By Michael Fairman
Originally published on Advocate.com April 12 2010 11:50 AM ET
Eden Riegel (pictured) is one busy gal. Hot on the heels of the big news of her new role as DA Heather Stevens on The Young and the Restless (she debuts April 20), the actress who embodied the most recognizable gay character in the history of soaps — All My Children's Bianca Montgomery — is spreading her wings yet again ... this time, in sketch comedy with the famed L.A. ACME Comedy Theatre. Eden is set to perform this coming Saturday, as the host of ACME Saturday Night.
But before we get into her decision to try sketch comedy, Riegel wanted to talk about another project close to her heart ... the No H8 Campaign. The actress has added her face and likeness to the celebrity photo campaign, which advocates against California's same-sex marriage ban.
“It is a fine-tuned machine, and it takes a total of 10 minutes," she says. "They put the No H8 on your face and stick the duct tape over your mouth, which I have to say was not the most pleasant thing I have ever experienced. I am happy to say, I have never experienced it before, not even in a soap opera. [Laughs] But they are very careful to put it on lightly so it does not take off a whole layer of skin when they pull it off. The lighting is amazing, and Adam Bouska does amazing photos and makes everyone look really nice."
Riegel was in New York filming All My Children when California's anti–gay marriage measure Proposition 8 passed — "That was a huge step backward," she says — and, shortly after, took part in daytime's first same-sex wedding ... a moment she says she'll never forget. "While it didn’t go quite as swimmingly as I had hoped it would, I am glad we did it. My future wife had a dalliance with my brother-in-law in the church where we were going to get married, the night before the wedding! Of course, I was sad the marriage got annulled on-air a day later. [Laughs] I was still so proud to be part of the first daytime same-sex marriage. They certainly made it a gorgeous soap opera wedding in the tradition of Erica Kane, and the dresses were fabulous and the flowers were amazing and it was a beautiful soapy wedding, not dissimilar from a classic heterosexual soap wedding. I did not get very much negative mail at all about the wedding. People loved my character of Bianca. They wanted to see her happy so badly, and it put a face on a concept that can be sort of impersonal. If you don’t know a gay person or a gay couple, then sometimes you can’t put a face on an issue, and then it’s hard to get emotionally invested in it."
Fans of Riegel who have been eager to see the actress return to daytime are about to get their wish — albeit on another show. Known for its spectacular A-level cast, The Young and the Restless welcomes Riegel next week ... and she says Genoa City already feels like her new home. “It’s been amazing. Everyone is lovely, and they make me feel so at home and comfortable. I am seeing Elizabeth Hendrickson (Chloe, Y&R; ex-Maggie, AMC) again, and that is the best part. I love that girl so much."
Soap fans in the know have already been treated to Riegel's new look on The Young and the Restless — which is decidedly different from Bianca's. “Heather is more sophisticated than Bianca was," Riegel says. "It is a new look and I dig it. I love the clothes they are giving me, and I like playing a character that has some balls to it.”
But when the news dropped a month ago, fans of Riegel’s Bianca were said to be extremely sad that they might never see Riegel as the moral center of Pine Valley again. “Fortunately, I have these amazing fans and they support me no matter what, and they are excited for me that I get to try something new out. They will be there for me come rain or come shine. Yes, there were a lot of people that were disappointed that I would not be back on All My Children, and there were a lot of people who completely understood why and were still as sad as I was, because that chapter of my life would not continue. I also hear through the grapevine that All My Children is going to recast Bianca. I support that. I hope they get an amazing actress who will take that character where she deserves to go and take her into a new direction or explore parts of her that I did not get a chance to do. As a fan of the show and a huge fan of Bianca and having a positive gay role model on daytime television, I would support that 100%, and I would be thrilled to have Bianca back.”
The actress — who clearly has an abundance of energy — is not only stepping into the shoes of a tough-as-nails DA; this Saturday she'll step into several hilarious roles as guest host of ACME Saturday Night. Riegel says she has no idea what she'll be playing and is a bit nervous! “I go in tonight for my rehearsal, and they throw some sketches at me, and then I guess I will see. I have done comedy before. I am actually a member of an improv group, and I have taken tons of improv comedy classes at the Upright Citizens Brigade. I recently got together with some fellow UCB students and formed an improv group called Cousin Larry. We have been performing around L.A. and we have a great time. There is so much pressure and it actually terrifies me."
Especially, she says, if any of her new costars wind up in the audience.
"I would be totally nervous, especially with the Y&R people because they don’t even know me, and I would be like, ‘Oh, my God, I have to be funny.’ I think the AMC gang will enjoy it. I think everything is fair game in the name of comedy. I am married to a comedy writer, Andrew Miller. I think the most attractive thing about my husband is, he is so funny and I never, ever stop laughing. He is super funny, and he makes fun of me and I make fun of him, and it’s very fun times in the Riegel-Miller household.”
