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The Frank Valentini Interview – One Life to Live & What If

Courtesy/ABC

What soap viewer has not entertained the thought of, “What if my favorite soap babe met up with my favorite soap hunk from another soap?”  Or, “I wonder what would happen if two soap legends from different daytime dramas perform together for the very first time as their renowned alter-egos?”  Or, “I wish my favorites from Pine Valley could just get stuck somewhere with some of my favorites from Llanview!”  Well, some of your prayers are about to be answered coming up this Monday July 12th, when ABC Daytime and SOAPnet’s new creative webisode mash-ups, What If premieres, with some of the most famous and infamous characters from One Life to Live, All My Children, and General Hospital in some very unique out-of-time scenarios.  Just an FYI for your viewing pleasure – the webisodes will be derivative of the characters you love and their unique past, but are not related to current storyline. You can view the webisodes at both ABC.com and SOAPnet.com, and cut down versions will air on both ABC Daytime and SOAPnet.

So, once the What If’s were put into motion, who was the man who was instrumental in directing the amazing talent of ABC Daytime stars in these humorous, touching, and exciting featurettes?  And, who could give us the inside story on what to expect?  That would fall to One Life to Live’s head honcho, Frank Valentini.  And while Valentini runs the ship in Llanview, many insiders know that it is also his directing prowess that has earned him kudos from his peers and the press.  In this new interview with On-Air On-Soaps, Valentini gives us a look at how the What If’s were made, and takes us through each of the ten webisodes
you will see rolled-out throughout the summer.

Next, Frank gives us the overview for this summer’s sizzling storylines coming up on One Life to Live. And yes, finally, we do discuss how Valentini manages to keep things moving forward with his cast and crew amidst constant rumors that One Life could be the next show to hit the chopping block.  But after speaking with Frank and reading his thoughts, it should be apparent to anyone that this guy has the drive, determination, and love for the genre to keep creating new ways for soapers to enjoy their favorite stories be it on the web or the small screen.

You can view the full schedule of What If’s by clicking here

MICHAEL:

Frank, how did it come about that you were chosen for the job of director of all ten What If webisodes?  I know you directed the Endless Drama promo marketing campaign with ESPN Sports and ABC Daytime in the past.  So this obviously was a natural for you on so many levels.  And how involved were you in the development process until you finally went to tape?

FRANK:

Couresty/ABC

I heard from Sue Johnson, the Vice President of Programming and Talent for ABC Daytime on the east coast, about What If, and I got really excited.  She said that Adam Rockmore, and his team in marketing at ABC/SOAPnet, were heading them up, and it had been an idea that Sue and Adam had been talking about for awhile. They finally figured out a time when they could do it, and they told me the actors they were thinking of using from One Life to Live, and I got really excited about it. Then they said, “Well, we have one other thing… we know you are really busy, but do you think you could direct them?” And I was just floored, flattered, and honored.  I was really, really psyched.  I think it’s a really fantastic idea and fantastic for the fans.  It’s huge big wet kiss to the fans.  The webisodes are all really fun, sweet and heartfelt, and emotional.  The whole body of ten different scenarios is just fantastic and this great young writer, Sara Saedi, wrote them.  And, after I was invited on board and I was going through the directing process, I made some suggestions in terms of location, and how we might be able to make them the most accessible and most satisfying for the fans.  I was then able to bring all my experience over from One Life to Live to that.

MICHAEL:

Getting to work with so many of the top talent in the ABC Daytime line-up, that you never had the opportunity to work with before, was there any moment or scenario in working with certain actors that surprised you?  

FRANK:

There were a couple.  I always knew that Susan Lucci (Erica, AMC) was a wonderful actress, but she was really fun and funny to work with, and we did a scene with her and Maurice Benard (Sonny, GH).  I had known Susan for years, but I had never worked with her like this, and I had been a fan of Maurice’s for years, but only met him in passing.  I was thrilled that two dynamite stars were going to be in a scene together.  And just getting on the set with them, I could see it was exciting for them to find the humorous moments and the deep emotional moments in their scenes.  I mean, I directed Susan on All My Children like ten thousand years ago, but working with her and Maurice, who I had never worked with before, it was like instant chemistry.  I am always so floored with the professionalism and the dedication the daytime actors have.  When you work as fast and rapidly as we do, and as consistently as we do, those muscles are so strong and they react so fast.  Obviously, with the What If’s, we had a lot of time to do these compared to the regular daytime schedule.  Even within the five minutes of the piece, we were able to mine all these great moments, and that what was really fun for me.

MICHAEL: 

Courtesy/ABC

As a lover of the genre, you had to be pinching yourself, that you’re doing this and directing this with some of your favorite performers and colleagues.  How cool!

FRANK:

Oh, my God, it was totally cool!  Look, I am a fan, and it’s always great when you get to work with somebody you have never worked with before.  Also, it was a proud moment for me to see my One Life to Live actors working with other actors from the other soaps. What a blast to see Trevor St. John (Todd, OLTL) and Bradford Anderson (Spinelli, GH) together.  It was so fun, and those guys were so great together.  And, Trevor is such an interesting actor.  He is just incredibly spontaneous, and Bradford was coming up with all types of different ideas.  And together, I am so proud of all ten of the What If’s, and they all have individual moments that were great.  I have never been able to direct Rebecca Budig (Greenlee, AMC), and we have been friends for years.  She was so funny, and she and Steve Burton (Jason, GH) immediately had chemistry on-screen, and they obviously knew each other from soap fan events, and what not.  Their segment is really funny, and then all of a sudden there is this poignant moment in it that is really sweet.

