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The Farah Fath, John-Paul Lavoisier & Austin Williams Interview – One Life to Live

Courtesy/ABC

For those who have been tuning into One Life to Live in recent months, you have seen the carefully plotted, and true to life front-page news type storyline unravel before your eyes.  The soap which has always been at the forefront of telling social issues of the day, during its 43 year history, took on a subject that has seen young high school and college students take their own lives, after being bullied endlessly by their peers, roommates, or class mates.  Over the last several months, the rash of teen suicides via bullying in the United States has become staggering.  But unfortunately this is nothing new, for teen suicides because of bullying have gone on for a very long time in our society, just perhaps, slightly more under the radar.

In January of this year, the powers-that-be in Llanview, executive producer, Frank Valentini and head writer, Ron Carlivati began to embark on telling the tale of teenager Shane Morasco being both bullied and cyber bullied.  Later it would turn out that Jack Manning (son of Todd and Blair) is behind the horrific situations that Shane found himself in.  Eventually, feeling all hope was lost and alone in the world, Shane decides he has nothing to live for and feels he needs to end his life.  So he decides he is going to jump off his high school rooftop.  Even though those scenes aired a month ago, the story is still playing out with all the ramifications and complexities of this delicate subject.

Three performers at OLTL were handed the ball to make this story come to life.  And we have to say, all three have brought us all to tears, and made us take a look at what is going on in the world, not only with young children, but their parents, too.  We can only be talking about Farah Fath (Gigi), John-Paul Lavoisier (Rex) and Austin Williams (Shane).  OLTL has done an admirable and inspiring job taking a look at how bullying and attempted suicide affects not only the child, but the parents, and how do they deal with this most dangerous, unthinkable, and saddest of situations.

On-Air On-Soaps wanted to speak to all three key participants to discuss playing out the major rooftop scenes, the fallout, and how they have personally been affected, from being part of this very serious and important issue of the day.   And now with One Life to Live’s unfortunate and ill-timed cancellation, the integrity and quality of work that this storyline continues to bring to the series again begs the question, “ABC, what were you thinking?” That being said, here is our very special conversation with Farah, JP and Austin!

MICHAEL:

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I want to begin by talking about the cancellation of One Life to Live that was handed down now three weeks ago by ABC.  I know it is a sad loss, and that the cast was told before you went on a week hiatus.  Now that everyone is back, and has had a little more time for the news to settle in, how are you doing with the news and what is the outlook of everyone over at One Life these days?

FARAH:

I think my grandfather puts it best when he says, “It is what it is.”  That is the most comforting saying you can think of when something bad happens, or you have something you need to wrap your head around.  It is out of our control.  The fans can do as many campaigns as they want and write to the advertisers.  But at the end of the day, we all just have to continue to try and put out the best episodes we can and stay focused on our current storylines.  We still have a lot of show left to tape.  So we are not trying to get depressed about it, as that is just going to be a waste of energy.  We are trying to be upbeat and not miserable the last six months of work.

JOHN-PAUL:

Everyone at work knows that the dust has sort of settled.  At least in the studio, it seems to be a lot happier and nicer… almost.  There is a sense of peace now.  For the past year, we have lived with all these rumors.  Not a day went by in the daytime community where somebody wasn’t talking about somebody hearing something from somebody that the show was being canceled.  So it was this funky energy ever since we moved into the new studio.  Now that we have been given this seven months notice, it lets people sort of plan their life personally, professionally, and geographically.  And there is sort of a sense of peace in that we know how we can move forward from this in our own ways.  Obviously, people are not smiling or happy at all because the show has been canceled, just for their own ability to move forward.

FARAH:

Unfortunately for the viewers, they are not going to have that hour of the day to look forward to when they come home from work and watching their Llanview characters.  But as far as the cast and crew go, everyone is starting to be positive.  It is not a dreary place to be.  We are making jokes and laughing, and still having a good time.

MICHAEL:

Courtesy/ABC

One Life will have a very special place in your hearts, JP and Farah, because you met there.   It will and has become very historical for you, in a way.

FARAH:

Llanview will always be a very special place to me and John-Paul.

JOHN-PAUL:

I just talked about this with Farah the other day.  I am not a big Internet guy, but I hope there is a YouTube type platform when we are old so we can go there and watch the stuff we used to do and go, “That is how we met.  Look at us meeting!”

FARAH:

It’s already weird to look back at 2007 and 2008 in clips, even now.

JOHN-PAUL:

Our first kiss was on TV…and now it’s on the Internet!

MICHAEL:

The performances in the bullying storyline have been tremendous from each of you involved.  I dare say the best work you have done during your time on the series.  When they told you that One Life to Live was going to embark on this very current hot topic storyline and that the three of you would be the characters used as the device to tell this story, what went through your minds?

AUSTIN:

I think I found out at casino night for ABC with Farah and JP!  I saw Frank Valentini, our executive producer that night, and talked to him a little bit, and I am pretty sure that is when I found out.  I was really excited and happy that I would get to be a part of such an amazing and powerful storyline.

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FARAH:

At first, I felt a little weary because it was a ripped from the headlines’ story.  I felt it was little bit Law and Order! But with each passing script I got I would think, “This is working.”  It had a nice built up and it wasn’t too sudden, and it also wasn’t dragged out too long.  I think it climaxed at the right time.  It has been fun as an actor, but a sad and scary place to dive into as far as playing it all out.  I think the chemistry between myself, JP, and Austin is good.  We have a nice connection going.  Austin has grown as far as being a nice little actor.  This has been a well-written storyline and something everyone can relate to, and that is what makes connecting to the characters right now a bit easier.  I was bullied in school; John-Paul had some situations.  Everyone has a little taste of that at some point in their lives.  You hear the stories in the news and it makes you feel so sad for these kids that are tormented so badly that they think the only way out is suicide.  I applaud the writers.  I think it’s all been executed really well.  In fact, the story has not concluded at all.  It’s going to escalate even more come next month.  So you have not seen the end of the bullying storyline!

MICHAEL:

Austin, did you have any trepidation playing a kid who is bullied, when you were still in high school yourself?  Did it cause any problems for you?

