I finally had the opportunity to visit Martha Madison’s popular Hollywood eatery, Henry’s Hat. The occasion… The Bay web series fundraiser/fan event/cast get-together. It was there I found the likes of so many old and dear soap friends, and newbies, too! Producer/creator/director Gregori J. Martin’s highly anticipated new web series, The Bay, hits your computer screens on September 15th, which is touted as a hybrid of those grand soaps of yore, think Dynasty meets the new fast-paced modern day realism and feel of internet driven soap opera and entertainment series. Throughout the evening I sat down and chatted with an array of talent that headline the stellar cast. The Bay’s inherent goal is to bring to the audience familiar and beloved faces from our genre in to brand new territory. Will you be along for the ride? On-Air On-Soaps is here to help you decide, after reading what these cast members had to say about their new product, the state of soaps, and much more.
First up, the hostess with the mostest, Martha Madison, tells me there is a very exciting new element coming to the web to introduce viewers to The Bay. “We have already finished the first two half hours, and that would be seven web episodes worth, and some teasers. However, we shot these fantastic confessional clips with the main families that I am really excited about. You will really get to know the characters of the Garrett family by these. It’s us talking about the family tree, and it helps inform the viewers of the different dynamics of what the family is about. I think it’s a brilliant move on Gregori J. Martin’s part. I can’t wait to see them.” Martha plays Marley; daughter of Sara played by Mary Beth Evans, but will she once again be playing a goody-two-shoes like Belle on DAYS? Martha responded, “She is a good girl. When I got pitched this part, I was told she comes from a family with a lot of issues, and she is the one who is still kind of together. However, she and mommy don’t get along very well, because mom is way out there and Marley calls her out on her stuff a lot. I love that dynamic. I love getting to work with Mary Beth because she is hilarious!”
However, there is a twist for the “little sweetness” Marley. She is married to a black man and there is an interracial relationship, which is a major part of the story of The Bay. Madison shared her thoughts on playing something we are certainly not seeing on daytime right now that reflects society, and also might I add, our gal Martha, might just have a career ahead of her as an up and coming programming executive. “I get to do the inter-racial romance. I like that, and it’s good. I think there is this old notion in daytime television that there are barriers you can’t cross. I think in the last few years you have seen the soaps recognize that; such as they had been doing a lot of gay coupling, which I think is really important and necessary, and its time to open that door. Having interracial couples is normal and fine… and should be fine! Coming from a business owner stand point, you don’t ever want to do something that is going to rock a good boat. You don’t want to test waters while soaps are in a fragile state, but at the same time, you look at the huge hits on HBO and SHOWTIME, and there is an audience for that. Maybe the goal is to push past that and the whole notion, and grab a more urban and more dynamic audience, and maybe that will help. That is certainly what all the web series that are coming out are doing, and all the cable networks… and it works. We need to break the soap genre model in half. I know it’s a lot of talk and easy to say, and people have full businesses and employees. They don’t want to risk their businesses, and I get that. But, I think if you really want to change it you have to be willing to lose it. I love they are doing stuff like that on The Bay.” Martha’s final thought: “Why should fans watch The Bay? I will tell you. They are going to get a really good base of familiar faces, and a place that allows these actors and characters to go places that daytime doesn’t, and in an arena that is open and excited about showing what real life is all about, with still a little twist of drama here and there… which is really fun!”