MICHAEL:

One of the pairings many are interested in seeing is Michael Easton (John, OLTL) and Kelly Monaco (Sam, GH).  These two had hot vampire love together on the now defunct Port Charles. How was it to watch them work together for the first time in years?

FRANK:

I think people forget what great timing Michael Easton has.  If you saw some of the scenes from Bo and Nora’s wedding, some of his reactions were just classic.  He is always very subtle, and some of the work he has done over the years with Tuc Watkins (David, OLTL) is priceless.  I am so crazy about Michael and his talents.  He is a real gift to One Life to Live. I know Kelly and I think she is dynamite.  These are two wild, energetic actors coming together, and they have such great history.  Their piece is a little more physical then some of the others and it takes place in an elevator, and it’s awesome.

MICHAEL:

Where were the What If’s shot at?  You obviously came west for a time to accomplish this. 

Courtesy/ABC

FRANK:

Yes, I came out to Los Angeles to shoot these.  They were done in a separate studio called Air Hollywood out in Pacoima, just outside L.A.  We were dark at One Life to Live and we had a little break.  So that is how we were able to get the One Life to Live actors out to the west coast.  Then, I was able to come out and spend some time. We shot all of them within a two and a half day period.

MICHAEL:

One of the other What If’s, that I am looking forward to is the bringing together of six-time Daytime Emmy winners and soap opera legends, Erika Slezak (Viki, OLTL) and Tony Geary (Luke, GH).   What can fans expect from their pairing?

FRANK:

That one was so sweet, and we built a separate elevator set just for them. There was a mutual admiration society going on with them.  Tony did some things that came right out of his head that just added to the process.  I am a big fan of his.

MICHAEL:

Ok, but here you are directing all these heavy-hitters on daytime.  Did anyone take issue when you asked them to take direction, or with some notes you may have had to offer to get to your goal with each webisode?

FRANK:

Courtesy/ABC

First of all, the actors who were picked are all incredible professionals.  I have a good relationship with them.  So they will do what I ask them to do as their boss, (Laughs) but I have to say everybody was very excited about these.  All seven actors from One Life to Live said, “Oh, my God.  I am so flattered to be asked to participate.  This is going to be cool.”  When I told Michael Easton he was going to be paired with Kelly Monaco, he just burst into this big smile.

MICHAEL:

Kirsten Storms (Maxie, GH), and John-Paul Lavoisier (Rex, OLTL) is a pairing that could be quite interesting to watch, since they are both extraordinary and have a very quirky acting style!

FRANK:

It’s a fun one!  That one is actually very interesting because it has some moments that the younger audience can relate to.  Sort of like two sides of a coin, and a look at love and dating in the 21st Century, and what that means.  And we explore it through the eyes of these two very unique and very different characters.

MICHAEL:

One Life’s, Bree Williamson, (Jessica) got to play with Dominic Zamprogna (Dante) of GH.  But she is not Jess.  You brought back good ole’ Tess!  How does Tess know Dante?  From the… bedroom? (Laughs)

FRANK:

Tess knew him from the past, and that one is so good, because Bree Williamson is playing her alter-Tess in it.  And you know how much I love Bree! Also, another What If has Michael Knight (Tad. AMC) who is phenomenal in this teamed with Kassie DePaiva (Blair, OLTL).  That one is chucked full of surprises. 

Courtesy/ABC

MICHAEL:

All My Children’s Jesse/Angie, somehow get mixed up with Starr from One Life to Live. That is an odd and interesting soap mash-up!

FRANK:

You’ve got to watch that one!  Little Kristen Alderson (Starr, OLTL) is right in there, holding her own with Debbi Morgan (Angie, AMC) and Darnell Williams (Jesse, AMC). And again, it’s an interesting look at different people and how they see life.

MICHAEL:

Ah, then this one looks to potentially have some soap elevator sex.  Always good, but it’s made even better because Pine Valley’s Ryan, meets Port Charles’ Carly.  How was that to tape?

FRANK:

I fell in love all over again with Laura Wright (Carly, GH). And, Cameron Mathison (Ryan, AMC) and I have been friends for years.  We used to have a locker at the gym together. That one is so fun, and that is one of the first ones you will see.

MICHAEL:

Now that you have done these ten, where can this lead?  What is the hope of the ABC Daytime initiative with this?

FRANK:

Like I said, it’s a big wet kiss to the fans of ABC Daytime.  Lets just hope this is foreplay, and there will be more of them to come.  A couple of them lend themselves to sequels, and that would be fun to keep these relationships going and play out in different scenarios. We are open to new synergies. There are wonderful actors from all three ABC Daytime soaps, who just because we only could utilize a certain amount of people, were not included in this round.  But hopefully, they will be represented in the next round.  With two of the soaps now out in L.A., it’s not as difficult and challenging to make it all work.

MICHAEL: 

Courtesy/ABC

With all the challenges soap operas are facing at the beginning of this decade, do you think there will come a day, because of the rough times we face in the genre, that perhaps to save shows, characters, and performers on the ABC Daytime line-up, that they might integrate some characters into one big show?

