July 8th, 2010  |  Leave a comment

The Frank Valentini Interview – One Life to Live & What If

Courtesy/ABC

What soap viewer has not entertained the thought of, “What if my favorite soap babe met up with my favorite soap hunk from another soap?”  Or, “I wonder what would happen if two soap legends from different daytime dramas perform together for the very first time as their renowned alter-egos?”  Or, “I wish my favorites from Pine Valley could just get stuck somewhere with some of my favorites from Llanview!”  Well, some of your prayers are about to be answered coming up this Monday July 12th, when ABC Daytime and SOAPnet’s new creative webisode mash-ups, What If premieres, with some of the most famous and infamous characters from One Life to Live, All My Children, and General Hospital in some very unique out-of-time scenarios.  Just an FYI for your viewing pleasure – the webisodes will be derivative of the characters you love and their unique past, but are not related to current storyline. You can view the webisodes at both ABC.com and SOAPnet.com, and cut down versions will air on both ABC Daytime and SOAPnet.

So, once the What If’s were put into motion, who was the man who was instrumental in directing the amazing talent of ABC Daytime stars in these humorous, touching, and exciting featurettes?  And, who could give us the inside story on what to expect?  That would fall to One Life to Live’s head honcho, Frank Valentini.  And while Valentini runs the ship in Llanview, many insiders know that it is also his directing prowess that has earned him kudos from his peers and the press.  In this new interview with On-Air On-Soaps, Valentini gives us a look at how the What If’s were made, and takes us through each of the ten webisodes
you will see rolled-out throughout the summer.

Next, Frank gives us the overview for this summer’s sizzling storylines coming up on One Life to Live. And yes, finally, we do discuss how Valentini manages to keep things moving forward with his cast and crew amidst constant rumors that One Life could be the next show to hit the chopping block.  But after speaking with Frank and reading his thoughts, it should be apparent to anyone that this guy has the drive, determination, and love for the genre to keep creating new ways for soapers to enjoy their favorite stories be it on the web or the small screen.

You can view the full schedule of What If’s by clicking here

MICHAEL:

Frank, how did it come about that you were chosen for the job of director of all ten What If webisodes?  I know you directed the Endless Drama promo marketing campaign with ESPN Sports and ABC Daytime in the past.  So this obviously was a natural for you on so many levels.  And how involved were you in the development process until you finally went to tape?

FRANK:

Couresty/ABC

I heard from Sue Johnson, the Vice President of Programming and Talent for ABC Daytime on the east coast, about What If, and I got really excited.  She said that Adam Rockmore, and his team in marketing at ABC/SOAPnet, were heading them up, and it had been an idea that Sue and Adam had been talking about for awhile. They finally figured out a time when they could do it, and they told me the actors they were thinking of using from One Life to Live, and I got really excited about it. Then they said, “Well, we have one other thing… we know you are really busy, but do you think you could direct them?” And I was just floored, flattered, and honored.  I was really, really psyched.  I think it’s a really fantastic idea and fantastic for the fans.  It’s huge big wet kiss to the fans.  The webisodes are all really fun, sweet and heartfelt, and emotional.  The whole body of ten different scenarios is just fantastic and this great young writer, Sara Saedi, wrote them.  And, after I was invited on board and I was going through the directing process, I made some suggestions in terms of location, and how we might be able to make them the most accessible and most satisfying for the fans.  I was then able to bring all my experience over from One Life to Live to that.

MICHAEL:

Getting to work with so many of the top talent in the ABC Daytime line-up, that you never had the opportunity to work with before, was there any moment or scenario in working with certain actors that surprised you?  

FRANK:

There were a couple.  I always knew that Susan Lucci (Erica, AMC) was a wonderful actress, but she was really fun and funny to work with, and we did a scene with her and Maurice Benard (Sonny, GH).  I had known Susan for years, but I had never worked with her like this, and I had been a fan of Maurice’s for years, but only met him in passing.  I was thrilled that two dynamite stars were going to be in a scene together.  And just getting on the set with them, I could see it was exciting for them to find the humorous moments and the deep emotional moments in their scenes.  I mean, I directed Susan on All My Children like ten thousand years ago, but working with her and Maurice, who I had never worked with before, it was like instant chemistry.  I am always so floored with the professionalism and the dedication the daytime actors have.  When you work as fast and rapidly as we do, and as consistently as we do, those muscles are so strong and they react so fast.  Obviously, with the What If’s, we had a lot of time to do these compared to the regular daytime schedule.  Even within the five minutes of the piece, we were able to mine all these great moments, and that what was really fun for me.

