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The Maria Arena Bell and Paul Rauch Interview – The Young and the Restless

© JPI Studios

© JPI Studios

As of this week, with more than 9,330 episodes aired on network television, and having ranked as the #1 daytime drama for 21 consecutive years (that’s over 1,100 consecutive weeks, for anyone who is counting) in the soap genre, The Young and the Restless has set the standard for quality and excellence.  In a time where doomsday reports continue to signal that the soap genre is becoming an endangered species, Y&R is still going strong. The series will celebrate its 37th anniversary next month, on March 26th.  So what are the secrets to success that keep Genoa City on the map?  On-Air On-Soaps sat down with two of daytime’s greatest creative forces, Y&R Co-Executive Producers, Maria Arena-Bell and Paul Rauch, better known as “The Dream Team,” to get some answers.

But before we begin, let’s take a look at a bit of the background.  As many know, Maria Arena Bell, (daughter-in-law to Y&R’s late creator, Bill Bell) back in 2008, also took over the head writing reigns.  She began to restore the glory of Y&R without comprising the integrity of her cast, characters, and the history of the show.  Enter Rauch, who with tenures as head honcho at Another World, One Life to Live, Guiding Light and Santa Barbara, and whose classic soap values lends itself to Y&R’s on-screen culture, was a perfect match for Bell’s sensibilities.  So how do the duo work in synergy?  You’ll find out.  And, we discuss the topics that have been on many fans minds, the re-casting of Stephen Nichols in the role of Tucker McCall, and Darius McCrary in the role of Malcolm Winters… plus, the duo’s thoughts on the health and prosperity of the current state of the genre.
This is a must read for any long time viewer of The Young and the Restless, as we take a look from the inside at the inner-workings of the number one show on daytime.

MICHAEL:

Part of what the two of you have accomplished together, is that you seemed to have restored the historical value of Y&R, and continued where creator, Bill Bell, had left off.  Was that the plan?

MARIA:

When I came back it was during the strike, and it was fairly sudden that I stepped in.  The only way of storytelling that I really knew was what I learned from Bill Bell, when I was here before and when I was at B&B.  It was all about these character driven stories and rich characters. The minute I got here, it was those characters I knew as a fan and loved, that were brought to the forefront again because I knew the value of those characters and the history of them.  I knew by mining the history and really building story out of character that it was really going to be successful for the show, because that is how this show has always been done.

MICHAEL:

Can you give me an example when you came in and re-plotted the path of a legacy storyline?

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MARIA:

There were a few things I noticed immediately that seemed wrong to me or did not feel right.  One of those was Jill and Katherine relating as mother and daughter.  That was something that immediately felt false to me, and because I did not believe it, I kept thinking in my heart, “I just know they are not mother and daughter.”  And that was how that storyline was born, because watching them together felt false.  I had watched all of the 80’s with the two of them fighting viciously and the 90’s, too.  It was such an incredible relationship that I just don’t feel it or believe it on some intrinsic level.  I think there were a lot of people in the audience who did not feel it 100% true.

MICHAEL:

Jeanne Cooper (Katherine) in past interviews was vocal about it.  She had always spoken that she wished the relationship was switched back to Jill and Kay not being related. Does an actor’s preference or thoughts ever influence you or the writing?

MARIA:

I can tell you when I started feeling it, I did not know about Jeanne’s position on it.  However, I met with Jeanne and she was not shy about saying that it felt false to her, and in some ways I think it felt false to Jess Walton (Jill), too.  Not that they did not play the story beautifully and believably, it’s just those of us who knew their characters were like, “Really?  They are mother and daughter?   I don’t know about that.”  It was more of my gut instincts than anything.  But, Bill Bell would have told you in his era, that the actors had zero influence on the show and that was the Bill Bell way, to be honest with you.  It’s one of those things where people say, “Are you exactly like Bill or are you not?”  The truth is, I am not exactly like Bill because I do like talking to the actors, particularly the people who have been in these roles for so very long who understand the characters so very well.

MICHAEL:

I am sure the show veterans have great insight into their classic soap roles.

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MARIA:

There was a one time where Peter Bergman (Jack) was nominated for an Emmy and in reviewing his submission reels he would say, “You know, I can’t find anything I can really sink my teeth into here.”   He was not sure of what storyline to submit and we were talking about it and he said, “I just want the Abbott family together.”   Peter was talking about wanting the actors back together, but that is really true to who Jack Abbott is.  He has this vision of the Abbots being back together and owning Jabot, and that comment alone drove the storyline for me.  It clarified, of course, that that is intrinsic to the character and the actor, and that has been Jack’s guiding dilemma.  He gets really close and then it moves away.  It’s sort of been something we have done for the last two years, and that definitely came from Peter.

MICHAEL:

Paul, you have been at the helm of many a soap opera.  Did you come to Y&R and put the Paul Rauch stamp on it?  And what do you feel you contribute to the overall process?

PAUL:

No, the show had its own stamp and Maria has put her stamp on the show.  I think the single most important thing that I got accomplished when I came here, was to make good the relationship between writing and production and to establish proper communication, which there was a lack of.  Maria was having a hard time getting through to production and she needed to be way more involved than she was and consulted a lot more than she was.  I think we took care of that in pretty short order.  I think Maria has great taste in acting, and great taste in actors. I think she and I are in sync with everything we do.

MICHAEL:

What do you feel is the single most important element for Y&R’s success?

PAUL:

It all comes from the writing. Maria has the whole show in her head and in her hands, and it comes through every single week.  My job is to get the performances from the actors, get the nuances from the actors, realize the subtext, and give the writers back what they have given to me in large measure.

