Monday, May 31, 2010

Centennial


In Puerto Rico, and Brooklyn - the two places my grandmother called home - it is already June 1, her 100th birthday. My grandmother, Celina Pacheco, isn't with us anymore. She died in 1991, after an ugly, but thankfully short, decline into dementia. If you knew Celina, you knew that dementia was the worst thing that could happen to such a brilliant mind. She was a thinker. A keeper of memories. A storehouse of history. She was the greatest storyteller I have ever met, and I've known some pretty amazing storytellers. She had a quick wit, a sharp tongue, an infectious laugh, and a big, generous heart....especially when it came to children.

Celina had 9 children - all of them planned, all of them spaced out in two year intervals, and she mourned the loss of a tenth child who didn't make it to term. She loved motherhood, and she adored grandmotherhood. Children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren, she raised children almost until the day she died. She was good at it. No, she was fucking GREAT at it. If it's true that anyone is born with a natural calling, my grandmother was born to care for babies, nurture young children, and guide tweens and teens into adulthood. 

If some genie were to appear and ask me to choose between a million dollars and one wish, I'd take the one wish. My wish would be one more day with my grandmother as I remember her, when she was at her best. Drinking coffee, riding the subways of NYC all over the five boroughs to visit childhood friends, scratching my back, telling wonderful stories about her admittedly bratty childhood, arguing with my grandfather - who she'd known since childhood, and who she adored, always. And, if I had that day, I'd tell Celina the things I never got around to telling her when she was alive: That, if there's any little thing about me that's like her, it must be the best thing about me. That I consider it an honor to have been loved, nurtured, and raised by a woman with such Mana. That it makes me sad my nieces and nephews never knew her. That not a day has gone by since 1991 when I haven't thought about her. That I never knew I could miss anyone as much as I still miss her. 

Happy Birthday, Celina. 

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Men

A while back, I responded to the WLS list of greatest women on soaps list with my own list. Last week, WLS completed their list of greatest men. Again, the results are somewhat controversial. Again, fans are responding. Equal time for the men. I must note, however, that soaps have long been the domain of women. IMO, there have been more strong, interesting, talented women on daytime than men. This isn't to say that there haven't been some truly great male actors in the genre but, the truth must be told: the genre has, for the most part, been one that caters to a female audience interested in seeing their own lives - and their own fantasy lives - portrayed. These lives - and fantasies - are not always about girl-meeting-boy, or women needing men in order to succeed. Note, though, that so many of the men I've chosen have as a benchmark of their greatness, their ability to work well opposite their female co-stars. I'm not sure a male actor can attain greatness in this genre if he doesn't have what it takes to work alongside women as his peers.


Here, then, my list of the greatest male actors of daytime drama:


Michael Zaslow - I've definitely got a bias, and I freely admit it. Zaslow was the best in the business. Charismatic, commanding, but also subtle and vulnerable, Zaslow's Roger Thorpe was the stuff of soap opera legend. I don't know that any two actors in daytime have matched the chemistry shared by Michael Zaslow and Maureen Garrett - chemistry that was as palpable in the 90s as it was 20 years before, when they first started working opposite one another.  Something about his portrayal of Roger Thorpe always broke my heart, even as Roger behaved like a monster. Inside of that monster was a vulnerable boy, and Michael Zaslow knew how to make just a little bit of that boy come to the surface. Zaslow's death left a void in the genre that many of us feel has never been filled.






David Canary - Canary did the seemingly impossible. AMC's Adam and Stuart Chandler couldn't have been more different, and Canary not only made each character three-dimensional, immediately recognizable, and attractive in very different ways, he did it consistently for 20 years. Brilliant. Adam and Brooke? One of the best couples, ever. Brownie points to Canary for his stint on AW. Who else but Canary could have stepped in to play AW's bigger-than-life Steven Frame after so many years of absence?


Larry Bryggman - An actor's actor. Bryggman has never had matinee idol looks to fall back on. With him, it's all about delivering a great performance, every single time. What more is there to say? Put him on the screen with Elizabeth Hubbard and I dare you not to watch.






