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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:

© JPI Studios

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.

© JPI Studios

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:

Courtesy/ABC

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:

Courtesy/ABC

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?

© JPI Studios

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:

© JPI Studios

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:

Courtesy/ABC

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?

© JPI Studios

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:

© JPI Studios

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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Sarah White Sees
Sarah White Sees

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.

todd
todd

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.

lisa
lisa

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 !!

Michelle
Michelle

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.

eve henley
eve henley

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

Brian Greene
Brian Greene

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

eve henley
eve henley

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.

patti
patti

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,

Lindley Pablo
Lindley Pablo

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!

Alaina
Alaina

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.

General Hospital

GH’s James Patrick Stuart Talks on Valentin’s Downfall and Potential Rise to Power

After all his bravado, machinations and lies to keep the woman he loves, and believing he was the rightful heir to the Cassadine fortune, suddenly it all came crashing down for Valentin Cassadine (James Patrick Stuart) on recent episodes of General Hospital.

Payback can be a bitch, but for Valentin; who’s past has been fraught with numerous physical and emotional tribulations since his childhood, he now finds himself at the lowest point in his life; losing Nina (Cynthia Watros) who’s now taken up with Jax (Ingo Rademacher), realizing he is the biological son of the evil Helena Cassadine (Constance Towers), and not Mikkos, and having all his best laid plans and misdeeds backfire.  (Remember, he shot and “killed” Nikolas, and set up the ruse that led Sasha to pretend she was Nina’s bio-daughter.)  Now, enter Nelle Benson (Chloe Lanier), who could very well hold the ticket, to Valentin’s rise to wealth and power all over again.

Michael Fairman TV chatted with James Patrick Stuart to get the lowdown on: those heavy and emotional scenes opposite Constance Towers, working with Cynthia Watros as his newest Nina, if Valentin might really kill Jax the next time he thinks about it, and what about a potential relationship between Anna (Finola Hughes) and Valentin?

Not many can play bad as good as James in this industry.  He does it so effortlessly and still brings out the humanity in the guy that has t-r-o-u-b-l-e written all over him.  Here’s what James had to share about all of Valentin’s recent dramatic moments, a tease of what’s to come, and much more.

Photo: JPI

Valentin’s world has imploded at the moment.  When did you initially find out that he was going to turn out to not be a true Cassadine heir?

JAMES:  Well, there were some clues dropped by Frank Valentini (executive producer, GH) back when we did the gallery auction where Helena’s portrait went up in flames.  Frank looked at me and goes, “Hey, Jack Nicholson it up.  Have some fun!  You’re not going to be feeling pretty good for a while.”  (Laughs)  I’m like, “Oh … what are the plans?”  He pulled me aside and goes, “Yeah, you’re going to lose Nina, but you’re going to try to take over ELQ.  That’s when I started to go, “Wait a minute!  That sounds to me like Valentin’s losing his money.”  (Laughs)  With the character of Nikolas (Marcus Coloma) coming back; it’s pretty great.  I think the writing was on the wall there.  I put it out on twitter the other day.  I said, “Look what they’ve done to my boy.”  Somebody chimed in, “They gave him a storyline!” (Laughs)

Who doesn’t love to see you, James Patrick Stuart, play tortured soul?  They audience loves to see you get the opportunity to go to those depths in your performances.

JAMES:  It’s been really interesting for me.  I’ve had a lifetime of playing bad guys because the line was always shorter. (Laughs)  Everybody wants to be Tom Cruise, but the Alan Rickman’s of it all, to me, were what was so interesting.  Early on, you play one dimensional kind of twisting of the mustache, tying a woman to the train tracks.  After a while, you start to watch the truly great actors.  They start to take you on a ride.  If you’re paying attention, you start to feel what it would be like to be that damaged, and that’s why you do it.  Then you start to see the vulnerability. To me, I thought, “This is a great time in my life because I’m ready to do that.” A lot of people say, “I don’t understand.  I feel like that makes no sense. because why would I root for a person who behaves like this?” and that to me, I feel is the greatest compliment of all.

So much happened recently to Valentin in one fell swoop; he overhears Nina telling Ava (Maura West) she kissed Jax, then he envisions shooting Jax and then he is drinking himself into oblivion and he gets a “visit” from Helena!  But … the scenes between Valentin and Helena really summed up the bitter truth for him, wouldn’t you say?

JAMES:  Yes.  In the “Helena” scenes, it all basically is revealed.  It all comes down in a moment where he “sees” her.  I think he realizes with the DNA test; he’s not the person he thought he was, but he certainly had no idea that he had her blood in his veins.  The truly tragic moment of the evening is when it dawns on him that he has a daughter with Helena’s blood in her veins.  Now, he would kill her a thousand times over in that moment.  He can’t do it.  He’s fighting phantoms.  That’s the bottom below the bottom, and things got worse than he ever thought they would get.

Courtesy/ABC

Does Valentin have any idea then, who his biological father could be?

JAMES:  I don’t think so.  I don’t believe so.  I know I don’t.  I think once he realizes that Helena is in fact the mother, I think he’d rather just go into oblivion.  I think at that point, he’s out of answers.  Enter Alexis (Nancy Lee Grahn) …which is wonderful because I think the world of Nancy, and she saves the day.   Alexis basically talks him out of hurting himself, telling him to count his blessings that he is not a Cassadine, etc, which was a really sweet moment.

I assume, when you have this kind of material to play, it must be exhausting, but exhilarating at the same time?

JAMES:  I think that’s exactly right.  As an actor, I think you want to do this stuff.  Maura West and I compare notes all the time.  I think it can be kind of emotionally draining.  You do feel it, and I felt it when I had spent a lot of time with Nina and Valentin, and when the actresses changed, and we brought Cynthia Watros in.  I worked twice as hard to make sure that Cynthia’s landing was as easy as possible, and I really grew attached to the Nina and Valentin connection.  So, when Jax steps in, Cynthia’s love life means nothing to me, I don’t care about that, but Nina’s love life means a lot to me!  And it bums me out, and I don’t know that I’ll actually be watching any future love scenes between them as much as I love them both!  I have a deep attachment to the Valentin connection to Nina.  So, the lines get burred because we just play these characters so long.

Photo: JPI

What was it like sharing those tough scenes with Constance? No one can play icy, evil villainess like her … and yet in real life, she is such a gracious and kind-hearted woman.

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JAMES:  In real life, Constance is such a sweetheart, and she’s so grateful to be there.  She was so ready to work, and rehearse, and play, and find the stuff, and she was great.  I’d been in scenes with her before.  Last time, we didn’t really talk to each other.  I was with the hump.  I was being Valentin pre-surgery.  It was some sort of moment in a graveyard, but this time we actually got to interact with each other.

