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The Michelle Stafford Interview – The Young and the Restless & The Stafford Project

Photo Credti: Ray Kachatorian

Photo Credit: Duffimages.com

This past Friday, fans and viewers of The Young and the Restless were dealt a real blow when two-time Daytime Emmy winner, and one of the series leading characters, exited the series!  We are speaking of the one and only Michelle Stafford … and … the one and only Phyllis Summers Newman!  After almost 16 years with the CBS soap, Stafford’s Phyllis was put in a coma, and needed to be transferred to a facility in Georgia, which keeps her close to her son, Daniel (Michael Graziadei, who returned to the series to help facilitate Stafford’s exit).  While many are unhappy of the way Phyllis has been written off, it leaves the door open … if Michelle Stafford was to ever decide to return, or if the powers-that-be at Y&R decide to recast.  But as one chapter closes, another chapter begins in life, and that next chapter has started for one of the most extraordinary actresses in this medium, or any other!

Today, Michelle launched her new web series, The Stafford Project,which in many ways mirrors moments in Stafford’s own life, but with a twist, in this reality/comedy hybrid which was born out of Michelle’s real life struggles to have a child, which she ultimately did via surrogacy … and thus gave us one of The Stafford Project’s most precious co-stars, Michelle’s daughter, Natalia!  Plus, The Stafford Project, whose lead character is an actress named “Michelle” who appears on a soap opera, will also look at juggling aspects of life and the dating scene by “doing it as single chick”, as is Michelle Stafford’s mantra in her new website www.michellestafford.com, which features blogs about: parenting, men, dating, style, fitness and more! (You can also access The Stafford Project there too!)

On-Air On-Soaps chatted with Michelle, just as fans were seeing her final airdate on Y&R, to get her reaction on her decision to depart the series, and the way Phyllis was written-out, and how The Stafford Project became its own reality.  Next, we take a look back at some of the key on-screen relationships for Genoa City’s fiery Phyllis, including: Sharon, Jack, Summer, Ronan, and Nick!  And in true soap opera fashion, there are several cliffhangers for Michelle Stafford and her fans: Will we see her on another soap? Will she land her own primetime sitcom?  Will The Stafford Project become one of the most viewed and personally minted web series of them all?  While we wait for those answers to unfold, enjoy our conversation with Michelle, or shall we say, the coolest chick we know!

MICHAEL:

Last Friday was your final airdate on The Young and the Restless!  How do you feel about that when it actually came to pass?  Did you watch the episode?  Was it at all emotional for you?

MICHELLE:

Courtesy/CBS

I saw a bit of it, and she is very calm and comatose.  Phyllis is very asleep. (Laughs)  I don’t have an emotional tie to the character, I just don’t.  I have an emotional tie to the fans though, but not to the character, because I am an actress, and I want to play a bunch of different things.  And, that is what we do as actors … we create a bunch of different characters.  I am connected to what the fans care about.  It is very important to me how they feel.  That is why I did “Phyllis Friday” on Twitter and answered some questions.  I am on Twitter a lot promoting The Stafford Project, and it on the web, so you want to touch people already on the web.  I care about what they think, and a lot of them are upset about me leaving.  And, I am sure there are some that are not upset. (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

Your fans have been so upset about your departing Y&R, but support you on your new ventures, and the new opportunities that will arise for you.  At On-Air On-Soaps on the posts concerning your exit, many have written such touching words, and many telling you how sad they are that you have left the show.  How does it feel to have such a strong and passionate fan base?

MICHELLE:

It is so nice.  It was sad when I saw part of Friday’s episode.  And if you were really a fan of that character, it would be really upsetting.  I have watched soaps growing up, and I remember I watched Ryan’s Hope, and I loved Delia (originally played by Ilene Kristen) so much, and when she left the show that was it for me.  Actually, that wasn’t it.  They recast the role with another actress, and so I said, “Nope!”  And I was done.  I was really was way too young to be watching soaps at the time, but I just loved the character so much, and so it was upsetting for me.  Also on Y&R, Phyllis is in a hospital, and she is in a coma, and you want to hear from her.  You want to hear Phyllis yell at people, and fight back, and she is not doing that.  I think that would be upsetting for fans of the character.

MICHAEL:

Photo Credit: Duffimages.com

So after Sharon and Phyllis’s war of words, Phyllis falls down the stairs.  And since that point, literally scene after scene, you were just lying in a hospital bed … just lying there!  Was that ridiculous to you?  Or, did you say to yourself, “I am doing my job…etc”?

MICHELLE:

I am doing the job … and the job is for me to lay here, right? (Laughs)  I do understand that viewpoint and people have told me that on Twitter that they were very mad that I was lying there, but you know, Y&R wanted to put the character in a coma, and it was actually a pretty nice gesture on their part.  They just wanted to make it so the role is still there, if I ever was to change my mind and come back.  I don’t feel like they should be blamed.  Of course, they could have had the character leave town too, or lose her mind and leave town…

MICHAEL:

But having Phyllis exit this way provided a secret for the other characters, and kept story going, so you can see why Y&R chose to do something like that.

MICHELLE:
Yeah.  It provides more story for the people remaining on the show, and that’s true.  Also, it also provided no one knowing about what really happened …. no one knows except Phyllis.  Sharon was looking through the window and Phyllis freaked out and then that was it … and then I had my massive seizure! (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

How was you last day at The Young and the Restless?

