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The Heather Tom and Don Diamont Interview – The Bold and the Beautiful

Photo Credit: Kathie Hutchins

Photo Credit: Kathie Hutchins

The Bold and the Beautiful’s Dollar Bill Spencer had certainly taken things way too far in the past, and has made some very questionable and unethical decisions when it comes to family, relationships and business.  But, this most recent power play took the cake!  In an attempt to keep his son Liam married to his former flame, Steffy, he cunningly made sure a fraudulent diagnosis was made about Steffy’s medical condition after her injury in Cabo!  However, Bill’s wife Katie got wind of the deception and was willing to blow Bill’s deceit sky-high, except he took drastic measures to make sure the info wouldn’t come out.  So what’s a hubby to do?  Lock his wife up in a tower!

On-Air On-Soaps caught up with two of your favorite daytime performers, who you first came to know on The Young and the Restless, and then fell in love with all over again in their more recent roles on B&B.  Heather Tom (Katie) and Don Diamont (Bill) sat down with us to talk about the complexities of playing their feisty on-screen romance, and clued us in if Steffy would indeed be the ultimate spoiler in their relationship… or, could it be something else that could eventually tear them apart?

There is no doubt after talking with them, that as far as Heather and Don are concerned, they are having the time of their lives, and both concur that they have the best scene-partner anyone could ask for.  So read below as we go inside the minds of the explosive Spencer clan with the Daytime Emmy Award-winning actress, and one of soaps all-time heartthrobs!

MICHAEL:

B&B fans were in for a shock when Bill decided to lock up his own wife. It was sort of a twisted house arrest when he kept her prisoner in a tower to keep her from revealing his deception!  Female viewers of the show have always loved Katie, because she tells it like it is.   But what happened here?  She seemed to go right back to Bill after being in lock-down? (Laughs)

Photo Credit: Gilles Toucas

HEATHER:

I hope I am empowering women, except you’re right, she always goes right back to him!  I think that is the part of it … that these two have always had this push and pull and the appeal of that.  And even though it is stroking his ego, what is she going to do?  Go date the bus boy?  She is ruined, done!  (Laughs)  Honestly, she understands who she married. And it has never been about Katie “walking out”.  It was not about that.  It was to alter his behavior in some way.  I just feel like it’s going to take a lot for her to walk away from this relationship, but that does not mean she isn’t going to call him on his crap.

DON:

She knew full well who she married when she married him!  It’s like the ying and yang of who this guy is, and all that he is, that is so attractive.  There is the flip side of that where he is a very challenging personality, and she is going to try to manage that, and she loves him!  And, he loves her!

HEATHER:

There is a part of me after this whole tower incident that was concerned, because after it was all done, like five minutes later, we were having sex and everything was cool! (Laughs) So, hopefully viewers will catch the show where it is more about, “What can I do?  I love him!”  I have said this.  And, it’s more of, “What are you doing?  Do you really think Liam is going to be cool with this?”  It’s saving him from himself.  Hopefully, I can maintain that moral strength without looking like a doormat.

DON:

I think she has done that and shown enormous strength.

Photo Credit: Kathie Hutchins

MICHAEL:

What about Steffy?  Doesn’t Bill still carry a torch for her?

DON:

That is a different kind of love.  In Steffy, as I have always said, Bill sees a reflection of himself and there is nothing Bill likes more than himself.  It’s that kind of attraction. Steffy feeds his ego and some his behavior as well.  Katie is the voice of reason and his conscience, and the angel.  She appeals to the goodness in Bill.

MICHAEL:

When you initially saw the scripts that had Bill imprisoning his own wife in the tower, what went through your minds?

DON:

I think initially when I heard about it I was concerned, because throwing her in the tower you walk a fine line with Bill Spencer, and anything that smacks of physical abuse or domestic battery.  He is not redeemable at that point and so we have to stay away from that.  So we called Brad Bell (executive producer and head writer, B&B) who then said, “No Don.  It’s going to be romantic and hot, and it’s going to be great.”  (Laughs)  Then the script came and did say, “Bill grabs Katie by the arm…”  So, we worked all that out to make it all more Harlequin Romance than OJ Simpson! (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

Heather, did you have reservations on playing the material?

HEATHER:

We are always very conscience of going right up to the line without crossing it.  I think that’s what Brad wanted.  We still wanted it to be fun, even though it was heightened drama.  We wanted it to be fun to watch and I think it was. There were some light and humorous moments in the midst of the crazy drama, like throwing me over his shoulder and then he has a speech where there is just my butt   …

Courtesy/CBS

DON:

…  I am talking to her ass … (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

Viewers did not know till the next episode where Bill exactly took her!  He just threw her over his shoulder and whisked her away… somewhere!

HEATHER:

Right, and we actually got to shoot at Brad Bell’s house, which is beautiful and gorgeous, and that is always fun.

DON:

My back was out to where I could barely stand.  I wanted to moon Heather, which I did, but I started to laugh and it dropped me to the floor!

HEATHER:

With his pants down around his ankles …

DON:

Photo Credit: Gilles Toucas

… Then, idiot that I am, I got myself back up to do it again and I started to laugh again and it dropped me to the ground again!   You can see on the air shows when I come out of the house to chase her, you can see I am walking a little weird.  I could not stand straight and could barely walk!

MICHAEL:

What does Katie think now of Steffy?  Where is she at with that?