Oh, how great it was to see Matt Ashford again! Matt and Mary Beth Evans and I caught up on old and new times together, about kids, acting careers, DAYS, etc. We have all known each other for decades now. My how time flies! Matt is one of the newest and most exciting additions to The Bay cast list. His emergence onto The Bay scene was quite interesting, as Matt detailed. “It all happened through the internet. I understood there was a guy who wanted to get hold of me to talk about a new show and that was Gregori Martin. His pitch was interesting, and his character choice was interesting, and the number of people I get to work with… old friends and new… and peers I have never had the chance to work with… was interesting to me. I decided to take a leap. My feeling is we are going back, not only to the 1950’s of the beginning of television, but almost to the 1930’s where actors took a part in the art of the drama they created. There is certain democratization here that is so much fun for the actor… and working with Mary Beth Evans is great. I heard rumors that Stephen Nichols might come on board, all sorts of people. But getting to work with Matt Borlenghi, Tristan Rogers and Charles Shaughnessy…. no one is going to give me a chance to work with these people. It’s exciting for me.” And, what has fans buzzing was the fact that Matt was going to play another rapist, and wait for it… a character that had raped Mary Beth Evans’ character of Sara. Memories of DAYS anyone? Ashford said about the situation, “That is an aspect of this character and who he is. People say he raped Sara, but you know, television and storytelling has gone so far, and we are seeing great stories like on Mad Men or The Sopranos, and you see great characters that are not defined by one single act. The men are crazy animals and the women who loved them (which is more what we see on primetime) and it’s great to see something like that here on the web, I hope. On DAYS, from the moment Jack raped Kayla; I tried to look into the fact that it was a deeper tragedy all the way around. Ultimately, I came to realize that if Jack had a gun he would have killed her. It was an act of senseless violence and everybody paid for it. And there is titillation that continues with something like that and will with my new character of Steve. I will begin shooting my scenes at the end of the month of August. They have talked about my character in the show from the beginning, though. It will be very interesting to see how this all plays out!”
But the big question on my mind, and Days of our Lives Jack and Jennifer fans is: will Matt return to Salem anytime soon now that Melissa Reeves is back on contract as Jennifer? “I know Missy is coming back to DAYS and I am so glad. I want her to be happy and working, and all that. As far as I know at this point, they have not written anything in the broad strokes that would include Jack, and when they do, I hope they would call me. I would be open to return if the situation is right. Gary Tomlin is a great producer, and if he has got something for me, he will let me know. Until that time, I have learned to trust. It’s better to let them write their story, and I will be there when they want me to be there. But in the meantime, I have other irons in the fire and other projects I am working on, and so it’s all good.” Soapers, send your emails, cards, letters, trinkets, Jack and Jenn wedding vows, videos, etc to DAYS. We need Matt back, right? STAT!
I met a new friend, Marie Wilson. You all remember her fondly as our “NutMeg” who recently trundled off to that big soap sanitarium somewhere off camera on As the World Turns. Marie is now set to film another role that we hear may now be called “Claire” and we also hear she may be a bit of a “loony tune”. Party! First things first, had to ask Marie about the ending of ATWT which is now five weeks away and counting. “I loved “NutMeg”, she was fun! I am so grateful to the writers for doing that to her. I had a blast doing it and it’s sad that it’s over. The last day was really emotional for me. My final day of taping was in mid-April. I knew I would be done when my contract was up, so I was prepared for that, but there is really no preparation because of all the emotions you feel when it finally hits you. You say to yourself, “This is it. I’m not coming back here.” Meg was carted away, but I walked out with dignity which I appreciated! (Laughs) I am trying to see the bright side of things. I think for these last few weeks it’s hard to watch for the fans, because all the characters are slowly dropping out, (at least it’s not all at once), but it is heartbreaking seeing the characters slowly exit. I am sure the last air show will really hit everybody, because that’s it. You know, I loved working with Kelley Menighan Hensley (Emily), she is fantastic, and Roger Howarth (Paul) I have worked with for so long. He is an amazing actor. He is gone from One Life to Live as the crazy guy to ATWT as a not so crazy guy, and he is a very talented man. It will be interesting to see where everyone goes next with their careers.” So, just who is Marie playing on The Bay? Some confusion reigned between us at the fundraiser, which had us doing some detective work of our own, and laughing up a storm since she has not filmed an episode or seen a script yet. I suggested that Marie do a “Driving Miss Daisy” sort of character, where she is the off-balanced chauffeur to Sara… Mary Beth Evans’ role! Marie revealed this much: “I was going to come on as Isabella, and since then there has been a casting shift. They are working on another character for me. It’s a surprise! I am hoping it is something I can sink my teeth into it. I like playing flawed women. A good girl is nice, but it gets a little boring after awhile, and it’s nice finding the flaws in every person, because we all have them. I would love to work with Dylan Bruce, of course! I worked with him on As the World Turns and I would love to work with Mary Beth!”
