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The Jeanne Cooper Interview – The Young and the Restless

Photo Credit: Charles Bush

On The Young and the Restless she has been called the Grand Dame of Genoa City, The Duchess, and Mrs C.!  In real life, she has been called an icon, a Daytime Emmy Award winning actress, a legend in the world of the soap opera, an accomplished primetime television and feature film actress… and a wonderful mother of three children.  At eighty-three, and after playing the powerful, wealthy, and beloved Katherine Chancellor to the hilt for 39 years, Jeanne Cooper has finally decided to tell her life story!  And what a story it is!  Her new highly anticipated memoir, Not Young, Still Restless (Harper Collins) is due in book stores this coming Tuesday, July 31st!

Not Young Still Restless revisits Jeanne’s childhood; how she followed her dream and moved to Hollywood with the help of some very sneaky good friends, and how she became a working actress in the studio system.  And as she made quite a name for herself along the way, she met some of the most recognizable names in film and television, many of whom she had friendly or romantic relationships with!  The book also details the destruction of her marriage to Harry Bernsen, which ultimately led to her downward spiral into alcoholism, plus the call while she was in Hawaii that would change her life and daytime forever, getting cast on a new CBS soap The Young and the Restless!

On-Air On-Soaps talked with Jeanne Cooper to bring you this very special interview, as we looked into the behind-the-scenes life of this incredible talent.  From her backstage battles with Brenda Dickson (Ex-Jill, Y&R), to her big reveal that she and her on-screen son Beau Kayzer (Ex-Brock, Y&R) were in love and had a relationship, to being the first performer to break the wall between fiction and reality, when she and Katherine had a real-life facelift, to her many health battles.  Jeanne along with co-writer, Lindsay Harrison, brings the reader and any soap fan on one remarkable journey.  Saying that this woman is a treasure is an understatement.  So all we can add to that is … here now is the feisty, funny, irreverent, gem of an actress, Jeanne Cooper, as we take our own journey with the legend from her humble beginnings to Genoa City 2012!

MICHAEL:

Jeanne, I read your memoir, Not Young Still Restless, in a day and half!  It was a real page-turner where I kept thinking, “I can’t believe this happened to one person in their lifetime!”  And then knowing you like I do, it makes it all the more amazing!

JEANNE:

Courtesy/Harper Collins

It reads like a novel, and then you stop and realize, “I know her!  I know her.”  I did the same thing after I got the hardcover version.  I put it on my coffee table and said, “I know her.” (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

I know we talked about this years ago, that someday you should really write your tell-all.  Why did you decide to write it and publish it now?

JEANNE:

I am not kidding when I tell you I got so tired of people asking, “When are you going to write a book?”  I can now say, “Shut up! Leave me alone.  It’s done!” (Laughs)  Several people have asked me, “Now what are you going to write in your second book?” 

MICHAEL:

When you decided to write it, was there trepidation on your part to delve into your past, your childhood, your career, and what no one knew went on behind the scenes at Y&R?

JEANNE:

I had tremendous trepidation.  First of all, you stand the chance of people who like you then saying, “I don’t like her anymore.”  You can lose a lot of friends, and they are public friends.  There are many who have been part of my career for 60 years.  Then I thought I was not being offensive about anything, but just honest with an edge.  That is how I think most people accept things much easier.  I just had this feeling of something terrible happening if I wrote my book.  But Lindsay Harrison helped me conquer those fears.  And she said, “I will show you how to make it so simple.  Here is a tape recorder.” (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

Did you decide before the book was going to be released, to let certain people you work with, know that you wrote about them in your tell-all?

JEANNE:

No, I did not.  I said I would like it to read like they are reading about a character that is made up, and it’s like a novel instead of “This Is Your Life, Jeanne Cooper!”  I wanted it to be truthful, but believable.

MICHAEL:

Courtesy/Harper Collins

Your childhood certainly had its ups and downs, and some very disturbing moments where you reveal that you were sexually molested.  You also say in the book that one of the pictures with you and your dad was one of the only ones you recall.  I found that very heart-rending.  Your mom died quite early at 46 years old.  What do you think your mom would have said about Mrs. Chancellor?

JEANNE:

She would have said, “Oh! All of the affairs!” (Laughs)  I think my mother would have enjoyed my success.  She loved the fact that I wanted to be an actress.  I think she secretly wanted something other than what she had.  I always enjoyed making grandpa, or my mom and dad laugh, and then we would laugh together.  And that is where the whole thing stems from.  You may not have everything in the world, but if you are happy and you can feel the love that runs throughout, that is wealth without dollars.

