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The Stephen Nichols Interview – The Young and the Restless

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This week, daytime fans get one of their wishes, to see Stephen Nichols back on daytime. After being let-go by Days of our Lives almost a year ago, the talented and popular actor finally debuts on The Young and the Restless, Wednesday, in the role of Tucker McCall — the billionaire mogul revealed last week to be the son of the grand dame of Genoa City, Katherine Chancellor. Not only did Tucker reveal he is the son Katherine gave away, but that piece by piece he dismantled her beloved company and took it for himself! Poor Katherine is still reeling that the child she gave away was not a little girl (as she had thought) but a little boy! Let the fireworks begin! Nichols could not be coming into the role at a more exciting time.

The back-story, as had been reported…Y&R had decided to make a change in the direction of Tucker McCall after casting veteran actor William Russ in the role. After watching Russ on-screen, the powers-that-be thought it best to make a switch sooner than later, and with a phone call to soap vet Stephen Nichols, the show felt they found what they were looking for.

From his role as Stefan on GH to Patch on DAYS, you know that Stephen Nichols is going to play Tucker for all he is worth, and then some. In this exclusive online interview, Nichols talks about his first airdate, working with the legendary Jeanne Cooper, the state of the genre, and being a soap recast for the first time in his career, and finding professional happiness on the set of the number one soap!

Listen to the audio: The Stephen Nichols Interview

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MICHAEL:

How long have you been taping at Y&R as Tucker?

STEPHEN:

I started right before the holidays and it was such a nice Christmas gift.

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MICHAEL:

Your fans and I were so upset to see you let-go as the beloved Patch on DAYS….

STEPHEN:

…You weren’t the only one.

MICHAEL:

So you received a call from Maria Arena Bell (Y&R head writer and co-executive producer), saying that they would like you to take over the pivotal role of Tucker. You must have been beyond excited when you heard that?

STEPHEN:

Yes, I was happy, excited, and terrified all at the same time.

MICHAEL:

What makes this role so unique? Maria had stated that it’s so integral to the show. Did you know the set-up of the character enough before you came in here to start taping?

Yes, they described what the role would be. I think what makes it exciting is that I am connected to so much history on the show. I am the son of the matriarch on the show. And that is very exciting, number one, because it’s always good to start on a new show with a rich history, and you are not some guy from out of nowhere. It’s so great to have ties to the show and to the history of that show. The most exciting part is working with Jeanne Cooper (Katherine). She is amazing!

MICHAEL:

So, when you first premiere this Wednesday, should we grab our popcorn and sit back and enjoy a Katherine and Tucker smackdown?

STEPHEN:

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I don’t want it to be anti-climatic if things don’t work out when you are watching it. (Laughs) But I have to tell you, the first time I worked with her it was as if I had been working with her for 20 years, and Jeanne felt the same way. We had this connection, and you get that feeling once in a while, especially in daytime where it’s a daily grind and you are doing so much material. It’s rare that you have this feeling with another actor, and I had it immediately with her. On my first airdate, something happens in the realm of business between her and me. But once that is revealed we are left alone in the room, and Katherine says something to me that really hit home. So those are the first scenes we have together alone, and they are pretty exciting.

MICHAEL:

You knew of each other’s work?

STEPHEN:

I had seen Jeanne’s work over the years, and I think there is a secret that a lot of soap opera actors keep, and that is we watch each other’s work. There is a television in your dressing room. So if you are on a soap, and you have a TV in your dressing room, and you have some downtime and it’s around noon, you flip around and there you see Y&R or GH, or one of the other shows, and you watch. I am interested in seeing the work of other actors in daytime, and what the stories are, and if the writing is good and what the production values are. I have tuned in several times to Y&R, and every time I have seen Jeanne Cooper on the show, she has been amazing.

MICHAEL:

Y&R’s co-executive producers, Maria Arena Bell and Paul Rauch and I, spoke about you in an upcoming interview. They had said you bring so many complexities, a strength, sexuality, and drama to this character. Is that what we are going to see with your Tucker?

STEPHEN:

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Oh, sexuality. Did they say that? (Laughs) I am an intuitive actor. I don’t know a thing about big business, for example. Now, I have started in the morning reading the business section of the New York Times. I only used to peruse it. But now I read it cover to cover, because I don’t have a head for business. So, I have to trust the writers that they are going to give me good dialog. I see it and I go, “OK, now that sounds pretty good, but I have to understand it.” If I don’t understand it then it’s not going to come off on screen.

MICHAEL:

Are there tricky words used in your corporate scenes like, “Takeover”? (Laughs)

STEPHEN:

Oh, “Takeover” is a very tricky one, (Laughs) and “Dominant Market Share!” There is a lot of stuff I don’t have a clue about, that’s just not my thing, but the writing is very good and they make me look good and sound good.

MICHAEL:

So we can safely assume that the conflict and confrontations between Katherine Chancellor and her son, Tucker, will continue? He is out for revenge on his mother!

STEPHEN:

Yes, he is out for revenge on his mother. I mean any kid that was put in an orphanage at birth, and whose mother put him there and never looked back, would feel resentful of that. So yeah, I am going to get her.

MICHAEL:

You also get the opportunity to work with the rest of the Chancellor clan. There are so many wonderful actors for you to play with.