MICHAEL: 

Courtesy/ABC

As a lover of the genre, you had to be pinching yourself, that you’re doing this and directing this with some of your favorite performers and colleagues.  How cool!

FRANK:

Oh, my God, it was totally cool!  Look, I am a fan, and it’s always great when you get to work with somebody you have never worked with before.  Also, it was a proud moment for me to see my One Life to Live actors working with other actors from the other soaps. What a blast to see Trevor St. John (Todd, OLTL) and Bradford Anderson (Spinelli, GH) together.  It was so fun, and those guys were so great together.  And, Trevor is such an interesting actor.  He is just incredibly spontaneous, and Bradford was coming up with all types of different ideas.  And together, I am so proud of all ten of the What If’s, and they all have individual moments that were great.  I have never been able to direct Rebecca Budig (Greenlee, AMC), and we have been friends for years.  She was so funny, and she and Steve Burton (Jason, GH) immediately had chemistry on-screen, and they obviously knew each other from soap fan events, and what not.  Their segment is really funny, and then all of a sudden there is this poignant moment in it that is really sweet.

MICHAEL:

One of the pairings many are interested in seeing is Michael Easton (John, OLTL) and Kelly Monaco (Sam, GH).  These two had hot vampire love together on the now defunct Port Charles. How was it to watch them work together for the first time in years?

FRANK:

I think people forget what great timing Michael Easton has.  If you saw some of the scenes from Bo and Nora’s wedding, some of his reactions were just classic.  He is always very subtle, and some of the work he has done over the years with Tuc Watkins (David, OLTL) is priceless.  I am so crazy about Michael and his talents.  He is a real gift to One Life to Live. I know Kelly and I think she is dynamite.  These are two wild, energetic actors coming together, and they have such great history.  Their piece is a little more physical then some of the others and it takes place in an elevator, and it’s awesome.

MICHAEL:

Where were the What If’s shot at?  You obviously came west for a time to accomplish this. 

Courtesy/ABC

FRANK:

Yes, I came out to Los Angeles to shoot these.  They were done in a separate studio called Air Hollywood out in Pacoima, just outside L.A.  We were dark at One Life to Live and we had a little break.  So that is how we were able to get the One Life to Live actors out to the west coast.  Then, I was able to come out and spend some time. We shot all of them within a two and a half day period.

MICHAEL:

One of the other What If’s, that I am looking forward to is the bringing together of six-time Daytime Emmy winners and soap opera legends, Erika Slezak (Viki, OLTL) and Tony Geary (Luke, GH).   What can fans expect from their pairing?

FRANK:

That one was so sweet, and we built a separate elevator set just for them. There was a mutual admiration society going on with them.  Tony did some things that came right out of his head that just added to the process.  I am a big fan of his.

MICHAEL:

Ok, but here you are directing all these heavy-hitters on daytime.  Did anyone take issue when you asked them to take direction, or with some notes you may have had to offer to get to your goal with each webisode?

FRANK:

Courtesy/ABC

First of all, the actors who were picked are all incredible professionals.  I have a good relationship with them.  So they will do what I ask them to do as their boss, (Laughs) but I have to say everybody was very excited about these.  All seven actors from One Life to Live said, “Oh, my God.  I am so flattered to be asked to participate.  This is going to be cool.”  When I told Michael Easton he was going to be paired with Kelly Monaco, he just burst into this big smile.

MICHAEL:

Kirsten Storms (Maxie, GH), and John-Paul Lavoisier (Rex, OLTL) is a pairing that could be quite interesting to watch, since they are both extraordinary and have a very quirky acting style!

