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The Jess Walton Interview – The Young and the Restless

© JPI Studios

© JPI Studios

“Hello, Restless Style, Jill Fenmore speaking?”  What???  Yes.  As viewers learned late last week, and at the beginning of this week’s episodes of The Young and the Restless, the previously known Jill Foster Abbott apparently is part Fenmore… as in… Lauren Fenmore.  The truth of what we all hope will finally be the end to Jill’s long and exhausting plight and search for her biological birth mother, (for her sake, not necessarily the viewers), took a drastic turn when Jill’s adopted mom, Liz Foster, made a death bed confession to her son, Dr Snapper Foster. (The guest starring David Hasselhoff)  Loaded with the info, and following the powerhouse scenes by two-time Daytime Emmy winner Jess Walton (Jill), (when she has to cope with the grief and feelings of abandonment after losing the one mother that loved her unconditionally), Snapper tells Jill what Liz explained to him about her birthright.

On-Air On-Soaps chatted with the amazing Jess Walton to revisit the latest developments in the ongoing saga of one of daytime’s most unique and enduring characters.  In addition, Jess discusses her on-screen relationship that has endured and withstood countless relationship rewrites, that between her and soap legend, Jeanne Cooper (Katherine).  From the catfights, to the cake-fights, to the DNA results, to the doppelgangers, these two have gone through it all.  Walton also reveals she was sad the return of Y&R 80’s Foster brothers, (David Hasselhoff and Wings Hauser) was so brief, but yet it propelled great story. 
And, what of her current on-screen sons, Daniel Goddard (Cane), and Billy Miller (Billy)?  Find out what this savvy soap veteran has to say about these two popular soap studs.

And, with the 37th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards just around the corner on Sunday night June 27th from Las Vegas live on CBS, Jess and I take a trip down memory lane through her two Emmy wins – one for Supporting Actress in 1991, and the other for Lead Actress in 1997.  An irreverent, funny, tell- it-like-it-is phenomenal actress, and a pure joy to watch on-screen, here’s what Jess had to say about all her mommas!

MICHAEL:

Your performances last week when Liz was dying were phenomenal.  Now we learn, Jill is apparently part Fenmore.  How did you feel when your character gets thrown around so many times, in so many directions, with mothers, jobs, men, etc?  I think she is one of the soap characters who has changed course so many times, it’s hard to keep up with her!

JESS:

It is, isn’t it?  I agree with you, and it used to bother me.  I would try and keep a steady course with it, and now I can’t.  Now I just roll with the punches.  It’s impossible!  For awhile there you just kind of say things like, “My character wouldn’t do this, and who is this?”  But now, I just kind of go, “Oh, my God.  This is going to be fun”, because it’s something new, and it’s something different.

MICHAEL:

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The episodes that just aired were very well written.  It really made the audience aware of Jill’s emptiness and issue of abandonment, and where it all stems from.  Therefore, the viewers felt really bad for her.

JESS:

They were well written, and that is what you have to do, because when Jill goes off on her crazy tangents, I have got to balance it with some sympathy.  Because, if the audience can a see a bit inside of her and understand her, and not just hate her, then it affects them. I thought the scenes with her brothers, Snapper and Greg, were just so good!

MICHAEL:

It was sad to say goodbye to Julianna McCarthy as Liz, and then at the Friday tag you end up at Lauren’s door.  And this past Monday you explain to Lauren what you were told by Snapper via Liz, of Jill’s biological background.  What do you think of the Fenmore twist, it sort of came out of nowhere?  However, the big question as to who is Jill’s real mother is still a mystery.

JESS:

It all happened so fast. We had David Hasselhoff for a week, and Julianna as Liz, dies within a week and all of a sudden it’s, “I am a Fenmore”.  And we really didn’t have a chance to explore it much, but in real life that happens.  My first thought as Jill is, “I actually know who my blood is, and I have a sister.” And, Jill was very moved and touched and shocked from the death of Liz, but full of love for her sister.  Lauren would actually be Jill’s half-sister.

MICHAEL:

Do Lauren and Jill have a bad past?

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JESS:

Most people don’t like Jill, and she hasn’t particularly loved Lauren. I have never had that much to do with Lauren, really.