FRANK:

No, because all three shows have lots of interesting characters and can stand on their own.  I don’t buy into the doom and gloom as much.  I know it’s a reality that we are in a recession and budgets are tight, but if the fans love these shows and watch these shows, and continue to support them, and support things like the What If’s, then they should get out there and say positive things.  Look, there are plenty of negative things to say about the world right now, let’s say
a few positive things.  Let’s support the things we love before they go away,
because then we won’t be able to say anything about them.

MICHAEL:

You are known to be great with budgets.  In fact, One Life is one of the only shows that is always under budget.  What is your secret?  Because, in addition to everyday costs of taping episodes, you seem to bring in all the special effect shows, such as Stacy’s Ice Freeze sweeps story, on point within the budget constraints.

FRANK:

I can’t speak to other people’s budgets, but I feel we have an incredibly hard working group at One Life to Live.  I think everyone understands if we want to do Stacy falling through the ice, or the musical we just did, Starr X-d Lovers, or Bo and Nora’s wedding, which was also extremely tough to do, that everybody needs to be on set on time, and everybody needs to be able to do their blocking, and know their lines, and the whole crew is behind us.  The actors on One Life are just such professionals. We move along at a nice pace.  And we also have a crew and a team that has been together for many years, and we developed a short hand, and we have found a way to make it work.  I am then constantly refining that, and thinking things through.  For instance, I might say, “Do we absolutely need that?  Because if we don’t, we can take that money, and put it into this.”  Knowing we were coming off of the musical and into Bo and Nora’s wedding, it was extremely important to figure out how we can do this, and still have Bo in a bathtub filled with tons of tomato juice, and six guys in the room that needed to be there.  And, so we can also have Tuc Watkins come back for the summer and that gives Llanview a jolt of his craziness and brilliance. 

Courtesy/ABC

MICHAEL:

Speaking of Tuc sticking around this summer in Llanview, what else can viewers at One Life expect through the summer heat?  Who is going to be front and center?

FRANK:

Fans can expect some very interesting things to happen with Bo and Nora, which will be really fun. We will explore what married life means for them and their relationship with Matthew.  Starr and Cole are going to continue to persevere amidst the craziness of their families, and the situation that they are in, especially involving James and Hannah.  There is a great story going on which is picking up steam and will play out for a couple of months between Viki, Dorian and David, and Charlie, and it goes through to the beginning of fall.  The story is humorous.  Viki and Charlie are trying to set up Dorian and David, which ultimately will make these two see their true feelings for one another.  It’s always fun when Viki and Dorian are in the mix together.  We are finding now that Eli is not the good guy we all thought he was.  He has a lot of stuff coming up with Blair and Todd that will happen.  Of course, the other major story is what is going to happen with Tea, and her daughter, Dani.  It’s really a hard, emotional story, and very uplifting at the same time, and life affirming. We did a fantastic remote with Trevor and Florencia Lozano (Tea), and Kelley Missal (Dani).  Also, there are a lot of surprises and twists and turns with Natalie, John, Jessica, and Brody.  That story will definitely be heating up over the next couple of weeks.  There is a little bit of everything this summer on One Life.

MICHAEL:

You have accomplished so much at a young age in daytime.  When did you start at One Life?  It’s been a few decades, right?

FRANK:

I have been at One Life to Live for 25 years, and I have been the Executive Producer for seven and a half years. 

Courtesy/ABC

MICHAEL:

Do you think looking back, that this was your ultimate goal?  To run a daytime soap opera?

FRANK:

It’s kind of like when you first meet somebody, you don’t know you are going to spend the rest of your life with them. (Laughs)  And then 25 years later, you look back and go, “Wow, Wow, that has been fun.”  I came out of college and started working at One Life to Live for then executive producer, Paul Rauch, (now co-exec prod at Y&R) who was an incredible teacher and mentor, and I sort of fell in love with the show.  I fell in love with the actors, and yes, I love what I do, and I work incredibly hard.  But, I never want to watch the show and think, “I wish we could have done that, or we should have done that.”  We are
always trying to learn, and make the show better every day.

MICHAEL:

As the show’s EP, when you hear rumors that the show could be canceled this December, or all the other rumors about One Life’s cancellation over the past year, how do you rah-rah your show?  Keep everyone’s spirits at One Life up?  Rally the troops?

FRANK:

It’s a combination of pointing out what the facts are, because rumors don’t mean anything… they are just rumors.  And yes, you can re-check with the network and ask, “Is there something we should know?”  But we look at the ratings, and the sweeps period for the show, and the different segments of the audience.  Obviously, the demographic of 18-49 is very important.  From February up through May we were doing pretty well, and pretty much number three in the demos.  That is very good.  And sometimes, that number goes up, and sometimes that number goes down.  And on a good day it’s great, and on the bad days we try to sit back a minute and think, “OK, what did we do wrong?”  Everybody on our set has a great sense of humor, and they know ABC Daytime is behind us 100%, so we just keep going. 

Courtesy/ABC

MICHAEL:

In closing, what tip would you give every soap fan or ABC Daytime fan, about enjoying the upcoming What If’’s?

FRANK:

Don’t miss them from the beginning, because then when they all roll out you will be on board.   They are all fun!  Make sure you share them with all of your friends.  It’s for people who watch the soaps, or even who don’t watch the soaps, because it’s new and it’s never been done before.  Get in early and stay for the whole ride.

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Keith
Keith

Great interview. Nice hearing from Frank as we do not hear from him much in the press. The “What If” promos sound really great and I think a lot of soap fans will be tuningin to check them out.