MICHAEL:

You also talk in great detail about your start in Hollywood and your ascendance to feature film roles and television series guest star spots.  It is very intriguing how it all happened for you.  You mention two good friends, Barbara Hale and Raymond Burr, with whom if I am correct, you also had an affair.

JEANNE:

Oh yeah!  Barbara just turned 90 and she looks like she is 50.  I could smack her.  She is a very close friend and we have gone through a lot together, including our failed marriages.  We have had laughter and tears together on and off the screen you have never seen the likes of.  I had an affair with Raymond.

MICHAEL:

And your laundry list of men also included David Janssen, and Dennis Weaver …  Good list, Jeannie!

JEANNE:

Courtesy/Harper Collins

I was also with Robert Taylor!  I was working with Barbara Stanwyck and I was late due to a buckle not working in my wardrobe.  I was getting on the set and I apologized and she said, “That’s all right.  I am so proud to have you here, Jeanne.  I have seen all of your work and you are an incredible actress. You belong to this town and you belong to this industry.”  And my jaw dropped down to my knees.  I wanted to say, “Did you know that I went out with your ex-husband?”  In which she told me later on, “How did you find my ex-husband?”  And I said, “The Truth?  He’s boring!”  And she said, “But he’s handsome.”  And I said, “Yeah, you can say that again.”

MICHAEL:

However, the man who would forever change your life was Harry Bernsen.  And your tale and true life story is a very cautionary one that many people still go through today.  How many women have not fallen under the spell of a good-looking, charming, smooth-talking guy, and not seen all the red flags?

JEANNE:

I do let everyone know he was not my favorite person!  Thank you for noticing the point I was trying to get across.   I want to express that no matter who you are, there is likeness in everybody.  Harry was drop dead gorgeous, and he was like two different people all the time, just unreal.

MICHAEL:

When your first son Corbin Bernsen was born, I read you were screaming for the baby and for the nurse to bring you your child.  All the while your husband Harry said, Corbin was deformed.  What happened?  You must have been beside yourself!

JEANNE:

Yes, but then the nurse explained to me what it was.  It was a hematoma that scrapes on the pelvic bone coming out and forms a little blood blister, and it looks terrible. But the point of it is … it absorbs.  It’s like a wound.  When you are born, everything is so close to the skin and everything is so tender and so fragile.  I have forgiven Harry of that, but also, I will never forget.  I thought, “What do you care if the baby was deformed?  What are you going to do?  Show the baby and hide its head?”  It was this man’s actions, and again that was certainly a red flag.

MICHAEL:

Courtesy/Harper Collins

Were you happy you were pregnant?

JEANNE:

At first I wasn’t, because I wasn’t sure I wanted to have children … with him.  Then, I had three. (Laughs)  First of all, he said he could never ever have children because of a wound he got in the war.  And I don’t know where the wound was. (Laughs)  I wanted a boy and a girl and I got two boys, and I said I am going to try for a girl.  And, if I have a girl I am blessed and if not, I am going to throw it away! (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

You must have been thrilled when you finally had your little girl, Caren?

JEANNE:

I stayed in the hospital for eleven days with her!  I wouldn’t come home.  The doctor, finally said, “Jeanne, we have no reason to keep you here any longer, and look at your boys!”  The boys would come outside my hospital and say, “Mommy, please come home with our sister!” And finally I said, “OK.”  I lived in a world of boys and after a while you want someone to talk to and understand.  I felt like saying, “Why do men think they are better than us?”

MICHAEL:

Then, all of a sudden you get Y&R and the role of Katherine Chancellor.  We won’t spoil how that all went down here, but we will say, a trip to Hawaii was called short!  But, you go to the set at CBS for your first reading, but John Considine is playing the role of Phillip Chancellor, not Donnelly Rhodes.

JEANNE:

Horribly enough, John Considine reported to the studio and someone forget to call his agent and tell them not to come.  So he came in and I went over to him to run lines, and our executive producer at the time John Conboy came over and said, “Don’t do that. He’s not playing Phillip anymore!”  I went, “What?”

MICHAEL:

Courtesy/CBS

So what did you think when you met Donnelly Rhodes for the first time?

JEANNE:

He was self-assured, nice and cocky, and a very talented actor.  I spent some time with Donnelly.  I had an affair with him, too. (Laughs)  I always say, don’t do things where you work…

MICHAEL:

Well you seem to have done that quite often, Jeanne!  (Laughs)

JEANNE:

Not in the studio, others have made out in the studio!  Crazy fools!

MICHAEL:

Then I laughed, but could not help love what you said about your first meeting with Brenda Dickson (Ex-Jill, Y&R) … “I do remember a sexy confident little piece of work named Brenda Dickson!”  But it is true you two got off on the wrong foot!