MICHAEL:

So now, the canvas is wide open again, as to who could be Jill’s mother! Speaking of past mothers… how did you feel about the reversal of plot point that unconnected Katherine and Jill as mother and daughter?  Jeanne Cooper made no bones that she did not like it from the beginning and was glad it has been dropped. With everything that has transpired on-screen, how do you feel about Jill not being related to Katherine?

JESS:

As Jess, I originally loved the idea and it seemed a natural progression to me. I thought it would make it more interesting, because we had already been playing our relationship for 20 years on one note.  I thought it would deepen, but it never did what I thought it could have done.  But, Katherine and Jill have an incredible relationship on-screen in spite of all this.  The love and the hate is so mixed, and there is never any telling when it will bubble out now.  It used to be, “This month I like her… this month I hate her.”  Now, it’s more from moment to moment.

MICHAEL:

How was it to play those huge emotional scenes, and watch Julianna die on-screen?

JESS:

They were easy, easy, easy.  I knew we only had David Hasselhoff for one week, and it was all going to happen.  There was going to be a lot of pain, and a lot of crying, and I was dreading it.  But I have got to tell you, those tears flowed so easily.  Julianna, first of all, is a consummate actress.  She and I have a lot of history together, and we are friends. I adore her, and when I lock into those blue eyes of hers, I just become Jill.  And the strange thing is, Wings Hauser, who I never met before, because as you said, the scenes were so well written, that as soon as we started playing them, the story all made sense.  It was great, and pretty effortless.  I really felt Wings and David were my brothers.  I have to say there was a lot of distraction on the set while David was filming his reality show and that was different.  But I was kind of excited about it, because it was fun.  In the end, I think the scenes came out really well.

© JPI Studios

MICHAEL:

How was David to work with?

JESS:

He was wonderful and a friendly guy and upbeat.  David was proud to be back on The Young and the Restless, and like all parents, proud of his kid.  And that was all he could talk about… his daughter, Taylor-Ann, who played the nurse in some scenes who mixed up Liz’s medications.

MICHAEL:

Jess, you have won two Daytime Emmys, and I was watching this year nominated writing episode from Y&R where yet again, there you were with your mother issue. Jill found out at Billy and Chloe’s wedding definitively that Katherine was not an imposter and your DNA did not match.  Then comes the cake-throwing scene, which set back the Katherine and Jill feud to its rightful place!  What did you think about those scenes?  Jill was a raving bitch!

JESS:

Always, the scenes that turn out the best are the ones I am most worried about, because I know they have the potential to come out great.  I thought they were fabulous.  I had no idea how I was going to be playing all that craziness.  You remember how crazy Jill was acting?  She was all over the place and flip-flopping.  I said to Sally MacDonald, who was directing the episode, “Um, you have to give me a drink in my hand at the very beginning of this wedding because I have to have a little aid, and you have to assume Jill is a little tipsy.  It gives the excuse for why she is so all over the place.”  So, Sally started me out with a Mimosa right at the beginning of the show and it kind of explained it.  And what did I say to poor Murphy?  I know, “You dig up worms for a living!”  (Laughs) She was awful!  Then I threw the cake in Nikki’s face, too!  I said to Melody Thomas Scott (Nikki), “You better watch out Melody.  I am going to get you, too.”  It was great!

MICHAEL:

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What did Jeanne think of this cake fight extraordinaire?

JESS:

Jeanne was like, “bring it on” with the cake fight.  Here was the problem. The problem was that the frosting was butter cream and it got on the floor on the tiles.  And whoever was holding me up, was really holding me up…and it was Beau Kayzer. (Brock) That was because Jeanne was trying to get her arms around the entire cake!  I am telling you, that is what she was trying to do!  She is so funny! (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

So to make this extraordinary pairing work on-screen at this point, after so many years, do you and Jeanne sit down and have a process where you run lines, or is it all just hit your mark, say your lines, and we will make it remarkable?  With daytime production moving so fast these days, has it at all impacted you and Jeanne?

