September 17th, 2009  |  Leave a comment

The Crystal Chappell Interview – Guiding Light Finale

If any person in the soaps has become mainstream, noteworthy, cutting edge and has popularity the magnitude of a 10.0 on the Richter scale, it’s the amazingly talented and creative genius, Crystal Chappell.  As Guiding Light takes its final bow tomorrow, fans will say their goodbyes to their favorite folks in Springfield, and have to say farewell to the character of Olivia Spencer and the love of her life, Natalia, better known to all of us as simply, Otalia.  The Otalia storyline, which has meant so much to millions of people around the world both gay and straight, will be hard for many to let go of.  Even when the couple was surrounded by uproar and controversy throughout its historic run, it was truly significant.  But for Chappell, when one door closed, two doors opened.

When soap fans heard that Crystal Chappell would be returning to daytime in her role as the beloved Dr. Carly Manning on Days of our Lives following the demise of “GL”, fans were ecstatic.  Now with her arrival on-screen set for October 2nd, Chappell tells On-Air On-Soaps what to expect from a very different Carly.  But that is not all this gal has been up to.  As everybody knows, Crystal and her producing and writing partner, Kim Turrisi, have been busy creating Venice, the online series that has made headlines across many entertainment and media platforms – without having even taped a first episode!  Crystal’s inspiration? The Otalia storyline and the fans that craved a same-sex love story and something new and innovative.  Well, they will get it in spades coming in November.

I caught up with Crystal Chappell this week for a full length, full tilt discussion on all her recent, current, and upcoming roles: Olivia, Carly and Gina.  The Emmy award-winning actress also gives us her final thoughts as Guiding Light fades to black tomorrow.  Get out your hankies for this one!

Listen to the audio:

Play

MICHAEL:

We have a bunch of topics to touch upon, but of course, I want to start with the fact that Guiding Light is ending this Friday.  You have had a little distance from it, as far as not being there taping every day and working on DAYS.  How do you feel about it now?  Is it still as sad?

CRYSTAL:

It feels like a bigger sadness.  I was able to focus on other things for the past few months, but now that it is here and you are watching this last week of shows, it’s hard and gut wrenching.  It’s really great, and really sad.  I am proud of all the people that worked so hard on it.  And as sad as it is, I am enjoying seeing those faces up there, and I know how it ends and it’s nice.

MICHAEL:

Is it OK for you on how it ended with Otalia?

CRYSTAL:

For me, what is important is that these two women ended up together and that their love managed to survive.  You get the sense it’s going to grow and continue, and that this is the real thing. In that respect, I am happy with that.  There are certain aspects of the show, and that couple, that could have been a little different but…

MICHAEL:

You mean like… they did not show any affection? (He laughs)

CRYSTAL:

I am not judging anybody…. I am just saying I would have done things differently.

gazebo.jpgMICHAEL:

What do you think were the best Otalia moments of their story?  I know one must be when Olivia told Natalia she loved her at the cemetery.  The other were the gazebo scenes.

CRYSTAL:

Those were really big moments for that couple, and it was beautifully written. You wanted to
learn each word verbatim because it was so well scripted.  Those are in my top five.  I liked My Two Mommies.  I thought that was fantastic.  I even liked their spa weekend, and I thought that was sweet.  I certainly loved Olivia showing up at the sonogram.

MICHAEL:

You know what I really loved about that too?  Since Otalia could never really show intimacy, and the producers would let them go there, the way you played it Crystal was wonderful. Just by the way you looked at her you could see how much you loved her and there was this passion for her.  You hit it on the money!

CRYSTAL:

I hear what you are saying.  It’s hard to pick out the moments.  It was all so special. The entire story even from the beginning when Olivia is trying to die in her hotel room and Natalia is forcing her to eat well and trying to get her to live was amazing.  I loved watching this relationship evolve, and how these two women changed over the course of a year.  You know, I also liked it at Christmas time, and the how-to-decorate the house episodes, and the feeling that I am going to have to move out.  It breaks my heart to have to think about that. All of it was so important, and I felt an interesting story.

MICHAEL:

On the flip side, do you think that Natalia’s pregnancy was the worst Otalia moment, or just a bad choice?

CRYSTAL:

I don’t have any problem with the pregnancy, and I know some people did.

MICHAEL:

I wanted to get your take on that, because fans have at times been up in arms with me over the statement I made that “it’s a soap opera and it’s a plot device.” And of course, and rightfully so, fans were upset they threw a man into the story… a la Frank!