Speaking of Dylan Bruce, of course, he brings up the male hotness factor to the web soap. The former Chris Hughes from As the World Turns told me his thoughts on the end of the 54-year-old soap. “It’s sad to see a show going off the air like this, it’s one of the original soap operas and Grande Dames. I am mostly sad for all of the fans. This show has been part of their lives through the years, and for all my friends that were still on the show till the end, both cast and crew. It’s a great show, and it’s sad to see a legacy come to an end. But I am sure they will end it in a very classy way, and God rest Helen Wagner’s (Nancy) soul! She was a lovely, lovely lady and a class act. It’s an end of an era, but as they say, nothing lasts forever.” But in this industry, as one door closes, another one opens, and Dylan is now putting his efforts into landing another soap role and being part of The Bay. “This was a lot of fun. We shot overnight and everyone did a great job. My character is Brian Garrett-Nelson. I have a different father than the other two kids, and I am a hyphen. He is a guy with an edge, but he has a heart of gold. He gets himself into a lot of peculiar situations, and he has a lot of money and he owns a bar…and he loves the ladies. The Bay… it is fun over the top! It’s like Dallas and Dynasty and 90210, but faster paced because it’s on the web, and so it’s has a lot of meat packed into shorter episodes.” However, Dylan tells me there is still that one special role out there for him. It is quite the departure from the soap genre but suits him perfectly! “Since I am Canadian, and there are a lot of Marvel movies coming out, I want to play Captain Canuck. That’s it! I want the Maple Leaf on my chest, and I want to fight crime in the Great White North! We all dream! (Laughs)”
Lilly! Lilly! Lilly! And what a time to meet up with the most famous car bomb victim on a soap! Just as General Hospital is set this Wednesday to herald the return of Vanessa Marcil Giovinazzo as Brenda Barrett! I can only be talking about the sexy and saucy, Lilly Melgar, who plays Mary Beth Evans’ rival on The Bay…Janice Ramos. And in regards to her Port Charles alter-ego, Lily Rivera, whose demise is getting much play now due to Brenda’s imminent return, Melgar says that whole thing was a phenomenon! “I was just told recently, I had one of the most epic deaths on daytime, and I like that honor. If I am going to go down, I am going to go down all the way. I adore Maurice Benard (Sonny), and I have so much mad love and respect for him. If somebody had to come between Sonny and Brenda, it was going to be me!”(Laughs) Look, a lot of people hated me, but a lot of people loved me as Lily, as well. I have stories about that and here is one: I was done with my scenes, and I blew up in the car on GH. So I took off to Miami with some soap actors, and I was dating one at that time. And here I am in Miami and the scene where Lily blows up in the car airs. And you don’t understand… I couldn’t go anywhere! I felt like Julia Roberts for a day and it was insane, but very cool! I went out that night with a producer friend who said, “Honey, I have been out with people who are way more established than you are, and they don’t stand in a line to talk to you.” Then, I get on the plane to come home and a stewardess said to me, “I had to take off work, because I was so devastated by your death.” I also heard stories about the Lily haters and the Lily death parties…I mean that’s pretty dark. But, it’s OK to break up daytime’s hottest couple of Sonny and Brenda, c’mon! With that character, I did not get to use a lot of my spice, because they wanted me to be so opposite. It was so difficult.” Melgar went on to tell me that she and Vanessa Marcil Giovinazzo (Brenda) had so much fun back in the day, and have recently reconnected. “Vanessa and I adore each other. I love that woman. We were the best of friends on the set. It was fun to play these scenes as her nemesis. We would mess with each other because we were such good friends. Before a scene where we would have to have a fight, she would whisper something to me, and I would go whisper something to her that we knew would trigger that thing between the characters. We were crazy! I just bumped into her and we had lost touch. Vanessa was getting married the following weekend when I saw her, and the way that happened was so serendipity, and so meant to be.”