MICHELLE:

I was nervous.  It was not an overnight decision, and there were a lot of personal reasons, that of course I am going to keep to myself.  Even if I told everyone all the reasons, they would still speculate. (Laughs)   I felt like this is it.   I went to work and I was on instagram doing a whole countdown on it, and I felt nervous like, “Am I going to lose it?”  And, I didn’t.  It was very sweet, and people were lovely.  They all wished me well, and Y&R writers Brent Boyd and Josh Griffith came to the party, and CBS Daytime’s Margo Wain came to the party.  Everybody was really cool.

MICHAEL:

Photo Credti: Ray Kachatorian

Did you feel when you walked out of the studio (after nearly 16 years of playing this one-of-a-kind character) that you had done everything you could have done with Phyllis?

MICHELLE:

For me, I feel that way.  I am sure if they choose to bring the character back and have somebody else play her, there is a whole new thing they could do, just because there is another actor.  They bring something different to the role.  It’s a tough character, and usually villains who turn nice it’s a tougher character to write for, because you are always sort of walking the line between good and bad.  I felt like that was it for me with that character.  I think that sometimes you want to do something in your life, and life presents itself, and you go, “This is the time for me to do something,” and that is how it kind of all worked out.  This is not to be taken at all that I did not want to work on the show because of the new EP, Jill Farren Phelps, and head writer, Josh Griffith.  I am a big fan of Josh’s and he was on the show before, and it was great.  I think that my sister getting sick, and the contract coming up a few months after made me realize that there is a time in an actor’s career that sometimes you think, “If I don’t jump off the cliff right now, I may never do it.”  I don’t look at the job at Y&R as being stuck, I don’t, but there were so many things that I desire to do as an actor, and so many goals that I had, that I just thought maybe now is the time to jump.  And that is mainly it.  It all sort of came together at one time, and I was like, “You know what?  Let’s just jump off, now!”   And so, I did!

MICHAEL:

Photo Credit: Ray Kachatorian

In your lifetime, you have been thrown so many things to deal with, and to overcome, and so many obstacles, and the fights you have had to fight.  So, when I saw your new web series, The Stafford Project, it made me smile, because knowing you as I do, there was a realism to the ridiculousness of the real life situations that happened to you.  I thought it was well done!  You were playing a version of yourself within these real-life moments that happened to you!

MICHELLE:

The whole situation was so intense and so insane trying to have a kid, and the doctor’s appointments and the surgeries, which I had documented and filmed in my real life.  It was so crazy, and every time I turned around it was so oppressive. Then when Natalia was born new things occurred, and I thought this was also nuts, being a single working mom to this kid, and going out and dating.  Then I talked to my friend Paige, who is one of the producers on the Stafford Project, and I said to her, “Let me pitch this to you!”  I said, “I really want to write a comedy web series in the vain of The Larry Sanders Show, where he is trying to keep it all together with the crazies around him.  I want it to be that she is just trying to keep it together, and every time she jumps off, she meets a crazy.”  Paige thought it was awesome, and wanted to get her writing partner in on it, Paige Long.  We just jumped in, and Paige and Paige’s comedy is just awesome!  I did the scenarios and I have very specific lines I wanted to use.  So I said, “These lines have to be in it, and it has to go like this…”  That is why all three of us are writers on the series. (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

And then … who knew?  Your daughter, Natalia was a scene-stealer!

MICHELLE:

Well, I did of course! (Laughs)  She was so professional.  She did not whine, or bitch, or do anything.  In the second episode of The Stafford Project, Natalia is totally improving with me.  I am like, “Geez, look at this kid!”  I have an actress on my hands.  If she wants to go down that path, I am going to have her originate it; I am not going to push it.  But if she says to me, “Hey, I want to do this acting thing,” I just feel if your child excels, or is gifted in an area, you should cultivate that.   I do see an actress in my kid … and it is tormenting to say! (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

Courtesy/TheStaffordProject

In the first episode of The Stafford Project, I loved when the reality show producer popped up in the backseat of the car with the “mulatto” line,  while “Michelle” is trying to explain about her surrogate, who was actually mixed-race or bi-racial!

MICHELLE:

Did you not almost die? (Laughs) You know all those comments that he made are comments that were truly said to me like, “Well, your kid is going to be mulatto!” I said, “Well no, it’s my egg.”  And they would go, “Oh no, well he or she will still be black!”… and other various racial comments.  And as the show continues on, the third episode is a flashback episode of what I went through, and it’s pretty cool.  As we go along, we enter more into her job and the shenanigans at the show she works at.  It’s Michelle Stafford, and she is on a soap, but we never mention the name of the show. It’s not Y&R. And, the character she plays is named “Francis”.  I make it very clear we not goofing on soap operas; we are goofing on actors, which is completely fine! (Laughs).  So we are goofing on actors, and the human condition.  There is a surprise guest in episode four, and the person is awesome and amazing, and people are totally going to dig it.  We have shot four episodes thus far, and we are going to keep doing them until people say, “Please stop doing it!” (Laughs)  I think we are going to release them every three weeks, and you are talking to the main producer here! (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

Do you think it’s hard in Hollywood for a soap actress to be considered for primetime or motion pictures roles?  Is there still the stigma?

MICHELLE:

I think it’s very hard for a soap opera actress to be many times viewed as a serious actor. There is just an idea out there … there just is!  It’s wrong, but you have to break through it like with anything, and be funny, and that is one thing I know I am.

MICHAEL:

Photo Credit: Kathy Hutchins

Would you love to have a sitcom?  Remember, when Judith Light went from doing Karen Wolek and her stunning courtroom confession on One Life to Live to becoming Angela Bowers on Who’s The Boss?

