With its high drama, convoluted plots, and beauty and brawn, gay men and women have followed daytime soap operas for years, but it was 2009 that truly changed the soap landscape for the LGBT community. Five network soaps featured same-sex storylines, and each in its own way (some more successful than others) brought the issues of equality, coming out, same-sex marriage, and tolerance to the forefront: As the World Turns continued telling the relationship of Luke and Noah. One Life to Live told us the coming out story of Officer Oliver Fish, with openly gay actor Scott Evans in the role. They also gave Fish a love interest, Kyle, and the duo became known as Kish. The Young and the Restless brought back Thom Bierdz 20 years later as Phillip Chancellor. Bierdz, also openly gay, returned to the series for the chance to play a gay version of Phillip, who returns home to confront family and friends with the truth of who he is after living in self-exile. The number one soap also introduced us to gay legal eagle Rafe Torres, who gets seduced by the machinations of “straight” man.
But what’s ahead for the boys in 2010? One Life’s head writer, Ron Carlivati, spoke to us exclusively about Kish. “2009 was all about introducing this couple and getting them together. It will culminate by New Year’s Eve, when they have sex! As we go into 2010 with the couple solid and committed to each other, it’s about integrating them into one of our bigger mainstreams stories, which is Stacy’s baby, and the audience knows that Fish is the biological father! Anything can happen once that baby is born and they are an important part of that.” Carlivati feels the Kish storyline exceeded his expectations. “I always say without a Luke and Noah, I could not have done a Kyle and Fish. We did a coming out story, and got to touch on the issue of gay marriage and do it with sort of a fun twist with Dorian. I am glad the audience seemed to respond to it.” Speaking of Luke and Noah, brace yourself… because the end is near for this beloved duo. It was announced a few weeks ago that As the World Turns has been cancelled as of September of 2010. But until then, we are told there is plenty on the horizon as we move into the New Year. Luke and Noah’s relationship continues to be tested. Noah is still blind, and Luke is pulling out all the stops to get him the help he needs, at all costs. So, enter Dr. Reid Oliver. Could the new doc be gay and a spoiler for the boys? Watch, starting January 19th.
On the ladies side, All My Children wrapped up the misfired Bianca and Reese storyline, which at its center had featured soap’s first same-sex wedding ceremony, and Guiding Light gave us Otalia, who became the most popular soap couple of the decade. The plot: two women previously heterosexual fall in love… with each other. It was this journey that captivated gay and straight fans around the world. And even though they never were allowed to kiss, up until Guiding Light went off the air this past September, the duo played by Crystal Chappell and Jessica Leccia had become a cult phenomenon.
Chappell, knowing that the legions of gay fans she had cultivated were ripe for something more than one could show through daytime network television, created Venice, a web-soap which as its core features a same-sex love story. Venice premiered earlier this month, and can be seen via subscription on the series website www.venicetheseries.com, with a new episode posted every Friday. Venice had over 24 million hits since September. It is so popular that the series needed four additional servers to handle the web traffic! It is because of her unwavering commitment to tell people our story, and her tremendous mainstream media profile that has brought awareness to same-sex issues, that Frontiers-IN LA has named Crystal, Soap Newsmaker of the Year. In this special year-end Q&A, Crystal previews Venice in 2010 and discusses her return to Days of our Lives, where she has stepped back into the part that made her soap-famous in the first place, Dr. Carly Manning!
To download the print version of this Frontiers-In LA feature click here.
Going into the New Year for Gina on Venice, what can web fans look forward to?
Gina will meet somebody new… Kit Tracy played by Lesli Kay. She is from London and it’s somebody Gina had met before and she takes a shine to her. Then there is Ani, who has met somebody, Lara. But the two of them are still connected, and still coming together and trying to figure out what their relationship is. They have not completely broken things off. Also, you will meet Gina’s father. In the New Year that is what you will be seeing; the reason why Gina has the enormous intimacy issues that she has, and the reason she can’t be with Ani. The part is played brilliantly by Jordan Clarke. Season one should play out through mid- February, and hopefully, when we shoot season two, we can get it out sometime in mid- March.
