December 5th, 2008  |  Leave a comment

HARRIS, THAYER, DESIDERIO INTERVIEWS – LIFE IN GENERAL

THE KAREN HARRIS INTERVIEW

LIFE IN GENERAL

“Life in General” premiered on Strike.TV in late October. As part of this special three-part feature, I spoke with the show’s creator, “GH” writer, Karen Harris and two of the show’s stars, Brynn Thayer and Robert Desiderio.

This week, the show premieres in its new online incarnation with both parts: “Life in General” featuring the behind-the-scenes antics of a soap opera, married to its counterpart; “Greenville General,” which is the soap all the characters appear on in “Life in General.” Confused? You won’t be now with this new version. You can watch both components and get the entire intended experience!

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Karen Harris to get some insight into being a writer for a top soap, and to get the inside scoop on some burning questions “GH” fans want to know, and of course, to talk about her brilliant online creation, “Life in General”!

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Listen to the audio:

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MICHAEL:

Karen, it’s such a treat to chat with you, and we will get into all things soap writing and “GH” in a moment.First off, I really thought “Life in General” was terrific. Go over with me the creative process in your mind as Arian Zuker, Robert Desiderio, and Brynn Thayer were cast in the main roles. What were you thoughts?

KAREN:

The idea of “Life in General” started in the early 90’s when I went over to work at “GH.” I thought, “Well, what goes on behind-the-scenes of a soap is way more fun.” Now, I am not saying anyone on those shows is specifically someone I worked with. But as you work in the world, you get to know who they are and know who the icons are. Now you know a character like Raymond Kennedy is based on Irna Phillips meets Doug Marland meets Agnes Nixon.

MICHAEL:

And you had the idea for “Life in General” for quite awhile.

KAREN:

LIG.jpgIt was going to be a ‘dramedy’, a half hour, behind-the-scenes look into soaps. I even think I pitched it to Brian Frons who was at New World at the time. The networks have a hard time with shows that deal with the behind-the-scenes of the business, and maybe in broadcast television, it does have its struggles. I loved it so much that I decided to go back to it and create “Greenville General,” the soap opera they all work on. I never planned to make it a separate show. Then I sat down one day and I said, “I am going to write the teaser.” I wrote the whole 10-12 pages, which is the pilot, the show you are looking at on Strike TV. The characters are very much the same as I created. The inspiration for the first couple in “Life in General” was Bill and Susan Seaforth Hayes. The Days, played by Robert and Brynn have been divorced and remarried so many times, and on “Greenville General,” they cannot separate the two. I don’t want to say who it was but an actor who was getting divorced on soap said to me, “It’s hard to talk to each other when the lines aren’t being written” and that’s so true. So, that is what I am doing with this couple. That’s what happens when Brynn and Robert do these roles, and when Brian says to Ari, “You haven’t had anything good for me since you took me out of the wheelchair.” I wonder what inspired that. I put that line in after I left “AMC.” (She laughs.)

MICHAEL:

How did you decide to put Brynn in her role on “Life in General”?

KAREN:

She is always in the back of my mind. I had worked with her for 20 years. I went to see her one-woman play, which is called “Eulogy.” Judith and Robert were there and it was opening night. As a writer, she wanted me to see it and to give her my feedback. So I said to her, “I know it’s your opening night, but I am doing an internet soap pilot.” She said, “Just tell me where you want me.” When I saw Judith and Robert, something inspired me about Robert. So I called Brynn the next day and she put me in touch with Robert. He was a bit hesitant at first because it was acting on the internet, but we wanted to prove it could be done when the strike was happening. This group, Strike TV, was formed, and I heard them making an announcement at a Writer’s Guild meeting. I said, “I want to be there. It’s a chance to do a life without notes!”

ariane33.jpgMICHAEL:

Tell me about Ariane Zuker’s role, who I loved in it!

KAREN:

Ariane’s role is based on the anxiety of being the head writer on a soap.

MICHAEL:

Is she your voice?

KAREN:

She is as much my voice; but I am not a tall, willowy, blonde Shiksa from Atlanta!

MICHAEL:

But she is your voice!

GREEN3.jpgKAREN:

Yes, exactly. She is younger than I was when I first head wrote. Her background in my mind is she is a little more repressed than I am. In my mind, this character is a woman who puts on the page what she can’t live in real life. She is afraid and completely devoted to her writing and her career. It’s all a good excuse not to be emotional. She is kind of waspy, and she can write very hot. She lives her romance on the page but she does not get to live it in her life. She might meet someone in real life and fall in love, but she could not say it to them. So, she lets her characters do the talking. But what I tried to do with this is show the world of her work, and the chaos she goes through. Then, her world turns around. This episode is called “Out of Control.” She can’t find her leading lady. Someone is re-writing her show and characters are divorcing each other. When you watch the episode of the two scenes with “Greenville General,” they are both about not having control. At the end of the episode, she goes to her typewriter and says, “Things never turn out the way you expect them too.” That’s also Brynn’s last line in the soap opera.