JEANNE:

We got off to a bad start.  But you know, so did Shelley Winters and me!  We were under contract at Universal and she had asked my agent if I could come see her performance in a play because she would like to know what I think.  I went and she said, “Please have her come backstage.”  And she said, “I’m Shelley Winters.”  And I said, “Yes, I bet you are.”  She said, “So what did you think of the play?”  I said, “It’s interesting.”  She said, “Interesting?”  I said, “Well this part has been played by so many different actors, but yours is interesting.”  She goes, “That’s all?”  And I go, “Yeah.”   She said, “You mean you didn’t’ like it?”  I said, “No.”   She goes, “Well I will be damned.”  Fast-forward to five years later; we are doing a thing called Let No Man Write My Epitaph.  I reported to work and we started the picture.  And they said to me, “Jeanne, you know your hair is about the same color as Shelley’s.  So let’s put a little more ash into it.”  So they put ash in it.  And out I went again, and it’s a three-hour process!  So we started a scene where Shelly was going to make her entrance.  And it was stopped again, and they said, “Jeanne, would you mind terribly if we just make your hair darker?”  I said; “Let’s take it back to black!  That is my original color and I have not been that color since I don’t know when.”   Then they dyed my hair again and I was brunette without a great deal of highlights.  By that time it’s 3PM in the afternoon and I have been doing this since 8AM.  They say, “We have got to get a goddam shot.  Sometime today, drag her out here!”  So Shelley comes into my dressing room and says, “Isn’t there anything I can do to make you ugly?”  And I said, “No, or younger!”  And she started to laugh, and we became good friends after that.

MICHAEL:

Photo Credit: Kathy Hutchins

So with you and Brenda Dickson … she did not show up to rehearse with you, and you called her a “tart”?

JEANNE:

I want somebody there so I can settle down and give a performance.  I said, “A professional is on time. You don’t wait around for people.  Being a professional is knowing your craft and knowing your lines!”  And Brenda said, “Oh really?  I have never been talked to like this before!”  And I said, “Well get used to it, because if you can’t, then I am Shelley Winters!”  And so this is how Shelley Winters popped in and out of my life! (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

In the end, it seemed like you came to love Brenda.  She has had such a crazy life and had gone through so much.  You seemed to be able to say in the book that there were some very deep emotional issues Brenda dealt with that you did not elaborate on.

JEANNE:

There is much more to her life than people knew.  And a lot of pressure was put on Brenda from within the cast, and they will remain nameless at this point, but it was unfair and unkind.  Anybody with that kind of treatment that one would allow themselves to do to another human being … that is unforgiveable in my book.  I may not like somebody, but I am certainly not going to treat them so horribly.

MICHAEL:

Was Brenda Dickson the butt of jokes on the set?

JEANNE:

Absolutely!  And I want to tell you, Brenda made the part of Jill, and Jess Walton (Jill, Y&R) and I talked about this.  Jess had a completely different spin on Jill, and no more like Brenda Dickson than the man on the moon.  And let’s face it; Brenda Dickson was in life like a Jill Abbott.  That is one of those things that she just captured.  You can portray it and try to imitate it.  So, that is why Jess took a different spin on the character all-together, which was smart. You cannot compare the two and what Brenda Dickson brought to Jill.  And I have to say, she became more of a professional and knew her lines, and what have you.  But even the tricks they played on her on the set were unforgiveable, and these people know who they are!

MICHAEL:

With all the turmoil and trouble Brenda has been in legally in Hawaii, have you ever spoken to her since that time?

JEANNE:

Oh yeah!  In fact, I called her in Hawaii.  I was hoping to get over there when she was in jail.   Let’s face it.  It’s hard to beat anything in Hawaii, with the good ole boys, and Brenda knew that.  She just did not get it up to the proper courts and with the proper publicity it needed.  But the guy did try to take everything from her.  He was smart and Brenda by that time had acquired quite a bit.

MICHAEL:

When I watched Y&R from the beginning of its run, Brenda and you really set the tone – it was Katherine and Jill at each other throats.   She was a gold-digging tart, and I bought it!  I was like, “Ooh, I want to smack that bitch!”

JEANNE:

Yeah right, absolutely!  Listen, I got to tell you, Brenda had as much fun with the Katherine/Jill relationship as Jess and I did.  When there was the “Who Killed Phillip?” storyline and our characters were in court, and being thrown about, a faction of fans lined up at CBS with posters marching, and this group flew in from the east coast.  And they were pro- Brenda.  Then, I in turn said to her, “Well all these people must have gotten pregnant by someone else’s husband.”  (Laughs)  They had to get us out of the studio because we had death threats!  They would say that I or she “deserved to die.”  Oh, the studio was very quiet about that, and they had police stand there.  It was wild!

