, ATWT) but not very well.  I knew Kim Zimmer and Kassie DePaiva (Blair, OLTL).  Nancy Lee Grahn (Alexis, GH), I knew well because we worked together.  I yelled at Susan, “You shouldn’t pay the entire bill.”  And she goes, “Let it go. Whoever wins tomorrow can pay next year.”  And we all said, “ha-ha-ha.”  And when I made my acceptance speech I should have said, “Lunch is on me next year.”  But all I could think of was all of these amazing actresses and how did they pick me?  I don’t know.  The best part of that win was the lunch with those women.

MICHAEL:

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Where are your record six Daytime Emmys that you have won over the forty years as Viki?  When you look at them now, is it still surreal?  Do you realize what an amazing accomplishment and honor that is?

ERIKA:

I do.  I am honored and floored. We have a little library and they are in a bookcase there.  I will walk by and go, “Wow.”  The first one I got was given to me by Stuart Damon (Ex-Alan, GH) and it was not televised.  I have kept all the little envelopes.  Stuart and my husband were dear old friends, and when I won Stuart said, “Take the envelope.” And that is the only proof I had that I won, because my name is in the middle, but it also has the names of the other nominees, so it’s kind of lovely to see.

MICHAEL:

You have seen so many regimes come and go over your forty years at OLTL.  Right now, this show is must-see TV, as it has always been, but particularly now it seems that all stories are firing on all cylinders, which makes this cancellation all the more disturbing and disheartening.  How has it been for you handling the changes behind the scenes throughout the years?

ERIKA:

Every time a producer leaves I think that’s the end of me, because they come in and recast, but I stayed.  I started in 1971 and thought I had a two-year contract.  I was stupid. I did not know they could fire me anytime they wanted to.  And I say, I do not know how forty years have gone by, but one year turned to another.  I got married and I had children, and I still had this brilliant, wonderful job.  People come and go, and you get closer to some than others.  I cannot think of a better job for an actress over a long period.  I am sure it’s great to be a movie star and make a ton of money and stuff, but I have consistently worked for forty years, and taken vacations when I wanted; knowing I have a job to come back to. That is incredible for an actress, and it just doesn’t happen.

MICHAEL:

Whenever I speak to your castmates, no matter whom, they always tell me you know your lines as well as everyone else’s. (Laughs)  Do you make that a point?

ERIKA:

Courtesy/ABC

Yes.  I don’t necessarily learn everybody else’s line, I learn my lines.  I come from the theatre and it’s important to me. You can’t give a performance if you don’t know what you are going to say.  I am not up there making it up, and people still write letters and go, “God, you have to make that up everyday?”  No, you don’t make it up, it’s written. You frame the performance around the words, and all of that has to be prepared in advance. You can’t just fake it.  I have had people who don’t know their lines in scenes with me that are very emotional.  Because you are on a track, and I know how to build the performance, they will say, “Oh, I don’t’ know my line, or what to say.”  Then you are screwed and you have to build that performance all over again, and go back to the beginning. There is no time to do all the preparation all over again.  But that does not happen often.  And when people go up on a line, it is generally an honest mistake. There are a few people over the years that just couldn’t be bothered to learn their lines, but they are not there anymore.

MICHAEL:

Now, as the series is ramping up for its final months, what is it going to be like for you having Roger Howarth (First-Todd) back?

ERIKA:

I am delighted!  I wanted to call him, but I don’t have his phone number.  But I wanted to say, “Thank God. He is coming back.”  I loved working with Roger.  He is a very talented, really clever, really nice guy.  He is kind of shy and keeps to himself, but he is such an interesting actor, and we had a wonderful time working together before.  So I am looking forward to that a lot.

MICHAEL:

I know this may be too soon to ask this question, but knowing that Viki’s life will not be able to be seen by viewers after January 2012 on ABC Daytime, is there something you would still love to get the opportunity to do, or play that you haven’t, before it ends?  And, how would you like to see Viki’s final moments play out on-air as the show comes to unfortunate fade to black?