FRANK:

It’s a fun one!  That one is actually very interesting because it has some moments that the younger audience can relate to.  Sort of like two sides of a coin, and a look at love and dating in the 21st Century, and what that means.  And we explore it through the eyes of these two very unique and very different characters.

MICHAEL:

One Life’s, Bree Williamson, (Jessica) got to play with Dominic Zamprogna (Dante) of GH.  But she is not Jess.  You brought back good ole’ Tess!  How does Tess know Dante?  From the… bedroom? (Laughs)

FRANK:

Tess knew him from the past, and that one is so good, because Bree Williamson is playing her alter-Tess in it.  And you know how much I love Bree! Also, another What If has Michael Knight (Tad. AMC) who is phenomenal in this teamed with Kassie DePaiva (Blair, OLTL).  That one is chucked full of surprises. 

Courtesy/ABC

MICHAEL:

All My Children’s Jesse/Angie, somehow get mixed up with Starr from One Life to Live. That is an odd and interesting soap mash-up!

FRANK:

You’ve got to watch that one!  Little Kristen Alderson (Starr, OLTL) is right in there, holding her own with Debbi Morgan (Angie, AMC) and Darnell Williams (Jesse, AMC). And again, it’s an interesting look at different people and how they see life.

MICHAEL:

Ah, then this one looks to potentially have some soap elevator sex.  Always good, but it’s made even better because Pine Valley’s Ryan, meets Port Charles’ Carly.  How was that to tape?

FRANK:

I fell in love all over again with Laura Wright (Carly, GH). And, Cameron Mathison (Ryan, AMC) and I have been friends for years.  We used to have a locker at the gym together. That one is so fun, and that is one of the first ones you will see.

MICHAEL:

Now that you have done these ten, where can this lead?  What is the hope of the ABC Daytime initiative with this?

FRANK:

Like I said, it’s a big wet kiss to the fans of ABC Daytime.  Lets just hope this is foreplay, and there will be more of them to come.  A couple of them lend themselves to sequels, and that would be fun to keep these relationships going and play out in different scenarios. We are open to new synergies. There are wonderful actors from all three ABC Daytime soaps, who just because we only could utilize a certain amount of people, were not included in this round.  But hopefully, they will be represented in the next round.  With two of the soaps now out in L.A., it’s not as difficult and challenging to make it all work.

MICHAEL: 

Courtesy/ABC

With all the challenges soap operas are facing at the beginning of this decade, do you think there will come a day, because of the rough times we face in the genre, that perhaps to save shows, characters, and performers on the ABC Daytime line-up, that they might integrate some characters into one big show?

FRANK:

No, because all three shows have lots of interesting characters and can stand on their own.  I don’t buy into the doom and gloom as much.  I know it’s a reality that we are in a recession and budgets are tight, but if the fans love these shows and watch these shows, and continue to support them, and support things like the What If’s, then they should get out there and say positive things.  Look, there are plenty of negative things to say about the world right now, let’s say
a few positive things.  Let’s support the things we love before they go away,
because then we won’t be able to say anything about them.

MICHAEL:

You are known to be great with budgets.  In fact, One Life is one of the only shows that is always under budget.  What is your secret?  Because, in addition to everyday costs of taping episodes, you seem to bring in all the special effect shows, such as Stacy’s Ice Freeze sweeps story, on point within the budget constraints.

FRANK:

I can’t speak to other people’s budgets, but I feel we have an incredibly hard working group at One Life to Live.  I think everyone understands if we want to do Stacy falling through the ice, or the musical we just did, Starr X-d Lovers, or Bo and Nora’s wedding, which was also extremely tough to do, that everybody needs to be on set on time, and everybody needs to be able to do their blocking, and know their lines, and the whole crew is behind us.  The actors on One Life are just such professionals. We move along at a nice pace.  And we also have a crew and a team that has been together for many years, and we developed a short hand, and we have found a way to make it work.  I am then constantly refining that, and thinking things through.  For instance, I might say, “Do we absolutely need that?  Because if we don’t, we can take that money, and put it into this.”  Knowing we were coming off of the musical and into Bo and Nora’s wedding, it was extremely important to figure out how we can do this, and still have Bo in a bathtub filled with tons of tomato juice, and six guys in the room that needed to be there.  And, so we can also have Tuc Watkins come back for the summer and that gives Llanview a jolt of his craziness and brilliance. 