STEPHEN:

That is the other thing that is unique to this situation. In fact, Maria said this when I was speaking with her one time, “You know this character will be dropped right in the center of all the main characters on the show.” And I thought, “Wow! What a prospect.” It’s been amazing. I have already worked with Eric Braeden (Victor).

MICHAEL:

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How was working with Mr. Braeden, as the powerful Victor Newman? I hear things are going to get very tense between the moguls!

STEPHEN:

My first day, we hit it off great. We had some great scenes. There was a lot electricity and a lot going on. I so appreciate that, because when you prepare yourself at home and then you come into the studio, you don’t really know what’s going to happen until you get on the set and start doing the scenes with the other actors. When you get that tennis match going and people are really going and hitting the ball to you, and you have to hit it back… that is exciting! I can tell you that is what happened with Eric and that is what happened with Peter Bergman (Jack), and all the young guys I have been working with; Daniel Goddard (Cane) and Michael Muhney (Adam), and especially Jess Walton (Jill). She is amazing! We had a couple of scenes last week where right afterwards I said, “Oh, My God. It’s just amazing working with you!”

MICHAEL:

Now that Jill realized Tucker stuck it to Katherine, do you think the romance between Jill and Tucker is still going to move forward?

STEPHEN:

Well, it’s under the surface, because they had a real hot sexual relationship, and unfortunately, William Russ got to play more of that than I did. So I am looking forward to some of that for me!

MICHAEL:

Is Tucker a ‘playa’?

STEPHEN:

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Oh yes, Tucker is a player. I can give you a little tidbit. One night, Tucker gets a knock at the door and it’s Jill, and he was not expecting her. Tucker is trying to get rid of her the whole time she is standing there, and at the end of the scene, once he finally gets her out of the door, a 20-something year old comes out of his bedroom. I say, “I am sorry this took so long.” And she says, “Less talk and more action, baby.” And I say, “Oh well, I like the sound of that.” And then we get to it…. and so… he is a ‘playa’! (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

Tucker must be torn up inside with huge abandonment issues?

STEPHEN:

He has all that stuff, but he has found a way to create a very strong armor. He doesn’t let it break very often. He does not let anyone see his true feelings, and I think the reason he is such a player is, and it’s my take on it now, is that it’s for that very reason. He does not want to get close to anyone. He does not want to get hurt.

MICHAEL:

So as a recast, how is this going to be handled on-air? Will they make a voice-over announcement, “The part of Tucker McCall will be played by soap superstar, Stephen Nichols?” Or, are they going to have your name on screen under your entrance in typical soap replacement fashion?

STEPHEN:

There is that weirdly embarrassing thing. (Laughs) In fact, I walk out of my bedroom in a robe, and Jill is already out of bed looking out the window. I walk out to see her, and as I am walking out to see her, the director asked me to stop and take a pause at the door before I continued, and that is where they put a chyron emblazed across my robe or my chest, “I am Stephen Nichols and I am playing the part of Tucker McCall.” (Laughs) It’s embarrassing, but fun. It never happened to me before.

MICHAEL:

Is it true what I read previously, that William Russ sent you a note on your first day?

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STEPHEN:

Yes he did. On my first day in my dressing room, on top of my television, was a little piece of paper or a piece of a script, and he had written a note on the back of it and it said, “Good luck with the role, Stephen…William Russ.” It was very nice.

MICHAEL:

How is it at Y&R, compared to your time at GH and DAYS?

STEPHEN:

Things have changed so much in this medium from the time I was at GH, which was from 1996-2003. We were not working quite as fast as we are now. There was a time where it was block and tape and almost no rehearsal. Now, there is virtually no rehearsal. You are lucky if you even get a blocking session, but you get used to it. People say, “Well, how do you learn all those lines?” You just do what you have to do to learn the lines. For some people it’s easier and for some people it’s difficult, but whatever your level is, you do what it takes, because if you don’t, you can’t do the job. It’s the same thing with block and tape. If you can’t do that, then you can’t do the job. You have to find a way where you can do it.

MICHAEL:

How has it been working with Paul Rauch?

STEPHEN:

I worked with Paul on Santa Barbara. I was on the soap for the last three months of its run. We had a good time. Everybody had a good time. First of all, it was a great show with great actors, and really the highest production values of any soap ever on the air, because New World had a hell of a lot of money. We all knew at that point we were going off the air, so everyone was having a good ole’ time. Paul was a lot of fun, and here at Y&R, so far, we have a really good relationship. The thing about Paul is he has really good taste. You can tell by the way he dresses… the man’s got taste. When he gives a note, he knows exactly what he is saying. Paul is very specific and he does not do it very often, and that is a sign of a good producer. He really allows people to breathe and to be creative and to let the thing happen. If it is not quite right, he will get out there and say, “This is the note.” I mean, I have only been here at Y&R a short time, but the notes to me have made perfect sense. He is hands-on, and his eyes are always watching what is going on.

MICHAEL:

You have seen the best and the worst of the genre; budget cuts, stars being dismissed, and cancellations. Are you concerned about what is happening now?