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ERIKA:

No, I don’t think there is anything left I would still love to play.  I make jokes that I have no organs left except my appendix.  I have had every illness under the sun except, I have not been a drunk or a drug addict, and I don’t think I want to do that.  I don’t think that is a direction for Viki to go in.  At the end, I would love to see her happy.  Who knows what they are going to write?  But it should honor the show. And the final scene shouldn’t just be Viki.  It should be Viki and Clint, and Bo and Nora, and all the people who have been there and have been the heart and soul of that show for all those years.

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imasoapfan
imasoapfan

What a beautiful and moving interview with the talented Erika Slezak! I loved it. I can’t wait to see her special anniversary episode tomorrow.

Chris
Chris

Awesome interview!!!! I adore Erika, and you asked all of the questions that we all would have asked.

Leigh A
Leigh A

How wonderful! Erika Slezak has always been one of my favorites. I hope the final shows ends the way she wants it too. That’s how I want it to end too. I can’t imagine all the main longtime characters not all being in the final show or scene. I loved this interview; very emotional!

Brandon
Brandon

God, I love this woman. Erika Slezak is AMAZING. I’m going to cry my eyes out when we have to say goodbye to Viki on the last day of One Life To Live.

Thanks so much for this great interview!

steve
steve

Michael great interview Erika was so poised She is such a talented Actress the viewers have been blessed to have Erika play Vikki for 40 years !

Erica
Erica

I love Erika Slezak! I loved the questions you asked, because a lot of others would have asked the same ones. I can’t wait for her 40th anniversary episode tomorrow!

Kristin
Kristin

Thank you, thank you, thank you SO much for this interview. I love OLTL & I just love Erika. She’s such a classy lady. I really enjoyed hearing everything she had to say. I even cried some when she was talking about her 40th Anniversary episode.

bbridges
bbridges

Awesome interview with the best of the best. Looking forward to the show honoring her tomorrow!!

Christina
Christina

Thank you! Great interview. Erika Slezak was the reason I started watching One Life To Live over thirty-eight years ago and she continues to be the main reason I watch today. It will be so sad on that last day of OLTL, like a friend leaving.

Neal
Neal

Erika is such a class act!

Emily
Emily

Great interview. How can you not just love Erika? Always such a class act.

Doe
Doe

A loving interview, Michael. Erika has been the glue that has kept the show operating at such a high level. She is a phenomal actress.She makes everyone better because of her expertise and finesse in her performances And yes, she is a class act. She is someone you have to keep watching because she brings you in to her life so artfully. Then you don’t know what hit you and brought you in to her world. Fabulous woman! I will miss her very much. But, I believe we may see her doing something great on Nightime TV or perhaps she will go back to the theater and her roots. Do not retire Erika. There are a lot of performances we have yet to see!..

Jen
Jen

I adored this interview. I can’t imagine my life without Viki, I just can’t! Erika is a true class act!

Writestuffla
Writestuffla

Erika will always be Dame Erika to me, because she is acting royalty. She is gracious and I remember either Brett Claywell or Scott Evans tweeting and saying they just marveled at her work. The only thing I take issue with Dame Erika (it’s affectionate, not snarky) is the writer’s handling of Charlie Banks. Once they brought him to Llanview from Paris, they really didn’t know what to do with him, and they need to take responsibility for their poor writing of that character. Unfortunately they’ve done the same thing to Susan Haskell. They didn’t know how to write for her, so her character is getting the St. Anne’s treatment. It’s disrespectful to the actress and it’s disrespectful to the viewers. If OLTL was to survive, they would have to clean house starting from the top down. Frank and Ron would have to go. Their storytelling leaves a lot to be desired and is one of the chief reasons for the erosion of viewership over the past few years. There are still a lot of good stories to be told in Llanview. Frank and Ron just aren’t the people who could tell them.

Brian
Brian

Erika Slezak is one very classy lady! It will be so hard to watch final show. Congratulations on your 40th. You will be missed by all who love “One Life To Live”

gigik
gigik

Have loved Erika and the incredibly wonderful stories that have emanated thru the years…So much fun to escape the reality of everyday life ………Thank you for all the unforgettable scenes —watching the characters age (not as quickly as me though!!!)
Wishing continued happiness and good fortune to the cast…

Sue
Sue

Thanks for the heads up on the special Vicky episode. I’ll be sure to watch it. I remember when Erica took over the role. I would make a cup of tea for my mother and me and we would watch OLTL. Good memories….