MICHAEL:

When you first got to the set of Y&R, William Gray Espy was there, too!  And, he was playing Dr Snapper Foster.  But you first met him in one of my favorite films to this day, Kansas City Bomber!  I loved the roller derby, and to see you as the coach/manager of the team was a hoot.  Plus, you worked with Raquel Welch, who had the title role!

JEANNE:

I got trampled to death in that thing!  And these women would say, “Now listen. We promise if you go down on the deck on the rink, and you don’t move, we won’t hurt you. But, if you do move, you will get bruises all over from head to toe.”  I said what the F*** am I doing out here being a captain of a roller skating team?  It was amazing!  When I went down to the deck all these big bodies were are all over the place.

MICHAEL:

Courtesy/IMDB

You mentioned in your book, that Raquel Welch was one of the most underrated actresses.  Do you think she was good in KC Bomber?

JEANNE:

For what she did, she was good.  She could play cheapies and she has a great sense of humor.  I remember saying to her, she has a body and a face of a knockout, but she is also someone who is grounded.  Raquel also knows Hollywood, and what it took, and what it thinks.

MICHAEL:

I would have called your book … From Roller Derby to Restless …. The Jeanne Cooper Story! (Laughs)

JEANNE:

(Laughs) Who didn’t love the roller derby back then!  I was the blonde captain of the L.A. Thunderbirds!  I did not get hurt on the film, thank God, but Raquel Welch broke her wrist.  So we had to delay the film for about six weeks.  I got to tell you I met William Gray Espy (Ex-Snapper, Y&R) there.   He was this handsome and gorgeous guy, who was on the men’s side of the roller derby team.  He was very shy, but at the end of a filming day, he needed a massage.  He was battered at the end of the day.  So I talked to the producer and got it arranged for him.  Now, when I went into the first rehearsal at Y&R and everyone was talking to each other and muttering, and I would say my lines out loud, John Conboy would say, “Well, we have somebody we could hear.  Thank you, thank you Ms. Cooper, very much.”  (Laughs) And William Gray Espy at rehearsal said, “I know her.  And I am telling you right now, don’t cross her path because she can get things done that you don’t know!” (Laughs)  And he was referring to me getting him into the steam room when he was not allowed, because he was not a starring role in Kansas City Bomber!

MICHAEL:

Then there is this little ditty in the book, when you and your dear friend Juliana McCarthy (Ex-Liz, Y&R) are in your dressing room listening to Michelle, the other woman in Harry’s life, who called you at the studio letting you in on their affair and asking you for financial help?  And she said that Harry told her you had an “illness”?  Oh, brother!

JEANNIE:

Photo Credit: Kathy Hutchins

Oh sure, and she even knew what time I would be there!  (Laughs)  Oh the fury that I felt. I was beside myself.  Thank God, everybody had retired to their dressing rooms and was getting ready for the days shooting.  I wanted to destroy, and if that coffee pot had been Harry, I would have been in jail now.  The disrespect!  He has children.  Doesn’t he know that?  It doesn’t matter what they say about him or me, but it does matter what they say about our children.  They are the innocent bystanders in all of this.  The fact that this was going on, and the fact that people in the business were knowing that he was seeing her, was so awful.  He was so open about so much of this shit in the advance stages, it became an embarrassment.  It is like me knowing somebody is cheating on their wife, and yet their wife and I are having lunch and I want to say, “Don’t you know you are married to an asshole?”  It is not so much what I feel, but anybody who has been betrayed.  If a man wanted to screw around, I would rather have him come up to me and say, “Listen.  I feel I need to do something and I need to do this.”  And I would say, “Fine. Let’s do a legal separation.  And you go do what you have to do.  And I will make up my mind if I think it’s right or not.”  And, I probably won’t think it’s right!

MICHAEL:

It was that, combined with the fact everybody seems to know but you!

JEANNE:

Patty Weaver (Gina, Y&R) knew!  I have been a big supporter of Patty Weaver and always have been.  There is still nobody who can sing a song like she can and bring you to your knees with it.  It’s just something she does so well.

MICHAEL:

And that is where your drinking began?

JEANNE:

Courtesy/Harper Collins

I think it was the emotional part of my life with Harry.  If it weren’t for that, I would’ve had that stomach spasm.  And the frame of mind I was in was not good, and the friend I was with told me to have an after dinner brandy and said, “Here take this!”  I take a deep swallow because my stomach was so distended and you would think I am pregnant and that I was going to deliver.  It was amazing.  I took two big gulps of that and made the spasms go away.  And the spasms were very scary.  It’s physical, but it was brought on by emotion.  Many truths just kept coming out of what I suspected and things kept coming up in which I had red flags, and I should have known it then.  I thought things would work out.  Being as gorgeous as he was, he had girls falling all over him left and right.  And that was okay, too. But the thing of it is also; you don’t have to return the favor.

