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The Michelle Stafford Interview – The Young and the Restless

Photo Credit: Kathie Hutchins

Photo Credit: Denice Duff

On The Young and the Restless, Phyllis Summers Newman has dealt with many an issue and conquered many a problem head on over the years, or in some cases, been pretty sneaky in the way she went about it.  But nothing has prepared her for this latest familial drama!  In recent months, on the number one CBS soap, the powers-that-be have been delving into the background of Phyllis’ family with the introduction of her sister, Avery, and with a return now of her dear old dad George, who Phyllis has no love lost. (And that’s putting it mildly.)  The corrupt and nefarious father figure is now on his deathbed at a hospice center, and Phyllis decides she will try to go see him to get some resolution to her tormented past due to her father’s misdeeds.  When she arrives, he insists to his daughter that she falsely accused him of stealing money from his investors, and of his crimes.  However, Phyllis demands the truth, and things take a dramatic turn from there!

On-Air On-Soaps chatted with Daytime Award wining actress Michelle Stafford, to get her take on Phyllis’s daddy issues, the expansion of her on-screen family, and of course, the men in Phyllis’ life.  Will we finally have that “Phick” reunion that many Y&R fans are longing for?  Michelle fills us in!   Plus, she reveals what it has been like to work with Jessica Collins (Avery), Ken Howard (George), Joshua Morrow (Nick), and one of her new favorite co-stars, Jeff Branson (Ronan), who unfortunately has left the show!

Michelle, who is never one to mince words, cuts right to the heart of the matter on a myriad of subjects during our chat.  But one thing is for certain; this gal knows and understands how to act!  Through performance after performance, no one could refute that Michelle Stafford continues to be an acting force to be reckoned with, which always leaves daytime fans clamoring for.  Who can’t wait to see how Michelle serves up the delicious on-screen life of Ms. Newman every day?  We can’t!  So, here is our conversation with the one and only Michelle!

MICHAEL:

All of a sudden members of Phyllis’s family are sprouting up.  First up was her sister Avery.  And now with this recent storyline, Y&R is bringing back up the sins of the father, with Phyllis and Avery’s dad George, in the picture for just a brief time.  How is it for you as an established character when they bring in more of your family clan? (Although, we have seen the character of George before on Y&R!)

MICHELLE:

Photo Credit: Getty images

When they bring in a family member, I am always like, “Oh no,” for a second.  I get nervous, because I already created something for myself.  They actually created something that goes against something we had already played, and so we had to kind of do some shifting.  We have already seen the character of George, her father, and she had already had conversations with him, and we already had seen her mother, Lydia.

MICHAEL:

How was working with Ken Howard as your dad, in these pivotal scenes?

MICHELLE:

He is great, and as you know he is an Emmy and Tony Award winning actor!

MICHAEL:

… And he is the President of SAG!

MICHELLE:

And the President of SAG … and I talked to him about my insurance! (Laughs) We had a good conversation about my insurance.  (Laughs)  Ken had a great attitude and he is a great guy.  He knew he was there to serve a purpose for the story and he did that.  He knew the character was dying.  I actually wished we were playing lighter scenes!  We laughed a lot, and you know I can get people going! (Laughs)  He was awesome, though.

MICHAEL:

In story, Phyllis did not want to go see her dad in the hospice facility, even though he may not make it.  Why didn’t she want to go and try to make peace with him?

MICHELLE:

Photo Credit: Kathie Hutchins

He is an asshole!  Why do you want to go see an ass?  He iced her from the family.  He is a criminal, and then turned it around and made it look like Phyllis was lying.  He made her the crazy one, and so she left!

MICHAEL:

Do you think this huge issue with her father is what made Phyllis such a damaged person?  She has shown great resiliency in her life, but she has also done some very bad and questionable things along the way.

MICHELLE:

I think every soap opera character is pretty damaged.  (Laughs)  There is not anybody who is not.  I think Phyllis is looking for something she decided must exist in life that maybe doesn’t.  She is looking for something she never had, which is a family unit and real love.  She is looking for that and she is thinking that it should be a certain way, because it is not what she had.  In truth, that thing that she is looking for might not even exist.  But she is trying to find it.

MICHAEL:

Do you think because of her relationship with her father, this has been a cause of many of the issues Phyllis has with the men in her life? 

MICHELLE:

I would say that makes some sense.  I would say she is looking for them to be something she never had.  That is why I say it may not exist, because she is looking for something that she decided must be, because she did not have it.  I will tell you a personal story.  Years ago, I had a lot of friends who were married.  I saw the loveliness of their relationships and how their husbands would do all these things.  I thought, “Wow!  The boyfriend I had at the time doesn’t do those things, so he must be a prick.”  I would end the relationship to find out that they had the same issues in their relationships, but they weren’t letting me see it.  Those kind of relationships that all of us “chicks” look for only exists in movies and TV, really.  In reality, there are differences in life and people have differences, and the key is how you make it work.  Things don’t just magically work. You are making compromises, and that is why relationships work.