Ann
Ann

I Love ‘One Life to Live’! it has been my fav since i was a young girl, watching w/my Grandma’s in the summers, and as an adult off and on…

Shame on ABC cancelling it!
For just another talk/info show! i hope the ratings sink!

Thank you Ms. Slezak! You are a ‘Class Act’!

Christine
Christine

I think that Erika is right the final moments should include Viki, Clint, Bo and Nora. Hopefully Dorian can squeeze her way in as well.They are OLTL and they are going to be the people that are missed most. I don’t know what I am going to do without my daily dose of Bo and Nora.

NY Soap Examiner
NY Soap Examiner

Michael you are truly amazing in the way you deal with your subjects. They are made to feel comfortable and allowed to answer the most pertinent and heart felt questions. Erika Slezak is a true Jewel and the thought of never seeing her perform again as our beloved Viki is too dreadful to contemplate. Thanks for the best interview I have read in a long time. You are the King!

Cindy
Cindy

I was watching OLTL since the very very beginning- and then ERIKA SLEZAK appears- how wonderful-
and, my sister in law and I used to discuss the happenings for when you were on- she was in costume dept- THE GINNY scenes, with the tight corset-
I am going to so miss you and all the actors- I hope down the road- you somewhere get into daytime shows- we will so miss you- THANK YOU for these years- CINDY P

red and vanessa forever
red and vanessa forever

can’t for viki and clint reunion as it should be them together and bo and nora together also

Dee
Dee

Thank you for all the wonderful years. I started watching OLTL in 1977 when i was 16. i will be 50 at the end of this summer. It was such a big part of my life and i will miss it and you very much

hmm
hmm

I so admire Ms. Slezak’s humility.

She truly is one of the best in the industry and deserved all of her emmy’s.

Cheffran
Cheffran

Oh my, but I am truly devastated about our soaps going of the air. Erika is one of my favorites and of course I am a big fan of OLTL and AMC , as well as DOOL and GH. These soaps have been a part of my life since 1965 and for sure I will miss them as will all of the other fans. For sure TPTB are caring about any of the staff, no matter what their job is, or the fans. Shame on them and thanks Erika for your wonderful acting and dedication which you have shown over the years. Sadness is a big part of my life right now due to this devastation.

sophie
sophie

I hope we see more from Erika after the show ends (and she’s had her big sleep and rested up). She’s not only a great actress, but a thoughtful, well-spoken woman. I hope there will be something wonderful in store for her.

MEG
MEG

Thank you MICHAEL ,ERIKA IS WONDERFUL

OLTL Fan
OLTL Fan

Oh my gosh…. Ever since hearing the news, I still feel like someone punched me in the gut. This is my family!!!!! Erika is my family!!!!!!!

Brian Greene
Brian Greene

Erika, You Are Soooo Terrific. We Love Watching You In Evanston, Illinois. 🙂 Thanks For Conducting This Super-Terrific Interview, Michael! 🙂

Doe
Doe

Oh, my God! If you didn’t see todays episode of OLTL , you missed the performanc of a lifetime. Erika Slezac was so effective in playing all her alters, going back and forth into each one that I knew I was witnessing the greatest soap actress of all time. And at the end, all I could do was sob. It was overwhelming to say the least. If all you fans haven’t seen it, go look for it and you will see for yourselves what I am talking about. Bravo….Bravo…Bravo Erica

trish17
trish17

I saw the episode with the alters today and was blown away. I wasn’t aware that this was going to be the show and I was mesmerized and all I could think of when it was over was that in a few short months Vicki will be gone from my life and this amazing actress. I grew up with most of the Soaps and when GL and ATWT went off I did not turn on CBS to see the new shows and still haven’t and to tell the truth I don’t even know what replaced those shows and the same will be true with ABC. My daytime TV viewing will be cut drastically. DOOL will be the only one left of my Soaps and I don’t know that I will start watching Y&R and B&B or GH.

