What happens when five very creative people get together, some very familiar to daytime soap audiences, and come up with a genesis of an idea that touches upon the social media, and pop culture one-minute-of-fame phenomenon we all live in? The answer lies within a new concept for a comedy series entitled Viral, which is set to have its online debut next Monday, August 10th on the show’s website: www.viraltheseries.com
Viral reunites former One Life to Live castmates: Melissa Archer and Jessica Morris, and Emmy-Award winner producer/director Sonia Blangiardo, with her writing and producing partner Brandon Goins, and former OLTL associate producer and editor Teresa Cicala as the creative five EP’s who have formed Steel Penny Productions. Their first project out of the gate is a funny, irreverent romp that features Archer, and Morris in a comedic turn with plenty of heart, along with other soap notables including: The Young and the Restless Sean Carrigan (Stitch), Days of our Lives Rob Scott Wilson (Ben), and former All My Children and The Bay’s Eric Nelsen (Ex-AJ Chandler).
On-Air On-Soaps went behind-the-scenes, and on location for a very exclusive first look at Viral while it was kept under wraps as a top-secret production in Los Angeles. We chatted with Melissa and the gang to get the details on how Viral came about, which features a moment in time captured on video that no woman would ever want to have happen to her! Fans who follow Melissa and Jessica on social media, may have noticed that over the last few weeks a short viral video that was a teaser to the show was circulated. We caught up with many of the participants in and around their filming to get some answers to what viewers can expect when the three-part installment of Viral bows, and how the producers created the hilarious “Sophisticated Ladies” auto-tuned viral video that is part of the show, and so much more!
Melissa Archer explains her character and the backdrop of the story: “I am playing Kat. She is a bit of a wild one, and eager for any attention that she can get. She’s the one that becomes a little violent when she drinks; basically she is the shit-stirrer! (Laughs). Kat gets into a bar fight and gets kicked out of the place, apparently it’s her third fight there in a month! And she and Jackie are trying to convince Dave (Sean Carrigan, Y&R) to let them back in. But once they figure out that is not going to happen, Kat comes up with a better plan, and then all hell breaks loose! Kat has a huge crush on Dave, and he has a crush on her. He is that person in her life that would call her on her stuff, as well as her bff Jackie. However Jackie, who was kind of like the partier as well at some point, has now gotten involved with this preppy dude, Teddy (Brandon Goins) and has become a little more of a snooze-fest. The show is really about what happens when a private moment turns into a very un-private moment? What is funny about it is Kat is excited by it when it actually all takes place, and she finds out that this video actually did go viral. She sees she is becoming famous, and is totally getting into it, while Jackie on the other hand, not so much. (Laughs)”
Jessica Morris added: “It’s interesting to see how different people handle that – some people like the fame, which Melissa’s character does, and my character is having problems with her relationship with her boyfriend Teddy. His family is very conservative, and Jackie is a little more conservative, too. So this video going viral is not a good thing for her, and it’s ruining the whole image she has going for herself. She’s just trying to gain respect with her business, and his family, and they are engaged. Jackie does not want to ruin that by coming off as a ‘dirty slut’. (Laughs) In the story, Jackie and Kat have been going to this bar for years, and they’ve gotten into a lot of trouble there. But we are going to have a girl’s night out, because it’s Kat’s birthday, and Jackie decides she is going to let loose, because Jackie does not go out that much anymore. However, she has no idea what’s in store for her!”
As for how, the idea came about to have two drunk women caught peeing that would be the jumping off point for the story of Viral, that was Brandon Goins brainchild! Sonia Blangiardo revealed: “Brandon kept saying, ‘The characters need to do something outrageous that can go viral.’ That was all him. I would not have come up with two girls peeing and throwing up!” (Laughs) Brandon chimed in: “I did not actually think they would do it. I said, ‘You know what would be funny? If they got caught doing something outrageous on video like peeing, but it can’t be just peeing, because that’s not funny, so one of them has to throw up on the other one. And then they say a bunch of embarrassing stuff.’ I said to Sonia, ‘They will never do that, will they?’ And Sonia, says, ‘I think they will!’ (Laughs) We all had lunch a couple of days later to discuss it. Melissa and Jessica went, ‘Yes! That sounds hilarious. We’re in!’ I said, ‘Really?’ I guess, I know nothing about women apparently!” (Laughs) Sonia added: “It also showcases what people want to do with their ten minutes of fame. And, if you ask a ten-year old child, what they want to do when they grow up? They often say, ‘I want to be famous.’ That is sad, but that is the world we live in, and so we definitely wanted to show the negative side. Now, if you are famous because you are following a passion then that’s great, but if you want to be famous just for the sake of being famous, that’s a little sad.” Brandon followed with the message of Viral: “We are hoping to illustrate to people, ‘Be careful for what you wish for.’ It could be the glitz and the glamour, but it could also ruin your life and embarrass the hell out of you, so much so that you never want to show your face anywhere again.”
And to think, all of this started from a moment in time from Melissa Archer: “One day I woke up and said, ‘I want to start a production company.’ I had all of these ideas. I didn’t want to do it all by myself, but I wanted to do it as a collaborative effort. I wanted people who had different aspects to bring to it. I actually cast it based on how we would look all walking into an office to pitch it to programming executives. I totally did! (Laughs) Meanwhile, Sonia called me, and I swear to God, within a day or two of that thing happening with me, and she said, ‘We need to talk. Let’s go have lunch.’ So we got together for lunch and she is like, ‘Listen, I have an idea.’ Basically we had similar ideas, but we melded the ideas together! I was like, ‘Let’s do this.’ We brought in Jessica Morris, and Brandon, and Teresa Cicala. It was like ‘Boom’ here we go, and we were doing it! This happened back in March of this year. That day we were coming up with ideas to be funny, and Jessica and I were half-acting them, and doing a bunch of silly stuff, while we were all sitting around at this table. Two days later, we basically got a script with almost everything we said that day in it, and it was awesome!” Jessica Morris concurs: “Little did we know Sonia and Brandon had a script up their sleeves, and like two days later there is this script from them, and it was perfect! They said in the script I had an ‘arresting bitch face’!” (Laughs) As to if the actresses had any hesitation about being seen as super trashy and squatting in the show, Morris joked: “I am pretty much up for anything with some limitations (Laughs). When it says that Jackie had to pee I was like, ‘Great! Whatever you need me to do … I will go for it.’ (Laughs) I feel like the funny moments in life are the real ones, anyway. There is a lot of humor in life, if you can look at it that way.”