You look at Valentin, and he’s not had the greatest life.  Do you bring his entire back-story into your performance; such as when he was deformed with the hump and how he had to literally reconstruct his life both in the physical and in emotional ways for many years?

JAMES:  Absolutely.  It’s the brokenness that he’s making choices from.  He was never truly and authentic person to begin with which is why his love fell apart.  He’s always been faking.  He’s always been putting on a show.  That’s not sustainable in matters of the heart.  It was unbelievably easy for Jax to swoop in, because it was inevitable that things were going to fall apart.  Of course, that anger and that brokenness were what lead him to want to kill Jax.  There’s no question.  He was prepared to do that.  If you look in the eyes in the fantasy sequence in the shooting, he just wanted to watch him die.  He wanted to watch the light go out in Jax’s eyes.  He was so furious … and even more tragic is … that was all he could think of, and somehow, he realized in that moment that wouldn’t work, because he’d lose his daughter.

Photo: JPI

Anna and Finn (Michael Easton) just kind of busted up.  Do you think Anna and Valentin will hookup? There is a connection and a history between the two of them whenever they seem to be in proximity of one another.

JAMES:  Personally, I’m waiting for that.  I hope so!  There is a finesse and elegance to that woman, and not only that, there is an effortless to the connection between Valentin and Anna, if one can say that about one’s own coupling.  I love to look at it!  I think we go together like a wink and a smile.  I just find that chemistry really great.  I think that’s mostly Finola, though.  She can probably have chemistry with most anything.

Valentin was going to leave Port Charles with Charlotte (Scarlett Fernandez), after Nikolas revealed all and the fallout began.  Interestingly enough, it was Anna who came to Valentin’s side and tried to talk him down from fleeing with his daughter and showed such compassion for him!

JAMES:  Wasn’t that great?  She was the one who got him.  She was the one who was able to calm the beast.  There was no one else he would have listened to.  In the moment in the police station, after Charlotte had been kidnapped, and there is that moment where Anna has that bruise, I thought it was such a tender moment.  I just said, “If I kiss my finger and touch your wound?” and she’s like, “Do it.”  It was just this moment where we had been bitter rivals and enemies for so long, but he just adores her so much it’s undeniable that he sees her wounded and wants to make it better.  It’s floating out there waiting to be done.  I know that everybody knows it.  It’s just a matter of what the right away to go about in the writing would be.

Photo: JPI

So, you’ve worked opposite two acting dynamos in the role of Nina – Michelle Stafford and now, Cynthia Watros.  Was the transition difficult for you when Cynthia came to GH?

JAMES:  It wasn’t.  It was scary because Michelle Stafford wasn’t just one in a million, I mean, she is one of a kind.  The last thing in the world that I would ever want to consider doing myself was recast that actress.  So, my deal was (and I’ve said this to Cynthia) I said, “I have no control over this.  All I can do is make the landing as easy as possible for Cynthia.”  We did a lot of photoshoots together, and I had flowers waiting for her, and I did everything possible to make sure that she knew that she had a friend and that she had somebody that was going to make it as easy as possible.  It was rough because a lot of the trolls on social media were just awful to her… just brutal, and she goes, “I have thick skin.  I can take it,” and then a week later, she goes, “I’ve closed all my social media accounts!”  (Laughs)  It’s been fun to watch those guys turn around and go, “You have a really special person.”  That wedding stuff was just incredible!  She came so prepared and she knocked it out of the park.  Cynthia has been wonderful.  I love them both.  I love her the reddest, and I love Michelle the bluest, and together I love them the purplest.  (Laughs)

Photo: JPI

It’s interesting that all the women in his life such as Anna and Nina, all have a soft-spot for Valentin; even though they don’t necessarily want to be with him.  These ladies are just drawn to this dysfunctional guy.

JAMES:  Don’t you think?  Is it that you want to help him, you want to fix him, you see the potential, you want to help him despite himself?  I think that’s what it is.

Courtesy/ABC

Do you think Valentin’s still going to try to win Nina back, or is that done? 

JAMES:  I don’t know.  I do know that the Valentin I know will never shake Nina, and when he loves, he loves forever.  He can be simultaneously in love with Anna whenever she’s near.  I don’t believe he ever truly got over Nina hearing his story and his brokenness and still loving him twice as hard.  Years ago, there was a moment where he said to her the stuff that he’s never said, and Michelle beautifully kissed my tears away and said, “You’re beautiful” to me.   I think in that moment his fate was sealed.  I think he knew that this was his woman forever.  So, I just don’t think that that goes away.  I think he will always carry a torch for Nina, for sure.

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Do you see Valentin becoming darker and darker now that he had found out he is Helena’s offspring?

JAMES:  Well, yes and no.  I remember watching these scenes and we’ve done a lot of this stuff, and you know how easy it is to sort of go, “Let’s go dark, let’s go dark, let’s go more dark,” and after a while, I go, “You know, maybe he does learn something.  Maybe there’s hope for this guy after all.”  Of course, more bad stuff will happen to him, and he will do more bad stuff, because that’s just who he is.  A leopard can’t change his spots, and those are his survival instincts, but there are some new colors, and it’s all a direct result of all of just these horrible things that have happened to him… mostly learning that he is part Helena and he can’t undo that.

Photo: JPI

We saw that Nelle (Chloe Lanier) called and then goes to see Valentin, because she wants to sell her shares of ELQ.  So, obviously he has the potential to become really rich here which is what would give him his power back.  How do you think that will go over with the rest of the Quartermaines? (Laughs)

JAMES:  (Laughs) A lot of the Quartermaine actors have been asking me that in the hallways of General Hospital!  Isn’t that interesting how he’ll just sort of switch families? (Laughs)

Of all the people, just as Valentin’s life is in the gutter and he is at his lowest, who should show up with a sort of lifeline, Nelle! How will he go about attempting to gain control of ELQ?

JAMES:  Valentin knows he has to get the majority shares to gain a control of the company, and he has to do it fast before people see that he’s doing it.  So, that’s where Michael E. Knight (Martin Gray) has been.  He’s gallivanting the states rapidly accumulating shares.  (Laughs)

Photo: JPI

It’s been so fun seeing you and Michael Knight on-screen and on a daytime soap together again, as so many remember you as Tad Martin and Will Cortlandt on All My Children.  How has it been getting the chance to work with Michael?