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STEPHEN:

You know, you’ve got to roll with the punches. This is life and that is what life is about, and it’s also about change. Anyone who thinks just because they have a job today, they will have a job tomorrow…. this past year is evidence for me to the contrary. It would be a shame to see daytime go away completely, because it is such a part of American culture, and we have so many die-hard fans. How many shows can say they have an audience for 35 or 40 years? No shows except daytime shows, perhaps some of the game shows. So, it’s important to remember that soaps are part of American culture. If television executives are smart, they will find a way to continue to make daytime thrive.

MICHAEL:

Do you see Tucker as a true villain?

STEPHEN:

No. I don’t believe there is such a thing, unless it’s a cartoon. You said something about humanity before and everyone has humanity, and you aren’t human if you don’t feel things, and at some point it’s going to show. I do enjoy playing villains, but I enjoy playing complex characters more. People have so many different facets to them. These writers are very good. The thing I love about the scripts here is; there is always extra stuff between the lines about character motivation, and you don’t see that very often. I saw it the first year and half I was at GH. The ones who wrote really good dialog, like Patrick Mulcahey, that is always very helpful. So I am not in the dark. I don’t have to call up and say, “What do you mean by this or that?”

MICHAEL:

Did anyone show you around your first day?

STEPHEN:

Jess Walton took me around. She introduced me to everybody and the crew, and every single person I met here including all the actors have been so warm, and even the B&B people I see across the hall! Don Diamont (Bill, B&B) said, “Welcome to the building!” and John McCook (Eric) and Ronn Moss, (Ridge). You see these guys at all the soap events over the years, and I don’t know them well, but to have them come up to me and be so sweet made me feel warm and comfortable. I really appreciated it.

©Nancy Lee Grahn.com

MICHAEL:

You took part two weekends ago at a Haitian Relief fundraising effort that your former cast mate Nancy Lee Grahn (Alexis, GH) organized. What are your thoughts on the disaster in Haiti and what we should all being doing to help?

STEPHEN:

The Red Cross has raised something like a hundred and seventy some million dollars for Haitian Relief, mostly from this country, and that is fantastic! I think people are finally getting the message that we live in a global community with the internet and this quick connection to everybody and the sharing of information. We know what is going on in every corner of the world. We cannot close our eyes anymore and live in our little house bubble. We have to be proactive throughout the world and if someone else is in trouble, we have to do something about it.

MICHAEL:

So did Nancy just call and say…

STEPHEN:

…. Nancy called me the night before and said, “Hey it’s tomorrow at 3PM, can you do it?” My day was booked and I did not know if I could do it, but I got done what I needed to, and I got over to the Rose Bowl quick. There were a lot of young DAYS actors there, who I did not know. (Laughs) There were some GH people there, too, and some folks I knew from other shows. We stood there and collected money as people drove up and put their checks in the box. I think we raised that day something like $100,000.

MICHAEL:

So what can we expect from Tucker McCall, the Stephen Nichols version?

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STEPHEN:

He will be very, very cool, and he will be full of a lot of fire and a lot of surprises.

MICHAEL:

And finally, your avid fan base that has followed you through all of the twists and turns of your soap career must have been overjoyed to hear about your new role!

STEPHEN:

They are excited. I have been almost off DAYS a year. In February it will be a year, and they were getting really tired of not hearing from me. And, they did not see me, so I would do a couple of online chats and we would get together that way. The last chat was right before I got this gig, and I could not tell them. I had to keep it a secret. So I said, “Don’t worry. I bet something is coming down the pike. There will be some really excited news. I can just feel it.” (Laughs) They are very happy and I am happy to be back.

MICHAEL:

You were told by Y&R not to say anything to anyone?

STEPHEN:

I was not sure if I could tell my own mother! So I said to Y&R publicity, “My mother won’t tell anybody. Can I call her and tell her?” They said, “Yes, you can tell your mother.” My mother needed some good news at this point. She lives in Ohio and my grandmother just celebrated her 105th birthday. I want to say, “Happy Birthday, Maddie!”

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MICHAEL:

Does your mom watch your work?

STEPHEN:

Oh, absolutely. She is very proud.

MICHAEL:

Does she call you up and go, “Why are you kissing that woman?”

STEPHEN:

Once in awhile she will say something like that, especially if I have a love scene. She will usually say, “You are too thin!” (Laughs)

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mary
Guest
mary

I am so looking forward to seeing Stephen on Y & R. He is just the breath of fresh air the show needed. I loved him as Patch and I am sure he will be great as Tucker.

Kimbalee
Guest
Kimbalee

What a great interview! I am sure Stephen will be great on Y & R. I hope he stays for many years.

Doe
Guest
Doe

Michael, that is a very intersting interview with Stephen.I’ve always liked him as Patch on Days, but didn’t know too much about him. So, this interview gave me a good look at his personality. I already know about his good looks. It will be be great to see his take on Tucker and what he will be bringing to this role. I am hoping for some good fights between he and Victor and Jeanne….

cindy
Guest
cindy

Loved the interview.. I’ve been a fan since the early days.. and still love to rewatch the Patchman going after Bo and Hope.. Followed him to all the shows, and love meeting all the other fans. The role of Tucker is great, and I’m so happy to hear that Mr. Nichols is happy there. Have the recorders all ready.. I can’t wait to edit out the tucker scenes and be able to rewatch the MAN in action again.