MICHELLE:

Well, yeah you could make a lot of money! (Laughs)  I loved Judith on One Life to Live.

MICHAEL:

Your new website is also very clever, and has great branding to it, especially the tag line, “Doing it as a single chick”!

MICHELLE:

I came up with that hash tag on instagram and people started using it like crazy.   People would say, “I’m doing it as a single chick too,” and others would say, “I am married and I am doing it as a single chick!” (Laughs)  Listen, I found there is such a large group of women who are on the web who are working their asses off.  They are either single mothers, or married and handling the entire household and working, and the ones who are still single are out there still dating.  It’s a lot to juggle, man.  Back in the day, just taking care of the kids in the house was your only job, and that was a huge job in itself.  That is a lot of hats to wear, but my take on it is: I am doing the same thing, but I am just making it funny.  And, the blogs will be funny on the website, and it will be a portal into my life at how I am being a hot bitch in my forties getting my groove on, and taking care of my kid, and being a mom at the same time.

MICHAEL:

The blog piece you wrote on men on your website, that actually men get a bad rap, I thought was terrific. We all hate on guys a lot, and they don’t deserve it … well, not all the time!

MICHELLE:

I wanted it to be very gay friendly, too.  That can apply to my boys too, and it can apply to a lesbian too… it is all of us out there.  The guys do get shit on.  Sometimes I read these blogs, and they are so linear, and it is just for a mom who is married with a husband and has everything taken care of for her.  And I think, “Wow, you are not even writing for a chick who is single, and who works and who is trying to live her life, and you are not writing for a woman who is celebrating how hot she is!” (Laughs)  I love making women feel like they are important.  I love making people feel important.  It is a tough gig out there in life.  Everybody is just trying to do the best job they can.  I really want to give to people, and make them feel validated, and make them laugh.  I am really excited about the site.

MICHAEL:

Photo Credit: Kathy Hutchins

Alison Sweeney (Sami) of Days of our Lives has been extremely successful building her brand from first: her soap career, to hosting Biggest Loser, to her website, to all her other projects.  What do you think of how she cultivated her audience, and how she speaks to women?

MICHELLE:

Alison is a smart girl, and an ambitious gal, and she got it.  I also think she had something to say.  I think she understood, and that would attract women who had a problem with their weight too, and that is a huge thing. The blog I have on my website on weight, that is the most asked question; “How do I keep my body in such good shape?”  It’s an interesting thing that body image is so on the forefront of women’s minds.

MICHAEL:

You also talk about dating experiences in The Stafford Project, and on your website.  How is dating going for you now that Natalia is a three-year old?

MICHELLE:

I was dating this guy recently and he started spending the night, and I was really like, “Oh, my God, I am a filthy whore!” (Laughs)  I was like, “You can’t be here when my daughter’s here!  You cannot be here!”  So my mom takes my daughter every Friday.  So I suppose whoever wants to have sex with me, it’s only going to happen on Friday or Saturday when my mom has Natalia! (Laughs)  But it’s going to be really good; it’s going to be a Mardi Gras! (Laughs)  It is very legitimate question you ask.   I think I am better about it now! (Laughs)

Courtesy/CBS

MICHAEL:

As a wrap-up to your time on The Young and the Restless, let’s take a look at some of the key relationships you have had on the show.  You and Sharon Case (Sharon) have this long standing rivalry as Sharon and Phyllis.   How do you feel that relationship played out on-air?

MICHELLE:

I wish that we had more of it.  I liked it.  I think it worked.  It was really great with Sharon Case and me, because we really understand the viewpoints of our characters. When we did the scenes both of us actors knew how we felt going on into the scene and about each other.  So there is never any fear of  “I don’t want to be mean to you” because some actor will pull back with those emotions.  She and I never did that.  I am not Phyllis, you know?  I am OK screaming at you, because I am just playing a role.  I don’t mean anything by it.  Sometimes actors will back off of each other, and Sharon and I never did that to one another, and I think that showed.  It was very real to people that these two women had such jealousy of each other, and there was so much emotion born from the death of a child, and the husband leaving.  It was such a great real story.  I loved Sharon and Phyllis’ relationship.  It was vicious and very real.

MICHAEL:

How did you feel when they told you that they were going to SORAS your on-screen daughter, Summer, to 18?  And, how Hunter King (Summer) has done in the role? She has done an amazing job over the last few months!  She has an Emmy reel for next year, for sure.

MICHELLE:

Photo Credit: Kathy Hutchins

Well, they aged Summer before Hunter, and they kept aging her.  And, so we had a baby, then we had a two-year-old, then we had a five-year-old, then we had an 8-year-old, and then an 18-year-old, and Hunter.  Hunter is great, and such a little doll, and I love her.  She has a great career ahead of her.  I miss my little Hunter.  I cannot say enough nice things about her.

MICHAEL:

At the end of your run on Y&R, Phyllis was once again paired with Jack (Peter Bergman).  What were your thoughts on this duo getting back together?

MICHELLE:

Peter Bergman and I had worked together off and on so many times, and so I was like, “What can we do new with this?”  I was like we have been together more years than anyone else, or probably equal with Nick, and I wanted to find something new in it, and probably would have had I stayed on.  Of course, I love Peter Bergman.  He is a lovely and beautiful human being.

MICHAEL:

I think we all loved you most with Joshua Morrow (Nick Newman)!

MICHELLE:

I know.  It was just clearly what these two actors had in a scene together, and it was so interesting to see.  We just had so much chemistry, and they weren’t really telling sexual type of stories on Y&R then.  They were never doing things where people were just ripping off each other’s clothes.  We started writing every scene like that! (Laughs)  It was very dynamic, and I loved working with Josh.  Josh and I literally just had to say the words and it really, really worked.  It was a huge spike in ratings, too.  I am really proud of that time on Y&R.  I think it was really great.