MICHAEL:

There was a recent scene between you and Joshua Morrow (Nick) at the Crimson Lights Coffee Shop.  It was just a simple little exchange between the two characters, but you could tell they still really love each other!

Courtesy/CBS

MICHELLE:

Yeah, they do, but I hated that scene! (Laughs)  He gave me the peace sign, is what he did.  As Phyllis in the scene, I was going, “What are you giving me the peace sign for?” So I gave it back to him and I kind of made a face like, “What the hell is that?”  Look in relationships and in your marriage a guy will go, “Hey Dude”.  Dude?  So, it was kind of a real moment, but Phyllis’s reaction to it was, “What? What is this?”  But, Phyllis and Nick do love each other.

MICHAEL:

Why can’t these two get it together?

MICHELLE:

I think because she can’t really trust him and because he has given her reason not to trust him.  Also, I don’t think he trusts him! (Laughs)  I think Nick knows he can be a dog.  He is trying to win her back but she is not really going for it.  Nick is trying and he has his own issues and own demons where women are concerned, and where Sharon and where Avery are concerned, too.

MICHAEL:

I cannot believe that Phyllis would ever go back now to Nick after sleeping with her sister, Avery!  And then of course, there is the whole Sharon debacle!

MICHELLE:

Yeah, I know.   The cool thing is they are not having them jump back in together.  They realize we can’t have Phyllis this desperate for his love, although she is kind of desperate for his love, she really is.  She is not Zen when it comes to him or level headed when it comes to him.  It’s all based on emotion, her love for Nick.  She really, really loves him.  He really cares for her and he brings out a part of her that is seldom seen by others.  He sees her sweetness and a love that is a true part of her.

Photo Credit: Kathie Hutchins

MICHAEL:

She has been vulnerable with Nick, and that has been hard on her.  Would you say she was vulnerable with Jack?

MICHELLE:

With Jack she did, and she didn’t.  He saw the tough Phyllis, and so she had to be kind of tough with him in the later years.  She always felt she was trying to one-up Jack, and she does not feel that way with Nick.  It’s a different relationship, although her relationship with Jack is very solid and beautiful, too.  She was in love with him, but there is just too much water under the bridge there.

MICHAEL:

I like how Phyllis visited Jack in the hospital the other day, since he is dealing with being paralyzed.  She seemed to care for him and be there to support him.

MICHELLE:

She is a good person for him when he is in trouble.  She will be tough for him.  He will be falling apart and she will be there, and that is their relationship.  Jack would do the same for her.

MICHAEL:

How was working with Jeff Branson (Ronan)?  The sparks really flew on-air with Ronan and Phyllis.  I think that’s putting it mildly! (Laughs)

MICHELLE:

Courtesy/IMDB

I love Jeff Branson so much, I cannot even tell you.  I really loved working with him! You know those scenes where we were making out and we were naked together, sometimes the guys can be pricky, although in my case I have never had that.  Joshua and Peter have always been gentlemen, but it can be an awkward situation for a woman, but it’s not awkward for me because I love to make out … seriously.  It can be weird when someone shuts himself off.  I am talking about when you are so naked with someone and so emotionally naked with somebody, they will put up some walls.  And that is normal; a lot of actors will put up walls.  It’s like, “Don’t get too close.”  Jeff and I did not do that with each other.  We talked about it before, and other actors do that, because they either have a wife at home or a girlfriend or a boyfriend, and they will get flack from them. Or personally, they will feel awkward.  So they will put up some walls.  I said to Jeff, “Let’s not do that.  Let’s be totally enveloped in this thing that we have together. Let’s just trust each other.”   I am not thinking, “You are going to make a move on me.”  We knew that we were not going to do that with each other and it was going to be a very open and vulnerable working situation where we trusted each other as actors.  It was really great.  It was so much fun, and that is what acting is about.

MICHAEL:

So you were aware that viewers thought it looked like you and Jeff were really going at it on air?

MICHELLE:

A lot of people thought we were banging each other.  They told me that!  I know it looked like I was banging Jeff.  I could see where people would think that because we were so open with each other.  A couple of fans said, “It’s so real.  I feel like I am watching you, too.”  And basically, they were watching us.  And that is the beauty and the cool thing about acting.  It’s just being so trusting to be there with that person and make it real and make it truthful.  And so, I loved, loved working with him.

MICHAEL:

Do you think Ronan and Phyllis would have been a good couple, if it could have lasted longer?

MICHELLE:

Yeah, I think they were a good couple. Ronan was really special to Phyllis because he treated her well.  Nick was bad to her, and she really was falling in love with Ronan and then he ended things with her so abruptly, but she did not believe him. She felt like he was just doing that to not get close, and because she was falling for him, she understood. At the end, she knew what he was doing.  I thought it would have been a really great triangle, but Jeff left the show.  I was bummed out that it was going to end, but Jeff wants to do film and I love him as a friend.  So I support anything he wants to do.  I think he is a really great actor.  I want really great things to happen for him.

