December 19th, 2012  |  Leave a comment

The Van Hansis and Kit Williamson Interview – EastSiders

Courtesy/EastSidersTV

Last week saw the debut of the new web series EastSiders from creator and series co-star, Kit Williamson.  And as viewers witnessed, EastSiders tells the tale of a four-year relationship between same-sex partners, Cal and Thom, that has gone awry; when Thom cheats on Cal with another man, who could just be a viable threat to any semblance of future happiness this couple could have.  Williamson plays Cal, and former As the World Turns star Van Hansis (Ex-Luke) plays the straying Thom, in this gritty look at the murky waters of love and sex.

On-Air On-Soaps sat down with Van and Kit to delve into: their characters to get their hopes and dreams for the web series, the message they want it to send, and their joy of creating some drama and hankie filled moments between them, that hopefully will resonate with fans everywhere.  A few portions of this interview appeared last week in the feature story on the premiere of EastSiders on FrontiersLA.com, but we are bringing you the entire conversation now.

Of course, it was not only fantastic to meet Kit for the first time, but to also catch up with Van Hansis, who we had not spoken with since the final week of airshows for As the World Turns back in September of 2010.  There have been so many burning questions that fans have continually wanted to have answers to since that time, such as: what did Van think of Luke’s final days on ATWT after Reid was killed and he was left as the only character without a happy ending?  And, while the rest of us were grieving for the loss of Oakdale at that time, Van reveals he had to deal with the loss of the show in his own very personal way.

So with all that said … here’s our delightful, bittersweet, and entertaining chat with Van and Kit! And make sure to check out the next installment of EastSiders this Friday, to see if it will be a bah humbug Christmas for Thom and Cal.

MICHAEL:

Van, when did you decided to take on the role of Thom in Eastsiders, since you were so identifiable as Luke Snyder on As the World Turns, did you perhaps have any second thoughts about taking on another gay role that was in a serialized story?  Or, if you took on another gay role, that you wanted to make sure that he was not a goody-two-shoes?

VAN:

Courtesy/EastSidersTV

I did not give it a second thought to taking on another gay role.  Since As the World Turns ended, which has been two and a half years now, I have played a variety of things. Honestly, when I read the script the sexuality of the character is secondary.  I just loved the character, and loved the script.  After reading page two of the script, I said, “I have got to be on the show.  I don’t care.  I will be a gaffer.  I will hold the boom.”   I just loved it so much, because it’s so rare that you find something that just speaks to you.  I think within five years or less, Kit is going to be showrunning some sort of series on some amazing network.  EastSiders is brilliant and fascinating.

MICHAEL:

You just did not want to play a gay stereotype, correct?

VAN:

Yes.  My whole thing in anything I do is that I just don’t want to play stereotypes, or a caricature, because I think that’s cheap.  It cheapens you as an actor, and it cheapens a way you portray a character, and I think it’s cheap writing to write a stereotype.  Thom and Cal, and all the characters in EastSiders, are just so alive and so real.  They are like my friends, me, my parents, anybody.  So, I had no second thoughts.  I think maybe ten or twelve years ago there was more of a stigma to play a gay character than there is now.  It was rare back then to even have gay characters!

MICHAEL:

Courtesy/TylersAshtray

I am more referring to that Luke was such an amazing gay central character to the town of Oakdale and ATWT, and you had come off of all of the years of playing him.  We have seen in Hollywood that sometimes actors chose to stay as far removed from any role that could at all resemble it for fear of being typecast.

VAN:

For me, it’s been two and half years since I have played Luke.  So it has been awhile. And in the meantime, I have played a vampire, a Russian assassin, and some guy who is losing his mind, and all of this stuff.  So for me, there is a lot of distance between me and Luke.

MICHAEL:

Kit, you had sought out Van to play the role of Thom in EastSiders, correct? 

KIT:

Oh, absolutely!  From the second I knew he was reading the script, it was one of those things where I did not want to permit myself to think that he would do it.  I did not have any idea that I would be able to attract an actor of Van’s quality and caliber to my project; that has very much been my passion project that I have been driving forward out of sheer force of will.  The fact that we have him on board is beyond amazing to me.  It really feels like a fairy tale experience for me, with this being my first time directing, too.

MICHAEL:

It’s a fairy tale for all of Van’s legion of fans, too!  What is so great about Van is he could post a comment on his facebook page that says, “Hey, I am going to a movie,” and hundreds of people will post comments and say hello to him.  (Laughs) There is such a love for him. They are very enthusiastic fans and they are always clamoring to see more from Van in something that they can follow each week as they did during your run on As the World Turns.