Courtesy/ABC

MICHAEL:

Speaking of Tuc sticking around this summer in Llanview, what else can viewers at One Life expect through the summer heat?  Who is going to be front and center?

FRANK:

Fans can expect some very interesting things to happen with Bo and Nora, which will be really fun. We will explore what married life means for them and their relationship with Matthew.  Starr and Cole are going to continue to persevere amidst the craziness of their families, and the situation that they are in, especially involving James and Hannah.  There is a great story going on which is picking up steam and will play out for a couple of months between Viki, Dorian and David, and Charlie, and it goes through to the beginning of fall.  The story is humorous.  Viki and Charlie are trying to set up Dorian and David, which ultimately will make these two see their true feelings for one another.  It’s always fun when Viki and Dorian are in the mix together.  We are finding now that Eli is not the good guy we all thought he was.  He has a lot of stuff coming up with Blair and Todd that will happen.  Of course, the other major story is what is going to happen with Tea, and her daughter, Dani.  It’s really a hard, emotional story, and very uplifting at the same time, and life affirming. We did a fantastic remote with Trevor and Florencia Lozano (Tea), and Kelley Missal (Dani).  Also, there are a lot of surprises and twists and turns with Natalie, John, Jessica, and Brody.  That story will definitely be heating up over the next couple of weeks.  There is a little bit of everything this summer on One Life.

MICHAEL:

You have accomplished so much at a young age in daytime.  When did you start at One Life?  It’s been a few decades, right?

FRANK:

I have been at One Life to Live for 25 years, and I have been the Executive Producer for seven and a half years. 

Courtesy/ABC

MICHAEL:

Do you think looking back, that this was your ultimate goal?  To run a daytime soap opera?

FRANK:

It’s kind of like when you first meet somebody, you don’t know you are going to spend the rest of your life with them. (Laughs)  And then 25 years later, you look back and go, “Wow, Wow, that has been fun.”  I came out of college and started working at One Life to Live for then executive producer, Paul Rauch, (now co-exec prod at Y&R) who was an incredible teacher and mentor, and I sort of fell in love with the show.  I fell in love with the actors, and yes, I love what I do, and I work incredibly hard.  But, I never want to watch the show and think, “I wish we could have done that, or we should have done that.”  We are
always trying to learn, and make the show better every day.

MICHAEL:

As the show’s EP, when you hear rumors that the show could be canceled this December, or all the other rumors about One Life’s cancellation over the past year, how do you rah-rah your show?  Keep everyone’s spirits at One Life up?  Rally the troops?

FRANK:

It’s a combination of pointing out what the facts are, because rumors don’t mean anything… they are just rumors.  And yes, you can re-check with the network and ask, “Is there something we should know?”  But we look at the ratings, and the sweeps period for the show, and the different segments of the audience.  Obviously, the demographic of 18-49 is very important.  From February up through May we were doing pretty well, and pretty much number three in the demos.  That is very good.  And sometimes, that number goes up, and sometimes that number goes down.  And on a good day it’s great, and on the bad days we try to sit back a minute and think, “OK, what did we do wrong?”  Everybody on our set has a great sense of humor, and they know ABC Daytime is behind us 100%, so we just keep going. 

Courtesy/ABC

MICHAEL:

In closing, what tip would you give every soap fan or ABC Daytime fan, about enjoying the upcoming What If’’s?

FRANK:

Don’t miss them from the beginning, because then when they all roll out you will be on board.   They are all fun!  Make sure you share them with all of your friends.  It’s for people who watch the soaps, or even who don’t watch the soaps, because it’s new and it’s never been done before.  Get in early and stay for the whole ride.

  1. Keith says:

    Great interview. Nice hearing from Frank as we do not hear from him much in the press. The “What If” promos sound really great and I think a lot of soap fans will be tuningin to check them out.