Sherry
Guest
Sherry

Thanks for the interview Michael. Stephen will bring so much to the role of Tucker. With Stephen in the role I know we will see so many more layers to this character and the sexiness will be off the scale. I’m counting down the hours until his first show airs.

Nad
Guest
Nad

Great interview, and it’s SO great to have Stephen coming back to daytime. He’s gonna ROCK the Tucker character! Good luck Stephen! You know we love ya.

Susan Nash
Guest
Susan Nash

I have never seen Stephen Nichols in any other soaps, but am looking forward to seeing him as Tucker. William Russ did a good job, but Stephen Nichols character of Tucker McCall, I feel will be more of an equal to Victor Newman. His interview gave me an idea of what he will bring to the role as an actor. What a class act! I am looking forward to his scenes.

Sandra
Guest
Sandra

Thank you for this wonderful interview.

Stephen is such a terrific guy and an amazing actor. I’m thrilled that he’s back on TV again, even if it means I have to learn a whole new soap opera, LOL. I’ve no doubt it will be worth it.

Dawn
Guest
Dawn

I’ve been a huge fan of Stephen Nichols since I first saw him as Steve Johnson on Days back in the 1980’s. I was so happy to find out that he was going to be the new Tucker McCall. I’m happy that he has found a place where he can be happy with the way they are running the show. Congratulations to Mr. Nichols he deserves all the success.

Sherry S.
Guest
Sherry S.

This is the perfect venue for Stephen Nichols! I’m thrilled he’s on the top rated soap! Loved the interview!

Linda P
Guest
Linda P

Thank you for the interview. Stephen Nichols appearing on Y and R will make 2010 a terrific year to watch daytime TV. SO LOOKING FORWARD to his talents again showing up for everyone’s enjoyment.

Diane
Guest
Diane

While I loved Russ in this role initially, I knew once I heard the character was changing from the original concept, that Steve was the one to play him.I have loved him since his days on DAYS and was a huge fan when he was on GH as well. Looking forward to a wild and crazy ride from this man on Y &R and I can’t wait for him to lock horns with old Vic! (Victor Newman!) Welcome and good luck.

Donna
Guest
Donna

i have been a fan of Stephen Nichols forever. i remember the first time i saw him on Days and was hooked. i am so happy to know that he is back on screen. i know he will rock as Tucker. Stephen is a great guy and is very good to his fans. the interview was great. you asked some very good questions.

Rich
Guest
Rich

I can’t wait to see Nichols in the role, not only because he’s a strong actor, but because William Russ was such a failure. There was nothing threatening, edgy, or mysterious about Russ’ Tucker — nothing. Scenes that should have been exciting weren’t, he had no chemistry with Jess Walton, and I never believed him as a business exec with an agenda. Knowing Nichols’ past work, all this will change immediately. Maybe William Russ is a nice guy, but that nice guy came through much too much — and the guy badly needed a haircut. Talk about a hair model.… Read more »

JT
Guest
JT

Im absolutely watching Tucker for Stephen. In fact Im watching Y&R for Stephen and Tucker.

I hope Tucker gets a long run and remains on Y&R and I hope they develop Tucker’s history and delve into what the abandonment did and led to.

Jill
Guest
Jill

Loved the interview and was excited to see Stephen back on screen!!!! I saw how William Russ was playing the character and it needed the change to really fine tune the storyline…..I just didn’t quite feel it with him. The nasty was there but it was MAJOR understated and it needed to be pushed a bit more.

I’m definitely a “McCall Girl”!!!

Can’t wait for more tucker against Jack and Victor!

Norman Thomason
Guest
Norman Thomason

I liked the other Tucker and I got used to seeing his face and I didn’t like the change in him. The other guy is not like the other Tucker and I wish you could change him back. This other guy in not as cool as Tucker.

s wainwright
Guest
s wainwright

No offence to the new guy playing Tucker McCall but I like the old one better and think he should have stayed. He justhad the “Tucker McCall” look.

Darcy
Guest
Darcy

Nicely done Interview I really laughed at his mom commenting on his work.. I have to say I did like Russ’s Tucker McCall and will have to get use to Nichols portraying him. The character may be in for a changeover but I hope that the laid back every day kind of guy billionnaire persona that Russ portrayed so well doesn’t entirely disappear. I’ve watched Nichols work over the years so I’m familiar with him especially as I am a huge Stefan Cassadine fan…and DOL Patch fan. But I will miss William Russ. I don’t like when they do these… Read more »

carol
Guest
carol

love him please keep him on for a long long time the best to come along in ages

Barbara
Guest
Barbara

I am so glad to see Steve here at Y &R. I loved him on Days and I believe he will do great as Tucker McCall. Glad to have him back on daytime, he was missed/

Megan
Guest
Megan

Awesome interview Michael! Thanks so much. I am really excited about finally getting Stephen back on my screen on the #1 rated soap. It would be a dream come true if Mary Beth Evans would show up in Genoa City as well. I would love to see what Hogan could write for them as two totally new characters since he was never really given that chance on Days.

carol
Guest
carol

i hope they keep him on forever

Charles A Moreland
Guest
Charles A Moreland

I think that he will fill the role great and do a good job acting

Shell
Guest
Shell

i am so thrilled to see him again on a soap, i have had a major crush on him for years (since kayla and patch days) must add y&r to my daily routine!

gloria
Guest
gloria

I stopped in at my sister’s, and she had Y&R on (mute) Then I saw Stephen!! Well, I guess I am an Y&R fan now. I watched him on Days –early days, Santa Barbara, General Hospital,and then Days again. Blissful days are here again!