AUSTIN:

It definitely mirrors real life, but my school is not tolerant of that type of thing at all.  So, I didn’t see that much of it.  But you definitely see it online – cyber bullying – is very prominent right now and very true to life. Then, I think everything the kids did to Shane is so true to real life, because kids will find anything and go after you about it.  And it can be very random like that.

MICHAEL:

One of the things I recently shared about myself to the online readers of my website is that I was bullied terribly as child, and like Shane, I was an asthmatic.  I too, wanted to end my life at one point as a kid.   I shared that One Life to Live saved my life, since that is how I would escape the bullying and find a safe haven to take my mind off of it.  So when I saw that Shane was going to be bullied and the way it went down, I can attest it is very true to life.  Now, of course, when I was a child there were no computers so it was all emotional and physical abuse and not on the Internet.  But the Internet adds a frightening complexity to all of this.   But I have to say, that Shane immersing himself in comic books, etc as his world to escape into is dead-on.  So Austin, I personally wanted to congratulate you for doing such an amazing job with the material.

Courtesy/ABC

AUSTIN:

Thank you.  I tried my hardest to make it as realistic as possible.  I pretended that these things were happening to me, and that worked, while trying to make myself at the same time as sad as possible.

MICHAEL:

It also made great sense that the writers chose Shane, of all the kids on the canvas, to be picked on.  He was ripe for it, if you think about it.  He had gone through leukemia, had asthma and came from a blue-collar family.  He was not the rich kid and in the “in crowd” like Jack Manning.

AUSTIN:

He is definitely weaker because of always being sick with asthma, and the one line that he said on the roof really rings true for him: “He does not always want to be that kid that is sick with cancer or asthma.”

MICHAEL:

John-Paul, the speech Rex gave in the hallway of Llanview high, after Shane’s suicide attempt, was so riveting and something that I know any kid who was bullied mercilessly by their fellow students would probably stand up and cheer!  Rex screamed at the kids and the teachers!   What did you personally think of that scene?

JOHN-PAUL:

It was such a real speech.  It was a speech any parents would want to shout!  Kids should not be allowed cell phones, and kids should not be allowed to do all this none school stuff when they are in school.  When we all went to school from 8AM to 3AM, you were paying attention to the teacher.  Then you get your time in the lunchroom and at recess to socialize and play with a stick and a swing set… not a computer, where you are typing in and watching videos and doing all this crazy stuff.   It’s basically pointless!  You have the rest of the day to do that, and you should not be allowed to do all that crap in school.  So it was true and I felt it.  There should be no social networking from 8-3.  It is not going to help you get a job or go to college.  I want to say to the kids, “Stop it!”

MICHAEL:

There is such poignancy watching the struggle of Rex and Gigi.  Here are two very young parents that truly don’t know how to deal with this situation that was happening literally under their nose the whole time.  Rex seems so lost at times.

JOHN-PAUL:

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He is lost!  He does not know what to do.  Rex is guessing his way along with Gigi on this, and they are trying to be a strong team for their son.

MICHAEL:

Austin, what was the hardest scene for you to tape in all of this?

AUSTIN:

I would say the roof scenes were the hardest.  Now Shane is improving and therapy is helping, but every scene that you have to put yourself down like that is pretty hard to do.

MICHAEL:

JP, in the scene in the hospital where Rex breaks down in front of Bo, is one of the moments that will forever resonate with this story.  Everyone loves to see the dynamics between you and Bob Woods (Bo).  But since these were such high emotional stakes that we seldom get to see you do, was this more challenging for you to play?

JOHN-PAUL:

It wasn’t hard to do because of what I was talking about and the situation, and of course, it was not hard because I was working with Bob Woods (Bo).  Now perhaps if it was an actor who I had never worked with before and was a stranger, I don’t think I could have done it as well.  The hard part of it, other than I could not relate to it (because I don’t have a kid who tried to commit suicide, or anyone I know tried to commit suicide) was we taped out of order.  We had not taped the pivotal roof top scenes yet.  The hospital scenes we taped weeks before the roof top scenes, so I did not have the visual in my head.

FARAH:

I really wish we could have done the reverse order.  The scenes where we come into the hospital and I am suppose to break down with the nurse, and John-Paul was suppose to break down with Bo, we had nothing to really go off of, and it was our first time taping anything in that storyline.  I had no idea that being up on that roof, and seeing Austin Williams in that situation, was going to be as gut-wrenching as it was.  I felt so desperate up there.  All of us wish we had the opportunity to film those scenes first.  It would have changed our choices in the scenes that followed.

MICHAEL:

…Which is amazing to think about because those moments came off so real to me, and were portrayed beautifully.  It was just two parents… devastated, frightened, and helpless.

FARAH:

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Thankfully, it all came together OK, but imagine how much better it would have been.

MICHAEL:

Have you received or been aware of any reactions from family members, friends, or parents or kids, who have come forward that have lost a child via suicide to bullying, or a child who had been badly bullied?

AUSTIN:

My parents watched it, and they were like, “Oh, my God.  I am so proud of you.”   It was tough for them to watch, too.  I know my grandpa would not watch some of the scenes.  He was so hurt by them, since they were so sad.

FARAH:

For the first time in my entire daytime career, I have gotten compliments from people that I don’t know.  I just made a facebook page and people are messaging me on there.  I am hearing from women who have literally had children kill themselves. They tell me, “Gigi’s life was their living nightmare five or ten years ago.”   I just could not believe it. They told me what a good job I was doing, and that just brought me to tears.  For people who have actually experienced it to tell me that I am doing a good job for playing what they felt, that is the highest of compliments.  Also my family– who are hard to get compliments out of, like my sister and my mom – they watch OLTL and I never hear anything from them.  Well this time, I got phone calls and emails from my dad, my mom, my aunt, after the roof top scenes telling me it was the best work they had ever seen me do, and that hopefully, I will get pre-nominated next year for a Daytime Emmy, and those are my scenes.  I have never gotten that kind of feedback from them.  My sister particularly, is my harshest critic.  She will point out my bad habits, and she tries to get me to do better all the time.  She even said she was so proud of me.  So between my family complimenting me and the messages and letters that I have gotten from mothers who have been in the same boat, it’s the biggest response I have ever had in the last 12 years, and it has been really fulfilling.  I am glad in this last year of OLTL I have gotten to be part of this great story.