MICHAEL:

Photo Credit: Kathie Hutchins

What do you think about the sister rivalry between Phyllis and Avery?

MICHELLE:

Jessica Collins and I are still working it out.  It’s interesting the relationship between the two sisters.  We had some scenes we taped recently where we wanted to make it a very complex and odd relationship, and even the scenes where we are at the facility with the dad at the end of the story arc are really interesting.  What I like about those scenes, and how they play out, is that nothing has been resolved.  Phyllis went there for some sort of answer to her life, and some sort of resolution for her life and nothing is resolved.  I think that is really cool.  I think it is very real.  I don’t think that is necessarily what the writers were going for, but I think that’s what turned out.  I think the group of writers we have are very cool.  They are not militant.  It’s not like “No, this is my writing; you have to say it like this.”  They are always in to seeing how something works out.  There is a bit of a soft spot that Phyllis feels for Avery after their father dies, but I think we are going to see this kind of go away and it’s going to go back and forth.  Phyllis is actually going to have a soft spot for her, because it’s her own guilt for not being there for her sister, and leaving her with those freaks!  She has her own guilt, and at the same time, Avery, does things to her that are wrong!

MICHAEL:

Really wrong!

MICHELLE:

It also reminds her of her parents.  Avery is just kind of a symbol to Phyllis of her horrible parents.  Every time Avery talks, Phyllis just hears her dad.

MICHAEL:

How is working with Jessica Collins?

MICHELLE:

Photo Credit: PR Photo

Jessica is amazing.  She is so professional and so great.  She is so willing to work scenes out.  We had this scene in the prison and it went on for a long time.  It was an eight or ten minute scene.  So we worked on deciding what is really going on in the scene besides our dialog.  We will sit down and work it out.  We talk about what we are to each other and the relationship. Again, it’s nice that someone is willing in a female/female relationship, to be there for each other emotionally, and asking, “What do you need?”  Let me tell you, Jessica is so great and amazing in these scenes coming up with the dad.

MICHAEL:

Do you think Phyllis is resentful of Avery in that she became a lawyer, while Phyllis had bounced around a bit to find herself and a career?

MICHELLE:

Yeah, I think Phyllis is jealous.  In this scene where they are talking inside their father’s room, at one point the nurse comes out and says, “Avery, you should come in now.”  It was so great, because I was thinking as Phyllis, “What the hell?  Why Avery?  Why not me?”  I thought it was an interesting element.  So in the scene, I am a bit disturbed by why that bitch just came out and said,  “Avery!”  I think Phyllis is resentful that Avery was the golden child and is like, “Why am I the bad one, because I had some integrity?”  Avery was the untouched little sister that did not have to see any of the evil of this family.  I think there is a resentment that Phyllis had, because Avery didn’t have to see it.  And Phyllis is like, “Why did I have to see it and she didn’t have to?”  I think it’s more like Phyllis had to see this with these people and Avery got to live a life of ignorance.  There is jealousy of; why did I not get to live a life with rose-colored glasses?

MICHAEL:

Phyllis definitely came from the school of hard knocks, after all the things she went through growing up with her dysfunctional family.

MICHELLE:

Right!  Phyllis leaves and is like a street person, and Avery becomes this big attorney.  I feel that Phyllis is jealous of that and Avery’s life. That is something that is untouched in the writing, but it is something Jessica and I have created.  Jessica is just a complete doll.  I don’t feel any weird “chick” dynamic with her.

MICHAEL:

We touched earlier on Y&R bringing in family members to beef up Phyllis’s on-air story or back-story.  What did you feel when Jessica came on the show as your sister?

Photo Credit: Denice Duff

MICHELLE:

If they bring in a good actor, it’s great.  And Jessica is a great actor, and so it only aids the long-standing character.  It only aids it unless they stop writing for my character and start writing everything for her character.  Then I will be like, “Hey, what is going on here?” (Laughs)  We had a long talk about the ebb and flow of our characters now.  We created something interesting and I don’t know how it will play out.  It’s fun to work with someone who really cares, and with another woman where I don’t have to avoid slings and arrows! (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

Deep down, would you say the two sisters love each other, or would you not go that far?

MICHELLE:

Yes, they do love each other because they are sisters and there is that family bond.

MICHAEL:

Did you have any hand in the casting of Jessica as your on-screen sis?  I remember Jessica as Dinah Lee on Loving decades ago!  She was terrific.

MICHELLE:

No, no.  Michael Muhney (Adam, Y&R) actually read with her.  I remember Jessica on Loving years ago, too!

MICHAEL:

Where would you like to see Phyllis go now?  What would you like to see happen to her as a result of all that she has recently endured?

MICHELLE:

Photo Credit: Steven Bergman

I believe we need to see Phyllis unravel a bit.  There has been a lot lately with Lucy and the Daisy thing, and Avery releasing Daisy from Prison, and Nick and his shenanigans with Sharon and Avery, and then the father dying.  I think that does affect her.  I think all of this is too much for her and I think we need to see her snap a bit.