    Reply

  2. Ann says:

    A very interesting read! I enjoyed the interview and it was nice to see the cancellation rumors addressed. The “What If” promos are a unique concept. I am looking forward the most to Todd/Spinelli. I know that one will be great! Frank should have mentioned what a great “gift” TSJ is to OLTL though. I think he is by far OLTL’s biggest asset! I just love Trevor’s work!

    Reply

  3. Tina Payne says:

    Michael Fairman, thanks for that great interview with Frank Valentini! I saw Frank’s genius up close for almost 10 hours when my husband and I had the privilege to see OLTL tape for a day. I think he puts out the best daytime drama on TV today. I told him that after the Emmys a couple of weeks ago, then some fans came to him pleading “Don’t kill Tea!”!, and later Laura Wright and he talked a long time, so I never got the chance to ask him about cancellation rumors. I may not have had the heart to anyway, so I’m glad you did, and that it is called a rumor and not a fact. If anyone can save a show, it’s FV with his great cast and crew, and the best actor there is, MICHAEL EASTON! Can’t wait to see ME and Kelly reunited! Caleb’s love for Olivia lasted from the start to the finish of Port Charles and seeing ME with the first leading lady I enjoyed him with again, 7 years later, is such a fan gift; and I’m happy to thank Frank Valentini for making it as brilliant as I know it will be!

    Reply

  4. Cammie says:

    I really enjoyed the interview and I’m glad he addressed the cancellation rumors as just that rumor.I’m really looking forward to the What If webisodes,especially the ones with Michael Easton,Kassie DePaiva and Trevor St. John.I really think it’s an interesting concept and if they do it again I would love to see one with Michael Easton and Bobbie Eakes.I really think they would have amazing chemistry.

    Reply

  5. Doe says:

    Michael, this is one of the best and inteligent interviews you have done. Not only did you ask the right questions to Frank , but he was very willing to give you and the fans , the right answers. I think the creation of these episodes is brilliant. The mash-ups are ideal. This shows the clevernes of Frank Valentini. I think they will be so succesful that the fans will be asking for more. Frank must have had a ball working with the personalities of these srars. Kidos to you for the interview and kudos for Frank for being so inventive. Can’t wait to see all the episodes…….

    Reply

    Keith replied

    You are so correct Doe. This was a great interview. As you said, Michael asked great questions and just as important, Frank seemed to be very open in his answers. I would love to see Frank do an interview with Michael where he went in to depth about all the comings and goings at OLTL, storylines, what to look forward to, etc. You can tell Frank was very comfortable with Michael, so you know it would be a great read to hear Frank talk in depth about OLTL.

    Reply

  6. Ann says:

    There will have to be a sequel with Michael and Kelly. If there are
    sequels, you can bet this will be one of them. I cannot wait to see them
    together again!

    Reply

  7. Joanna says:

    Excellent interview! I am looking foreward to OLTL in the next couple of weeks, because it looks like we move away from teen centered stories and back to the adults. I am really looking foreward to John/Natalie Jessica/Brody stuff. And Bo/Nora they have been missed.

    Reply

    Rosalind Wolf replied

    I wonder if the powers that be know that not only the younger generation watch OLTL. My mom watched the show from its inception and I was hooked from the start. I am now a senior citizen and just love the show but I would appreciate seeing Erica, Charlie and Bo and Nora and Clint have more screen time. I loved the interview.

    Reply

  8. Jason says:

    I’m glad Starr and Cole are perserving and working on repairing their relationship. Those two have gone through enough, and they deserve a break from the drama I just hope they tell each other what happened first before.

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  9. Kathy says:

    I’m a new viewer to OLTL and James & Starr have drawn me to watch it and anticipate it every day.

    I love this new potential couple!!

    Reply

  10. Joan says:

    “One Life to Live is the best soap on ABC…..I started watching when “All My Children”
    and One Life to Live….. in with the baby switch…..I’ve been watching ever since…
    I hope “One Life to Live ” can continue to thrive…..
    I also enjoyed the “What if clips”….they were very entertaining.
    I wish Tea didn’t have to leave…..I feel so bad for Danielle….
    I also enjoyed watching Michael Easton….in Port Charles.

    Reply

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