By Michael Fairman
Originally published on Advocate.com October 02 2009 5:30 AM ET
It Is Written
It’s been a whirlwind few weeks for hunky soap star Austin Peck. First, his role of Brad Snyder as As the World Turns is coming to an end. Yup, he is being killed off and heading to that big soap sud in the sky. And while the actor’s final big story line kicks off this month, he will reportedly air though November ... as a ghost. But as the old adage says, when one door closes, another one opens. And walking through this one could be Peck’s big moment!
Last Friday the independent film The Blue Tooth Virgin hit theaters, and Peck is getting winning reviews for his star turn as a sitcom writer who tries his hand at dramatic screenwriting only to make a fatal mistake ... asking a friend for advice!
I spoke with Austin this week. He wanted to clarify that his ATWT demise has nothing to do with his being "fired."
“I think when people see what is coming up with the story line [which facilitates my exit from the show] they will see that there was a lot of time and effort put into it. It was not a, 'Hey, we need to get rid of somebody.' It was story-driven, and it is just sad that my character has to be at the end of it. I think it’s the best story line I have seen them do in a long time, and some of the best work I have seen Terri Colombino [Katie] do for a long time. Julie Pinson [Janet] and Michael Park [Jack] also are terrific, as you will see. ... And while at the same time I am flattered to be a part of it, I am sad that I ended up on the cutting room floor! Everybody at the show has been loving, kind, and supportive, and they have expressed their shock and bewilderment at the decision by the show to end Brad. They have been really kind to me.”
And that is good to hear, because online rumors circulated around last month's Daytime Emmy Awards that Peck’s ATWT castmates did not want him to sit at the official after-party dinner table with them, further fueling the rumor that he was unpopular with the cast. According to Peck, “That is the furthest thing from the truth! I was sitting right next to Ewa Da Cruz [Vienna] and Trent Dawson [Henry] and across the table from Teri, and Jon Lindstrom [Craig] was next to me. I was sitting with my castmates.”
And those fellow castmates, the soap press, and film reviewers are singing Peck’s praises for his work in The Blue Tooth Virgin.
“We shot it in eight days. It’s a simple film and a satire about screenwriting and what happens when a man asks his friend to read his screenplay and what ensues after that. My character comes to a crossroad in his life where he has to make a decision about his relationships in his life, based on where he is at professionally and personally, and about the pursuing of dreams. It deals with the insecurities and neurosis of being creative. I play Sam, and I write the script called The Blue Tooth Virgin. In the movie I ask my friend David to read the script and he hates it. I want to be told what I want to hear -- 'It’s fantastic and you’re incredible.' Sam had a hit TV show, and he is a writer that is ahead of his time, but he has a lot of personal issues he has to work through, like every single human being on earth.”
Karen Black also stars in the film, and Austin says she is pivotal to Sam’s existence: “Karen plays a significant part of the film and is at the middle of it. I had one scene with her, and she plays a script consultant/therapist and it’s where my character comes to a crossroad. She is great in it and very insightful. The sad part about this film is there is no nudity or violence.” [Laughs]
And that 's a shame for gay fans, who have always named Austin Peck’s bod as one of daytime’s hottest. He tells me no such luck in The Blue Tooth Virgin for his fan base to see Peck’s pecs.
“No, my clothes are on in this one, and it could have been played by anyone, and it happened to be me. [Laughs] You know, I have not even been shirtless on ATWT for quite some time, and that’s sad because I am in fantastic shape now. [Laughs] Now is the perfect time for me to take my shirt off!”
Austin then had a good laugh looking back on his year as Austin Reed on Days -- no matter what the scene called for, Austin was always sans shirt. “Of course it gets gratuitous. I remember a time when I was on Days of Our Lives and they had me shirtless in every single scene! It got so silly. So one day I just walked out onto the set in a jockstrap and I started doing the scene in a jockstrap with Arianne Zuker [Nicole, Days], much to her chagrin and shock.”