Photo Credit: Kathy Hutchins

MICHAEL:

Jeff Branson (Ronan) and you also had some serious chemistry going on.  What did you think of Ronan and Phyllis?  And how ultimately, Jeff was written-off the show?

MICHELLE:

I thought their relationship was really interesting, but when they ended it, I guess they had him come back on, and he was totally in love with Phyllis.  I was not sure about that, but Jeff was great.  I am never a fan when they write a man totally heartbroken over a woman; I am just not a personal fan of seeing a man be like that.  I like to see men be strong.  I don’t like seeing them be desperate, and Jeff played it great.  He is a great actor, and he was let-go when Jill and Josh came in.  I said, “Jeff, you are great.  Just go do your gig and go be a star,” and he is working a lot.

MICHAEL:

Christian LeBlanc (Michael, Y&R) is your buddy.  Is it weird that he is there at Y&R, and you’re not?

MICHELLE:

I know he is sad, because it was first losing Jeanne Cooper (Katherine Chancellor) and now me … two main actors on the show.  Listen, Christian and I will always know each other, and know each other when we are 108!

MICHAEL:

Photo Credit: Kathy Hutchins

 … And you will always hijack each others interview? (Laughs)

MICHELLE:

Yes, and I will always be funnier, and he will always remind me he has three Emmys and I have two.  (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

What is the last word you would like to say to your fans?

MICHELLE:

I hope they watch The Stafford Project like 25 times each, and backwards.  If we get 50, 000 to 100,000 hits in the first week that is great, and means it’s successful.  If they are sad about Phyllis not being around, just watch The Stafford Project.

 

 

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Cathy Reese
Cathy Reese

I watched The Stafford Project this eve and loved it. Its going to do well I think.

David J.
David J.

I watched The Stafford Project last night and thought it was wonderful.

mollie
mollie

OMG…the “mulatto” comments! lol. Viewers could tell this was ripped right from Michelle Stafford’s own experiences. What some people will say! I love that Michelle sees the humor in the ridiculous, and that she shares it so sublimely 🙂

My only other comment is that I think an episode release every three weeks is much to slow…not only because I would like to see episodes more frequently, but I think the series will lose forward momentum with viewers. Just too slow a pace for interested viewers. Just my opinion.

Love it, though.

Beacon
Beacon

Nice shout out to Delia on Ryan’s Hope! I can actually see that character may have influenced Stafford’s early Phyllis who was desperate for the security of Danny by having his son, just as Delia was desperate for the security of Pat (and had an adversary in Kate Mulgrew’s Mary who was disgusted by her, just as Cricket was disgusted by Phyllis.)

SZima
SZima

I haven’t watched Project yet, but I will.

I just have a comment…that top picture of Michelle is SO wierd to me…very un-Phyllis like. Never in a million years would Phyllis be caught in a princess dress like that!

Teresa Ungerer
Teresa Ungerer

She’s Michelle Stafford, not Phyllis

Mad/hatter
Mad/hatter

Thank you so much for letting Michelle clear it up once and for all that she and Sharon Case enjoyed working together and do not hate each other I was so sick of that story being told. I think she has a flair for comedy so good luck. The show is so different now that I think she was right to move on.

Robin
Robin

OMG what cave am I living in? If not for you, Michael, and this interview I’d be wondering how long Phyllis was going to be gone lol. Great interview!!! Happy for her and wish her continued success. SO SAD for us Y & R fans. Show will not the same without her!!!!! I’m going to start my mourning process now.
Thank God I have cookies in my cupboard 🙂

Jacqueline
Jacqueline

I wished they did not get rid of Phyllis. I loved her on the show and gonna miss her. I hope she comes back and get Sharon.

cheryl
cheryl

i hope that phylis comes back and sets things right with the sharon thing,i wish you success on your new adventure, but you will be so missed on my favorite soap..i have watched this show from the beginning, love it.

Lafaux
Lafaux

I smiled all the way through! Great job! I can’t wait to see more.

Sharol
Sharol

I watched the Stafford Project and I completely loved it. It was so very funny, which really fits Michelle well. She is such a great actress and I’m sad that she left Y&R but I am loving seeing her in this project of hers. Keep up the great work and I look forward to a lot more!

Megan
Megan

Michelle Stafford’s future is just beginning. I look forward to
Her star becoming bigger and brighter everyday.

O
O

I watched The Stafford Project It was funny and I wished Michelle would had stayed on Y&R ,Phylliss would had kicked ass and loved itwhen she battled Sharon and Christine Blair> I can’t wait until she does a primetime sitcom do 2 & a half men she would be funny with Ashton Kutcher and Jon Cyrer or Mike and Molly

Teresa Ungerer
Teresa Ungerer

Oh yes! Great idea

O
O

I would love to see Michelle team up with Colleen Zenk (Barbara) and Kim Zimmer (Reva) the 3 of them could do a sitcom together

Michelle
Michelle

Not everybody liked Phyllis with Nick.