As if that weren't enough to keep the actress busy, Riegel is also at work on a new Web series. “I recently did a pilot for this new online series called Trauma Team with this talented young actor, Jackson Davis. Jackson, is well known to online viewers for his role as Jonas on the popular Web series Lonelygirl15 [LG15], and he has also posed for the No H8 Campaign! He is terrific!”
So soapers, if you are in the Los Angeles this Saturday, April 17, you can see Eden live and be part of the studio audience. Visit www.ACMEComedy.com for more information and tickets to ACME Saturday Night. If you are not in L.A., you can see the show streamed live at your computer on ACME Saturday Night’s Online TV Show.
Venice creators Crystal Chappell (pictured) and Kim Turrisi gave me an exclusive interview about what they have planned for season 2 — including a tease with some major scoops — and the new, exciting project the two are working on together. “We are very excited," Turrisi said. "We have a show in development, and this is something we are going to shoot along with Venice, and it’s more of a reality show, and going to involve Twitter. There are some other things on our development slate. So our company, Open Book Productions, is moving forward.”
Chappell added, “I will tell you that they do cater to the LGBT community, and I want to be clear about that."
While some in the industry were concerned about the duo’s decision to
charge a $9.99 for a subscription fee for season 1, it looks like that may change in season 2.
“I think we are one of the only Web series operating in the black,” Turrisi said, “and to make a big strong point by being in the black, we are rolling that into season 2. We have not seen one dime. Crystal acted the whole time and directed. I wrote the first season and the second season with no money. Every dime that we have made is going back into the show.”
Chappell said she is going to do her best to stay true to her word to make season 2 free of charge to the loyal fan base, if at all possible.
“The crew and the actors last season did it all for free," Chappell said. "Going into season 2, the hope is to be able to pay the actors and keep them under contract for seasons 2 and 3, and hopefully, to be able to get sponsorship. We will see where it goes. My hope and my goal is to give season 2 away for free to everybody. Honestly, it’s the loyalty to the fans. I said if we can do the subscription for season 1, we might be able to pull off season 2 for free. They trusted me and it’s looking like that is what’s going to happen.”
In season 2 the ladies of Venice tell me you can expect more gal on gal action. It’s a far cry from where Chappell was one year ago on Guiding Light as part of Otalia, who touched foreheads as a way of showing affection more than any other living human beings on the planet. “The lack of a kiss was disgusting and ridiculous. I had a fear when I was working on Guiding Light when I realized we were touching foreheads. I understand building suspense and longing, but then the realization hit me that they are never going to let these two women kiss. And I thought, in some small, small way, that I appreciate that Otalia can go off. I was afraid of what would happen if something ridiculous happens where Olivia decides all of a sudden, 'I am heterosexual.' You know what I am saying? I just did not want it to be debased in any way. I love where people go with that, and that is my one small gratitude about the show being canceled, because I was concerned about what would have happened.”
So what did the two online mavericks and champions of a continuing same-sex love story have to say about this week’s end of Kish on One Life to Live? “It is very disheartening, and I was so disappointed,” Chappell said. “I don’t know the circumstances, and I know everyone is dealing with budgets. It seemed to be working, and so I don’t get that. You have to play it out, and it has to be something that is taken seriously.”
Kim added, “I am actually, as a gay person, disgusted and saddened by it. Not only was it working, but for the life of me, don’t abandon it. They put out a love story, and the sad part about it is, a love story is a love story. People say, How do you write gay characters? I write all characters the same, in the regard that love is love. I will hold to that until I am in the ground. I don’t care who you are or your gender or your color. If you are going to invest in the same-sex storyline, then please, dear God, the gay community is in these relationships, and you can’t just abandon it.”
As of Monday there will only be one same-sex couple left on American daytime television — which is a 180 from where we were a year ago, when I could write about a record-breaking five in this column. Today, possibly, is the most disappointing and disheartening loss of all, as viewers witness the final scenes together of One Life to Live’s beloved couple — Kish (pictured above), played by Scott Evans (Fish) and Brett Claywell (Kyle). And here is a synopsis of how it ends, as Kish go up against Gigi Morasco (Farah Fath) for custody of Fish’s biological daughter: “The custody hearing for Sierra Rose gets under way, with Fish asserting his rights as the baby’s father. Seeing the love Fish has for his daughter, Gigi withdraws her petition for custody. Fish and Kyle assure Gigi she’ll always play an important role in Sierra Rose’s life.” And ... scene!
So where do Kish go? Apparently, nowhere! The duo will still be residents of Llanview ... way, way off-camera ... with their new little bundle of joy to raise. Claywell has one more brief appearance scheduled to air this Friday when he gives some news to Rex.