So what if Days came a-calling and asked Austin back for a return engagement? Would he consider heading back to Salem? “Oh, yeah, I would go back in a New York minute. There have been some calls. So we shall see. I would rather stay on the East Coast. But, I am optimistic about my future. I hope that soaps will be around a long time, but I don’t think so. I think there is a time and season for everything. People ask me about Guiding Light, and I do think it’s sad, but the show was on for 72 years. When you talk about the show going off the air, the sad part is all those people are out of work -- 72 years is a damn good run. ATWT is 53 years old, and that is a damn good run. I think people are concerned that ATWT is the last remaining soap owned by a soap company, Procter & Gamble. So the budget for ATWT is not as big as some of the other shows’. But, I think it’s the best-written and -acted show on daytime by far, and very relevant.”
Who Is Really Daytime's Biggest Cougar?
Men, don’t be jealous that a soap star gets to score with young Hollywood studs. If you watched the last two weeks of ABC’s new sitcom Cougar Town, starring Courteney Cox, you may have noticed that GH’s mob legal eagle Diane, played by the brilliant Carolyn Hennesy, is moonlighting as the ultimate man-crazed "cougar," Barb. I joined some of Carolyn’s close friends at an intimate gathering last week to watch the premiere episode. After we all ate popcorn, cupcakes, and Smarties to celebrate, Carolyn and I had a chitchat. I asked her, when she saw herself on-screen on the network debut of the series, what crossed her mind?
“I looked good for a woman of a certain age. I look really good. [Laughs] It's the little comedy bombs that I get to go in and drop that I love. Barb is a very conservative, straitlaced Realtor by day and queen cougar, no pride, no shame, by night.” So why does Hennesy seem so at ease playing a lady predator? She tells me when she read it on the page at the audition, she just ... connected with it! “The writers wrote Barb and I connected with her. I don’t know if that is a good thing or a bad thing. Barb has no filter and no morals, and it’s a gift to play it and be able to say these things because you can’t say those things in real life!”
And what about working with star Courteney Cox? Good experience or bad? Hennesy says it’s a mixture of beauty and brains when it comes to Cox. “I did work with her briefly, and my scenes were with her. She is one of the executive producers of the show. So she is pulled in 15 directions at once. Courteney was focused and warm and a generous actress to work with. I am in five episodes mixing it up with her and her on-screen 'boy toy.' I have a scene in a waxing salon that is going to go on my reel. That is all I am going to say. Watch around the third episode.”
Something’s Fish-y in Llanview ... Again!
On today’s One Life to Live, Viki and Dorian’s mayoral battle takes on a politically gay turn. Nick (Kyle’s current beau), who’s very active in the gay rights arena, throws his support behind Viki. So in retaliation, Dorian comes up with an idea when David informs her they need to hire some gay staffers immediately. After David refuses to play gay to enhance Dorian’s liberal image in the race, Dorian’s problem seems to be solved when Amelia arrives on the scene ... and asks Dorian to meet with Llanview’s Gay and Lesbian Alliance. Meanwhile, a student has heard that Nick is gay and asks Nick about it, and then (drum roll, please) Fish warns Kyle about Nick’s agenda. Will he listen? Is Kyle being bamboozled by the bedazzling and love-struck Nick?
So what is really going on here? It seems like Llanview is going to turn into soap's gayest town ever! As had been revealed last week in a TV Guide exclusive, Dorian will pretend to turn lesbian and marry her female campaign manager. Their nuptials are set to air October 30 and November 2, and it will be part of a group wedding of 22 same-sex couples. When OLTL’s brilliant head scribe, Ron Carlivati, was asked just what he was trying to do here, he stated the following; “I’m not trying to take on the Pennsylvania legislature here! And I’m not trying to preach a certain point of view to anyone. This is a fun story based around an important issue with a couple of good old-fashioned wedding cliffhangers: Will Kyle go ahead and marry Nick even though he loves Oliver? Will Dorian carry through with her fake marriage for political gain and ruin her chances with David?”