Ann
Ann

A very interesting read! I enjoyed the interview and it was nice to see the cancellation rumors addressed. The “What If” promos are a unique concept. I am looking forward the most to Todd/Spinelli. I know that one will be great! Frank should have mentioned what a great “gift” TSJ is to OLTL though. I think he is by far OLTL’s biggest asset! I just love Trevor’s work!

Tina Payne
Tina Payne

Michael Fairman, thanks for that great interview with Frank Valentini! I saw Frank’s genius up close for almost 10 hours when my husband and I had the privilege to see OLTL tape for a day. I think he puts out the best daytime drama on TV today. I told him that after the Emmys a couple of weeks ago, then some fans came to him pleading “Don’t kill Tea!”!, and later Laura Wright and he talked a long time, so I never got the chance to ask him about cancellation rumors. I may not have had the heart to anyway, so I’m glad you did, and that it is called a rumor and not a fact. If anyone can save a show, it’s FV with his great cast and crew, and the best actor there is, MICHAEL EASTON! Can’t wait to see ME and Kelly reunited! Caleb’s love for Olivia lasted from the start to the finish of Port Charles and seeing ME with the first leading lady I enjoyed him with again, 7 years later, is such a fan gift; and I’m happy to thank Frank Valentini for making it as brilliant as I know it will be!

Cammie
Cammie

I really enjoyed the interview and I’m glad he addressed the cancellation rumors as just that rumor.I’m really looking forward to the What If webisodes,especially the ones with Michael Easton,Kassie DePaiva and Trevor St. John.I really think it’s an interesting concept and if they do it again I would love to see one with Michael Easton and Bobbie Eakes.I really think they would have amazing chemistry.

Doe
Doe

Michael, this is one of the best and inteligent interviews you have done. Not only did you ask the right questions to Frank , but he was very willing to give you and the fans , the right answers. I think the creation of these episodes is brilliant. The mash-ups are ideal. This shows the clevernes of Frank Valentini. I think they will be so succesful that the fans will be asking for more. Frank must have had a ball working with the personalities of these srars. Kidos to you for the interview and kudos for Frank for being so inventive. Can’t wait to see all the episodes…….

Keith
Keith

You are so correct Doe. This was a great interview. As you said, Michael asked great questions and just as important, Frank seemed to be very open in his answers. I would love to see Frank do an interview with Michael where he went in to depth about all the comings and goings at OLTL, storylines, what to look forward to, etc. You can tell Frank was very comfortable with Michael, so you know it would be a great read to hear Frank talk in depth about OLTL.

Ann
Ann

There will have to be a sequel with Michael and Kelly. If there are
sequels, you can bet this will be one of them. I cannot wait to see them
together again!

Joanna
Joanna

Excellent interview! I am looking foreward to OLTL in the next couple of weeks, because it looks like we move away from teen centered stories and back to the adults. I am really looking foreward to John/Natalie Jessica/Brody stuff. And Bo/Nora they have been missed.

Rosalind Wolf
Rosalind Wolf

I wonder if the powers that be know that not only the younger generation watch OLTL. My mom watched the show from its inception and I was hooked from the start. I am now a senior citizen and just love the show but I would appreciate seeing Erica, Charlie and Bo and Nora and Clint have more screen time. I loved the interview.

Jason
Jason

I’m glad Starr and Cole are perserving and working on repairing their relationship. Those two have gone through enough, and they deserve a break from the drama I just hope they tell each other what happened first before.

Kathy
Kathy

I’m a new viewer to OLTL and James & Starr have drawn me to watch it and anticipate it every day.

I love this new potential couple!!

Joan
Joan

“One Life to Live is the best soap on ABC…..I started watching when “All My Children”
and One Life to Live….. in with the baby switch…..I’ve been watching ever since…
I hope “One Life to Live ” can continue to thrive…..
I also enjoyed the “What if clips”….they were very entertaining.
I wish Tea didn’t have to leave…..I feel so bad for Danielle….
I also enjoyed watching Michael Easton….in Port Charles.

Interviews

Executive Producers David Michaels & David Parks Chat On The Moments That Made The 46th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards Ceremony

The 46th annual Daytime Emmy Awards are in the record books, and with it came surprising victories, emotional tearjerker moments, and a show that ended up with more heart than the fluff we often see within many entertainment award shows.

Michael Fairman TV chatted with Daytime Emmy show executive producers, David Michaels (who also serves as the SR. VP Daytime Emmy Awards for NATAS) and David Parks to gain some insight on how they pulled off some of the major moments of the evening including: a surprise appearance by Amy Poehler, Kathie Lee Gifford’s daytime TV send-off, Shemar Moore’s touching tribute to the late Kristoff St. John, and of course, that Emmy-winning acceptance speech from Jeopardy’s Alex Trebek, who is currently battling stage four pancreatic cancer.

On the soap opera side, there was the long overdue win by GH’s Maurice Benard (Sonny), former GH star Hayley Erin (Ex-Kiki) receiving her Younger Actress award from her idol, none other than Alex Trebek, and B&B’s Jacqueline MacInnes Wood (Steffy) receiving the Lead Actress trophy in a tough category of industry heavyweights.

In a year that was tumultuous for the producers and for NATAS with a threatened boycott by the network soaps, requests for more rule regulations and transparency, and the ongoing situation where the Daytime Emmys have not returned to be televised on cable or network TV, but have found success on streaming and social media platforms, we checked-in with Michaels and Parks for a Daytime Emmy post-mortem, and to get the lowdown of their thoughts on daytime’s biggest night of the year. Here’s what they shared.