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MICHAEL:

Paul, we hear you are pretty hands-on at the set.   Are you in the production booth most of the time?

PAUL:

I am there, and I am in the control room all the time, and Maria is here in her office.  We communicate.  If she does not like something, she will let me know, or if I don’t like something I will let her know, and we take care of.  It’s good synergy.

MICHAEL:

Working with the actors and giving them a slight shift or note on their performance is something you are known for on the set.  Can you give me an example of how that works and helps the scenes?

PAUL:

First off, the actors have always been fabulous.  I haven’t made them better actors, but I can help them realize certain things.  For example, I was playing a scene with Tucker McCall, our new billionaire, and Jill Abbott.  They have had a sexual relationship, and it had morphed into a business relationship with sexual over and undertones.  Tucker said, “You can work anywhere you want and anywhere in my division.  I will even start a company up for you, if you want.”  She played it as if she wanted Jabot only.  Instead of realizing this man was really reaching out to her, because of the relationship they had…the personal relationship.  He was making an enormous offer, which for him was a tribute to their relationship, as well as everything else going on.  I asked Jess to play it, and she took her time with that, and Jill was gratified by the offer and she was pleased with him as a man.  So, we can get extra value in those moments just by me talking to the actors about that moment, in addition to what is on the page.

MICHAEL:  

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Stephen Nichols was quickly recast as Tucker McCall, and William Russ who had just started, was let-go.  How did you come to make a decision like that, and why was the switch made so early on during Russ’s time with the show?

MARIA:

I think we wanted to play the character originally in a different direction.  This is an incredible cast and it’s all about the chemistry between everybody on the screen, and as much as I think William Russ is a fantastic actor, when I watched the scenes it was not exactly how I wanted Tucker to be.  It was not exactly how he was conceived to be, and rather than walk down the road where you are thinking, “Well, it’s not quite right, but maybe…”   It felt like it was going to be better to make a decisive move early on.  I figured the audience would accept it better, if it happened very quickly.

PAUL:

So, it’s not as much of a blow.

MARIA:

Honestly, in watching Stephen in the role, he is Tucker McCall.  He is the character we had created.  It was one of those things that was not fitting with what that character needed to be.  There is no accepting what is not quite right, and the way it was going to impact the storytelling was what is important to me.

MICHAEL:

Recently, you re-cast the role of Malcolm, played originally by Shemar Moore who was so identifiable in the role, with another actor, Darius McCray.  Fans have been unsure of why that choice was made.  He looks so different from Shemar.  How do you make these decisions to recast a major role like that, with someone who is a complete 180 from what the fans might expect?

MARIA:

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I remember I was here when we cast Shemar, and the role of Drucilla.  I was working for Bill then.  I remembered how those characters really popped.  What I remembered of the character of Malcolm was, he was conceived as a guy who had spent some time where he had been on the streets.  He was artistic, he was edgy, and Shemar was phenomenal. When we went to cast for it, we looked at what the original conception of the character was; not about casting an actor who would do an imitation of Shemar doing Malcolm, but an actor who would own the role, who would be Malcolm.  It’s a classic story of the brother who is the good guy who always achieved everything, and went to Stanford and got an MBA, and is now running a company, and the other brother who struggled and made something out of his life, but is more the creative type. It’s such a core of the show to bring that brother back and to have Malcolm come back, and be inhabited by a new actor, and have it go back to the origins of the character.  I think he can play this edgy, creative, young maverick that Malcolm should be.  I think Darius is going to pop off the screen in that role and be a very popular character.

MICHAEL:

When the two of you are in auditions together, do you know immediately when the right actor walks in for the part you are casting?

MARIA:

We have been really in sync, such as the character of Daisy.  When Yvonne Zima came in to read for that role, it was like, “Wow, did she pop!”  She made us go, “Oh, my gosh. She is fantastic!”  You just feel it…. that everything we have talked about in regards to that character, and then that person walks in, you know it.  It was also true of Darius.

PAUL:

The Darius McCray audition was one of the greatest the network had seen in 20 years.

MARIA:

The quality of the actors that were up for the role was extraordinarily high.  Everyone who came in for the final audition, and there were four in the finals, they were all fantastic.  They were all very different from one another, and in the end, it was about this kind of special quality that Darius had.  We just felt that “Star Quality”.

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MICHAEL:

Do you ever face challenges where you have a more difficult time writing for certain characters?

MARIA:

You have to be careful when you write story not to write them into a corner where it becomes difficult to play them.  I think one of the most challenging things to play is a happily married couple.  I think that is one of things that is a challenge for everybody in this business.  For instance, the fans love seeing Lauren and Michael together.  They are a couple people absolutely love.  So if you are going to tell a story with them, the jeopardy needs to be external and about something else.  They do not want to see them fighting or having marital problems, because that is a couple they can believe in.  So, it does not mean it’s less inspiring to write for them, because for one thing they are two of the more fantastic characters on the canvas on the show.  But it does mean you have to think about how you tell story a little bit differently, which is not a bad thing.  It challenges you and pushes you in a different way.

MICHAEL:

Do you use fan focus groups as input to how stories and characters are working with the audience and use their feedback to alter or determine story?

PAUL:

We do focus groups.  I think you can take certain things from focus groups but you cannot rely on them.  I know people from shows and executives who rely too much on them, but I don’t think that is the case here.  But it’s always good to get a taste of what the audience is feeling or thinking. You take what you can or want out of it.