Jackie
Jackie

Loved Nick and Phyllis together, show will not be the same without Phyllis. I wish Michelle well and will be tuning in on her show

janice layton
janice layton

She left because of Scientology. She refused to work with Michael (Murphy), because he came to his senses years ago and left the cult. She is doing a web series now, with all Scientology members. Talk about mind control.

k/kay
k/kay

I heard that to but he is never on could not figure out how that could be who knows. You have any idea how much money you put into this thing I call it a Pyramid cult. Lol

michael
michael

Scientology is her belief, who are we to judge. She is missed on Y&R – she’s an amazing actress, but I love that she’s got balls and isn’t afraid of doing what she wants. I didn’t want to like the stafford project because i was upset that she left Y&R – ha! how egotistical is that!? but i love it, she and the show is hilarious. and incredibly well produced

Darling
Darling

Michelle what can I say, I hate to see you leave the Y&R but if that’s your wish, I wish you the best of luck. May you prosper in all you do; God bless you and your beautiful, little girl.

Thelma
Thelma

I love Michelle on Y&R . Hope she return if only to get Sharon lie straight. I pray your success in whatever you want to do . I know that you would be good at it.

jamie
jamie

Does anyone know if Michelle is married in real life?

Red Rivers
Red Rivers

So Phelps fired Jeff Branson too. This witch just loves to kick actors out on the street. She’s a witch.

Days Of Our Lives

DAYS Alum Kevin Spirtas Chats On His Heart-Tugging Series ‘After Forever’ & Love and Life In Your 50s

Filling the void in the digital drama series arena, the eight episodes first season of After Forever (available on Amazon), tackles the journey of a two middle-aged gay men in their 50’s in a deep romantic relationship, and looks at it through its various stages of love, loss, and moving on with one’s life when suddenly your world is turned upside down, when one of them has died.

While the LGBT community has seen other love-centric and dramatic web series, none have really taken a deep dive into the difficulties of starting anew in your 50’s or even older.  Leave it to former Days of our Lives alum and Broadway producer, Kevin Spirtas (Ex-Craig Wesley), along with another DAYS alum, writer, Michael Slade, and the two put their shared experiences, and dramatic ideas into this emotional series, that is not limited to anyone who is gay, but touches on the universal themes that anyone may have, or will experience, at one time in their lives.

Spirtas, brought along with him none some notables for his passion project.  First, none other than former Prospect Park One Life to Live EP, Jennifer Pepperman, to bring his vision to life, and some amazing co-stars: Mitchell Anderson (Ex-Party Of Five), MIchael Urie (Ugly Betty), Cady Huffman (Ex-OLTL), Anita Gillette, Colleen Zenk (Ex-Barbara, ATWT) to  name just a few.

While the series bowed a little over a month ago, if you haven’t taken a look, check out our interview with Spirtas for some juicy insight into the making of and the construct of, After Forever.  Following that, check out the teaser for the series, and the video for the theme song, “My Forever” by Lio Nicol which becomes available tomorrow June 4th on Amazon and iTunes.

Photo Credit/JPI Studios

What was the genesis of the idea for the series?

KEVIN:  Patrika Darbo, came to New York close to 7 years ago. She had called me ahead of time, and said, “I was asked to present at the ISA Awards, and you’re coming with me.”  She was getting very involved in the world of the web series. I looked at this amazing presentation of content that was being shown at the ISA’s.  I was blown away. It was better than half the stuff on TV, theater, or film. At that point, I made a mad rush for a gentleman by the name of Sebastian La Cause.  Sebastian had won several awards that night and his material was so well presented, and beautifully shot, and his acting was very unique.

Sebastian La Cause was the star of the web series Hustling, right?

KEVIN:  Yes, it was Hustling, the first season.  I went up to him and I said, “I’m Kevin Spirtas. I’m an actor, I did a soap …”  He goes, “Kevin, I know who you are.” I was starstruck, and impressed, and inspired, because he is exactly the kind of person I want to work with.  He is talented, and creative and I want to work with those kind of people. I said to him, “If you do a second season, I’d love to be considered for anything you might be doing.”  Wouldn’t you know? He wrote me in. I fell in love with the story. I was very clear to me, that you have to start creating for yourself, because creating your own content in this industry now is king.  The third season of Hustling then crossed me over to appearing in Winterthorne.  That was also the first year that NATAS opened up the judging to the digital world.  I got nominated for an Emmy. It inspired me to start thinking about, ‘What do I know?  What do I have in my life that I feel is worth sharing and putting out there to help heal, or inspire?’  I had been producing in New York City for 3 years at this point.

Photo Credit/JPI Studios

It becomes every performer’s concern, as they get older, that they can still be considered for the roles they would like to play.  Sometimes, actors can grow into the types of roles, and sometimes they’ve expired past those types of roles. Was creating After Forever also a way to re-enter being part of the conversation?

KEVIN:  Well, I was hoping to write something for myself … because I just didn’t see the roles coming toward me anymore.  My name wasn’t on them as I imagined them or had seen them in the past. I was worried about that. I thought, “If I have a chance to keep working, I’ve got to keep current.”

And somehow, you and Michael Slade ran into each other, and thus, a collaboration began that would eventually turn into After Forever?

Courtesy/AfterForever

KEVIN:  Then, I ran into Michael Slade at a gym… I had never met him before, he was a writer on Days as I was leaving the show.  And I remember saying to myself, “wouldn’t it be great to work with somebody, and see what kind of story we could come up with?”  Unbeknownst to me, Michael, at that particular time in his life, was working on the very same type of story and idea about what it’s like to be who he is, at his age, where he’s at, and what he knows.  I pitched him this idea: “I think there’s some really funny ideas I could express to the world about my experience as a single gay man at this point.” He said, “Call me.” In short, he was living life as a single gay man, and I was living life as a single gay man, and that’s how After Forever was born.  Michael had the experience of losing his long-time partner of 25 years.  There’s a part in the story where Brian and Jason are going along and they have everything in their life that they could possibly want, and then they don’t, because Jason is diagnosed with cancer and it takes him away.