Patrick Trubia
Patrick Trubia

Great interview Erika. And the show today was fantastic!! I have to say that when I heard the news about the cancellation I felt like I was told that I was terminally ill by my doctor. The news was shocking! How can I not have Erika and her great characters on OLTL. Erika is my family, she has kept me entertained and delighted since I began watching back in 1978. Erika really has been the only reason that I watched. I don’t want this year to end, Erika as Victoria Lord still has many years to be told. Thank God we will have her to 2012. Long live Victoria Lord! You are the best Erika. I’m so happy and proud to be your fan. I’m so very glad that I have much material in my archives to see again and again. You are the best of the best.

Linda
Linda

First, I must say that my daughter and I am truly devastated by the news of the cancellation of AMC and One Life to Live. We are doing everything we can to join forces to have the decision changed. To me, the best two actors on television are Erika Slezak and Bree Williamson!! They make changing into their alters look so easy and it is amazing when they are their alters and try to pretend to be the real character (Niki pretending to be Viki). You are the best!!! We are praying really hard that our shows don’t get cancelled and we won’t have to live out the rest of our lives without the best show on TV. Keep the faith, because I know I am going to. We love you and hope for 40 more years!!!

Scott Paquin
Scott Paquin

She is Amazing! I really hope that after hearing about the shows # 2 ratings that ABC will change for minds and not cancel this wonderful show.

luane raudabaugh
luane raudabaugh

I totally agree with you! OLTL FOREVER!

luane raudabaugh
luane raudabaugh

Wonderful interview! What a lovely, gracious lady. I wish only the best for Erika and all the amazing actors on my very,very favorite soap since it came on tv when I was a mere 13 years old. I will miss Erika tremendously!

sadie soaper
sadie soaper

Thank you for this interview. Erika’s performances have always been superb, but her performance on her 40th anniversary show was absolutely outstanding and Emmy-deserving. I have been a OLTL viewer since its inception and followed all stories with great enjoyment. I sincerely hope OLTL (and AMC) will find another home on NBC or CBS or a cable network. Exceptional acting, writing, direction and crew work will be sorely missed. ABC has made a huge mistake in cancelling these shows – my “stories”.

ethel
ethel

wow – what an awesome interview!!! erica is some lady……………

jeffrey moree
jeffrey moree

WOW! What a brilliant actress Erika is and Micheal is a masterful interviewer. I will miss OLTL deeply what a waste to cancel it in favor of a reality show.

Diane Ross
Diane Ross

I’ve watched OLTL from the beginning. It’s been my favorite of the ABC soaps. We moved a lot over the years and the soaps where my constant no matter where I lived. Kudos to Erika and the entire staff of OLTL for giving us a lot of joy and entertainment over the years. The cancellation of OLTL and AMC is a travesty. Shame on ABC!

Skater Boy
Skater Boy

She is such a classy and talented lady. She and Susan Lucci have truly been the jewels of daytime. I hope we will see these amazing actors again; though I fear ageism will get in the way. Sleazak is an amazing actress and would be a marvel for any show; Lucci may be typecast. Both are very beautiful ladies for any age.

sadie soaper
sadie soaper

***** ATTENTION: SOAP FANS *****
We need to take action to save All My Children and One Life to Live!!! We need our voices to be heard !
Go to this website http://soapfansunite.webs.com and join in the protest of these ridiculous cancellations! Go to the rallies, call the sponsors, write letters and boycott ABC (except for our soaps). We need to make it quite clear to the network that we WILL NOT watch any replacements if they go through with these soap cancellations.
We will not let our stories go without a fight!

james brann
james brann

soaps were yesterdays tv the talk shows are now shows more women working not home watching tv soaps so abc got to stay alive in today tv markets

