What happens when you put three distinct talents together with diverse backgrounds and a host of soap opera notables?
The answer: the fascinating dramedy Tainted Dreams from creator Sonia Blangiardo, which takes viewers on a heartfelt, and often wacky journey of what goes on behind the scenes of a soap opera, something Sonia (a Daytime Emmy-winning director) knows a thing, or two about. Her passion project has been circulating for a while now, but a few months back the first season of Tainted Drams was acquired by Amazon. Now fans can enjoy the ride, the romance, the friendships, and the meltdowns of this unique show, with its look into the genre played by the cast of this online series which also includes: Austin Peck, Grant Aleksander, Michael Lowry, Natalia Livingston, Kelley Hensley, Bobbie Eakes, and Walt Willey to name just a few.
Blangiardo, who is currently directing at Days of our Lives, and who became one of All My Children’s most accomplished directors, cast former AMC star, Alicia Minshew (Ex-Kendall Hart Slater) in the lead role in ‘Tainted’ as Angelica Caruso, the supervising producer. Add to that, Impact Wrestling (POP TV Thurs 8PM) and Big Brother star, Jessie “Mr. PEC-Tacular” Godderz to the mix, and Tainted Dreams can bring in additional eyeballs of wrestling fans, who want to check out Jessie’s acting skills and bulging biceps all at the same time!
On-Air On-Soaps chatted in a joint interview with Blangiardo, Minshew and Godderz to get the skinny on their experiences filming the series, their roles, the connection between professional wrestling and soap operas, and in particular their fans, and much more. In addition, with the passing of Tainted Dreams cast member and soap vet Larkin Malloy, and the iconic Agnes Nixon, Sonia and Alicia share their thoughts on how two greats in the business affected their lives, while Jessie weighs-in on his pro wrestling future aspirations. So, here’s what this terrific trio offered up below!
How did your show land on Amazon as is its home?
SONIA: We found the right fit at the right time, which is true. Amazon did not have this option till six months ago, or so. Once we found out Amazon was a viable option for us we took full advantage. We thought, “Let’s do it.” The platform is great. It has visibility, and it just gave us what we needed and wanted, once we realized this was an option. We have episodes 1-8 on Amazon. The only episode that was seen previously was episode 1 that was broken up into three parts. So episodes 2-8 are all new to the audience.
I have always loved the concept of Tainted Dreams, because having been in this business for decades, I can concur that what goes on behind the scenes of a soap is far more interesting, and more dramatic than what is put on the air! (Laughs)
SONIA: I am not the first to think about this, and how many people have over the years said, “We have to do a show like this,” or toyed with an idea like this. But I wanted to bring something real, and like any family you laugh and you cry. This story isn’t just based on me personally, it’s many, many stories and things I have witnessed throughout the years. I say all the time, “Love it … hate it.” You can’t accuse me of not being authentic, because there is very little that’s made up, outside the storyline, and the characters. They are loosely based on people I have worked with. It’s just these set of circumstances, and the insanity of it, and the craziness so brilliant played by the late Larkin Malloy, whose character of Henry was based off All My Children director, Henry Kaplan.
ALICIA: Henry was the first director I ever worked with on All My Children, and Larkin embodied him, wouldn’t you say? He was just him, which was so awesome.
SONIA: Larkin was so awesome. Henry was such a bigger than life personality for this that we were fortunate to find someone who understood who Henry was. Larkin Malloy tapped into those nuances as to who Henry was, and who was seriously crazy. Henry would be brought up on charges in today’s world, because some of the things he did were just so inappropriate! (Laughs)
How did Larkin Malloy’s death impact you?
SONIA: A low point for me is that he will never have an opportunity to see how much the audience, and his colleagues have responded to him in this role. They would be calling me saying, “We love Henry! We love Henry!” I know it would have meant so much to him. Of course, his loss meant so much to me and others personally, and professionally, but I hate that he didn’t get to see what he brought to Tainted Dreams.
Alicia, you play the Supervising Producer of Painted Dreams, the soap within the soap, which is in essence Sonia?