HEATHER:

I think Katie realizes that Steffy did not have anything to do with this one particular incident. (Laughs)  Listen, Steffy and Katie are never going to be friends, and she is never going to want Steffy in her life.  She is more than willing to have Steffy out of Liam’s life, and that is her ultimate agenda.  Ultimately it may back fire on her.

MICHAEL:

Sides are clearly drawn between Bill and Katie of where they see Liam and Steffy’s relationship!  How can Bill be OK with his son being with Steffy instead of himself?

DON:

We went through Katie’s heart problems, and it made Bill keenly aware of Katie and how good she is for him.  Certainly Steffy marrying his son makes her off limits to Bill.  So that is helpful.  Bill actually believes Steffy has the attributes to compensate for Liam’s weaknesses … the woman behind the man.

MICHAEL:

And Katie wants Hope with Liam, because Steffy is so appalling?

HEATHER:

Courtesy/CBS

Yes, but I also believe Katie believes that Liam and Hope are meant for each other.

MICHAEL:

Since you have known each other since Y&R, when the two of you knew you were going to be paired romantically on the show, were you nervous?

DON:

I remember the first time watching Heather on camera and going, “Wow. What a gifted kid!”   I also thought she was wonderful.

MICHAEL:

So, there was no trepidation that you would be playing on-screen lovers?

DON:

No.  In fact, they looked at doing it with us as Brad and Victoria.  Then when Heather left, I did that story with Amelia Heinle (the current Victoria, Y&R)!   So when I was coming to B&B, I don’t know if Brad Bell had any idea who he would pair me with, because initially it was going to be Donna, played by Jennifer Gareis.

HEATHER:

I was campaigning for it.  Jeanne Cooper, (Katherine, Y&R) was being honored by AFTRA and Adrienne Frantz told me that night that Don was coming to B&B!  So at the dinner I texted Brad, “Put me with Don!”  And I don’t know if that made any difference really or not…

DON:

Courtesy/CBS

Well as my story moved along, I saw that it looked like they were moving towards Bill and Katie, and I was so happy.  There is nobody I would prefer to work with than Heather.

MICHAEL:

We hope this will be a couple that will last and not break every ten seconds, like many couples on B&B!

HEATHER:

In B&B terms, we have been married for 25 years! (Laughs)

DON:

I think Brad does feel that way, and I know he likes Bill and Katie.

HEATHER:

I think its more interesting to try to struggle to be together.  Who knows whether they succeed or not, but in my opinion it is more interesting to watch the struggle and the fight than having them just cut and run at the first sign of trouble.

DON:

They are great real couple and it works in a visceral way!

HEATHER:

I also like that they have kept us together as long as they have.  I like the fact we don’t implode, then get back together, then implode.  I think if and when we do break up it’s going to have to be something really big, and the stakes are going to have to be really high. That is a more exciting path to be on than this circular pattern of getting married, divorced, and getting married, and divorced.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

MICHAEL:

When you saw Heather do her outstanding work in the more recent heart storyline, what did you think?  It must have been amazing to be a part of those scenes and to watch her work in those?

DON:

I know what is coming with her!  When I watch the air shows I can be a viewer at that point, and it’s different than being in the scene.  She is brilliant, I will say that.

HEATHER:

I have to say likewise for Don.  He has been given some amazing material and he has just taken this material and run with it.  It’s such a testament to who he is as a person and an actor.  He has defined this character that is very unique and is a force!  I can’t imagine working with anyone else!

DON:

And it’s a testament to Brad also that he gave me the outline of who this guy was   He gave me the leeway to flesh him out and make him who he is.   I don’t know if this is exactly what he saw. (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

Bill and Katie have really become very integral to the show and now there are even  more Spencers being added to the mix!

HEATHER:

I like that they are building the Spencer family.  Now the niece is coming on the show, and anything that fleshes out the Spencer family is a really good thing.

DON:

Photo Credit: Gilles Toucas

It’s my take and my belief, and I have built this in the subtext of Bill, it is that we have talked about Bill Sr., and the abandonment issues and the contentious relationship between them, and how that has affected him, but what we have not addressed what is at the heart of Bill’s womanizing nature and objectification of women into his forties!  Katie kind of reels him back in, but his tendency is to be dismissive and objectifying. Generally, with that type of guy, it’s a mother issue.  I have that story in my head of what she was like, and what made Bill angry, and a womanizer, and also where that anger that lives in him comes from.   I think that is important to flesh Bill out even further, and that will also, of course, give Katie insight into Bill, at least on camera that we have not addressed.  I think Katie has brought it up, but Bill has just shot it down.

MICHAEL:

If Bill cheated on Katie with Steffy would she actually leave him?

HEATHER:

I think that would be the bottom line, but you never know.  It might be interesting to watch someone battle back from that.  A lot of couples battle back from that, but I think it would be more interesting to watch them do that and fail than wipe out the marriage.

MICHAEL:

Ditto, Don?

DON:

I think somewhere in the back of her mind from the beginning Katie has thought, “This is going to be at times absolutely hellish, but I am not going to walk away.”

HEATHER:

Courtesy/CBS

She does not want to try to corral him, and for him to not be who he is.  She likes that he is a powerful, strong man.  She does not want him to be some whipped pansy.  That is not who she married.

