By Michael Fairman
Originally published on Advocate.com March 05 2010 1:00 AM ET
The finale of season 1 of Venice is tonight. So I went straight to the head honcho of the hit Web soap, Crystal Chappell (Gina), for a first glimpse of what fans of the subscription based series can expect. “You can expect to see a cliff-hanger. It’s the beginning of a secret that Gina will keep with her father, and Gina has to make a decision of who she wants to be with — Ani or Tracy. Kim Turrisi (head writer, Venice) and I came up with the finale tag together. I wanted something that was like a soap, and that left people wondering what was going to happen ... just the last scene. The tag reveals that Gina could be in cahoots with her father, which is going to seriously affect the rest of her family. It’s a big, big scene!”
While her first season at the helm as executive producer, star, and cowriter of the Web soap is over, I asked Chappell what she thought was the show's on-screen high point. “The pivotal scene that gave me chills was in episode 6 with Guya [Hillary B. Smith], The Colonel [Jordan Clarke], Owen [Galen Gering], and Gina, when she says to her father, ‘You think I have been a disappointment to you? You have no idea what you have been to me.’ Everyone’s reaction was spot-on. It was a very well written and acted scene. It struck home with me on why my character, Gina, is a messed-up chick. And why neither of these kids has separated from their father. In our tag for the finale, you can see that she becomes this child with him, and the fact that she is even willing to keep a secret with him is disturbing and a big deal.”
But what about the ladies in Gina’s life? Does Chappell still feel that Jessica Leccia’s Ani is Gina’s true love? “I think what I like is the audience gets to see all the possibilities. First, the flaws in Ani. And, we still have not explored some character traits of Tracy [Lesli Kay]. We don’t know anything about Lara [Nadia Bjorlin] yet. Ani seems to pick people she needs to fix or that are not quite totally available. You have to ask yourself, Why? Gina’s journey’s is clear. She needs to separate. Tracy is just this chick from London [laughs] and we don’t know too much about her. She fell pretty quickly for Gina [laughs]. None of these women are perfect. Ultimately Gina and Ani are soul mates. It’s just a matter of getting there, and the journey is about getting them to that place.”
Crystal revealed that season 2 of the web soap is already in preproduction and we may soon see new episodes! “We will probably shoot end of May and beginning June and launch it at the end of June. Ideally, I would like to get three seasons in this year, if I could manage that.” So, will there be any famous soap all-stars joining the cast for the new season? Chappell teases, “There are three well-known faces that are coming onboard that I have worked with before from somewhere in my career!”
One of the best casting bits is that Guya will be getting a special needs dog, played by Dude (Hillary B. Smith’s best friend Lindsay’s lovable companion). Chappell shot some footage already for season 2 with the new Venice mascot! “He is so funny. His hindquarters don’t work ... so he pulls himself around on his front legs. He does have a little [wheelchair] wagon, which is adorable.”
If you want to check out Dude and help pet owners who may be struggling with overwhelming veterinary bills, Hillary and Lindsay have set up the Willie-Coppee Fund, which makes grants to pet owners who are challenged in this economy. Their fund helps countless individuals who are unable to provide routine care and medically necessary services for their furry friends. More goodwill from the cast of Venice. Got to love ’em.
In season 2, Crystal says she will be spending more time behind the camera. “I do like directing. I love it. Hopefully I use both sides of my brain. [Laughs] I do love working with the actors. The best situation is when you have great talent, which we did. I like telling a story with pictures and putting it together. There is something very exciting about being on the other side of the camera.” But with every new project comes unexpected twists and turns. Many recall the Venice website server issues, when fans were clamoring to see the new episodes and could not get on the website. Chappell shared her takeaway from all of that mess. “I have a more clear perspective now, and as I go into preproduction next week for season 2, I think I have a better handle on what is needed in terms of the technical aspects of things, i.e. the website. There is always going to be a glitch here and there. I definitely know the capacity that I need to carry the show to the audience. The main thing for me is I am really going to be looking closely at story for next season — and longer episodes and expand them. This whole adventure was a trial-and-error experience. The production end of things was easy for me, since I have been doing this for 20 years. It was really the technical end and the Internet that was a new frontier.”
Now with awards season ramping up, Chappell has been nominated for a Streamy Award for Best Female Actor in a Drama Series for Venice and has just received a pre-nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress for the Daytime Emmys for her role as Olivia on Guiding Light. So what does she think of all the accolades starting to roll in? “It was very nice being nominated for a Streamy. I would love to attend. Was I even invited? [Laughs] You give me an invitation and I will show up! [Laughs] This is all new and exciting for me. This is where I want to be and go in the future. So it’s exciting to be honored like this. In regards to the Daytime Emmys, I have narrowed it down to two shows to consider for submitting for the competition. The week that stood out to me was the week on Guiding Light of Frank and Natalia’s wedding and obviously the graveyard scene. So we shall see.”