JESS:

There is very little time to run lines if we are first up to tape in the day.  Other than that, there is usually time to rehearse.  We use to have a drama coach on set who was great.  His name was Judd Lawrence.  He was great for group scenes, and he had a little room near hair and make-up.  When we had those group scenes with a lot of people, as we passed by his area, all of us would sit down in a room and get those really fast cues that you have in party scenes.  So that was cool.  But for Jeanne and I when it comes to one and one scenes, we find each other and we put in the work.

MICHAEL:

Jeanne is a remarkable lady!  And the two of you still “bring it” to the viewers!

JESS:

© JPI Studios

I thank God every day for that woman.  She feeds me. She is like a shot in the arm when you see her in the morning.  She is funny and sharp and I love her.

MICHAEL:

What are you playing as Jill now?  Inner-struggle? Is she going to have a metamorphosis?

JESS:

She is feeling all of her emotions right now to the hilt and thinking, “Whatever I am feeling, it’s like what the hell!  Life had always brought me a lot of dirty blows,” but she always tries new things.  She has really deep feelings for people like Cane and Billy.  She adores them, even though Billy is such a little brat.  He has a lot of Jill in him, but when she gets mad, she really gets mad, but I don’t think she is any longer trying to make much sense of it.  Jill went out of trying to fit in and be part of society.  She is now like, “What is going on?” (Laughs) Michael, I can tell you, there is really good stuff coming up.

MICHAEL:

Jill is such a shrew sometimes!

JESS:

She can be such a shrew!  Did you know that a Shrew is really an animal that has a horrible personality! (Laughs)  Jill gets her happiness where she can, and she certainly is not going to contain her anger.  She lets it out, so it does not fester in there.  She is on a roller coaster though, I will say that much.

MICHAEL:

So she is going to be in a continual search for her biological mother, coming up?

JILL:

I suppose.  I can’t tell you anything. (Laughs)

© JPI Studios

MICHAEL:

Another thing, Jess, is that Jill has had a lot of job changes. (Laughs) Where is she working now, officially?

JESS:

She is still with Billy. He fired her once (laughs), but I am working at Restless Style.

MICHAEL:

How is working with Daytime Emmy nominee Billy Miller (Billy)?

JESS:
Oh, it’s fantastic.  He is the best actor. Yesterday, Billy walked on the set after we had just rehearsed these scenes, and during the performance I looked at him and I saw so much!  I think back to when he met Cane, and the character had just come back.  Billy was jealous of him and happy to be home with Jill, and it was all playing across his face. He is very, very good.

MICHAEL:

Your other on-screen son, Phillip Chancellor III played by Thom Bierdz, came back for sort of a reverse coming out story to his family, but the story fizzled.

JESS:

When I worked with Thom recently, I have to tell you, he hasn’t changed a bit.  He is still the same sweet guy that he was.

MICHAEL:

And how is working with Daniel Goddard (Cane)?

JESS:

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Oh my God, it’s like butter.  It is, it’s like butter, and we have this connection.  He reminds me of my real life son.  His energy is like my son.  And I feel like he is my real son, and he is just amazing.  Daniel’s sense of humor is so terrific.  I love his wife and his kids.  I am always thrilled when I work with him.

MICHAEL:

On Sunday, the 37th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards will be handed out on CBS.  So as a past recipient, where are your two Emmys?

JESS:

They are on each side of the TV.

MICHAEL:

When you look at them, do you look back and go, “Wow, I won these!  How cool.”

JESS:

They are always there so I don’t always notice them, but as I am sitting here talking to you, I am looking at them.  Sometimes when I have new people come into the house that don’t really know me well or know what I do, I think “Oh, what are they going to think when they see those?” (Laughs)  They are very impressive, but most of the time I forget.

MICHAEL:

When you won them, do you remember what went through your mind at the time, close to when your name was called or shortly after?

JESS:

© JPI Studios

The first one was at the Marriott and it was a lunchtime deal. I remember when I won them I was very angry that I had to do anything, because all I wanted to do was feel.  I remember it distinctly.  First of all, I sure as hell did not want to get up and give the damn speech. (Laughs)  It was just horrible!  Then I wanted to go hug my husband and I had to do the press, but I did not want to do the press.  Not because it’s difficult, or that I don’t like doing it, it’s just that I wanted to feel that feeling, and I wanted to feel it purely and not have to work.  Then the second one was killer and the icing on the cake.  It was for Lead Actress and it was really, really great.  And, at that time it had been many, many years since The Young and the Restless was on, and no one had ever won in the Lead Actress category.  I think it had been on 20 years maybe at that point.