VAN:

Photo Credit: Getty Images

One thing about doing this project that I forgot is how much I loved doing serialized storytelling.  It’s how I got my start on “World Turns”, but even before that … and I was thinking about this last night … I have been a fan of serialized storytelling my whole life, because I have read comic books my whole life.  That is the exact same thing as a soap opera, except in comics people have super powers.  If I had my way, television for me is the end all, be all, especially right now.  We have so many amazing and wonderful shows.  I love the idea of going along for the ride with one character.  This has given me the opportunity again, and it’s the first time since ATWT.  I have been doing episodics, or a movie since leaving ATWT, where it’s something that ends or is finite.  This is going to keep going, and the characters are going to grow as it keeps going.

MICHAEL:

Kit, did you know Van personally before you approached him for this project?

KIT:

We had never met before!  Actually, the most recent thing I saw of Van’s was his work on an episode of Nikita, which was really wonderful.  In that, he actually had me questioning where he was actually from!  “Hansis” … what is that?  Is that Russian? (Laughs)  It was awesome to see him do that.  But I was very familiar with Van’s work from As the World Turns.  I have known about Van for a while, just being out in the world.

MICHAEL:

The story of the relationship between Cal and Thom … what can you tell me?  As we have seen in the first webisode, they have problems like gay people and everyone has, and as we have seen in the first installment … Van, you cheat! (Laughs)

VAN:

Yeah, Thom cheats.  It’s revealed very early that Thom has cheated, and that is kind of the catalyst for the whole story.  But, we know from point A that Thom has cheated, and it’s the overriding issue.  So, it’s not like they are this loving couple and at the end of the episode you see Thom running off and cheating.  He has already done that, which I think is a very interesting starting point, because the major action had already happened, and so what viewers will see is the reflection of the action

Courtesy/EastSidersTV

KIT: 

… You’re left with a dramatic question that will be explored throughout the series, which is: Will they, and can they stay together through this?  And, is their relationship strong enough to weather being changed in a fundamental way?

MICHAEL:

The question continues: Will Thom cheat again … and again?  Which, if you watch webisode one, we all know the answer to that one, thus far!  (Laughs)

VAN:

The guy he is cheating with is one of our main characters.  So, I will just say … there’s that. (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

So guys, if you were to give viewers an overview of the character’s of Thom and Cal, what should we know about them at their core?

VAN:

Thom is, well, my first instinct is to say Thom is cad.   But that is me just putting my holier-than-thou cap on and judging him.  I think Thom is very frustrated in is relationship.  He loves Cal very much, but obviously something brings him to the point of cheating.  I don’t think there is any relationship where one partner cheats on the other, and you can call that a healthy relationship. The cheating is a symptom.  Thom and Cal have been together for four years.  The honeymoon is over.  I think they love each other, but I don’t know if they know how to be in love with each other.

KIT:

Courtesy/EastSidersTV

I think Cal is a very difficult person to be in a relationship with.  He has an acerbic and biting sense of humor and wit, and he is not one to let things go.  He has got a bit of a chip on his shoulder a lot of the times, and he lives in extremes.  But, he is also funny, loving, and smart.  He loves Thom more than a person can love another person.  I actually think they both do.  That is what is interesting about this show is seeing that two people, who might not even be the most perfect match for each other, love one another completely and still ruin their relationship … and, can they bring it back to life?

MICHAEL:

Is your intent to want the audience to root for Thom and Cal to stay together?

KIT:

Ideally, I want it to be a bit more complicated than that.  But, what’s the point in watching a show unless you want or hope for the best for the characters?

VAN:

You don’t want to watch a show where there are just people hating each other.  There is no fun in that.  They are going through this horrible and terrible time in their relationship, but you have to be able to see the love.  That’s important, too.  I agree with Kit.  It’s more complicated then, “Ooh, I want them to be together.”  Or, “Ooh, I hate that Thom!”  It’s how can they find a way to be together, or should they find a way to be together, or just part ways?

KIT:

Courtesy/EastSidersTV

One of my favorite plays is Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolff, by Edward Albee.  I love Edward Albee, and I actually named my cat “Albee”.  My cat is in EastSiders, and he is usually very social. (Laughs) But the problem was, the cat got spooked by the film equipment, and he bolted out of the room anytime we got the lights in there.  So, I had to shoot the scenes with the cat myself, and look online on how to operate a camera! (Laughs)  But … Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolff is a long play.  It’s a long night for the soul, and you should be exhausted, as are the characters by the end of it.  I can think of few things less pleasant than, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolff: The Series.” (Laughs) It can’t be the same kind of acerbic battle in EastSiders as “Virginia Wolff”.  You have to have a lot of love at the center of it, too.