MICHAEL:

I would love to see that! 

MICHELLE:

I am trying to work that out!  But as an actor, you can actually weave that in to the writing.  I don’t have to go and pitch it to them, and it serves a purpose.

MICHAEL:

Do you think that we are over with Sharon being a constant issue and thorn in  Phyllis’ side?  They seem to have gotten away from that for a bit, but I suppose it could rear its head at any moment!

MICHELLE:

I don’t know.  I want to say probably not, because Sharon was married to Nick and it’s an ex-wife of Nick’s.  If she was connected to Nick, she will be connected to Sharon in someway, but I think if we do see that again, it needs to be different.  As actors we need to play it differently and they need to write it differently, because the audience does not want to see the same thing.

MICHAEL:

As a Daytime Emmy winner, and one who always supports her fellow actors, how are you feeling about the new Daytime Emmy pre-nomination process?  Do you think on paper, this system seems a fairer way to conduct the first round of voting?

MICHELLE:

Honestly, no system makes perfect sense. It’s an award and there are some people who are always going to think it’s unfair.  I will say, it’s the fairest thing in the world when you get nominated, and it’s the fairest thing in the world when you win, but when you don’t get nominated, it’s so unfair, it’s so unfair.  I mean, really.  It’s the greatest night in the world when you win, but it’s not so fun when you lose. That’s just the bottom line.

MICHAEL:

Courtesy/CBS

Many actors feel that entering their name in competition for the Daytime Emmys is like playing a big game and trying to play it to win.  But so many talented performers have never won or have never had the opportunity to be nominated!

MICHELLE:

Just because somebody has three Emmys and somebody else has zero, in my eyes, it does not make that person a better actor.  It also doesn’t make the person who won, necessarily work a lot, or get a lot of storylines.  I judge and I don’t always pick the person who won.  It’s the way it is.   Melody Thomas Scott (Nikki, Y&R) and Eileen Davidson (Ashley, Y&R) have zero.  It’s silly.

MICHAEL:

You just recently received the Media Awareness Award from a wonderful organization, Project Cuddle!  I saw a picture with you and John Stamos from the event!

MICHELLE:

Yes, I did receive an award because of my work with the organization.  John Stamos is the National Spokesman for Project Cuddle.  Debbie Magnusen saves abandoned babies and I have been working with her for five years.  She is a wonderful person.  She started a hotline where if you want to abandon your baby, and don’t want it, she will take the baby no questions asked, and find a home for it.  And also, if you are having problems, and a lot of people cannot afford pre-natal care, she takes them in and gives them care while they are pregnant and then finds a home for their baby when they have it.   I have been working with her to help her get the project known for the last several years.

MICHAEL:

Congrats on that, and how was the night for you?  I saw you brought your posse with you, too! (Laughs)

Photo Credit: Kathie Hutchins

MICHELLE:

It was a dinner and we fundraised.  Christian LeBlanc (Michael, Y&R) came and Patty Denny, the Y&R make-up artist, and George Guzman, my friend Stacy Francis came who used to be on X-Factor, and some friends of hers.  Shannon Krause who does hair also came and I had my little entourage.  It was so awesome.

MICHAEL:

In closing, the scenes we will see play out on Monday’s upcoming episode, how do you think they turned out when all was said and done?

MICHELLE:

I never like judging myself, or will say, “I hit a home run.”  I will say, I thought Jessica was amazing because her whole world as Avery unravels before her eyes finding out her father was a liar.  I would definitely tune in to see how it all plays out though!

 

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Doe
Doe

Hey, Michael. Michelle is one gorgeous woman, plus being an outstanding actor. I loved her with Ronan. They were so hot! Too bad he left the show. I also like that Michelle is outspoken and tell it like it is. I thought she was excellant in trying to get her father to tell the truth about what nasty things he did way back that caused her to leave the family. Friday , after badgering him, she finally got him to tell the truth about money he stole. And with Avery hearing that, it should make a difference in their relationship. It will be interesting to see how that plays out. Good interview once again, Michael. I am looking forward to Monday’s episode….

delta24d
delta24d

Thanks Michael for the interview with Michelle, I am impressed as always by her honesty. She truly is one of the best actress on daytime. As a Phick fan i am waiting for the reunion. Not sure if it will happen, but I know alot of Phick fans would love it. And there is one thing we know, and it is that Nick and Phyllis loves each other.

So thank you again for highlighting her performance.

