Last week, I spent several days at the new digs of One Life to Live in New York City. (As all of you soapers know, the 42-year-old soap has moved into All My Children’s’ old studio that also houses ABC’s, The View). So how fitting was the beginning of the trip by attending their soiree, “OLTL’s…Move Down the Block Party”. There was an electricity and excitement in the air during the get-together, which included many of the cast, executive producer, Frank Valentini, head writer, Ron Carlivati, and so many Llanview notables in front of the camera and behind the scenes, that my head was spinning. This was a big deal for me! You would think with all my years as the old man of daytime journalism, I would be a bit blasé about it all, but not this time. Being a resident of Los Angeles and never getting out of Sunny California to brave the blustery weather of the east coast, I seldom get to see my peeps from One Life…let alone in Llanview proper. And yes, Trevor St. John (Todd) was seen at the buffet line! I can happily report a Todd sighting. As I looked around there was Robert S. Woods (Bo) hanging out with returning cast member, Gina Tognoni (Kelly) and special guest, Dina Manzo from The Real Housewives of New Jersey…quite the trio.
I caught up with Bree Williamson (Jessica). First up, was to ask her about her new dressing room. Is it bigger or smaller? “I am now solo in my dressing room… party! Here is my list of former roomies…Beth Ann Bonner (Ex-Talia) was a roommate, which was great because we are buddies. Alex Neal (Paige) was a roommate. Ilene Kristen (Roxy) was one of my roommates at one time and Crystal Hunt (Ex-Stacy) was my last roommate.” Bree also revealed her excitement on her new storyline where Jess has regressed back 13 years in time! “Jessica has a thing for Cristian, and I get to play petulant teenager all day, so it’s really fun. David Fumero (Cristian) is hot!” Seems to me like Bree gets all the hotties! “I do have all the hot guys… including Mark Lawson (Brody). It’s going to be a fun triangle, and the reason I am so loving it is you are rooting for both guys.” I had to take the opportunity to congratulate Bree for I had named her performance of Jess remembering she switched the babies as Tess and that her baby had died, the Best Soap Moment of 2009. Bree was shocked and thrilled. “I had no idea that happened. I remember that day we did those big scenes. It’s the only story I went home with to my husband and cried, and cried, and cried. It was awful and so sad. It was a big day. If you are lucky like I have been; with Nash’s funeral, with the baby story, and things go in order, and you are working four days a week, you have a chance to build up to that big moment. I knew that day was going to come. I went along for the ride. If it’s written well, it’s there.”
Next up, I got to chitchat with one of my favorite guys, Brett Claywell (Kyle). I had not seen Brett since our now infamous Daytime Emmy Red Carpet interview that fans have watched on You Tube for months. (We still get a chuckle out of that one!) Brett summed up the feeling for the series with its move down the block. “It’s a new beginning and it’s exciting with the forty-two year history of the show. Tika Sumpter (Layla) and I were the first ones to film here. We did the camera test here. We had a great time. It’s a great space to film in. We are moving on up to the west side and the dressing rooms are bigger and now I am solo! (Laughs) I was sharing with Trevor St. John, and he taught me a lot of bad habits. (Laughs) I love Trevor. We play golf together! I have to admit, there was one tear, a single tear, a Tom Cruise single tear, and we moved on.” (Laughs) Brett has been delivering genuine performances as one part of daytime’s hottest same-sex couple, Kish. I asked Brett how he would define Kyle in his relationship with Oliver, since I commented on how good Kyle is at a gay relationship, which is not often the case. (Trust me on this one! LOL) “Kyle is a loving partner and at times the voice of reason, and he is wise and he is the voice on Oliver’s shoulder to do the right things… to be proud. Whether it’s coming out of the closet or whether it’s loving someone openly or taking care of a child, Kyle truly loves Oliver. He is supportive but he makes you stand on your own two feet. I get fan mail, and the most touching things are from men who say, it’s nice to see a gay man portrayed the way I do. There are a lot of gay men whose parents disown them, but they have a loving partner beside them who love them for who they are. There is not enough love in our society.” With that said, I asked Brett, what about the impending baby daddy drama with Sierra Rose? “Kyle would love to be a father to a baby, and if Kyle and Oliver were to be two men raising a child…. they have gone through every obstacle… and this would be great to play, as well. As an actor, I have had an opportunity to touch on these social issues and it’s a blessing to be part of it.”
Kassie DePaiva, a seventeen-year veteran of One Life, shared with me her thoughts on roommates and the new digs. “People were emotional about leaving the old place, but it’s time to move on. There is a lot of history here. This is a good place. In the old building I always shared a dressing room. My first dressing roommate was Susan Haskell (Marty), and then it was Laura Koffman (Cassie), followed by Susan Misner (Grace), and Jessica Morris (Ex- Jenn). Then I shared a dressing room with my husband, Jim DePaiva, then Renee Goldsberry (Evangeline) and last, Florencia Lozano (Tea). But I am across the hall from Hillary Smith (Nora) now, so we leave our door open and play country music and giggle.”