Do you hope that, we the audience, root for Gina and Ani to get together, as the LGBT audience rooted for Otalia on GL?
Ani and Gina have that connection that only happens once in awhile. It’s easy and they get each other flaws and all. It’s very accepting and very loving. It’s other things that are keeping them apart. In some ways, it’s bittersweet that something broken in one person can stop something beautiful from growing. Obviously, Ani gets tired of waiting around so she moves forward, too, and it’s the journey of it. I think people will have to watch and see the different dynamics between these couples and see what strikes them.
We are celebrating your achievements as a heterosexual woman who has done so much for the gay community in the past year, and the awareness you have made of our issues. You have really been one of the celebrity newsmakers of the year for us. What do you feel about that, as the year is coming to an end?
I have always considered this as a privilege. I believe in love. I believe in equality, and to me it was a wonderful opportunity to show the world that we are all the same, and to be able to do it in a creative way that is fulfilling. It’s been amazing! I am happy to represent their voices, and it continues to be important to do that.
When you returned to DAYS and decided to revisit the character of Carly, has it been all you had hoped for?
I try not to create too many expectations. I like to be present and open to the experience and certainly this is very different, because I am much more comfortable as an actress than I was 16 years ago. They brought Carly back with flaws, which is so much more fun to play, and I am not afraid to play them anymore. As a younger actress, for fear of being disliked, I would not just go for it. Now, after ten years of playing Olivia on Guiding Light, I was like, “Well, what else could they throw it at me?”
So, all the times back in the 90’s as Carly, when you were emoting all over the place, that was tough for you?
It was very hard for me! I did not feel comfortable in my own skin, as a person and as an actress. So it became very technical for me. My experience over the years as an actor (now that I have gotten older and wiser, hopefully) is to find a more authentic kind of performance. You have to live with these characters you play, and be comfortable with them… the good and the bad. So on GL, when Olivia was trying to run down Ava with her car, I had to justify her reasons to do that, and you have to go to those dark places. Olivia taught me a lot about being open to all choices. Coming back to DAYS, I felt very excited and free to take on this new Carly.
What can we look forward to from Carly in 2010?
There is so much that happens in 2010. And that is one of the things I love about this show. You have to watch or you are going to miss it. Eventually, she does get reconnected to a few people… the father of her daughter, and she gets closer to Bo and that takes an interesting turn, and Vivian is still trying to kill her!
I hear there is a horrible thing that Vivian is going to do. Last time she did something dreadful. She buried Carly alive!
It will happen at the beginning of February sweeps. The bottom line is, Lawrence wanted the child dead and Vivian is in Salem to carry out his wishes to make Carly suffer!
Did you know when you signed on to play Carly you would have an older daughter?
Yes, I knew. Gary Tomlin (DAYS Co-EP) told me that back in June or July. So they had this pretty well thought out. I don’t mind being a soap mom, I really don’t.
Well, ATWT’s Eileen Fulton (Lisa) had a clause in her contract that she could never become a soap grandmother!
I get that to a point; you know how it is in soap land. People are 8 years old one day and 25 the next. So what difference does it make? (Laughs)
How is flip-flopping in the romance department; making out with a girl on Venice and being hot and heavy with a guy on DAYS? Any difficulty with that?
I can kiss just about anything! (Laughs).
What would you say is one of the top ten reasons to watch DAYS and Venice?
DAYS –It’s action packed drama, and it moves and it’s exciting. Venice- It’s sexy and romantic.
What is husband Michael Sabatino, saying about your double duty on DAYS and Venice?
“Where the hell is my wife?” God love him. He has been so patient. He knows how much Venice means to me and he is a supportive person, but on occasion he has looked at me and gone, “I am lonely.” He knows it’s important for everyone involved, and the fans that have been waiting for it. This has all been the preparation for it, and I am really thinking season two of Venice can go much smoother and we will have a little more time for our family. God willing!