Photo: NATAS/Getty

Let’s talk about some of the big moments that happened throughout the Emmy ceremony and how you pulled them off.  One, of course, is the Amy Poehler surprise as the presenter of the Lifetime Achievement Award to Judge Judy that nobody knew about.  How did you find out that Amy was a Judge Judy fan, and how did you keep her appearance a secret?

DAVID MICHAELS:  I want to just say that what a great job our co-host, Sheryl Underwood did in announcing it, because she saw the name on the teleprompter for the first time during the live show.  I was going to tell her that morning, but as she said, “If I was a bucket, I couldn’t hold water.”   So, very, very, very few people knew.   All through the scripts in the rundown, Amy was listed as “Presenter X.”   What happened was, the day after the press release about Judge Judy came out, Harlan Boll (NATAS publicist) forwarded me an email from a publicist that I didn’t know saying that he wanted to talk about his client presenting on the Emmys.   I called him, and he claimed to be Amy Poehler’s publicist, and I didn’t know him.  He said, “Amy Poehler is Judge Judy’s biggest fan.  She wants to present the award.”  The only stipulation is that it has to be a surprise.  Then, I went on IMDB-Pro, and checked him out, and he was indeed Amy’s publicist and for a lot of other celebrities, as well.   I called Judy’s people, and I said, “You’re not going to believe this,” and they went to Judy, and she just loved it.  I don’t even know why Amy wanted it to be a surprise, but we had to honor it.  It obviously would have done us more good pre-publicity-wise if it wasn’t a surprise, but we honored it.   We actually kept a secret in Hollywood!  I mean, David Parks knew, and maybe four other people.  I think that maybe what I am proudest of … keeping the secret.

Photo: NATAS

David Parks, did you think it would really happen?

DAVID PARKS:  You know, I am often a naysayer about things, but I actually did.  There was something legitimate about it once David vetted the manager.  There was really never any scare or anything that was like, “Oh, all of the sudden she’s busy.  All of the sudden she’s been offered this other thing.”   It was kind of like, it got arranged, and we didn’t have to do anything until that week, and then, we had to figure out the best place to drop her off and how to get Amy inside the venue with as few people as possible seeing her.   She could not have been nicer about it all too.  I mean, we got her to the closest spot, and nobody on my team knew.  Like David said, it was “Presenter X.”  Everybody kept asking.   I was like, “Not going to tell you.  Then, you don’t have to worry about keeping the secret.”

DAVID MICHAELS:  I was just very taken with how gentle and kind Amy was.  She looked me in the eye and actually thanked me for letting her do this.  She was so gracious and sweet.  The whole thing was just a great experience.

Courtesy/NATAS/Getty

Another memorable moment occurred at the end of the night, when Shemar Moore (Ex-Malcolm, Y&R and now S.W.A.T.) honored his dear friend and former on-screen Y&R brother, the late Kristoff St. John (Ex-Neil Winters) before announcing the winner in the Outstanding Drama Series category. Were you aware that Shemar was going to go off-script and talk about his love and respect for St. John?

DAVID MICHAELS:  Obviously, to this daytime community, Kristoff was very special.   I made him last in the In-Memoriam segment, which obviously was the most I could do as a producer, because there were over 30 other people who passed as well. Before he took the stage, Shemar came to the producers table and he said, “Are you sure?”  This was in regard to him saying a few words about Kristoff.  I said, “Shemar, as long as you say that you’re going off the script,” because he was.  There was nothing in the script.  I just said, “If you go out there and speak from the heart, I will have no problem with it, and I think that everybody will have no problem with it.”  He went out there, and he just killed it.  He was brilliant. I was sitting there at the producer’s table crying.  He destroyed me.  I think everybody really appreciated it, and I thought it was the perfect way to go into the final award.

DAVID PARKS:  I thought it was very genuine.  You can still feel his pain.

Photo Credit: JPI Studios

Next, you were able to get Kathie Lee Gifford to attend the Daytime Emmys to honor her.  How did that come together?  I assume she did not have a speech written when she addressed the crowd.  Kathie Lee is all about being “authentic”.

DAVID MICHAELS:  Correct, she actually had no speech written.  I saw her right before she went on, and she said, “Well, I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do.”  I said, “You’re supposed to go out there and be Kathie Lee.  You’re supposed to tell the community what you think of them.”  I also added, “I doubt this is the first time you’ve improvised,” and she laughed.  The result is what you saw, because she had not seen the tribute video before we played it, and the ladies of The Talk had actually asked to introduce Kathie Lee, because they adore her.

DAVID PARKS:  It really did come off well, because there was this concern about it not being a Lifetime Achievement Award(Not that she doesn’t deserve one, but that just wasn’t what it was this year.)  We were figuring out, how do you make this moment that is special without overshadowing the Lifetime Achievement Awards?  Kathie managed to do that.  I think it was her then winning in the Outstanding Informative Talk Show host category along with Hoda Kotb that really made it one of the most talked about moments of the show.

That award was positioned after Kathie Lee’s tribute, correct?

DAVID PARKS:  Yes, and on purpose, because in the case that she doesn’t win, you don’t want her out there kind of bumming out about it.  In all of these moments you have mentioned, the serendipity of it worked out really nicely for us.  Judy got honored, and unfortunately for her she didn’t win, but it didn’t destroy the moment.  In Kathie Lee’s case, it elevated the moment.