BETTYEJ
BETTYEJ

I didn’t read the entire article because I got bored with the part I did read. I have never like the character of Phyllis or Brooke on Bold and Beautiful. The only thing these two bimbo’s have in common with Nick and Ridge are sex. Neither of the bozo’s show any respect for them because they never had too. And Phyllis and Deacon dumpster drive was gross beyond words. Just as bad as Brooke’s wall banger with another daughter’s boyfriend. Both of these bimbo’s are way too old for this trashy behavior.

leslie
leslie

This is a great interview. Michelle Stafford is the most natural actress in daytime. She can make any actor look hot. It would have been great to see a triangle with Nick and Ronan. Too bad he had to leave. I love her with Joshua so I’m happy where their characters are heading right now. I can’t wait to see the scenes on Monday. Michelle is always so humble about her performance. It is just another reason she is easy to love.

Patty
Patty

I loved the interview. Michelle and Josh Morrow are pure magic! I’m so happy with the storyline for Phyllis and Phick! As usual, The Stafford is rocking her scenes. MS is such a class act!

Thanks for the great interview Michael!

JimTolkien
JimTolkien

Michael, once again you did it – GREAT JOB!!! What a beautiful interview with Michelle, my favourite actress!! I just love her and her candor…that is all.

She plays my favourite character so well and the reason why I enjoy watching Phyllis. She makes Phyllis so real to a lot of us, flawed and human. And she has such a wonderful take on her character – I always enjoy listening, or reading what she says about Phyllis.

Her onscreen chemistry with Jessica Collins is absolutely terrific and the Phyllis/Avery relationship has become one of my second favourite to watch, behind Phick. Though I didn’t like the Nick/Avery thing..bad move by the writers but it’s a soap lol.

I am going to disagree with Michelle on something though and this will be a first ever lol. I did not enjoy the relationship with Ronan at all…..it came out of nowhere and the relationship came off as self-gratification without any depth. If they were supposed to be falling in love, I sure as heck didn’t buy it or feel it. Yes, they had chemistry between the characters but heck I have chemistry with my shampoo. So that doesn’t really mean anything. For me, the relationship came off as extremely forced and not genuine, and appeared as if they were trying too hard. Onscreen it did not come off as organic but gluttonous in a sleazy way. There is something to be said about having scenes be genuine.

I love the Phick relationship just for the fact that they love each other and they can’t quite get it together but they are always trying to—that’s the beauty of it. I enjoy watching Michelle and Joshua play that very much. The genuineness of a scene that I mentioned earlier is always there with Phick even when the s/l stinks. So my Phick heart wants them to take a chance and try again………………BUT NOT YET. I love that the writers have Phyllis be wary of Nick…it is the right call.

And I am with Michelle on this one….I so want to see Phyllis snap a bit too LOL!!!

Thanks again for a wonderful interview!! 🙂

Shelia
Shelia

Your response was perfectly worded. I agree with everything you wrote here. I wish this was facebook so I could like your post.

1loveabcsoaps
1loveabcsoaps

Copy/Paste it and put it on Michael’s Facebook page and your’s.

Lorraine
Lorraine

What a great interview. Michelle is always so interesting and fun. Thank you.

Sauza
Sauza

Agree with your comments. I agree I did not see Phyllis & Ronan falling in love. Maybe scenes were cut, but I just saw Phyllis using Ronan to get over Nick & Ronan using Phyllis to get over Chloe.

I’ve can’t say I’m a die-hard Phick fan, but I love the complexity MS’s acting gives to that relationship. All the complexities & issues MS perceives in the Nick/Phyllis relationship really come through in her acting. Phyllis is such a soapy, interesting character, and that is SO much due to MS’s acting talents.

kay killgore
kay killgore

The only thing I am confused about is shenagians with Sharon? I beleive her character and Nick abandoned Sharon with Cassies death and Daniel in the middle of it so Ms. Stafford you are confused ! Personally I think she looks weak when she is paired with JM I don’t care I just wish Sharon would tell them all to go fish. And Ms. Stafford is much better on screen then stalking someone first Daniel, Michael and now Nick! Oh how I loved the days of her independence she was better suited with Jack.

Deltayvonne
Deltayvonne

I believe if I am reading the actress response and your confusion stems from how the “Phick ” pairing began over 6 years ago.

I think every fan knows the story by now, I think Michelle speaking for her character is of course wary and hesitant when it comes to the Nick/Sharon dynamics. He cheated on get with Sharon and got her pregnant, the same thing that happened with Sharon and Nick.

I personally enjoy the dynamics with Joshua and Michelle, the actors have great chemistry That leaps off the screen. I adore the “Phick relationship” because of it’s intensity and rawness.

I also enjoy the Jack pairing, I like them as Ex’s but bonded by their past.

Like Jim, I did not get the Ronan relationship, but it would have been interesting to see a triangle.

I don’t understand the stalking of Danny not “Daniel” comment, this happened over 15 years ago and she eventually paid for it by losing custody of her child and it would take years for a reunion. Phyllis and Michael a different story (?)

Stalking of Nick..this one is new. I never saw it..so I cannot comment.

I think Phyllis has always been independent she has been that and more. She has never played the lady of the Manor. She has always worked and supported self. Her weakness that some see is her because of get love for Nick we are finally seeing as we get her backstory from the story nuggets.