MARIA:

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I think what is interesting is going back to how Bill thought about focus groups.  He thought it was old information because we have moved past that in storytelling, and the audience is actually commenting on what they are seeing now.  It was things like that, which made him feel it was inaccurate.  What has changed and has made it really interesting is the ability to poll people immediately online – the stuff CBS.com and SONY has done on their websites to see immediate responses of what happened the day of air and that does make us more nimble.   Now that does mean we can sense how the audience is feeling.  I am not saying that I would pull a story totally out if it was not working, but I certainly see the negative feedback.

PAUL:

I will also know if something will work instinctively…. if I am on the floor.

MICHAEL:

So what happens if you are on the floor, and you go, “this is not working”?

PAUL:

Maria will know before I will.

MARIA:

It’s like I can tell when there is a story I need to segue out of because it’s been played out, or it’s not as strong a story as I had hoped, and it does happen.  It happens very rarely though on Y&R, because production is so strong and the actors are so incredibly strong. You write a storyline and it’s almost always better once it’s produced, even than it was in your own head, as opposed to having this great concept in this head, and going, “Oh, geez! That was not what I really had in mind.”  Instead, I am constantly astounded on this show on how the production is.  I am constantly going, “Wow, this is fantastic.  This is better than my draft.”

MICHAEL:

Do you feel pressure to keep this show at number one?

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PAUL:

I provide my own pressure.  It’s more difficult when all of the shows are cutting back because of their financial situations.  I would say for Maria and myself, while we struggle with it, we are winning the battle.  Maria is winning the battle on the writing side, and I don’t think anybody is seeing a diminution of production values.  The pressure for us comes on trying to get the show done on time, get the performances that we want.  But we streamline it, and make it as efficient as we want. We still get it done and maintain the same value.

MICHAEL:

Y&R was known for those long arduous scenes back in its heyday, and now it seems to have quick shorter scenes or snippets.  Did you intentionally change the pace?

MARIA:

As far as that goes, look, the pacing is certainly different than it was 21 years ago, especially historically.  There were longer scenes.  If people watched it now they would be surprised at how long those scenes were.  The change is the pacing has evolved in a nice hybrid, and it’s not like we are attempting to be primetime and cut to that level and be a feature film.  We are still a daytime serial, and we are intimate, and it’s still about character, and sometimes you do create movement in a show through editing and the alignment of the scene.

PAUL:

Everyone would say and agree that the show has maintained its integrity and become more streamlined.  I think this show kind of rocks right now.

MARIA:

That is the goal to keep it as engaging as possible in this day and age.

MICHAEL:

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What are your feelings on the state of the genre and the stability of Y&R?   We know it’s been renewed for two more years, but CBS just cancelled in the same year both Guiding Light and As the World Turns.

MARIA:

I think it’s still a viable genre and still unique, and what we do here at Y&R sort of defies the odds; in that we led the year in every demographic, and primarily winning the youngest demographic, which is the most volatile.  Look, I think it’s a totally viable art form, and it’s totally unique, and it’s the only art form where you get into these characters to the extent you can.  Where else can you have this epic storytelling unless you are reading a Dickens novel?

MICHAEL:

With game shows and reality shows taking over television and daytime, it feels like we are losing must-see appointment television, which soaps are!

MARIA:

We were both saddened to see any daytime drama cancelled.  It’s really disappointing for all of us, because we want to see them all stay on the air.  That being said, we are very fortunate with this show to be in the position we are.  And we have shown it’s possible to have gains or hold your own, and stay viable with the audience.  And I think we have proved that.  So, when you ask about the pressure to be number one, I don’t think about it as I am telling the story or as I am doing my job.  Because at that point, I am thinking about doing the absolute best that I can do and am capable of, and bring my team together to do the best we can do, and it’s an incredible group effort.  We want to achieve the excellence we can for ourselves and for our fans.  The fact that we are number one is fantastic and it’s not to be taken for granted.

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MICHAEL:

One of the things Y&R does differently than the other soaps is truly hold back storyline shockers so they do not leak out too early to ruin the big surprise.  ABC lets some of their story out a month or so before it airs.  Is this part of the ingredients to your successes?

MARIA:

Sure. You have to tune in.  We have managed to keep some very must-see things a secret till it’s time to reveal them.  Really hard secrets to keep….we have blacked out names in scripts, changed names in scripts; brought in people after hours… we have done that.

PAUL:

We cast all contract parts by other names!

MARIA:

Sure, and even beyond that.  For instance, when we were bringing back the character of Phillip III with Thom Bierdz, Thom was just an incredibly beloved guy in that role when I was here in the 80’s.  To me, he always captured that spirit as to what that role was.  I still stand by that story.  I loved bringing him back and having him on the canvas.  I wanted to keep it a shocker surprise.  So, poor Thom was sworn to secrecy, and everyone in the building was sworn to secrecy.   I think Thom was a great partner in making it a surprise.  I remember meeting him to talk to him about the role at some coffee shop like, “I will meet you by the third pillar and we will talk about this.” (Laughs)  Because it’s about shocks and surprises… this is about what is going to happen next… this is about cliffhangers.   I think one of things I think I instilled back into the show was building towards that Friday tag, and wondering what’s going to happen over the weekend and having that burning curiosity of  “Oh, my God!”  And that goes back to the classic soaps and days of radio, and that is what soaps are about.

MICHAEL:

Now, don’t you also try to get big moments to happen during the week so they are not only in Friday tags?