Courtesy/NATAS

Talking about serendipity, with Amy, Kathie Lee, Shemar, and Alex, it was almost like an organic perfect storm, and the next day people were talking about the Daytime Emmys in the mainstream press more than they had in recent years.

DAVID PARKS:  You picked up on this inclination that you have to fight sometimes to entertain, entertain, and entertain.  I think this year kind of proved that you don’t have to throw out the dog and pony show. It kind of works that you honor people, and they come out and they give these heartfelt speeches, and those mean more than those extra segments – whether it’s song or dance, or jokes, and you can tell the things that we cut out this year.  I think what it’s all about is …  getting awards, giving awards, and honoring people for their achievements.

How do you feel your co-hosts, Sheryl Underwood (The Talk) and Mario Lopez (EXTRA) did this year?  You seem to like this pairing as you have had them back multiple times now.

DAVID MICHAELS:  I thought it was Sheryl’s best year.  We didn’t give Sheryl big comedy moments, but everything she did felt so heartfelt and right.  They were there throughout the show.  They got their moments.  They got their beginning, middle, and they got their end.

DAVID PARKS:  I think as producers there was a little bit of a gift in watching what happened with the Oscars this year because it actually showed, (I mean, I’m sure it’s not what they wanted initially) not having a host kind of stream-lined that show.  People were like, “Yeah, the Oscars were pretty good this year.”  We talked about that a lot.  We don’t need to over think this.  It’s already been proven what happens if we don’t give as much to our hosts.

Photo: NATAS

Let’s talk about Alex Trebek.  That was such a huge moment when he accepted his award; winning Outstanding Game Show Host, and when he took the stage to present the Outstanding Younger Actress in a Drama Series award.  I heard he wasn’t not feeling well at all at the ceremonies, as we all knew he is battling stage four pancreatic cancer.

DAVID MICHAELS:  I know Alex pretty well.  So, I could tell he wasn’t feeling well; even though that wasn’t what he was putting forth.  It’s interesting though because Alex originally told us he wanted to stay backstage the whole time, but once he got to the ceremony that was not what he wanted to do.  So, Alex was in the audience, and he actually surprised me.  In a similar way to what I said to Shemar.  I said, “When Alex gets out there, he’s going to get a standing ovation,” which he did, and that was the moment when I said, “Alex, if you want to say something, go ahead,” and he didn’t.  I was shocked.  He just came out and presented the Younger Actress award.  So, if Alex had not won, he never would have said anything because that’s when he got the emotion in and all of that.  He definitely took a chance.

So, Alex presents ‘Younger Actress’ and made Hayley Erin’s (Ex-GH) life, because when I did my interview with her backstage, all she talked about is what this meant to have her idol, Alex Trebek hand her the award.  Talk about serendipity!  Now, when Alex accepted his award for Outstanding Game Show Host, did you have any idea what he was going to say, because coming out of the Emmys, people were buzzing about what he shared on-stage.

DAVID MICHAELS:  No, and quite honestly, I got scared when he started that speech when he was saying he didn’t want a sympathy vote, but that’s Alex.  He will totally bring it, and then turn it around.

Photo: NATAS

DAVID PARKS:  There was a side thing that you probably didn’t know about.  We got approached by a guy looking to buy fan tickets, but they had a group who needed ADA (Americans with Disabilities) seating.   It turned out be a group of cancer patients who were terminal.  The group was SayYEStoHOPE.org.  They weren’t asking for anything.  They just wanted to be able to sit together. So, we comped them all.  I’m at the red carpet, and this group is coming up the stairs, and one of the guys from the venue says to me, “This is the ‘Say Yes to Life’ group.”  So, I start talking to them, and one of the women just had chemo that day, and they were so excited to be at the Daytime Emmys, but what they were really excited about was to see Alex Trebek.  I wish there had been a way to either acknowledge them, or to let Alex know,  because they are big Daytime television fans,  but Alex meant so much to them in terms of being a cancer survivor, and a cancer patient, just like them.

Were you worried about Alex on Emmy night?

DAVID PARKS:  I thought he looked pretty good considering what I knew he had been going through.  It was actually this past week when I read about how on Jeopardy, he was doubled over in pain on the floor.

DAVID MICHAELS:  Yeah, if you saw that CBS Sunday Morning interview, it was pretty extreme, and they showed a clip from our show, by the way.  Similar to what David described with Judge Judy and Amy, Alex stood by the monitor to see if Jeopardy was going to win, which it didn’t, and Alex was just like, “Okay,” and off he went, and I got a big hug.  Just knowing him, I think he put out a lot of energy to be there, but I think he was glad to do it.

Courtesy/NATAS

Let’s move on to another amazing moment which was General Hospital’s Maurice Benard (Sonny) finally winning his second Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor.  The crowd went crazy!  What did you think about how that happened . … and the fact that Maurice didn’t have a speech prepared?

DAVID MICHAELS:  I honestly believe Maurice that he didn’t think he was going to win.  It’s been many years since he had, and I also didn’t think that any of the other nominees could complain about losing an award to Maurice, because he’s the king.  He kept saying he couldn’t cry up there, and then, he cried up on-stage.  It really was about doing the Alzheimer’s storyline with Max Gail (Mike, GH) who totally reminds Maurice of his real father, and then, to have Max win as well, I just think it was a very emotional moment for him, and it was beautiful.