MICHAEL

For those who don’t know, you are currently a script writer at “GH.”

KAREN:

Yes. This time around I just completed my third year and I’m starting a new three-year cycle.

MICHAEL:

Tell me your journey to becoming a writer on “GH”?

KAREN:

“GH” was my first soap. I had been in primetime television, writing a lot of character pieces, a lot of pilots and that was just in the 90s. I thought I needed to re-create myself. Wendy Riche was a colleague of mine at Universal, and when she went over to “GH” as executive producer, she asked, “You want to come over?” At first, I said, “No,” but she insisted it would be worth investigating.

MICHAEL:

But you had watched soaps before?

KAREN:

I knew from watching NBC. Their line-up back then was “The Doctors,” “Days of our Lives,” “Somerset” and “Another World.” I knew the genre. It’s interesting because I was not a devoted primetime soap watcher of shows like “90210” or “Dallas” or “Dynasty” or “Knots Landing.” I appreciated them, but they didn’t hook me. As a viewer, I, like Wendy, started watching. She said to me, “You could be a head writer in no time at all.” So I put myself into training for daytime. I did a nice transition to daytime. I loved writing it but it was an odd set up at the time. Bill Levinson was the head writer and I came in pretty arrogant. I thought I was hot stuff. I learned very quickly. Then they hired someone else to be the head writer. They hired Claire Labine who I loved working for. When she came in, she pretty much cleaned house and brought in her own team. We were all very flattered, those that got to stay. After three years, she decided to move on, so “GH” brought in veteran Bob Guza as head writer. Wendy said, “You will be his co- head writer.” I was thrilled! We spent almost a year bringing Carly to the canvas along with the Cassadines.

MICHAEL:

Tell the fans why holding the reigns of daytime soap is so difficult when you are the head writer.

maurice.jpgKAREN:

Being head writer is one of the hardest jobs in daytime. The first time out, I wrote the Sonny/Brenda story, which I am so proud of. I had a passion for Sonny and used that to develop his back-story. Maurice has often said that without my husband, Sonny would not exist, because a lot of the back-story is based on my husband’s rather tortured childhood. It is a difficult and demanding job. I remember pitching ideas to Wendy. It was a six-month long story. We worked so hard working all the points out, and Wendy said, “So, what comes next?” We had just given her six months of long story! You see, in daytime soap opera, it’s this machine that eats up material that makes it so tough.

MICHAEL:

So many in the industry, including myself, try to understand why some of the same head writers are constantly recycled into other soaps. I know part of it is that producers feel confident that they can handle the rigors of the quick turnaround.

KAREN:

It’s partly that, and partly that the producers and writing teams know that these writers can write for the pace of daytime. It is important to keep up that pace and be not as concerned as to the quality. If I had the chance to do it again, to be a head writer on a soap, it’s something you don’t do alone. For my own show, I would have a team. But for “Life in General,” it’s only 15 minutes of show. When you are writing or doing a show 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year, you feel no matter how quickly you work, you can never get ahead. But currently, I am a scriptwriter which I love doing. I write one episode a week, and that is great.

MICHAEL:

On “GH,” who would you say is the hardest character for you to write for?

Nikolas-Nain.jpgKAREN:

There would be a couple for me. I have a harder time hearing their voices. If there is a good story to tell, then they all make sense to me. Sometimes Nikolas can be a bit tough, especially when we are going through a transition with him. For example, “What do we do now that there is no Emily? Where is his heart and soul?” So it was tough finding his humanness, coming out of the pain of Emily, and being charmed by Nadine, without
sacrificing him and his character.

MICHAEL:

What are your thoughts about where the writing team is taking Nadine?

KAREN:

With Nadine, she could be a little like Lucy Coe right now, if we write her that way. Lucy, over the years, became a different person on the scene. She was a bit more of a villainess but had that kookiness. If we write Nadine the right way, as a little bit of Felicia, and a little bit Lucy, it would be a good idea to interject this in the darker “GH” that we currently have. That’s how she struck me.

MICHAEL:

What about the character of Carly?

srah-brown.jpgKAREN:

Carly is off the wall, and Laura Wright is so brave. She is the bravest actress and the same with Sarah Brown. I just got to write a scene between Carly and Claudia that is great. Now it’s not a major plot point, but it’s a major part of the episode where they go at it. Sarah Brown does not say a line without sexual undertones. So you don’t have to write her flirty with Ric or Sonny. You can write her fairly straight ahead and
know that the actors will bring it.