MICHAEL:

Kit, you wanted the characters in EastSiders to obviously be multi-dimensional and very flawed, and show that gay people also are capable of doing not-so-nice things, instead of how sometimes in daytime soaps there is this sort of romanticism of the gay characters … who often seem to have to be the moral center of a story so people will like the character and it’s more palpable for viewers, apparently.

KIT:

It’s the flip side of how gay characters always used to be represented as villains and in some way society has warped them, so they are these tragic characters.  I think we have progressed enough as a society that I think we can have a middle ground.  I would never criticize any show for putting in a cool person as a gay character.  I love that, and I love that representation, but for my taste, and my aesthetic and what I write, I really want things to be muddy as possible for these people.

VAN:

I like that, too!  I don’t want to play what is already there.  When I got the script and was contacted about it, you hear, “gay web series” You think either, it’s people ripping off their shirts and showing their six-packs , or crying about coming out. 

KIT: 

Photo Credit: Kenneth Dolan

And sometimes both at the same time(Laughs)

VAN:

So when I was contacted they said, “Would you be interested in this?”  And I said, “I need to read the script,” because I do not want to do something that is a bunch of guys sitting around in a steam room.  Good for you, if that is what you are interested in telling, but that is not what I am interested in telling.  I am not interested in stuff that is easy. Luke on ATWT was crying about coming out seven years ago, that’s over.  I got the script and it was so multi-faceted, and then I felt like an idiot for having a pre-conceived notion of what a “gay web series” is, because that was me judging something I didn’t know any thing about.  I loved it because I think it’s universal.  You watch something like the television series, Girls and I am not a girl, but I connect with the characters.  You watch something like Mad Men I don’t live in the 60’s, but you connect with the characters, and you can watch all these shows that have nothing to do with you and you connect with them.  That is what I loved about EastSiders.   I think, of course, the gay audience is going to connect with it, but I think everybody will connect with it, because the characters are so well written.

MICHAEL:

Kit, if you were to tell me a bit about working with Van, what would you say?

KIT:

Van is wonderful, and he has been just a Godsend throughout this process, because we have had some very fast and difficult days on set.  But from the very beginning, Van has been the consummate professional, and a joy to be on set with bringing levity into difficult situations, and bringing talent and emotion to every single scene we shot.  I feel very blessed and lucky.

MICHAEL:

Ok Van, your turn.  What would you say about working with Kit?

Courtesy/IMDB

VAN:

He cried all the time, but in character. (Laughs)  Kit is a fantastic crier!  I thought I was a good crier, but Kit is a better crier than I am, and I could cry a lot on ATWT.   I have never worked with an “auteur” before! (Laughs)  I love this because it’s Kit’s vision. It gives the show an importance, because it’s a singular vision that is really fun to be a part of. First off, working with Kit, you are working with him as an actor, director, and as a writer. So therefore, you are working with him in so many different capacities.  As an actor, he is absolutely fantastic!  He is absolutely great to work with … so giving, so talented … like when Cal is crying; (as you saw in the first webisode) I want to hug him.  On top of being a good actor, he has all this other talent!

MICHAEL:

In EastSiders, who is the third guy in this triangle, if we can call it that?  And the other performers in the cast?

KIT:

The rest of our cast: we have Constance Wu who plays Cal’s best friend, Kathy.  She is amazing, and she hates Thom!  Her boyfriend is played by John Halbach, who plays Ian. And then the kind of  “other man” in this situation is played by Matthew McKelligon, who plays Jeremy.

MICHAEL:

Courtesy/EastSidersTV

Van, how is Matthew McKelligon (Jeremy) to work with?

VAN:

He is fantastic!  He is very open to whatever, and he is amenable to what you want to do, and he brings his own stuff to the table.  He is like one of the chillest guys I have ever met.  He is so comfortable. And the first day we met, we had to kiss a bunch, and that is awkward, but he was like, “Hey, let’s kiss!” (Laughs)  He gives an ease to the character that I think it needs, because also Jeremy can’t be the bad guy, either.  Nobody can be the bad guy.  We needed a really likeable and wonderful guy to play that, and I think that Matt has that.

KIT:

It was a real challenge finding someone to play Jeremy, because it was a hard balance to strike, and he strikes that balance perfectly.

MICHAEL:

Van, have you ever gone back and watched any of the last episodes of ATWT?