JOHN-PAUL:

My mother has been complimenting me a lot.  She complimented the Bo scenes.  She complimented Farah more. (Laughs)  I did a personal appearance a few months ago at the beginning of the storyline where I was doing a Q&A from the stage, and one woman in particular commended the show in general for tackling this very current and relatable subject.  And what was so startling was she lives in the town where they had recently had a teen suicide from Internet bullying. There have been three of four storylines of mine in the 9 years I have been on the show, and this is definitely in the top three in the biggest feedback.  In the past, fans would say, “Oh, it’s really fun when you went to Texas,” or, “It’s really fun when you and Bo outed Daniel Coulson.”  But when the show is over, this will be one of the top three which I saw was a hit with the audience the most.  And, it’s a good storyline and it’s great to be part of it!

MICHAEL:

Austin, did any of your younger castmates, such as Eddie Alderson (Matthew) or Shenell Edmonds (Destiny) come up to you and give you kudos for the rooftop performance?

Courtesy/ABC

AUSTIN:

Yeah, I was just on set the other day and I saw Shenell and she said, “Oh my God. You did such a good job!”  I was so happy and laughing whenever I hear that, because it’s fun to hear!  I remember Kassie DePaiva (Blair) said something, too.  Everybody is very supportive at OLTL.

MICHAEL:

What did you think, JP and Farah, when in a major story point turned out to be Rex who hired thugs to beat up Jack Manning!  People thought it was Clint for a bit!

JOHN-PAUL:

I was surprised, I was shocked, and I went, “I did do it? Well, OK.” But, I justify it with the fact of Rex still very much being a kid at heart.  Look, if jail did not exist Rex would kill Jack, and beat the crap out him with his fists.  This has made Rex in a slight way digress. Rex is having to fight inside himself actually becoming a 14-year-old boy walking on to the recess yard and beating up Jack and all of his friends, and not caring about the repercussions.  He would strangle Jack to death!  So the fact that he hired these people does not surprise me.  It makes sense.  I agree with it, and as an actor, I have justified it.

FARAH:

Listen, I do not know what it is like to be a parent, but as an older sister, I was in a situation one time where I went to the bathroom and was coming out of the bathroom – we were in a public place – and a woman started to beat up my 16-year-old sister.  I had never been so enraged in my life!  I can imagine if you are seeing your 16-year-old kid being beaten up!  I don’t think you care who is beating up your child; you are going to jump on that person and defend your child.  You don’t care how old that person is, as your emotions just overcome you.  I asked John-Paul’s mother for a little bit of advice before the storyline got going.  I said, “If you think back to when John-Paul was a freshmen in high school, and you found out that all these horrible things were happening to him and he was being picked on so badly that he wanted to kill himself, how would you feel?  Would you be sad, or would you be so pissed off that you wanted to strangle someone?”  And she said, “I would be so pissed off.  I would go to their house and be banging on their door. I would scream at them and tell their mothers what was going on, and be madder than I have been in my life.”  So, I thought, “OK, so there is my answer then.”  As an adult, you don’t think about the consequences when you are seeing your precious child being abused.  You can’t think rationally like, “This might put me in jail.” In fact, you probably don’t even care if you end up in jail, because you want to protect your baby.

MICHAEL:

Now that Rex has had Jack roughed up, is Shane fearful that Jack and his young goons will become more aggressive for Shane ratting them out to his parents?

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AUSTIN:

That was one of the main fears for Shane at the beginning.  He was afraid to say anything to his parents, because he thought it would make things worse.  But to me, it seems like Shane is starting to get his confidence back.

MICHAEL:

Will we see major confrontations between the families?  Will we see the Mannings vs. the Balsoms clashing to protect and defend their children?

FARAH:

The Mannings and the Balsoms meet up in the hospital one day, and you will see the Mannings on one side and the Balsoms on the other side, and you kind of see the families go head-to-head for a minute.

MICHAEL:

How is Andrew Trischitta (Jack) to work with, Austin?  What goes on behind-the-scenes between takes after he is being really mean to you when the cameras are rolling?

AUSTIN:

Andrew is so much different than his character in real life.  He is so cool and so much fun to hang out with.  It is weird when he goes from that to someone who does such bad things on the show.  For the most part we talk to each other between takes.  He does not stay in character and bully me when we are not taping! (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

What about scenes between Rex and Todd?  Now those should be some complex exciting scenes to watch.  Can you preview anything?

JOHN-PAUL:

I just worked with Trevor St. John (Todd) yesterday and this is actually going to air next month, and as far as I have been told, this is going to spark a lot of stuff between Todd and Rex.  To my knowledge I am going to be having quite a few scenes with Trevor, which I have not had in awhile.   So the answer is yes, we will be working together for the next few months.

MICHAEL:

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What did you think of Austin’s performance on the roof as Shane, when he delivered the sad and emotional speech?

JOHN-PAUL:

Yes, you mean “…having to make up friends and the comic books.”  I know.  We could have done the rooftop scenes in the studio, since as you have seen we do rooftops scenes in the studio all the time.  But it helped, and it was really good that we were on the roof. (Even though, it was our ABC studio roof in the back lot.)  It felt real.  We are on a roof and it felt high above the ground, and the wind made it so you had to shout and be loud to communicate, and our hair was blowing, and it felt so real.  I commended Austin afterwards.  I said, “Really good job, good for you. You do snot really well.  I cannot do snot.” (Laughs)  Austin’s face just bleeds snot.  He had boogies. (Laughs)  I can’t do that. (Laughs)

FARAH:

His dialog was heartbreaking to the point where in the one scene where I had all of those lines, I got stuck. It was Gigi’s turn to so desperately spill her guts, and tell him how much she loves and needs him,  “I need more minutes, baby…” etc.  Now Austin was so good, and even though I had read his dialog before hand, hearing him say it and see his little face so crushed saying those lines, my jaw was on the ground.  I thought, “Oh my God. This is so sad.”  And then I went blank.  I could not remember anything I was supposed to say, because I was so caught up in listening to him.  I was at the point in Gigi’s speech where I discuss when I got pregnant at 17, and how that was not cool.  Gigi goes on to tell him, “People laughed at me and pointed at me.”  But, I just could not remember anything I was supposed to say.  I was blank and I felt so bad, because Austin was doing so well.  I felt like I screwed it up for everyone because I could not remember my lines.  But thankfully, the stage manager fed me my line, so we just did a pick up right there where we left off and continued on.  Bottom line: Austin was so good that he made me go blank! (Laugh)

MICHAEL:

Austin, the roof top scenes where Shane wanted to jump and end his life, and watching him so sad and breaking down in front of his mom and dad, gave all of us in the viewing audience a lump in our throats, and we grabbed the hankies.  How did you prepare for the big episode to deliver this kind of a performance?