MICHAEL:

Is it true for you that the actors influence writers?

KAREN:

Absolutely. If you are adept at what you do as a writer, the actors inspire you. When I first saw Maurice Benard, I sat in the booth. He had been on for a week. I saw scenes where Sonny was getting Karen to strip, and I said, “Oh my God. I just saw Al Pacino!” He then started to develop in my head. I was so inspired by him.

vanessa.jpgMICHAEL:

Ok, I have to ask. What about Brenda? Is there ever going to be a Vanessa Marcil comeback?

KAREN:

As you probably read, it’s been an ongoing conversation because she keeps getting work. My hope is that she might be available, but there are so many budget cuts going on right now. I don’t know if we could afford her. That’s just my thoughts about it.

MICHAEL:

What can we expect on “GH” in 2009?

KAREN:

I am not the head writer, so it’s not my place to tease it. But from what I have heard, Bob Guza has a pretty amazing story planned. It will be an umbrella story that will cover much of the canvas.

MICHAEL:

Who are your favorite characters or couples on “GH”? I think I know.

KAREN:

I can tell you that my favorite couple of the moment to watch is Patrick and Robin. I write for them a lot. There is a second wedding coming up. I did write the day before Thanksgiving, and it was a “time out of time” or a dream show. It was all Robin and Patrick. It’s a “sliding doors” idea. It answers the question, “What would have happened if we hadn’t met the way we did?”

jason-kimber.jpgMICHAEL:

Are there any episodes of yours coming up on “GH” that we can tease?

KAREN:

I just finished the New Year’s episode which was couples and romance. I used to write more mobster stories with Sonny because I was the action-adventure writer. Anything with mobsters, Claire Labine would give them to me. I came from “Night Rider” and action shows. Hopefully now at “GH,” we are a happy combination of “The Sopranos” meets “Grey’s Anatomy.” Since we are on five days a week, there is room for that. I know there are a lot of fans that think the show is geared more toward the mobsters than the hospital, but if you look at our mobsters, they are actually very interesting. Getting the Zacharras in the story, they are very gothic. Now that we don’t have the Cassadines, except for Nikolas, the Zacharra family brings that gothic element, one that is very sick and twisted. One of the challenges for me is to wrap my head around being in the room with those people. Good writing is “every character wants something.”

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MICHAEL:

How would you describe, “Life in General” if you had to quickly put a button on it for those who don’t know about it, and want to click on it and see it?

KAREN:

It is, in my opinion, a pretty accurate view of the craziness of the behind-the-scenes of the soap opera. It’s got the best actors. It’s so much fun. If you are a fan of soaps, I think you will get a kick out of it. If you have never seen a soap in your life, it’s still really entertaining, and it might make you more interested in watching a soap.

THE BRYNN THAYER INTERVIEW

Brynn1.jpgLIFE IN GENERAL

It has been ten years since I caught up with one of my all-time favorite actresses and human beings, Brynn Thayer. When I found out she was appearing in the new online soap, “Life in General”, I decided it was time for us to get together for a chat.

Many soap fans remember her as Jenny Wolek on “OLTL”. For eight remarkable years Jenny’s troubles and the troubles of her sister Karen, played by Judith Light, headlined the soap.

Brynn, known also to audiences from the TV series “Matlock”, was also integral in bringing Michael Zaslow’s final soap opera performance to the screen as David Renaldi battling ALS,
as Michael had in his own life.

Brynn and I talked about it all! Without
further adieu…

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MICHAEL:

This is so thrilling for me, because I have not talked to Brynn in a number of years and there is so much to talk about and catch up on! But, it’s starts with “Life In General”. How did it come about?

BRYNN:

Karen Harris, who is a friend, had this idea to do this behind the scenes of soap operas and it has a companion piece called “Greenville General”. She presented it to a website called Strike TV, which was created after the writers strike took place a year and half ago. Thirty percent of whatever revenue Strike TV makes goes to the Actors Fund, which is a charity that takes care of not only actors, but also behind-the-scenes, below the line crew people. If they have not been able to get a job since the strike, or if they need a job with their medical problems, the actors fund will help them do that. Karen got a lot of her friends together for a web series. We did it in a two-day period. It was shot in a warehouse somewhere…don’t even know where it was. It’s the personalities of these characters, and what they go through behind-the–scenes in the soap opera “Greenville General”. It’s the crazy antics of actors, producers, writers, and directors of soap operas and what goes on when the cameras are not rolling.

