Veteran All My Children star Jill Larson (Opal Cortlandt) and Daytime newcomer Rob Wilson (Pete Cortlandt) sit down to chat about the revamped “All My Children” and life for Daytime Soaps in the digital world.
Hi, my first question was for Jill, tell me what did you think when you found out that Pete was coming back to Pine Valley as a character?
Jill Larson: Well you can imagine I was thrilled. I had had – in fact I was just going over a couple of photographs of past Pete’s, you know, we had a little infant and then we had – I think there was one boy in-between the infant and the kid Mitchell who was so wonderful – that sort of big round headed, red head kid that was a great tap dancer.
And then of course we had – we had Daniel who was a delightful Pete also and I thought well gosh I wonder how they will frame or shape Pete this time? And I of course I couldn’t be in New York for the auditions but boy they did a great job. I just – I’m thrilled to see my new son sort of more worldly and more fast-paced than those in the past, how he’s grown up I guess. And of course it – so as an actress it just gives me great things to play, so I was delighted – that was a long way of saying I was happy.
And Rob I would like to ask you a question as well, I wanted to know what it was like learning like Pete’s history, are you all caught up on that? And then also you got this shoot the first location scene, what time of day was that and when you were into Pine Valley?
Rob Wilson: Well in regards to everything with the past, you know, a younger Pete I mean I did Maurice so I kind of watched his relationship with his mom. And, you know, I kind of kept, you know, all those fundamentals because, you know, she doesn’t feel differently about Pete even though I’ve grown up and changed, she feels the same way so she still treats me like that little boy.
But, you know, with my experience now as a grown man and, you know, starting my own business and things like that, you know, everybody changes over a amount of time, especially when you leave mom’s house and you’re on your own for years and you start those new ventures. So I (sort of) brought that – I brought that to the character very much more so but never forgetting the relationships he had with his mom.
And so also the relationship he had with, you know, might crush Colby in the past and how he felt about her, you know, some things don’t go away. So I try to honor those relationships but at the same time, you know, bring all the new criteria in which he’s, you know, he’s kind of ventured into his own life. So it gives me a lot to work with and it’s really fun.
Jill Larson: And it really is like real life in that, you know, womanhood to me today in the parts she said that her son’s gone away to college and the day she stopped in Philadelphia to meet him for lunch and she said suddenly this man walked toward me and she said I barely recognized him.
And I think that’s kind of what Opal is experiencing – this is someone who has been out on his own and lived and yes he’s his own person now and so.
Rob Wilson: (Literally).
Jill Larson: But I’m very grateful that he’s still so kind and quite frankly patient with his mother – I’m not sure I could be that patient with mine.
And location shoot – Rob how was that?
Rob Wilson: The location shoot was amazing, I mean that was honestly – it’s funny because even though that was part of the first episode, that was actually my last day of our third week of filming so we just it was very, but it was really fun.
Jill Larson: Yes by then you had a little sense of who Pete was or you sort of had him in your bones a little bit because you had a chance to play him, right?
Rob Wilson: Absolutely it brought it even that much more realer (sic) and it was just so much fun, I had a such a great day.
Jill Larson: Yes, yes that was a cool shot I thought in the opening scene I thought wow to me it really established oh this is a new Pine Valley and I just thought that it was really great, you know.
Rob Wilson: Thank you, well I’m glad I had a blast doing it so it worked out for everybody I hope.
Jill Larson: Yes.
I’d like to kind of continue on with the thought of the new experience that you’re having, you know, now that you’ve gone from television to an online format and from network to the online network, how has that – I guess specifically Jill because you’ve done those, what’s the experience been like making that transition?
Jill Larson: Well it’s been very exciting and I feel so fortunate to be part of something that is really pioneering in the world of broadcast, you know, I wasn’t around when the soaps moved from radio to television but – so I feel really fortunate.
And so that part is good and I think that it’s also – there’s a different energy, there’s a different intensity around producing these shows for the Internet now because we are beginning something new. So there is an excitement, there is an investment, there is a commitment to doing everything we can to make these shows, you know, bring these shows back to when they were at the pinnacle of their success.
And so I think that all of us who were a part of it when the show ended or for years prior to that never imagined this, I mean this was something that could not be imagined, you know. I mean so we’re still kind of walking around shaking our heads saying, I can’t believe this is happening, you know, but so it’s thrilling, just thrilling.
