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THE HILLARY B. SMITH INTERVIEW – ONE LIFE TO LIVE

This week on “One Live to Live”, fans have been witness to drama at its best, as Nora and Bo’s son is in a tragic car accident that leaves repercussions and a ripple effect across many lives of the citizens of Llanview.

It also affords long time viewers and new ones an opportunity to see one of daytime’s greatest actresses, Hillary B. Smith, as she takes front and center stage as a guilt-ridden mother dealing with her son Matthew’s paralysis, and seeking justice for those who caused it…which means her friend Marty’s son, Cole!

Many fans of the show are hoping the writers and producers may use this storyline as a vehicle for Nora and Bo to finally get back together. But will that happen? I chatted with Hillary about her current storyline, the upcoming return of Nathan Purdee as Hank Gannon, the
re-cast of her on-screen daughter Rachel,
and Nora losing every trial involving
Todd Manning!

Here’s Hillary…

hillarymain.jpgListen to the audio:

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MICHAEL:

There has just been a huge moment on-air, where Nora learns of the car crash involving Matthew. How is Nora going to hold up through all of this?

HILLARY:

I think how any parent would be. First, there is the “Oh my God”, and then there is “OK. Everything’s OK. We just have to go through this process. What do you mean he’s numb?” And then there’s thee “What? Cole was driving under the influence? What?” And then, there is the complete loss of control because it all could have been prevented. She goes through her own anger and blame. It’s so easy to blame Cole, but basically he was still living in her house, and she didn’t notice his drug problem. In the past, Nora had dealt with her own daughter Rachel’s drug use. So there is all this stuff going on with her.

MICHAEL:

Then she finds out the tragic news of Matthew’s condition.

oltl.jpgHILLARY:

Yes. Then she finds out he is paralyzed and it enrages her and intensifies her feeling of guilt, because she was not there for him. Every mother wants to protect her child; even if it isn’t something she had no control over. You feel guilty. You feel guilty when something goes wrong with your child and you could not have prevented it, even when you have a hand in it. The guilt is overwhelming, and it eats at her, and eats
at her until she finally
explodes and arrests Cole.

MICHAEL:

Nora is all about law and order and justice, so naturally she is going to go for the jugular in this case against Cole.

HILLARY:

She is all about law and order and justice, and what is right, and making sure he does not do it again, and she is enraged. She is going to throw the book at him and nail him to the wall. But at the same time, she has these scenes with Marty when she goes to arrest him and Marty says, “Well, he is not here,” and Nora says, “You’re hiding him!” Finally, it kind of comes out in these scenes with Marty, where she says, “You know, none of this would have happened if you would have just stayed dead.” And, that’s a moment where even Nora goes, “Are you hearing yourself and what you are saying?” She finally breaks down and has this complete meltdown and she says, “I am sorry. I did not mean that.” That is when she is realizing she feels guilty and responsible that she did not notice Cole was on drugs. But she has to arrest him.

bo_nora1.jpgMICHAEL:

Does Bo feel guilt, as well? Perhaps, for letting Matthew go to the dance even though he was grounded? It was so awful seeing the kids set Matthew up at the dance, too!

HILLARY:

When you have parents that are divorced, and something tragic happens to your child, the first thing you do is look at each other and go, “Ok, I heard that. Did you hear that?” And the next thing is you absorb it the way you absorb it, and you go through your own personal process. Then you come together as a process and you function as a team. I think Nora and Bo are still trying figure that dance out. For Bo’s part, letting him go to the dance does not have anything to do with drugs or knowing someone is on drugs.

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MICHAEL:

Eddie Alderson (Matthew) has been so great; do we need “hankies” for upcoming episodes? The last couple of days on the air shows, I have been so upset watching it. It’s heavy material and very sad!