ALICIA: Yes. I play, in a sense, Sonia and her experiences. It was fun for me not to play the actor, but play the boss, and the one who tries to hold everyone together, and tries to keep everyone sane, and doing their jobs correctly, and the one that you could talk to. It was fun being the one trying to deal with all the crazy actors from her point of view, and she has crazy in her, too.
So here comes Jessie Godderz, this wrestling star! Sonia, why did you decide to cast Jessie in the role of Dylan in Tainted Dreams? Why Jessie to play the bad boy? Hmmm. (Laughs)
SONIA: I had known Jessie for a couple of years through a mutual friend of ours, and I always thought he had something special. Jessie is just an amazingly, sweet, and smart, and professional person, that I just knew immediately that I wanted to bring him on board. As much as I love my soap talent, and I made sure for this project I picked, in my opinion, some of the best that are out there, I wanted to bring in a bit of an interesting twist. I knew immediately who I wanted to see in it, and then create the right characters for them. So basically, I created the character of Dylan with Jessie in my mind and knowing what he could bring to the role, and to the character, and then some.
Jessie can give me some insight into your experience working on this soap project, and playing Dylan?
JESSIE: Well, I have never been a convict before, but …. (Laughs). I was surrounded by such amazing talent from the get-go, and it is not like I was stressed-out, or anything, but working with Alicia in the first scene I got to do, because she is so good it elevated me to her level. The only way I can relate it to is with wrestling: like if you are in the ring with Hulk Hogan or Shawn Michaels, you are going to have to be at their level. They are not going to go down to your level. So with that said, working on Tainted Dreams I had the most fun I could ever have. This whole project has been great, and Sonia giving me the opportunity. I am so stoked for this series, and when I told my friends what I was going to do, I told them all I am going to have to do is pick up stuff up, and be eating, and lifting at the same time. (Laughs) But when I got to the set, Sonia protected me, and when I see myself on the show I am proud of my work, and it was all new to me …
ALICIA … can I interrupt? OK, Jessie! First of all, you are very sweet to say that about me. However, I have to say Jessie is a natural! He does not have to try. He is better than some actors I have worked with who have been doing this much longer than him. He came in so prepared and more prepared than any of us! Jessie did his lines with such ease that I didn’t have to do anything. I played off of him, and he made it easy for me. Remember Jessie I said to you: “You need to be doing this! You can be the next ‘Rock’!” As sweet as you are to say that I helped you, I need to say that you were good with everybody, and anybody. You could do a scene with the chair I was sitting on, and it would still be a good scene.
As someone who has been very passionate about soap operas and wrestling, and who was a writer for the WWE at one point, I can definitely say there is a connection and close similarity between wrestling and soap operas, and continuing stories, and characters, and especially the fandom. I can’t tell you how many fans I have found out that follow the soaps that are also big fans of the squared circle!
JESSIE: Wresting fans are the most vocal fans on the internet, and they thrive on stuff.
ALICIA: I don’t know about that! Soap fans are pretty vocal too, and could give wrestling fans a run for their money. It’s a great match of strong fans.
SONIA: There is a loyalty there, and I think with wrestling and soaps, you build characters, you build personas, and at times you may think they are polar opposite genres, but they are not. You could be a Brad Pitt fan. You see his new movie, and it’s over in two hours. The next time you see Brad Pitt he will be playing a different character. I think what connects the fans in wrestling and in soap opera is that they get to see Erica Kane (Susan Lucci) and her daughters’ journey every day, and the same with wrestling, because the audience feels like they know you as you go out and perform as your persona. It’s the familiarity. I can’t tell you how many times I have been walking down the street with someone, and they don’t know the actors real name. They will go,”Hi Tad! Hi Jake!” They will go, “You know me! I am Mary from Idaho” (Laughs) It’s really interesting to witness. I think it’s interesting and unique to these two genres; and that wrestling and soaps can find common ground.
JESSIE: So Sonia goes, “I know what Jessie can play in Tainted Dreams! A handyman in a tank top … or shirtless.” (Laughs)
SONIA: Because I know you my Jessie! You would never wear a shirt with sleeves! C’mon! First, we couldn’t find a shirt that fit your arms!
But in soap operas, they always have obligatory shirtless scenes where guys have no shirt on for no reason at all! Right?