VAN:

Courtesy/CBS

No.  I don’t know why, honestly.  I get asked a lot, “At the end of the series, Luke did not have a happy ending.  Does that upset you?”  And for me, and I can completely understand why people were upset, I totally support the anger and frustration the viewers had.  In retrospect, Luke did get a s**t deal, as did Noah and Reid.  I get it.  But for me personally, those last couple days for me on the show, it was more than leaving college; it was more than leaving High School.  It was one of the defining moments of my life, because at that point, I had gotten out of college and landed on ATWT, and everything was great and wonderful.  I was there for five and half or so years, and then real life hit. As an actor, you don’t work for five or six years straight.  That is a lucky thing, and I did not realize that at the time.  I thought that was just how it was, and that is a rarity.  People don’t realize that so much was going on behind-the-scenes, and people had worked there for 25 or 30 years on ATWT, and not the actor’s necessarily, but people behind-the-scenes.  I remember the set would go dark, after we completed the last scenes on it, and they would just start selling all of the furniture.  It was an end in a way that was much more personal for me than the character’s end.  So, while I understand from a fan point of view how upset people were, I couldn’t at that point comprehend that because, me, and all of my friends, were going through an ending of our own.

MICHAEL:

So you never saw the touching final scene where Luke puts Reid’s stethoscope next to Chris Hughes (Daniel Cosgrove) heart to listen to Reid’s heartbeat?  You really should watch it!  It was so sad!

Courtesy/CBS

VAN:

Oh, thank you.  I will watch it sometime.  It’s not like “Oh, I can’t watch this because my heart is breaking!”  It’s just that I have my own memories of that, and I don’t want to watch it through a camera.  I want to have it in my mind.

MICHAEL:

Are you still in touch with your former cast mates from As the World Turns?

VAN:

I stay in touch with Jake Silbermann (Ex-Noah).  I am very much in touch with him and Tala Ashe, who played Ameera, whose character nobody liked on “World Turns.” (Laughs)  Tala was on Smash this past year!  I also stay in touch with Noelle Beck (Ex-Lily), and on facebook with Martha Byrne (Ex-Lily), Terri Conn (Ex-Katie) and Austin Peck (Ex-Brad).

MICHAEL:

You know what; people have written to me and asked, “Are they going to put Eric Sheffer Stevens (Ex-Reid, ATWT) on EastSiders?“  What are your thoughts on that, Van?  Many fans seem to still want to see some configuration of that in order to have Eric and you play out the aborted love story from ATWT!

VAN:

Eric is a fantastic actor!  We had emailed each other after ATWT ended, and Eric has a family and kids, so it’s hard to stay in touch with him all the time.  But, if Kit wants to put him in the show, he is one of the best actors around.  But you know, when it’s over, it’s over. In no way do I want EastSiders to become ATWT.  Let all let the characters we loved on ATWT be in our hearts and memories, but Thom in EastSiders is not Luke.  They are gay, and the similarities end there.

MICHAEL:

Courtesy/EastSidersTV

In closing, what do you want the audience to come away with after watching the first two episodes of EastSiders?

KIT:

I just hope that they want to see more, and that they become invested in these storylines. The show really focuses on Thom and Cal, and the other storylines radiate out from that, but service the main storyline.

VAN: 

I want people to be really, really upset after the first set of webisodes.  Not because of what happens in the story, but because they might have to wait a little bit to see the next ones!

  1. marie says:

    Good interview. Kit should never put ESS in Eastsiders because it’d fuel those nutjobs who won’t let Van move on from Luke Snyder. They need to get over it…even Van agrees.

    Reply

    TMJ replied

    I agree Marie. As much as I appreciate the talents of both Jake and Eric, I don;t want to see either acting with Van any time soon, particularly as gay characters. Luke, Noah, and Reid, are characters in a closed book, and they need to stay there. We may feel that the show should have lived on, and that the characters had more story to tell, but life did not work out that way. We all need to move on.

    Reply

  2. M. says:

    I say this as someone who is still very much involved in ATWT fandom, but I get so much second hand embarrassment from fans that dream of putting Eric in this show just so they’d get a love scene. Frankly, that embarrassment just tripled finding out the cast & crew of EastSiders now definitely know about this.

    Grow up, people, this is a different show with very different characters. And even if some of us haven’t moved on, the actors have–and rightly so.

    A lot of this show’s press seems to be riding on Van and his prior TV success, but enough is enough and can we all just step away from yesterday’s news and enjoy EastSiders for what it is?

    PS Don’t worry, I’m an equal opportunity hater and same goes for the Nuke movie.

    Reply

    E. replied

    I totally agree with you. On all points and especially on the embarrassment part.
    To put Eric (or Jake for that matter) in Eastsiders would be ridiculous. This is something new and it’s very different from ATWT.