AUSTIN:

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I had known for a month that this was coming, while they figured out when they were going to shoot the remote scenes.  I only found out we were going to be shooting on the roof of the studio a day before.  The day of, I woke up, went over to the studio, had breakfast, and then did not talk to anybody.  I tried to make myself as sad as possible and get really depressed, because that is how Shane felt.  He was really sad and did not know what to do.  Eventually, I saw the episode.  I was in school when it aired, but I did watch it on SOAPnet later.  I thought it was really good and JP and Farah did an amazing job, too.  It was really weird seeing myself in that situation, though.

MICHAEL:

Speaking of how good JP and Farah were in those scenes, Austin, how has it been to play their on-screen kid all these years?  Clearly, they are very impressed with your acting!  It seems like all of you have a love and a mutual admiration society going on!

AUSTIN:

They are both so amazing and so nice.  I have worked with them so much, and it is always fun to know that I have more scenes coming up with them.  They are such amazing actors and they are awesome to hang out with, and they are like a second family to me.

MICHAEL:

You also got to work with Daytime Emmy winner, Kim Zimmer (Echo) as your grandma in some big scenes.  How was that to work with her?

AUSTIN:

She is amazing, too!  I am kind of sad I have not worked with her for a while.  It’s been a few months now.  I was hoping I would have more scenes with her, but soon maybe there will be more.

MICHAEL:

Have your classmates said anything, or seen you on OLTL in the bullying storyline?

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AUSTIN:

For the most part… no.  One Life to Live is on while we are in school, but one person just posted on my facebook that they were out sick from school and turned on the TV and saw me!  I pretty much keep my school life and work life separate.  I am not going around going, “Watch me!”  For the most part, I don’t acknowledge it, and just hang out with my classmates and be a normal kid.  But then when it’s time to film, sometimes I have to leave school early and be like, “See ya everybody!”  Then, I get to go off and become Shane.

MICHAEL:

Austin, many times kids who are bullied grow up to be bullies.  Many times they don’t, and are extremely sympathetic to those who have gone through this.  Where do you think Shane falls in all of this?  How do you think he will be affected long term by the bullying?

AUSTIN:

I don’t think it will change who he is.  I always think that Shane will be this really nice kid, but I think things will be different for him.  However, I don’t believe it’s going to change his personality.

MICHAEL:

Now that all of you have experienced this bullying storyline and seen the feedback, and the importance of this issue, would you be open to speaking publicly for an organization that helps kids who have been bullied, or to a group of parents who have lost children via suicide this way?  I know GLSEN is a wonderful organization that helps kids, and also I know One Life worked with STOMP Out Bullying, too.

AUSTIN:

That would be amazing, and that is what is so amazing about this storyline.  That is, it can make a difference and can help people that are going through this, and hopefully stop people who are hurting other people and bullying them.  Yes, that would be very exciting to speak and a great opportunity.

FARAH:

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I would love to.  As I mentioned earlier and I don’t want to have a pity party for myself, but I was bullied very badly when I was in the eight grade.  When I entered ninth grade, all I wanted to do is get out of school and go to L.A. and become an actress.  It drove me to want to be an actress.  I think acting was my escape, because I could forget about Farah’s torment, and try to be somebody else, and that has helped me get through.  I would love to talk about my time as being the bullied kid, and share my experience of playing a mother to a bullied kid.  I have now learned even more about the subject in the last few months of working at One Life to Live.

JOHN-PAUL:

They wanted me to speak at an event recently, and its not that I don’t want to speak, it’s just there is no way I could write the speech.  I could easily do a Q&A talkback and would love to on this topic. But I will never steal Ron Carilivati’s (head writer, OLTL) job from him! (Laughs)  I don’t know how to write anything.  I just cannot step up to a podium and read something that I have written.  I could not even write a toast for a best man’s speech.

MICHAEL:

Speaking of weddings, I loved the nice moment recently where Rex went down on his knees and asked Gigi to marry him, again.  What did the two of you think about it?

FARAH:

I thought it was nice.  Gigi thought it was odd timing, but Farah thought it was good timing.  I think that Rex and Gigi should get married.  They love each other, and they have a son, and they want to be a family forever.

JOHN-PAUL:

It’s a third time Rex has asked Gigi, so I did not really think anything was in Rex’s mind. It was not like, “Here we go again,” but in John-Paul’s mind it was.  It was very serious and important for Rex, so I went with it and played it as such.

MICHAEL:

On tomorrow’s episode, there is a big group therapy session for the Morasco/Balsoms.  What can we expect to see?

FARAH:

Courtesy/ABC

Gigi confesses to stealing the tape and Rex confesses to the thugs.  We just admit our faults and we make a bit of progress at being open and honest with each other.

JOHN-PAUL:

When Gigi and Rex go to see the doctor it’s interesting, because Rex and Gigi are two adults with a teenage child, yet they are sitting in front of this doctor going, “We don’t know what to do. Please help us help our son.”  So it’s really about these two people who should know how to take care of themselves, but don’t quite know how.

FARAH:

The therapist, Dr. Buhari, starts to apologize to Rex and Gigi because Shane’s tape went missing.  Gigi is feeling really guilty and she thinks that Dr. Buhari is on to her.  She thinks Dr. Buhari is saying all these things in the session to get Gigi to confess, when in actuality, Dr. Buhari has no idea that Gigi took the tape!  But Gigi fesses up and says she is sorry and was wrong.  Rex hands the tape right to her.  Dr. Buhari had asked Shane to step out of the room, because she did not want Shane to know his tape was missing.  And then when Shane comes back into the room, that is when we confess our wrong-doings.

AUSTIN:

Shane and his parents want things to get better now, and they feel therapy is the best way for him to get past it and just move in.  There are some scenes where it’s individual counseling, and some where we have therapy scenes together. But it’s very interesting what happens.