MICHAEL:

For many years, I knew you were a self-admitted alcoholic.  But I never knew when the drinking started.  I thought it was digression from the character you play; Kay was a drunk, so you became a drunk. 

JEANNE:

Actually, I got Katherine sobered up and then she would have to sober me up!  Bill Bell (Creator, Y&R) gave me an ultimatum.  He met with my son Collin, and they arranged to put me in St. John’s.  And I came home from work and Collin was already at the house and he said, “Mom, we are all packed and ready to go.”  I said, “Where are we going?”  He said, “St. John’s.”  And I said, “Thank God.”

MICHAEL:

Courtesy/Harper Collins

Do you think it affected your work at Y&R?

JEANNE:

Well, I think it would have, but Bill Bell wouldn’t let me go into the heavy storyline with Phillip, where I adopt little Phillip and all of that.  He would not have gone into that story if he thought for a minute that I would continue to drink and not have full control over what I was doing.  I saw a little bit of it in one of my performances, and it just sickened me.  It made me sick to my stomach that I would ever let that happen to myself.  My private life was such hell at the time, and of course, the brandy started calling for stomach spasms after awhile. That is what is so amazing and incredible; that kind of attachment you have that gives you a break from the misery you are going through.  I never felt such relief in my life, because the one thing I did love was my job … and in my job I can express who I am through my acting.  It is in making magic for people to escape to.  I always say, “Thank you God for Bill Bell and Collin saving my life.”

MICHAEL:

You also had several run-ins with Bill Bell where you refused to say certain lines of dialog he wrote.  He retorted back to you, “This isn’t Jeanne Cooper saying these lines, it’s Katherine Chancellor!  I don’t care what Jeanne Cooper would say!”

JEANNE:

I know he and his writers would give me some of these Midwest expressions, and not one script went out that Bill was not completely aware of what was in it.  If there were a grammatical error, he would call the writer and go, “I never want to see anything like that again.”   Look, Bill said he was not writing the soap for the sophisticates in Manhattan, but that he was writing for Middle America and the middle class people of the world.  Of course, he was right about what Katherine should say.

MICHAEL:

Then, there is the Beau Kayzer (Ex-Brock, Y&R) shocker!  You fell in love with your on-screen son in real-life.

JEANNE:

Photo Credit: Kathy Hutchins

Doug Davidson (Paul, Y&R) was the only one who half-way suspected.  He told me that about a year ago.  Beau was one of the most innocent loving people.  Beau can deliver dialog that is so believable that it’s like Meryl Streep’s performances.  I never think Meryl Streep is any other person than who she is playing.  And Beau can take words, and make you listen to them.  I got news!  Beau was getting more fan mail than anybody on the show.

MICHAEL:

Why did Beau disappear off the show?  Did the producer and writers want to get rid of him?

JEANNE:

They didn’t.  If I married him, he probably would have stayed on the show.  I do think Beau was deeply in love with me, and I was deeply in love with him for a great period of time, too.

MICHAEL:

You said you felt the age-difference between you two was a big issue for you, eventually.

JEANNE:

Not at that time, but later down the line.  Look at it.  He would have just turned 50 and I am 83!  But still, even to this day he said, “I don’t see what you are talking about.”  I broke it off and I said, “We can’t see each other.”  He married a woman about ten years older than I was at the time, and that didn’t work out.  He is still one of the sweetest, kindest people that I know.  He is very poetic and the kids loved him.  Beau has never liked younger women as companions.  It is amazing and he never really changed.

MICHAEL:

We both have something in common, Jeannie, other than we have made careers in daytime.  Both of us have had surgery with Dr. Harry Glassman!  You had the first daytime television on-screen face-lift with him, and he reconstructed my nose after it broke in five places in a freak accident I had several decades ago!

JEANNE:

Courtesy/Harper Collins

My God!  It was groundbreaking.  And the first reality show on TV was my facelift!  Dr. Glassman was so funny.  It was so funny having the cameras in the procedure room while they were doing my facelift, but when it was over it was incredible.  Dr. Glassman was offered some brilliant reconstructive surgeries because of my facelift.  He is an artist at reconstruction.

MICHAEL:

Then, there was another big event in your life, or at least it was supposed to be, when you receive the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Daytime Emmys, along with a slew of other honorees on the Emmy telecast.   And when you go to get your Emmy backstage, the boy giving them out goes, “Jeanne Cooper?  Which one are you?”  OY!