MARIA:

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In the storytelling I try to do that, but my team is sort of addicted now to the Friday tags.  They are like, “But wait, should we do that at the end of the week?”  I am like, “No, you have to have surprises on other days, too.”   Everyday is a Friday is my motto, but I do like the idea of audiences on pins and needles over the weekend.”   I love what fans are doing on the message boards going, “OMG!  What’s going to happen?”

MICHAEL:

Do you read the message boards?

MARIA:

I do, of course.  And so does my writing team, and Paul does.  And is it sometime tough when there is negative feedback?  Yeah, it can be tough to read that.  But on top of it, not only do we read it and listen, but also we are not always dictated by what the fans say, because as you say, sometimes you do want to do something that pushes them to the edge.  And right now that is the character of Adam.  Is he a hate or love to hate?  People are obsessed with when is this guy is going to get his comeuppance!  They scream, “I can’t take it anymore!”  I get it and I understand, and I know it’s driving you crazy, but that is the point. We want you to like, “Argh, when is it going to unravel?”  Because, when it does, and it will, it will be huge!

MICHAEL:

Has there ever been a time where an actor comes to you and goes “I don’t like this. What is going on here”?

MARIA:

Sure, most often.  I have never had a meeting where actor does not walk out going, “Ok, now I get it.  I get that it’s a journey.”

PAUL:

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You don’t tell the actors their entire story because they have to play it in the moment and you don’t want them to anticipate the end of the story of what they are playing.  You need that degree of spontaneity from the actor, and the enthusiasm from the actor is important.  I had an actor come to me last night going, “Why won’t you tell me what is going on here?”  I looked at him and said, “You have got to play the moment and the spontaneity of it.”

MICHAEL:

What happens when actors want to know their storylines a year out so they know how to play something?  It seems some actors I have talked to say they know story quite in advance, and some don’t know at all.  Do you let them know?  Do they leave you alone on that since you are the writer?

MARIA:

Quite the opposite, I get grilled!   They go, “Am I going to be with so-so?”  I won’t answer!  I tell them, “I can’t tell you.”  I mean there are times when somebody is really concerned about a direction their character is going in and selectively we talk about it. But in general, that’s part of the ride and being on this side, and the group of people we have now, they have faith in the standards of the writing, and so they are not questioning a lot.

MICHAEL:

Victor/Nikki, Sharon/Nick are some of the true super couples of the show.  Don’t you think romance is a key ingredient to Y&R’s integral success?

MARIA:

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I think it’s not just the couples. Victor and Nikki is one of the most powerful love stories on the show and even through when they are not together they have this pull, and even when they are married to other people, there is this pull that will never end.  It’s an incredible larger than life, grand love story.  But I think as much as those relationships, it’s the family and friend relationships that are just as crucial.  I think that intense rivalry between Jack and Victor, and that incredible friendship between Victor and Katherine, and the links that she had to John Abbott and how that translates to Jack, if you really examine it.  It’s all these relationships that are pivotal.  It’s the families on the show.  I think that is something that is at the core of storytelling in the genre: their histories and their rivalries and their alliances.  One shining example of that was recently within the Victor and Jack rivalry, and then the Abbots facing that difficult decision of Colleen’s heart, and giving an absolute beloved child of that family to someone who has been their sworn enemy in many ways.  It really showed how those rivalries change and morph and are still there, and it sets up these incredibly strong dilemmas.  That is just as important.

MICHAEL:

Y&R has a legacy of great psycho and twisted characters like Sheila, and now Patty.

MARIA:

Stacy Haiduk as Patty/Emily has been great in every single one of the morphs she has had to play on the show.  I think you need catalysts that make things happen, which are a little twisted or a villainess perhaps, or a little off, or a little crazy, to inject into a grounded realistic group of characters and that does add some spice and excitement to it.

MICHAEL:

Social issues have been a big part of Y&R’s history, and in 2009 you tackled the gay issue with Phillip Chancellor returning some 20 years later, announcing he is gay to his family.  He is now off the canvas.  Will Y&R address same-sex relationships in the future?

MARIA:

I would absolutely like to do more with that, and I loved and love the character of Phillip, and his son, Chance, is still on the canvas.  Nina is on his canvas, his mother and grandmother are on the canvas, and he will be back.  The truth of the matter is I wanted to do those relationships in this very organic way.  So, I absolutely think there will be in the future, love for everyone in the show at some point.

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MICHAEL:

Your closing thoughts on why Y&R is so unique in the soap world?

MARIA:

The thing that has made this special is still these characters.  I think there is something magical about this show, and the magic is still there and I think that is why people are tuning in.

PAUL:

You’ve got to have magicians.  Well, two magicians! (Laughs)

For more on Y&R with Maria and Paul look for an upcoming issue of CBS Watch! Magazine.  You can subscribe here.

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Rob
Guest
Rob

I can’t believe a word out of their mouths, especially when they praised Yvonne Zima to the high heavens. That girl cannot act to save her life! She needs to be off Y&R, they should recast Lily, and for heaven’s sake, bring Victoria Rowell back as Dru.