I then had to ask Kassie about Blair’s libido, which seems to be on overdrive now and forever! I mean, sex on the floor and on hard-surfaces with Eli, what’s it all about? “I know! I go… aren’t I getting long in the tooth for this? In a bathing suit, c’mon! However, my husband says, can you bring Blair home tonight? (Laughs) What I love though about Blair is; she gets to be up in your face. She is powerful, sexy, and she does not apology for her sexuality…she goes after what she wants. Yes, she is a slut! (Laughs) I think people think, I as Kassie, must walk around in my underwear all day, but I am so far from that, people don’t believe me!” (Laughs) Finally, I asked Kassie if the move and all the rumors of cancellation had her concerned when she first heard the news of a move down the street. “First I thought it was rumor…then I went, “Holy Cow.” At first, it made me nervous because times are changing and the economy is so volatile. It made me nervous to think that daytime, being a cash cow of yesterday, that the networks would turn their backs on their viable form of entertainment, which it has been. Now there are just other places to go elsewhere for other forms of entertainment. ABC has invested in their brands, and GH will always be their favorite. AMC will always be their specialty show and One Life to Live will always be what we are. We keep on trucking along and doing the best we can with what we have. It’s a great place to work. They care about being the best and being different. I think One Life has always been solid. It’s not a gimmick and it’s the real deal. And it’s a place that when you turn on your television where you can live there and you like the people there, other than Mitch!” (Laughs).
Gina Tognoni (Kelly) and I sat down for a very special full-length interview about her return to Llanview, after winning two Daytime Emmys as Dinah on the now defunct Guiding Light. You will read that in the coming days. Gina did tease her return to the Cramer fold. “The Cramer women need a bit of overhaul, Le Boulaie, Dorian, and Dorian’s girls. This Mitch business has made her tired and it’s stressed her out. You will see Blair and Kelly go head to head more and also Dorian and Kelly. She will get more involved in the business side of things, too. This is not something we saw in the old Kelly.”
I returned to One Life the following day to see the dressing rooms for myself. First stop, Melissa Archer’s (Natalie) digs. Melissa’s dressing room walls are filled with fun and memorable moments of her on-screen life as Natalie, and her personal life from her wedding and her love of Lucille Ball! Yes, she is an I Love Lucy fanatic. (We will go more in depth with that with our upcoming video interview.) Melissa was my first victim of a Michael Fairman video interview at the set. And she did amazingly well! As many know, I am a huge Natalie booster, and this past year I think Melissa has delivered such amazing and winning performances. After leaving Melissa, I met Susan Gammie, the award winning costume designer who has been a staple at One Life, and favorite behind the scenes. Susan and I had an instant rapport, and I got to see the amazing wardrobe department, which in the new digs is more spacious. Susan is thrilled with it. For anyone who watches the characters of Llanview and sees the detail and the work, and the hours of organization that goes into the look of the different characters, the costume room is a fun place to hang out in Llanview. Head writer, Ron Carlivati, decided to pop into our little party and took a picture of Susan, with an outfit of what looks to….maybe….be… Dorian’s?
The next day when I returned, I got an opportunity to see the new production offices, where the creative regime of Ron Carlivati and Frank Valentini’s offices are housed. You could see that things were still being moved in, as all the sensational imagery of the shows history and current cast had yet to be posted on the walls. Next, we took over an unused dressing room for the day, where I got the opportunity to reconnect with old faces and meet new ones from the cast of One Life, who were taping that day. From Mark Lawson, Bree Williamson, David Fumero, David Gregory, Scott Evans and Brett Claywell, Florencia Lozano (who I adore, btw), Kristen Alderson (great interviewee), Eddie Alderson, Brittany Underwood, to John-Paul Lavoiser and Farah Fath (hilarious and insightful). We will be rolling out these video interview gems over the next month or so at On-Air On-Soaps…so be on the lookout for those. At the end of our day of shooting, I received a very special surprise when Robin Strasser (Dorian) came in to the dressing room. With tears in my eyes, I got to give one of my favorite actresses a huge hug and a big personal, “Hello”. The last time I saw Robin in person was at The Daytime Emmys in 2006 when I was decorated on the red carpet in a black and white neck brace following my neck fusion. Robin, as only Robin can, yelped at the sheer sight of me. I will never forget it. So back to 2010, Robin sat down and delivered a very entertaining video nugget, which you will see shortly, and no, I will not spoil the content!
On the last day of my visit, Llanview’s head scribe Ron Carlivati, agreed to a sit-down video interview with me. However, there was a little surprise pulled on Mr. Fairman! Tuc Watkins, who was in town from LA and is back taping on One Life as David Vickers, joined in the interview. What followed was ….well…. you will just have to wait and see!
In the end, as I left New York and One Life, I am happy to report that everyone seemed in good spirits, and that the cast and production are keeping the lives of the characters you love to love and love to hate, as compelling and vital as ever. And I can confirm that the unbelievable storytelling that you are used to with this show has more in store for you just waiting in the wings!