JEANNE:

It’s hysterical!  We are all looking at each other going, Lifetime Achievement?  This jerk-off does not who is who!  He is pulling out the names from a cardboard box and reading them.  The worse thing was not showing any of our work for the Lifetime Achievement award.  Big Bird got all the attention that year.  So we all felt we should have had Big Bird costumes on and maybe then we would have gotten more recognition!  They didn’t even show anything, nothing of our work.  It tarnished the whole thing, the award and the academy.  They should be ashamed of themselves!

MICHAEL:

IN 2008, you finally won the Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.  I love the fact that Tyra Banks, who presented the award to you, knew what designer’s dress you were wearing.  Also, the loving words from Crystal Chappell! (Danielle, B&B, Gina, Venice)

Photo Credit: Kathy Hutchins

JEANNE:

Crystal said, “It’s yours, you deserve it.”  Crystal has been a big booster and supportive of my work, and I of hers, because she is such an incredible actress.  She is really taking control of her life with her Internet series, knowing the way the business is and taking nothing for granted.  She is a hard working and also a very fine, fine actress.  So when I turned around and gave her thumbs up when she was sitting at the table next to me, and she was on her feet and clapping her hands like mad.  It meant so much! 

MICHAEL:

I will never forget that night.  You were not in the press room yet, and I am telling you, you have never seen so many people screaming and cheering for you.  I thought, “Is there anyone more beloved in this genre than Jeanne?”  You don’t usually see that kind of heartfelt emotion in a room filled with irritable, cantankerous, and jaded reporters!

JEANNE:

And winning alongside with Tony Geary (Luke, GH)!  I love that man!  I love him, I love him! He read my book and I got 100 tulips, and the most magnificent bouquet you have seen in your life.  It had to weigh 50 lbs.  He read the book to give his thoughts on the back cover, and what he wrote was so heartfelt, I can’t tell you.  I think Tony Geary is one of the finest actors in the business.   He is premiere; there is no two ways about it.

MICHAEL:

You also reveal a surgery and serious medical condition nobody knew about until your memoir!

Courtesy/Harper Collins

JEANNE:

That was seven or eight years ago.  I was gone recently from Y&R because of double pneumonia.  I now have had double pneumonia three times, and I have got to tell you anytime anybody starts to tell me something is going on in my chest, I panic.  I had the SARS flu a few years ago, and I literally melted.

MICHAEL

Now this was something I did not know, you are the legendary Y&R butt pincher to all the young male hotties on the show?  For instance, you seem to reveal you enjoy pinching Greg Rikaart’s (Kevin, Y&R) ass!

JEANNE:

Oh God, you didn’t know that?  Watch the show when you see who jumps! And usually it’s Greg Rikaart (Kevin, Y&R), and I just adore him.  Watch the guy’s expression!  The only one who doesn’t react is Joshua Morrow (Nick, Y&R)   He just moves closer … the little shit!  (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

Let’s talk a moment about Eric Braeden (Victor, Y&R) and you.  You say in your book that Eric Braeden will never let you have the last word in any scene between Victor and Katherine?  By the way, I do love the Victor/Katherine relationship.

JEANNE:

Photo Credit: Kathy Hutchins

Oh yeah, he wont have it with anybody!  But, I did it once.  We improvise a lot, and I get along with Eric so well.  Victor and Katherine respect each other, and that is what we try to let everyone know when we play in our scenes.  You can have one relationship in business, but if you have a friend, you are friends through thick and thin.  And that is what we are.  And as much as Katherine wants to protect Nikki, as she is like the daughter she never had, when Nikki starts to like Victor too much, Katherine just turns a deaf ear.  And also, Victor will not let anyone talk badly about Katherine in front of him in a derogatory way.

MICHAEL:

I was surprised to find out that Melody Thomas Scott (Nikki, Y&R) seemed to decide not to speak with you for a while, and had cut you off as a friend with no explanation.  What do you think happened there?

JEANNE:

I have reminded her about that, and she says, “Oh, mother?  Who knows what was going on with me then?”  And I go, “Well I suppose I didn’t.”  I was very hurt by it.  I protected her in so many ways.

MICHAEL:

But you also say, Ed Scott (Ex-EP, Y&R, now producer, B&B) spent hours lighting Melody in scenes that you were in together while completely ignoring you.

