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THE ILENE KRISTEN INTERVIEW – ONE LIFE TO LIVE

kristen-Main.jpgMICHAEL:

You have just finished performing in our benefit, “Soaps In The City”, and I know you have been involved so much in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

ILENE:

I probably have been involved for the last three years, at least. Last time, we had the east coast event at the club ”Prohibition” in New York. It’s for a great cause.

MICHAEL:

Have you personally been affected, or touched by people in your life, or in show business that have died of HIV/AIDS?

ILENE:

I lost many, many people… and there was a friend mine that was the stage manager from “Grease”, and then we lost another stage manager. Then, my wonderful Christopher Adler died, and this was early on. Then I lost more than 20 people that I knew, some which were really close to me. I lost my manager, and that was a tough one, because I don’t think he knew he had AIDS. Then he got pneumonia and he died. This was in 1994, and that was extremely difficult. It was a real shock because there was no time to prepare for that.

MICHAEL:

Do you feel that here in the US, AIDS awareness has been sidestepped as an issue, where globally it’s a pandemic?

ILENE:

Honestly, I don’t think we can ever do enough. But, I think it’s changed considerably from the 80s, for sure. I have a lot of friends living with AIDS, but not dying of AIDS. One of my very closest friends is HIV-positive and he is doing well. Of course, he is on the cocktail, and if people can’t afford the cocktail and the medications, that’s a problem. It’s changed a lot over the last 20 years, so people aren’t dying immediately. In fact, I haven’t heard of anybody dying that I have been friendly with. So, that’s a great thing!

kristen-mazur.jpgMICHAEL:

We all know you from your portrayal of Roxy Balsom on “One Life to Live”, and
the amazing, Delia, on “Ryan’s Hope”. But now, you seem to be taking the musical aspect of you talents to new heights?

ILENE:

I have always sung with one rock band or the other. I have always kept it on the down- low to some degree. If people had bands, they would want me to sing with them; so I would. Then, I started songwriting a lot in the 90’s. I had written
a lot in the 70’s and then I was doing a lot of other people’s songs. Then in the 90’s I started doing my own stuff. I started writing with a great writer out in LA…
Kenny Mazur. One day he said, “You know, you really ought to start writing, because you have so many adventures and you need to get them out, and start getting your life out.” There was a song I wrote called, “No Matter What”, which was about my life, and he said, “You are on a soap, Ilene, and you need to spice this up a bit!”

MICHAEL:

Why were you so low on the radar with your great singing ability?

ILENE:

It’s a very big problem, and it’s kept me from doing a lot because I grew up listening to the best music you could listen to. My criteria have always been very high. I listen to Joe Williams and Ella Fitzgerald, just the great people. The way I sing, is like a Julie London- type singer, kind of smoky. I feel if I am not as good as those people, I don’t count. And then after seeing KD Lang last night, I never want to open up my mouth again. But because I am a very good actress, I am going to pretend that I am full on KD Lang. I am the feminine KD Lang. She is all boy. ilene-soaps.jpgIt’s fantastic! I think
she is so comfortable in her skin, and she came out with no shoes on and looking like a man, but she was beautiful… and the voice was the best instrument that I ever heard! You want to be up there with the really good people to call yourself a singer, and I don’t call myself a singer. I call myself, a “Thinger”. I have a “thing” and I think it’s good.

MICHAEL:

The songs you performed for us at “Soaps In The City”, please tell us about them?