Did the experience overall any different, I mean you’re going in and filming this, but I mean is that any different or is it pretty much the same type of experience? I know it’s a shorter timeframe, you know, from one hour down to 30 minutes…
Jill Larson: Uh-hum.
…(I mean) overall is it a different setup?
Jill Larson: Well the pace believe it or not has on one hand been a little more – well I don’t know, I don’t know, I guess I’m contradicting my thoughts before I can even articulate them but because – the way we taped has become even more challenging I guess now.
Because, you know, we started out we – the I think – I don’t know how soon the money came through but there was the money then there was the union contracts and then there was only about three weeks to build sets, to hire actors, to write story to buy costumes to, you know, we didn’t have hangers to put costumes on. It wasn’t like walking into an environment that was already up and running, this was building it from, you know, the toilet paper for the Johns right on up.
And so it was – we were really like shot out of a canon. We had to begin production at a certain time because of the legal something or other about the – having the option and the rights on the show, so we had to get into production before the end of February. And so in that respect for example we shot all of my scenes pretty much for ten or fifteen episodes all over the course of just a few days because my house was one of the first sets to be built.
So while they were building other sets they just concentrated on working in Courtland Manor and so there are things like that that were different but different in an exciting way, you know. And the Prospect Park was very invested in making sure that we all had the time with new actors learning the medium and so forth to really turn in nice performances. And, you know, at the end with network it was really just – if you don’t say the wrong words and you don’t curse its fine, let’s go.
And not – I don’t mean to be, you know, say anything detrimental about that it just became the necessity of the pressure of there’s no money and how fast can you do it and how much product can you crank out. So we’re still cranking out products but there is more time to sort of consider some of those things which is great.
How has the decision to reduce the frequencies of the shows by half affected you guys? Like in other words does the reduction of the shows translate to a reduction in like pay or other benefits that you guys might have had?
Rob Wilson: Jill you want to answer that?
Jill Larson: I will speak but the truth is I don’t think that all has been worked out yet, I have a feeling that in the end it’s not going to because we will still be working the number of weeks, it’s just we won’t be creating the same number of shows which I think gives us the opportunity and I think this was, you know, I’m just – this is just a guess but I have a sense or I hope that this was part of the logic in Prospect Park making this decision is that we are no longer daytime, we are anytime.
So we are being judged and compared with nighttime shows that air, you know, ten or twenty-two episodes in a year, they don’t air 176. So I think that we are – we really realize that we want to raise the bar and show up with the very, very highest quality of product we can. And you cannot do that at the pace that, you know, it’s sort of like we were making Hershey bars but everybody else is making Touché or whatever your famous brand, I’m a chocolateholic as you can tell, you know, the famous hand-made French chocolates or something.
So we want to go more in the – into the hand-made French chocolates arena if we can and that requires time. A nighttime show, you know, they take eight days to produce one episode, so it’s an interesting challenge and we’ll see where we end up. But I’m not concerned about, you know, oh the poor actors get – loose out on their contracts or something, that issue has not been raised and I don’t anticipate it happening, so.
So basically from your understanding as of now it seems like you guys will be spending the same amount of time filming just doing less episodes so that you can put more I guess – not necessarily effort but you can put more into each episode.
Jill Larson: More intention and yes and, you know, this is just my guess, I really, you know, don’t quote me on this as being any kind of an official thing.
I wanted to talk to you a little bit about social media and Jill you have taken social media by storm…
Jill Larson: Oh I’m so flattered, thank you – that’s the nicest compliment you could pay me these days.
I tell you the fans are loving it because I think you are bringing fans that are very new to social media on because, you know, they’re hearing that you’re out there with the videos and the tweets and the Facebook posts and so they’re migrating over.
And I just wanted to kind of get a sense from you what your experience has been with using it in connecting with the fans versus, you know, what you’ve had, you know, throughout the years which is, you know, fans writing letters and showing up at events. Just kind of how – what’s your take on it?
Jill Larson: Well, you know, when they offered me this – when they called me to be a part of this project and it said and you will be required to do this many Facebook posts and this many tweets and blah, blah, blah and I just said oh god forget it, forget it – no.