DON:

Early on when I was on the show and Bill had scenes with Donna, a concierge came to the door and gave him something.  As she left the scene, and I put this in, I bend down, because she was kind of a cute girl.  I just watched her go, and that is not who he is anymore.  The Steffy pull is different than that.  Bill is not just “a dog” anymore.  That has changed.   He is not a dog, and he is not looking to get laid, and compromise their relationship over a piece of ass.  I think Katie is secure in that.

HEATHER:

Steffy just pushes every button she has, and every insecurity. That is just the way it is.  I like that dynamic.  I like when they play it and I miss it when they don’t have it on.  I think it’s fun to play and it’s fun to watch.

MICHAEL:

What would you say about working with Jacqueline MacInnes Wood (Steffy) and Scott Clifton (Liam)?

HEATHER:

I love the Spencers!  I love working with Jacqui, and the chemistry works both ways.  It works with chemistry between a man and woman sexually on a soap, and it also works between rivals.  I think we have really good chemistry together.  We go head to head and both of us try to win our points.  One person does not always have to be right and one person does not have to be wrong.  I think that one person does not have to be the winner.  I think as far as Scott Clifton goes, I think he is wonderful and a wonderful part of the Spencer clan.  When all of us are in scenes together, you know the ball is never going to get dropped.  It’s a great group.

Photo Credit: Gilles Toucas

DON:

The growth in Jacqui from two years ago when I started on this show is fantastic!  I would not have known two years ago if Jacqui would have had the chops.  She did the bitchy stuff really well, but the subtleties and the emotional stuff…

HEATHER:

… Lately, she just comes from such a place of pain and you just know it.  She is amazing.

DON:

It’s great!  That is why she can get away with being that bitch now, because you see the vulnerability in her.  It used to be, “I’m just bitchy.”  Now that she is bringing out that emotional depth to it, it’s taken it to a whole new place, because you cannot work opposite of Heather and not bring that to the table.  If you don’t bring that to the table you are chewed out and spit out, and it never works.  Jacqui’s growth has been astronomical over the last few years, and that is what made it work. As far as Scott, he is so great.  He makes great choices, and he has great clarity of who his character is. The dynamics between father and son and the contrast works.  The chemistry we had from day one was all very real. That is what I like so much about the Spencers.

MICHAEL:

They are one soap opera family that is never boring!

HEATHER:

We are not nice!

MICHAEL:

People don’t want to see nice on television!

Photo Creditl: Kathie Hutchins

HEATHER:

We are not nice, but we are not despicable.  I think there is somewhere between nice and despicable.  I think that is where we live, and I like that.

MICHAEL:

Don, if you were to tell me three words to describe working with Heather, what would they be?

DON:

She is funny.  She is together. She is gifted.

MICHAEL:

Heather your turn, three words or so to describe working with Don.

HEATHER:

I was going to say funny, too.  I think the one thing I admire is his loyalty to his family, and how much he is a family man and a father.  So, I would say, loyalty.  I would also say talented.  I feel we got so lucky with his character and what he has done here. I was at a point before he came on the show where I was like, “I don’t know where they are going with Katie.”   I truly believe the reason I am on the canvas is because he is here.

MICHAEL:

Heather won last years’ Outstanding Supporting Actress at the Daytime Emmys.  Scott Clifton won last year’s Outstanding Younger Actor at the Daytime Emmys, and, B&B won for Outstanding Dramatic Series.  Don, were you kind of thrilled that your show and your acting partners won some of the top prizes?

DON:

Courtesy/CBS

Let me tell you something, when I was fired the day after thanksgiving after 21 years on Y&R that was such a huge and traumatic and painful situation.  Then when Brad created this new character and told me right off the bat, “I really have high hopes for this character,” I felt this pressure.  It was like, “Whew! I got a job!  Great!” Then it was; “Now I got to make this character and bring this guy to life that Brad envisioned, or with within 13 or 26 weeks I could be moving on again!”  So having said that, Brad gave me the opportunity, and he won his Emmy.  And what I told him was; the year I started on Y&R your dad, Bill Bell Sr., won the Emmy.  The year I started with you, you are going to win the Emmy.  So you are going to win the Emmy and I will take credit for that one. (Laughs)  Of course, I am being tongue-and-cheek.  So we won and Brad yelled to me, “You are my lucky charm” as we are leaving the stage.   So I don’t know if I ever won an Emmy, if I would feel more elation than I did for him on that night, because the opportunity his father gave me in the mid-80’s was tremendous.  I lost my dad and my brother very early on during my time with the show, and Bill Sr. was very paternal with me.  That was not necessarily difficult, but it struck something in Bill and we had a beautiful relationship all those years.  Then Brad gave me this opportunity.  I fully understood that “Wow, what huge shoes to fill!  To be the son and take over the legacy!”  Brad’s dad has all those Emmys up in his office, and so just to get one it had to mean so much to him.  I really got that.  It was no different seeing Heather win, even though she has been nominated a thousand times before and won.  I said to Heather, “You are going to win.” I completely believed that and I completely believed Scott Clifton was going to win.   I also said, “If she doesn’t win, I want to see what does win”. I was elated and it was incredibly gratifying that that she won having been Mrs. Bill Spencer, and then Scott being my on-screen son.

MICHAEL:

Speaking of the Daytime Emmys, this year new voting rules have been instigated to try to level out the voting process and make it more fair with the actors having to submit only a short two-minute reel as an example of their work to get a pre-nomination.  Was it hard for you to find a two-minute gem, and what do you think of this new process?