In the meantime Crystal is nominated in multiple categories for this year’s TV Guide Canada Soap Opera Spirit Awards, to be dolled out next Tuesday at 7 p.m. Pacific/10 p.m. Eastern exclusively on my website. Join me and my co-hosts, La Chappell and her Venice and Days hottie costar, Galen Gering, as we announce the winners along with our special guest, TV Guide Canada’s Nelson Branco. It’s all on my new bimonthly On-Air On-Soaps podcast!
Llanview’s Parental Pickle ... Fish a Father?
I recently returned from a trip to New York to visit the new digs of One Life to Live. (The show has moved into All My Children’s old home). Once there, I got the opportunity to reconnect with a cast I seldom see, since I live in Los Angeles. I am happy to report my visit to Llanview was incredible, and it afforded me the chance to do a sitdown, one-on-one interview with Scott Evans (Fish). You can see Scott, Brett Claywell (Kyle), and Robin Strasser (Dorian) in video interviews on my website being rolled out throughout the month of March, beginning next week.
During our chat Scott filled me in on his thoughts on the Baby Sierra Rose drama, which has everybody talking! Is Fish the biological father of Stacy’s baby girl? All indications are that he is, and now that Stacy has died in a deep-freeze and a custody battle looks to be on the horizon, what does this mean for our gay hero? Will we see a same-sex couple fighting in the courtroom for a child? “We know collectively that it appears that Fish is the father, but I don’t know how it’s going to play out,” he said. “I hope we do deal with it, and the issue does not get pushed aside. This situation is true to life. So, it’s something that would be very important to tell.”
Evans shared his thoughts on this situation if it should happen to him in real life... that of being an openly gay man with a child to raise. “My whole life, I thought by the time I was my age I would have kids. Kids are a lot of work. I think, as a gay man in society, we are not accepted yet ... let alone a gay man with a kid. That might be tough. But, I would not like to think of it like that. The world may need little 'Scotts' running around, or kids that are raised by Scott. I think I would be a great dad one day, but I also like to nap way too much.” [Laughs]
Back on New Year’s Eve, Kish fans were treated to the couple’s night of passion, and One Life showed two men hitting the sheets. Scott told me he liked the way it all played out and tried to recall the momentous tape day for me. “That whole day is a blur to me because it was such an emotional day for all of us. The scenes with Nick [Kyle's old flame, played by Nicholas Rodriguez] were all shot on the same day. So Brett had a heavy day. Having seen it once it aired, I was very pleased how it came out. Had that been one of the first scenes Brett and I ever shot together it would have been difficult. We have become such good, close friends, and we are so comfortable working with each other, that it was great. I think the way it turned out was very tastefully directed. Jill Mitwell was our director that day and held our hands through everything. I do read the blogs, and while there were nice things said, there were some gay men who would be saying, 'Ah, they barely showed anything! They barely did anything!' And I say to that, 'It’s daytime and I thought it was fine! What do you want us to do? Tie each other up?' [Laughs]
Over the past year, Fish’s coming-out story was watched closely. Gay viewers always wait to see if their experiences are portrayed accurately on daytime soaps. Scott said he did not initially feel pressure to get it right: “I didn’t think I realized the enormity of it. There was no Kish or following. I was just Oliver at that point. I did not realize the impact that it would have. The sex scene would have added pressure, and I would have tried too much. There was no way you can encompass everyone’s coming-out story in one person’s journey, but I think I did Fish’s story justice. In fact, I really was thrilled with when he came out to the protesters at the same-sex wedding-a-thon rally. When I got those scripts, without expletives, this is what I have wanted to say to all these people in real life ... to Fred Phelps ... to all these protesters ... any time I have ever seen anything. It’s the most ludicrous thing when people protest equal rights of other human beings. You don’t murder, and you don’t rape. I really was proud of those scenes. It was great!”
Kish Preview for Next Week
Kyle reveals that he performed a DNA test to determine if Fish is the baby’s father—but he didn’t look at the results. Fish is livid that Kyle did this without his knowledge or permission. He reminds Kyle that what he did is illegal. Kyle claims he did it for Fish, but Fish won’t hear it. With the truth sealed in his hands, is Fish ready to look at the results?
Big Trouble Ahead for Nuke
So, as soapers know, when two characters collide ... and can’t stand the sight of each other ... and argue all the time, it’s love, right? Well, Nuke fans, looks like the venom spewing between Noah’s doc, Dr. Reid Oliver, and Noah’s boyfriend, our antihero Luke, are heating up on As the World Turns. Check out my handy detective work! Next week Reid and Luke argue about each other’s personality. (Clue #1) Luke tells Reid he thinks he’s biased against Luke because he’s gay, but Reid informs Luke that he’s not biased... read between the lines, folks. (Clue #2) Luke tells Reid he knows Reid’s actually a nice person. Is his posturing just an act? (Clue #3) Luke storms off, leaving Reid in deep thought. (Clue #4) Enough said. So don’t miss As the World Turns next week. Let us know if you would be cool with a Reid-Luke pairing, or do you want Luke-Noah to endure? I am pleading the fifth!
