I recently visited the new L.A. based studios and set of All My Children. After all the hoopla and 40th Anniversary celebrations, the folks of Pine Valley opened their doors to show off their very impressive new soundstages. I was fortunate enough to be invited and to have the opportunity to catch up with some of the veterans and newbie’s from the cast. During the afternoon, I was going back and forth between filming video interviews with Susan Lucci (Erica), Cameron Mathison and Rebecca Budig, (Ryan and Greenlee), Julia Barr (Brooke), Jacob Young (JR) and Melissa Claire Egan, (Annie), Vincent Irizarry and Jamie Luner, (David and Liza) and Ricky Paull Goldin (Jake) and Chrishell Stause, (Amanda) to some off-camera time with other cast members.
You can see all of the above mentioned clips in our special All My Children On-Set Video package in the Video Interviews section in the Media Gallery. I don’t want to spoil the content, but Susan and I chatted about Bianca’s coming out storyline as being one of Erica’s greatest stories that Susan was so honored be a part of. Julia Barr gave her heartfelt sentiments on the upcoming retirement of David Canary (Adam) and Cameron and Rebecca joked with me and detailed Rebecca’s hair mishap which led to Greenlee’s new hair color, and what’s next for this on-screen star-crossed duo. One of the biggest thrills of the day for me was getting to interview one of only three performers I have yet to interview in my soap career and that was Chrishell. Ricky Paull Goldin and I go way back, and since we always have fun repartee’, I knew it would be a great when the three of us sat down on a AMC bedroom set ( guess whose?) for a sit-down video interview that I think Jake and Amanda fans will get a kick out of.
Later, Adam Mayfield (Scott) and I chatted for a moment. I could not help but notice that on-screen his alter-ego Scott is teetering to the bad boy side. Adam told me his own take on the developments. “He is getting there. I say this a lot, but he thinks he feels all the things everyone else in Pine Valley wants and does. He is teetering closer to the dark edge everyday.” Then I had to know, has Adam seen a difference in the scripts now that there had been a head writing change at the top? “I have noticed a difference in scripts. They are more character based. I certainly never had an issue with plots in the past. But, in the past they were not conducive with what an already established character would do in those circumstances, and we are seeing more of that now without losing any integrity of the characters.” Being one of soap’s newest soap hunks, I had to ask Adam, does he wear that title proudly? “Oh, Soap Hunk… I have no issue with that whatsoever. Are you kidding me? To be included in the Soap Hunk category is nothing to be ashamed of. ” (Laughs)
NACCP Image Award winner for Outstanding Actor in a Daytime Drama Series, Cornelius Smith Jr. (Frankie) and I met for the first time, and I had to address that Frankie (a surgeon) keeps messing up his bum hand. In fact, in a recent episode Frankie gets so mad he smashes his own hand in a rage. Stupid, if you ask me. But Cornelius actually hurt himself! “I did my bruise my hand slightly, and yes, he keeps hurting this hand, and I think Frankie’s over it!” Frankie has gotten himself smack dab in the middle of some hot medical drama, caused by him trying to do the right thing for his parents, Angie and Jesse. Smith details, “He gets in trouble because he gives his parents time off and he is holding down the fort in the hospital, and in the process he is given a note that a patient needs surgery. So he decides not to relay that message to Angie, and the patient passed away. Frankie has a hard time losing a life. He is constantly saving lives at the hospital and in Iraq, and when he loses one it’s very heavy on him. When he lost a life the way this went down, (when he could have just made a phone call), it’s very hard for him. At this point he wants to take responsibility for his action and he can’t do that. That can be troublesome. (Laughs) But, Frankie is trying to make peace with new events and mistakes he makes. What has been interesting is seeing how Frankie deals with this mistake and with his mother, Dr. Angie.”