MICHAEL:

Austin, what would you say is the one key message you would like to say to kids going through this, now that you have depicted one on television?

AUSTIN:

Hurting yourself is not the answer.  Please try to find ways to make yourself happy.  Like, Shane’s thing is doing comics and that is what made him happy.   No matter what it is: drawing, music, watching TV, anything that you can do to be happy and be yourself, and you will get past it.  Having someone to help back you up is so helpful, like your parents, friends or anybody.  They can help you get past it and be a healthy and happy kid.  I would say to not shut down.  You really do need to tell somebody.  They really can help you.

MICHAEL:

Courtesy/ABC

In closing, what you would say to the fans about the bullying storyline?  Will it dovetail and continue into more story for all of you?

AUSTIN:

Now that his parents know, which is huge, it’s not only his secret anymore.  Things look like they are getting better.  We will see if Jack continues to bully him, or if he has learned anything from this, or if he finds away to continue bullying Shane.

FARAH:

It has had a climax, but the worst is yet to come…if you can imagine.

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I think this will be one of the most important storylines in daytime this year. It is such an important story to tell, and I hope it helps many people. The acting from John-Paul, Farah, and Austin has been amazing. Their performances have been real and raw. This storyline and the acting involved is one of the reasons One Life To Live continues to shine as the best show in daytime right now. I am so saddened that it has been canceled, but I know the cast will continue to put their best efforts into this show and enhance the legacy it will leave.

I was bullied throughout junior and high school. The roof scenes really made me break down. Amazing work by Faras, JPL, and especially Austin. They have their reels for next years Emmys…..if they have the awards next year.

What a fabulous interview from three very talented actors…..my hat is off to all for such stellar performances on such a timely and important issue as bullying.
Great stuff !!

The storyline hits home, but I was in high school over twenty years ago, and school bullying was not near as bad then as it is now. I was bullied in high school, and I know how Shane feels, but not near as bad. I felt lonely and depressed a lot, and there were times I felt like killing myself, but then I thought of my parents, and I knew that they would be devastated if I did commit suicide. That is the only reason I did not do it. I was not bullied near as bad as Shane, and if I was I would of probaly killed myself without any hesitation. I’m just glad that Shane did not kill himself, and Jack Manning gets put into his place. I loved the interview between John Paul, Farah and Austin, and it should be interesting to see where this storyline goes.

at least u could had a good going off the air fornally this messed up

OMG! Big Props Must Go To Michael For Conducting An Informative & A Most Meaningful Interview With John-Paul, Farah, & Austin! Bless You All!

why didn’t u just let gigi and rex get married,give shane a family he deserve that.why did christen make that dum move, it shouldn’t end this way.

the roof top scene made cry I was alone watching watching it. I want the 2 main bullies Brad and Jack to be expelled and they should be,

My name is Lindley Pablo. When I saw the bullying story on OLTL, I really related to Shane.I was bullied from the time I was in 8th grade to the end of my 12th grade year in high school. Even a few of my teachers talked bad about me behind my back. I did not tell my parents. However they did figure out what was going on thanks to one of my best friends. I just want to say that Austin deserves an award for his acting. He had me in tears. When I heard Shane say “I don’t always want to be the sick kid,” that really choked me up. I remember telling my mom and dad that I wanted to be normal and liked by people. Basically the only friends I had were my band friends and my church friends. I also think Farah and John-Paul deserve awards. They reminded me so much of my parents. Rex reminded me of my dad and Gigi reminded my of my mom. My dad wanted all of the people that hurt me to pay for what they did and my mom was supportive of me. My dad was also supportive. If it hadn’t been for my mom and dad and my best friend Jordan, I probably would have committed suicide. I would have slit my wrists in the bathroom at school just like I was trying to and I would have bled to death. I just thank God every day that I am now out of high school. But some days I wish i could go back and get revenge on all of the people who hurt me. Thank you OLTL for showing this storyline. Bullying is real and it can happen to anyone. Thank you Austin, JP, and Farah! The three of you are such talented actors!

That second picture down is a picture I took New Year’s Eve 2009. So how could it be a JPI Studio picture? I don’t care if you used it though, just wanted to let you know.

Days Of Our Lives

Matthew Ashford and Melissa Reeves Talk Return to DAYS for Doug’s Funeral, Susan Seaforth Hayes, and Their Enduring Friendship

Last week, Days of our Lives celebrated the taping of their 15,000th episode which is tentatively scheduled to air on December 3rd. The story will feature emotional and heart-tugging scenes of Doug Williams funeral and honor his portrayer, the beloved Bill Hayes, who passed away on January 12th at the age of 98.

While the actors, producers, and crew took a lunch time break to pose for some pictures and speak with the press, they knew they would have to get back to taping the funeral, which was going to make it a tough day, but also cathartic for all who loved Bill Hayes.

Several returns have thus far been announced including; Melissa Reeves reprising her signature role of Jennifer Horton (a part she first played in 1985), and Matthew Ashford as Jack Deveraux. Reeves had last appeared on the show back in 2021, and she was replaced by Emmy-winner Cady McClain in her absence when Jennifer was in storylines. In real-life, Melissa had moved full-time to Tennessee along with her husband, Scott Reeves (ex-DAYS, GH, Y&R). Now, and as previously reported, Reeves will first appear back on DAYS for the Thanksgiving episodes with the Hortons.

Photo: JPI

Michael Fairman TV caught up with Matt and Melissa during the 15,000th episode celebration to get their take on: being back for these special episodes, how it has been working with and watching Susan Seaforth Hayes portray Julie’s grief over losing Doug, and how they have supported each other through the years. Check out what they shared below.

Melissa, you are back on the set of Days of our Lives for this very emotional and special moment in the series history. How does it feel?

MELISSA: Oh, my goodness. I am honored. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else but to be here for Bill. He was like my real-life dance partner. He taught me how to ballroom dance. And to be here for Susan, of course, who’s just been our sweet hero this whole week. We’re just following her lead. She’s just been this incredibly strong example for us in the midst of this trial and season of her life. She is like just lifting us all up with her. It’s been incredible.

I was at Bill Hayes memorial service which was truly incredible and I know at the time you were in Tennessee. It was moving and celebratory of his life, all at the same time.

