NATAS’ Senior Executive Director Daytime Emmy Awards, David Michaels spoke with On-Air On-Soaps at his request to address certain points and topics of conversation that were discussed in last week’s Gold Derby Daytime Emmy chat moderated by Tom O’ Neil. Gold Derby invited soap journalists; Nelson Branco of Soap Opera Uncensored and Michael Fairman from On-Air On-Soaps to banter about the current state of the voting process, what network or cable outlet would make sense to be a solid televised home for the broadcast, this year’s acting races, and much more.
In this exclusive interview with David, the contest rules and changes that were instituted this year are clarified, who votes on the blue-ribbon panel, and how NATAS is striving to make the Emmy race as fair as possible. Hot Emmy topics of the online version of All My Children and One Life to Live’s poor showing in the Lead and Supporting Pre-Noms, and former Y&R star Michael Muhney’s (Ex-Adam) decision to not participate in this year competition are also tackled.
Michaels also reveals exclusively to On-Air On-Soaps that NATAS has the official dates for this year’s ceremonies! Circle June 20th for the Creative Arts Awards, and June 22nd for the 41st Annual Daytime Emmys!
David, you wanted to set the record straight about some things up that were said during the Daytime Emmy chat hosted by Gold Derby’s Tom O’Neil where he discussed the voting process and state of the Enmy broadcast with myself, and Nelson Branco.
DAVID: Yes. I listened to the chat the other day and I have to say Tom O’Neil did a fine job moderating, and you did a fine job with your facts. And I have no problem if somebody disagrees with something that is subjective. But I have a problem when things are said about the Emmy contest and NATAS that are just not factually true, and that is what I would like to clear up especially since today is the deadline for voting in all categories for this year’s competition. (Voting ends at midnight PDT)
So let’s start with any misinterpretation or confusion on the 2014 voting process.
DAVID: A lot was said by Nelson that was true over the last five years, but it was never fully explained how it truly works this year. I would also like to add; we don’t change the rules, because we think, “Hey, let’s change them.” We change the rules because every year we have joint meeting in L.A with ATAS, and their Awards committee plus, they invite any member of the daytime community that wants to participate. It becomes a huge forum. All of these changes that have happened year to year have grown out of suggestions from the soap actors themselves.
So for those who are saying that NATAS is making it difficult for the actors now that they have to submit four minute reels for the Pre-Nom round, what would you say to that?
DAVID: That grew out of actors calling me directly, or their show representatives, with complaints. But last year I was steadily getting two complaints: three minutes was not enough time, and the other complaint one was if I can only choose a clip from one scene, I can’t show my range. So based on that, we raised it up to four minutes and we let the actors submit up to two scenes. Therefore, if somebody wants to show something funny and dramatic, they now had a chance to because the scenes did not have to be from the same episode. That was the reason for adding the submission of an extra scene. Now, nobody had to submit a second scene – as long as you gave us four minutes and no more than material from two scenes, than you were clean. And I might add, it doesn’t have to be four minutes either. In my opinion, I believe less is more. We did this for the actors and quite frankly, it makes it harder for the people that have to do the editing, and makes it harder for me when I get the material to make sure it’s within the guidelines of the rules. So all in all, as far as I am concerned, we did a good thing. When we have the next meeting in July, maybe the actors will now tell us they didn’t like that. I don’t know what they are going to say, but we are always open to listening.
Nelson expressed that there is a notion in the soap community that now NATAS is making us watch these four minutes scenes in round one of the voting, and then we have to sit and watch all these episodes of the actors work in the blue-ribbon round. Do you think that is truly too much to ask of people who are sitting down to vote?
DAVID: Here is the thing: the reason the Pre-Noms came about was that the actors complained that when there was a paper ballot, like what ATAS does for the Primetime Emmys, it was just being voted on by name recognition, as opposed to the merits of someone’s work. One of them said, “We all work every day, and we have to go home and learn our lines for the next day. So we don’t have a time to watch the other soaps. And so the people on the other soaps don’t know what we do. So I want my work to be considered, and I am not Susan Lucci, whose name everyone recognizes.” So that is what the Pre-Noms grew out of. I honestly think the contest now is much fairer. There is nobody who votes for anything unless they have now seen the work; nothing is done via a piece of paper.