And speaking of Dorian, the beloved Robin Strasser has a massive gay following and will be serving as honorary chairperson for the drag ball Marching for Equality ... in Heels on October 10 in Washington, D.C., an event that honors the 40th anniversary of Stonewall and benefits the Matthew Shepard Foundation. Look for my Advocate.com interview with Strasser next week as she celebrates 30 years as delicious Dorian!
Soap Cancellation Report: Is One Life to Live Next? Would Kish Go to AMC?
File this one under "say it isn't so:" Soap fans became quite unglued when TV Guide Canada reported the following item on Monday. “A network insider confirms what DaytimeConfidential.com has been reporting for the last few months. One Life to Live was this close to being cancelled. Thankfully, The Aisha Tyler Show tested poorly with focus groups, which bought One Life another year. ABC Daytime president Brian Frons had to make a 'Sophie’s Choice,' and he chose to save All My Children by moving it to L.A. One Life will be cancelled next year barring a ratings miracle. Frons will most likely move Trevor St. John, Kassie DePaiva, Michael Easton, the Kish boys, and maybe Brandon Buddy and Kristen Alderson to become a part of AMC. He will not merge both shows into two half-hour soaps.”
However, since that item's posting, ABC Daytime spokeswoman Jori Petersen offered the network’s only official response at this time: “In response to Internet rumors that ABC may cancel OLTL, the only upcoming move One Life to Live is making is to the All My Children stage after that series relocates to Los Angeles. This will give One Life to Live more room and increase their production value.”
Associated Television International’s Jim Romanovich (who I worked with on the Daytime Emmys this year) then made this statement to help fans understand business decisions that may need to be made in the current economic and daytime climate: “I feel if ABC wants the show, they will do what they can to save it. I believe that part of the AMC move to L.A. was meant to save both shows, as I knew one wouldn’t survive. It seemed ABC showed great faith in all three of their soaps by doing what they did. I still believe that. If the profit OLTL generates (assuming it does) does not balance out the effort that goes into it, then yes, OLTL may end, just as any show would. ABC is looking at their future and that also means taking the path of least resistance. If OLTL makes a 20% profit on its cost, let’s say, and ABC can make that same 20% profit on a talk show in which they also have a vested interest, then which way do you think they might lean?” So what this means, Soapside readers, is that you must watch One Life and keep writing in to the network. At this point, besides ATWT,One Life is really the only other soap showing a full-fledged same-sex story line.We don’t want to see this one bite the dust. And besides, it’s my all-time favorite soap. I would end up stuffing my face with a box of saltines and weeping if it’s no longer on the air. We wouldn’t want that now, would we?
Postcards from Venice!
Don’t forget to tune in to Days of Our Lives today, as Crystal Chappell makes her return as Dr. Carly Manning! Plus ... news from Chappell’s Camp Venice: Daytime Emmy winner Jeff Branson is taking over the role of Gina’s brother, Owen, from previously announced Daniel Cosgrove. Another former GL pal, Tina Sloan (ex-Lillian) is coming on to play the role of Katherine. Venice head writer and coproducer Kim Turrisi tells Soapside exclusively, “Tina will be playing the ultimate cougar! Will she be gay or straight? Tune in to find out.” Crystal and Kim created something specifically with Tina in mind after seeing her at the Daytime Emmys, Turrisi confirms. Look for more of Sloan in season 2. And this week Crystal told TV Guide some vital Venice news for gay fans. “At the top of the first episode, Gina and Ani have just spent the night together. They’ve reconnected after not seeing each other for a year. So you will see a kiss, but you soon realize that Gina has incredible intimacy issues, and you’re left to wonder what’s going to happen to them during the series. Will they get back together? Can they get back together? Will other people come into their lives? Like I said, it’s a good ol’ soap!”
Soaps. Most Bizarre Casting News ... Ever!
My head is spinning from this week’s impressive, zany, and exciting casting news! So let’s begin and see if you can follow the bouncing ball.