MICHAEL:

And the part you play is?

BRYNN:

I play the diva of the soap opera, “Greenville General”. My dear friend, Robert Desiderio, who is a wonderful actor and screenwriter, plays my husband. The character’s name was Rachel Carlton Day and Robert was Brian Day, and they were sort of named after Susan Seaforth Hayes and Bill Hayes. I am sure that’s who they were patterned after. That’s what Karen was thinking. Anyway, we are the couple that has been on the show the longest and we are married, but in the process of getting a divorce. We basically hate each other, but we are madly in love with each other when we are on screen. We had a ball doing it and I loved saying Karen’s words. She is one of my favorite writers on “GH”, and she has put this to paper and it’s all her creation.

MICHAEL:

When you and Robert saw the script, did you rehearse or just show up to shoot it?

Robert-Brynn.jpgBRYNN:

Robert and I just showed up. Karen had asked me to do this. I think we were all at a party one-day and she called me and said, “Will Robert play your husband?” I said, “Well I think he better!” So I called him and said, “Would you be interested?” And he got on board right away. I don’t think we ran the lines till we got there that day, but we played on the relationship we have in real-life, and we had so much history together as friends. Robert is married to Judith Light, who is my dear friend, and we were all on “OLTL” together back in the good old days.

MICHAEL:

You got to work with Ariane Zuker (Nicole) of “DAYS”, too. Did you enjoy working with her?

BRYNN:

I loved working with her. I blatantly asked her, “Did she have a mother on “DAYS”?” And she said, “No.” I said, “You need one!” She is quite a wonderful actress and beautiful to look at it.

Ariane3.jpgMICHAEL:

Did you like “Life in General” after you had watched it? Is it hard as an actress to watch your own work?

BRYNN:

I am a slut for TV. I like to watch myself, and it’s not hard. (She laughs) The way Karen Harris writes, when you read it you know you love it, and when I watched it, it was exactly as she wrote it. She writes such real full characters, that it’s a joy.

MICHAEL:

Was there a funniest moment during the taping?

BRYNN:

We had lots of laughs, and we all said, “If we get to continue this, count us in.” Well, Robert is one of the funniest guys. We are each other’s biggest fans, and I got to slam a newspaper between his legs! (She laughs)

MICHAEL:

Did you like playing the ‘Diva’?

BrynnLeopard.jpgBRYNN:

Oh yes, I loved it! I wish someone would hire me as the diva bitch! (She laughs)

MICHAEL:

So, what now is the goal with “Life” and “Greenville”?

BRYNN:

The goal is to get picked up and to do more episodes, because we are all moving so fast. A lot of us want our dose of soap operas each day, and we can zip through them. These are seven-minute episodes, and it’s a continuing story that we all love.

MICHAEL:

Now, let’s take a stroll down memory lane together. You have loved soaps for a long time, isn’t that correct?

BRYNN:

I loved “Love is a Many Splendored Thing” when I was in college.

MICHAEL:

And how did you finally end up on a soap and on “OLTL” as ‘thee’ Jenny Wolek?

BRYNN:

I was a schoolteacher and went to New York City, and was not sure what I was going to do. Then one thing lead to another, and I started taking acting classes. I took a class that Peter Miner, one of the directors of “OLTL” was teaching. He suggested I go in to read the role originated by Kathy Glass of Jenny Wolek, since they were looking for a replacement. And so, I knew I would not get it on my acting ability, because I had very little of it at the time. I was a huge watcher of the show, and Kathy Glass at the time, had this Dorothy Hamill haircut. So I thought, “I will go get my haircut like that,” because they usually recast someone with somebody who looks like the person who is leaving, so the audience doesn’t go crazy. I came in to do the final audition with Michael Storm (Larry), and I had my hairdo and I got the part!

MICHAEL:

Brynn, you were on “OLTL” at the time when it was the most spectacular. To this day, I don’t think there have ever been such exceptional actors in one cast at one time!

judith.jpgBRYNN:

It was so great, that we had all these incredible actors there at the time: Judith Light (Karen), Gerald Anthony (Marco), Steve Fletcher (Brad), Michael Storm (Larry), and Erika Slezak (Viki). They all had these extensive acting backgrounds, and they all are such giving actors. They knew I was really ‘green’, and they would meet with me before the show and work with me on the material for the next day. So they became my teachers, and that’s unheard of! They were so helpful. Now, I hear about jealousy and backstabbing. But this cast, at that time, I could not ask for a better situation… plus, they gave me all their secrets and tips. (She laughs)

MICHAEL:

But you must have been so excited and terrified at the same time. I mean, there were Erika Slezak and Judith Light to do scenes with!