MICHAEL:

What would you say to the actresses this year who are in the final five, as we countdown to Emmy night?

JESS:

I would say, enjoy the nomination process, because everyone is a winner until that night and it’s a glorious, glorious time.  And for the winner, it goes on, and for the ones who don’t win, it sort of stops right there.

MICHAEL:

Well, after seeing this last week of air shows, I think you have some very strong material, that if you so choose to throw your name in the mix next year, you could just get a nod!

JESS:

If I decide to do it, we shall see.  But the great thing about the Emmys is: once I won one, and then won a second, it did not matter to me anymore.  It’s over and done and I did that.   I did not have that yearning that I had before.

MICHAEL:

OK Jess, of all the numerous twists and turns in Jill’s storylines, there had to be some that you were like, “You have got to be kidding me? How I am going to make this work?”

JESS:

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Oh, my God, Michael.   I had those moments a lot when you think of the twists and turns. And the very first one I remember was when Billy was small.  I was fighting for custody with John Abbott.  Jack went and hired a guy who sweeps me off my feet who lets me know he is not interested in a child.  And…I give up custody from that one day of scenes. That was a “How am I going to make this work?”  And every time I have scenes with the whole town (Laughs), and I announce to the whole town that I was going to take over Katherine’s house, knowing they all loved her and hated me (Laughs)…. I am always having to do stuff like that.  I mean, when I had to tell poor Murphy that he digs worms for a living…you know, it was like, “How am I going to do this?”  My whole soap opera life is filled with, “How am I going to make this work?”  Sometimes, my solution is going to the director and saying, “Please give Jill a Mimosa the first thing in the morning so I can make this work.” (Laughs)  The other story that was the hardest, “How am I going to make this work,” was Brittany’s baby.  I fell in love with the baby, and I was going to go into the Witness Protection Program to be the nurse maid for the baby. (Laughs) And then, Michael Nouri was on the show for a while.  He was a dishonest CEO for Katherine, and I was trying to get the goods on him and fall in love with him.  But then, Jill runs off with him knowing he was an embezzler and never to see her family again. Well, please! (Laughs) You know what I mean?   It’s so much fun, and it’s been such a
challenge to try to make it some sort of cohesive tapestry of a human being.

MICHAEL:

But you had to speak to the writers at times to clarify or find out where your story is headed sometimes when things were perhaps, murky?

JESS:

I have gone on the phone with the writers before to shape an idea, or to go over the forward thrust of a story, but mostly it’s self-explanatory.  I don’t know how to answer that except there have been times I have needed to talk to them.  Particularly, if I saw in the direction it was going that there were going to be problems.  But of course, they are great that way and glad to talk about it with us.

MICHAEL:

Who do you think is the dream mother for Jill?

JESS:

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I think Julianna was!  Liz was the dream mother for Jill.  She always could handle Jill.  That is the trouble on soap, you can never be happy. You always have to be unhappy because that is where the drama lies.  I had many mothers now haven’t I?  Remember Elizabeth Harrower, played by Charlotte, and Jill was crazy about her! (Laughs) Oh, my God.  She had so many mothers! (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

But Jill’s deep rooted insecurity and issues stem from that and from when she was poor.

JESS:

There is a basic insecurity that came from her being the housekeeper’s daughter. She was around Katherine with her rich society country club friends, and she had this deep feeing of inadequacy, and that is where I think it all stems up.  But, she is very much a bossy little lady, and domineering.  Jill is attracted to powerful men, but yet she is not going to buckle under to them.

MICHAEL:

Have you ever been bored with playing Jill?

JESS:

No, it’s never boring now.  When it was boring, was the time I won Best Actress because all I was doing at that time was supporting Sonny Von Deusen who played Keith Dennison, and his two girls, Megan and Tricia. That is all I did for two years and it was really boring, and nothing ever has been that boring, and no period of time on the show has ever been as boring as that one.  Sonny was a wonderful actor and I loved him, but I wasn’t doing hardly anything.