Do we see Jason die in this?

KEVIN:  You just might! … It’s how we incorporated him in the story…

Courtesy/AfterForever

After Forever bounces back and forth in time, obviously, that was part of the unique structure of the storytelling?

KEVIN:  It does do that.  It tells the story through a lot of present, and a lot of flashbacks.  There is also the present with Brian, and his memory of Jason. As Brian is going through the next chapter of his life as a single man, he has to look at his life and learn how to continue to love even though the person’s not there.  When someone dies, the love doesn’t die, the relationship doesn’t die, it keeps growing on a certain level. So, if he turns around, and he sees him, is it real? Is it him working it out in his own mind? It’s a tool to tell more story …

Tell me about casting Mitchell Anderson?  He had retired and moved to Atlanta, and he ends up playing the love of Brian’s life.

Courtesy/AfterForever

KEVIN:  When Michael and I were writing, we threw out, “Who do you think would play this part?”  One day, I just dropped the name “Mitchell Anderson” I said, “I just see him as Jason.” Michael said to me, “Kevin, he’s retired.”  I just knew Mitchell and I had great history in the business. We started off as actors together in class. He went one direction, I went another, then he left the business, but I just felt there was something about his persona – not to mention his talent – his unique humor, his sensibility, and style, so I said, “I think we should ask him.”  We did. Mitchell said, “Okay, Kevin. Let me read the script.” He called back immediately after receiving it, and said, “I would love to do this!” I have not stopped thanking him every day. He’s so good in it.

The main character of Brian goes on this journey: he meets other guys, some appear younger than others! (Laughs)

KEVIN:  It’s a year after Jason is gone, Brian is trying to settle into his new life, but he’s guilty that his partner has died.  He has sadness, grief, and so much love for Jason that he’s having trouble moving forward, and everyone is trying to push him forward.  Brian is not necessarily ready, but sometimes his body is ready, while emotionally, he’s not. It’s how we deal with all that navigation of seeing good-looking guys.  He meets a guy in the middle of the series, and it starts to open up the doors. That’s the beauty of what happens when he starts to let himself open up to the possibilities.  There are some great rollercoaster moments that you’ll see.

Would you do another season of After Forever?

KEVIN:  Oh, my God!  Michael and I have already started to script out seasons 2 and 3.

Courtesy/AfterForever

Middle-aged gay men do have it rough in the relationship department, if they’re not already partnered up by this point in their life.  Younger guys think they’re over the hill, older guys aren’t necessarily interested either, and unfortunately, the LGBTQ community is unforgiving to community if you’re not young and pretty, and not in your 20s or 30s. There aren’t a lot of LGBT-oriented shows out there like this.  On that level, I think the concept of the show is an important story to tell.

KEVIN:  We were absolutely committed to writing not just another gay story.  We’ve seen those. I think the beauty of After Forever is that it’s not just a gay story- even though it’s told through two gay men… but, it’s a story about love … it’s a story about loss.  Everyone is going to have to deal with this in their life.

Courtesy/AfterForever

Dealing with loss is part of the circle of life, whether it’s a parent, a child, a lover, a friend, or your longtime partner. Many in the LGBT community succumbed to AIDS in the ‘80s and ‘90s, which was a pivotal moment in the gay movement.

KEVIN:  We lost half of our community.  We lost half of our brothers. To jump back to that history with Mitchell, he and I had so many mutual friends who aren’t here anymore.  We would look at the scene that was at hand, take a breath, look at each other, and they’d say “action” and we’d step into these people. Yes, it’s gay themed, because it’s told by two leading male characters who are gay.  But, I have heard more people in the last two months since this has come out, who have not only stopped and said, “Thank you for writing such a wonderful story about love and loss, and new beginnings, but also, what it’s like to have to confront that loss.” They also went on to say, “For so many years, gay people have had to watch the heterosexual world. People are trying to fit themselves into our world now, into our story, and how they would feel navigating it.”

Michael Urie is in it too? And you have some pretty accomplished people in your cast.  

Courtesy/AfterForever

KEVIN:  Yes, there’s Michael Urie, Cady Huffman who sings in one of the episodes.  Tere is a scene in episode 3 that it still floors me, I can’t watch it without losing it.  Then, there’s Anita Gillette, Lenny Wolpe, David Dean Bottrell. Everyone is perfect, and everyone was able to show up, and everyone delivered a million percent.

What’s the response you’ve been getting from people who have watched After Forever?  You mentioned it’s been very positive.  

KEVIN:  Everyone has been touched.  The majority who have seen this, are just moved to tears and full of excitement.

I saw that Jennifer Pepperman, ex-executive producer of One Life to Live, directed your series.  What was it like working with Jen?

Courtesy/AfterForever

KEVIN:  We had a lot of people who we could have pulled from.  Jennifer came up in conversation, because she had sent Michael an invitation to go see her new short film that she had done with Austin Peck (Ex-Austin, Days) and his wife, Teri Conn (Ex-Katie, ATWT).  I said, “Maybe if I go see the show and I like it, I can introduced myself to Jennifer.”  I called him right after and I said, “If we don’t get her, we’re crazy!” She’s so good. What she did is perfection.  We shot the whole thing like a movie. It was shot in 12 days. She knew everything she wanted to do and it shows in the edit.  And, this extraordinarily, talented girl named Colleen Kwok, who was the director of photography. She’s the real thing. She got it.  She got the style we were going for immediately.