BRYNN:

First of all, because I was such a fan, I would say to Erika, “Good morning Viki, I mean Erika!” I knew them only as their character. I was mesmerized. Judith and I were both only children at the time and both wanted a sister, and for whatever reason we became the closest of friends.

MICHAEL:

You were in the historic courtrooms scenes where Karen takes the witness stand and admits she’s a prostitute. Can you recall how the day of taping went down, and what it was like sitting there watching Judith deliver and perform her Daytime Emmy winning performance? Did Judith do it in one take?

judithold.jpgBRYNN:

If it was two takes, I am not aware of it. I think it was one. I knew I was witnessing something that was an historical moment in soap operas. I was very new on the show. I could not take my eyes off of her, and she is always doing something that is a surprise. I can’t take my eyes off her now on “Ugly Betty”. She was one of the only actresses that ever looked into the camera and broke the fourth wall. Judith looked straight in the camera at the audience, and Judith did it and got away with it. If some other person would have tried that, I don’t know if that would have worked, but with her it was like, “Oh my God, she is looking right at me!” Judith said, “I am going into their living rooms,” and she did, and she was amazing! In the courtroom scenes, you could hear a pin drop during the tapings. We would do a run-through but not on the stage. Judith did not put it all out there in rehearsal, but pretty much of it. She would do that, and she is a professional, and that took a long time because of the camera angles. She gave it 100% every time. Six months ago, I watched it again and it’s as strong then as it was thirty years ago. It’s a true legendary moment. I called Judith up crying going, “I just watched the courtroom scene,” and Judith went, “You are out of your mind!” She said, “Get a life.” I started out as a fan, so I will always be a fan.

MICHAEL:

But Brynn, you were pretty amazing yourself. Every one out there loved “poor” Jenny!

Brynn-Michael.jpgBRYNN:

I remember the first day I was on the soap. I was scared to death. I think someone was dying on the show during my first day and I had to be in tears. I had a scene with Lillian Hayman (Sadie) and Nat Polen (Jim). They wanted me to cry on a particular line, and somehow I did it. I was scared to death that if I didn’t do it I would get fired.

MICHAEL:

You and the late Michael Zaslow (Ex-Roger, “GL” and Ex-David “OLTL”) shared such a special relationship and friendship. What were your thoughts on this terrific man and actor?

BRYNN:

When Michael first came on the “OLTL” show, I thought, “I want a storyline with him.” I got a storyline with him, and it developed into this amazing friendship. We had so much fun together, with his family, his two girls and his wife, Susan. We did so much together. He was an extraordinary man. He taught me so much about life.

I think he is one of the finest actors I will ever get to work with and he’s that fine of a person. He had such a great sense of morality and truth. I respected that. He told you the truth but said it in a compassionate way, and I think that converted it into the way he acts, whether he was Roger Thorpe on “GL” or David Renaldi on “OLTL”.

MICHAEL:

You were very instrumental in bringing the ALS story to ABC Daytime with Michael. I believe Jenny has been killed in an avalanche, so David comes back without her to Llanview. Tell me how did this all come about?

michael.jpgBRYNN:

I went to Houston with Michael. His wife could not come. My husband and I were living in LA and they were in New York. It was suggested that he go to an ALS clinic in Houston. I met him there, and we spent a week there with him being tested and going through it all. It was extremely difficult. When we were there, we had the idea of Jenny and David coming back to “OLTL” and doing a whole ALS story. I think it was kind of something to look forward to and to be hopeful about, because of the news and information that was being told to him about his disease, and so I wrote it all out. It gave us hope. We called Susan, his wife, and told her about it. I came out to New York later. So, Michael, Susan and I, met with the ABC’s execs and we told them our plan. From the beginning, they were on board. It turned out it was better for them for me not to be in the storyline. So, they brought David back and he had a wonderful storyline with Robin Strasser (Dorian). I think it was brave and bold of ABC. I admire them for taking it on. It was a wonderful thing for Michael and I to be a part of it, and to help bring awareness to the public about ALS.

MICHAEL:

You were married to your then “OLTL” co-star Gerald Anthony back in the 80’s. Many fans seemed to be shocked that the two of you were married in real life.

BRYNN:

The writers called us in, and told us they were going to put us together on camera, after we had been going out. We were thrilled. We were having our storyline together, and we, of course, thought we were “hot,’ and then the writers called us back in the office and told us, “We are splitting your characters up.” and we were like, “What? What are you talking about?” They then go, “There’s no chemistry on camera.” We were hysterical and died laughing because here we thought we had so much chemistry. But then we got married anyway in real life, but I guess it was kind of foreshadowing! (He laughs)

MICHAEL:

You ended up divorced but you still stayed in touch with him, correct?