CRYSTAL:

Well, you know, I have lesbian friends who had children.  I am sure somewhere there was sperm involved.  I am just saying (She laughs) I believe that to be true.  There was a man involved somewhere, even if they went to the sperm bank.  I did not mind the pregnancy thing because I feel the same way… it’s a soap opera; you are going to have those twists and turns.  If anything, what I found a bit unbelievable was Natalia, of all people, fighting her religion and trying to understand how her religion would fit in with what she was feeling for Olivia.  And yet, she is the one that would run out and sleep with someone.  I found that totally unbelievable!

MICHAEL:

What did she do… have unprotected sex!

CRYSTAL:

Of course!  It happened with the two men in her life and she got knocked up both times, dear God. (She laughs) Someone needs to give Natalia a Sex Ed class, poor thing.  For me, I thought that was out of character for Natalia, but the pregnancy provided another interesting way to create tension with this couple.  It did not mean they were going to break-up, in fact, they don’t break up.

MICHAEL:

Do you think they made it “the free-to-be-you-and-me” lesbian couple?  We have Frank as the father of the baby, and the two women having what some would say a very progressive and open family.  In the end game, is that what they were trying to say with this couple?  Are they trying to say they are so open minded, so every body loves everybody?

CRYSTAL:

I don’t think there was any hidden agenda.  They wanted to tell a love story, and because the show was coming to an end. “GL” ends with the feeling that anything is possible and love is the most important thing.  That’s true for Olivia and Natalia, and Frank and who he ends up with, and all these people in Springfield.  We really just get the sense that there is hope for the future and life goes on, and some wonderful things are going to happen.

thekiss.jpgMICHAEL:

Any other moments that did not ring true for Otalia that was not a great twist on the story?

CRYSTAL:

To get back to your earlier question, there should have been more affection between the two women after they admitted their feelings and had the sex conversation. (She laughs) If anything, it’s unbelievable that there was not a little more affection shown.  I have had these conversations with people where they go, “I don’t want to see them slurping kissing,” and I go, “Well, I don’t want to see two dogs kiss like that. You know what I am saying?  I don’t want to see two people slurping and slopping, either.”  I think people get things in their minds about love scenes and that they have to be tasteless.  What I think would have been wonderful is just a simple romantic mutual kiss. It’s almost the simpler the better.  That would have been my choice, not that there is anything wrong with some good hot stuff.  I think it’s the image of what people have in their heads.  I think you have to swing it back and have it all somewhere in the middle, and be open to that, and then it’s a really beautiful thing.

MICHAEL:

You have won an Emmy, and Olivia had lots of men as your other half throughout the history of “GL”. On the male side, who did you enjoy working with?

CRYSTAL:

I got to work with just about everybody.  I love working with each and every one of those men.  When I first started on the show, I was the foil for Josh and Reva. I was always the odd girl out, and initially it bothered me, because I thought it was just more comfortable to be in a coupling, and it’s great and everyone likes you.  Being the foil, and the nasty one that comes in to wreck a relationship, I was concerned about what the fans thought of me. But after awhile I realized I got to work with lots of people in different ways. Olivia’s relationship with Josh and Reva, and Buzz, and Bill, and Alan, and Phillip… it was all these different kinds of relationships this woman had. All these actors who played these characters are different. I got along with all of them and we just had fun.

robert_crystal.jpgMICHAEL:

Were there some favorite acting moments with the guys?

CRYSTAL:

I got nominated for an Emmy with scenes with Robert Newman, and it got me the Emmy. I also got nominated for an Emmy for scenes with Daniel Cosgrove, and certainly Justin Deas has a very big place in my heart.  I have a huge fondness for him.  They force you to work harder and they are such good actors.  Justin is my little bear!

MICHAEL:

What did you think of last weekend’s 60 minutes tribute?

CRYSTAL:

I thought it was beautifully done.  I cried.

MICHAEL:

I did too.

CRYSTAL:

I cry watching the show everyday.  I miss my friends and my cast mates.  I am still in touch, but it’s not the same… to go in, and go to work and laugh.

MICHAEL:

And now you have a real bathroom at DAYS!

CRYSTAL:

I do, which I can say I do appreciate modern technology…

MICHAEL:

What was your take away from the “GL” Daytime Emmy tribute?