Inez
Inez

The talk shows they have now are barely thriving, Rachel Ray, The Talk’s ratings are lower than ATWT’s last episode, even Oprah’s ratings are sagging in her last year. Reality and talk is just cheaper to produce and Disney wants out of the soap business. They have for a long time. And women DO still watch soaps. I don’t know where the theory comes from that we don’t watch anymore, we just don’t watch at the designated hour anymore BECAUSE of work and other things outside the home. That’s why SoapNet was such a lifesaver for many of us, just like DVR and Tivo and all the other ways to record and watch later. If the Neilsen’s actually counted the other ways we watched the shows, and not just during the 3 hour block periods, ABC couldn’t keep using ‘ratings’ as a reason for dropping the shows. I mean, BSFrons has said that GH is on par with Y&R, yet, OLTL has steadily gone up in ratings, beating GH, and for good reason. Better quality, better use of vets, better storylines, etc. More people are tuning in since the news broke, I’m sure, but even before that, OLTL has been gaining on word of mouth popularity alone, since the network never wanted to promote the show themselves. Now we’re losing it, sad.

And with Roger Howarth’s return, I’m sure they’ll look like even bigger fools. They pimped VMG’s return to the high heavens and it flopped in the ratings BIG TIME. And I LOVE Brenda and VMG, but they failed on that one. No real promotion for Roger except for in the mags and online and ecstatic fans passing the news to one another. I’m quite sure the splash will be bigger, given how he probably won’t hang out in Rome for two months, lol, and how much people are loving OLTL right now.

Maria Smith
Maria Smith

As I have said many times….Erika Slezak is indeed a rare jewel.

Robin Fletcher
Robin Fletcher

Michael, I think this has to be my favorite of all your soap star interviews. And your subject is THE class act of TV, daytime or night. Thanks! Robin Fletcher, Dallas, TX

Elizabeth Owens
Elizabeth Owens

Erika Slazak is such a gracious lady,I will miss her and everyone associated with “One Life To Live” Thank you again for giving us all these many years of heart-felt performances,may God bless you.

Elizabeth Owens
Elizabeth Owens

This is one of the most gracious and talented ladies of daytime T.V.

ANNIE THIEL
ANNIE THIEL

I LOVED ALL MY CHILDREN AND ONE LIFE TO LVIE EVER SINCE I WAS A KID. ON ALL MY CHILDREN, JOHN CALLAHAN EDMUND, MICHALE E. KNIGHT TAD, JACOB YOUNG JR, JUSTIN BRUEING JAMIE, WALT WILLEY JACKSON, SUSAN LUCCI ERICA AND AMEILA HINEL MIA AND TERI IVANS SIMONE AND AIDEN TRUNER AIDEN. ON ONE LIFE TO LIVE BREE WILLIMSON, HILLARY B. SMITH, SAMUEL BALL, BRAIN KERWIN, ROBERT S. WOODS, JERRY VER DORN, JOSH CASAUBIN, JUSTIS BOLDING, JOHN BOLGER, CHARISSA CHAMAROO, JAMES DEPIVA AND HIS WIFE KASSIE, LUARA KOFFMAN, TIMOTHY GIBBS, DON JEFFCOAT, JASON SHANE SCOTT, ERIN TORPEY, MARK DREWIN, KALE BROWEN, JESSICA MORRIS, SCOTT EVAINS, SEAN EVAINS, MELISSA GALLO, DAVID FUMERO EVERY BODY FORM THE PAST AND NOW.

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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Days Of Our Lives

Freddie Smith and Chandler Massey Interview – Day of Days 2018

Days of our Lives stars Freddie Smith (Sonny) and Chandler Massey (Will) chat with Michael Fairman at NBC’s Day of Days 2018 celebrating the 53rd anniversary of the long-running daytime drama series.

During the interview, the duo tease what’s to come for #WilSon with Paul’s (Christopher) departure from the canvas, Will getting his memory back, and the trouble that will soon arise when a certain someone is “back from the dead”.

Freddie and Chandler also talk about being a soap power couple on-screen, and reveal some of their favorite scenes, and chat up the new DOOL app and their fun content within it.

Watch below our latest chat with Freddie and Chandler.  Make sure to check out all the Day of Days 2018 interviews with the cast of DAYS on The Michael Fairman Channel on You Tube,  Make sure to “subscribe” to view all the features and videos/

Now, let us know what you thought of the conversation with Freddie and Chandler below, and what was your favorite part of it, via 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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