Brynn-Gerry-baseball.jpgBRYNN:

Yes. He was one of the loves of my life, and though the marriage did not work out our friendship survived. We talked to each other a lot on the phone, and kept up with each other through the years. Gerry was a special person. I have a real soft spot for him in my heart to this day, and always will. He was one of the most intelligent and bright people I ever met. I thought he was such a fascinating actor. I could not take my eyes off of him, and Judith Light and him together, was just the best.

MICHAEL:

Sadly, Gerry passed away a few years ago in 2004… that must have been hard for you.

BRYNN:

It was so sad. He was a great spirit, and a dear human being, and because of the crazy wonderful characters he portrayed people did not see the soft spot in him.

MICHAEL:

Now in 2008, “OLTL” just had its own baby-switch, with Bess switching Starr’s baby for Jessica’s dead baby. Jenny was involved in perhaps the greatest baby switcheroo of all time, when Karen switched Jenny’s baby with Katrina Karr’s. How was that to play?

BRYNN:

The baby switch was so much fun, and Nancy Snyder who played Katrina was also so wonderful.

MICHAEL:

When you watch “OLTL” now, who gets your attention?

BRYNN:

I love Trevor St. John (Todd). I have “OLTL” on in the background a lot, so when I hear his voice and Kassie DePaiva’s (Blair) voice, I usually always go to the television, because I think similar things about both of them. I think they are both surprising and I am always interested to see what they do, and I don’t get tired of them.

Robert-JudithThay.jpgMICHAEL:

Now you and Judith Light, and her hubby, Robert Desiderio, are very close and hang out together on many occasions, right?

BRYNN:

We are in touch all the time. My husband David, and Robert are good friends, and when we are all in town together, we go over to Judith and Robert’s. Judith is an amazing cook. They have a great kitchen, and when you walk in, she is one of those people that have the cookbook holder with a picture of the dish she is making, and the dish comes out better than it looks in the book! Now I am talking about whether its Blueberry crumble, or Roasted Garlic with extraordinary vegetables. It’s so much fun. I really only want to eat Judith’s food. (She laughs) When you open their freezer it’s like a festival!

MICHAEL:

I asked Robert why he thinks his marriage to Judith works. So, I will also ask you, what do you think makes your relationship with your husband David work? What’s the secret of marital success for you?

BRYNN:

David is a manager of comedians and he is very funny, that’s what makes it work for me. We laugh all the time. I have a stepson who is 31 named Mason. If I had been fortunate to have a child, I would have picked him. He is a great kid.

MICHAEL:

Brynn, what would you still love to do or play?

eulogy3.jpgBRYNN:

I am always up for a soap! I just finished a play, “Rabbit Hole” and I played the mother of the two daughters. I was a loud-mouthed drunk, and had so much fun doing it. I also wrote and performed in a one-woman show, directed by Michael Learned, called “Eulogy” and had a great time doing that. I would love to do another play.

MICHAEL:

What did you think of Judith and Robert’s new movie, “Save Me”?

BRYNN:

“Save Me” is a movie that Judith and Robert, and their managers developed. It’s a wonderful, touching, beautiful movie, and Robert is credited with the screen writing, and they got a movie made, and that’s a big deal! It got great reviews. The story is really about Judith’s character revolution. She tries to convert men that are gay, become straight, and they have these facilities in the country. It’s her journey.

MICHAEL:

Don’t you ever look back and look at the experience you had from being on “OLTL” and all of that, and just pinch yourself that you were a part of it all?

BRYNN:

Definitely! It was such a good eight years of my life on “OLTL”. I only have good memories of that.

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MICHAEL:

Finally, if people went online to view, “Life in General”, what would you tell them to expect?

BRYNN:

You will laugh, and it’s intriguing, with good acting, and good writing, and a good fast, quick fix.

robert2.jpgTHE ROBERT DESIDERIO INTERVIEW

“LIFE IN GENERAL”

He played Steve Piermont on “OLTL”, the man who nabbed Karen Wolek’s heart, and the two eventually went on the run together in the storyline. In real life, Daytime Award winning Actress, Judith Light and Robert Desiderio, ran away from Llanview and into each other’s arms.

Robert is one of television’s most accomplished actors. Soap fans will also remember his star turn as Ted Melcher on the hit primetime soap, “Knots Landing” in the late eighties.