    Like Van said: Let all let the characters we loved on ATWT be in our hearts and memories, but Thom in EastSiders is not Luke. They are gay, and the similarities end there.

    Reply

    Vantastic replied

    “Nuke movie”? I didn’t know they’d made this movie! WOW!!! Are there deleted scenes and other special features on it?
    When is it coming out on DVD? Where can I buy it? Will Luke and Noah autograph the DVDs? I want it for Christmas, can I get it delivered in time?
    Thanks for putting this news out, I’m so excited about it!

    Reply

  3. Becky says:

    Thanks, Michael, for doing this interview. It’s great to “get to know” Kit and hear his passion for this project. He’s a fantastic writer, actor, director & he really seems like a great human being in general! Very witty, insightful, intelligent & he has the kind of eyes that really are like windows to the soul, to the depths of the feelings he wants to portray. He really wants to make these characters as real and as human as possible. I LOVE that it starts after the initial incident. And these characters have depth & they’re inherently flawed and know it – it’s a lot to get across in a less than 14 minute episode, but Kit (and the rest of the incredible cast) do it brilliantly & I can’t wait to see more!

    I’m the exact same way as Van with not watching the episodes of ATWT again now. For me, as a fan, I want to kind of bottle up the way I was feeling and the emotions and love for the characters and just kind of keep it within me as a sort of time capsule for that period in my life. I also don’t want to get a different feeling or think a different way about a certain scene/character/storyline/etc than I did watching it at the time. Not sure if that makes any sense to anyone.

    Reply

  4. anasjo says:

    Great interview. Glad to read that Van doesn’t want Eastsiders to become ATWT. While I can understand that people want to see him and Eric to play out the LuRe sl, it’s in the past, besides there is lots and lots of fanfiction out there, so Luke and Reid live happiky ever after in those stories. ,Eastsiders is the future and what an exciting future it is.

    Reply

  5. tirpse says:

    Nice interview. I just wish there would have been less questions about ATWT. The bias of the interviewer was obvious, too. As usual.

    Reply

    ann replied

    They are always biased on this site when it comes to Van’s Atwt storyline.

    Reply

    Michael Fairman replied

    Hi Ann:
    Thanks for your comment as always and posting to this site. However, at this juncture I must clear something up based on your views and others here. First of all, the focus of this interview is EastSiders, and I think some have lost sight of that. In addition, this bias that is spoken of is simply is not true. Often, I try to bring a few questions to the talent by the majority of people who contact me about a certain subject. And the fact is, most people wrote to me and posted comments about wanting to know and see Eric Sheffer Stevens and Van in a web series, not Jake Silbermann and Van. So I took the opportunity based on this to ask him the question I did. Hope this clarifies and hope you can enjoy the rest of the interview and the talents of Van and Kit and wish them all the success with their new endeavor.
    Best,
    MIchael

  6. Isabel says:

    Great interview! I always love the interviews you do with Van. I’m really enjoying the series so far and hope there’ll be a lot more episodes.

    I have no problem with Van being asked about ATWT; that’s his most famous work to date and until he stars in something more popular than that, that’s how it’s going to be. That’s how it is with every actor.

    Reply

  7. ltklo says:

    Van is too quick to give up his “best crier” mantle. He was stupendous :)

    Reply

    Vantastic replied

    Van was even better when he played “drunk Luke”! They should give him some drunk scenes! Nobody plays “drunk” better than Van!

    Reply

  8. Valenti says:

    Great interview! Enjoyed reading it. Thank you :-)

    Reply

  9. KSP says:

    Thanks for the interview. It’s so great to hear that Van and Jake Silbermann are still in touch. I still hold out some hope that someday we’ll see them working together again! Their on-screen chemistry remains unmatched.

    Reply

    Vantastic replied

    Yes, they must be amazing in ” The Nuke Movie”!

    Reply

  10. RLeternal says:

    Oh! Michael Fairman, you are the best. Such a nice interview. I wish Van and Kit and evryone else on Eastsiders the very best. Happy Holidays Michael and wish you and your family a happy, peaceful, and properous 2013. It is such a pleasure to read all your posts and interviews wrt to soaps, shows, and characters who have been firmly etched in our memories in fond and cherished ways.

    Reply

    RLeternal replied

    Oops, it should be prosperous 2013 in my earlier post. That’s what happens when I post without checking for spelling mistakes.

    Reply

    Vantastic replied

    Butt you said 2013 in both of your postings! What are you smoking? LOLZ!!!

    RLeternal replied

    Vantastic: Isn’t the New-Year going to be 2013 unless You and I are living in different universes?

    Reply

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