During the chat, it was my understanding that this year during the Pre-Nom voting the actors knew who they were voting for, as the person’s name was linked to their reel, which was changed from prior years. Plus, there was no way they could cast their ballot if they just clicked on the reel, and only watched it for a few seconds. Can you confirm how the voting was ID’d in the Pre-Nom round and such?
DAVID: This was a little murky during the chat … last year what Nelson said was true. They could click on somebody and not have to watch the entire scene. This year they had to watch the entire thing. We listed the contenders by name randomly for the Pre-Noms and alphatibetically for the blue-ribbon round. This year you had to watch all the nominees and their work in their entirety. If you did not watch it in its entirety, the software system would not let you vote. So what Nelson described in the video chat was last year’s voting system. Now, we have different software that makes you have to watch the whole scene from front to back. This is definitely the first Emmy contest where everything is being done online: you submit online, you pay online, you upload your video online, you watch the videos online, and the judging and the voting is online.
How do actors on the soaps get assigned to blue-ribbon panels? What is the process of who votes in which category?
DAVID: The show representative from each soap handles it, and if they don’t want to they ask me to do it, but in most cases they do it. Again, as to a comment made in the chat about how this process weighted things? If we are doing Lead Actor and there are three actors from each of the soaps voting on it, then there is parity. Let’s just say… three actors from Y&R probably voted for a Younger Actor from Y&R for number one on their ballot. And if there were two younger actors from Y&R, they probably made them one and two, but then the three, four and five slot, who knows what they are going to do? So there is still “real” voting going on there.
So for example; if Y&R’s Christian LeBlanc (Michael), Jessica Collins (Avery) and Peter Bergman (Jack) want to vote on more than one blue-ribbon panel, they can?
DAVID: You can potentially vote in more than one blue-ribbon panel, if there are no more than 3 from your show already on that panel. But it usually doesn’t work out that way, because there are so many actors, and they all want to be involved in the voting.
Do only soap actors vote in the blue-ribbon acting panels?
DAVID: Because the soap actors are voting for soap actors, I also think it’s important that I assign as many non-soap actors as possible to those categories. I find that some of the primetime actors want to vote on the daytime actors, mainly because they don’t get a chance to see their work, and so they are interested in participating. It’s not just the soap community that is doing the voting which is important to me … then it’s not incestuous. I also wanted to clarify because a comment was made that in the blue-ribbon panel; actors have to vote for people of the opposite gender, and that is not true. What is true is that the actors in the blue-ribbon panel can be assigned to any category that they are not in. As an example, Y&R’s Christian LeBlanc (Michael) could vote for Younger Actor or Supporting Actor, if it was assigned that way. It’s not about gender, it’s just about you are not in the category. The only time in the acting categories you can vote for yourself is in the Pre-Noms, because every actor votes on every actor in the Pre-Noms.
Who then can vote in the Outstanding Drama Series category in the blue-ribbon round?
DAVID: For the Outstanding Drama Series category, each soap assigns 8 people to vote and they can be any 8 people who work on their respective soap. Now in that case, you can vote for your show as it is not an acting category. What becomes important is what each voter picks as their second, third, and fourth choices etc.
What do you say to the comments that were made during the Daytime Emmy chat about how the Awards have lost their allure or integrity?
DAVID: The contest has always had integrity, but one of the reasons I was brought in and this is a direct quote. I was told, “You are to come in and make this the fairest contest in the world.” I am not saying any other contest is not fair, but this is the fairest contest in the world. It is absolutely by the rules and by the book, and I don’t know what was alluded to that does not have integrity.
This year’s Emmy races are very hotly contested, wouldn’t you say? There is some great work this year!
DAVID: You guys were talking about the hot races this year for Lead Actor and Actress. I think being the person that has seen the reels the most; that this year there is an incredible showing of work in all the acting categories. I am so glad I can’t vote in these acting races, because I don’t know what I would do! It broke my heart when certain people did not make it through from the Pre-Noms, because there was some great stuff, and that is the reason also for the Pre-Noms … to make the blue-ribbon round more handable for the voters. I can say though, that everybody that has made it this far absolutely deserves a nomination. It’s always a little heartbreaking for me as well as exhilarating when the nominations are finally announced.