MELISSA: That’s all I have heard. I have to watch it on You Tube. They said it was just a real celebration of his life and I love that.

Photo: JPI

This must be difficult for Susan Seaforth Hayes depicting the death of Doug, when she is still grieving the loss of her beloved husband. (Susan pictured above with the returning Stephen Schnetzer who plays her on-screen brother, Steve Olson).

MELISSA: I’m sure Susan has those moments at home by herself, but she’s so good at being a leader and leading all of us. We’re following her, you know, and she’s like, “This is how I want to feel today.” And we’re just going along with her, you know? It’s so sweet.

Photo: JPI

How is it to see Matt Ashford again live and in-person?

MELISSA: You know, Matt and I can go years without talking, or seeing each other, and then the minute we see each other we’re chatting away.

MATT: Melissa was out on set doing a scene yesterday on the phone talking to a stage manager; as she was telling some really tough news on the phone. I’m like crying in the background, literally, I’m off-stage crying.

MELISSA: And then we get like back into normal life, and we’re like, okay, “What’s happening? What’s happening with this … or what’s happening with that?”

I had read, Melissa, that you were in touch with Matt about if there night be a possibility for you to reprise your role as Jennifer for these special episodes?

MELISSA: Yes. Well, Matt was like, “Hey! Would you want to come back? “And I was like, “Matt, you know, I would always come back. ”

MATT:  Every time I come here to Days of our Lives, they ask, “Where’s Missy? How’s Missy?” Everybody backstage says, “I miss her.” All of the crew is asking about her and saying, “It would be nice to see Missy. Nothing wrong with you Matt, but …”  They said, “Where is she?” I said, “She wants to come!”

Photo: JPI

There are some beautiful photos of Missy and Bill and Susan thorough the years that I found. It just reminded me of just the deep and entrenched history we all have had with the show, personally and professionally.

MATT: Missy is roughly the age where Francis Reid (ex-Alice Horton) was when she started the show, which is just crazy.

Photo: JPI

I’ve always said Missy was going to be the next generation Alice. Do you feel that Jennifer is the heir apparent matriarch of the Horton family?

MELISSA: Yes. I mean, this has been greatest blessing of my life, and that would be great. I told Ken Corday (executive producer, Days of our Lives) when I was 17 that this show would be my life. Ken always told me, “This is your home,” and I’ve always felt like that.

How have gotten through the scenes watching Susan Seaforth Hayes as Julie go through the loss of Doug?

MATT: Susan is bringing her best performance life for her and Bill. I mean, she’s a showbiz baby. She always has been one hundred percent, and she’s doing it for him, and this is who they’ve always been. So, you’re seeing this amazing performance colored by her life. She has her private life as Susan, but she has enough plugged into Julie that she’s done amazing work. The director, producers and writers are giving her room to live in these moments and it’s quite wonderful.

Photo: JPI

Have you already broken down in tears during the taping?

MELISSA: Yesterday, but today’s taping of the actual funeral I think they want us to try and be just more celebratory.

MATT: I mean, it is a beautiful long life for Bill Hayes and his character of Doug Williams, and so it will be about that. Then, you get a bunch of us together in the church pews, and there’s going to be hijinks.

MELISSA: We all have been through the waves of grief. You have that awful cry and then all of a sudden you feel okay.  There are those family situations we are portraying where you’re like, “What do we do? What do we do now? You know, no one knows what to do. But, it’s so sweet. I’m looking forward to seeing how the scenes all turn out.

So, are you glad that Matt and Melissa are back for the 15K episode and Doug’s funeral? From what we can tell, it’s going to be quite an emotional journey for Days of our Lives fans, and especially the performance of Susan Seaforth Hayes, 

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Days Of Our Lives

Ron Carlivati Talks on Decision to Make Days of our Lives 15000th Episode About Doug’s Funeral, and Previews Chances for WGA Award

This week, Days of our Lives celebrated the taping of their 15,000th episode. In of it itself, that is an incredible accomplishment for the long-running soap opera currently streaming on Peacock.

However, this on set gathering was a bit different. Though the show is celebrating their achievement, they are also in the middle of taping scenes surrounding the death and the funeral of Doug Williams, played by the late Bill Hayes, who passed away on January 12th of this year at the age of 98.

As previously revealed many longtime favorites are back to honor Bill and the character of Doug including: Gloria Loring (Liz), Melissa Reeves (Jennifer), Matthew Ashford (Jack), Maree Cheatham (Marie), Victoria Konefal (Ciara) and Stephen Schnetzer (Steve) to name but a few.

Photo: JPI

Michael Fairman TV was in attendance and spoke with Days of our Lives head writer, Ron Carlivati to gain some insight into how the 15,000 episode was crafted and the decision to honor the character of Doug Williams and Bill Hayes as its epicenter. In addition, Ron weighed-in on this Sunday’s April 14th WGA (Writers Guild of America) Awards, where he and his writing team are facing off with General Hospital for the daytime drama prize. Here’s what Ron shared below.

Was this your idea to make the 15,000th episode centered around Doug’s funeral and passing?

RON: It was. When you’re looking at it, and laying out the calendar for the whole year and you see 15,000 is coming up, we’re like, “What are we going to do?” And then, we got the news that Bill had passed away and something kind of clicked. I was like, “We should honor Doug on that show.” So then, we started to kind of build around that … when does he pass away? How does he pass away? Who could come back? You know, it’s a lot.  I’m very pleased with the returns that we got as there’s so much that you could do. We wanted everybody we could get. So, we put together a wish list and Janet Drucker (co-executive producer, Days of our Lives) made it happen.

Photo: JPI

You have Melissa Reeves back as Jennifer, when the role was last played by Cady McClain. What has it meant to have Missy back for these shows?

RON: It was so nice to see Missy Reeves. I think Cady has done such a good job, but on the 15,000th episode to see Missy as Jennifer, it’s a big deal. So having her was great, and overall, the milestone was a big undertaking, because you want to live up to it. You want the 15,000th episode to be good. Now, it has a lot of real emotion that you’re playing. because for the cast and the crew they’re honoring Bill Hayes just as much as we’re honoring Doug Williams.

Photo: JPI

Was it hard for you and the team to write this episode?