So, we want to tell people to binge watch the series on Amazon.

KEVIN:  Binge it, or make it last for 15 days…

How many hankies will I need for this? 10? 5?

Courtesy/AfterForever

KEVIN:  I say Kleenex is not included … Anybody who has ever loved, anybody who has ever lost, must see this show, because it unifies all of us, it shows us that we are the same.  It shows us that we still have love in our lives, regardless of if that person is gone, the relationship never ends, it never dies. That’s what people are getting from this.  That’s what people are taking away from it. You and I were raised with the symbols of a straight world and how we had to fit into that certain way of life. That’s changed now.  We have Will & Grace … we have RuPaul … all these great things that are illustrating our diversity.  Now, people are going, “it’s just a story being told.”

What was Mitchell’s reaction when he saw the final product?

KEVIN:  We saw it together…We just sat there and cried.  It’s hard. Especially, the first two episodes and the last two episodes.  We served it up, Michael, we served it up!

Courtesy/AfterForever

I think you spoke to a greater issue, as you move through this career, you have to remain relevant as things change.  So, you’ve dipped yourself into this pool and now you can do more.

KEVIN:  I hope so.  You and I talked about this along time ago, when I first started on Days Of Our Lives, it was still a different world.

It was so different back then.  Actors couldn’t be out. There was still that stigma that if the audience at home knew they were gay, they wouldn’t buy into what they were portraying.

KEVIN:  That’s where I kind of worked it out, because I didn’t pretend not to be me, I just wasn’t very open about everything in my life.  Not that I still am. There’s certain things that I don’t talk about, because it’s not relevant, or it’s no one’s business.

So, do you get the obligatory question, “What’s a guy like you doing being single”? (Laughs)

KEVIN:  Michael said to me one day, “How come a guy like you is single?”  I made a joke out of it and said, “Have you seen me eat? Come on!”

So, intrigued to check out After Forever? What do you think about its central theme looking at what happens when one loses their partner at middle-age and more?  Share your thoughts via the comment section below.

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General Hospital

GH’s Laura Wright and Wes Ramsey Talk Their Love Connection & The Demands Of Daytime

Photo Credit: JPI Studios

After presenting for the first time together, at the 45th Annual Daytime Emmys since they’ve been a couple, Laura Wright (Carly) and Wes Ramsey (Peter aka Henrik) of General Hospital have certainly been in the throes of a romantic, fun, and cherished relationship. The two former stars of Guiding Light reconnected last year at Emmy time. Now, sharing their over one year anniversary, Michael Fairman TV caught up with Laura and Wes to get some insight into what makes their relationship work amidst the hustle and bustle, and pace of both being on a network television daytime drama series, and with the pressures of Hollywood where often relationships between two actors seem to start hot and heavy but then fizzle out.

If you caught this week’s GH, you witnessed that the town of Port Charles has found out that Peter is the notorious Cesar Faison’s son, and the ramifications that will be felt for weeks and months and potentially years to come. Meanwhile, Carly is in all sorts of trouble, thanks to naughty Nelle (Chloe Lanier). Nelle is making Carly look awfully unstable and what happens next could change Carly’s life forever.

So, what do these two lovebirds have to say about their relationship and their passion for working on the soaps? Check out what they had to share below. 

Wes, you had met Laura originally years ago on Guiding Light.

Photo Credit: JPI Studios

Wes: Yes, 15 years ago in New York.

And what did you think of her then?

Wes: Well, I was smitten, but I had to keep it to myself.

You had to keep it under wraps, huh?

Wes: Yep!

Laura: I was married then.

Wes: She was pregnant with her second child.

Laura: And he’s a good Kentucky boy.

Photo Credit: JPI Studios

Wes: Uh-huh! But we would run lines in the green room and I would try very hard to make sure she didn’t catch me staring at her… too often. But we laughed, and had great conversation.

Laura: I would always say, “Wes, will you run lines with me?,” because I would want to run my lines.

Wes: We never had story together, but she always knew I was game to hang out with her for a moment.

It’s good when you’re in a relationship with someone and you can laugh with them. You seem to be able to do that a lot!

Photo Credit: JPI Studios

Laura: Oh, gosh. I think that’s all we do.

Wes: Yes, yes, yes, yes…

Laura: Like, we belly laugh. It gets to the point where people would think we were ridiculous. We’ll say things and just think it’s the funniest thing ever and people would be like, “You guys have a problem …” and we’re like, “Yeah.” (Laughs)

Laura, and then he comes back into your life years later…

Wes: That’s right, it was Emmy weekend 2017.

Laura: I totally was not expecting it at all. Even when I gave him my number I walked away going “huh…”

You mean you thought he wouldn’t call?

Laura: No, I didn’t feel that… because he hit on me hard. He’ll tell you that.

Wes: I still am hitting on her.

Laura: I remember I walked away quick after he got my number. I was like, “Oh, my God … I gotta go.”

Courtesy/Instagram

Wes: There was an assertiveness on my part that was for sure 15 years in the making. I did not expect to run into her. I also did not expect for her to tell me that she was recently single. In that split second, it was one of those, “stop the presses!” moments. Like, you need to give me your number, I’m taking you to dinner.

Laura: I go, “Oh, be quiet! Are you like, 32, because I can’t do that.” (Laughs)

Wes: And I said, “Far from it.”

Laura: He’s like, “I’m getting ready to be 40.” And I’m like, “I can do that!”

Then, on top of all of this, Wes, you land a primo role on General Hospital. That of Henrik aka Peter, Cesar Faison’s son.

