Yesterday was a very sad day for soap fans. As the World Turns took its final orbit after 54 years. The show aired its last episode on the CBS; it’s a program that has captivated gay audiences not just in the U.S. but worldwide — and no story more than the perils, loves, and adventures of Luke Snyder, played brilliantly and with such heart and soul by Van Hansis. While Hansis started on the series in late 2005, it was in the spring of 2006 that Luke came out. Young gay men finally had a character on daytime television that they could identify with. Subsequently, we watched as he found first love Noah. The two soon became dubbed the popular super couple, Nuke. Together the two dealt with the familial issues of acceptance and denial, bigotry, and the struggle for equal rights. Over the last nine months we watched as Luke grew up and fell in love with Dr. Reid Oliver, and in the end their love story was cut short, leaving Luke bereft and alone at the series finale.
Having had the pleasure to interview Van for almost every beat of Luke's story line, for both Advocate.com and my own site, On-Air On-Soaps, it is hard for me and many other gay men to believe that yesterday’s episode is the last time we will see this beloved character. I know how much Luke and Van meant to people by the thousands of posts and comments he received over the five years of interviews, and the power Luke's story had. ATWT was so multigenerational and in many ways truly groundbreaking. There is certainly a big hole in my heart and of the hearts of the millions of viewers who watched every day. But all good things must come to an end, and all have their place in time. One thing is for sure: Luke and the other citizens of fictional town of Oakdale will never be forgotten.
Below are a few excerpts from my final interview with Hansis. Check out the full interview here.
Michael Fairman: So many fans have been in an uproar as to why did the show have to destroy the happiness of the gay couple and not allow them to be happy, when all the straight couples at the series finale are finding their happiness together. Instead, the gay couple got a horrible, horrific, and sad ending. Many wanted Luke so badly to be happy and have that be the final image in their minds.
Van Hansis: Yeah, and I understand that, and I feel for the fans in that way, I truly do. Knowing the people behind the scenes though, I really doubt that they were sitting there going, “How do we ruin the gay couple?” I know the writers and the producers, and I know they wouldn’t do that. And do I think it was done to prop up the “straight” couples? I don’t think so, because I don’t think it was done with malicious intent, and like as you said, out of this Luke becomes the focused character of the end of the show, and he is a gay character. So to make him the point-of-view character for the wrapping up of this 54-year-old show is kind of cool, and without the tragedy it would not be the focus of the show and all last week. Even though Reid died quickly, the repercussions were felt all week long. I think that although it’s a tragedy, you see the tragedy through Luke’s eyes.
Do you think Luke should have ended back with Noah at the end? Nuke fans have been unhappy for quite some time. They have followed the guys since the beginning of their journey together three years ago and were hoping to see them reunite.
I think with what happened with Reid and everything — it would have destroyed Luke’s character completely if a week after Reid died Luke would get back together with Noah. I think it would destroy anything that Luke and Noah had, because it would just be so crappy of Luke to do something like that. You don’t see Luke and Noah get back together in the end, but it’s kind of left open that in the future there could be something, or maybe they will just remain close friends.
The gay press swooped up on you. You were everywhere ... the media darling. Did you ever feel pressure because you knew the eyes of GLAAD or other organizations or the press were watching how this character would play out on daytime television, since there had never really been a gay male love story between two young men, and a central core gay male character on daytime before?
“Pressure” is not the right word. I felt a responsibility to tell the story correctly, and more so, not for the press as much, but for the fans. The press can write whatever they want to write, but the fans are the people who are watching. And the press seemed in a way commentators or reviewers, or people whose job it is to tell what is going on. But for the fans, they don’t have anything that is forcing them to watch the show. It is their choice. When the story first started and Luke came out, I think it was important to make sure that the fans were following and connecting to the story. The story has been a roller coaster. There has been such good stuff and bad stuff. However, it is really great that the fans have stuck it out. I know that a lot of fans are unhappy with the end. I am sorry that they are. and all I can say is “thank you” for keeping on watching. The responsibility for me, first and foremost in my career, is to the people who make my career a reality, and that is the people watching. And if the people watching did not respond well to Luke’s story three months in, I would not be here, and so that is what the responsibility is for.