MICHAEL:

When you heard all these people were coming back for one week, David Hasselhoff, Julianna McCarthy and Wings Hauser, were you shocked when they told you?

JESS:

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I have a really good friend whose is David’s agent, so I was not completely unaware of what was going on.  But, I was very sad that it was so quick though, and no, I am not in David’s reality show!

MICHAEL:

What would you say about working with Jeanne Cooper after all these years?

JESS:

It’s like rolling off a log at this point and so easy.  Working with Jeanne is stimulating and we laugh constantly.  We are so in the same boat.  We know each other so well, and we know the looks on each others faces, and we know if we have gone up on each other’s lines, and we know if this isn’t working right or it doesn’t feel right.  It’s just wonderful.

MICHAEL:

So what happened when Jeanne’s prediction that the mother/daughter storyline was not going to work came true?

JESS:

What are you going to do?  I hate that Jeanne was proved right that it didn’t work, because I think it should have.  But, I thought it would deepen it in theory, and make it more interesting, in theory.  C’mon, we got years of story out of it, and there was no wrong to that.  I don’t care what she says.  It’s been 25 years that I have been on the show, and there has been a Jill in her life for way longer than that. You have got to throw it some curves.

MICHAEL:

OK, after all the mothers, men, children, boardrooms, and manicures that Jill has come in contact with or had in her life, what is something you would still love to see your character get to do?

JILL:

I would love to see a lot more fantasizing scenes, where apparently I put Katherine under the hair dryer and electrocute her! (Laughs)  And one time, I know I did hide the toilet paper in the Colonnade Room when she went into the stall.  And, I loved it when I rented the Doberman, because I knew she was afraid of dogs.  And I loved it when I hired my own maid, so we could have dueling maids, with her Ester being her maid.  I remember, Beverly Archer from Momma’s Family, who played the neighbor on that sitcom, played Jill’s maid.  She was hilarious, and her sense of comedy timing was out of this world.

MICHAEL:

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Would you like to see Jill have a new romance?

JESS:

No.  I would like to see her become a master spy.  (Laughs) Look, I am up for anything new and different at this point.

MICHAEL:

Well Jess, I know and the fans know, that there is some big stuff coming down the pike for Jill, from discovering more about who she is, to God knows what else, in the coming weeks!

JESS:

It will be an emotional roller coaster, and it’s never smooth.  It’s all about going for broke with her coming up, and its going to get very interesting.

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waldo doe
waldo doe

Thanks for the great JW interview. I don’t think I have ever read an interview with her. She seems pretty cool, so unlike her neurotic alter ego!

I’m not so crazy about this Fenmore storyline, but I will keep watching to see where it goes.

KELLEY MIES
KELLEY MIES

Jess is the BEST actress on daytime tv!!! She makes Y&R the show that it is #1!!!

Nora
Nora

Great interview! I love Jess and I’m looking forward to this new development!

Diane
Diane

Absolutely one fabulous intereview with the great Jess Walton whom I love and adore and have since I saw her ‘ions’ ago when she was a young gal on the now defunct soap SOMERSET! Awesome ballsy broad and I love her character and what she brings to it. Thanks Michael.

Mandel
Mandel

Good interview Michael. When people say that they don’t like Jill, that shows that Jess is a good actress.

cburdsall
cburdsall

found interesting and helpful. Jill is such a difficult person to like; but now, separating the actor from the character, makes it easier to watch the prerformance.

Trish
Trish

I like Jess but my favorite of all time was the original Jill, Brenda Dickson.

Interviews

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: NATAS/Getty

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

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

Photo: NATAS

David Parks, did you think it would really happen?

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

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

Courtesy/NATAS/Getty

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

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

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

Photo Credit: JPI Studios

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

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

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

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

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

Courtesy/NATAS

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: NATAS

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

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

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

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

Photo: NATAS

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

Were you worried about Alex on Emmy night?

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

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

Courtesy/NATAS

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

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

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

Photo: NATAS

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

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

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

Photo: NATAS

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

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

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

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

Photo: NATAS

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

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

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

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

Courtesy/NATAS

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

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

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

Photo: JPI Studios

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

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

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

Courtesy/NATAS

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

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

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

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

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

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General Hospital

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Days Of Our Lives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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