TV Guide magazine published an item last week titled "Was One Life Too Gay for America?" Could that have been it? According to ABC Daytime rep Jori Petersen, the story did not resonate with many viewers: “The Kish story did not have the appeal we hoped it would. We are going to spend our time on stories that have a more favorable reaction from our audience. We are sunsetting the storyline, but Kish will remain in Llanview. The door is open.” So was it the low ratings? A business decision? To top it all off, the rumor mill suggests One Life to Live’s brilliant head writer Ron Carlivati’s job now seems to be in question. The show has hired back former head writer Jean Passanante, who is currently at the helm of As the World Turns until June. That show goes off the air after 54 years in September. Passanante is returning to One Life as associate head writer. Could there be a disheartening switcheroo coming shortly after that? Currently, the show is confirming that Carlivati is staying at the creative helm.
What the TV Guide article put into question was an arc of the same-sex storyline, in which Dorian (Robin Strasser) claimed to be a lesbian and married her campaign manager in order to win the town mayoral election. She needed the gay vote. Then, there was an mass wedding involving more than two dozen same-sex couples, which triggered antigay protests and a subplot involving Kyle’s former boyfriend Nick getting gay-bashed. This is where some claim, looking back, One Life could have made a misstep with Middle America. In fact, even actor Claywell spoke out about his uneasiness with this beat of the story. “From the beginning, Scott and I were uneasy about that big gay political wedding. We were telling a slow, subtle love story about two guys who just happened to be gay. We didn’t want to make it in-your-face, which is what the wedding was. It pulled us away from what we were trying to do. We wanted to exist separately from that. It was too much, and in a way, Scott and I became the sacrificial lambs.”
Whatever the case, while Kish bites the dust, this duo certainly captivated the hearts of both the gay and mainstream community as one of the best soap opera love stories of 2009.
And now for the only same-sex story left standing, until September that is. Recently, As the World Turns has turned up the heat between Luke (Van Hansis) and pompous neurosurgeon Dr. Reid Oliver (Eric Sheffer Stevens, pictured above at right with Hansis). And there is nothing like forcing two characters that have some sexual energy together into confined quarters. This is better known as Soap Device 101. Two weeks ago the boys were stuck in an elevator together, and we saw Dr. Oliver lose his composure and admit he was claustrophobic and grab Luke, making the snarky doc all the more appealing to Luke. Eric Sheffer Stevens has been winning raves for his performance, and it looks like fans may be warming up to a Luke-Reid pairing. You can watch the clip here.
Noah apparently has already started casually dating since his breakup with Luke. But, Nuke fans, Gay Paris has not given up on this supercouple. In fact, mark you calendars for July 10, for the second annual Nuke in Paris fan event. Tickets are 125 euros. There will be a meet-and-greet with Van and Jake Silbermann (Noah) and a two-hour Q&A, among other event highlights. For more information on how you can get close to Nuke one final time, log on to www.mgcevents.com.
“Hottie” Dr. Daniel Comes to This Week’s On-Air On-Soaps Podcast
of Our Lives' Shawn Christian (pictured), one of soaps' sexiest stars, is the
special guest on this week’s
On-Air On-Soaps Podcast with my cohosts, General Hospital
and Cougar Town star Carolyn Hennesy and Being Erica and
MVP’s young stud Dillon Casey. On Days this
“man whore” — a term created by both Shawn and me for Dr. Daniel because of his
oversexed lifestyle — is always in some sort of sexually charged
predicament. “I am always in trouble. Whenever I shoot a scene, the
crew goes, ‘Wait a minute! Are you guys sleeping together?’ and we are
Dr. Daniel recently found out he has a daughter he never
knew about from a one-night fling with fellow doc Carly Manning,
played by Crystal Chappell. In the meantime he has been the beau of
another LGBT fave, Venice and Days star Nadia Bjorlin
(Chloe). Shawn says there is some major material coming to the airwaves
soon. “You know it’s going to be a crazy day when the producers send
you a Crazy Day Alert. This happened a few weeks ago when we taped. It
was quite an eventful day, because I think I did work with four
different women, and I think it required four different outfits ... one my
shirt off, one my pants off, one my shoes off, and ... ” Shawn says a
romantic pairing with Chappell may not be out of the question, as you
just never know in the hot town of Salem. Make sure not to miss the
hosts and Shawn’s discussion of soap opera prostate exams as well!
happens when an American online soap journalist tries to interview two
foreign soap stars? Well, despite the language barrier — as you will
see, it is at times a hilarious issue — We Love Soaps' Damon L.
Jacobs spoke with Thore Schölermann
(Christian) and Jo Weil (Olli) from the
hugely popular German soap opera Verbotene Liebe at the Gays of Our Lives Event in New York City March 27. This duo play the
star-crossed lovers of the soap. As many know, former HBO executive Sam
Martin has recently acquired the rights to Christian and Olli’s story,
and he is set to adapt it for the U.S. market as, of course, Forbidden
Love. HBO Films and HBO Entertainment will have first-look rights
before it’s shopped elsewhere. One Life’s Scott Evans was also
in attendance at the Gays of Our Lives event shortly after being
pink-slipped by the powers that be who preside over Llanview. So who
should star in the American remake of Christian and Olli? Send us your