HILLARY:

I think there are no heroes and many victims. Not only does Eddie do beautiful work, but also Brandon Buddy (Cole) is spectacular because of his guilt. This was just tragedy for everyone, and Matthew is paralyzed from the legs down, and is a paraplegic.

brandon_matthew.jpgMICHAEL:

Have the actors or the show’s producers guided Eddie into how to portray this type of story, when you have no use of your legs?

HILLARY:

Everyone has given Eddie exercises and hints telling him, “Eddie, You don’t know how much you use your legs and your feet, and nobody understands how much you use them, until you can’t. So here is what I want you to do. Sit in a bathtub and hold yourself by your arms and you will get the feeling of weightlessness in a pool. Also, make a decision as to where your paralysis comes from and really try to do things by isolating those muscles.” Eddie is an athlete, so he knows how to use his muscles and I have to say he is doing a great job!

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MICHAEL:

Who do you think Nora loves? Clint? Or, do you think there is still any chance for her and Bo?

HILLARY:

This is going to be very interesting, because when you are pulled into a tragedy like this, it pulls you in different directions and aligns you with the strangest bedfellows, as they may say. I think she loves Clint. I think she has had awakenings that the man she fell in love with is not there now, so she has had to say, “Wait a minute.” But, he is still good and kind to her and her son, and I think she loves him.

clint_bo_nora.jpgMICHAEL:

But, one would hope Nora and Bo would be drawn together because of the tragic circumstances surrounding their son.

HILLARY:

I think this whole situation, with Matthew and bringing Nora and Bo back together in this realm where nobody will understand what they go through except each other, will be very interesting to see what happens. It could make them fight, because when Nora and Bo thought Matthew was doing drugs, it put them at odds. Nora had dabbled and Bo hadn’t. It just pointed out the things they didn’t know about each other and set them at odds. So, when you get down to the basics, when something you love is going to be taken away you go primal. You don’t think in the terms of you did this, and you did that. And, I think whatever hurt came between Bo and Nora gets shelved. It just comes down to Matthew needs them and they need each other.

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MICHAEL:

Fans of Bo and Nora have been rooting for a long time to get them back together. I know I have!

HILLARY:

If there ever was a chance for them to get back together, I think this scenario would be the ideal way to do it. They are both so preoccupied with the hurt of what’s going on with their child that they can’t hang onto the pain they caused each other. So, if there was ever going to be a door open to that relationship, now would be interesting and now would be the time they would be most open to it.

MICHAEL:

Now I know Nathan Purdue (Hank) is coming back and a new recast for Nora’s daughter, Rachel!

nathan.jpgHILLARY:

Yes, Daphne Duplaix. I screen-tested with her.

MICHAEL:

And what did you think?

HILLARY:

All the actresses were beautiful, and they were all talented. I had a ‘sneaker’ for her and she was just right. She had Ellen Bethea’s (Ex-Rachel) earthiness, which is a very beautiful quality and a hard one to come by.

MICHAEL:

I loved Ellen!

HILLARY:

Well, Ellen Bethea was my Rachel, and Ellen had a very centered and grounded quality and a presence about her. Then I find out Daphne has three kids and “duh”, that’s why! So, now I understand why she’s got those qualities. She’s there and present, and there it is. I have to say, I have worked with her a couple of times and I have to say, “Wow. She is a pro!”

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MICHAEL:

Will you have story with Nathan?

HILLARY:

Nathan is Nora’s guy, and he is one of all the ex-husbands she stays in touch with. I am sure she scratched her head and said, “And Why?”

MICHAEL:

Remember, she’s Nora Hanen Gannon Buchanan Hanen… and wasn’t there a Colson thrown in there at one point? (He laughs)

HILLARY:

And who knows? Maybe we can add another Gannon or Buchanan to it!

MICHAEL:

hillaryda.jpgIs Hank coming back for Matthew?

HILLARY:

He comes back to help out, but he is a professor at Georgetown now. He is a very smart man!

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MICHAEL:

Now, let’s talk about all the court stuff against Todd! Nora can never win a case involving Todd!