JAMES:  My God, are you kidding me?  He taught me!  He’s the guy who taught me.  I didn’t know how to do this.  Nobody instinctively knows… this is a very unique art form.  It’s more Jazz than anything else, and he showed me how to do it!  Walt Willey (Ex-Jack, AMC) showed me how to do my hair, and Michael Knight taught me how to break down a script!  And, what’s so funny is he is still doing it.  In a scene on GH, when he threw in that line, “From now on, you pay in advance,” I just about fell on the floor!  I thought, “There he is!  That’s the Michael I’ve always known and loved.”

Photo: JPI

Who would have thought that you guys would get to share scenes like that again on soaps?  You just never know in this life who may be wind up back in your orbit.

JAMES:  It’s incredible.  That’s what we say all of the time… “Who would have thought?”  You could never plan something like this and that we’d still be doing it at this point.

Now with Lulu (Emme Rylan) learning that Valentin is not a Cassadine, and Nina apparently moving on to a relationship with Jax, what do you think it will mean for their relationship in raising their daughter, Charlotte?

JAMES:  I think in the short-term, Valentin’s shelved any ideas of getting her out of Charlotte’s life.  He’s sort of putting out the fires in his own personal life.  Charlotte needs a mother in her life, and he’s quite willing to share custody as they always have been.  She seems to be looking at this as an opportunity to paint him as an unfit father, and she wants full-time custody.  So, we’re back to that again.  It looks to me like Lulu is kicking Valentin while he’s down.

Photo: JPI

It was so nice to see you, and some of your GH co-stars such as: Steve Burton (Jason) and Maurice Benard (Sonny) show up for Y&R’s Eric Braeden’s (Victor Newman) 40th anniversary on set celebration at CBS.  It was quite the event; speakers galore, and so many from our industry and beyond in attendance.

JAMES:  It was pretty profound.  Eric has always been kind to me.  I only worked with him on one movie, a western, called The Man Who Came Back, and that was probably 12 years ago.  He has been so complimentary of me in interviews and in his book.  So, if he does that with me, I can only imagine how many dear, dear friendships he has.  So, the fact that everybody showed up like that from the president of CBS Entertainment to local councilmen, and that they were willing to do be there for 2 hours was really proof of how much they love him.  Peter Bergman (Jack, Y&R), who I don’t even think was working that day, came in for it and spoke at the event. There was so much respect shown for Eric and what he has meant to this medium.

Photo: JPI

Your album The Apple Tree was so well-received, and everyone always loves seeing you get the opportunity to sing on General Hospital as well.  Will you continue to put out more music in 2020?

JAMES:  Yeah, that’s the plan.  I have another one that I’m working on.  I have a bunch of songs.  I’m in no rush to get it out.  Unfortunately, I lost Glen Roven, who wrote the cello part for Book of Love, passed away right after the Nurses’ Ball where I played Book of Love, which is really heartbreaking, and then, Michael Sherwood, who helped me with a number of songs on the record passed away right after The Apple Tree came out.  So, I’m a little gun-shy.  But, I’m planning on having something out by December for Christmas.

In closing, what would you say the fans should look forward to in the weeks ahead from Valentin?

JAMES: Look forward to that moment where Valentin is so low that there’s nowhere to go but up!  The comeback is going to be one for the books.

So, what do you think of how Valentin’s life hit rock bottom?  Do you think he will ever win Nina back? Do you think he will takeover ELQ? Share your thoughts on James’ recent performances and his thoughts contained in this interview via the comment section below.

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Days Of Our Lives

Wally Kurth Talks DAYS Dramatic Twists That Gave Justin a Heartbreaking Story, a New Romance, and Unforgettable Moments

If you have been watching recent episodes of Days of our Lives, soap opera vet, Wally Kurth has been turning out the performances of his daytime career.  In one of the most heartbreaking weeks we can remember, DAYS took us back to ‘Mother’s Day’ one year ago, prior to their time jump, to show us how Justin’s wife, Adrienne (Judi Evans) died following a car crash, it’s aftermath, and assorted other key plots for the characters of Salem.

For decades, Wally Kurth along with Daytime Emmy winner, Judi Evans created the on-screen love story of Justin and Adrienne on DAYS, and while they were off the canvas for quite some time, they remained one of the most popular duos in the history of the show.  Saying goodbye to one daytime love story opened the door for another, and now Kurth has been paired with another Daytine Emmy winner, Mary Beth Evans (Kayla).  The romance of Justin and Kayla is really going to be tested with the recent return of Stephen Nichols who seems to have Steve’s body overtaken by the mind and soul of Stefano DiMera.   What will happen if, and when Steve, Kayla, and Justin enter into a romantic triangle?

But as daytime viewers know, Wally is not only recognizable for his role as DAYS Justin but that of General Hospital’s Ned Quartermaine.  Kurth has the distinction of being on two separate soaps (sometimes even airing on them at the same time), playing two different fan favorite roles.

Michael Fairman TV chatted with Wally about: being handed the ball in the emotional storyline on DAYS that has had him acting his heart out alongside Chandler Massey (Will) and Freddie Smith (Sonny) that could just land him a Daytime Emmy nomination in just a few months.  Plus, giving us a glimpse of what is was like to tape all of those tear-filled scenes, his reaction to his latest romantic pairing, and having the gift of acting on two soaps at this stage of his career.  Here’s what Wally shared.

Photo: JPI

Let me just say; I’m all cried out watching your performances now.  I can’t cry anymore. (Laughs)  Did you watch everything back from the week-long flashback to Mother’s Day that changed the course of so many lives in Salem, and in particular, with the death of Adrienne?

WALLY:  Oh, yeah.  It was hard to watch.  It was interesting because the show must have been long as there were a couple of scenes that I was actually looking forward to seeing and they didn’t air.  One was on the Thursday episode and the other was on the Friday episode.  I remember seeing something about Matt Ashford (Jack) not having his scene air with Jack and Adrienne, and I wanted to tell him: “Hey, it was all around.”  It was probably just a little too much material to get it all in.

What do you remember doing that didn’t air?  Was Justin in even more tears?  (Laughs)

WALLY:  If you can believe it! (Laughs)  There was one scene with Sonny at her gurney that I really broke down.   There was a scene on Friday after Will leaves.  It’s a scene between Sonny and Justin talking about what Will had done that I thought was pretty intense, but that’s alright.  It’s part of the deal.  Shows run long and they’ve got to make decisions.  It’s all good.

Photo: JPI

What do you remember about the day you had to shoot those death scenes with Judi Evans?

WALLY:  It’s interesting.  I made a decision that I’m not going to go about those scenes with the normal method: thinking about something really, truly terrible in my life because first of all, I’ve never lost a woman I’ve been with for 30 years.  So, I decided just to use my imagination and use the words in the script, and just go there.  It was certainly a lot more fun.  I didn’t second-guess myself.  The words were beautifully written, and I just sort of played the scene; rather than try to regurgitate some kind of past memory and/or try to imagine one of my children dying or my wife dying.