HEATHER:

Oh Gosh!  It was horrible for me to have to find a two-minute reel.   I second-guess.  I sleep on it and I wake up the next day and I go, “No!”   So it was awful.  I think the new concept of voting may be an improvement.  I decided to put myself in Lead Actress because I said, “What the hell!”  What I will say is, I watched all the Supporting Actress clips, and Gina Tognoni (Kelly, OLTL) submitted a two minute thing that was unfreakin’ believable!  I would not have not seen that scene if it wasn’t for this voting process.  I would know Gina is a great actress, and I have always known that and she has done great work, but I would not have necessarily seen that and gone, “Wow”!   There is something to it.  But then you think, “Are you really going to be judged on 2 minutes of your work?”   We will have to see how this all works itself out.

Photo Credit: Kathie Hutchins

DON:

I am in lead actor category for consideration, and it was not hard for me to choose my scene.  I don’t know what the right system is, because again, I have never been nominated.   And this takes you back to the way the pre-nominations were previously with the show nominating the actors, because those people know your body of work through the year.  I also see where that can create a popularity contest, because if you are not liked, you won’t get in.  As Heather will tell you, I have never been known for shaking hands and kissing babies.  Would that come into play, maybe?  I think it can’t hurt if you are well known, and if you have relationships with people.  That is why politicians walk around and stop in cities doing what they do.  Having said that, I don’t know what voting system for the Emmys is perfect, and this one does at least says, “Ok. I am not familiar with this persons work, so let me see them.”  I think as in my case, people may know I play the cock-sure Bill Spencer on B&B, but they have not seen the work.  So this gives them an opportunity to check it out and perhaps change their perception on an actor and their performances.  If I got nominated this year, absolutely then, this is the best system ever! (Laughs)

 

 

 

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So_Superflous
Guest
So_Superflous

I’m interested to see how the Spencer’s come into there own as a family unit with Karen and Caroline coming in. I Love Bill and Katie but still want more of Steffy/Bill/Katie to kinda going their love.

BETTYEJ
Guest
BETTYEJ

After reading the first thing that HT said was enough for me. I see why the males run over these weak women on this show. Because they let them.

Leah
Guest
Leah

I’m a Bill and Steffy can myself, but I really enjoy this interview. Two phenomenal actors!

Leah
Guest
Leah

Ugh! I meant “fan” not “can” haha

sandy
Guest
sandy

I think Bill and Steffy have better dynamics, i love HT but they make the women in this show so weak, unfortuneatly, they have written Katie that way too…

Mandy
Guest
Mandy

Thanks! Love Bill and Katie! Don and Heather seem so down to earth have fantastic chemistry. “Batie” are definitely my favorite B&B pairing and I love reading that Brad Bell loves Batie as much as I do <3

Sheila E. Hollingsworth
Guest
Sheila E. Hollingsworth

I love Katie & Bill together, they are sooo goodlooking!!!!! He needs to stay true to Katie cause she can give him all he needs, what else could he ask for! I get sooooo mad at Liam & Steffy & Hope, why do they need to TELL everyone their business, just do it then they can know AFTER the fact!!!!!!! Love B&B hope it doesn’t go off the TV like others did.

Mitchell
Guest
Mitchell

Bill and Katie are by far my favorite daytime couple! What a delightful interview! Don and Heather have done a great job making me believe two such opposite characters can make a perfect couple. The fact that Bill and Katie are so different makes the couple more appealing.

Giulia
Guest
Giulia

They’re are horrible together and KILL is the worst couple of daytime

Toni D
Guest
Toni D

I agree! Not only has their chemistry DIED and NEVER been resuscitated, they represent the WORST kind of relationship! I’ve loved Heather Tom since Victoria Newman on Y&R, but COME ON! She comes across like a PATHETIC, WHINY DOORMAT! She complains that her husband does ALL this stuff then she turns around and FORGIVES HIM?! REALLY?! THIS is what a STRONG woman does… when a man puts his EX before at EVERY GIVEN OPPORTUNITY, but it’s not surprising that he shows her no loyalty since she shows him NONE!! She is who she accused Steffy of being when she was… Read more »

Joanna
Guest
Joanna

I love Bill and Katie. They are such a powerful couple. They have the best chemistry and romance! I want to see more of them. They need more airtime and a new story! Great interview! Thank you Michael Fairman.

allison
Guest
allison

I love bill and steffy they are the best couple on the shower

Days Of Our Lives

DAYS Cady McClain & Rob Scott Wilson Talk Being Recasts, All My Children Reboot, Future of Cin & Jennifer’s Bitch-Slap

Current Days of our Lives and former All My Children reboot stars, Cady McClain (Jennifer, Days, Ex-Dixie, AMC) and Rob Scott Wilson (Ben, Days, Ex-Pete AMC) chat with Michael Fairman in an enlightening and exclusive conversation for the Michael Fairman Channel on You Tube.

McClain, who recently took over the role of Days of our Lives beloved heroine Jennifer Horton from mainstay Melissa Reeves (who chose to stay with her family in Nashville during Covid-19 thus forcing the series to recast the role for now) talks about stepping into the key part of the Salem canvas, plus the recent Jennifer/Kate fight over Jack (Matthew Ashford), and how the legacy series is coping with production during Covid-19.