PhyllisFan1st
PhyllisFan1st

Sharon abandoned Nick first by having an emotional affair with Brad before Nick came home with Daniel in custody for Cassie’s death. Phyllis was not ever responsible for Sharon’s “peace of mind”, Nick and Sharon could not mourn Cassie together, by the time Nick came home Sharon was no longer mourning.

Phyllis and Nick (before Paris) completed each other, they were pure magic. MAB for me ruined that with the whole Paris debacle and the stupid carousel crap and the using of Cassie as foreplay for SHICK. I am no longer a Nick fan, and will not be until he admits to both Phyllis and Sharon that he was wrong for the SHICK affair and leaving Phyllis and Summer for a re-do on SHICK that sucked.

Phyllis never stalked Daniel, her son, if you mean Danny, she fell in love with him and wanted the best father possible for the baby she was carrying, the new information we have about “George” makes the whole “Danny” thing make more sense! The Phyllis and Michael relationship then is not the same as the relationship now, since MS was not playing Phyllis at the time, I get how she plays the relationship, it is a part of their past but it does not define them now. AS for “stalking” Nick, I think you have it backwards, Nick stalked Phyllis during the affair, after Nick and Sharon mutually decided to divorce it was Nick that stalked Phyllis and it was Nick that showed up at her penthouse with a rolling suitcase, not the other way around.

Never was a Phyllis and Jack fan, he can never love anyone more then he hates Victor.

RC
RC

Right. tricking someone with a baby is love alright. Phyllis is and has always been a lying, scheming strumpet and I really don’t know what to make of people who defend or minimize the bad things she’s done. She broke up Christine and Danny’s marriage with a lie. How do you excuse that? How do you justify it? “She wanted the best father possible for the baby she was carrying.” Really? So you trap a man because you’re in love with him? GMAFB!

Tess
Tess

I can totally appreciate when an actor has to sell their story and even defend the actions of their character, but I’m a bit disappointed in you Mr. Fairman that you don’t come out swinging a bit more. How about calling it like it is? None of this with Phyllis confronting her father makes sense. I respect that Ms. Stafford acknowledged that it is a total rewrite of her character’s history and that is why I have not enjoyed it at all. Why does it need to be rewritten? Is Phyllis being whitewashed for some purpose? To be better suited to Nick? Why can’t she just be an insecure woman with issues? It’s hypocritical of her character to blame all of her own criminal choices on the behavior of her father and it makes me cringe as I’m sure it did other fans. How would putting her own father in prison then result in her doing the things Phyllis had done? It makes no sense and has been a total fail for this character. I would agree with Ms. Stafford though that she had much better chemistry with Jeff Branson. Do I dare infer that she is diplomatically implying she herself is tired of it Phick too? Not all of the Phyllis fans enjoy phick. The romance with Ronan however seemed real and it could have been the first relationship she had that was all hers, something she desperately needs. It seemed real and I do believe his character is the better match for Phyllis. I would also disagree on the shenanigans comment regarding Sharon. Let’s not forget how phick started which is exactly why the relationship is bitter. Phyllis is second best with Nick and he’ll never commit 100% to either woman. Bring back Jeff Branson or a new man. Like Sharon, it’s time for Phyllis to move on from the immature waffling Nick.

PhyllisFan1st
PhyllisFan1st

what “whitewashing” Phyllis is still PHYLLIS, she knows what she has done in the past, I doubt she has forgotten about the attempt to mow down that dastardly inept bug! to me, that is the only so called “crime” I have SEEN Phyllis commit!

The PHICK affair last 3 months and was over for 5 months with absolutely no sex until after Nick and Sharon mutually decided to divorce. The PHICK relationship began that night Nick came knocking on her door with his rolling suitcase. And don’t forget Sharon was having wet dreams of a life with her lover BIL Brad at that time, she assumed as soon as she got rid of Nick, Brad would leave Victoria!

I will never say Phyllis was “second best” for Nick, she was the best thing for him and with him before MAB tried to channel her inner Bill Bell, which failed on all storyline fronts (JIll as Katherine’s daughter/not Katherine’s daughter, Victor and Ashley, Nikki and the bottle, the Silver Chipmunk, Michael’s father and new sister, and yes the SHICK re-do and the so called prophecy child.

Sauza
Sauza

I LOVE Michelle & Phyllis, but I don’t think she has much to worry about regarding people thinking she and Jeff Branson were actually “banging.” Michelle & Jeff are both beautiful & sexy, but those Ronan & Phyllis hook-ups were trying so hard to be sexy & real that they were anything but. That pairing was SO rushed & forced & TRY-hard that they were almost embarrassingly bad to me. I DON’T blame that on the actors but rather the cheesy, plot-point writing. Nonetheless–rest assured Michelle, I didn’t think from your scenes with JB’s Ronan that anything was going on with you guy’s in real life. Those scenes were just awkward.