Michael Levin - An Italian among Irish, Michael Levin's Jack gave Ryan's Hope a bit of a cynical edge. Always dependable, always likable, and just so damned real. When Mary Ryan died, we believed it, because Levin never let us forget it. He worked wonderfully with Kate Mulgrew and, once she was written off, his performance was often about her absence...not for a month, but for years. Ever the heart-broken widower, when the doors were shut on Ryan's Bar, it was a joy to see Levin's Jack get a happy ending, at last. 






Joel Crothers - My earliest memories of Crothers are a hybrid of Somerset and Dark Shadows, but it was on Edge of Night, as Doctor Miles Cavanaugh, that he found his niche. Incredibly handsome, charming, warm and human...he was just a natural in front of the camera. An actor who was well aware that he'd probably be muddling through a lot of crap in between truly great scenes, but who never gave less than 100% of himself.  Nancy Barrett, Tina Sloan, Holland Taylor, Sandy Faison...it didn't matter who his female counterpart was on screen...he was at his best when he worked opposite women. Some actors seem as if they're waiting for their next line. When Crothers shared the screen, he always seemed to be in the moment, listening just as we were. Like MIchael Zaslow, Joel Crothers was taken from us too soon. I was fortunate enough to meet Joel about a year before he passed away he was just what you'd expect: warm, friendly, charming, and with a big heart. 



Gerald Gordon - Lots of this blog's readers are too young to have seen or even heard of The Doctors. Your loss. If you'd been around in the 70s you would have caught the great Gerald Gordon as Doctor Nick Belini. Unlike every other television doctor of the day, Nick Belini was gruff, a street kid who'd made good. Gordon never, ever played Belini as a Doctor Kildare clone. He was edgy. Good-looking in an off-beat way, ruggedly masculine, and irresistible to women.  If George Clooney and House had an ass-baby, it would be Nick Belini. Of course, he managed this about 40 years before either of those TV docs was even an idea. And Nick's female counterpart? Doctor Althea Davis, played by none other than the great Elizabeth Hubbard. During an era when soaps were relatively tame, Nick and Althea were all about heat.





Stanley Kamel - You know his face from dozens of television shows and movies. Columbo. Hill Street Blues. Star Trek. His final role was on Monk. He was one of those "Hey, it's that guy!"s. To me, Stanley Kamel will always be Eric Peters, the handsome rake who strolled into town after his brother, Greg, and raped Greg's fiancee'. Kamel's Eric was intense - when he spoke you wanted to get in closer and hear what he had to say. His run on the show lasted only a year but, all these years later, it's still with me: the way he toyed with Susan months after the attack, and her never suspecting that he had been her attacker. Those scenes, which were part of DOOL's heyday, were remarkable. Two fine actors (Kamel and, as Susan, Denise Alexander) meshing and making the moment real and true. It's still chilling to think of how good they were together. 


Honorable Mention


Benjamin Hendrickson - A great actor whose only reason for not making it to the main list is the fact that I never much cared for Hal Munson. Hendrickson's Hal was one of only two believable cops I can think of on daytime (the other being Another World's Gil McGowan.) 


Justin Deas - Yeah, Hendrickson and Deas both actually belong on the main list. So, shoot me. From Ryan's Hope to ATWT to SB to GL, Deas has always delivered the goods. People who only know him from the annoying last couple of years of GL may find it difficult to believe that he belongs here, but he does. Forget latter day Buzz Cooper - when Deas has good material, he sets the screen on fire. And seriously - Keith Timmons. 

Friday, May 21, 2010

Superhero

Contrary to popular belief, I named and started this blog long before anyone said anything about a freaking superhero. (My oldest entries have been purged for personal reasons.) In fact, the blog's name has nothing to do with anything with that line of dialogue. Superhero Lunchbox refers to a project I've had in the works for years - a series of lunchboxes depicting my real-life superheroes: my grandmother, my mother, the women who have inspired me and helped shape me. Superheroes.