ALICIA: Oh yeah! Always! Jessie can hop on the set of any soap and kickass!
Alicia, what is the relationship between Angela and Dylan?
ALICIA: Well, he is coming to her for a job. Then he walks in and she is like, “Alright! What have we here?” (Laughs) Ultimately, she gives him a chance and the job. It’s a fun dynamic. She knows he has a past, but she is trying to just give him a chance. So our scenes are about me telling me not to mess up this opportunity.
JESSIE: I am really teetering on the line of really messing it up!
ALICIA: His intentions are really good, which makes the characters really fun to watch.
SONIA: Look at the late great David Canary, who people loved as Adam Chandler on All My Children. Even though he went about things many times the wrong way, you knew at his heart he loved his children, and he loved whoever the woman in his life was at the moment, mostly with Brooke (Julia Barr) and sometimes with Erica. So you can be bad, but you have something that is redeemable that makes you one of the best kinds of characters to play, because all people can relate, because we are all flawed.
Is there a major cliffhanger at the end of season one?
SONIA: We left season one with a cliffhanger, and hopefully to engage the fans in wanting to know what happens next. Poor Courtney’s (Bobbie Eakes) fate will be decided. We are working on season two, but we don’t know yet when we plan on releasing it. We are looking at sometime in mid-2017.
Alicia, was there a scene, or moment of yours in Tainted Dreams that was your favorite?
ALICIA: Oh, God! I thought there were scenes with other people where I thought, “Damn, that was good!” I think everyone will agree with me. Kelley Hensley, who plays Veronica, is drunk and she explodes in front of the cast. It’s the scene in which Jessie’s characters calm her down. Watching Kelley do the scene, she was incredible! We witnessed her character lose it, and have this drunken breakdown. She is an actress who I have admired, and it was fun for me to see her strut her stuff. As for me, I had fun and sweet moments. I had nice moments with Anthony Wilkinson, who plays Angelica’s best friend, Anthony. It was just the two of them hanging out, eating hot dogs, and the two of us playing off of each other. It felt like I had been acting with Anthony for years.
SONIA: If I may interject here, Alicia has chemistry with everyone in Tainted Dreams including: Michael Lowry, Austin Peck, the relationship with Anthony which is close to home for me, because it’s based on my real-life relationship with Anthony, and she couldn’t have done a better job. Her scenes with Jessie brought this, “Don’t mess with me vibe”, that were also fantastic.
JESSIE: I got hit by a Mac truck, and I wasn’t even ready for it! I’m this grown man. I wrestle, I’m rugged, but when Alicia’s character yelled at me after Dylan had stolen money out of the bank account, I felt like I was just grounded. It was like life-altering for me. I wished I could do it over again, though!
SONIA: You can’t do scenes like that over again, because what you brought to it is, “Oh, my God! I am in so much trouble!” It was perfect.
ALICIA: It was great, and so authentic. Don’t even second guess that for a second.
JESSIE: I was scared for my life! (Laughs)
Jessie, what is happening with Impact Wrestling? In early January, there were some major shake-ups, and changes behind the scenes. What is your goal with your wrestling career as Mr. PEC-Tacular?
JESSE: I am trying to move my way up the ranks, and hopefully can win the Heavyweight Championship down the line sometime this year. It’s been five years of hard work. Everyone is super psyched now that Anthem came in, and has purchased the company, and we are going in a different direction with different personnel, and with a new regime coming in. Jeff Jarrett and Dutch Mantell are handling the creative. We go back at the beginning of March for our TV tapings in Orlando, Florida for ten days or so, and we will knock out two to three months of TV episodes.
Would you say you are living the dream, and getting to do what you have always wanted to do?
JESSIE: Absolutely, living the dream. We may shoot 2 to 3 matches in a day and some vignettes. You definitely get submerged into it. It is not like a few years ago where you show up and you may have one pre-tape, and one-show in one day. Now at one taping it can be pretty stressful. If I just did a match, I have about an hour to cool down from wrestling and then start up a different bout for a different episode. But it’s fun, and I am in my underwear. (Laughs) I am not the tallest person for this profession, but right now there is so much athletic talent in professional wrestling that it’s crazy.