RON: Yes. I’ll tell you why it was hard to write.  When I wrote, for example, Asa’s (Phillip Carey) death on One Life to Live or Victor’s (John Aniston) on DAYS, Asa is a different type of character. Like, you could have characters going, “Oh! I’m glad he is dead.” You could have different points of view, but with Doug, you’re not having that. Every person loves this man. No one had a bad relationship with him. So, you’re challenge as a writer is how do you make it that not everybody’s saying the same thing and doing the same thing. And so, we tried to find ways to make the episode about all the familial relationships and yet, how do you make it about Doug and yet broaden the scope.

Photo: JPI

I had spoken to Susan Seaforth Hayes (Julie), a week after Bill’s memorial, for an interview. She said that she felt very fortunate that you did include her on discussions of how you would tackle Doug’s passing. How did that conversation go?

RON: First, I attended Bill’s funeral, which was incredible. I said to so many people it was an emotional service, but it was hard to be sad at this. The guy had an incredible life and it was an incredible celebration. And so, you’re sitting there watching this knowing that you now have to write something similar. And how do you write something that lives up to what you just witnessed? I wanted to talk to Susan to get her thoughts about, you know, how much do you want this to be about keeping Bill separate from Doug. How comfortable are you sharing your grief. She was incredible to talk to. It was a great chat.

You’re in the middle of taping these major scenes for the 15,000 episode to air in December. How do you think it’s going? Have you seen any of the scenes?

RON:  I haven’t seeing anything. I mean, we were still making changes to the script up till this morning!

Photo: JPI

The Writers Guild Awards are this Sunday, April 14th and once again this year there are two daytime drama nominees, General Hospital and Days of our Lives. How are you feeling about your chances this year?

RON: It is often just GH and us in the category. I’ve won three years in a row, so I’m kind of feeling like it’s their turn.

Photo: JPI

What episodes did you submit for contention? If I recall, they had to do with Victor’s memorial.

RON: The episodes we submitted were centered around Victor’s funeral. I think one has story with Vivian (Louise Sorel). We had some fun stuff, we had some emotional stuff at Victor’s death, and I am pretty sure that our submission was three episodes right around that time.

Did you make the decision to go with those episodes because there was a mix of humor and drama?

RON: I like to have some humor, but it was also the funeral, then there’s Sarah (Linsey Godfrey) giving birth, and then Vivian’s crashing the reading of the will. So, we had a lot of fun and it’s hard sometimes to pick three that tell a story, as opposed to submitting for the Daytime Emmys, where the writing team only submits two shows. So, we shall see how it goes on Sunday.

Courtesy/Peacock

So, are you looking forward to the emotional 15,000th episode of Days of our Lives? Do you think DAYS will take home the WGA writing award for daytime dramas for the 4th year in a row? Comment below.

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Days Of Our Lives

(INTERVIEW) Eric Martsolf Previews DAYS Stars on ‘Weakest Link’, How He Fared in the Game, Plus Welcoming New Tate, Leo Howard

Tuesday night on NBC’s Weakest Link (9 p.m. ET/PT), the stars of Days our of Lives test their knowledge, and try to win big money for the charity of their choice on the newest season of the popular game show hosted by Jane Lynch. In case you miss it, you can also catch the episode on Wednesday streaming on Peacock.

The question on everyone’s mind is … who will be revealed as Salem’s weakest link? Who will be left standing at the end of the game? DAYS favorites: Eric Martsolf (Brady) Brynn Dattilo (Lucas), Galen Gering (Rafe), Martha Madison (Belle), Victoria Konefal (ex-Ciara), Zach Tinker (Sonny), Tina Huang (Melinda) and Lindsay Arnold (ex-Allie) play while literally having the task of throwing their co-stars under the bus. The contestant who receives the highest number of votes leaves the game throughout, as Lynch declares their exit with the now iconic phrase, “You are the Weakest Link. Goodbye.” 

Michael Fairman TV caught up with Eric Martsolf, who daytime fans know is great as a host in his own right and oh-so-fun at playing any trivia game you throw at him. Martsolf gave us the inside scoop of what it was like to be on the set and backstage in a rather nerve-wracking environment, and trying to come off as smart while Jane Lynch roasts you at the same time!

Photo: NBC

In addition, Eric shared his thoughts on the new Tate, as Leo Howard takes over the role of his on-screen son from Jamie Martin Mann on the April 5th episode of Days of our Lives, plus working with Emily O’Brien as Theresa, and the loss of the legendary Bill Hayes. Check out what Eric had to say below.

Did you know about the game before? Had you watched the original version of the Weakest Link, or this latest incarnation?

ERIC: I was very, very familiar with the game because I found, as someone who enjoys hosting, that has to be one of the best hosting gigs out there because they just have extreme liberties in belittling the contestants, and it’s all done in jest of course, but it’s great. Jane Lynch is a master.

Did you get to meet Jane Lynch before she hit the stage for the taping?

ERIC: I don’t think any of us met her prior to being on the set. So, we’re standing there behind our podiums and these cyber lights just point all in one direction. At one point when we’re out there, it was kind of a hurry up and wait thing. We’re just like, “When is this going to start?” Then, here Jane comes and in all her glory in a beautiful navy-blue suit. She just prances onto stage and just glares over at us, and starts making fun of a silly soap opera actors like you wouldn’t believe. It was just great. I’ll let the public see what how she crucified us. But it was all done in fun.

Photo: NBC

Did she crucify you?

ERIC: I don’t think anybody got out unscathed to be honest with you.

For those that don’t know the game, you try to eliminate those that are the weakest in answering questions.

ERIC: Correct, and therein lies the problem. Historically, I think the Weakest Link is comprised of contestants that don’t really know each other, and in this case, you have not only coworkers, but almost family members because we all know each other very, very well. It’s a tight circle and even more so when you’re on the same show. So, we all went in into it pretty nervous because the premise of the game is to expose the inadequacy of people’s knowledge of general facts and information. So, essentially, you’re voting each other off because you don’t think they’re as smart as you are and that they’re the least smart in the group. So, I mean, that in itself is pretty, pretty tough to swallow. It was really hard, because you have to look at your friends in the eye and go, “yeah, I don’t think you’re going to get the next couple questions. You’re not the smartest, you’re not the crispiest chip in the bag. I’m going to let you go. ”

Did you feel bad about some of the eliminations?