ILENE:

This one jazz song I wrote is a combination of “Fever” and “Moondance”. Then I wrote a song called, “Rise to the Occasion”, and my first job was with the great, Johnny Pacheco. I was a dancer at nine, dancing with two Cuban guys, and that is how I started in show business. So, this song is a kind of Latin boogaloo, which was popular in the 60’s. It was written as an assignment, between Lenny Kravitz’s, “Lady” and Cyndi Lauper’s, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”. Then when that did not happen, I changed into a different groove. I performed a song called “Flesh and Blood”, that was written for a friend of mine who was dying; the wonderful and beautiful, Nancy Addison (Ex- Jillian Coleridge, “Ryan’s Hope”). I remained close with her, and was with her every day until she died. Nancy was a wonderful friend and she died from a form of cancer. The doctors did not know the origin of it, and it was very difficult, and it took about two and half years. I started writing the song about the thought of losing someone, but knowing they will always be there with you…. and then 9/11 happened! This song came out of that, and then it really wrote itself. I knew Nancy would be dying, and I knew I would sing this song at her funeral, which was what happened. It’s a song I did not sing at my father’s memorial, but I recited the words. I have done it at other friend’s funerals. The list just goes on. I am proud of it.

MICHAEL:

Your stupendous and stunning portrayal of Roxy on “OLTL”, is so completely different than any character or actress on daytime. The scene that aired last week where Roxy pushed Adriana up against the hospital glass letting her know that she was causing her son, Rex, to basically die. That was because Adriana would not allow Gigi in Rex’s hospital room, and that was heart wrenching. Did you know those scenes were dynamite?

ILENE:

I knew things were real for me. The thing that is so difficult about that is, once they put up the hospital set, they will do three shows a day at the hospital set. You are so overwhelmed. You are so scared that you are going to be sacrificed, and you have to get to another scene. I felt like there was a little scene I had with the troll days, and I was not sure I was totally on my game. But then, the stuff where I put Adriana against the glass, I felt that I was on my game. With age, you are able to pull so much stuff out of your life and access it for your character. Before, when I was playing Delia on “Ryan’s Hope”, I had to do crying scenes all the time. I would have to go in back of this set, and do all this sense memory stuff. Now, I don’t have to go to that place or substitute much anymore, because of my life experience as Ilene.

JP1.jpgMICHAEL:

How is working with John Paul Lavoisier (Rex)? We need more mother/son scenes between them.

ILENE:

Oh, it’s great! The audience wants more, and its short changing both Rex and Roxy, but they may get it. We got extraordinary reaction as to who is Rex’s father? That is yet untold, and they better tell it!

MICHAEL:

Will it be Mitch Laurence?

ILENE:

It would be great if it was Mitch, if they
tell a real story. They were about to do something when the writers’ strike happened, and then they felt it was not an important enough story to do, so they bypassed it. We waited till head writer, Ron Carlivati came back to the show. Once Ron came back, it didn’t go anywhere, but we are hoping that it does. You know, stories have to be approved by ABC Daytime and SOAPnet President, Brian Frons. So hopefully, he will see fit to give us a story. I know he likes me, but he has to like me enough to let me tell a story. The one thing I know I am capable of, is telling a good story…. even the stuff I had with Miles…. where did it go?

MICHAEL:

What about working with Erika Slezak (Viki)?

ILENE:

She is wonderful to work with. With Erika, this is nothing that she enforced, but she has her scenes early in the morning. So, if you have scenes with Erika, you better be on your game. First of all, she is so professional and wonderful to work with, and so generous. But, she knows all of your lines as well, and that’s a spectacular thing to do. Every once in awhile, I am on my game like that, but she is always on her game. Erika has been very, very, good to me.

MICHAEL:

I love that Roxy stumbles around drunk all the time. Do you think that will ever change?

ILENE:
Until she resolves certainly some of her issues, I think she should have a bit of a substance problem. I think when she goes to work, she really tries to do that hairdo. I know a lot of people like Roxy, who have more than slight substance problems, whether they are on Quaaludes or something else. I think Roxy was pretty coherent with the recent hospital stuff with Rex, though.

MICHAEL:

In your performances, do you like towing the fine line between comedy and drama?