Amber
Guest
Amber

I never saw SN till YR. I like him much better as Tucker. I gave the other guy a chance but still never liked him. What a great debut scene for SN….you’re fired! I only wish he had started in the role. Really enjoyed the interview. Wonderful job both of you. I would like to see this Tucker around for a long time.

pat
Guest
pat

Big fan of Y&R! Tucker has grown on me. He is a good actor. Sure not missing the one he replaced. Never watched Days of Our Lives or General Hospital. Just Y&R faithfully.

kathymiller
Guest
kathymiller

i am a huge fan of stephen nichols and i wish he could be back on days playing steve(PATCH) with kayla he is a excellent actor and i wish that the producers of days could find a part for stephen nichols to remain on the show with kayla. your sincere fan kathy miller

Days Of Our Lives

Watch the Replay: GH, DAYS, Y&R, B&B & OLTL Stars at Michael Fairman’s Virtual Birthday Party for SAG-AFTRA Foundation Covid-19 Relief Fund

Earlier this week on Monday night, several of the stars of General Hospital, Days of our Lives, The Young and the Restless, The Bold and the Beautiful, and One Life to Live, took part in a virtual livestream “party” for Michael Fairman’s 60th birthday.

The event was held virtually to help performers in need who have been deeply affected by the Covid-19 pandemic by letting viewers know where to make a donation to the SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s Covid-19 Relief Fund.

Photo: ABC, NBC, CBS

Participating throughout the 90 minute livestream were: The Young and the Restless, Jason Thompson, Sharon Case, and Christian LeBlanc, General Hospital’s Maurice Benard, Laura Wright, Wes Ramsey, and Chloe Lanier, The Bold and the Beautiful’s Katherine Kelly Lang, Days of our Lives’ Rob Scott Wilson, Eric Martsolf, Galen Gering, Arianne Zucker, Shawn Christian, Santa Barbara favorite, A Martinez, One Life to Live’s Kristen Alderson and Eddie Alderson, and Studio City’s Sean Kanan.

You can catch the replay of the birthday benefit event below or on The Michael Fairman Channel on You Tube.

Throughout the evening, the actors shared stories of how they got their SAG card, played a game of Michael’s trivia, and revealed stories about themselves and other “party” guests in a wonderful display of community and camaraderie at all went down live!

Since March of 2o2o, the SAG-AFTRA Foundation has given out more than $6.2 million in emergency aid to over 6,500 SAG-AFTRA performers and their families facing hardship and uncertainty during this pandemic. Thousands of SAG-AFTRA artists have found themselves in dire need of assistance to help pay their rent, buy groceries, cover health care premiums and other bills.  You can still make a donation of any dollar amount to the SAG-AFTRA Foundation Covid-19 relief fund here. https://members.sagfoundation.org/donate 

Now, check it out below, and let us know if you enjoyed the virtual birthday party livestream via the comment section.

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General Hospital

GH Co-Head Writers Chris Van Etten and Dan O’ Connor Interview – “Soapmakers of the Year” Honors 2020

In a year which saw production of your favorite soaps shutdown for several months due to the coronavirus pandemic, everyone in daytime had to pivot.  As original episodes aired, they eventually ran out, giving way to rebroadcasts, while the audience eagerly awaited the return of the current stories.

At General Hospital, once production resumed over the summer, head writers, Chris Van Etten and Dan O’ Connor had teed-up: surprising homecomings (Dante, Britt) shocking twists and revelations, the conclusion of what will become an all-time soap classic, the Alzheimer’s storyline, dipping into the rich 57-year history of the iconic soap to tie story to the present (Laura, Cyrus, Martin), and crafting stories for its A-list cast which gave 2020 some of its finest on-screen moments.  GH became can’t-miss television again, coming back even stronger than its pre-pandemic self; which also kicked the year off in high-style with the reveal of Nikolas to his family, alive and well, and the long-awaited truth about baby Wiley.

Chris and Dan’s depiction of Mike’s heartbreaking battle with Alzheimer’s gave viewers many tears through its unrelenting and realistic storytelling, plus their commitment to air the standalone episode to honor the passing of the 19th amendment of the women’s right to vote in November.  Both were noteworthy, and illustrated what daytime can do best.

 

Each year, Michael Fairman TV gives our highest honor to a creative or creatives who most delivered to its audience and whose quality of work continues to keep us engaged, on the edge of our seats, or reaching for the hankies. That is why this year’s Soapmkers of the Year honor goes to GH scribes: Chris Van Etten and Dan O’Connor.  Shortly after receiving their acknowledgement, the duo spoke to us about some of the 2020 highlights in Port Charles, and how they work so well together to bring their stories to life.  Here’s what they shared.

Courtesy/ABC

First, and foremost, I want to commend you for the Alzheimer’s storyline  As I’ve shared publicly, my mother died of Alzheimer’s, and I have seen the progression of this disease and the effects it has on a family and loved ones, and the person afflicted with it.  You did a beautiful job of telling every beat of the story within the context of what you could do within a soap opera.  What can you tell me about crafting that and seeing it through to the end?  You never abandoned the story, which at times, can happen on daytime.