Now, with an emphasis on a writing career, Robert has won the critics and audiences applause with his screenplay for “Save Me”. The film tackles the delicate and tough subject of a sex and drug addicted young man who is forced into a Christian-run ministry in an attempt to cure him of his “gay affliction”. Instead, he is faced with his truth in his heart and in his spirit. Chad Allen and Judith Light star.

I caught up with Robert recently for part of “On-Air On-Soaps”, “Life In General” special feature. Robert and his friend, actress Brynn Thayer, play the cantankerous couple of the online soap!

MICHAEL:

How did you get involved with “Life In General”. Was it through Brynn?

ROBERT:

Indirectly. Brynn was in a one-woman show, and Judith and I were at the after-party and Karen Harris came up to me and said, “You know, you would be good for this thing that I am working on.” I said, “Send it to me,” and she did. I told her it was great writing and I would love to do it. Brynnie and I shot it all in one day. It was great!

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Brynn.jpgMICHAEL:

You and Brynn played Rachel and Brian Day….the couple that would always fight.

ROBERT:

We are this couple who has this awful relationship off camera. On camera, it’s just as fueled. What I love about what Karen has done with it is that when you see the soap opera itself, the audience knows all the subtext because they have seen these two characters go through hell offstage.

MICHAEL:

They can’t get it together and they fight all the time?

ROBERT:

He is unfaithful, and she is bitter. They have been divorced and remarried multiple times. He is full of himself and he thinks he is the star of the show.

MICHAEL:

Without naming names, did you see people similar to Brian in your soap career?

ROBERT:

The truth is, I did “Ryan’s’ Hope”, “Search for Tomorrow”, where I played an Italian Prince with Rod Arrants (Ex-Travis Sentell), and “One Life to Live”. One Life was the show I had the most experience with. Nobody there was temperamental. It would be tough to memorize stuff everyday, but tempers would sometimes flare because of the level of tensions, because you had to get through material so fast. But, no one was a primadonna that I remembered. We are putting a little spin on it with “Life in General”. Personally, I don’t’ know anybody with the degree of narcissism that’s revealed as openly as Brian does on the soap. (He laughs).

robert3.jpgMICHAEL:

Would you do more episodes of “Life In General”?

ROBERT:

Absolutely! It’s really well done. Working with those little cameras, it’s easy to have it disappear for an actor. When you see it streamed on the Internet, you are very impressed with the quality.

MICHAEL:

“Life in General” can be found on Strike TV, which was formed as an online platform for writers to show their work during the writer’s strike. How did “Life In General” end up online?

ROBERT:

When all this discussion was going on during the writer’s strike, the Writers Guild said, “Let’s create something to show what this medium is,” and then anybody who is in the guild can submit something. They had 30 projects that they green-lighted and those made it to the Internet site.

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MICHAEL

How was working with Brynn again? You worked with her on “OLTL” when you and Judith were on the show back in the heyday, and it was amazing!

ROBERT:

I never worked with Brynn. I worked with Judith. You know, the gangster meets the hooker with a heart of gold. It was great. It was the early 1980’s when I came on, and my role was scheduled to last only two weeks long, but then something happened between Judith and I. Soaps are hard to write. It’s tough to write an hour a day, and sometimes they need all the help they can get, and we gave them help. They said, “Let’s write for these two.” They saw the chemistry between Steve and Karen.

MICHAEL:

But in real life, is that when you got together?

Robert-JudithDes.jpgROBERT:

We met during the show. The first time I met Judith, and I can picture it today, it was a scene in Ina’s boarding house. She was rehearsing. I saw her there, and it was like, “whoa!” There was a big connection there. I knew my storyline was going to be with her and I introduced myself to her, and it went from there. Judith and I will be celebrating our 25th anniversary in January.

MICHAEL:

Is it difficult maintaining a relationship between you and Judith, when both of you are in show business? What is the key to the success of your marriage after 25 years?

ROBERT:

I say the key is to talk through everything. We have two gentlemen who manage us who have been a couple for 25 years, Herb Hamscher and Jonathan Stoller. We started out as friends, since Judith knew them when she was in New York. Herb has a deep background in psychology, and Jonathan has the ‘think tank’ aspects of life. We started out as friends, and it evolved into a business relationship where Herb managed Judith and me, and Jonathan became our financial guy. We have a wonderful little unit where we are all able to support each other. It’s nice to have a neutral party outside of a couple. It’s not often comfortable, but it’s always alive, and even the discomfort is good if you are committed to work through something. That is the essence of why we stayed together at this level for so long. There is nothing we don’t talk about. We work on not coming from a place of blaming anybody. I grew up in the Bronx, and I did not grow up with this kind of mentality. So this is totally strange for me, but everybody has it in them to gravitate towards relationships and loving. The key is support.

saveme.jpgMICHAEL:

Your feature film “Save Me” has gotten rave reviews, and it’s so spectacular. I see Independent Spirit Award nominations coming. You wrote the screenplay, and Judith starred in it as Gayle and is one of the producers. How did it come about?