I DO absolutely love how much thought MS puts into the motivation of her character. It really comes through in her acting (even when I may not agree with said motivation). And I love that she admits that sometimes the actors have to add motivation & inspiration into their characters when the writers haven’t. MS keeps Phyllis a viable, exciting soap character even when the writing fails her.

gina
gina

Michelle is amzing as always. I love her humility & straightforwardness. She is an asset to the show. Loved the interview! I also love the sister s/l. IMO though they ruined it with the quad. Avery is backburned now bc of it. Their relationship could’ve been more purely unraveled instead of having the character sleep with Nick only bc they wanted to try Phonan. I like JC but her character has weakend due to this quad.
As for Phick, they are constantly full of surprises. They are so controversial it’ s great to watch. Thats why they need no support from others, they do perfect on their own. Josh & Michelle bring a trmendous pairing on screen with Phick. They are the future of Y&R & they damn sure have proved it.

Deltayvonne
Deltayvonne

I wanted to thank you Michael for Michelle’s interview. Well done. I must tell you I giggled non stop at her banging reference. As always she is re-freshing and insightful. As a Phick fan I do hope I get that story.

I am enjoying the slow pace that is been taken with them.

(ignore my spelling errors typing on my blackberry is painful).

heidi
heidi

Great interview Michael… thanks! She is so talented and seems like a great person.

DeeDee
DeeDee

I love how honest MS always is in her interviews. She knows the character she plays, that is for sure. I cannot say I am a fan of blatant rewrites of a characters history but I will give it a go and see where this one takes me.

I am hoping Nick and Phyllis will utlimately get it together. I am enjoying where they are at right now as too much has happened. It needs to build. I love that Phyllis is hesitant.

Good read

sorelle
sorelle

Great interview Michael thanks ! Michelle Stafford is my favorite actress , i love how she portrayed Phyllis, you always feel Phyllis emotion. Phick is my Favorite Couple on daytime , Nick and Phyllis are Magic together i hope they do reunite this time , i love the chemistry Michelle Stafford share with Josh Morrow they are Phenomenal together . i also love the Phyllis Avery dynamic , i think Michelle Stafford and Jessica Collins chemistry is absolutely one of the best i have ever see

Lacey
Lacey

Great interview! Phyllis and Ronan are my favorite Phyllis pairing. In fact, they are my favorite pairing ever on Y&R. In the short amount of time they were together, they slayed. Jeff Branson brought out so much in Michelle. Usually, it’s all about what Michelle brings out of other actors but with “Phonan”, they were both at their best and made the other even more incredible. I have never seen a couple that fit every criteria as amazingly as they did. They connected sexually, emotionally, visually, acting-wise. Just an awesome duo. I love that Michelle continues to state the obvious: that Phyllis was in love with Ronan. That is definitely how it played on screen. Phyllis never glowed as much as she did with Ronan. Michelle was lit from inside when she was around Ronan. I love them and I will be ecstatic if Jeff returns so Phyllis can be that way again. Love, love, love how they created such a remarkable pairing and really collaborated to make it so special. Kudos. 🙂

Terri
Terri

What an awesome interview. Thanks Michael. She is so warm and sincere and so funny. Michelle is my fave actor on Y&R and Phyllis is my all time fave character ever.. she has it all. I loved Phick in the beginning but hated how MAB destroyed the, then I totally fell for Phonan but now JB is gone and I am sad.,.. not feeling phick again.. Nick still has way too much making up to do.

Racheebee
Racheebee

There was zero evidence to back up the claim that Phyllis or Ronan were falling in love with each other. It was nothing more than sleazy random forced trashy bootycalls cause she was pissed at Nick and he got the brushoff from Chloe. The only falling they did was on the top of a desk, floor, or a bed. There was a no chance of this brief fling ending up being something real for many reasons but most of all Phyllis will never stop loving Nick. The entire thing was based on sex with a young horny man who needed a distraction from the murder case and a older angry woman who only went to him cause of something Nick did with Avery that ticked her off.

C hris
C hris

I totally agree with most of this statement,Racheebee, I saw absolutely no way that they would have stayed together, Phyliss is a user, she even said so to Nick ,she called Ronan a diversion, is that what she calls falling for him , Putting Ronan with her was a major major mistake, Love Jeff though ,hope he does come back ,but not to be with Phyliss . She is a great actress though. If JB does come back don’t put him with her. More back story needs to be told with him,and a connection with Nina,even he wanted that.

serena
serena

Great interviews Michael. i love Michelle Stafford she is my favorite actress on daytime tv. Phick is my favorite couple on daytime tv , i hope they do reunite this time ,they light up my screen everytime they are on

Lorraine
Lorraine

What a great interview. I just love Michelle. She is always interesting and fun. And I just adore Phick. Looking forward to their reunion. But I love any story Michelle is in. She is so talented. Y&R would never be the same without her.