You didn’t do “substitution”!

WALLY:  Yeah, I didn’t substitute.  I guess for people who don’t understand this kind of method in acting; you can substitute things in your real life, your personal life to help you feel something called upon to do in a script, and I’ve done that before.  I’ve done that a lot, actually.  I did that when I was first on the show with Judi.  But, on that day when Adrienne died, I didn’t.

Photos: NBC

It was so sad, and when they had the clip of a young Wally as Justin, meeting Adrienne for the first time, it was a sweet moment.  Justin sees her crying and is apparently smitten.  Did you see that flashback?  

WALLY:  It’s a famous one!  We got to talk about it, and the handkerchief in the scenes when she died.  I think in the scene that was cut, there was more about the handkerchief and that I gave her the handkerchief and that I needed a handkerchief now and Sonny gave me his handkerchief.  Years ago, I remember Al Rabin (Ex-director, DAYS) saying, “When you see her, she’s unlike anybody you’ve ever seen before.  That’s it,” and I went, “What?” and he said, “Yeah.  That’s it.”  So, I said, “Okay, she’s the one,” and I went in and just played that.  Like, “I don’t know who this woman is.  She’s crying on the bench.  She looks pretty miserable, but I’ll just try to talk to her” and that was Justin and Adrienne’s love story: coming in like a white knight and rescuing her.

You and Judi had worked together as Justin and Adrienne on and off for decades.  So, is there any sadness in saying goodbye to that on-screen relationship?

WALLY:  Yes, but in between it all we took like a 19-year break.  So, it’s not like John (Drake Hogestyn) and Marlena (Deidre Hall) who have been on continuously.  We fell back into that very comfortably.  It was 1987 when we were doing that scene at the park where she is crying.  Hello! That was 33 years ago!  And … oh, my God … the leather tie, the hair.  I had serious hair.  I remember that. (Laughs)

You had serious hair.  But … we all did!

WALLY:  It took longer just blowing my hair out than getting on make-up to hit the set.  I remember that little tweed jacket, and the black leather shoes.

Photo: JPI

What were we all thinking back then!? (Laughs)  It must have been hard for Judi on the day while you were grieving over her body?

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WALLY:  I remember Judi told me it was really hard for her, and I can understand it.  She’s such a good actress who really listens, so she’s always really affected.  We can be running lines in the makeup room, and if it’s an emotional scene, she can start crying.  So, she’s obviously really in touch with her emotions.  It was really hard for her to listen to Freddie, and me, and Matt and Mary Beth, and everyone tell her how much they’re going to miss Adrienne.  She was so good and professional.  She just kept her eyes closed all the way through the breaks.  She didn’t sit there and talk to us in between.  Probably, in her mind, she’s just trying to play dead.

She told me in the interview feature that I did for the DOOL app, that she intentionally didn’t want to see you and Freddie before those scenes.  

WALLY:  Yeah, that’s true.  I’m just thinking about that, and it really did help because we could just stay in that place and she never jumped up and went, “Hey!”   That’s just her professionalism.

Photo: JPI

When you originally found out that DAYS was going to kill-off Adrienne, and that they were going to do a time jump which paired Justin and Kayla, romantically, what was your reaction to all of that?  Was it like, “Oh, story for me!?” and/or did it make you feel bad about the character casualty in order to make that happen?

WALLY:  I guess, selfishly, you’re only thinking of yourself – when you’re selfish, and I did think like, “Wow.  That sounds like an amazing story,” and then I’m like, “Oh, well that sucks for Judi, and that’s going to be kind of crazy,” but then I also realized quickly (because I know Judi, and I know how much she loved playing Bonnie) that if they choose to bring her back, they could bring her back as Bonnie.  But yes, I thought about that as well, but mainly, I thought that this is something new.  As an actor and as an artist, you want a new challenge.  For Judi and me, we were just sort of playing the two greatest parents to Sonny.  Pretty much, that was our role.  We were happily married.  We hadn’t really had a story in about a year.  I mean, I’m mister lawyer in town.   At least for me, and it turns out, this has been an amazing story to play.  I have to say; never in a million years did I imagine Justin with Kayla.  So, it wasn’t like I was campaigning for it.

I know in daytime that sometimes actors campaign to be paired with certain actors on their respective soaps,

WALLY:  Yeah, so I think we were both surprised.  I worked with Mary Beth on General Hospital and of course, we are dear friends off set.  We thought that was probably going to be the hardest part, because we’ve been friends for so long, and it’s kind of nice that when you do a love story that you do have to kind of go there, and feel comfortable, and be excited, and it worked out.  I thought we both brought out qualities in our characters that really conveyed that a really good friendship morphed into a true love.  Justin and Kayla helped each other through this difficult, difficult time, and then…

… Then Stevano shows up in Salem!

WALLY:  Yup!   People fall in love.  That’s what happened, and then of course Stephen Nichols comes back, and all hell breaks loose.  I have to say, the audience is in for a really fun 6 months coming up.

Photo: JPI

What have you thought of Stephen Nichols portrayal as Stefano?

WALLY:  He has been amazing!   I told Stephen, and he appreciates it.   I don’t think anyone could do it as well as Stephen’s doing it.  I mean, when he blew up the other day in front of Anna (Leann Hunley), he sounded like Stefano.  He sounded like Joe Mascolo (Ex-Stefano)!  I think he’s done a really good job of pulling it off.  Only a really gifted actor could pull it off, and I believe it when he plays it.

You made a comment on Twitter to me about “the boys” (Freddie Smith and Chandler Massey), after I named the three of you Power Performance of the Week.  What can you say about Freddie in the scenes where he has to say goodbye to his mother, Adrienne, and then Chandler for his scenes with both Freddie and you in the aftermath, where he tells Sonny and Justin he was the responsible party that caused the crash that took Adrienne’s life?

WALLY:  Freddie went for it, and you have to.  He did, and I was so proud of him.   When Will tells Sonny that he was driving the car and he caused it, they were so in the moment.  They didn’t rush their emotions.  They took their time, and it was just totally believable, and not a false move, and then when I came in, it was just a really nice scene between the three of us, because I was checking in with Sonny, and then I was checking in with Will, and things took turn from there and it felt really solid.  I was very proud of it.

Courtesy/NBC

Then, when Justin tears into Will for the death of his wife, and Will goes, “I wish it would’ve been me.”  It was so intense; everyone was good in that scene.

