Soap Opera Digest: This series, which is hilarious by the way, is about the dysfunctional lives of the cast and crew of a fictional soap, COLLIDED LIVES. Were you both familiar with soaps?
Jane Lynch: Oh, my gosh, yes! I grew up watching ALL MY CHILDREN and GENERAL HOSPITAL during the summers. It was all about laying out in the sun and watching soap operas. My mother even watched one called THE EDGE OF NIGHT. I remember coming home from school and she would be ironing while watching that show and DAYS OF OUR LIVES, too.
Paul Witten: The art form of soaps was a big part of my life growing up, and I was especially a fan of GENERAL HOSPITAL. I even got my SAG card as an actor on that show, way back with THE COLTON CONNECTION and Robyn Bernard [ex-Terry]. I followed those Laurelton murders that went on forever.
Digest: Paul, as the primary creator, how did DROPPING THE SOAP come about?
Witten: I was working with Kate Mines [Kit/co-creator] in a play and we hit it off, so we decided to create a piece of work together. We then got a small group of people and started brainstorming. I actually got the idea of this soap, and the crazy people who work on it, while I was napping. I pitched the idea to the group and they thought it was great. I asked my friend Mandy Fabian to write it and she came up with the pilot episode. Then we beat out the rest of the story with the different story arcs. It was really born out of friends wanting to do something together.
Digest: How did Jane get involved?
Witten: Jane is a friend but I didn’t feel comfortable about presenting anything to her. After we created some content, Jane saw it through her niece, who recommended that [her aunt] look at it. That was wonderful because Jane is so well known for her comedy.
Lynch: I thought the idea was really good and just very funny.
Witten: A couple of weeks later, I got this email that said, “Can I take this to a couple of people?” That was a couple of years ago and led to some partnerships but it started taking a different direction. We finally said, “You know what? Let’s do this on our own and make it what we want to make it.” That way we wouldn’t get lost in contract hell and negotiations. So, we found a private investor who gave us full creative control and we shot the 10 episodes. And now we have an Emmy win [Lynch took home the trophy for Outstanding Actress in a Short Form Series].
Digest: Was this first envisioned as a sitcom for TV?
Lynch: It certainly could be because of the wonderful content, but it was actually structured to be a web series. This could’ve been cut up in many different ways.
Digest: Paul, your character, Julian, is the lead actor of COLLIDED LIVES but he has a secret that could destroy his career and boy, he’s wound up tight!
Witten: Yes, he’s trying to balance so much in his life but he’s not very good at it. It’s certainly humorous to watch him think he’s in control when he’s not.
Digest: Jane, you play Olivia, the ball-busting new executive producer who’s brought in to bring up the soap’s sagging ratings. Were you channeling anyone you knew professionally for your role?
Lynch: No, but she’s a particular kind of person, and not just in show business, who leads with intimidation and fear to be in control. The kind who enjoys pitting different people against each other because she thinks that’s how you run a corporation. So, I think it’s a personality you find in different walks of life who gets things done, but leaves people quaking in fear.
Digest: I love the revolving door of assistants who Olivia fires daily.
Witten: I love that part, too, because we got some really fantastic actors who have been leads in series on their own and would come in just to do one or two lines for us. I think people were charmed by the material and thought it was funny, so we were lucky to have these wonderful actors, like Rodney To [PARKS AND RECREATION] and Christina Moore , come in and play with us way below their pay grade.
Lynch: We had very good craft service. Feed a crowd and they’ll always show up!
Digest: One face that will be very recognizable to soap fans is Nadia Bjorlin (Chloe, DAYS), who plays Elena.
Witten: Isn’t she beautiful? She is quite the love and she’s so funny. I think that her role on DAYS doesn’t allow her to dip into that well, so I think it’ll be fun for soap fans to see Chloe being funny and having a sense of irreverence, plus she’s just stunning to look at.
Digest: Do you plan on using more soap actors in future episodes?
Witten: Oh, sure. We have a lot of fun stuff planned for season 2, so we would love to welcome more soap people. We’ll probably have Nadia back because everybody loves her.
Digest: Aside from acting on a soap, Paul, did you do anything else to learn about the inner workings of a daytime serial?
Witten: I had actually worked several times on GH as a temp receptionist but sometimes they would need help in casting or the production office. I learned how things worked and it was really fascinating to me. Those are hardworking people, let me tell you. I was wide-eyed all the time back then. After helping out with whatever they needed, it was fun to go home and watch it all on my TV, knowing I was standing just offstage while that scene was being shot. I was like, “Finola [Hughes, Anna] is so funny in person and not so on the show!” I really liked learning about behind-the-scenes things.
Digest: The dialogue is very funny. Are actors given leeway on how to deliver their lines?
Witten: We shot everything as written but I think when you have actors like Jane or John Michael [Higgins, Best in Show], they can say what they want. They’re just gold. Once we had what we needed, our director was willing to let people have fun.
Lynch: I would agree. There was so much wonderful stuff with John Michael, and I loved that a lot of it was kept in. He was even thrilled. He said, “I thought all of that would be cut.” Most of the lines were off the top of his head, but he knows how to stay within the confines of what has to happen in the scene. He’s a pro at that.
Digest: What can you tease about next season?
Witten: Julian is going to be discovering himself and disastrously, of course. It’ll be fun to watch Olivia do a quick turnaround and try to capitalize on what’s happening with Julian in his real life.
Lynch: And Olivia is going to make this show a hit, come hell or high water.
Witten: She’s going to try and move Julian’s character into a new direction, which he opposes, but I think he and Olivia will become more like frenemies. There’s going to be a lot more guest stars.
Digest: When will season 2 be out?
Witten: We’re securing funding and that’s the only thing holding us back. This is a grass roots show that started in my living room, so hopefully everything will fall into place.
Digest: Jane, are you in this for the long haul?
Lynch: Yes! I love it. If there’s going to be a second season, for damn sure I’ll be there!
DROPPING THE SOAP streams on iTunes, Amazon Instant Video and Google Play.