TEXAS woman
Guest
TEXAS woman

There will never be another Nikki and Victor! Hell the Nikki and Victor we have now is no where near where they used to be!! He is abusive to her and she is submissive!! why would need another couple like that!! and Nick and Sharon are old school, old news and DIVORCED!!!! Why can’t they fade into the land of all of the other divorced couples in the soap world!!! They sucked as a couple for 10 TOXIC years!!! We don’t want them back together!! When will TPTB finally listen to the fans and move forward instead of trying to… Read more »

preity
Guest
preity

They need to bring romance back starting with Nick and Sharon, they truly are a supercouple. They don’t need to have stupid surprises every week the need better writing and more character driven storylines instead of stupid plot twists. They also need to stop dumbing down vetren characters to prop the stupid new ones ie..Daisy and Lauren, Adam and Sharon

Sadie
Guest
Sadie

Sharon IS a vertaran actress; NOT a “new character.” You must be new to the show.

gman
Guest
gman

What I think the post meant to do was give examples of how veteran characters have been twisted in order to accommodate new characters, Lauren being snowed by Daisy, and Sharon being tricked by Adam

preity
Guest
preity

THANKS GMAN THAT IS WHAT I MEANT

Bill
Guest
Bill

I think they should bring back Dina!!!!

JimTolkien
Guest
JimTolkien

In Jan 2008, Y&R had almost 6,000,000 viewers, it’s now Feb 2010 and Y&R is just barely above 5,000,000. And this is called a success, pfttttt!!! I am not even going to comment on parts of this interview because it is clear MAB & PR believe in their “own brilliance” **rollseyes** while the viewership downturn and dissatisfaction says otherwise. It’s not worth it to comment. I am probably more embarassed for CBS really the #1 network for quality, (my favorite network aside from CNN), that they are scraping so far at the bottom and so desperate that they actually think… Read more »

Fans of The Young and the Restless
Guest
Fans of The Young and the Restless

Great article. Although I may not agree with the progression of certain storylines and casting choices, it is nice to gain insight from the inside. Thank you.

Heidi
Guest
Heidi

Well, that was interesting. I believe they have often compromised the integrity of characters. Cane would never have let Lily suffer by thinking that the baby was his. That whole rewrite was the sloppiest thing I have ever seen and it was all done to bring back P3?Maria still stands by that horrible story? The scenes maybe shorter but the stories seem to drag on way past their prime. That chipmunk fiasco seemed never ending and this Sheila/no Sheila has lost my interest. I complain but all and all I still love the show. My main complaint is that we… Read more »

TEXAS woman
Guest
TEXAS woman

preity – we had 10 years of Nick and Sharon!! TPTB need to move forward with the show and not go backward! Nick and Sharon were NEVER a supercouple and never “romantic”! TOXIC yes!

MAB is her own worst enemy, she destroyed Nick and Phyllis to attempt to re-unite Romeo and Juliet, hey Maria!!!! Romeo and Juliet are DEAD!!! their story was never a romance, it was a TRAGEDY! just like SHICK!! dead and buried, please leave them in their casket.

amazed_at_this
Guest
amazed_at_this

I can’t believe that they read the message boards and listen to the fans but the fans still aren’t seeing a change. It’s one thing to be dictated by what the fans want, but it’s another thing when you’re reading the same things over and over and REFUSE to do anything about it. The way the fans feel about the show is reflected not only on the message boards but in the ratings as well. But I see that MAB and PR are not particularly invested in promoting romance with couples as they think and further stated that “But I… Read more »

amazed_at_this
Guest
amazed_at_this

I agree with TEXAS woman. While I am not a great fan of either pairing, Sharon and Nick were great in their day, but you have to admit that their marriage was less than solid. It was pretty empty and it seemed after a while when they continuously cheated on each other, that the love they had for each other in the beginning was not there anymore. It was pretty easy for either of them remain committed to the other. Nick and Phyllis – I must admit I loved the way they came together. I loved that the writers took… Read more »

preity
Guest
preity

I’m sorry I disagree I find Nick and Phyliss boring as hell. All they ever had between them is Sharon, she get’s both there motors running. Phyliss is better when she is the fiesty in the villian role, this stepford wife routine is so boring she should go back to her villanous ways at least then she would be interesting. Truthfully Nick is the one that is bringing down both women. But romeo and juliet story is the story that brings in the viewers. I believe they still have a lot of story to be told. If done properly, otherwise… Read more »

Perry
Guest
Perry

Right on!

HEATHER
Guest
HEATHER

All I have to say is that Y&R is doomed! MAB is no William J Bell. That man was creative ,innovative and cared about the actors of the show as well as the fans. He wrote this show with intelligence and created storylines that involved romance, intrigue, social issues such as AIDS, bigotry, cancer, teen pregnancy, mental health and more. And most importantly he knew how to write for strong characters such as Drucilla Barber Winters and Neil Winters, it just goes to show you that it’s not necessary to have a black writer to created a well written story… Read more »

Whynot
Guest
Whynot

If MAB and PR continue the way that they have been they then Y&R is doomed. The reason that most of the viewers still tune in is because of the legacy left by Bill Bell he created such a rich tapestry of characters, families, friends, enemies and storyline and all it seems as if MAB has been doing is trading on those storylines and re-writing those storylines over and over and over and each times she re-creates that storyline she loses something in the process and the heart of the show beats a little more faintly. Most of the fans… Read more »

Renaee2006
Guest
Renaee2006

I agree, Mr. Bell would have never split sharon and nick up the way this writer is doing.HOW COULD YOU MAKE SHARON SEEM SLEEZY AND MAKE PHYLISS SEAM LIKE THE VOUNDERABLE ONE . Young and the restless should have left phyliss with jack . phyliss and nick just don’t fit. It is to fake. Sharon and nick will always be the number one couple under victor and nikki. I hate you new writers teasing us with nick and sharon .I guess it is the way phyliss stold nickwhile sharon was greiving the lost of cassie. Y ou have a lot… Read more »