The big question Jessie! In the ring, do you like playing the heel, or the babyface?
JESSIE: I’m not trying to be braggadocios, but they will go,”Look at this guy! Of course, he looks this way. It’s probably just genetic.” And I am like, “Really? No! I worked my ass off for it.” To answer your question … I love being a baby face, because I know what I want the other guy to do, and I can do it now, because I can control it. You are kind of dictating the pace of the match, and how fast it is, but I can turn it up just with the speed of my moves.
Alicia on the soaps; do you like playing the heroine … or the villainess? When you debuted as Kendall on All My Children she was not-so-nice! (Laughs)
ALICIA: I think I may have turned into a heroine, but I know when I first came on to All My Children, Kendall was definitely hated! I was a bit of a bitch! I loved playing it though to where she wound up ‘the heroine with the edge’. You certainly don’t want to mess with her, but at the end of the day she was good at heart, and that is how I believe she was. With Angelica in Tainted Dreams, she is a good person just trying to keep everybody sane. I love being able to play both, the heroine and the person who causes a little trouble.
Alicia and Sonia: I wanted to get your thoughts on the passing of the iconic Agnes Nixon (Creator, AMC and OLTL) last year, and what she meant to you and your careers.
ALICIA: I cried, because I had not seen her years. The last time I saw her was on the set of All My Children in California. I sat right next to her, and Susan Lucci when we took our final cast photo. I felt like it was truly the end of the era when she passed, because these shows (AMC and OLTL) meant so much to so many people, and this woman who created them, and she put these shows on the map. It made me miss the show, and want to be around my former AMC cast and the directors. Her death made me miss everybody more, and miss the time that we all shared together. There were definitely some days of sadness, for sure.
SONIA: For me personally, all throughout high school I just wanted to work on All My Children. All of my friends thought I was crazy, and then when I went back for my ten-year reunion I showed them the yearbook, and I knew I had to prove it I owe Agnes my entire professional and personal identity. There are just no words that can do her justice, the only solace we have is that she lived an amazing life. I hope this is a time that will give her family peace. When you lose your faculties, as one often does when one gets older, it can be sad all around. We had the best of the best, and now she is hopefully up there in heaven doing something better, but she was one of a kind.
Jessie, did you ever watch soap operas?
JESSIE: Yes, because I had a mom (laughs) and every morning I watched The Young and the Restless, The Bold and the Beautiful, and Days of our Lives. I grew up in Iowa! We didn’t have cable only CBS, NBC and ABC. So when I saw Grant Aleksander on the Tainted Dreams set, I nearly lost my mind! I was like ‘Phillip from Guiding Light!’ And I am trying to be cool going, “Ah, I am not a soap fan, but when I was a kid ..?” Meanwhile, Grant is talking about football, and I am like, “What is going on?” (Laughs) It was so surreal for me.
SONIA: Grant is so physically imposing, but he is the nicest, generous, sweetest man. He was lifting sandbags for us at 2 in the morning. I said, “Grant please put those down and go home!” The entire cast is just so amazing, and we had a great group of people.
ALICIA: I agree. I came from the cast of All My Children, and in my mind there is none better, but when I came on to Tainted Dreams I thought, “Well here I am with another great group of people … not only soap actors, but theatre actors, reality actors, and wrestling performers. Jessie, can I just say, you are one of the nicest people I have ever met, but you look at Jessie, and you can feel a bit intimated. But he is such a gentleman! He may have even called me “M ‘am” at one point! I’m like, “Don’t you call me M ‘am!” (Laughs) Everyone on the set was so great, and it made going to work on Tainted Dreams so fun. I hope it’s reflected in the series, and our joy and commitment to the project.
So, have you checked out the first season of Tainted Dreams on Amazon? If so, who is your favorite character in it? What do you think about how pro wrestling and soaps are similar in their continuing storylines and characters? Do you check out Jessie “Mr. PEC-Tacular” Godderz on Impact Wrestling? Do you miss Alicia Minshew from your daily soap viewing? Is the concept of what goes on behind the scenes of a soap opera intriguing to you? Share your thoughts on the interview in the comment section below!