ERIC: At one point, without giving away any spoilers, I voted off someone that without a doubt, has more smarts and education than I do. I just felt silly. But, you know, the way the game was going, I just felt it was the right. There is a bit of strategy involved. I’m worried about the airing of this particular episode because I did fumble some questions that people are going to turn their heads and go, “Really? You didn’t get that one?” It’s so much easier to answer these questions at home in your pajamas than it is, you know, looking at Jane Lynch in the eye with 6,000 lights at your face in front of cameras. Your brain tends to wander. So yes, we all had had some answers that we couldn’t believe we didn’t get at the time!

Photo: NBC

Did it get very competitive?

ERIC: There was little competition there. If I recall, it’s Galen and Bryan that went at it a little bit and had some laughs. But again, I can’t stress this enough, it was all done with fun. At the end of the day, every one of us wanted to win. I think the smartest person did actually come out victorious.

Now in the game, for those that have never seen it, you’re on your podium, and then Jane gives a question, right?

ERIC:  It’s a firing squad of questions. You only have a certain amount of time to answer. If you get the correct answer or the wrong answer, you immediately, go to the next contestant and you have a certain amount of time. And then, at the end of that line of questioning, everyone gets to vote as to who they believed was the biggest dummy in the group. (Laughs) Some questions are simple. You know, “What color is Santa Claus’ suit?” And then, the next question is “What is 648,000 times 14?” or what’s the population of some obscure country? So, that was the biggest challenge. Someone else might get, “What is the main ingredient of a banana split?” And my question could be like, “How much is 9,430 times x 59 million?” There’s an intimidation factor that Jane Lynch brings to it when she’s staring you down.

Photo: NBC

When the cast finished the entire game, what happened backstage?

ERIC:  The best part was there were these post interviews that the Weakest Link conducts where you have to go into a dark black room. I think my first question was, “How did you feel about that wrong answer?” They don’t let up. They just keep jabbing at you. “Did you feel ridiculous getting the wrong answer to that fourth-grade level question?” (Laughs) There was also a lot of trash talk with that happened after the show. It got so competitive. If I recall, we were all supposed to go out together and get a meal with everybody, and that never happened. They’re like, “I’m not eating lasagna with you right now. You just voted me off!” Now, even the first person that gets voted off, you’re going to be shocked, because I thought this person would probably win it. In the game, you want the best people to remain on the panel because that’s what drives up the money.

Photo: JPI

Later this week on DAYS, we will see the debut of your new on-screen son, Leo Howard, taking over from Jamie Martin Mann as Tate.

ERIC: How about that?  I just did a post on Instagram, because I saw that Jamie Martin Mann had liked and hearted a post about Leo Howard coming on the show. I just thought that was so classy of him. That’s the way it’s supposed to be, “This is the new guy. Embrace him. He’s good. I’ve met him. He is a good guy.” It’s about handing off the character baton sometimes, sort to speak. I was really proud of those guys. I reached out to Jamie. He just wants to go to college and be a student. I understand that. That’s important.

Photo: JPI

Is that challenging for you as an actor since you’ve built this relationship with the one guy as your son, and now you’ve got to pivot and create a different kind of energy with someone else taking on the part?

ERIC: Leo Howard has been in the industry for a while, with some very good credits to his name. He brings a certain charisma to this role that I think people are really going to love. And yes, he’s older, but he plays younger, and he has that ability and he’s pulling it off brilliantly. I can’t wait for people to see him, but of course I miss Jamie. Emily O’Brien (Theresa) and I really grew to love him very quickly because the storyline got so deep, so quickly, with the drug intervention and then him getting beat up in in prison. I mean, as a father, that’s the kind of stuff that you have nightmares about, you know, your kids being in pain.

Photo: JPI

I still love the fact that Emily O’Brien is still noticeably wearing a blonde wig as Theresa. What are your thoughts on how the transition has been for you, and for her pivoting to a completely different role?

ERIC: I hadn’t worked with Emily much before, because Gwen and Brady never really crossed paths. We all saw the transition that she had to make. When I became Brady, the character hadn’t been on the map for three years.  When she became Theresa, she walks out one gate and comes through the other as Theresa. We all had a good giggle about it. That’s hard to ask an audience to go,  OK, I’m Gwen, now I’m Theresa.” I was scrolling through X (formerly Twitter) and I saw a couple posts from fans that said how they were really weary, at first, about accepting Emily O’Brien as Theresa. But after today’s episode, they shared, “I’m loving her as Tate’s mom, and the chemistry she has with the family.” I texted Emily and I said, “I just want to let you know that you’re just bringing it home really brilliantly, and people are starting to come around.” I think they’ll do that with Leo Howard too.

Photo: JPI

What had it been like without the iconic Bill Hayes (Doug Williams) coming to work and being part of the Days of our Lives cast since his passing?

ERIC: You really do miss that presence in the hallways. He was a song and dance guy and I am a song and dance guy. as well. I kind of find myself the lone singer in the makeup room sometimes, but I could always count on Bill. He’d be humming some old tune from the sixties. I’d start humming along and he’d just kind of lean over and take a look at me, and give a little smile. Everyone else was probably irritated at us, but we just kept singing along. and it’s like 6:30 in the morning. I think Bill was a lot like the late John Aniston (ex-Victor), in the sense that I don’t really feel like he felt he was working. He was just always having fun right up until the end. That little number he did with his wife, Susan Seaforth Hayes (Julie), and Dick Van Dyke (guest starring as Timothy Robicheaux), where he was singing along, he was just living it. It was so cute and so adorable to watch.

Photo: JPI

Your final tease for the Weakest Link tonight is, “Fans should watch because …”

ERIC: Fans should watch it because if they thought we were smart before, wait till they see the show.

You can check out the cold open for tonight’s Weakest Link “Days of our Lives special” below.

Now let us know, will you be watching Eric and his co-stars, past and present, attempting to showcase their knowledge on the ‘Weakest Link? Intrigued to see Leo Howard and Eric in scenes as new Tate and his father, Brady? Share your thoughts in the comment section.

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Peter Reckell returns for a second visit with Michael Fairman following the wrap-up of his recent run as Bo Brady on Days of our Lives.Leave A Comment

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