Disgusted in Denver
Guest
Disgusted in Denver

This show has gone so far off the cliff that I don’t think they can save it now. What a crock that they read message boards and talk to the actors. William Russ’ portrayal of Tucker was dead on and they got rid of him, and the “actor” (and I DO use that term loosely) they brought in to replace him is just a cold recycled attempt to make yet another Victor-like character. The whole Scooby gang (Ryder/Daisy/Kevin/Jana/Amber) makes me switch the channel every time they are on. However, it really doesn’t matter – TPTB are going to do what… Read more »

StephenisTuckerMAB
Guest
StephenisTuckerMAB

Are u 1of 30 or so people LOL that kept ruuning around all over the Message Boards calling Stephen names maybe that why your post our being Deleted its ok we the Stephen Nichold Fans still love u

isa2009
Guest
isa2009

Excellent post! ITA with everything you’ve said here. I’ve tuned out for several years and started to watch again off and on when they were suppose to reunite Shick. I’ve continued to tune out most often and once in a while watch now. Just like you, I’ve tuned out and watched other shows while the “Scooby gang” is on…lol It’s sad to see that this soap has gone down hill and it’s not what it use to be. Very sad in MO!!

melissa
Guest
melissa

I agree…the old Tucker was really really right on for the show, I LOVED that guy!!!! The need help with writing more romance, and Phyllis and Nick are so over-played, I am so sick of Phyllis Summer and Nick!! How about if when all this stuff hits the fan, a REAL ROMANCE BETWEEN TUCKER AND SHARON CAN DEVELOP?? That’s what I’m looking for, a REAL Princess wedding, and horse drawn carriage, NICK is not a good enough guy for Sharon…Once Tucker makes up with his mother, he can be a good guy.

HEATHER
Guest
HEATHER

Also I hope Drucilla is brought back soon. As for the Actress that plays Daisy I am not liking the character as all , but it’s nothing personal against the lovely youg lady that plays her. Ohh and before I go I just want to say that as much as I love the character of Shelia Carter, that storyline has been played out. With MAB writing it it will be a disaster. What will happen is that Shelia wont be played by the talented Kimberlin Brown it will be played by Melody Thomas Scott LOL. Tracey E Bregman is a… Read more »

Perry
Guest
Perry

Yes, bring back Drucilla. The lady has some edge. Make the new Malcolm go away – he is a walking cliche.,

isa2009
Guest
isa2009

I find it sad that MAB said they read the message board, yet they don’t listen to the fans. What’s the sense in that? I disagree with those that say that Shick should be “dead”. Shick should have NEVER ended to prop up a sick couple such as Phick to begin with. Here’s some new flash….most fans don’t care to see a horny old woman sexing up a young man every second of the day and in every corner looking like a “dog in heat”. That is NOT romance, but simply lust and nothing more. You’ve dumb down Nick in… Read more »

Lex
Guest
Lex

The demise began when Kay Alden, Bill Bells right hand and protege was let go along with Jack Smith. They knew this show and had managed to keep it above where we are now. They knew the characters, they knew how to write character driven storylines. LML came in with a single vision of creating her own show, with her own couples. She destroyed Nick and Sharon to give us the cheapest couple that ever dis-graced TY&R. Whatever sexual chem Nick and Phyllis had was not enough to expound on and try to make into some sort of daytime couple… Read more »

20+Year Fan
Guest
20+Year Fan

I agree 100% with your post. LML tried to turn Phick into something they could never be – a believable, viable, long-term couple that most fans could root for. Now MAB is still trying to hold onto this couple despite the fact that the many, many fans – both the volatile and stalwarts, prefer Shick over Phick. True romance is a staple of any soap and Phick just doesn’t have that crucial characteristic and is why many soap press do NOT consider Phick a true super couple. MAB says they read MBs and talk to the actors, but clearly she… Read more »

Sadie
Guest
Sadie

I have watched Y&R from day one, but I have to say, if it wasn’t for Adam/Michael Muhney, I’m not sure I would still be watching. He is the best thing that’s every happened to Y&R. And pairing him with Sharon Case was genious! They are the best couple I’ve ever seen on Y&R; a true Supercouple.

I hope Michael stays with Y&R for years to come so I don’t have to give up my soap. Adam and Sharon are the only reason I tune in these days.

Whynot
Guest
Whynot

I liked Adam and Sharon at first and I find myself liking them once in awhile now. They are the first couple to come along in years that I could care about but the way their romance has been rushed for the sake of another storyline makes it harder to like them.

I do think that Adam is one of the few reasons to watch the show.

David Lightfoot
Guest
David Lightfoot

Michael, first of all, thank you for your e-mail on my reply to isa2009’s comments on Shick vs. Phick. Your reply came just as I started to type this. But please excuse me, for I am about to go into another rant mode. I am just here to set the record straight. First off, I can’t even believe the worlds that have come out of the words of Maria Arena Bell and Paul Rauch! This is the most laughable interview I’ve ever read and it makes me wonder what kind of stuff these people are doing. There are so many… Read more »

isa2009
Guest
isa2009

I’m sorry, am I missing something here, concerning your “response” to my post? I didn’t notice any reply to my post made.

pbannie
Guest
pbannie

I am so sorry I wasted my time reading half of your post. When I got to the part about Sharon Case being jealous of MS I realized I had wasted precious moments of my time reading drivel. And your saying ugly things about both Cane and Lily and dogging the church on top of that just made me rme. No wonder MB doesn’t listen to us posters when they go off on incoherent, unearthly rants such as yours.

Mandy
Guest
Mandy

This guy David’s obsessive hatred of Christel Khalil is crazy and scary. I hope she never meets him in a dark alley because this coward’s obsession is not reasonable and borders on insanity. He goes from message board to message board spewing hatred for a woman he doesn’t know all under the guise of pleasing Victoria Rowell. Another woman he probably has never met.