And I very wisely hired a young woman who kind of started out as a fan – and now she’s very active in various things and she really helped be me get it all going and taught me how to do it and so forth. And now I just find it so fun to be able to have such immediate contact with fans. You know, I always loved getting fan mail but I also always felt the guilt of not responding in a timely fashion and so this is a very immediate means of sharing people’s feelings and being able to respond possibly to some things and I just love it, I just think it’s really fun.
So I guess there is – there can be something of a downside because I know that some of the actors have with the social media maybe Rob you should speak about this, but I know that some of the actors have felt that people are coming online and saying unkind things and that it’s very painful obviously to read things like that. And, you know, I’ve seen a certain amount of that that when you go on Yelp and people say horrible things about a restaurant and so there is that piece that I guess you could say is the downside, but I’ve never paid much attention to.
Rob Wilson: (You know with) – everything grows so much in social, you know, networking now it’s just incredible, whether it’s good or bad I mean as long as people are talking about us – I mean everybody who’s either like tweeted me personally or Facebook or something directly towards me has just been so supportive and so loving and really, really great.
But, you know, it’s just like on anything else, you know, you can find one of the best actors in the world and find somebody who thinks you’re the worse, you know.
Jill Larson: Yes exactly.
Rob Wilson: You can’t let that affect you – you can’t take that home with you. You know some people think some people are the best (possible crews) in the world while other people will say that they’re terrible.
So I mean you know what you take the good with the bad, but in regards to social networking the fans have been amazing I think for all of us. And I mean I know they’re in love with Jill, they’re really excited to see, you know, Jill and I together and also when I worked with Jordan in Placelia, they’ve just been really supportive so I love being a part of the social networking with everybody.
Have they – were you prepared for the level of fan interaction coming into it?
Rob Wilson: I had no idea I mean I worked on other shows and I’ve had people write to me about it or, you know, groups of people that follow certain shows like very hard-core fans per se, but I had no idea what it was like with the soap world until now.
I’ve only done a couple episodes on another soap in my life and it was just recently, so I memorize, you know, one of the series regular on one so now to be a part of that family and really go along for the entire ride start to finish has just been – it’s been amazing, you know. I appreciate all of it, I enjoy every bit of it so hopefully everything just continues and we keep moving forward.
You know, you shot the first couple – chunk of episodes and then you seated control of the studio to One Life…
Jill Larson: (That’s right).
…and I would love to hear, you know, if you’ve noticed a difference in like the smoothness of the production after perhaps some of the kinks go worked out, you know, over that hiatus.
Jill Larson: Do you want to speak to that Rob or shall I or.
Rob Wilson: Yes I mean I know one thing I mean taking a break from any – just like, you know, any job in particular but especially when your playing a character having a little break is, you know, it’s a little different because once you get going, kind of get in that flow and things start to gel together with your theme partner and things like that.
But in this I mean, you know, some of the veterans that had to walk away from the show for over a year came back and, you know, they just – they’ve done amazing. So I mean for me it’s all been a learning curve but, you know, I’m learning so much every single day with you guys and no matter who I’m working with and it’s just been really inspiring to watch them. So even with the hiatus being able to come back to work it’s on, you know, it is starting to calm and everything’s starting to get more fun and, you know, you’re not so much in your head.
We have so much – some days, you know, we don’t have a ton of stuff and other days we are literally, you know, each individual – each one of us is doing, you know, 40 or 50 pages and that’s all – it’s very tedious work. And how – when you have to make sure you’re still in the moment and, you know, you don’t want to miss any of those moments, that’s what makes the show so fun and, you know, watch able. So even with the hiatus I feel like it is coming together better and better.
Jill Larson: And I think – I’ll just contribute to that, I think that just in terms of getting the bugs out if you will and so forth yes I’m sure the time that – because a lot of the crew are not people who have done soaps before, they’ve been working up in Connecticut and in film and in nighttime and it is such a different environment.
I had one guy say to me the other day I couldn’t believe it when you, you know, you all came back and now people were asking about each other’s kids and where did they go to college and who did they marry. And I saw that the, you know, lifelong relationships that you all have and I thought, yes that’s where I want to be.