After being brought back and killed off of GH one too many times, Lilly admits there is only one network soap for her in her future. “You know, I have been back to GH so many times, and Lily was a ghost and then a doppelganger, so I could not go there. But, what I would love if I went back to daytime is to work with one of my best friends, Michelle Stafford, and be on Y&R, and work with her and that would be it. Michelle is a special woman, and I have mad love for her. I am putting it out there… that is what I want! If I would go back, it would have to have something to do with Phyllis in Genoa City! Absolutely 100%!” Lilly’s new role of Janice Ramos is a far cry from her more reserved Lily Rivera of PC. In The Bay she will definitely shake things up. “Janice is a Latina, feisty and fiercely loyal to her own, and not afraid of a fight, and not afraid of her sexuality; and she can be a little manipulative to get her way. But it’s always generated from her passions and her truth, and believing in her loyalty to whatever it is that she believes in. I can’t say what she is after. You are going to find out she is after something or someone…and if she is anything like me, she gets what she wants, so we will see. (Laughs) It’s going to be scandalicious!”
Tristan Rogers for Network Programming Executive, anyone? Or perhaps, Executive Producer Daytime Soap Opera? I say, sign him up. Now! Catching up with this sensational talent is always a pleasure, and during our conversation at The Bay fundraiser, Tristan did not disappoint with his honesty, directness, and humor. Rogers is set to star in The Bay as Police Commissioner, Lex Martin, a type of role very familiar to the once former Commissioner of Port Charles, Robert Scorpio. “ Yes. (Laughs) I am the Police Commissioner. I think our filming went off really well, and what we have is a much more traditional type of soap, but we put some tongue and cheek in it. The first two episodes of the pilot set up an interesting storyline and it introduces all the characters, and the story moves in leaps and bounds. I pretty much knew my character, and I did not have to think about it too much. But for everybody else, there are some complex characters in this, and Gregori is smart enough to let everybody do their jobs, which is smart. In Lex, there is no resemblance to Robert Scorpio, but you might see some of the wry flippancy come out. Lex is part of the Garrett family because he was married to a Garrett, and I don’t think they have cast that character yet. Sara and Lex are very close because of things that happened in the past that will be referred to but we won’t see. Mary Beth is a good partner. We are perfectly matched in that respect, because we come from the same era.”
Reality Bytes is one of 30 projects that Rogers is currently working on. He informed me of some interesting changes with that concept, and some information that should perk up soap executive’s ears! “I am moving in a different circle with Reality Bytes and it will be different. What I have been doing is sitting down with media types who are well connected. There is a buzz out there at the moment, and a lot of network people are looking at the 55 year old and up demographic more closely. They are realizing we have got to get into this. One of the interesting elements I heard dropped in this conversation is that they don’t know how to access it any more. Soaps are the only tool they have got that directly accesses them, and if they don’t stop screwing it up, they will lose that, too.” So what does Mr. Rogers think of Vanessa Marcil Giovinazzo’s return to his old stomping ground at GH, and how bringing back the big stars may help fledgling soap viewership? “It’s only going to work if they use it correctly. Once upon a time the veterans anchored the storyline. If they do that, and then bring in the new people, then you can go out and have them accepted by the audience. C’mon! We have an audience out there that likes their favorites and they are not going to take a whole lot of new people they have never seen before, and who they have no investment in. This is it, and management of the soaps has disappeared. They don’t know how to bring back the audience, because they don’t know how to connect with the audience. Until you go back and go, “How the hell did that happen?” And until you understand you are dealing with an audience who is not going to have anything rammed down it’s throat… it’s got its own point of view and likes and dislikes… and if you don’t tap into that, forget it! You’re wasting your time.” I reminded Tristan how many times soaps are fighting entrenched mentalities, especially recently when several gay storylines were given the axe. If the audience and the networks aren’t both ready for some progressive changes with diversity of all types and more modern day approaches to story, it cannot work or change and everybody loses. Rogers offered this theory: “I think a gay storyline can be done, but it’s got to be done and anchored with the core characters. If back in the day on GH we had brought on a gay storyline and Scorpio was involved with it, he would have had a whole different way of handling it. It would have been a way that the audience would have embraced. I am arrogant enough to believe that! (Laughs) It has to be done within the confines of the characters they know, like, and trust… and you can sell anything.”
Many may be wondering where is Mary Beth Evans in this post? Well, since we had chatted a month or so ago in our special interview on her new role in The Bay, no “official” party interview was conducted. I guess we were to busy having a good time! But you can read all MB’s thoughts there. And while I was in the other room conducting interviews, I have to say, I have no idea where Charles Shaughnessy disappeared to, and so as much as we all love Charlie; we sadly did not connect at the event. I did get to give big hugs and hellos to two of my favorite guys, Real Andrews and Matt Borlenghi, who within this industry, persevere, persevere, and persevere! Right on!