Rob Scott Wilson and Eric Nelsen play the two dudes that create havoc in the lives of Kat and Jackie, to which Rob weighed-in on his “type” casting: “It was too easy for me to play, and for Sonia to think of me as a douche-bag! (Laughs) I just did my duty and I just showed up! (Laughs) It was great; everyone was so awesome to work with.” Eric added: “I ended up in this, because when I heard I got to play a douche next to Rob Wilson, I thought it would be easy money … like old times back on the set of All My Children. (Laughs) Just kidding! (Laughs). I was glad to have the chance to work with Sonia again. And when you have a couple of best friends getting to hang out on set together – and its been over a year and half since we got to do that – it’s cool.” Jessica thought the two soap gents were perfectly cast: “Oh, they were great. They were so perfect in their roles, as they were pissing me off! (Laughs) They were just really going at it and mocking us, and laughing at us, and it made me so furious.”
Wilson also added. “This is a little passion project of Sonia, and Melissa, and their team, and it’s just so great to be a part of it, and work with people we care about. It’s Saturday at 1AM in the morning, but we are all here.” Sean Carrigan echoed Rob’s sentiments: “It was so much fun to work with Melissa, Jessica, and Sonia. They put a lot of energy into this project, while also creating a very fun and collaborative atmosphere. I can’t wait to shoot more stuff with them.”
On seeing his script with Sonia come to life, Brandon Goins revealed that all the actors, “Exceeded my expectations, and they took it a whole other level. I thought Rob and Eric would be kind of douche bags, but they played it brilliantly, because you also kind of like them! Sean Carrigan came in, and he was fantastic as Dave the bartender. As a writer it’s fun to see, because you think people are going to play your jokes one way, and they take it another way, and you go, ‘Oh, that’s brilliant!’ It’s great that these talented actors have gotten do to something they don’t get to do that much being on a daytime soap. This show really showcases that they are all very funny in their own rights.”
As far as the hope and future of Viral, Blangiardo says there is more in store if the group can generate enough buzz and interest: “We have great twists that we are planting, and great characters. I come from a world that if you’re not character driven you lose the audience, and you lose everybody’s interest. So what’s great about this is Kat and Jackie have such distinct characters, and are very, very different from each other. They have very different lives, and yet something bonds them together. They each have a unique point of view – one sees what happened as a blessing, and the other sees it as curse – and that’s where I think the story has its comedy.”
The viral video from the show (the auto-tuned “Sophisticated Ladies”) hit the Internet over the last few weeks as a teaser for the show wanting to rev up social media, Melissa explains what happened: “We decided as a group we were going to go off the theme about what the show was about, and take the viral video that was in the episode, and post it online and just see if anyone might grab it and think that it’s real. We knew that it was kind of a long shot, because it was sort of polished, and it could have easily looked stage, but with a little help from us, we were hoping it might go in that direction, and maybe people would talk about it, which people did. (Laughs) Unfortunately, it wasn’t the media; it was the fans, which was super awesome. In fact, it was pretty cool. They were very protective of us. So, I think it actually helped calm the video down from spreading, instead of it going more viral! (Laughs) The fans were so amazing!” Morris agreed, “It’s good to know if someone did try to shoot us without us knowing about it, that people out there have our backs!” Melissa added: “It’s really ironic! You would have expected people to exploit it, but it just goes to show you, our fans are some of the most loyal out there. So, thank you guys!”
The viral video emulated the style of The Gregory Brothers who have gotten quite the name in the creation of these ditties mocking pop culture. Archer commented: “It’s a really interesting style if you go on their You Tube channel. They have so many hilarious songs. There is one of President Obama speaking in congress, and it’s basically him rapping but they auto-tune him. The concept we did was very cool, but I don’t know that people caught on to that aspect of what we were doing, either.” (Laughs) Jessica related, “I didn’t know who The Gregory Brothers were, but Brandon was familiar with their work. So that was the inspiration they had for editing the video of us peeing, along with funny images, and a whole song that went along with it.”
To show the continued spirit and collaboration of those that have worked, and continue to work in the daytime soap medium, Blangiardo stated it best: “All of our actors volunteered their time. It’s a sweet legacy to my world, that when you make connections in the soap genre you kind of stay together, because you are sort of a family, and it’s not just a cliché. When you call someone literally 24 hours before a shoot, because someone had to bow out, (which is what happened in the case of one of our actors) they show up. They show up because they want to, and they also are willing to be here, and to really give it their all. That’s why we are doing this – we just want to work with people we love again. Teresa flew out from New York to be here in LA to do this. I can’t get ever get her out of her apartment on a Friday night to grab a drink with me back in New York … and she lives 20 blocks from me there! (Laughs) She won’t come out, but she flew here to do this, and that says a lot! This has been a labor of love.”
Check out the sizzle reel for Viral, and the “Sophisticated Ladies” music video below, and make sure to follow the show on Twitter @viraltheseries. Then let us know, what do you think about the show concept? What do you think of the cast? Looking forward to checking it out next week? Comment below!