CRYSTAL:

You know, I had this really bizarre experience, which helped get me through it, because I was on the verge of crying.  We were all backstage there and it became very surreal. Right before the curtain came up, (I knew when it was going to happen because it was after the clip reel in rehearsal), my dress that ties in the back… I heard this pop.  So this string or ribbon that was holding up the dress popped!  I was completely free and coming out. Liz Keifer (Blake) was standing next to me.  I go,”Lizzie, look what happened!” and she goes, “Oh, my God!”  So she pulls my arm down.  If you go back and watch the clip of us on stage, you will notice my right arm is so close to my body.  All I could think about was this is going to be some tribute! (She laughs).  It distracted me. Then thanks to the Emmy wardrobe crew backstage, they put a safety pin on to hold it together.  I was literally walking around safety-pinned for the rest of the night.

chappell_zimmer.jpgMICHAEL:

In Nelson Branco’s TV Guide Canada interview last week with Kim Zimmer, he asked Kim,“Do you think Crystal has stolen the thunder from you as “GL’s” top star? And Zimmer responded as follows: “ I think Crystal worked really hard to steal my thunder, but I don’t think she succeeded. [Laughs] She may have succeeded in your eyes, Nelson!  I read your columns!  Seriously, she has a huge fan base and she respects it immensely, so bravo to her — we’re very similar that way.  But when the final nail is hammered into the coffin, I think Reva will be more popular than Olivia.  And I don’t think I’m being biased.”  What are your thoughts on that?

CRYSTAL:

I love Zimmer.  You know, Reva should be the one that is remembered.  She has been on the show for many, many years, and what a great character! Zimmer is a fantastic actress. I don’t disagree with her about that, but since neither of these characters exists anymore, I am not going to get into some bitch slap fest! (She laughs)

MICHAEL:

When you taped your last “GL” scene, what happened?

GL_lastday.jpgCRYSTAL:

I was done early in the day, and it was just weird.  There were fans there throughout the day and through to the end, and they were applauding.  They let us do our work, which was amazing and beautiful.  When it ended, it did not feel real.  We all got in the van to go back to the main house in Peapack.  We were all very quiet. It was not until the end of the day, and you saw it on 60 minutes, when they said, “Guiding Light, that’s a wrap!” That is when I lost it.

MICHAEL:

Now you come on to Days of our lives on October 2nd.  How is it being back there?  You have said previously in some tweets, it’s not a Bo/Carly redo.

CRYSTAL:

I have had a really great time.  I have had to dust the cobwebs off.  Trying to get back into that format is like riding a bike, but it does come back very quickly.  I am grateful for the experience I had on “GL”.  It’s different going back to DAYS.  What I like about DAYS right now are the stories they are telling.  When I pick up my scripts its good writing and good old fashioned soap story.  I am really enjoying them and I am enjoying how it’s structured… the old soap hook at the end of the show

MICHAEL:

And being in a real studio!

CRYSTAL:

With a real toilet, Michael!

MICHAEL:

And hair and makeup right there, and you don’t have to deal with the cameras right in your face!

CRYSTAL:

You know, if I did not like the people so much working behind the camera, I would have been really annoyed by that, but they were too damn funny.  As far as Carly goes, I am really enjoying playing her.  She is different than she used to be.

MICHAEL:

What can we expect from her?

crystal.jpgCRYSTAL:

She is massively flawed.

MICHAEL:

We like you when you play flawed!

CRYSTAL:

She is flawed, but innately is a good person.  She just makes bad choices sometimes and they get her into not just a little trouble, but a lot of trouble.  I like that for a soap character.

MICHAEL:

Now the tease is: it’s a murder mystery that brings her back into Salem.

CRYSTAL:

She has really killed someone, and she needs Bo’s help to not only protect herself, but lots of other lives are in serious trouble if she does not get to him and get his help.

MICHAEL:

Your husband, Michael Sabatino, also makes a return visit to DAYS.

CRYSTAL:

Oh yes, he is a Lawrence. We had scenes together and it’s been great…sharing a dressing room…and it’s a killer dressing room.

MICHAEL:

Are you in Deidre Hall’s old dressing room?

CRYSTAL:

I actually don’t know where that was.  I am in the hall.  I so don’t care.  It’s a nice place and they treat me very well.

MICHAEL:

crystal_michaelsabatino.jpgI spoke with Louise Sorel who is coming back as Carly’s old nemesis, Vivian!  We all cannot wait to see the sparks fly again between these two.

CRYSTAL:

She starts next week. The story… it’s good, really good!  I am having fun doing it.

MICHAEL:

Peter Reckell (Bo) told me on the red carpet at the Daytime Emmys, he was so looking forward to having you back on the show.  Can we assume a triangle is in the works?

CRYSTAL:

All I know is what we have now.  When Carly comes back she is not available to Bo, it’s more as an old friend.  There has been no sense of anything romantic. Where they go with it, I don’t know.

MICHAEL:

NBC’s promo sort of alluded that it could be a triangle.