DAVID PARKS:  What impressed me is that often times you think actors should be so good at giving speeches, and they’re horrible at it because it’s not scripted.  So, when somebody does give one, and it’s really heartfelt and all of that, it’s really refreshing.  It’s kind of nice, especially on such a big award.

Photo: NATAS

DAVID MICHAELS:  In addition, Kyler Pettis (Ex-Theo, Days) win for Younger Actor in a Drama Series, was one of the most emotional things I have ever seen.  For years, I have been impressed with his portrayal of the high-functioning autistic young man.  It was always very moving to me.  If you watched the show and the close-up on him when they called his name, Kyler immediately was crying.  It really moved me.  I spoke to him the next day at The Talk, and he was completely blown away.  I just don’t think he thought this was going to happen.

What went into the decision to make the opening number “Sing!”?  Obviously, a big part of that was you were celebrating the 50th anniversary of Sesame Street.  And, I hear Mario Lopez’s son got to see the Muppets backstage, up close and personal?

DAVID MICHAELS: They always say don’t work with children and animals – but we did it – children – a dog – and two Muppets!  The dog – of course was Q-Tip – the shelter dog who came on with Lucky Dog’s Brandon McMillan. The kids were mostly from a community theatre production of MATILDA – and Joely Fisher connected us.  They included one of Joely’s daughters, Rebecca Romijn’s twins and Gary Busey’s son!  It was my concept and our musical director’s arrangement.  I thought it would be a great, positive way to start the evening.  It is always a joy to work with the Muppets – and Ryan and Leslie who do Elmo and Abby are amazing.  When Mario’s son, Nico, came in, I wanted to be careful to not shatter any illusions – so I took him over to the Muppets and he stared at them and he whispered to me: “Are they real”?  I said “Of course they are – just like you see them on TV.”  Nico says, “Can they talk?” I  say, “Of course they can.”  Then, Nico says, “Does someone have to help them talk?”  Now I am nervous and I pause, “Well … what do you think?”  He says, “I think they have some help”  Then,  he walked around back and saw the puppeteers.  The most adorable sweet child on the planet!

Photo: NATAS

There was a lot of behind the scenes drama and difficulties in the months prior to the Emmys; including the independent investigation, requests for more transparency in the awards system, the four soaps potentially boycotting, etc.  When you look back at what it took to get here, how do you feel about the outcome?

DAVID PARKS:  I’ve used this analogy a couple of times already, and I’m not a woman, but I think this is kind of what childbirth must be like.  The pain of it is so great that you think, “We can’t get through this,” and “Never again,” and afterwards, you see the baby, and all of the pain goes away.  You’re like, “Hey, we did it, and it worked.  It was really good.  It was enjoyable.”  I think, as a producer, you don’t really want people to know the difficulties.  If people understand the difficulties of getting to that night, you’ve probably done something wrong.  At the same time, I’m the last guy to crave attention, but for the people who were aware of the challenges that we had this year to see what we’ve pulled off, and when they say, “Holy cow.  Your set, your show, the smoothness…”  that is gratifying. You know, the stuff people are experiencing in the audience or the stuff that they see on the screen is what ultimately matters.  You learn from the mistakes, but at the end of the day, as long as that experience is good for the nominees, the winners, and the fans, that is what really counts.

People always want to know how it goes backstage with the handling of the envelopes.  Do you have it plotted out so that nobody except the accountants knows the winners until the big moment on-stage?  How does that work?

DAVID PARKS:  So, this year we actually had two accountants backstage.  The envelope went from the hand of the accountant to the hand of the stage manager, who then gave it to our trophy people, who give it to the presenter.  We had our fancy, new envelopes which everybody seemed to like, but literally, nobody on the staff even touched the envelopes this year.

Photo: NATAS

It seems like you have built-in a failsafe to minimize any potential complaints.

DAVID PARKS:  People always can, I guess.  It’s always been completely above board, but this year it was just even another step.  It’s important because the integrity of the awards is important.  I laugh a little bit, when somebody thinks they know if they are going to win or not because they’re trying to read something into the position of a camera in the audience.  We even added steps with how we shot it.  We told our cameramen, “Hold your shot for like 5 seconds after the announcement has been made.  So, even though your person isn’t getting up, we don’t want you to relax.”  We don’t want the person to think they’re not going to win.  The worst thing that will happen is somebody thinks they’re not going to win like a half a second before the announcement, it’s not a life-altering thing, but we still want to make the experience perfect for all nominees.

DAVID MICHAELS:  Our director Greg Gelfand, I think is the best in the business.  This is all a big pain in the butt for him.  He’s just trying to direct a show, but he was totally with us.  Greg said, “Okay, you’ve got it.”  The cameramen were great, and Greg was great.   Again, I’ll say for the 8 millionth time, I don’t know who is going to win.  It was very exciting and it was very surprising.

DAVID PARKS:  I always tell people that if anybody wanted to have proof that we don’t know in advance, all they have to do is watch David’s reaction at the producer’s table.  We find out at the same time as everybody else, and he’s like, “Oh, my God!  They won!?  That is an upset.  You don’t understand, Dave.  That is like an upset.”

Courtesy/NATAS

DAVID MICHAELS:  I know the soaps more than David does, but I’m like a little boy back there when I see who is winning.  I’m like, “Are you kidding me?” (Laughs)  The accountants sometimes will look at me like, “Did I do something wrong? (Laughs)  Look, there’s not much more we can do.  I was very proud.  I was very proud of the presenters, and I thought it was a great mix of all of the genres and the whole industry, and everybody was great in their own unique way.  There was some new blood at the show presenting and with the winners.