ROBERT:

Craig Chester, wrote “Save Me” as a farce 10 or 12 years ago. Over the years, the people who had the option on it wanted to make it a drama. I was asked to come in and do a complete rewrite of it to make it the movie it turned out to be. The screenplay is mine. The movie is great.

MICHAEL:

Do you enjoy the writing aspects of your talents more now than the acting?

ROBERT:

I do like the writing aspect, because you are creating the world. As an actor you are a hired hand, otherwise you take the job for money or because you like it. One of the things I challenge myself with is writing. I like it because I have a good sense of an audience, and that they may not want something too artsy. “Save Me” was entertaining, powerful and means something, but also something that could create a conversation, and that is something we did with the film. We wanted to create a conversation where nobody’s made wrong, which is the one of the things that is great about the movie. We have received feedback from Christian communities. We don’t make the angelic couple who run this appear wrong. They are misguided, but not evil. The audience can make up its own mind, but you just see the effect it has on somebody in the movie.

MICHAEL:

How did Judith come to this role?

chad3.jpgROBERT:

Chad Allen was involved in a company in New York, and asked Judith and Robert Gant to read it and put it on the stage. Then they talked about making it a movie, and this was 5 years before the film even got made. So they have all been involved since the beginning, and they were the producers and got the roles they were going to get anyway.

MICHAEL:

You and Judith have been so active in the fight against AIDS for so many years. You have been true leaders in the entertainment and LGBT communities and continue the efforts to raise awareness and funds. Where do you feel we are now with HIV/AIDS, not only domestically, but also globally?

ROBERT:

I think we can always be doing more. The financial situation in our current economy is devastating and affecting everybody. I think our hearts are in the right place. I think the rest of the world, which was resistant before because it was a gay disease, is being pushed aside more than ever. I think there is a transformation going on in the world with Obama taking over, and that is a symbol, and represents a tipping point where people will kind of live more as one. We can always be doing more with AIDS. People are dying by the millions in Africa and third world countries. It’s really tough!

MICHAEL:

When you looked back at your soap career, and playing the wonderful character of Steve Piermont on “OLTL”, what comes to mind?

ROBERT:

I loved doing the show and being in New York at the time with Gerald Anthony (Marco) and Michael Storm (Larry). I mean, these were really serious actors and it was a real family there. Robin Strasser (Dorian) and Erika Slezak (Viki) are still there… Robert Woods (Bo), Phillip Carey (Asa)… It was an all -star team. I loved the building we were in… the castle on 66th street.

Robert-Judith.jpgMICHAEL:

What do you think of your wife’s performance as Claire on “Ugly Betty”? It’s pretty terrific. Do you commute to New York often, since the show is now being shot in the Big Apple?

ROBERT:

I love “Ugly Betty”, and that cast is amazing. As tough as it was to relocate the show to New York, I think it was the right move. It takes place in New York and the city really affords a lot of opportunity, not only for actors, but that amazing scenery. So we are commuting a lot. I am in New York every two to three weeks. My home is here in LA. We talk every day or every other day and email a lot. It’s not more than three weeks that go by before we see each other again.

MICHAEL:

A few weeks ago the online website SoapsWeb.com had an All-Time Best Awards. They named Judith’s portrayal of Karen Wolek on the witness stand during Marco Dane’s murder trial, the greatest single moment EVER on soaps. What did you think of it?

ROBERT:

It’s great! Judith did a great job. You know, we started dating just before she won her second Emmy, so that was after all the courtroom stuff.

MICHAEL:

You were on the primetime soap “Knots Landing”. I remember the day Michelle Lee brought me to the set to visit and I got to see you again after many years.

ROBERT:

I loved it there, too. I got to work with Nicollete Sheridan (Paige) and William Devane (Greg Sumner) and Donna Mills (Abby). That was the group… the nefarious group. (He laughs) They were great.

MICHAEL:

So, what’s next for the ‘uber-talented’ Mr. Desiderio?

robert1.jpgROBERT:

I am trying to shop a pilot, and I am writing my first novel. I love it, and it keeps me sane.

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MICHAEL:

In closing, tell us what to tell your fans about why they should check out “Life in General”?

ROBERT:

Go see it because it’s really well done. I don’t know anything that shows you backstage of a soap opera. It’s really clever, well written, and it’s good laughter and it’s short, and it leaves you wanting more

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