WALLY:  I wanted to send out a tweet to everybody from that episode who were                       wonderful in it including: Stacy Haiduk (Kristen), Eric Martsolf (Brady), Paul Telfer (Paul), and Casey Moss (JJ)…

Oh, my Gosh, and then Casey was so heartbreaking learning of Haley’s (Thia Megia) death!

WALLY:  Good lord.  Three deaths in one day!

You’ve been on soap operas for a long time.   It was a lot to take in as the viewer, but it made for a riveting and can’t-miss week of episodes.

WALLY:  It was amazing that the show pulled it off.  It could have been really too much.  I thought that the production pulled it out.  It wasn’t too much.  That’s probably why scenes were cut, too.  It might have just been too much; all of that just grieving over dead bodies.

What is the reaction you’re seeing to all of this on social media?  The fans have been very favorable to the performances.  You’re in such an interesting position, because you’re on two soaps (DAYS and GH) and you’re able to have these two distinct and different characters to play. What’s that been like that you’ve been able to bounce back and forth for so long in your career from Salem to Port Charles, and back again?

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WALLY:  I couldn’t have planned it, obviously.  It just worked out that way; having created both roles, one 33 years ago and one 29 years ago.  I’m sort of integral on General Hospital because I’m sort of the lone patriarchal Quartermaine, and they want to keep that family going. So, that has been really kind of cool that I can keep breathing air into that legacy, and they’re recently brought in Amanda Setton as Ned’s daughter, Brook Lynn, too.  Then of course, with Days of Our Lives, they brought me back on as an attorney in 2009, and that was really out of the blue.  I hadn’t been on the show in 19 years.  So, to get a call to come back and be an attorney in town was just great, and at the time, I needed a job.  I kind of have to say, I owe Ken Corday (executive producer, DAYS) twice in my lifetime. He hired me as an actor when honestly; I could really use a job.  My first job was Days of Our Lives, and I was driving around in a moped then.

Photo: JPI

Speaking of Amanda Setton (Ex-Kimberly, One Life to Live) how do you think she is doing with the part of GH’s Brook Lynn?

WALLY:  She’s great.  She’s experienced, and nowadays you really have to be experienced on soaps.  We go so fast.  Unfortunately, the newbies take some time and have to get on track, but it’s a world of one takes and we go so quickly.  It really helps to have an actor who has done it before and isn’t daunted by the speed.

Speaking of keeping the legacy of the Q’s going, the one and only Jane Elliot recently came back to GH to reprise her role of Tracy Quartermaine. What was it like having her back on set to work with?  

WALLY:  It was great!  I hope she’ll make some future returns.  She had a good time.  The show is really much better with her.  I was just thrilled.

Photo: JPI

You must be grateful that Justin and Ned are still alive and kicking!

WALLY:  I love working on Days, and I love the crew.  I love the cast.  Both casts and crews from both soaps are fantastic.  I feel like the luckiest actor in town.  I don’t complain, and I won’t complain.  It’s interesting, when I was an actor on one show, I would complain, and I hear other actors on shows complaining about one thing or another.  I just don’t have a right to complain.  On my days off, I used to be the guy who would look at my lines the day before.  I probably could still do that, but I don’t want to.  I like spending a heck of a lot of time with my scripts so that when I go in there, I really know it.  I have a lot of different ways to play with it, and I get to be creative with it, and I pick that.  I don’t take that for granted.  So, every day when I get to work, I’m excited to be there, and I put a lot into it.

Photo: JPI

So, do you think we can foreshadow you winning a Daytime Emmy this year, or next year, or both for the performances we have seen and those yet to come?

WALLY:  (Laughs) I feel like I’ve already won an Emmy by having two jobs.  Honestly, I’m having the time of my life.

Do you think the audience will see Justin grieving still for Adrienne? With the time jump, in theory, we missed a year of that part of the mourning process.

WALLY:  You will see it.  But yes, you’re right.  You don’t see Justin the first three months, or the week after, or the weeks after.  However, more comes up for him that I think  will be very satisfying to the audience.  I know it’s been very shocking to the audience to see where Justin is at.  Most of the complaints I get are like, “Really?  It’s been three months, and you’re already making out with Kayla?”  People were kind of offended by that.  By the way, my wife is also offended by that.  (Laughs)  She was like, “You’d better wait longer than three months!

Photo: JPI

Did your wife watch your scenes when Adrienne died?

WALLY:  Yes, she did.   She liked them.   But she would say something like, “It’s hard to see you crying over another woman.”  I know she doesn’t really enjoy me making out with another woman and saying how much I love her.  I don’t usually show her all of the really romantic stuff, but I thought she’d be okay with the death scenes, and she was, but I am sure it was kind of strange for her.  She is a lawyer, not an actor.

Since she’s a lawyer, does she ever give you legalese tips for when you have courtroom scenes on DAYS?

WALLY:  She does, and I’m usually like, “Is there anything I can cut here?” and she usually goes, “Honestly, no.  You’d better say it.  I think it’s honestly pretty well-written.  You’d better say it as written. It’s pretty accurate.”

Courtesy/NBC

The other moment I wanted to bring up to you that was like the “perfect scene” is when Justin visited Will in prison and told Will to not give up on life. I think that was such a beautiful scene and performance.  I hope that is in your Emmy submission.

WALLY:  Thank you.  I was very proud of that.  I appreciate that, Michael.  I know you watch a lot of these, and, it is in my Emmy submissionIt was beautifully written.  I think the writers have really handed me just some wonderful stories to tell, and wonderful dialogue, and I used every word of it, and I feel very blessed.  As actors … you can work your ass off, but you really do also need stories to sometimes shine, you know?  I thought the writers really gave me a lot of great material to work with.

Photo: JPI

If they keep giving you more material like this every week you’ll be named the Power Performance of the Week, and then everyone will think something corrupt is going down! (Laughs) 

WALLY: They’ll think I’m paying you off, Michael! (Laughs)

So, what have you thought of Wally’s performances? Were you surprised at the Justin and Kayla pairing? Were you shocked at Adrienne’s death and what went down? Comment below.

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Eastsiders

Van Hansis and Kit Williamson Talk The Final Season of ‘EastSiders’, Their Journey As Thom and Cal, & The Impact The Series Has Made

It captivated the LGBTQ audience, expanded from there, and was a passion project and labor of love for series creator, Kit Williamson (Cal) along with his husband and co-producer, John Halbach as they tirelessly brought the digital drama EastSiders to life.  Over 4 seasons (and 7 years in and of production) fans of the series were brought: riveting characters, real, witty, and intelligent writing, and beautiful performances that leave you either crying, laughing, or just plain in awe of their depth.

