The creator/writer/executive producer of the new drama MÉLANGE, which features a host of daytime faves, talks about his love of soaps.
First things first, tell us about your soap background and interest in soaps.
“I started watching ONE LIFE TO LIVE with my grandmother in 1986, when I was in second grade. I instant- ly became obsessed with the genre and became a lifelong fan. My shows were/ are ONE LIFE TO LIVE, ALL MY CHILDREN, LOVING, RYAN’S HOPE, THE CITY, FALCON CREST, DYNASTY and KNOTS LANDING. I became so obsessed as a young boy that in second grade, I got suspended from school because I would only respond if you referred to me as Dorian Lord. Luckily, my mother had my back, and when the principal asked her if it concerned her that her 7-year-old son wanted to be a soap vil- lain, she responded by saying, “Why would it bother me? Dorian is fabulous!” Robin Strasser [ex-Dorian] loves that story. My childhood bedroom walls were covered in clippings from Soap Opera Digest. I had every issue from September 1986-99, but a black mold problem in my mom’s house sadly destroyed my collection. Soaps have been my happy place for 34 years. No mat- ter how bad my day is, popping in an old DVD and escaping to Llanview or Pine Valley can always bring me to a joyful place. Being an overweight and overly gay child in the 1980s wasn’t easy. I don’t know if I would have survived without the escap- ism my shows gave me. I have such love and respect for what [AMC/OLTL Creator] Agnes Nixon did. She was a trailblazer in every sense of the word and I never write a line without asking myself, “Would Agnes approve?”
You have extensive credits both onstage and behind the scenes. When did you decide to get into writing/producing?
“I wrote, produced and starred in a one-man show in New York City in 2003 and it was a big hit. I did that show for two years and realized I was enjoying the production end of it more than the performing. I’ve been producing, writing and directing for 15 years professionally now and it was definitely the right choice. I really love being a champion for other people’s work, and being the producer allows me to champion artists that I believe in.”
What were you doing before MÉLANGE?
“At the same time I was working on MÉLANGE, I was also the lead producer on five commercial Off-Broadway musicals. Many of them had been run- ning for years before I started working on MÉLANGE. It was through the the- ater that I became friends with so many soap stars. I worked with many soap vets and anytime I had an opening night there were always soap icons on my red carpet.”
How long has MÉLANGE been in the works?
“I wrote the pilot in 2017 and we filmed it in 2018, but I first had the idea for the premise in 2011. I was producing summer shows in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and the co-owner of the club I was presenting my shows at passed away. There was an instant fight over who was going to get control of the valuable property and I thought to myself, ‘Ohhhh, this is very soapy.’ ”
You are both head writer and executive producer. What has that endeavor been like for you?
“It has been a wild ride. The producing was pretty easy after all these years of doing it. But the writing part of it has been incredibly humbling. Though I believe this project has incredible com- mercial potential, it is also a passion project for me. Seeing these incredible actors, that I’ve admired for so long, breathing life into something I wrote has been one of the most thrilling and surreal things I have ever experienced. I mean, Morgan Fairchild [ex-Anjelica, DAYS et al] plays my villain, Vivian!”
How did you go about assembling the cast?
“I made a wish list. I wrote several of the roles specifically for certain actors and prayed they would be interested. Ilene Kristen [Dolly; ex-Roxy, OLTL et al] and Kristen Alderson [Abigail; ex-Starr, OLTL/ GH et al] were incredibly supportive and were on board from day one. Their roles were written for them. I also wrote the role of Vivian for Morgan, but I did not know her at the time. When Morgan graciously accepted the role, I was in a state of shock and then, one by one, almost everyone we approached agreed to do it. I’ve never had such luck with casting and I still cannot believe the incredible ensemble we ended up with.”
There had to be some pinch-me moments with a lot of the cast if you’re a life- long soap fan.
“Every moment has been a pinch-me moment. I am so blown away to be working with such incredible talent. Darnell Williams [Max] agreeing to be in the show is something I’m still pinching myself over … I did a pilot with [AMC’s] Jesse Hubbard! It’s truly my childhood dream come true. I remember watching Ilene Kristen film a scene and it hit me, I don’t have a memory in my life when I wasn’t a fan of Ilene Kristen and now she is filming a scene I wrote. I even have an OLTL Emmy-winning director, Gary Donatelli, directing it! I am working with so many people I grew up idolizing and every one of them exceeded my expec- tations. I have been very blessed to work with some really incredible perform- ers over the years and I have to say, there is nothing like working with a soap veteran. They are the acting equivalent of an Olympic athlete.”
How did you react when you found out Logo TV would air the pilot?
“I was so excited it worked out! It had been in the works for a while and we were discussing filming a full season before the COVID- 19 lockdown. When lockdown hit, we decided to air the pilot. The pilot was never intended to be aired, it was supposed to be a calling card to networks to get the show picked up. We filmed 42 pages with a cast of 17, in five locations, in four days. It is a testimony to the amazing talent of the cast and crew that the pilot came out as nice as it did.”
How has the response been?
“Overwhelmingly positive. It’s another pinch-me moment. Soap fans are the most loyal, loving and supportive group of people in the world. It is a community I have loved being a part of for so long and the feedback has been incredible. Someone called it UGLY BETTY meets ONE LIFE TO LIVE meets DYNASTY, and I think it’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.”
Do you have plans for more episodes?
“Oh, yes! We would be shooting right now if not for COVID-19. There is a full season writ- ten and it is delicious! I even have fabulous roles for the legendary Robin Strasser and the iconic Andrea Evans [ex-Tina, OLTL et al] and a couple of other exciting casting opportunities. It would be devastating not to do more. We are not sure if Logo will be our permanent home, but we are having a lot of discussions right now, and are hoping to have a full season out as soon as possible.”
What is your favorite soap/storyline/couple of all time?
“To answer all three of those — I am such a fan of so many soaps, but ONE LIFE TO LIVE is my heart. I think the best storyline in daytime history is the 1995 DID storyline where Erika Slezak [ex-Viki et al] and Strasser give daily mas- ter classes in how to deliver material. I just rewatched it and it holds up so well. The performances are just on another level. I am a superfan of supercouples, so this is a very hard one. I have to say it’s a tie between ONE LIFE’s Tina and Cord and Todd and Blair, with an honorable mention to Jessica and Nash, and, of course, AMC’s Tad and Dixie #TogetherForever.”
To watch the pilot, go to LOGO TV’s YouTube page.