Doe
Guest
Doe

David… and your point is?….. You all are still watching the show like I am and yes I yell and scream at the TV when Y&R is on, but isn’t all of that and everyone’s complaints and vetting, part of the love and hate that all of us fans have have like our own mini soap? I don’t like many of the stories or characters, but I’m realistic with the fact that You and I don’t have any control what happens or with the writers either. I will still be watching tomorrow and after…….

isa2009
Guest
isa2009

I would rather watch a show that has story lines that amount to something rather than watch a show that looks like it’s intended for the purpose of soft porn material. YES, I’m talking about Phick/Phyllis. I know that most are upset that Phick is dead and has followed in the same fate of Shick in terms of lies and cheating, but that is what the writers intended when the did this to Phick. Shick isn’t any more “toxic” than Phick and IF that is what the writers intentions were when they mirror these two couples, then that was accomplished.… Read more »

Isla
Guest
Isla

Then stop watching so you can quit complaining.

isa2009
Guest
isa2009

Last time I checked this was a forum for comments and not to mention my freedom to write what I please, just like everyone else here. Thanks for coming out!! Maybe a better suggestion would be for you not to READ my post!!

David Lightfoot
Guest
David Lightfoot

isa2009, my first comment to you did not pass moderation, so here’s a more toned-down version for you. First off, I’m tired of hearing about how fabulous Shick is and the “sickness” of Phick! Nothing is further from the truth! For ten whole years, we, the viewers, have had to put up with Sharon and Nick’s endless parade of lies, cheating, finger-pointing accusations, Sharon’s “woe is me” act, and her lusting after another man when she doesn’t get the upper hand in the many fights with Nick and the Newman family. We all know that Sharon grew up on the… Read more »

isa2009
Guest
isa2009

LOL, I like that old saying. If you don’t have anything good to say, then don’t say anything at all. That would help in the first place so the mods won’t block your post to me or anyone else. Just a word of wisdom for the future if you care to harken! There was no need for you to write me a book in response, I get the point that you don’t like the show very much at this point in time. I also understand from your previous full page rant that you don’t like Shick and prefer Phick. I… Read more »

webkitty
Guest
webkitty

As my grandfather would say: “What a bunch of hooey!”

k4lane
Guest
k4lane

Okay, I have read the interview – which I laughed out loud at in several areas and I have read everyones comments and I have to say that MAB and PR have their dellusional blinders firmly in place. The bells are tolling for the end of Y&R if these two remain at the helm!! Let me just first comment on their stellar casting achievements of the girl who plays Daisy – next to the Scooby-Doo gang one of the most annoying and useless characters to hit Y&R. I’ll throw the Ryder character into that comment too – and she just… Read more »

pbannie
Guest
pbannie

Love it and your humor. Hopefully your post will be read by MAB and PR and they will take heed.

Trish
Guest
Trish

Ok, I read the interview and I have to comment. I have never in my entire life heard such delusional crap. They are even crazier than the characters they write, namely Patty and Sheila. And if they think that what they’re giving the audience is their BEST then Y&R is even closer to extinction than I thought! First of all let’s start with some of the characters they have brought on since MAB has been at the helm: Jeffery Bardwell (Mr. Magoo) – what were they thinking? There was no need to bring TS back to play the twin brother.… Read more »

Heidi
Guest
Heidi

Bravo Trish! Bravo !!!!!

David Lightfoot
Guest
David Lightfoot

The black knight and the stripper are a super couple of the highest romantic esteems? Seriously?!! Really?!! Well get out of here. OMG! Where have I been that I did not know this? Oh, I’m forgetting I DON’T LIVE IN DELUSIONALVILLE WITH MAB AND PR!! So let’s move on, shall we? If by this, you’re talking about Nick and Sharon, I just want you to know that I love you already. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I’m glad Texas Woman and I aren’t the only ones on here who don’t fall for this “Romeo and Juliet” nonsense, unlike their… Read more »

Donna
Guest
Donna

Hilarious post, Trish.

I was surprised by how semi-literate MAB appears to be in this article. Shouldn’t a “head writer” have a decent command of English, at the very least! I suppose that isn’t required if your last name is “Bell.”

Deb
Guest
Deb

Love your remarks! LOL!

Jill
Guest
Jill

If only they would quit shoving thier favorites in the fans face all the time and give equal viewing to all cast memebers, maybe, just maybe the show can be enjoyed by more viewers. Billly Abbot is on entirely tooooo much. As welll as Victor Newman. And now you are trying to showcast the filler character Chloe everyday as if she matters. Please, please get a clue and fast. Adam is just, well sickening. Aren’t the FANS the ones given you all a paycheck. Well quit trying to make fans like what you want. It is not working. You can… Read more »

Heidi
Guest
Heidi

ICAM! Do we really need to see Billy Abbott everday and involved in every story? I understand that he is the darling of MAB and company but their promotion of him should not push other characters/actors to 5minutes and one day per week.

IA that the sterlization of Lily was heavyhanded. Give her cancer and remove an ovary and make her odds of getting pregnant next to nil so that her eventual pregnancy would be a miracle but why render a 22 year old barren ?