CRYSTAL:

I saw the promo, and it sort of showed how Carly’s return will affect Bo’s life.

MICHAEL:

Do you remember working with your Bo’s, the last time in the early 90’s on DAYS?

CRYSTAL:

I worked with both Robert Kelker Kelly and Peter Reckell.  I’m having a hard time remembering when each was on, Michael. (She laughs)  I am having a hard time recalling One Life to Live or even the beginning of my time on Guiding Light!

MICHAEL:

You did watch soap operas growing up and then decided you wanted to be in them.  What appealed to you about them?

CRYSTAL:

I was a fan, and I still am a fan.  I used to call in sick to school to watch the soaps, that is how seriously addicted I was.  I was watching them going, “I can do that. I would like to do that.”  I started getting the names of the casting directors in the soap world.  I really made a b-line for it.  I don’t know what would have happened if I didn’t get anything. (She laughs)

MICHAEL:

You are web savvy and have been very entrepreneurial with the development of your upcoming web series, “Venice”.  You held back confirming you were going to play the lead, Gina, for a while.  Why?

CRYSTAL:

The intention was always to play her, and that came up right after “GL” was cancelled and then I got my job on DAYS.  There is a contract involved, and they usually want exclusivity across the board.  I needed to get permission from NBC and Corday Productions to play another character on the web in a new series.

MICHAEL:

I see.  Now, Gina is very open-minded living her life in Venice Beach, California.  Is she a free spirit?  I hear she has got some issues!

cosgrove_chappell.jpgCRYSTAL:

She has got some issues.  Gina is very smart, driven, but she is very business oriented and fun.  She and her brother Owen have great repartee. Danny Cosgrove and I have such a blast when we work together.  Gina is one of those people who make great decisions in her professional life, but when it comes to her personal life, it never works with someone; something is broken.

MICHAEL:

Are we going to see her going through different romantic entanglements?

CRYSTAL:

Yes, and Jessica Leccia plays Annie, her-ex.  They have a wonderful relationship.  Gina just does not know if she wants to go back there.  She is not good in relationships at all at this point.  It’s going to be interesting how she resolves that part of herself, but there are other things that get in the way, and other things that slow down the journey.  There is something that happens in the end that just rocks everybody.

MICHAEL:

From what I understand, you have mapped out an entire season.

CRYSTAL:

Right now, we have mapped out six minutes episodes.  We are going into the first season a bit lighter, partly due to time constraints, but also we are doing this ourselves.  I am hoping by season two we can have it seven or eight minutes long.  I think that is possible.  I imagine a season is twelve episodes.

MICHAEL:

venice_series_logo3.jpgEach one of these actors: Keener, Leccia, Sabatino, Cosgrove, Smith, and Clarke you tweeted about that they were going to be involved and play roles in Venice.  Was getting these actors effortless?  Did you just say,” Hey, do you want to do my show?  Or, I have a role for you?”

CRYSTAL:

Pretty much.  You know what?  I walk around telling my friends, “I have the best friends in the world,” and I almost get weepy when I think how generous these people are being to me.  I was very enthusiastic about the project, and they just really wanted to be supportive. I think they are all smart people, and I am sure this could be something in the future that could possibly make them a living.

MICHAEL:

So Hillary B. Smith, Danny Cosgrove and Jessica Leccia would come to LA to film?

CRYSTAL:

Yes, we will be flying out all the New Yorkers.  We will be bringing them out here and we might also be doing some shooting in New York.

MICHAEL:

Guya is Hillary B. Smith’s role. How did you come to choose her for this interesting role?

CRYSTAL:

We talked about it and we had gone over some of the character descriptions and some things have been altered for a certain actor. Head writer, Kim Turrisi, is totally open to that. I was actually living with Hillary and her husband and her son, because I was actually spending more time living with other people this summer then with my own family.  So I better have given Hillary a role!

MICHAEL:

You have moved to LA now?

CRYSTAL:

We are back up in the central coast of California.  I sent my son and husband ahead for the summer because I wanted them to get back to the west coast and get used to our home up north.  They left the beginning of July.  Now with DAYS being in LA, I might possibly ended up getting a place here, but we are still on the central coast.  We will see how it works.  If the strain is too much with the commute, we will move down, but right now they are enjoying themselves up there.

crystal_jessica_reddress.jpgMICHAEL:

Speaking of moves, do you miss your Jessica?  I was watching the final week of “GL” and I was like, “Oh, look at the lesbian klatch in the corner,” during the double wedding!

CRYSTAL:

That is hilarious!