Photo: JPI

Rob, talks about landing the role of Ben; and in an emotional moment reveals how he credits the opportunity to the late producer, Lisa de Cazotte. Wilson also shares his hopes for his Salem alter-ego who is struggling to move on with his life after the supposed death of his wife, Ciara.

The actor also opens up on if DAYS decided to recast the role of Ciara, since Victoria Konefal is not presently with the NBC soap full-time, how he would feel about it and thus the future of Cin.

Photo: JPI

Both Cady and Rob first appeared together in Prospect Park’s online revival of All My Children. In this interview, they discuss how they had high hopes for the continuation of the series, how it ultimately fizzled, and what it was like to be a part of the then, groundbreaking first, for a daytime drama series along with One Life to Live.

Photo: TOLN

In addition, Cady gives the viewer insight on how she runs lines for both DAYS and GH at home with her real-life husband, Jon Lindstrom (Kevin and Ryan, GH), while Rob talks about his recent storyline where Ben was kidnapped and tortured by a vengeful Eve (Kassie DePavia) and much more.

Check out the full chat with Cady and Rob below. Then weigh-in: How would you feel if there was a Ciara recast? What are your hopes for the holidays for Jennifer? What did you think of the stories shared by Cady and Rob in the interview? Comment below, and if you have not done so already make sure to “subscribe” to the Michael Fairman Channel for more celebrity interviews.

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Interviews

B&B’s Matthew Atkinson Weighs-In On Daytime’s Wildest Storyline, The Hope Mannequin & What’s Really Going On With Thomas

If you think you’ve seen it all on daytime soap operas, think again! Over the past several weeks viewers of CBS Daytime’s The Bold and the Beautiful have been witness to fashion designer Thomas Forrester’s (Matthew Atkinson) descent into madness, or is it?

In B&B’s thriller-esque storyline, complete with tight close-ups and tilted angles of Thomas and his co-star, the Hope Mannequin – yup, you read that right, the series is taking the audience on one wild ride, something we have not seen the likes of since back in the hey day of the late head writer, James Reilly, during his tenure on Days of our Lives or Passions.

Photo: JPI

Inspired by, believe it or not, true life events, B&B’s head writer and executive producer, Brad Bell and his creative team have served up a story generated off all of the buzz the show was receiving for using mannequins as scene partners for the actors in intimate moments to adhere to Covid-19 safety protocols.  B&B was the first American show back in production amid the pandemic.

 

Within this twisted tale, Thomas has the life-like version of Hope Logan Spencer (Annika Noelle) at home with him.  Those who have stumbled upon him with the mannequin, well, he has been able to explain that away by saying that having the doll with him is helping him create some of the best designs of his career.

The problem is the mannequin is talking to Thomas, it’s eyes have often turned devil-red, and on Friday’s episode it walked!  It’s objective is to get Thomas to kill Liam (Scott Clifton) and to get Hope back to be his one and only. Throughout many of the scenes in the storyline, Thomas suffers from what appears to be severe headaches.  All of this leading the audience to believe either … he has a brain tumor … he is being drugged … he is suffering from a severe mental break and disorder, or something else.

Photo: JPI

In a very candid and often humorous conversation with Michael Fairman for the Michael Fairman Channel on You Tube, Thomas’ portrayer, Matthew Atkinson, discusses some of the craziest scenes to shoot thus far including Thomas having dinner with the mannequin!  In addition, Atkinson reveals how he and Annika Noelle tape the scenes where she is the voice of the Hope mannequin while adhering to safety protocols,  and how Liam is the only one, apparently, thinking something is off with Thomas, and so much more.

Photo: Gilles Toucas

One thing is for certain, Matthew Atkinson is sinking his teeth into the material and making it must-see daytime drama through his performances while we all wait to see what the possessed mannequin does next.

Check out the full interview with Matthew below. 

Then let us know, what do you think is happening or wrong with Thomas? Are you getting a kick out of the Hope Mannequin storyline? Share your thoughts and theories via the comment section below.

 

 

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Interviews

Eric Nelsen Talks Latest Film, Becoming a Tony-Nominated Producer, ‘The Bay’, and His Elizabeth Gillies & Ariana Grande Connection

You can catch All My Children reboot alum, Eric Nelsen (Ex-AJ Chandler), just about everywhere this month, and that’s hard to do given that we are all living in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

However, this Daytime Emmy-winning actor has his hands in a myriad of projects of late including: appearing on season six of The Bay (new episodes every Tuesday on Popstar! TV) where he continues to play Daniel’s journey after the character has come to terms with his sexuality and finds love, plus his comedic turn in the film, 1 Night in San Diego, and recently becoming a Tony-nominated producer along with his wife Sainty for the critically-acclaimed, and now 11 times nominated Broadway play, The Inheritance.

Michael Fairman TV chatted with Eric to get the lowdown on his busy professional life, and we were in for some surprises along the way including: what the producers of AMC had in mind for the character of AJ that ultimately did not happen, and that Eric starred on Broadway with Elizabeth Gillies (Fallon, Dynasty) and Pop superstar, Ariana Grande – and there’s more to that story below.

 

What makes Nelsen so good at what he does on-screen is that he is a like a chameleon; adept at playing the quirky, to the troubled bad boys, to the emotional heart-tugging anti-hero. So here’s what Eric had to say in this fascinating conversation.

Photo: : Metropolitan Entertainment,

Your latest film appearance in 1 Night in San Diego is out this week on multiple streaming on-demand platforms from: Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, and more. Tell me about the movie and when did you film this?

