Moving On

Soap Opera Digest: Were you surprised when NBC announced this is the last year for PASSIONS?
Rodney Van Johnson: I sensed it a long time ago. It was too much commitment that they had to live up to with the ratings and the show just wasn’t delivering. NBC had a lot invested in it. When TC had a stroke and they were taking out the people of color, I was like, “Okay, this thing is going down.”Digest: Were you on set the day of the announcement?
Van Johnson: No, I was there the next day, but I got the phone call from [Supervising Producer] Richard Schilling, who told me. I was pretty much numb at that point. I was on recurring and wasn’t working much. I felt bad for all the other cast members and crew that’s going to be out of work. Now we’re all out of work together. It’s very, very unfortunate.Digest: How did you prepare for TC’s stroke?
Van Johnson: I pulled upon some personal experience with my uncle having a stroke. I remember seeing his physical appearance and the way he spoke. I also had an ankle surgery a couple of years ago and I wanted them to give me an epidural, so I was pretty much numb from the waist down. I wanted to see what it would feel like to be paralyzed. It was a very, very weird feeling not to be able to control your limbs. To send your brain waves to your body and nothing is responding. I remember what it felt like. When they told me TC was going to have a stroke, I knew my character was pretty much coming to an end and I said, “I’m going to pull upon what I’ve learned from my experience.” I got a lot of feedback from a lot of people, so it was exciting.Digest: Why did you think that was the end of TC? Suffering and recovering from a stroke could have turned into a bigger story.
Van Johnson: Well, I hadn’t been around in a while. TC was no longer the angry black man and there was nothing in the shed that was substantial. Once you beat up everyone in Harmony, lose your wife, have sex with her sister, then get back with your wife, what else is there to do but have a stroke?Digest: We will see him again, right?
Van Johnson: They had put me on recurring [last year]. I don’t expect to be seen again.Digest: How do you want the show to end?
Van Johnson: I really hope we, and I say “we” because I am still part of the team, finish strong. I hope they bring all the cast members back. I would love to see the original people come back in a cameo or something. I want the show to go out like we came in: fun, campy, quirky, the whole bit to give us a last hurrah. I don’t want us to go out like wimps.Digest: Have you been auditioning?
Van Johnson: Yeah, I’ve been going out there and having people tell me, “Who are you? Oh, you’ve been on a soap. Okay, so that means you’re no good.” There is a lot of negativity about the people who are in soaps and have been there for more than three years. They think you can’t act, but they don’t realize how demanding it really is, and how much you have to learn and be prepared. A lot of these individuals and casting directors are young and don’t know that you have experience outside of soap operas, or they don’t know the daily grind of being on a soap opera. They just have their own perception. We’ve gained a lot of respect from people who have actually come to the show and see what we do and see that we do 150 pages a day. They are like, “Okay, you guys work really hard.”

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