There have been
queer characters on daytime TV before -- even cute blond
ones, like One Life to Live's Billy Douglas
(played by a very young Ryan Phillippe) -- but when Noah
Mayer (Jake Silbermann) arrived in Oakdale last May
and stole the heart of resident gay Luke Synder (Van
Hansis), CBS's As the World Turns became the
first soap to depict a fully realized romantic male
couple as an integral part of the show. At first Noah seemed
devoted to button-nosed Maddie
(thereby maintaining his heterosexual veneer),
but by the end of the summer, he and Luke were sharing
confidences...and big juicy kisses. Just in time
for National Coming Out Day on Thursday, October 11,
Silbermann and Hansis spoke with The Advocate
about the attention the story line has generated, their on-
and offscreen relationship, and what deep, dark secrets
they're ready to reveal.
Van, you've been playing Luke for almost two years.
Is it nice to have him in a relationship instead of just
being the angst-ridden gay kid?
Van Hansis: I'm totally psyched that we've been
able to open the character up some more. But I think Luke
was pretty fully realized all along. He hasn't
been this perfect angel -- he crashed his car; he
pushed his mother down a flight of stairs when she was
pregnant and put her in a coma.
Sounds like an angel to me. How have viewers
reacted to Luke and Noah?
Jake Silbermann: The fan response has been
really great to both the individual characters and where
we're taking the relationship. Noah and Luke were
voted top couple in a Soap Opera Digest poll. The
funny thing is, a lot of people want them to be happy,
but a lot want them to suffer heartache and tragedy --
because that's what couples on daytime TV do. It's a
good sign, actually.
VH: They've been really supportive. I get tons
of mail and almost all of it is positive. If it's a
negative letter or e-mail, it's usually people who
can't see past their own limitations and prejudices.
And they don't have a very good grasp of grammar or
guys hang out offscreen?
JS: Van's a good friend. I was just at his
surprise birthday party.
VH: It was a great party. I was totally
surprised. Elena Goode, who plays my cousin Jade, was there,
and so was Alexandra Chando, who plays Noah's old
girlfriend Maddie. We're all pretty tight.
What's the latest development with Luke and Noah?
JS: Well, Noah sat his dad, Colonel Mayer, down
and officially came out to him. He said his whole life has
been a lie -- including believing he wasn't
good enough for his father. He told the colonel he's
happy with who he is and doesn't want to change, but
he doesn't want to lose his dad either. It seemed at
first like the colonel accepted him, but he invited
Noah and Luke on a fishing trip where something
Oh, my God, is Luke going to be "sleeping with the fishes"?
VH: [Laughs] I don't wanna give
too much away. Let's just say Luke is not happy at the
end of the trip.
Obviously there's more at stake with the portrayals
of Luke and Noah than typical daytime characters. How
has it been being the focus of so much media attention?
VH: It does throw you a bit, especially since
this was my first big role on television. You go from
waiting tables to doing interviews with national
magazines and people saying that you changed their
lives. It's definitely tricky.
JS: I knew what the role was when I signed on,
but I guess I'm jaded -- I honestly didn't think it
would get so much press. Of course, I'm grateful and
honored to be telling this story and doing it in an
interesting and respectful way.
Jake, did you ask Van for advice on how to play a
gay character on a soap?
JS: I think we can all relate to being young
and conflicted like Noah is. So I just looked for the truth
in the role -- for the Noah in me. The show writes him
well enough I could find what I related.
VH: [Laughs] I'm hardly the wise sage --
I think I gave him some advice about the soap opera
world in general. But we all approach our characters in our
Assuming Luke and Noah survive, what kinds of story
lines would you like to see them involved in, gay or otherwise?
VH: I like the realistic, family-driven
stories. I'd like to see Luke's biological father return to
stir up trouble. Then again, maybe Luke should be
involved in some kind of espionage and be on the run.
Van, in addition to the show you're also starring
in Die, Mommie, Die! with Charles Busch at
New World Stages. How do you manage that kind of schedule?
VH: Both the show and the play have been great
about working around my schedule. It's not easy, but Charles
is so incredible, I couldn't pass up the chance
to work with him. He's really been great and
Since its National Coming Out Day, is there
anything you'd like to "come out" about?
VH: I'm addicted to reality television. It's
the only kind of TV I watch. My favorite is Big
Brother -- I'd rather watch it than some serious,
important drama like Six Feet Under.
JC: I think I'm in denial about being totally
addicted to fantasy-league football. I spend hours a day
checking scores and updating my roster. My friends
want to stage an intervention. Also, I'm trying to get
back into fencing. I use to do it as a kid because it
was as close to sword-fighting as I could get. But I'm
actually proud about that.