ERIC:  We filmed it near San Diego, not this past February, but last February, and it’s hilarious.  It’s a female-driven comedy.  The cast is incredible.  Alexandra Daddario, who is just epic, and Jenna Ushkowitz, and Laura Ashley Samuels, they truly bring it in this powerhouse comedy, and it’s just one of those make-you -laugh movies from beginning to end, just silly, stupid stuff happening the whole time.  General Hospital’s Mark Lawson (Dustin) is also in the film.  While we don’t work in scenes together, I did get a chance to meet him and he’s a really great guy.  I play this off-the-wall character, named Gordo, who is a real burn-out, think Matthew McConaughey meets space cadet, which was a lot of fun to play.  Gordo is a great role.  I had more fun with this part than I’ve had in a long time.  So, it was cool to throw a comedy into all of the drama I have been playing in my other projects.

How does Gordo know the girls in the film?

ERIC:  One of the girls knew him back in the day, so they were in town looking to reconnect, and she’s like, “Oh, we want to party and let’s hit up Gordo,” and they do.  He has just gone completely off the rails, off the deep end with spirituality and kind of in his own world. They find themselves in quite a predicament when they come visit what they didn’t know was a commune, basically.  Gordo creates this hippie commune for a bunch of outcast musicians, (laughs) and I don’t want to give too much away, but a lot of interesting stuff happens there.

Photo: InheritancePlay

 

In addition, you are now a Tony-nominated producer for the play The Inheritance!

ERIC: That was crazy, because it’s always been a dream of mine to produce for Broadway.  That was how I got into the world of film and TV acting, which was through the theatre.  That’s where I started.  I was lucky enough to star on Broadway when I was 16 and 17, in a musical called, 13.  I started with Ariana Grande! It was so fun.

Wait, what?

ERIC:  Yeah, that was her first big show, and Elizabeth Gillies’.

Photo: AP

I think Elizabeth Gillies is terrific in Dynasty.

ERIC:  Oh yeah, and you know she and I dated for two and a half years during the whole run of the show 13.  Elizabeth is very talented.   She is amazing.  The funny part of it is, we were dating forever, and kind of had a bad breakup, and then Sainty, my wife, gets cast in her show Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, in the pilot to play Liz’s best friend on the series.  So, all of the sudden, I’m like, “Wait, wait, wait, out of all the shows, all of the things, this is who you have to get cast as best friends with?” and so they actually became really, really, close friends.  So, I’d actually come home from work or filming, and Liz would be on my couch sitting there giggling with Sainty.  I’m like, “This is just becoming too much.  This is a full-circle moment here.  I can’t deal.” (Laughs)

Now, you and Elizabeth are broken up at this point?

ERIC:  Yes.  We had been broken up at this point.  Sainty and I were actually together.  I started dating Sainty in New York and the pilot she was shooting was in New York, and she gets cast as Liz’s best friend, and I was like, “Oh, of course.”

Photo JPI

But Sainty knew you’d dated Elizabeth?

ERIC:  Yes, she did.

You must have been dying.

ERIC:  Yes, so dying.  Dying.   You know, it’s just one of those things that in a million years, you would never expect this to happen, and of course, Sainty and her had to become best friends in real life because they’re both great girls, and naturally, they would be friends, but now, I’m like this guy stuck in the middle who can’t believe what’s happening, and thought that was one chapter, and this is a different chapter, and now the chapters are combining.  It’s kind of a comedy act.

Photo: JPI

Since Ariana Grande was on Broadway with you and Liz, what was she like back then before her meteoric rise to fame?

ERIC:  Ariana was literally the sweetest, most innocent, and cutest – like my little sister.   To me, it was like, Liz and I were dating, and Ari was kind of like the little sister.  All of a sudden the show ended. Ariana got a Nickelodeon show, and after that, she became the most famous person in the world and was like this sex icon, and I couldn’t get over it.   She’s always had that talent with her voice and in 13 she was an ensemble member.  She wasn’t even one of the leads, but her voice was so incredible, even then as a young teenager.  I thought she was going to go on to have this great Broadway career as an actress and do musicals her whole life just because of her voice.  Then, all of the sudden, right after the musical, we all auditioned for the same Nickelodeon show.  I ended up going to the finals for the boyfriend role, Liz got the girlfriend role, and Ari got the funny friend on the show role.  That kind of catapulted them into the TV world, and Ari got a spinoff because of her character on that show for another Nickelodeon show, called Sam and Cat, and then after Sam and Cat, she went from this innocent, sweet, little Nickelodeon girl that I knew to being the biggest star.  It was unbelievable to me.

Photo: Broadway World

So, you started on Broadway as a teenager, and you found you always wanted to produce for the Great White Way? 

ERIC:  Yes, I did the Broadway thing, and then I got into film and TV, and then I got into film and TV producing.  As an actor, there are a lot of ups, a lot of downs.  So, in between the ups, I wanted to fill my time, so I got into producing, and I loved it.  I loved creating.  As an actor, we just show up, and everything is already done.  All we have to do is say our lines.  We get pampered, and we go home, but I wanted to know how it got to that point, like what happens before that.  So, I started producing film and found some success doing that, and it was so much fun for me.  Sainty’s and my first love, and what feels like home, is theatre.  So, I wanted to take it full circle and produce a Broadway show.  I just thought that would be such an incredible moment, and so that’s what I did.  I started emailing all of the Broadway producers who I had worked with as an actor, letting them know what I had been doing, kind of the success I had gotten from producing The Bay and some of these other things. Different shows came across my desk that I didn’t quite bite the bullet on, a couple of which I wish I would have, Dear Evan Hansen being one of them.  I would have been so rich by now!  (Laughs)

I just want to clarify for people who might not know, the word “producer” can mean different things.  There are “producers” who are putting money in … they’re backing projects or shows.  There are other people who are “producers” on the creative side of projects.  So, when you’re talking about producing a Broadway show, it is as an investor?