Photo Credit: Courtesy/ABC

Wes: Yes, a dream come true.

Laura: I’m going to jump in and say it’s a role that he worked all on his own for. He had to screen test against 8 plus guys, 3 different auditions, 2 different days.

Wes: That’s true.

Laura: I can’t say strong enough that the best actor got the role. Meaning, Wesley is so talented and has the ability to give this character the depth, and emotion, and layers that it needs to tell the story that needs to be told. I just think he’s incredible.

So, did you know from the get-go who you were going to be playing?

Photo Credit: JPI Studios

Wes: I did not.

Laura: I did! (Laughs)

Wes: I’m thrilled that the writers have been giving me such incredible material to dive into.   Each month that goes by, it becomes more and more complex, and more and more layered and intense. I love the depth… I love the conflicts… I love the humanity… I love the desperation… I love the psychology behind it. It’s a very interesting story and a great journey to tell.

Laura: I was getting ready to say, where you mentally have to go to be the son of Faison and Anna Devane (Finola Hughes)! To blend that together is amazing. It’s incredible to watch.

You used to run lines together on Guiding Light. Do you run lines together now on GH? It’s like a full circle moment.

Laura: We do, and we carpool.

Photo Credit: JPI Studios

Wes: Something we were trying to manifest together. We thought it would be a lot of fun to work together one day.

Laura: The last week we worked, we didn’t. He worked all afternoon. I worked all morning. I was like, “Are they doing this on purpose?” I was so mad! I was like, “Why are you in the afternoon everyday?” (Laughs)

Wes: She lost her chauffeur. (Laughs)

Laura: I did! He always drives us to work. I also love when we both have afternoon calls, because we love having mornings together. So, I didn’t get my morning, nor did I have my chauffeur!

So, two actors can have a good relationship? You see so many Hollywood relationships with actors and they go bust. But that’s not always the case …

Wes: Oh, my God, yes.

Photo Credit: JPI Studios

Laura: I’m going to say this; I think I can see it being more difficult for daytime actors, because the work we do is so intense. I know the weeks he’s getting ready to go into, and I’m getting ready to go into. Where we go emotionally and psychologically to tell these stories, on the level that we tell them, as quick as we tell them, you kind of have to become really in a headspace. The fact that we can …

Wes: … the long hours …

Laura: Yes, and exhaustion! You really have to go, “Wow! It’s not about me right now. It’s about us individually as actors.” Thank God, we know the workload. I know what he’s getting ready to go through.

Wes: I have always had so much respect for Laura’s work. On Guiding Light, I’ve always been in awe of what she’s capable of doing. So, the level of respect is obviously there. But also, the understanding whatever it is that you need from a personal assistant in one moment… or a life partner in another moment … or a best friend in moment … or whatever it is in order to get through the day-to-day and the week-to-week, so we can do what we love to do. We know we’re very lucky to have the opportunity to do what we love.

Courtesy/welcometolaurasworld Instagram

Laura was such a great co-host on my Soap Nation Live! Daytime Emmy Nomination Specials, in particular when she talks about acting. It’s so rewarding to hear the other actors who are guests on the show listening to what Laura has to say about her craft and respecting the hell out of her.

Wes: Without a doubt. You can’t watch her work and not be in awe. It speaks for itself.

Laura: I just love the journey of going to the places that we go; to bleed for it.

Wes: Leave it all out on the floor.

Laura: I know that process. So, when I see another actor that’s bleeding, I just bow to them, because I know what it takes to go there. I know the work that Wesley does. When I see that he’s spent at the end of the day, I’m like, “Babe, I so get it.” So, I can see where it could be really difficult for people that haven’t been there, because it’s a lot of work and you’re spent. It’s hard! For us, that works.

What do you think of Laura and Wes’ love connection? What do you think of the latest developments for GH’s Carly and Henrik? Comment below.

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Interviews

EXCLUSIVE: 45th Annual Daytime Emmys Winners & Backstage Video Interviews!

Photo : MF Soaps Inc

The 45th Annual Daytime Emmys are in the record books.  And as previously reported, it was a big night for NBC’s Days of our Lives taking Outstanding Drama Series, Writing and Directing in a Drama Series Awards, plus top acting nods to James Reynolds (Abe) and Greg Vaughan (Eric).

Behind the scenes while the ceremony continued on-stage, and as the night’s big winners and several presenters were whisked away backstage following their victory, they took to the Winner’s Walk and chatted with Michael Fairman who got their reactions to winning the gold, or presenting important moments of the night during the live-stream broadcast.

From DAYS Deidre Hall (Marlena), Dr. Oz, The Ladies of The Talk, and GH’Chris Van Etten to DAYS head scribe Ron Carlivati, to Y&R’s actress winners: Eileen Davidson (Ashley) and Camryn Grimes (Mariah), and GH’s Chloe Lanier (Nelle, Vernee Watson (Stella) and more now you can watch the complete backstage series of conversations on The Michael Fairman Channel on You Tube.  Make sure to “subscribe” for these and more celebrity interviews.

After the jump, check out some of the winners and backstage interviews with Michael.  You can also go directly to the video you are looking to view, by clicking on the blue hyperlink on the interviewees name. (more…)

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Video du Jour

This week, Nick lost temporary custody of Christian leading to a defiant and emotional turn by Joshua Morrow (Nick) as he has to say farewell to the little boy he has come to love as his own son, and give him to his father, Victor, who wanted and was granted custody of the child. Watch the hankie-inducing moment! Leave A Comment

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Jason Thompson as Billy

The Young and the Restless

Airdate: 6-21/22-2018

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