kay killgore
kay killgore

I have just watched the episodes and I hate MAB no way would the Phyllis we know have issues over a Fathers ponzzi scheme when she was just a kid! And now we are gearing up for killing Daisy who cares Blah,Blah,Blah. Why do these women need men to make their life she MAB has ruined the character of Sharon and now Phyllis. And fellow readers I am discussing the characters not attacking the actors. You got that!!!

gloria
gloria

Has anyone else noticed that Phyllis repeats her lines at least twice & sometimes 3 or 4 times & a lot of times repeats back the lines of the actor she is speaking to? This drives me nuts. Yesterday during a scene with Daniel he said “I am an adult”-she said “if you are such an adult, an adult, such an adult” “if you are such an adult” She’ll say, “wait” 4 or 5 times & for example Nick could say “I just saw Sharon” she’ll say “you just saw Sharon, Sharon, you just saw Sharon, I can’t believe you just saw Sharon” & on & on. To Daisy-“do you know how to be a mother, do you know how to be a mother” like she is just stuck or something. I do not like this at all & wonder if they write her that way or is this just something she does thinking WHAT? Very annoying.

1MALLOYFAN
1MALLOYFAN

love Michelle Stafford! She is sooo awesome in this role, I don’t care if she is being sneaky or up front (as Phyliss) she is one character that I will root for no matter what. Loved her with JB but since he left, I think Phyliss should get a new guy with not ties to anyone in GC! Great interview Mr. Fairman!

Lisa
Lisa

great interview but WTF with this ‘banging’ business ? Hey Michelle Stafford..people can watch porn if they want to watch actors banging each others on-screen..what about great acting and deep connection about emotional issues between the characters ? geeezzz i mean i am not prude but come on banging is not acting otherwise porn stars would have oscars right now..lol no wonder soaps are mocked for their so called soft porn scenes..reality check it is not interesting guys and can be gross when forced with a no real chemistry ‘we try too hard to be sexy together’ kind of way and it happens often on daytime soaps..
Michelle, talk to your writers to write interesting character-driven scenes for you not some silly nasty ‘banging’ scenes..lol

2Much
2Much

I wish the writers would just leave Phick dead and buried once and for all. They were not a believeable couple “in love” from the start and I still don’t see it. I think Nick just looks like a tool when he’s in scenes with Phyllis. I think the writers just need to let Phyllis and Nick move on and just co-parent Summer. That’s all. Sorry, but I just don’t like anything about Phyllis and her self-serving, self-absorbed, self-righteous attitutde. The character is eating the show and she’s making it unwatcheable for me. JMO.

Cherokeegirl226 (Steph)
Cherokeegirl226 (Steph)

This is a GREAT interview. I’m glad I stumbled upon it. I follow Michelle and Michael on twitter. 🙂

General Hospital

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: JPI

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

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

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

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

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

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

Courtesy/ABC

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

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

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

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

Photo: JPI

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

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

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

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

Photo: JPI

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

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

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

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

Photo: JPI

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

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

Photo: JPI

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

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

Courtesy/ABC

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

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

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

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

Photo: JPI

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

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

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

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

Photo: JPI

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

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

Photo: JPI

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

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

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

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

Photo: JPI

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

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

Photo: JPI

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

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

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

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

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

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Days Of Our Lives

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: JPI

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

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

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

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

Photo: JPI

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

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

You didn’t do “substitution”!

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

Photos: NBC

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

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

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

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

You had serious hair.  But … we all did!

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

Photo: JPI

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

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

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

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

Photo: JPI

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

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

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

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

… Then Stevano shows up in Salem!

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

Photo: JPI

What have you thought of Stephen Nichols portrayal as Stefano?

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

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

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

Courtesy/NBC

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

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

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

WALLY:  Good lord.  Three deaths in one day!

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

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

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

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

Photo: JPI

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

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

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

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

Photo: JPI

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

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

Photo: JPI

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

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

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

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

Photo: JPI

Did your wife watch your scenes when Adrienne died?

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

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

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

Courtesy/NBC

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

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

Photo: JPI

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

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

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

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Eastsiders

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: EastSiders

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

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

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

Photo: EastSiders

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

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

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

Photo: EastSiders

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

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

Photo: EastSiders

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

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

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

Photo” EastSiders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VAN:  Oh, she’s so good.  I love her.

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

Photo: Eastsiders

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

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

KIT:  It’s your Drew Barrymore moment!

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

KIT:  It was all there!

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

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

Photo: EastSiders

 

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

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

Photo: EaatSiders

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

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

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

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

Photo: JPI

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

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

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

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

Photo: EastSiders

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

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

KIT:  I love that episode, too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Eastsiders

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

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

KIT:  Oh.  Cool.  I love that.

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

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

VAN: (Laughs)

KIT:  So, I’m glad he got that.

Photo: JPI

I get that you wanted to come across very professional.

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

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

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

How did you know about Van?

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

Photo: Instagram

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

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

You’re Instagram stars!

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

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

KIT:  Yes.  Absolutely.

Photo: EastSiders

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

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

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

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

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

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