CHRISNo, we didn’t abandon it.  Soap operas have a power that I am sure we have acknowledged before, to allow audiences to really get to know characters in a deeper and more profound way than I think most other mediums do.  We get to see characters’ lives day in and day out.  For us to tell a story about Alzheimer’s, which is a disease that is devastating in so many ways, not the least of which is the fact that it can take years to develop and years to finally claim a life, we felt that among our audience, there had to be many people who had experienced this in an up-close and personal way.  So that to tell the story too expeditiously would really deny their experience and would take away from their appreciation of the show as a reflection of reality.  Of course, soap operas don’t do that in every sense on every episode, but when you’re telling a story about a disease that people experience every day, you have an obligation to reflect the real-world experience.  So, by bringing it to a close too fast and by doing it in a way that didn’t honor what at times is the horror of the disease, felt like it would be a cop-out.  We wanted to do our best within the constrictions of the medium to depict that; while at the same time, of course, not wanting to leave people so depressed as to not want to tune back in.  It was a really delicate dance.  We are very grateful to have had the support of the network and Frank Valentini’s (executive producer, GH) ingenious production team as well as a great repertory of actors who were willing and able to give their all to this story.

Courtesy/ABC

Maurice Benard (Sonny) did some of his finest work of his career in this story, and you gave him the ball to do it, and Max Gail (Mike) was amazing.  Two standout episodes included: when Mike passed and was taken to heaven by Courtney (Alicia Leigh Willis) and Mike’s funeral episode.  Did you realize when you were writing it, the impact it would have on the audience?

DANAs for the funeral, I’d say that we knew as we were writing it that not only did we want to give the characters and the audience a chance to say goodbye to Mike, but we also wanted to give the performers a chance to say a goodbye to their relationship with the actor, Max Gail as well.  Max is a fantastic, phenomenal actor, and he formed close relationships with many of our performers.  So, when we wrote the episode, yes, we did want to give the audience a chance to say goodbye to the character, but we also knew that because of the close relationships that these performers have made with each other that the actors were going to bring their all, and it was going to provide the audience with some powerhouse performances.

Did you get emotional seeing it? 

CHRIS:  Oh, personally, I cried.

Courtesy/ABC

I know you both love and appreciate the soap genre and understand that the audience often wants a good cry and is invested in these characters.  So because of that; what’s it like for you when you see these emotional moments play out that start in your mind, go to the page, then to the stage, and now are out in the world for people to see and experience?

CHRIS:  I can’t speak for any of the other writers, but I’m not crying when I’m writing it, but I’m crying when I see it realized and how the actors, and the producers, and the directors realize it.  I personally am always surprised by the nuance and the beats that they find that we, in our first draft kind-of-lifestyle that we have as soap opera writers; where we are writing six or seven episodes per week, we don’t have the time or the luxury to really sit with an episode and mine it for every single beat and every emotion. That’s why we have great directors and great actors who take these scripts and find these extra moments.  So, it is really gratifying to watch – yes, to see something that we’ve imagined be produced and personified, but then to see how the production then takes it in other directions, that’s the best.  I think that’s the most gratifying part of writing for a show, not seeing what you’ve written produced, but seeing how it was parented into life.  When you have a baby, I think you have all sorts of ideas about what the baby will be, and then the baby becomes something else as the result of its environment and of the people who are influencing and guiding it along and that may be a bit of a stretched metaphor, but it kind of feels relative.

As co-head writers of General Hospital, how do you work together to come up with long-term story?  What is your process?

DAN:  Chris and I will meet regularly and discuss the long-term stories that we are telling, and plan to tell, and maybe some adjustments that we have to make along the way.  We get to meet with our writers several days every week as we figure out the best way to tell that story in the form of however many episodes we write a week.  Chris and I also write episodes along with our great breakdown script team, and every week we figure out the best way to either stay on the path of the story we are intending to tell, or find new opportunities or new twists and turns we can take along the way.

Photo: ABC

Do you get into friendly, creative disagreements? Is one of you more protective of a certain character than the other? 

DAN:  Chris and I have known each other for close to 15 years at this point, and we are not just colleagues, we are also friends.  There is a certain amount of shorthand that we have with each other which is just invaluable in telling story.  What’s great is that we sometimes come at the story from different angles or we have a different point of view, much like any two fans of the show wouldn’t agree on necessarily everything, but in our discussions about the show’s needs, wants, and haves, and the story trajectory, we ultimately get somewhere better than where either of us could have come up with on our own.  At the same time, there are those moments where we both come to the same idea at the same moment, and that’s definitely when we go, “Okay, we’re onto something good.”

CHRIS:  I can add as a partial translation that I can get really snippy, and Dan has the patience of a saint.  So, often times, I need 24 hours to go away, and sleep on something, and wake up, and say, “Oh Dan, you were totally right about that.  I’m so sorry I was snippy the other day,” and he doesn’t seem to hold it against me.

Do you ever get a writer’s block; as has to happen often with scribes in the unrelenting medium of daytime drama, and if so, I would think having a writing partner would be an asset during those times?