I come from a big family. I have 16 first cousins. I know all of them. We never needed outside friends, because there were always more than enough cousins to play with. B was always the best of all our cousins. Having been abandoned by her parents at a young age, B lived in our house. While our grandparents were B's guardians, my parents also took her under their wings. When we went to the movies, B came along. When we went to the beach, B was with us. At Christmas, there were presents under the tree for B. She was always more like a sister than a cousin. The best big sister anyone could dream of. B was the most fearless kid I'd ever seen. She'd jump down a whole flight of stairs, pick herself up, dust herself off, and walk away. We used to joke that she should become a stunt woman. B loved anything physical, and preferred to cartwheel her way down the block, rather than walk it. When a large group of cousins got together - sometimes 7 or 8 of us at a time - we'd often play "I dare B to -." I never saw her refuse or chicken out on a dare. She's taste anything, make any prank phone call, steal anything from any shop, ring anyone doorbell. She'd also squeeze herself into the tightest spaces, climb anything, and hold her breath for a ridiculously long time. When she was 9, my sister was 8 and I was 5 she concocted the most daring plot, ever: a seemingly fullproof plan to sneak down at night and unwrap every gift under our grandmother's Christmas tree, find out who was getting what, and then re-wrap them without leaving a trace. The plot, of course, failed. Children are not great at rewrapping gifts. But the story has become the stuff of family legend. Once, B got hit by a car and ended up with a broken arm. Do you remember how cool it was to have a cast when you were a kid? This clinched it - she was absolutely, positively the coolest person any of us knew.



When I was a kid, B was my personal Superhero.

In August 2008 B was diagnosed with stage 4 brain and lung cancer, and given four months to live. In typical fashion her response was, "Dying? Get the fuck out of here." Four months turned into six months turned into almost two years. Two weeks ago she had a grand mal seizure and was induced into a protective coma from which it was questionable if she would ever wake up. She did wake up. She woke up and spoke and asked for food, and tried to walk and asked when she could go home.  She ate milk duds and drank a chocolate shake. We spoke on the phone. I told her I loved her. I told her she was my sister. I told her I wanted to see her. She said, "I love you, too, baby. Yes, come visit." I had plans to cook up a big, New York style  Puerto Rican feast - the sort of food she can't get in Los Angeles, and take it down with me. Food, after all, is how my people show affection. Two days later, as I made travel plans, she fell into a coma and became completely unresponsive. The amazing medical team at Cedar Sinai told her son that there was nothing else they could do, and that the end had really and truly come. They said the time had come to move B to a hospice. B's brother - my cousin, P - refused. He didn't want his sister dying in a strange place. He moved her to his own apartment, where a hospice nurse is stationed. When I spoke to P he said, "I won't have her die alone. I'll be with her every minute. I won't have my baby sister die with strangers." B is 47 years old.


Tonight I'll fly down to L.A. How does one say goodbye to a Superhero?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

We Are The Ones We've Dreaded - Apologies to Alice Walker, Hot Woman of Color

When I was a kid, whenever the news reported about some Puerto Rican guy shooting someone, or we'd hear about a family member in trouble with drugs or the law, my dad would say, "Damn it - sometimes I think we're our own worst enemy!" I know how he felt.

While the queer community makes noise about Prop 8, the Tea Party assholes, DADT, Obama, and a million other injustices, it keeps missing one very important point: sometimes we're our own worst enemy. Sometimes, the bad guy isn't a conservative talk show host or a liberal apologist, a self-righteous straight person, a hospital administrator, or a religious zealot. Sometimes the enemy is the gay boy next door who lacks compassion. Sometimes it's the lesbian who, given the opportunity to make a statement about the way the media portrays us chooses, instead, to perpetuate the myth of lesbians as angry, damaged, co-dependent losers. This week? This week our worst enemy is AfterEllen.com, the website that's supposedly created an online community for lesbians. 

What, besides providing a messy, badly designed, poorly written online place for lesbians to get news, share ideas and chat about The L Word has AfterEllen.com done? I mean, it's an annoying site, but it's fun and harmless, right? Wrong. So wrong. This week AE unveiled their Hot 100 list because - hey, if straight guys get to objectify women, why shouldn't lesbians?  And, really, being a lesbian really is all about women drooling over other women, and not a hell of a lot else. (And, before you send me emails about how the Hot 100 list is chosen based on so much more than looks and sex appeal,  keep in mind the whole thing about the Miss America pageant being a scholarship competition.) 

What's so bad about AE's Hot 100 list, you may ask? What's so bad is that it's not a list, it's lists. Plural. One list consists of out lesbians. One list consists of women over 40. The third list? WOMEN OF COLOR. That's right - there's a separate list of minority Sapphic hotness!  