Stephanie Gatschet (Madison) and I, along with Brittany Allen (Marissa) caught up off the soundstages to discuss Madison’s emotional make-up. So far, Stephanie’s alter-ego started off as an evil bitch, and then we see her being abused by her father and she becomes a victim of abuse. So now, where does this leave her? Gatschet previewed, “There was an abrupt switch from being an evil wench to a victim of abuse, and certainly there was a change in the writing, because they wanted people to care so I could stick around. Things I have read in the scripts that are coming up show me that things are going to re-surface in Madison and be addressed finally. I don’t know how much of that has to do with our new writing regime that cares about the history of the show, or keeping the line of continuity. There is a softening of her, but some of her vices are not necessarily done with.” Very juicy, I say. Having not had the chance to catch-up with Stephanie for many years, (since before she was in Pine Valley, she was turning heads in Springfield on Guiding Light, as Tammy) I had to take this opportunity to tell Stephanie, that her dying scenes with Jonathan (Tom Pelphrey) were some of the best in the history of soaps. So, what was it like having Pelphrey jump on the bed and scream and cry why she had to lay still? It was a five hankie moment for fans of the couple. “It was heartbreaking and it was gripping. It was some of the best episodes I had been a part of. I was trying not to cry and not sob with him, because I was supposed to be dead. Knowing it was the last moments of a character you played for five years was tough, and also knowing you can’t breathe.” (Laughs)
What’s a girl look like out of her uniform? Hot! That’s what I have to say about Shannon Kane (Natalia), who got to let her hair down during this press day. We joked that she is always seen as a cop in uniform. “Those man pants? Stay tuned. I will be in a dress shortly. I think the people upstairs are sick of seeing me in those pants. I am working on a new storyline and in the near future I will get a love interest.” Getting to work with Daytime Emmy and NAACP Award winning actress, Debbi Morgan (Angie) has been an experience of a lifetime for Shannon. She has treasured her time with the soap superstar and all the while getting some tips from a show biz veteran. “The best advice I have been given was off camera by Debbi. Mainly, what are the best ways and angles to get out there in the entertainment industry. Growing up as a black woman coming up through the entertainment industry, she has a lot of good advice to offer me.” Shannon had the distinction of working in story with JR Martinez (Brot), the real life Iraqi vet the show cast last year. She says it has had its challenges. “Working with him was a challenge because JR Martinez does not come from an acting background, but watching his progression has been amazing. Every single day he is open to learn. I would not have had it any other way. Now I would love to be promoted to detective, and then I could wear a coat instead of those man pants! (Laughs)”
Daytime Emmy winner, and Pine Valley’s dastardly doctor, Vincent Irizarry (David) and I got a few minutes of alone time to chit chat. Vincent told me the skinny on the new digs. “The soundstages are great… so much more space, but the dressing rooms are smaller. I decorated mine nicely, so I made it comfortable and warm… that is the best you can do with it when you are in there, and you are in there more than you are home!” Playing David Hayward (who is a major catalyst to stories on AMC), the actor has been extraordinarily busy. “At the end of the day, I am exhausted, and usually I have to look at my scripts for the next day, and even work through the weekends. Not much time to rest. I was working like crazy in New York with David, too. Some website did a listing of soap actors called “Screen Hogs” of who worked the most episodes. I was number seven for all of daytime!” I had to tell Vincent that he now has the dubious distinction of being in the last position in the AMC opening title sequence, and that honor previously went to Eden Riegel. “I actually had no idea. I probably bumped her off in an unscrupulous manner, and did not know I even did it.” (Laughs). I commended Vincent’s recent scenes with La Lucci where Dr. David was tied up to a chair and emotionally tormented by Erica Kane. He enjoyed it, too! “Erica was playing him. David needed to be there for a few days for him to be worn down enough for his guard to be down. I thought the scenes played really well. I laughed when I saw the air show the other day when Nurse Gail came in and I had to laugh, when he was double-crossed going, “You bitch”. I love working with Susan. We have such a nice dynamic with each other and its fun to do stuff with her. Those scenes we worked really hard on, and we walked away really proud.”
So what’s next for David? Any redemption? Irizarry previews, “I don’t think he will be beyond evil. There are times you do care about David, and during the scenes with Erica something came out about his desire to be loved and to have a loving relationship with somebody. He has come to a realization that he is not going to have a great love. He is going to be with someone who tolerates him, or understands him. He is an extremely damaged individual. David has suffered so much as a child and it irrevocably scarred him, and that makes sense for him.” My mind swirling I thought, “Can we have a redux of David spiking punch on a yacht and giving the whole town of Pine Valley a cocktail laced with L.A. Libidozone? I loved that the first time.” Vincent chimed in, “Maybe his final act would be to give everyone the gift of Libidozone… that was fun stuff!”
In the end it was my dear colleague Bobbie Eakes, who wrapped up the day with a perfect bow on it. I have spent many years on and off conducting interviews with her from her days as Macy on B&B through to AMC. It is great to have her home in sunny Los Angeles. Bobbie does like the new digs! “I think some of the sets are bigger. I love it and I think it looks different. And now we are taping in Hi-Definition!” I knew Bobbie had to get a pre-nomination for the Daytime Emmys after those drugged out scenes from 2009 and we had a discussion on the A+ material and performance. “I remember talking about the pill popping scenes to my husband, David. Last year for the first five months, I had some of the best scenes of my career… I mean in 20 years. I don’t want to get my hopes up, but if I do get a final nomination I have stuff from last year that I am really proud of, but you can’t take it to heart… you really can’t.” But is there story coming for Krystal? And, is the writing getting better? “I was talking to Julia Barr this morning and it seems like this is really coming together. The writing is making sense now and the characters have real reasons to be motivated for the things that they are doing. As for Krystal’s future, I have heard two things. Liza is going to be causing me some trouble, and I heard Krystal may be getting a new job somewhere in Pine Valley! I don’t know if the two things are part of the same story or not, but things are cooking.” I think Krystal needs a man of her own in a romantic story, but Bobbie differed, “I don’t know if there is going to be a man, and that is fine. I don’t need a man to validate me or Krystal! (Laughs).
With All My Children settling into Los Angeles and their new home, the show already had made vast improvements in story, in its look and feel, and a renewed dedication and spirit from the creative team and its actors. Pine Valley is a great place to visit, just outside of The Greater Los Angeles Metropolitan area!