General Hospital dropped the two biggest bombshells. First, motion picture star James Franco (Milk, Pineapple Express) is set for a two-month gig on the ABC soap! James will appear for November sweeps and his first air date is set for November 20. Franco is scheduled to tape several episodes in three days -- October 30, November 6, and November 13. He will play a mystery man who comes to Port Charles. Word initially got out from a series of tweets from The Biggest Loser’sJillian Michaels, her best bud Vanessa Marcil (ex-Brenda, GH), and GH superstar Steve Burton (Jason), which indicated that Franco could be mixing it up with Jason and Sam. Franco and Burton share the same manager.
Then ABC spokeswoman Jori Petersen went on record as saying, "The only thing I can tell you about his character right now is he is playing a mysterious person who comes to Port Charles who will be Jason Morgan’s worst nightmare. James loves to explore the different types of acting that are available and had never done soaps and was really interested in the amount of work soap actors do -- he wanted to try it out," noting that Franco contacted GH directly!
In another jaw-dropper, after more than a decade away, Jonathan Jackson is coming home to GH to reprise his role as Lucky Spencer, which won him three Daytime Emmy awards. Jackson started taping yesterday, and his appearances will beginning airing the week of October 27. But that means soap hottie Greg Vaughan is out! After six years as Luke’s number 1 son, Vaughan tweeted earlier this week, “With sad regrets, I will no longer be a part of what has been a big part of me and my families life. GH and [The Powers That Be] have chosen to take [Lucky in] a new direction. I THANK ALL of YOU for the many memories we've shared and new ones to come!"
Next, another three-time Daytime Emmy winner, Sarah Brown, who recently revealed she is leaving GH, has been signed on to The Bold and the Beautiful in a new role as Sandy Sommers, who sounds on paper like a "good girl"... a far cry from Claudia Z. and her evil histrionics in Port Charles. Brown last appears on GH on November 5 and first appears on B&B the next day. Talk about your soap swapping!
Then, finally, ABC announced the cast members of All My Children who will be staying with the show when it heads to L.A. in January. Susan Lucci, Cameron Mathison, David Canary, and Michael Knight are some of the big names staying put. However, leading man Thorsten Kaye (Zach) has decided not to make the cross country move or commute; thus Kaye’s last air date will be sometime in November. And veteran Ray MacDonnell, the stalwart Dr. Joe, is retiring from soap duty, putting down his stethoscope, and will not be coming with the show.
Now as for La Lucci, she told the AP that she made her decision a few days ago to stay with AMC, but New York will remain her permanent home. However, Beth Ehlers, who was completely wasted as Lt. Taylor Thompson, is not continuing with the series, and neither is Aiden Turner (Aidan) and Brianne Moncrief (Colby), who were given their walking papers! No comment. As far as a Pine Valley favorite, Ricky Paull Goldin’s Jake, he is staying, and in a brand-new interview
on my website, he discusses the AMC move with me and much more!
What is going on at Y&R? While its same-sex story is virtually
nonexistent, I did see Thom Bierdz’s Phillip sitting at a table with
the Chancellor family ... where he spoke one line! And what happened to
Yani Gellman’s Rafe, the first gay character in Y&R’s history? Did
he go upstairs at the Newman Ranch, never to come down again? Only time
will tell what the powers that be are up to with this one. But they really stirred the pot when Eric Braeden (Victor Newman)
was written out of the show last week. Contract negotiations are at the
center of this explosive situation. Braeden’s rep tells me, “He is in
talks with the show and may or may not be back.” What is happening here,
people? Y&R without Victor Newman? I need a Xanax ... make that two!
Big Brother’s Jeff and Jordan Are Soap Stars for a Day!
Last week I spent time behind the scenes with reality show heartthrob Jeff Schroeder, voted as America’s Favorite Houseguest, and his gal pal, Jordan Lloyd, season 11 winner from Big Brother. They were filming a scene for an upcoming episode of The Bold and the Beautiful that airs on October 27, in which they take a trip down memory lane with the characters of Donna and Aaron. While everyone around me was drooling over Jeff’s model good looks, I took the opportunity to get some one-on-one interview time with the big winners. Check them out, and here are some “quickie” notes from my meeting with America’s sweethearts!