JEANNE:

Photo Credit: Kathy Hutchins

Oh yeah.  I don’t know where Ed’s head was.  He said, “Jeanne, please forgive me.  It was a terrible time in my life.”   And I wanted to say, “Is that it, Ed?  But you are not the boy that I supported!”  Bill Bell called me since John Conboy was leaving and I said, “Well, Ed is good.”  And the others never gave him a chance to express himself.  And I said, “If you don’t like him after awhile, all you do is get rid of him and hire somebody else.”  And that is how Ed got his job.  Of course, he does not like to think that.  As far as Ed Scott, I was his biggest supporter.  We talked the first time the other day, as we both attended a wedding of a friend and he knows.  He knows what he did was wrong.

MICHAEL:

Another long time cast member, Kate Linder (Esther), also did not treat you so kindly.  Seems Kate went to the powers-that-be and pitched them a story where Katherine dies and Esther inherits everything including the mansion!  You had to be taken aback by that one?  I couldn’t believe what I was reading!

JEANNE:

I can believe it! (Laughs)  It’s OK.  Kate is aggressive, and she has lived longer in this town on less. The thing of it is, she became an icon for maids on daytime. They tried it on a few other soaps and it doesn’t work, because they don’t have me to bounce off of.  The thing of it is, I made the part work.  I gave her a name.  Kate just wanted to be a leading lady so desperately.  Well, they let her try that, and you saw what happened.  She would go out of her way to help you, as long as her picture was taken with it. (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

Terry Lester, you say, is one of your favorite actors to ever grace Y&R, and that you have worked with. You also talk about the differences between his Jack Abbott and how Peter Bergman plays the part.  What was it about Terry that you think was so unique and special?

Courtesy/CBS

JEANNE:

Terry was not afraid to step out of the box and try anything.  He had his dark side and shadows, but then most creative people do.  Terry was incredibly creative and sensitive, and he was a very special person.  I thank God he was part of my life, even how brief it was.  But I met Doug Marland (the late head writer of ATWT) through him.  Doug Marland said he would create a role for me as my contract was coming up and things were happening.  I said. “If you write the part, I will do it.”  I even said, “I would come to New York to do it.”  And he went home and had a heart attack and I died.  As for Terry, he nailed Jack Abbott.  It was like a Gig Young playing the part of a second banana, or a Tony Randall.  It’s such amazing parts of my life.  What a very rich and fulfilling life I have had, through the life of Katherine Chancellor!

MICHAEL:

Jeanne, you must have taken a moment after writing your memoirs and all that you have lived, and come to realize what an amazing journey you have gone on in your lifetime!

JEANNE:

I will pass by the book and think, “And that’s only a portion of what you have done and been through.  How about that?   There you are, your face is in my face.”  And it’s hard to realize it’s my face.  It’s me who has been there and done these things. Otherwise, as I have said, everything seemed to come by me and just bump into me.  I never said, “I am going to meet this person, if it’s the last thing I do.”  And there I would be at some event, and I would happen to meet someone I always wanted to meet, and they would know my name!  Oh God, that was thrilling!  It’s amazing, when you get on a plane and are doing a five- hour plane trip, and there is a celebrity sitting next to you who goes, “I know I just shouldn’t do this, but I love your work.”  And I am thinking, of course, they are just like me.  They have their favorite shows and favorite people.  And you think they are so far removed and they are not.  I think what you have to do is appeal to both men and women to reach any level of notoriety in this business.

Courtesy/Harper Collins

MICHAEL:

You have so many fans in the viewing audience, and so many fans of your work including your peers, and all the people who have had the good fortune to know you.  When all is said and done, and you look at your life and you read the last page of your memoir, you must now feel a sense of pride and respect from others that you deserve. 

JEANNE:

The respect from the industry, that includes the press, has been amazing.  It has been amazing how much I have gained in knowledge and in relationships, and it’s been a learning experience.  This life has been a learning experience for me.  That people basically love people, if they are decent human beings, and that I have earned the right to be respected.  I now know it, because so many people have told me.  I am aware of it, and I thank God I was put in a position to do so.

 

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kay/kay
kay/kay

Great Interview!! Yes I agree Terry Lester’s take was the rich playboy and he played it to the hilt I miss that man great actor.

Sean
Sean

She’s so amazing. I was a little suprised about all the affairs, especially with beau who played Brock but i can’t wait to read the book. I already have it preordered on my kindle. In a way i feel like i know the family because i know her for years on Y&R and i’ve watched L.A Law episodes many times to see Corbin and her other son Collen was in a few cinnemax movies several years ago.

Doe
Doe

Michael, loved this interview with Jeanne. I loved the fact that she was so open about her life experiences. Wow! Somereal eye-openers here. But she is one gutsy lady.She is a wonderful actress and whrn she comes into a scene, you know something is brewing. I also like the Katherine-Jill relationship. They really go at it, but truly love each other. Katherine is like a king pin where everything revolves around her.. And Jeanne, you look fabulous.! Can’t wait to read the book. Long may you reign….