Williamson brought in As the World Turns favorite, Van Hansis (Ex-Luke, ATWT), from the beginning of the creation of EastSiders, to play his on-screen other half, Thom, and over four seasons we have seen Cal and Thom’s relationship grow apart, come together, have a very open sexual relationship, deal with addiction issues, and anxiety in the day and age we live in; while giving us a glimpse of a set of characters who all are struggling with something … or trying to love someone, or just trying to love themselves.

In four seasons, EastSiders went from a show on YouTube to now a popular series streaming on Netflix.  And as season four of the series was finally released back in December of last year, fans of the show were clamoring to know if Thom and Cal will have their happily ever after? Well, if you saw the emotional final episode, you kind of know the answer to that, or do we? But just when you thought EastSiders was a fait accompli, Williamson and company released a behind-the-scenes documentary of the season that is also a must-see! (Check it out below).  And this week, EastSiders scored nominations in the Queerties Awards for the Best in LGBTQ media and culture. Van Hansis scored a nod in the Digital Performance category along with EastSiders cast member, Stephen Guarino, and the series is nominated in the Digital Series category. You can vote for the Queerties now through February 21st here.

Michael Fairman TV chatted with Van and Kit in a full circle moment for all of us.  We conducted the first interview these two talented gents ever did to publicize the series seven years ago, and we couldn’t let EastSiders go without one last look, one last goodbye, and to talk to the heart and soul of the story itself.  So here, we put a bow on it, and chat it up with Van and Kit in this very special EastSiders wrap-up.

Photo: EastSiders

So, 7 years ago, the three of us met at a coffee shop in West Hollywood, California and you had this little show called Eastsiders, and we do your first interview ever about the show.  Now, 7 years later it’s grown into what it has become.  What did you think of this whole journey from the beginning to the end?  Did you have any idea that EastSiders would take off like this, and did it exceed your hopes and dreams?

KIT:  Personally, I had no idea that the show could have this many lives.  I really just set out to make something cool and to put it on the internet.  At every stage of this, I wondered, “Is this it?” and it’s been wild to see how it’s grown.  As I’m thinking back on it, you are right! It was the very first interview that we did with the show … period.

VAN:  I was thinking the exact same thing.  It was!

Photo: EastSiders

When artists in any field create something, you never know how it’s going to be perceived by the public.  I think your perseverance and how you went about it was so smart that you garnered an audience worldwide.  So, what are your thoughts about how the series wrapped up with season four?  Because I had heard, Kit, that you extended the storylines.  Is that true that the season was longer than what you intended it to be?  

KIT:  So, we ended up having the penultimate episode be an hour long because I just kept writing new scenes for people and discovering things on set, and I think that kind of speaks to all of our desire to not say goodbye to the characters.  It’s a very long goodbye, you know?  Also, I can’t imagine getting to the second to last episode of a series that I was watching, and if I loved it, wanting the episodes to go by quicker.  So, it felt like something that I could tactically do at the end there.  Van, what about you?  I know in the behind-the-scenes documentary that we filmed, stuff like, not even knowing what a web series even was when we first started doing this, came up! (Laughs)

VAN:  Oh, yeah! (Laughs) When we started I was sent the script from an acting teacher.  I loved the script.  I knew I wanted to be a part of it no matter what. I had no idea what it would be.  To see what it’s become is amazing, and to be a part of what it’s become is amazing, and that is literally all mostly Kit.  He has done so much with this, and he’s put so much of himself into it.  I feel fortunate to see some of the behind the scenes stuff that sometimes you don’t get to see as an actor on a show.  We need more Kit Williamson’s in our lives, because it takes someone like that to make this happen and to make it go worldwide from literally YouTube.  So, as far as the ending …  I love where it ends off and where all of the characters sort of end up.

Photo: EastSiders

Kit, are you ready to do an EastSiders reboot?  Are we coming back to visit Thom and Cal 5 years later?

KIT:  I have said that I don’t know that I’m done with these characters yet.  Van and I have had conversations about that.  I think that the show is definitely finished is this format.  Trying to shoot and independently produce, 6 half-hour, ensemble events like this, and to do it right, and to keep growing and scaling it, is just not really sustainable, but it’s been a hell of a ride.  I’m glad that we went on it.  To speak to what Van was just talking about; I really think it’s just alchemy.  It’s a set of perfect circumstances coming together that we all met at the right times in our lives, and Van Hansis, in particular, is the spark that ignites the show.  I don’t think that the show would have had the success that it did if: we hadn’t had the chemistry that we had, and if Van’s fan base hadn’t gotten so excited about the show. To be able to kind of grow and create something that people are excited to see is really empowering.  Knowing that there is somebody out there who wants it, who is waiting for it, is gratifying.

Photo: EastSiders

Van, what did you think about Thom’s journey throughout season four?  The audience is like, “Please ask him already.  Pop the question,” and Thom is holding onto that ring!  Do you think he realized that he had what he wanted all along in Cal?  

VAN:  I think in the end he does, but I also think he doesn’t know where that journey is going to go.  Very much like … he knows that what he has is something golden and precious, but I think that he doesn’t know how to hold onto something like that.  Throughout the series, with Thom and Cal especially, they know that they love each other, but they don’t really know how to love each other in the best way.  I don’t know if that story is fully finished yet, but I think that they’re really very much on their way to figuring out what it means … and what it means especially to them.  I think especially as queer people, you don’t have a set of outliers that are given to you, especially, queer people our age.  I think the whole series has been not just about Thom and Cal, but every character in the show figuring out what is their relationship and to be able to create their own, and not give a care about what society thinks of them, which is really kind of fun.

KIT:  One of the most recurring themes of the show in terms of motif is cartography: drawing the map of the world together as a couple.  We had that Daniel Zaitchik song at the end of season 2, Map of the World, that also reprises this season.  There’s a lot of discussion of directions and destinations that I think is something I really wanted to get at because I think as queer people, we often don’t have the benefit of being able to just go down the road laid out for us by our parents.  We have to chart our own course.

Photo” EastSiders

I was watching all the comments on social media, and do you realize how many people said (including myself) that they were in tears and needed hankies at the ending of EastSiders? They just were a ball of mess at the conclusion of the show; which speaks to the investment we all had with the characters.  Did you see how people were so emotional and how they were reaching back to you? 

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KIT:  It’s been so cool.  I’ve gotten hundreds and hundreds of messages.

VAN:  Yes!  I also want to go back to Kit.  That’s his writing.  There are so many amazing shows that go out with a whimper.  I have followed so many shows that I absolutely love, and the final episode comes about, and I’m like, “Wait.  That’s it?  That’s what we get?”  Glen Weldon on Pop Culture Happy Hour, which is a podcast I follow, he talked about how well it stuck the landing.  Everybody gets a sense of an ending.  Most of them are happy, or all of them are happy actually, and for these characters, you’ve stuck around with them since we were on YouTube, and the audience deserves to see their favorite character have some sort of hope.