ILENE:

Oh, yes! I like towing the line, because I feel that people need the humor, and it’s hard to play comedy on a soap. I think I have managed to do that extremely well, and better than most, and it’s my background. When I came on the show I came on right after 9/11. I felt that people needed a break, and also needed to be highly entertained. I felt people needed cushioning, especially in New York; it was like a scorched landscape. What happened was I got the job on September 10 and I only called a couple people to let them know, and then 9/11 happened. At first I thought, what is acting? What does that mean to people, after we have gone through something like this? Does anyone even care anymore? Is watching television, except for watching the news, important? And then a couple of days before I had to go to work, I got very inspired. I felt that somebody had to entertain the troops, and I really felt it was my job to do that.

Melissa-Ilene.jpgMICHAEL:

Now tell me about working with the fabulous Melissa Archer (Natalie)?

ILENE:

I really like working with Melissa. She has had a lot of responsibility at “OLTL”. You know, once they see that you can do three shows in a row that is probably 18 scenes, they will do that and work you a lot. They will get away with doing that, and it is very difficult. One day Andrea Evans (Tina) had 100 or so pages. The Game Show episode with Rex, of “Whose Shane’s Daddy?”, we had a lot to do that day. Then the director said to us, “Not to put any stress on you, but this is going to be my Emmy submission!” Then it was like, you got to
be on!

MICHAEL:

I think you have a few good shows to submit for Supporting Actress Emmy competition for next year. Would you go for it?

ILENE:

I think I would. I did have scenes last year had I gotten nominated. My second year on the show I got nominated and it was a bit tricky. First of all, you have to have shows, which not only are you good in,… but the person you are working with is good, too. There is nothing worse than your doing a good performance, and the other person not delivering. I tend not to like to submit hospital scenes. I said to ’JP’, when it was the scene when I was in the hospital with Charlie and he comes in and says, “I don’t want to know you! Both of you!” I said to ‘JP’, “I don’t care what other people say, but these are the scenes you are going to submit!” In the past he has not submitted the right scenes. He has not done the right choices. I helped Renee Goldsberry (Ex- Evangeline) with her choices, and I was very proud that I could help her with that, and she had good stuff.

MICHAEL:

Now to “Ryan’s Hope”, and your iconic role of Delia Reid Ryan Coleridge. Ah, the list of married names goes on and on. Why do you think that worked so well?

ILENE:

The answer is, because of the show’s creators and head writers, Claire Labine and Paul Mayer. They wrote something from their heart. They had the bible on that show written extraordinarily well from day one, and what they had written for these characters always stayed in my mind. I knew what they wrote in those three paragraphs for Delia… I could get it. At the time, what was hard for me was that I was a very happy person playing a very unhappy person and that was difficult. I had just come from doing “Grease” and making people laugh, and once you have made 1200 people in a room laugh, you want to do that all the time.

MICHAEL:

So, after “Grease” you went to “Ryan’s Hope”?

kristen-Main2.jpgILENE:

I had done “Grease” for two years. I quit “Grease” in 1974 and got “Ryan’s Hope” in 1975. All of a sudden, I am playing this semi-tragic character who is crying all the time, going, “Love me. Please love me!” That was not second nature to me… being that screwed up. So, it was hard for me and difficult. Also, what was difficult, was you got these long scenes, which made it extremely potent for the audience, and addictive for the audience. You’ve got to travel with these characters when they made certain transitions. What disturbed me about the recent scenes with Adriana on “OLTL” in the hospital, was that the initial scenes with her were so short. I said to her, “Listen pipsqueak…” and the scene was over.

MICHAEL:

The soap climate now is faster, quicker scenes, than in the classic soaps presentations of yesteryear. It seems to fans that they think perhaps the perception is the actors can’t handle that much dialog.