HILLARY:

No, not ever. I love the writers; they gave me a nod in the script: “It doesn’t’ matter how or what evidence I have. He still walks away.” That was my favorite line. At least I got him to confess, which is one of the most important things.

MICHAEL:

How is doing the courtroom material after all these years and the legalese that comes with it?

HILLARY:

It’s not as much fun as being a defensive attorney because she is now the DA. When you are the prosecutor there is a modicum of just presenting the facts, and not to elaborate or embellish. I learned this in my little research, district attorneys are very dry because they don’t want to seem that they have to embellish facts. So they are usually just presenting the facts, and the colder and more straight-forward they are, the more powerful it tends to be. Defense Attorneys can be flamboyant: “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit, “and all that type of stuff.

trevor.jpgMICHAEL:

How about the dynamics between you and Trevor St. John (Todd)?

HILLARY:

I enjoy working with Trevor. He can be unpredictable. But my work with Trevor… he makes me think and he makes me work at it. He makes me step back and watch a scene from different directions and then come back to it, and we had these in his jail cell. I basically try to get him to plead guilty for Marty’s sake. Trevor got me thinking about it in an exciting way, and he made it a much more exciting thing to play.

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MICHAEL:

Do you miss Catherine Hickland (Lindsay)?

HILLARY:

Oh, I miss my “puss, puss”…yes.

MICHAEL:

I have to say I miss some of the Lindsay/Nora scenes, such as fighting in a trash compactor!

HILLARY:

Not having her there has been sad for me personally, and I know it’s a loss for the show, for sure. I am just hoping at some point, it’s allowing for a good set-up for her to come back and it will be more powerful.

hickland_hillary.jpgMICHAEL:

How hilarious were the recent episodes where you and all the Buchanan’s got rip-roaring drunk when you realized David Vickers knew that he was a Buchanan, and was going to kick you out of your house that Asa left you?

HILLARY:

I loved the whole Buchanan scenes with David realizing he is a Buchanan. It was a blast! The funniest was this: “Alright now, who’s DNA and we believe in this guy, because?” Man, he is a bad DNA analyst, but it was Ron Carlivati’s (head writer, “OLTL”) nod to the 1968 storyline by having Rex put in there. Did you catch that?

MICHAEL:

Yes, I did.

HILLARY:

It was his little nod to Rex, as Bo, from the ‘Time travel’ piece.

MICHAEL:

You won a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in 1994 for the amazing courtrooms scenes at Marty’s Rape Trial. As you look back, what moments or storyline are you most proud of?

HILLARY:

There are a couple of things, like the rape trial and we did that for six weeks and it was hard work. There were many nights I would stay in a hotel, near the studio rather than go home and take care of my little kids, and then have to be back at work in the morning. That was tough. It was a lot of work, and I was very pleased at how it came out. I loved the blind story, and believe it or not, I did not enjoy the coma, but I did enjoy the paralysis and the stroke. I tend to be a very technical actress, so to have my mind have to deal with technical aspects, really makes me happy. I liked playing the paralysis and the aftermath of it. But I did not get a chance to do it much.

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MICHAEL:

What can we say for One Life to Live fans to watch for in March with Nora?

hillarysmith.jpgHILLARY:

I think I would have to say watching a mother trying to be there for her son, and do her job, and face the realities and that juggling. That is what I am playing. This is a woman who the odds have turned against right now and she is trying to keep a modicum of normalcy in her life, for her son sake. She wants to make sure she is doing her job and doing it well, and catching herself when she finds herself getting emotionally involved and not being a proper DA. I think the uncovering of Matthew’s condition and how it happened, and then the aftermath of that is a great journey for me, but others have a journey. Marty has a journey. The kids have a journey. It’s a terrific story!

MICHAEL:

Finally, how is working with Susan Haskell (Marty) again after so many years?

HILLARY:

It’s like getting back in your comfortable shoes. It’s like, “Oh, yes.”

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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