KIT:  Yeah!  I like to say happy with an asterisk.  An Eastsiders happy ending is a little different from a traditional happy ending.   They all have things that they still need to work through, but I didn’t want to leave any character in a sense of uncertainty.  I wanted to make sure that all of the loose ends of the story we’ve been telling the last 7 years were tied up.  I do think that there is definitely more story there, but I do think that’s life.  Everybody’s story continues past what you are allowed to see.

Was your final scene together that you taped the proposal in the club, or was this shot out of order?

KIT:  Van’s last scene was actually the scene with Richard (Bryan Batt) in episode 5, when they’re reflecting on everything.

VAN:  That’s a good last scene to film.  I had to come back last January to film just the material with him and with Traci Lords. So, no, our last scene together was not the proposal, it was the scene at the restaurant together towards the end,

KIT:  Yeah, the restaurant itself.  We did that out of order.  We had to shoot the bathroom scene where our characters have our big come to Jesus moment.

Those scenes were great.  Traci Lords was wonderful, by the way.

VAN:  Oh, she’s so good.  I love her.

KiT:  The scene that really gets me the most this season was Cal and his mother in the bed, and the discussion they had between them.

Photo: Eastsiders

When you watched back the ending with the proposal, what did you think?

VAN:  I thought it was great.  I posted something on Instagram like, “I get to be in a romcom!”

KIT:  It’s your Drew Barrymore moment!

VAN:  It was!  That’s what I wrote!  It’s my Drew Barrymore moment.  I’ve never gotten to do something that joyful.  Kit, I have a question for you.  Was some of that confetti in the final scene CGI or was all of that there?

KIT:  It was all there!

VAN:  Really!?  I don’t remember.  I was just so deep into your eyes that I don’t remember all of that confetti falling on my face.  It looks amazing.

KIT:  It was at the end of the night.   We only got one shot at that scene.  That was one take, and it ended up perfect.

Photo: EastSiders

 

In season four, you really expanded Jeremy’s role.  Matthew McKelligon was wonderful in the story you provided him.

KIT:  Yeah!  I really have tried with all of the characters to subvert expectations.  With Willam Belli (Douglas) and Stephen Guarino’s (Quincy) characters, their introduced as kind of the commedia clowns and then revealed to be the lovers, and with Matt’s character, he’s introduced as the “other woman”.  He’s literally called “Jezebel” all throughout the first season and then starting in season 2.  I think a lot of people were probably surprised that we are still following this character.  Jeremy doesn’t just disappear from the story when he stops sleeping with Cal and Thom.  I think to be able to follow his trajectory as he’s going on a radically different path than I think he even expected was really fun for me … and for Matt.

Photo: EaatSiders

Kit, a moment I recall on your social media posts, was when you said you’d just watched the sex scenes you were in and you were like, “I hope my mother doesn’t see this.”  Were you really embarrassed?

KIT:  Yeah, I did a reaction video when I watched it.   I will be honest.  You disassociate when you’re editing something because you’re looking at it as a frame-to-frame perspective, and then I had a little distance from it and watched it on Netflix for the first time, and that was the first time it really sunk in that I was like, “Oh, that’s a sex montage starring me.”

Van, when you were seeing the story of EastSiders progress through the years, and how Thom and Cal were sleeping around and with multiple partners, did you ever have a moment of, “What’s happening here?” Or, were you like, “Oh … cool!?”

VAN:  That started in the 2nd season, but I wasn’t like scandalized or anything by it.  What I love about the show, and what I love about the 4th season especially is that there are basically 4 narratives of gay male relationships, like queer all encompassing, but specifically looking at gay men.  Each one is different, and I think if you are in this community, I think you’ve seen these types of relationships, and you fall into one, or you don’t, or you fall between them.  So, I wasn’t like, “Oh, my God, you’re having a sex montage in the 2nd season,” no.  I’m not like some Victorian lady who is fainting on a chaise when someone is shirtless.  The thing that’s funny to me is that this isn’t shown more.

Photo: JPI

Van, you know from portraying Luke Snyder on As the World Turns, on a daytime soap, that as a gay character they often tap dance around so much in the writing!

VAN:  Yeah, I do.  I lived that, and that’s what honestly pisses me off.  That this program is afraid to show something.  It’s because they’ve probably done tests of what people are comfortable with, so it’s like, “Okay, we live in this society where people are uncomfortable with X and X and X and X,” and really, why?  People just need to live their lives.

Kit, do you have a favorite scene that you’ve written in this entire 7 years of the creative lifespan of EastSiders?

KIT:  I would say season 3 episode 5, the “What do you see when you look down?” conversation between me and Van as Cal and Thom.  To set the scene a little bit: it’s the culmination of days of talking on the road trip when you run out of frivolous things to say to each other and the real stuff comes out.  My character is asleep, and he wakes up to find that Thom is kind of drinking by himself in the camper, and they have this conversation to really get to the heart of what both of them are most afraid of, not just in their relationships, but in their lives. You sort of get to realize that this fear has been shaping their decisions from the very first season, that they have been leading with fear, and that is something that maybe they can work through as a couple, that they can maybe address together.  I think that moment for me is the moment that I knew that Thom and Cal were meant to be together.

Photo: EastSiders

That was the scene where you both were in tears inside the camper?

VAN:  Yep.  That scene is on my reel.  That is one of my favorite scenes that Kit has written also.  I would say for me, my favorite full-on episode is probably the first episode of season 3.  The bottle episode in Palm Springs.

KIT:  I love that episode, too.

VAN:  I think that what you do so beautifully is that it is just so funny and uplifting, but you do get those undercurrents of the reality in the relationship with Quincy and Douglas. I think that is where we see them go from sort of the clowns into the lovers, and I love the way that you put that.  We see them get a little bit more grounded.  So, that’s my favorite episode, but I love that scene in season 3, but I love so much from the series!  In season four, I love the scene with Jeremy’s foster daughter.  It’s not like a huge deep scene or anything, but the stuff that you brought out of that little girl … she is just incredible.

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KIT:  Scout was just so brilliant.  If she wants one, that kid has a career ahead of her.  I have every confidence that her family is supporting her in whatever she wants to do because they’re just incredible.

Kit, in EastSiders, you wore so many hats within it.  Would you ultimately want your next projects to just be acting in front of the camera, and not worrying about producing and writing it?  Did you like doing it all?  It’s a lot to take on.