DAVID PARKS:  I have to interject my half into the little bit of love fest for David, because if there is one thing I think I hammered on David more than anything else this year was that we have to shorten the show.  The difference between three hours and three and a half hours or three hours and twenty minutes, is a huge difference.  I kept pushing David to simplify, to come up with simpler ways, or less verbose ways to do presentations, and he rose to the occasion, and before the show, he was like, “I’ve got to tell you, I don’t think I could have made this any shorter,” and I went through the script and there really was so little that could have been trimmed.  David really did a great job of answering the call and writing something that got us through a lot faster than last year.  We got a lot of comments after that said it didn’t feel like three hours.  Part of that was that it wasn’t three hours and thirty minutes.  It was actually three hours.

DAVID MICHAELS:   David Parks is the perfect foil for me and me for him.  Because we are so different, we don’t fight, but we will have words sometimes, and one of us will win, but it’s always the right decision.  One of the reasons I love working with him so much is that if he is giving me a hard time about something, there is a reason for it, and I have to really consider what he is saying.  I think that is a really healthy way to work.

Photo: JPI Studios

What would you like to see happen for the next Daytime Emmy Awards presentation?

DAVID MICHAELS:  I’d love for somebody to give us a million dollars so that we can do the most lavish show in the world.  I’d love to keep the heart going.   The one bad thing about finishing a good show is that you always take a breath and say, “Now … what do we do next time?”

DAVID PARKS:  For me, it’s that you always want to keep shows like this fresh.  It doesn’t always mean completely reinventing the wheel, but sometimes, you step back, and you think, “What can we do to freshen this up so that it’s not just a repeat?”  That can have to do with the set.   You just have to look at everything and also recognize that the best moments, as we learned this year, you can’t manufacture those.  They’re just going to happen organically.  So, you just have to create a show that allows those moments to happen, and like David said, money solves problems.  We will certainly be looking for additional sponsorship, and to build on the great ratings that we’ve had this year, and the fact that we have continued to build this event up over the years.

Courtesy/NATAS

Would you ever consider, or continue to try to get the ceremony back on TV, perhaps even on daytime television, if some network would offer you a spot to do it in?

DAVID MICHAELS:  There is nothing we wouldn’t consider.   Although I will say; that if the numbers are what we think they were this year, there were probably more than three times as many viewers as the last time we were on television.

DAVID PARKS:  I’ve always said that if they were to be on TV again, if they were to be on during the day, which is when our fans are watching TV anyway, it would make sense,  However, I have to say that I think the Daytime Emmys being at sort of the forefront of digital television puts us way out in front.  Eventually, this is how everybody is going to be watching TV.  It’s not going to be like, “Oh, we’re not on basic, terrestrial TV.”  It doesn’t matter.

DAVID MICHAELS:  You’ve got to realize that this audience is worldwide.  Being on television is not.  So, when you see that people are watching all over the world, that’s pretty amazing.

So, what did you think about what David & David shared about decisions made for the Emmy ceremony and the backstage tidbits?  How would you score this year’s Daytime Emmys? What was your favorite moment within it? Comment below.

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General Hospital

Steve Burton Interview – General Hospital – 46th Annual Daytime Emmys Red Carpet

On the red carpet at the 46th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards, General Hospital’s Steve Burton (Jason Morgan) chats with Michael Fairman.

During their conversation, Steve weighs-in on the nominated scenes of Laura Wright’s which also featured him, and the friendship of Jason and Carly, plus how he told Maurice Benard (Sonny) that he had to submit himself in the Lead Actor category; an award in which Maurice won that night.

Later, Burton laughs as Michael reveals that in his recent interview with Coby Ryan McLaughlin (Shiloh), the actor said that he can and wants to take down the character of Jason; to which Steve rebutted here that it ain’t going to happen.

Finally. Steve talks on the success of his road show and podcast with buddy and castmate, Bradford Anderson (Spinelli)

Watch the interview below. Then let us know, do you like the scenes between  Jason and Carly? Do you want Shiloh or Jason to have the upper hand in their rivalry? Comment below.

For more red carpet and backstage interviews from the 46th annual Daytime Emmy Awards visit the Michael Fairman Channel here.

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Days Of Our Lives

Ron Carlivati Interview – Days of our Lives – 46th Annual Daytime Emmys Red Carpet

Days of our Lives head writer, Ron Carlivati chats with Michael Fairman on the red carpet at the 46th annual Daytime Emmy Awards.  Carlivati and his writing team were nominated for Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series; an award they won last year.

Ron reveals to Michael that the reels submitted in the writing category were different than those submitted for Outstanding Drama Series; with the writing submissions centering around Marlena (Deidre Hall) and John’s (Drake Hogestyn) wedding and her shooting … and then the aftermath in the hospital where Marlena’s children and John have to say goodbye to her fearing she will not pull through her medical crisis.

Later, Carlivati discusses how he has become more firmly entrenched in the land of Salem after being an ABC Daytime guy for most of his life; following writing for One Life to Live and General Hospital.

Watch the interview below.  Then let us know, what did you think of Ron’s choice for the writing award? Should DAYS have toppled Y&R on the strength of those reels? Comment below.

For more 46th annual Daytime Emmy Red Carpet and backstage interviews visit the Michael Fairman Channel here.

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

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