AMC’s Lucci on the Importance of Bianca’s Journey
So I visited One Life to Live in the Big Apple and then flew back to Los Angeles and attended All My Children’s press day in the show's new Hollywood digs last week. I caught up with so many members of the cast, from Cameron Mathison (Ryan) and Rebecca Budig (Greenlee) to Jamie Luner (Liza) and Julia Barr (Brooke). During the junket I got to tape some video interviews, which you will see soon. But I think there was one very special moment with Susan Lucci caught on tape. And since reporters only could ask a couple questions, I went right to the heart of the matter. I wanted to know Susan’s takeaway from Bianca’s coming-out story and playing the mother of a gay teen. After all, it will always be part of Erica Kane’s history. And with tears in her eyes, Susan told me her thoughts.
“I was first told about the story line by our executive producer at
the time, Jean Burke. They told me they were thinking of Erica having a
teenage daughter come out to her, and they wanted to explore that. She
told me at the time that there were many teenagers in particular who
committed suicide rather than risk coming out to their parents, because
they were afraid they would not love them anymore. I sat there in her
office and I cried and cried. I thought if I could be part of a
story line that in any way could empower a person to be themselves and
come out and feel lovable and strong enough, I wanted to do it. I
mean, I couldn’t believe there were parents that would reject their
children like that. I thought if I could be of service in any way to
something like this, I would be proud, and I said that to Jean. And
then I said to her, 'I just hope whoever we are going to cast "gets
it,"' and boy, did she. They cast Eden Riegel as the teenage Bianca.
Eden is a smart, deeply lovely, deeply talented gal, who’s got it in
spades. The two of us had an opportunity to play what I think is some
of the most important material ever to play on daytime television and All
My Children.” Who doesn’t love Susan Lucci after this?
Eden Riegel Shocks the Soap World
That collective “thud” you heard yesterday was gay soap fans around the globe passing out on their hardwood floors. It was announced that Eden Riegel, best known as AMC's Bianca, is joining the cast of The Young and the Restless as tough D.A. Heather Stevens. (No, that character is not gay, although Heather’s ex -boyfriend Adam did sleep with a gay man ... once. Remember Rafe?). Riegel will replace Vail Bloom in the role and is expected to begin taping March 15.
This could not have been an easy decision for Eden to make, given the fact that AMC is now shooting in Los Angeles, where she resides. But perhaps the dreadful writing of her character’s last round/visit in Pine Valley could have something to do with the talented actress’s decision? Just a thought. However, the actress is known for also loving to spread her wings, and Heather Stevens is a huge departure from Bianca’s “moral center” virtue. Good news for BAM fans ... this does reunite Eden with her dear friend and former AMC love interest, Elizabeth Hendrickson (Chloe, Y&R), even though they will both play very “straight” women ... unless Y&R has a big surprise coming? Don’t count on it.
I met up with Eden a few days before this big casting announcement to share with her what Susan Lucci had told me about Bianca’s coming-out story and Lucci’s comments on Riegel. What follows is her response, which she also told me with tears in her eyes.
“Susan Lucci 'gets' it. She was incredible in that story line. I think we both knew we were involved in something really important. We wanted to give the story all the respect it deserved, and we were working with a group at that time of incredible writers who also 'got' it. I was extremely honored to be a part of it. I think, based on comments from what people have said who have followed All My Children, it was an important moment in TV history in the lives of many people. They could now see someone like themselves, who in turn is the daughter of their favorite, Susan Lucci/Erica Kane, who everyone loves so much. For the audience to see Erica going through that made a difference. I had people come up to me and literally say, 'My mother could not accept me until she saw how Erica accepted her daughter who was gay.' Someone who worked with my in-laws said to me that when he came out of the closet to his mother, he truly did not expect his mother’s reaction. This was a woman who had not seen the world, and he did not think she even knew what being gay was. And he said, 'I’m gay.' And his mother said, 'Oh, Erica Kane’s daughter is too, and she is fine with it.' He was like, 'Where is this coming from?' It was astonishing to him that she knew exactly what is was and understood it. So, in our own small way, we did accomplish what we set out to do, and I am so proud of that story and the work we did. I am so grateful that I got to share that with Susan Lucci. It was so special because of her, and we worked so well together, because we knew what it was all really about.”
Then Eden and I perked up when we chatted about her hilarious performances in the Web series Imaginary Bitches. I had to ask (because gay fans worldwide want to know) if there will still be more Bitches in the future? Eden responded, “We are really always hoping to produce more episodes of Imaginary Bitches. It’s really hard to find funding and sponsorship for a Web show. We have great support from our fans, and they have gotten the word out. We have gotten so many hits, and now we created something we had so much fun with ... even if nothing happened with it. We would have been thrilled no matter what. All of these accolades, including the nomination for the Soap Opera Spirit Award ... which I am nominated for on your podcast on Tuesday night ... I am keeping my fingers crossed ... has been so amazing and appreciated. We are hoping to develop Imaginary Bitches into a feature film sometime in the next year or so. The Imaginary Bitches movie would be a dream come true.”
next time, Michael