KIT:  Yeah, they’re different itches to scratch.  I would like to have less responsibilities as a producer in terms of the day-to-day responsibilities and nuts and bolts of things.  I would love to never print a set of sides or stock ‘crafty’ ever again.  I would love to have those sorts of things taken off of my plate, but ultimately, my goal is to be a showrunner, and that means that I want the buck to stop with me.  I want to be the person who is ultimately responsible for not just the creative vision, but the execution of that vision from concepts to finished product.  But, I want to do all of it.  I find it really empowering to wear fewer hats.  I think a great career model that’s emerged for me in recent years is Phoebe Waller-Bridge.  I love everything that she does.  I love that she is creating shows that she’s not acting in, she’s acting in shows that she’s writing, she’s punching up the new Bond movie, and she is acting in projects that she has nothing to do with as a writer.

How do you feel the door had been opened for you because of the series?

KIT:  Oh man, I’m getting a lot of opportunities, and I’m really, really grateful for it.

In the LGBTQ community, what do the guys say to you, and how EastSiders has impacted them? Do they ever say, “Thom and Cal showed me this?” or “I’m so glad this was portrayed?” 

VAN:  Yeah.  I got something on Instagram about a week or so ago from a guy who was really freaking out about being in an open relationship, and he was like, “Thank God for this show.”

KIT:  Definitely anytime I’ve been outside of New York or LA and in a gay bar or a gay space, somebody has come up to me, and I definitely love it because the whole point of this is to get people to engage with your work.  That’s the reward; is knowing that people are watching.  I actually have a “gratitude folder” on my computer where I save some messages that people have sent to me.  It’s something I started recently, and I wish I’d been doing it since the beginning, because I always try to write back to everybody that writes to me about the show, and if I missed some, I’m so sorry.  It was an accident.  I can read you a few.  One says, “I live in a very conservative family, in a developing country, El Salvador.  Thanks to EastSiders, I understood that discovering my sexuality wasn’t something to be ashamed of and that all expressions of love are equally worth it.  You guys basically saved my life since I thought about suicide many times.”  In other messages, many people told me that the show gave them the confidence to come out to their friends or family, or that it made them feel less alone in countries where being gay is illegal.  I have a message from someone in Saudi Arabia, someone from Iran, Nigeria, Mississippi, where I’m from.  I get a lot of messages from Mississippi, because I’m so outspoken about how coming from the south shaped me.  It’s just really overwhelmingly satisfying.  As a kid there weren’t any openly gay people around me, so the first gay people I ever met were characters on TV, and it made me feel, like maybe, I could have a life worth putting on a screen someday.

Photo: Eastsiders

Let’s go back in time. Van, what was your first impression of Kit when you met him?

VAN:  I feel like I met him through his writing first, because I had never met him when I got the script.  I remember we met at a coffee shop in Los Feliz in Los Angeles.  Kit was very professional, and I remember there was a question if I was going to play Thom or was I going to play Jeremy? I think I was sort of gravitating towards Jeremy at that point, but you were like, “No, you’re a Thom,” so I was like, “Okay.”  (Laughs) I remember leaving. feeling that it was very much like a business meeting, but that went away really quickly when we just got to know each other.  You came across as a lot more serious than I thought whoever wrote the script would be.

KIT:  Oh.  Cool.  I love that.

Kit, what did you think of Van when you first met him? 

KIT:  Well, I was super nervous, and I definitely wanted to convey that this was something that I took really seriously.

VAN: (Laughs)

KIT:  So, I’m glad he got that.

Photo: JPI

I get that you wanted to come across very professional.

KIT:  Yeah, because it was my first time directing so I wanted to come ready, and the first thing I thought when I met Van was, “That’s Thom.”  Literally a sentence comes out of his mouth, and I’m like, “Oh, yeah.  Absolutely.  This is absolutely correct.  Thank God.  We have our lead.”

VAN:  I love the role of Jeremy, but I’m so glad I played Thom.

KIT:  Honestly, a lot of people were almost a lot of different people in this thing.   At one point, John Halbach, was going to be Thom.  John, at one point, was going to be Jeremy.  We didn’t have a casting director.  I was in grad school.  I had no clue what I was doing, and I keep on coming back to the idea of alchemy.  We accidentally made gold because we did not know what we were doing.

How did you know about Van?

KIT:  Through a mutual acting teacher in Los Angeles, and of course, I was familiar with As the World Turns and all of that, but I didn’t know him, and it never would have occurred to me that I could even reach out to somebody at his career level.  So, it was very, very fortuitous that we were connected.

Photo: Instagram

Kit, you have a gazillion followers on Instagram.  Do you ever have a moment with yourself like, “God, I have to do another post today to keep this going?”  

KIT:  It’s a hustle, and it’s a balance that John and I are both constantly doing our best to navigate, because we started it to bring attention to the show, and now, sometimes people will recognize us from Instagram and not from the series, and that’s not what we are going for. (Laughs)

You’re Instagram stars!

KIT:  It’s a balance that we are trying to navigate.  You know, how many shirtless selfies is too many shirtless selfies?  At what percentage of shirtless-ness will you no longer be taken seriously?  But as Van pointed out, I’m a serious MF with a master’s degree and multiple Emmy nominations. (Laughs)  So, I take myself way too seriously, but I know that you have to play the internet like a video game.  You have to do certain things and get a certain response, and attention begets attention, and a lot of people have told me that they found the show by following me on Instagram.  So, it’s mission accomplished I suppose, but it’s something that we have to be really careful about especially as I’m moving into phase two of my career.

Did you guys submit yourselves for contention in the upcoming Daytime Emmys?

KIT:  Yes.  Absolutely.

Photo: EastSiders

You both gave two of the most memorable performances of the year in Eastsiders and within the digital drama space.  So, we’ll see how it plays out for you when the nominations are revealed.

KIT:  Thank you.  It’s really interesting because historically it seems like the Daytime Emmys have gone with more traditional soap narratives, and ours is definitely the weird kid on the block, but I’m really hopeful that this season we will have a good showing because I really believe in Van’s performance.  I believe in all of the actors.  I believe that they’re all operating at their series best … to put it that way.  I think everybody is just sitting in their power and owning their characters in a way that was really, really cool for me as a writer to see.

It was amazing.  Congratulations.  I guess this is our wrap-up interview for Eastsiders … for now.

KIT:  Who knows… maybe this isn’t the end.  We’ll see.

So, will you miss seeing the journey of Thom and Cal on EastSiders?  If you watched the four seasons. did you have a favorite moment within it?  Share your thoughts on our conversation with Van and Kit via the comment section below.  Then check out the documentary of the “making of” EastSiders.

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