ERIC:  So for theatre, unless you’re the head producer who kind of gets creative control, every other producer listed in the credits is basically helping raise finances and is also very heavily involved in the process of everything else along the way, which is also what makes it special.  So finally, The Inheritance came across our desk, and it checked every single box.  It was just an epic play.  It’s a two-part play, and it’s just hours and hours and hours long.  You see it in multiple days or in multiple shows.  I remember reading the script and not stopping until I finished.  I was like, “This is amazing,” and it had just come off of a huge commercial successful run in London.  It won the Olivier Award for “Best New Play” and just about every other award you could win, and so I was like, “This is the one.  This is incredible.  I love the piece, love the message, and pulled the trigger,” and I would have done it all over again if we could.

Photo: Broadway World

The Inheritance is a generational piece centering on gay men during the AIDS crisis.  What can you say about it to those who don’t know about it, or have not seen it yet?

ERIC:  It takes place in the past, and then it fasts forward to the future.  You see two generations of gay men in New York City, and it’s all about the AIDS crisis, and so you’re bawling crying, and then you’re laughing throughout it.  It’s just one of those epic plays that pulls at every single emotion and you feel like you’re watching a movie.

It seems reminiscent of Angels In America, but different.   

ERIC:  Yes.  It’s definitely its own thing.  It’s actually an adaptation of Howard’s End, the novel by Forster, definitely different from Angels in America, but the two-part show is kind of what I was meaning by that.  People have said it is kind of our generation’s Angel’s in America in tone and subject matter.  It was just a dream come true, and like all other theatre that was open during our season, it had to close because of the pandemic, and it will have life after Broadway.  We are already slated for the Geffen Playhouse in LA, so I’m very excited for all of my LA friends and the public to get to see it.

Courtesy/ENelsen

And you get nominated in the year that the coronavirus pandemic shut down live theatre! But it is my understanding we still do not have a date for handing out this year’s Tony Awards.

ERIC:  No, we do not.  They finally announced that they were going to announce nominations, and for a while we didn’t even know that they were going to do that.  We received 11 nominations, which is incredible.  We were so excited.  I truly thought the American Theatre Wing and the Tony committee were not going to do the Tonys at all, and so we were just like, “I can’t believe the one year we pull the trigger on the show, this isn’t going to happen for us,” but then thank God, they came to their senses.  There were plenty of shows that opened and needed to be recognized.

How long was it open on Broadway?

ERIC:  We were open from September 2019 through February or March.  So, as long as your submission was open on Broadway before Covid-19 and had at least all of its previews and an opening night before Covid-19 hit, then you could qualify, and then in the play category, there were like 10 plays that had opened last year that were contenders.  So, that was definitely the hardest category.   It will be interesting to see what happens after all of this.  The only good thing I know that is going to come from this is the amount of creatives who have had so much time sitting at home to create and write, that there will be so many new scripts and plays and musicals that are going to come from this.  I think it’s’ going to be the biggest boom that we’ve probably ever seen in theatre, just because there’s been so much time to develop stuff.  At the same time, it’s piggybacking on the darkest time that theatre has ever seen.

Throughout the pandemic, I always stream all of the Broadway Actor’s Fund events.  It’s really sad.  It’s just a difficult time, those in the arts are struggling and especially in the live theatre and also musicians who can’t tour or play gigs in front of an audience. I know they said Broadway is closed through May 31, 2021.

ERIC:  It is really hard.  I’m happy that we are able to find other ways like streaming shows.  I’m actually producing a big benefit for Broadway Cares Equity Fights AIDS that will be airing on World AIDS Day, December 1st.  It’s a show called Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens.  The cast we have is everybody from Nathan Lane, to Academy Award winner J. K. Simmons.  It’s insane.  It will be streaming online on the Broadway HD network.  It is a huge list of Broadway stars and a lot of movie and TV stars as well that are participating.  We’ve got people from all over the map.

And … Ariana Grande? (Laughs)

ERIC:  (Laughs)  Ari is not in it, actually!

Photo: Prospect Park

So, in this week’s latest episode of The Bay, your character of Daniel Garrett makes his final choice for love between Caleb (Mike Manning) and Matthew (Randy Wayne).  When you came to the show, did you know that this part was going to wind-up being a gay character?