ILENE:

I don’t think that’s what they are doing. When MTV came in, and I do not know what they are doing now, people got faddy or trendy. Now in daytime, they are trying to tell as many stories as possible, where Claire Labine just tried to tell two really good ones. I actually think the half-hour soap format is better. It gets you to concentrate and to be mesmerized by these people’s lives. People were addicted to the emotion of it, and not so much to flashy story. You know, I don’t know why we try to do car crashes or train crashes on soaps. Why do we do that, when “Lost” does it so much better? Why are we trying to compete in an area that we shouldn’t compete in, when people just want to be touched by a story? I think there was real value to the way “Ryan’s Hope” was done and was shot.

MICHAEL:

Can you tell me, off the top of your head, some Delia moments that you just loved?

ILENE:

The hysterically blind scenes when I am on a cruise with Pat. He realizes I am lying and throws the hairbrush at me and I catch it. The stuff with Roger and Sheila in the cooking lessons were fabulous, and every time Maeve would say, “Where you going Delia?” And she would go, “Oh, I’ve got cooking classes”, and the audience would go nuts.

MICHAEL:

Speaking of Maeve Ryan, tell me how was working with the incredible Helen Gallagher?

kristen-ron.jpgILENE:

Oh my God, fantastic! She is a pure gift. Both of us were hoofers! The wonderful thing about the cast was it really didn’t matter what you paid us, we would show up, because we did not make a lot of money on “Ryan’s Hope”. It was like
hoofer pay. Helen did have in her contract, that nobody could get more than her. Malcolm Groome (Ex-Pat) Kate Mulgrew (Ex-Mary), and Ron Hale (Ex- Roger) these were great, great people.

MICHAEL:

Now to “OLTL” favorite Roxy moments?

ILENE:

First of all, working with Jim DePaiva (Ex- Max) was a pleasure. Our wedding scenes in Las Vegas, where he wakes up the next morning, and does not realize he married me, was during the live week. Everything shot during the live week was priceless, but it scared me.

MICHAEL:

But you perform sketch comedy, as you did here in Los Angeles this weekend at the ACME Theatre and other venues. Why are you scared, if you can do such impromptu performances on the spot? I know why, but probably most people looking in from the outside, would not figure it to be the case.

ILENE:

I am scared of everything. I did “Grease’ for two years and the adrenaline would be out of control. It’s all scary to me, but I guess it’s good to be scared, because you can come up with interesting work, but your stomach is upset all the time. I have been in this business so long, and I am still scared. It keeps you coming up with new creative things for yourself.

ilene-nightclub.jpgMICHAEL:

Do you ad-lib a lot as Roxy? Some of those jabs she gives to the other citizens of Llanview seem like it.

ILENE:

I am a great ad-libber, especially in the role of Roxy. If it’s a group scene and they need a Roxie line, they go, “Please come up with one!”

MICHAEL:

You are in a new film called “The Manhattanites”?

ILENE:

Yes. We had a screening for it in New York and Aidan Turner (Aidan, “AMC”) is terrific in it. David Fumero (Christian, “OLTL”) is also in it, and Forbes March (Ex-Nash, “OLTL”) plays my competition and steals my boyfriend away from me. Jill Larson (Opal, “AMC”) was going to do my part, but it worked out better because she ended up playing a homeless woman in the movie, because she wanted to try something different.

MICHAEL:

What is the premise of the movie?

ILENE:

It’s all these people’s different stories and how they intersect. They are in somewhat of a community, and that gets the ball rolling. I play a real professional type. I play a lawyer. It was not a comedic character, and not a villain. I am kind of one of the leads in it.

couch-ilene.jpgMICHAEL:

In closing what would you
say is at the core of Roxy Balsom, if you were going to explain her to someone who does not know her very well?

ILENE:

Party! Party! I think she has fun, even in times of tragedy, and she will always find a way to rock.

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.

Cady is no stranger to be a recast.  She was the second actress to play Dixie on ABC’s All My Children, as well as the second actress to play Rosanna on As the World Turns, and she had previously taken over the role of Kelly Andrews on The Young and the Restless.

Photo: JPI

Rob, talks about landing the role of Ben and being a recast, 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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