MICHAEL:

In the scenes this week, Otalia seems completely out and proud! At the “GL” double wedding of Buzz/Lillian and Vanessa/Billy, I thought how funny to throw all four lesbians in the corner together, when we never saw anything like that before.

CRYSTAL:

Well, we like each other anyway. We are the fun group.

MICHAEL:

With the gay audience for Venice, you have touted that there will be a kiss at the beginning of the first episode.  Is that really true?

CRYSTAL:

That is really true.

MICHAEL:

And it’s going to be a well-rounded show, not just about Gina’s same-sex relationship.

CRYSTAL:

Correct.  It’s going to be a well-rounded show with a diverse group of characters.

MICHAEL:

So your hope with the gay audience is that you want to extend what Otalia couldn’t do? You have cultivated the gay audience so amazingly well. Is it to give them something more?

CRYSTAL:

My feeling is that this had been an education. I obviously have many, many gay friends.

MICHAEL:

Now you have millions of gay friends!

last_day_group_photo.jpgCRYSTAL:

I am lucky in my life, but my point is, we are all family.  It’s a diverse world and what I learned from the Otalia storyline, and from the emails I got from all over the world was how forthcoming people were with their stories.  Their gratitude would literally make me weep. It just seemed too big to ignore.  When Guiding Light got cancelled it was like we just could not let this go.  We did not want to repeat Otalia because that was just too special. You can’t do that.  That was brilliant.  The idea of creating a show and the lead character just happens to be out and comfortable with who she is.  She has this family who is messed up, and friends who had their own stuff going on… that is what I want to watch.  There is affection that happens!

MICHAEL:

No! (He laughs)

CRYSTAL:

Yeah, certainly in my life it does. (She laughs) The whole thing is exciting.  We have our dream cast and we get to work with them.

MICHAEL:

And Elizabeth Keener is in this!

CRYSTAL:

Yes… she is fantastic and she is playing Lara, and she is playing a lesbian.

MICHAEL:

Lara the lesbian?

CRYSTAL:

Yes, Lara the lesbian.  It rolls of the tongue, Michael, doesn’t it?

MICHAEL:

So you are set to shoot next month?

glamourshot.jpgCRYSTAL:

We are hoping to shoot the end of October and have it up sometime after Thanksgiving. Prior to the debut we want to have a couple launch parties in LA and NY.

MICHAEL:

This week, you and all the viewers have to say goodbye to Olivia, and I am as sad as you are!  I think she was an amazing character.  As you look back, what did she mean to you?

CRYSTAL:

I learned a lot from Olivia.  If anything, she made me realize there is a lot more than what is under the surface.  As hard a road as she had, especially coming on 10 years ago, there was so much more to her to discover, and not judge her.  I appreciate people who are who they are, and they are flawed. I can relate to these people.  I understand and I don’t want to be judged either.  I liked her.  I liked Olivia because she taught me to be comfortable with myself in the end.  For selfish reasons as an actress, she was a lot of fun to play, because she would just whack-out and do things, and no sane person would act like that. (She laughs)

MICHAEL:

She was an emotional person for sure, and she wore her heart on her sleeve!

CRYSTAL:

It was cathartic to be able to go out there and say what everyone else is thinking in a scene. (She laughs) So it was a lot of fun.

MICHAEL:

Final question: Why do you think Otalia worked so well, and you and Jessica?

jessica_crystal_laughing.jpgCRYSTAL:

There was no ego. We are two women who had great respect for each other and no competition, and we are equals. We both had to bring it and we laughed.  I so can’t work with people who don’t laugh. (She laughs)  I swear to God that was one of my biggest concerns going to DAYS. I was thinking, “Oh, I hope these people can laugh and have a sense humor, because it could be a long couple of years!” (She laughs)  But they do, so it’s great.  Jessica is my friend and she can hang out with anybody, men, and women.  I am like that too.  We like to help people do their best and feel good about themselves, because it all comes back ten fold, really.  Look at the cast from Venice! We have already started to think of who we are going to cast for season two. “Well, of course, we are going to use her and use her!”  These are all people who have shown me so much love and support. It’s true of me, and Jessica, and all the people at Guiding Light.  We truly supported each other and wanted the best for each other.

MICHAEL:

Oh, God. I am going to need hankies for Friday!

CRYSTAL:

I know.  I am Auntie Crystal to Jessica’s new daughter, Ivy, but we will see what happens now with Gina and Annie on “Venice”.

  1. justin says:

    i love crystal

    Reply

  2. Sue says:

    Crystal is awesome!

    Reply

  3. ashley says:

    just gotta love CC can’t wait for VENICE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply

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