ERIC:  No, I did not.  I think I dropped a bird in Gregori Martin’s (creator, The Bay) ear by telling him that before All My Children ended, they were going to have my character of AJ Chandler have a storyline where he is gay.  The producers sat me down and talked through an entire storyline arc with me.  Basically, Ginger Smith (ex-executive producer, All My Children) and Alison, our casting director, and one other person from the show, took me to lunch in New York. They pitched me what they wanted to do for my character, and asked me if I would be comfortable with it, and they wanted my opinion, everything.  It was really cool how they approached it, and I was like, “100% completely.”  I look at what Chandler Massey (Ex-Will Horton) did on Days and where that brought him and his storyline, and I thought, “Yes, there’s going to be so much more depth and stuff to play than just being this fun little rich kid.”  At the time, there really wasn’t much depth to AJ.  So, I was like, “Yes.  I will be all over it.  Absolutely.”  So, I told Gregori that, and I don’t know if he already had something in his mind or not, or if that influenced it at all, but maybe he just figured that was something that would work well, and up till that point, I guess they didn’t really have that on the show.  Regardless, no, I wasn’t aware that that was the direction it was going in, but I was really happy with my storyline and it’s grown a lot since then, and in this current season especially.  It’s really given me an arc to play, which I’ve enjoyed.

Photo: LANYEntertainment

So for those who may not know let’s do a re-set.  Where is the character of Daniel at? It seems like he is at crossroads, and is making some important decisions, or trying to.

ERIC:  So Daniel was a wild party boy in the beginning, just head in the clouds, lives life with thinking there’s no repercussions and just doing what you want to do all of the time, and that got him into a lot of trouble with drugs and alcohol. Then, we realize why Daniel has been the way he is, and why he acts out, and why he has been so all over the place, and it’s because he hasn’t been able to come to terms with who he is.  Then, he admits it to himself and for the first time to somebody else – who happens to be his priest in a catholic church, ironically –  that he is gay and this is what he has been battling with.  For the first time (and I don’t know where on television it has depicted it this way), but the catholic priest looks at Daniel, and he’s like, “What’s your sin?  You haven’t sinned.  This is perfectly fine.”  So, I love that Gregori made that the outlet for which Daniel was able to basically come to terms with who he was, because he grew up in the church, and so he was always told that it was wrong.  Obviously, it’s not wrong, or obviously the church needs to change their mindset, but on The Bay, he chose that to be the outlet through which he came out, which I thought was really powerful.  Through that, Daniel experimented with other boys and such to figure out where he wanted to land, and then in this newest season, I can’t say much that gives anything away, but for the first time, we really see Daniel’s growth, and he’s making decisions, and the most mature we’ve ever seen him, and it’s been really cool to see that come full circle.  He’s making commitments to himself.

Photo: LANY Entertaiment

In story, Daniel chooses Caleb.  Why so?

ERIC:  Obviously, that’s who it works with,  Caleb is a teacher and a great guy.

… And Matthew is not a great guy?

ERIC:  He is… he’s just not the great guy for him.

Photo: LANY Entertaiment

This season of The Bay is heavily steeped with social issues of our time.  Covid-19 has come to Bay City and the Black Lives Matter movement also plays prominently.

ERIC:  Yes.  It’s kind of the beginning of the pandemic in The Bay and within all of the intense drama that Daniel has been having, he is still, for all intent and purposes the comedic relief of the show, and so there is a funny scene where I’m carrying like 28,000 rolls of toilet paper like, “Come on, guys.  We’ve got to stock up!”  We all remember those days, don’t we?

Photo: JPI

How do you feel about this season of the show and your work in it? You’ve previously won a Daytime Emmy for your performances on The Bay.

ERIC:  This season is more cemented in a character that has truly grounded himself.  So, the first Emmy I won was for a storyline of coming out and uncertainty and struggle and pain, whereas this season Daniel knows what he wants and is going for it.  There is much more passion and love in this season for Daniel, as opposed to struggle and heartache.

The cast and crew of The Bay all went away and quarantined at this ranch this past summer to get the new season completed.  What was that like?

ERIC:  We were actually in Santa Barbara, and filmed on this epic ranch up there.  It’s like this 500-acre ranch that we all quarantined on.  We had to do the testing, and temperatures three times a day, and the whole thing.  So, it was really structured, tough to pull off, but we were all so grateful that we were able to do this.  Luckily, we had this incredible kind of bubble of a ranch to live and work on while we were shooting.  They were really good about block shooting it all, so we’d kind of shoot one person’s character, then the next, so we wouldn’t have to ever be leaving the ranch before we were done.

Courtesy/ENelsen

Finally, how is being a dad?

ERIC:  Oh, it’s amazing.  I just can’t believe how fast the time is flying by because of it.  We just had Molly’s first birthday on October 1st, and I feel like yesterday she was born.  I sound like my parents when I say this, but it’s like the time keeps getting faster, but it’s so true.  She’s awesome.  We play Broadway musical soundtracks to her all day, and she sings.  She sits at the piano with me when I play, and she kind of plunks notes out next to me.  She loves music, and we’ve introduced it to her from day one.  We always joke that she won’t be able to watch any of daddy’s stuff until she’s 18 probably, but Sainty is a voice-over actress.  She has done parts for animated films and TV shows such as Trolls, and Barbie, and Boss Baby, so everything from the first part of my daughter’s life is all going to be Mommy’s stuff, and then, in the later part of life she can start watching Daddy’s stuff.

Right, she can’t watch anything that you do!  (Laughs) So, basically forget that!

ERIC:  (Laughs) Yep!

Check out the trailer for 1 Night in San Diego below.  Then share your thoughts on Eric’s current role on The Bay, if you hope he wins a Tony to go with his Daytime Emmy, the six degrees of separation between him, Elizabeth Gillies and his wife, and that the All My Children reboot considered making the character of AJ Chandler gay via the comment section below.

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