And so a lot of the crew it was, you know, I think that they had no idea that the tape – the speed at which everything happens and so yes One Life to Live probably continued to “break them in” or train them and so when we did come back I think it was smoother. We all felt like we were a little more in command, you know, so yes – did that answer your question or did I (ramble)?
It really did Jill, no you did not.
Jill Larson: Okay.
Obviously when the viewing schedule change was announced and Jill you beautifully put, you know, put it together on Facebook and Rob I just wondered on Twitter as well when you’re on, were you getting bombarded?
You know, I’m just trying to – did you have to kind of manage the fans and feel like how are you going to deal with this? Jill you did that message, but Rob did you do anything as well or did you get pushed back like I can’t believe this is going on?
Rob Wilson: You know what, I don’t want people to get scared, you know, that’s the main thing because…
Rob Wilson: …it’s kind of like we all spoke about in the beginning was like, you know, as soon as they said that it’s like, oh wait so now it’s only two days a week? I mean at the end of the day you know what, it’s a work in progress.
You know, and I think – I’ve watched Cady McClain and Jill and a number of other people say it’s so, you know, pretty much if we knew how to do it at the beginning we would of done it at the beginning. Luckily they caught it now and they changed it up, you know, early enough. You know, and even though it’s a little bit scary like oh now we’re only releasing two episodes a week, we’re putting on a quality product that we can’t bombard.
The viewers want to binge watch the show with, you know, after two months, you know, a huge amount of episodes to catch up on, it’s overwhelming. You know, so we want to make sure that people don’t forget about just the casual viewers as well. Because even though we have these hard core fans and they want to see the show and they love the show they’re going to – we hope that they’re going to go watch the show, whether it’s Mondays and Wednesday or Monday through Friday.
Did you have a moment of oh no for you being one of the newbie’s on the show and Jill having gone through this before with All My Children where they were cut back from changes in this, did you – was there a moment of uh-oh?
Rob Wilson: from a business perspective it’s a business move and at the end of the day that’s what we are all doing, working in a business, you know.
So I understand – I wouldn’t be doing this if it were going to hurt the show, you know, so obviously to keep the fans calm I don’t want them to think we’re going anywhere because we’re not and we have a lot more stories to tell when we go back there in a couple of months, but at the same time obviously when you see that the first thing you think of is almost in a negative. But in this format we’re not on broadcast television, you know, we are on an online network now.
So I mean if we knew how to do this at the beginning we would of and the fans I’m sure even though it was only going to be two days a week plus a recap show, the fans would still be very thrilled to know that the show is coming back
Well one of the things I wanted to say to both of you and get your reaction on is I’ve noticed the – what I love about the new All My Children is the incredible pace of the story – so this thing moves, I mean it moves. Stuff is happen- jammed-packed in that 25 minutes that I think people, you know, don’t you both agree that it’s just like moving? It’s not, you know…
Rob Wilson: I’m actually really glad you brought that up because the main point of this is each episode that we have is so meaty in 30 minutes that if you miss one episode you’re pretty lost, if you miss two episodes you don’t even know what just happened.
Rob Wilson: You know, so I mean we need to have those viewers be hooked on watching each of the shows and not skip around and really be able to follow the entire storyline.
And when you’re giving them that much context and you’re cramming it in, it’s you know, it can get overwhelming because somebody led – I mean even a lot of fans that have been reading they haven’t even been able to start watching this, they want to put aside some time to watch it. But are they going to be able to put aside enough time to watch like 30 episodes for like a month’s worth, you know? So it’s really case-by-case but I really think that it’s for the better and I like the whole set as well.
Jill do you feel, you know, having done the show before do you notice the pace of the show how it’s moving when you see…
Jill Larson: Yes, yes it is and I think that that’s a good thing and I also think that there – it’s one of the reasons why I’m really glad that they are taking a break because I think that, you know, you can only – you can only go – you can only crank out and I use that word intentionally that much story that fast for a finite amount of time before the stories become, you know, just whatever – it’s just throw anything at the way and see if it sticks.
And that’s what I think we’re trying to avoid and so this couple of months break gives our writers the chance that they did not have before we began which was some time to really look ahead and really explore long-term story and character development and so forth because we have to remember that this is still a medium that is unlike any other in that there is time and it’s great to have it move quickly.
But don’t give up the great opportunities for real character development and emotional connection and all of the things that this form is known for and, so.
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