Sandee
Sandee

Love the interview. Can’t wait to read the book!

Mara DeRose
Mara DeRose

Hello: If one is handicapped how can one go about getting an autographed book signed by Ms Cooper without having to stand on line? I want to present my best friend Kathy with a copy of Ms Cooper’s book for her 70 birthday on Aug 19/12 because she and I are in love with the show and I wanted to give Kathy a special gift because shes battling breast cancer and who knows what could happen? If there is some way please get in touch with me soon so I can purchase it. If Mrs. C would sign the book to kathy Balsan for me, I’d be thrilled on her 70th birthday and the date. WE’ve been watching the show since I can’t even remember.

MBmomof3
MBmomof3

Thank you for another great interview. Can’t wait to read the book!

Brian Greene
Brian Greene

Thanks For This Great Interview With Jeanne, Michael! 😀

Charles
Charles

The Queen of Daytime was IN MINNEAPOLIS!!!!! – at the Mall of America at a book signing event. She was FABULOUS! Fans had tears in their eyes! Her generosity of spirit and love for her loyal fans was unbelievable!!!!!! We love her and are grateful for her talent!!! We are forever grateful for making Y&R the show that it is today. Still number #1………We absolutely love her. I told her myself that her scenes with Jess Walton are the best comedic scenes…..ever! ! The timing is perfect!!!There is no other actress in daytime that is better than MRS C……../Jeanne Cooper

tia
tia

Is this particular interview on audio somewhere?

terry mitchell
terry mitchell

What happened to Mrs. Chancellor? Why was she not in attendance at Victor and Nikki’s
43rd Wedding? And where is Murphy! Also would like to have Drucilla’s real name!

Thank you so much!

GINGER
GINGER

TO: MRS. JEANNE COOPER,
I AM DEEPLY SORRY TO HEAR OF YOUR ILLNESS, I PRAY GOD WILL RESTORE YOUR HEALTH. I HAVE ENJOYED YOU DOWN THOUGHT THE EARS ON YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS. CONTINUE TO FIGHT A GOOD FIGHT AS ALWAYS. SMILE
MAY GOD BLESS YOU AND YOU WILL CONTINUE TO BE IN OUR PRAYERS.
GOD LOVES YOU AND SO DO I.
GINGER

General Hospital

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: JPI

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

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

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

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

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

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

Courtesy/ABC

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

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

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

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

Photo: JPI

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

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

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

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

Photo: JPI

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

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

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

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

Photo: JPI

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

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

Photo: JPI

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

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

Courtesy/ABC

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

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

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

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

Photo: JPI

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

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

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

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

Photo: JPI

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

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

Photo: JPI

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

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

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

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

Photo: JPI

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

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

Photo: JPI

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

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

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

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

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

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Days Of Our Lives

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: JPI

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

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

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

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

Photo: JPI

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

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

You didn’t do “substitution”!

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

Photos: NBC

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

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

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

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

You had serious hair.  But … we all did!

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

Photo: JPI

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

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

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

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

Photo: JPI

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

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

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

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

… Then Stevano shows up in Salem!

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

Photo: JPI

What have you thought of Stephen Nichols portrayal as Stefano?

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

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

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

Courtesy/NBC

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

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

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

WALLY:  Good lord.  Three deaths in one day!

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

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

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

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

Photo: JPI

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

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

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

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

Photo: JPI

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

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

Photo: JPI

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

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

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

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

Photo: JPI

Did your wife watch your scenes when Adrienne died?

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

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

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

Courtesy/NBC

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

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

Photo: JPI

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

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

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

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Eastsiders

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: EastSiders

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

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

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

Photo: EastSiders

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

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

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

Photo: EastSiders

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

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

Photo: EastSiders

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

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

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

Photo” EastSiders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VAN:  Oh, she’s so good.  I love her.

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

Photo: Eastsiders

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

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

KIT:  It’s your Drew Barrymore moment!

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

KIT:  It was all there!

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

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

Photo: EastSiders

 

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

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

Photo: EaatSiders

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

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

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

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

Photo: JPI

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

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

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

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

Photo: EastSiders

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

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

KIT:  I love that episode, too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Eastsiders

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

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

KIT:  Oh.  Cool.  I love that.

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

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

VAN: (Laughs)

KIT:  So, I’m glad he got that.

Photo: JPI

I get that you wanted to come across very professional.

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

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

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

How did you know about Van?

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

Photo: Instagram

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

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

You’re Instagram stars!

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

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

KIT:  Yes.  Absolutely.

Photo: EastSiders

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

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

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

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

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

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