LMac
Guest
LMac

and sadly the actress is pregnant in real life, which makes the whole sl dumb, you can SEE her hair sticking out of those God awful uh hats. And for someone that is only 22, Lily has lived at least 10 different lives. Agian more crimes agianst woman who BTW are your veiwers

Jennifer
Guest
Jennifer

Thanks Michael for the interview, but I would have to agree with others their proclamations sounded delusional. I do think that they DO need to listen to the feedback from their viewers. Obviously viewers have favorites but underneath that we all seem to have a common thread — we are tired of the recycled and we are looking for some new life to breathed into Y&R along with other soaps. Y&R seems to be missing the love in the afternoon part along with a good portion of adventure, humor and just plain old good storytelling! Y&R needs balance. Also, Victor… Read more »

pbannie
Guest
pbannie

Excellent post, I really wish they would listen to your commom sense. Good writing for all Characters, equal screentime and balance please!

Ashang
Guest
Ashang

Bravo to your post, k4lane & Trish… MAB & PR are unbelievable.

LMac
Guest
LMac

I’m new to your site, but I really wanted to see what crap these 2 had to say. I’ve been a veiwer of Y&R for well since the begining, and I’m disappointed in the state OF ALL THE SOAPS right now. Everyone pretty much agrees that this particular mode, or phase the soaps are in currently will ensure that soaps will be gone in 2-4 yrs at best. Most of the coroperate heads seem to believe that people only want reality shows or God forbid game shows. I realize that part of this is due to the cost of the… Read more »

SEAN
Guest
SEAN

I find this interview to be a complete joke and a bad one at that MAB/PR are a dream team but only if the dream is a nightmare the s/l are terrible and the characters that they are pushing on the viewers are just as bad…Daisy is not the hit she makes her out to be….ppl are getting tired of the scoby gang….along with a blind man that can scale walls put on a dress to scare a woman out of her mind causing said woman to miscarry among his other crimes….then have said woman to continue to think she… Read more »

selma
Guest
selma

In response much later than others I can’t wait to see the magic of writing transform the fabulous Michael Muhney into the character he was meant to be when he first introduced himself to two very jealous siblings. Can’t wait for Sharon to come to his assistance and turn Genoa City on it’s self serving crown. Love your interviews Michael. I choose to look for love in the most unusual and well concealed places. Wonderful acting!! I challenge these terrific writers to keep me watching.

Deb
Guest
Deb

What I truly hate is that Bill Bell is no doubt rolling over in his grave. Paul Rauch has a history not unlike any other Nazi General. His reputation is not one you’d expect to be accepted by Y&R. Maybe he’s a long time friend of Maria’s father. He’s old enough to be. MAB is a liar, she does not care about the fans. If she did, DRU would have been back long before Lily’s babies were born. Writing sucks, and certain cast members should be gone. I’m sick to death of Adam. Kill him off, and bring his mama… Read more »

Emo
Guest
Emo

I really think so too=P I have been surfing around the internet for a while today, and its kinda hard to find something interesting to read on blogs:P Maybe its because there are too much of those around =) But this place actually keeps catching my attention. Great stories, and kawai design ^__^. Ill be sure to give it more visits now =)

Judy malatesta
Guest
Judy malatesta

I have been watching Yand R since the day it started, My son was born the day before so I watched it starting then. I just have to write, are you all crazy. This story line with Sharon going back to Adam is stupid and nuts, Never in a million years would that ever happen. We were all so happy seeing Sharon and Nick finding their way back together as Casseys gift, that is what ALL the fans want. Your making Sharon out to be a nut case and that is not where we want to see her go. I… Read more »

Wendy McGrattan
Guest
Wendy McGrattan

I have been watching the Young and Restless with my mother and father for years now and I am so disappointed with the way the story lines are going now. I have really noticed a big difference from the old writers to the new writers. Big mistake on letting Cane go from the young and restless – the majority of your fans tuned in because of Cane. I have not watched the show since he left. Story line did not even make sense. It sickened people. Lily finally gets over cancer and what do you do? Kill off her husband?… Read more »

mmc
Guest
mmc

After ATWT went off I’ve tried watching other soaps….i tried Y&R .i watched it once in awhile off and on but even off and on is too much.it’s horrible….even B&B has gotten better….solution? Make B&B an hour and cut Y&R to 1/2.OR bring back my beloved ATWT and be done with all the rest!

Days Of Our Lives

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

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

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

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

Photo: JPI

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

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

Photo: JPI

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

Photo: TOLN

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

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

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Interviews

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

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

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

Photo: JPI

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

 

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

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

Photo: JPI

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

Photo: Gilles Toucas

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

Check out the full interview with Matthew below. 

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

 

 

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Interviews

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

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

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

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

 

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

Photo: : Metropolitan Entertainment,

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

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

How does Gordo know the girls in the film?

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

Photo: InheritancePlay

 

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

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

Wait, what?

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

Photo: AP

I think Elizabeth Gillies is terrific in Dynasty.

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

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

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

Photo JPI

But Sainty knew you’d dated Elizabeth?

ERIC:  Yes, she did.

You must have been dying.

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

Photo: JPI

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

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

Photo: Broadway World

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

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

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

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

Photo: Broadway World

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

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

It seems reminiscent of Angels In America, but different.   

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

Courtesy/ENelsen

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

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

How long was it open on Broadway?

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

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

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

And … Ariana Grande? (Laughs)

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

Photo: Prospect Park

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

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

Photo: LANYEntertainment

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

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

Photo: LANY Entertaiment

In story, Daniel chooses Caleb.  Why so?

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

… And Matthew is not a great guy?

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

Photo: LANY Entertaiment

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

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

Photo: JPI

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

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

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

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

Courtesy/ENelsen

Finally, how is being a dad?

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

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

ERIC:  (Laughs) Yep!

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

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