At the end of the night, the real star of the show, Gregori Martin, pulled up a seat into my makeshift office at Henry’s Hat (Nah! It was just a table with two chairs in the middle of the room) so I could get into his divine inspirations for bringing to the web next month, The Bay. “My baby sitter was a Santa Barbara fan. My mother was an AMC fan, and my sisters were OLTL and GH fans. So soaps were always on the television growing up. I knew they got excited when there was a soap actress who came on from another show. So I thought, if I am going to do a show I need to do a show where people are familiar with the faces. These characters that everyone is playing have been in my head for 20 years of my life. When I first started watching Santa Barbara it was 1984. I was six years old. When the show started, there was this earthquake going on, and it was a guy show! Eden Capwell was being thrown in a pool of sharks and I was intrigued by it. I created this character in my head of Sara Garrett, a blonde haired blue-eyed woman. And through the years, I just started writing synopsis, and creating her husbands, boyfriends, lovers, and it sort of built up to this character I have today.”
Martin says he knows, and is familiar with the other soap stars who have made a foray onto the web, and how it convinced him that this was the place to start his new project. “Crystal Chappell, Martha Byrne, Eden Riegel, were all doing web soaps, and it was Tristan Rogers who put the idea in my head to do a web show. And then Eden got nominated for Imaginary Bitches, and I thought maybe it’s not such a bad idea. So I said, “What can I do?” And I remembered this show I created growing up and I brought it to life in The Bay. I just want to say something about Crystal Chappell. Years ago, she auditioned for a project of mine, and there is something about her that always intrigued me. I have a lot of respect for her. And it was Crystal who really said, “I want to do a web show.” So I have a lot of respect for Crystal and the inroads that she has made on this platform.” Next, we turned our discussion to the casting of Matt Ashford which is quite a casting coupe and Martin knows it! “It’s so funny how this happened. I created this character of Steve Jensen and it was a complete coincidence that the character Mary Beth was involved with on DAYS was Steve Johnson. So, Steve Jensen was a villain I created in my head years ago, and so I needed the perfect actor to play the part. I put out a spoiler alert to the fans online, and the fans would write in and make suggestions. I knew of Matt Ashford and they said, “Cast Matt Ashford!” I went, “Hmmm. This is a great actor.”
Then I had to ask – with what we know of the leading character in The Bay, Sara Garrett’s back-story – that without seeing an episode, it would seem on paper she has slept around! Martin retorted, “Sara is not a slut to me. She is a woman who takes life wherever it takes her. She is trying to find happiness. Three adult children later, she is the star of the series, and she is our Erica Kane, Marlena Evans, or Viki Davidson Banks.” As the September 15th premiere draws closer, Gregori Martin assures fans they will never have to pay for an episode. “The show will never cost you money to watch, unless you buy the special edition DVD. But as far as online, you will never ever have to pay for the show. This will be launched on Blip.tv and stationed on Blip.tv and on our website, and will spread virally through there.
In the end, Gregori has bigger plans and a big future and vision that he hopes he will achieve. “I want an Emmy. I want that Emmy! (Laughs) We are in negotiations with a deal for syndication. If we can find the financing, and produce enough episodes that would be the equivalent of 30 minute episodes, and to have it on television, that would be the ideal. You know, 90% of the cast was my first choice. I knew what they could bring to the table. I have to give a special shout out to Taylor Stanley, who was on Another World. She just oozes perfection when it comes to acting. She plays Zoey Johnson and Dylan Bruce’s love interest. Mary Beth Evans: I can’t explain the perfection she has for this part. I did not write the part of Sara for her, because it’s been in my head for 20 years. But, when we cast her a few months ago, it was perfection! The Bay moves faster than daytime and primetime shows, and on the web, there is a lot happening in eight minutes. I would say, if you miss one episode of The Bay, you will miss a lot.”
For more on The Bay, and their Kickstarter campaign check out their series website: http://www.thebaytheseries.com/