DAN:  I think it’s the nature of the beast.  At a certain point, you might hit a roadblock somewhere, but that’s why having a partner is so valuable that there is somebody else that you can bounce ideas along with, and just as, if not more importantly, our team of writers are always there to sometimes give us even better ideas than what we would have come up with on our own.

Courtesy/ABC

This year you utilized and delved back into a lot of GH history.  How did the idea come about to bring back the character of Jackie Templeton and have former All My Children and NYPD Blue favorite, Kim Delaney, take on the role?

DAN:  Jackie Templeton is a character who has been an Easter egg on the show for many years now.  Whenever we needed to namedrop a famous journalist, she was always our go-to.  It always felt like the character was in the ether of Port Charles for awhile, and we were excited to bring this take-no-prisoners character back and explore her history with Robert (Tristan Rogers), and at the same time, we were finally teed up to tell the story of Finn’s (Michael Easton) falling out with his father and step-mother, and we realized we had a great opportunity to have the character serve both stories and collide with not just Anna (Finola Hughes) and Finn, but Robert as well. Those three played wonderfully with each other. When we heard that Kim Delaney was interested in playing with us, we were just over the moon.  .

Courtesy/ABC

You have also been delving back into Laura’s childhood past and her history. I love that you brought up the death of David Hamilton and her teenage years, which hasn’t been discussed for a very long time on the show while tying it into the present.

DAN:  We were always aware of the story just because we love General Hospital and we love the character of Laura, and there is nothing else like daytime drama, and one of the great things about it is that you can reach decades into the past and expand on stories and themes that the audience actually witnessed. Long reaching history is a tool in our toolbox that not many other series have.  Chris and I love honoring and using our characters’ histories to propel the show into the future with some serious momentum.

Photo: ABC

You created and brought the character of  Cyrus Renault (Jeff Kober) on to the canvas. Was it originally a case of, “We need an uber-villain to come and shake things up,” and then you decided to connect him to Laura?  It’s been an intriguing shocker for viewers.  Jeff is playing the multi-levels of Cyrus with great finesse, and whenever you give Genie something, the fans go nuts, and she, in turn, delivers every time.

CHRIS:  The story of Cyrus has a couple of phases to it.  We wanted to bring on a villain who would not only be an adversary to Sonny, but someone who we could use to really test Jordan (Briana Nicole Henry) and Curtis (Donnell Turner), and we knew going in that the first phase of this story would really hit the Corinthos family and also the Ashfords, and as we developed it, we thought about what the act two would be, and we knew that we had an opportunity to really engage Genie Francis and to expand her sphere and expand her footprint on the show, and by connecting her to Cyrus, who is not your typical face or presence for a soap, but is also not your typical person who I think Laura would encounter in her daily life.  So, we knew, as we really developed Cyrus as a villain, that for Laura to find out that this man is her brother, would really allow us to play with Laura in a different context and in a different light and really give Genie a new kind of challenge.

Speaking of Genie, what did you think when you watched back her performance in the episode where you wrote that Laura has to say goodbye to her comatose daughter, Lulu (Emme Rylan), before she was sent off the canvas to a long-term care facility?

CHRIS:  I mean to me, that’s vintage Laura.  I came to General Hospital personally in the late 80s to early 90s, so my experience of Laura really only begins with her, and Luke (Tony Geary), and Lucky (Jonathan Jackson) at the Triple L Diner.  I think that what we’ve gotten to see with Genie is really reflective of the high emotion that she is capable of delivering.  At the same time as the high emotion, you’re also seeing really small human moments that she really breathes a lot of life into.  I can speak for Dan and myself when we say that we are just really thrilled with what she has been able to bring to the screen.  Thrilled, but I guess not surprised.

Coutesy/ABC

Nelle (Chloe Lanier) was such a great interloper and threat throughout the year in story; whether it’s hatching plots to gain custody of baby Wiley, or her “death” scene and confrontations with Carly (Laura Wright).  However, through all of this, when was it decided to make Nina (Cynthia Watros), Nelle’s biological mother?

DAN:  There are very few things that are as exciting on a soap as a character that makes you wonder what they are going to do next, and Chloe and Nelle provided that role with just gusto.  The truth is, the idea that Nelle was Nina’s daughter has been a part of the conception of that character, and over the last few years, the story evolved, and we ultimately got to reveal the truth to the audience.

Courtesy/ABC

As writers, there has to be characters that are just so delicious and treacherous to write for that you have to get a kick out of it! Chloe Lanier is so good that she makes the audience want to slap Nelle when she takes the dialog and then brings it to the screen.  

CHRIS:  It is tremendous fun.  Yes, yes, we love writing for these characters who are willing to do and say anything to get what they want.  We are constrained when writing for characters who have morality.  It takes a moral character a lot of really difficult circumstances for them to make a decision that might go against the grain, but when you have a character like Nelle, who is not shackled by certain societal norms, then you really get to live out the worst impulses that a person could have, and it’s really fun, especially when you take a really great performer like Chloe and see her as Nelle unleash all of the poison that she’s capable of.  At the same time, she can turn on a dime and rip your heart out a little bit when she turns on the water works.