AMC and OLTL did not have a good showing in the lead or supporting acting categories. That was a real downer. Do you think these shows were hurt in the Pre-Nom voting because they were online soaps? I know you fought hard to have them included in this year’s race so there would be six soaps competing again!
DAVID: That was a real downer for me, too. I can’t tell you why they didn’t get pre-nominated, but I can say the work on these shows was just as good as the work on the network soaps.
Nelson and I both reported Michael Muhney (Ex-Adam, Y&R) chose to not submit his work this year for Lead Actor. What do you think of Michael’s decision to not participate?
DAVID: In regards to Michael Muhney, Y&R did not do that to him, nor did NATAS, as far as his decision to not submit himself for Emmy contention. I actually think it was a classy thing for him to do. With everything going on and emotions running high it was probably a good decision. I think it goes without saying that Michael Muhney is a wonderful actor, and whatever went down doesn’t take away from that, and this past year he did some really strong work.
There were several performers who did not choose to enter for various reasons this year including: Y&R’s Kritoff St. John (Neil) and Eric Braeden (Victor), and AMC’s Debbi Morgan (Ex-Angie) … just for starters!
DAVID: I was very disappointed that we did not have Debbi Morgan participating. When I read quotes from her on Twitter, I think she was just done with All My Children and she was disappointed on how it all went down. I don’t think it had anything to do with the Daytime Emmys, per se. If I know the actors well enough and they aren’t entering, I try to call them up and talk to them about it, or have their show representatives do that.
If I am as per example, Melissa Claire Egan (Chelsea, Y&R), and I vote for my former AMC cast mates what ever show they are on now, and my current Y&R cast mates, doesn’t that help those actors gain votes, if one of the voters on the blue-ribbon panel has been on multiple soaps?
DAVID: I know Missy. She is extremely interested in the voting process for the Daytime Emmys. She even asked to vote in categories that are non-soap, and she is also one of the first ones to return her ballot. What I know of Missy as a person is that she is ethical. I believe she watches the scenes, and she is actually a pure judge, and that is always our goal. Melissa Claire Egan is one of the “dream judges” that we have.
Were there any other things you wanted to comment on that you heard during the Gold Derby Daytime Emmy video chat?
DAVID: I think it should be pointed out that if Nelson had the Pre-Nom ballot, it means that some actor gave it to him. And when the actors vote, they sign an affidavit. And it specifically says in there, “I will not share this ballot with any associates, friends, or any members of the press.” Whoever gave it to him is basically invalidating their affidavit. It’s extremely unethical both on his part, and on one of the actor’s part, that he had the ballot. I don’t see why he is bragging he has the ballot … that is not a good thing. Also, there is not anyone at NATAS who devalues the soaps. There was that recent article in Variety where an ex-Emmy show producer said that. But no one from NATAS has ever said one negative word about the soap opera genre.
Finally, as all of us wait with bated breath for NATAS to close a deal with a television broadcaster, what are your thoughts on TVGN or CBS AS being a great potential home for the telecast?
DAVID: I agree with everything that was said about CBS and TVGN. I have no clue as to why CBS doesn’t want to put it on the air. I will tell you Malachy Wienges (Chairman, NATAS) is working very hard to get the show on the air this year, and there are already talks about making a deal for 2015. All I can say is we are doing everything we can to have it televised. The ceremony is going forward with or without a broadcast partner. There will be two gala banquets: the Creative Arts on Friday, June 20th at the Westin Bonaventure in Los Angeles and The 41st annual Daytime Emmy ceremonies on Sunday, June 22nd at the Beverly Hilton. We look forward to the daytime community coming together to celebrate their achievements.
So soap fans, what do you think about the Daytime Emmy contest and how the nominees are determined and the voting process? Are you excited to know that the Daytime Emmys have a date for the ceremonies? Let us know your thoughts, and remember the nominations for the 41st annual Daytime Emmy Awards will be announced next week on Thursday May 1st!