Photo :ABC

Ava Jerome’s (Maura West) story this year had her moving into a relationship with Nikolas (Marcus Coloma).  We, the audience, didn’t know how that was going to go – if they were just going to use each other, or ultimately fall in love.  Was that the plan all along … that they would develop deep feelings for each other, or did you want to see how it progressed and played out on-screen, and then make that determination?

CHRIS:  I think that once we saw the chemistry between the two actors, we knew we had gold. So, we wanted to take our time, especially the way that it was constructed.  These were two people who had little use for each other emotionally, and in fact, probably wanted to see one another’s downfall, and that’s what makes it so great to write – that these are people who, in a similar vein as Nelle, don’t live by the same rules as most of the rest of us, and therefore, they might do things to each other that the rest of us would not do to anyone let alone whether we like them or not.  That’s what makes Ava and Nikolas so delicious is that from one moment to the next, you don’t know if they’re going to hatch a plot against each other or fall into bed and ravish each other. That’s what I think we hope to continue to play as we go forward because they certainly have very strong, passionate feelings for one another.  When you’re talking about Ava and Nikolas, these are two people who do not have a lot of fans necessarily in Port Charles, and there are a lot of people who don’t necessarily want to see them achieve happily ever after.  Knowing that there was so much initial mistrust and suspicion between the two of them could really provide the foundation for their own undoing or their undoing from someone who does not want to see them happy.

Photo: ABC

Back in November, GH made good use of a standalone episode spotlighting the history of the women’s right to vote and the suffrage movement; just as the presidential election was happening.  What made you decide to write this special show, and how do you feel it turned out as it also spotlighted the female cast?

CHRIS:  We had long intended to honor the one hundred years of American women’s suffrage with a special episode to air on the anniversary of the 19th amendment’s passage, but we missed the date due to the pause in production.  We realized we had a second chance as the election neared.  Going forward was a no-brainer. The biggest challenge was in distilling such an epic story into one episode. We think ABC would do well to consider a spinoff: “Port Charles, 1920”

Courtesy/ABC

You have such a powerhouse cast to write for.  It’s loaded.  It’s got to be a challenge for you to construct the story for GH when you’ve got to front burner people and back burner people, and then you’ve got these huge daytime stars all in one show.

DAN:  It’s an embarrassment of riches to have a cast as talented as we do quite frankly.  We are fortunate enough that we know that we have these amazing performers that we can trust with whatever stories that we throw their way.

CHRIS:  I will say that we do have a great cast.  They’re all wonderful, and when you have a show that is only approximately 35 minutes of airtime on any day, it’s a real balancing act to make sure that everybody gets a story that really is worthy of their talents, and we’ve got one for everybody.  Sometimes it’s just a matter of which story takes precedence in which moment, which is why occasionally some characters aren’t featured on a daily basis, but you can bet your bottom dollar that they will be.  If you were to ask me, “Who are the standouts?”  I would say all of them.  You saw this year: Maurice Benard, Nancy Lee Grahn (Alexis), Maura West, Genie Francis, and Laura Wright (Carly) to name but just a few.  They’ve all done such fantastic work, and we can’t wait to give them more material to give them more moments to shine.

DAN:  A priority of ours is every week, we meet up and look (well, it’s virtual now during Covid-19) at the big board of our cast photos and we go through each character and always make sure that they have some story percolating even if it’s not on the air at the moment.

Photo: ABC

As we close out 2020, and look forward to 2021, any parting thoughts, and perhaps a tease of what GH fans can look forward to in the New Year?

CHRIS:  In general, I would just say that despite all of the challenges of the year, we are really grateful to our cast and the crew back in Los Angeles for realizing and improving the show that we imagined, and we are so excited for everything that is coming in 2021.  We hope to continue to throw a lot of surprises at the audience, and at the same time give them a lot of moments and stories of heart and love and excitement.

So, what did you think of the year in story on General Hospital in 2020? Share your thoughts on Chris and Dan’s comments and their year-end honors via the comment section below.

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Days Of Our Lives

DAYS Stephen Nichols and Lucas Adams Talk Salem Longevity, Tripp’s Predicament and Their Co-Stars

Days of our Lives stars Stephen Nichols (Steve “Patch” Johnson) and his on-screen son, Lucas Adams (Tripp Dalton) are in the middle of plenty of drama on the long-running NBC daytime drama, which recently celebrated its 55th anniversary in November and its 14,000 episode milestone in December.

In a new chat with Michael Fairman on the Michael Fairman Channel, Stephen reveals his surprise at still being with the iconic show. while Lucas talks about how his first run on DAYS came to an abrupt end, but now he is deep in-story involving Allie (Lindsay Arnold) and the brother he is yet-to-know he has, Charlie (Mike Manning), who is Allie’s actual rapist.

Both Stephen and Lucas discuss having the opportunity to work with Daytime Emmy winner Tamara Braun (Ava) again, as well as James Lastovic (Joey) in recently aired scenes. In story, Ava has returned back-from-the-dead and realizes she has major trouble brewing with her two sons, Tripp and Charlie.  How will it all play itself out?

 

Check out what Stephen and Lucas shared below.  Then, be on the lookout beginning this week, as Steve and John (Drake Hogestyn) work together to figure out who is responsible for Allie’s rape and just who is the biological father to her child, when it is not Tripp!

Share your thoughts on the sentiments shared by Stephen and Lucas in the interview via the comment section.

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