Why is this offensive, and why does it make me say that AE is our worst enemy this week? Think about it: when you make a list of hotness, and a separate list of ethnic hotness the implication is that one is REGULAR, and the other is, well, OTHER. According to AE, white is right and brown is a fetish. Way to go, AfterEllen.com - George Wallace would be proud of you!

As a "woman of color," I cordially invite the women of AfterEllen.com to kiss my fat, brown ass. 


 © 2010 Lana M. Nieves
Limited Licensing: I, the copyright holder of this work, hereby publish it under the Creative Commons Attribution license, granting distribution of my copyrighted work without making changes, with mandatory attribution to Lana M. Nieves and for non-commercial purposes only. - Lana M. Nieves

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Pinup Queen Takes Empire By Storm: A Conversation with von Hottie

She's the pinup queen of the new millenium. NYC's IT girl. Fun and fabulous and always at all the best places because wherever she is BECOMES the best place to be. She's von Hottie. You've spotted her at the slopes in St. Moritz, rocking a fake fur over her bathing suit. You've seen her strolling along the white sands of Miami Beach - how does she do that in heels??? Now, you can see her on Empire, where she's playing - what else? - her fabulous self...and sending the world of the Havens into a tailspin of scandal. How did the web soap score such a casting coup? I learned from none other than von Hottie, herself, who made time between public appearences to fill me in on her latest project. Fun-loving and full of laughter, I can't imagine anyone not being taken with her.

LN: First off, I have to tell you how much I love your work. You're the anti-Paris Hilton. What you do is just so fun and lovable.

vH: Good! Fun and lovable are exactly what von Hottie is supposed to be.

LN: I watched the video clip on your website - the one filmed at Coney Island. I loved it. For one thing, that's one of my favorite places in the world. But I also loved people's reactions to you.

vH: We filmed that for Current TV, and were also shooting pictures for the pinup calendar. It's funny - we were by the Freak Show, and I guess I expected them to be happy to have us there, maybe invite us in. The opposite was true. At first I felt bad, because the people on the boardwalk were all so into von Hottie. Then it occurred to me that they're in the freak business, and we were probably stepping all over their territory.



LN: When Sam (our mutual friend) sent me a message asking if I'd be interested in interviewing von Hottie, I thought for sure he was having me on. I think I told him I was holding out for an interview with Karen Black - I really thought he was joking.

vH: Sam and I were having cocktails and he said he had a friend who'd probably like to interview me. Next thing I knew he was tweeting away, and than taking our picture to send you.

LN: I demanded proof. I think I'll post that photo on my blog, if it's ok with you.

vH: Definitely post it! So many beautiful things happen over margaritas.


LN: So, I just watched the most recent episode of Empire, and it was a riot. How did you get involved with it?

vH: Brian Hewson (Empire's writer, along with Greg Turner) and I lived together a while back. Actually, Brian gave me cable. When we moved in together he couldn't believe I didn't have cable, and he had a whole list of shows that he regularly DVR'd, so he set me up with cable service. Once I got it, it was impossible to stop watching tv. I was also in a play that Greg wrote. Brian and Greg are more invested in their television viewing than anyone I've ever met. They're passionate about the programs they watch.

LN: Without giving anything away to people who haven't seen this episode, I'll just say that you end up in a compromising position at the end of the episode. Something we would never see on network television. How did that come about?

vH: Brian called to say that he was planning an epsisode that would end with a celebrity scandal, and he wondered if von Hottie could be the celebrity caught red-handed. I was definitely into it. There wasn't a script for that section yet, and Brian at first talked about the scandal being a celebrity caught snorting coke. I wasn't into that. Drug abuse isn't what von Hottie is about. So we worked on different ideas. Someone had the idea that von Hottie would be caught giving some guy a blow job, but that seemed like such a cliche'. It's been done to death. And then we realized that we had the perfect opportunity to do whatever we wanted to do. This is the internet - we can do things that won't ever get done on network television. We added the cut-out to make it into a sort of threesome, as a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the narcissism of self-made celebrity, and also an homage to Marilyn Monroe. She said something like, "Men want to go home with Marilyn, but they don't want to wake up next to Norma Jean."

LN: The cut-out is the funniest part of that scene, in my opinion. Was it fun to watch the episode, yourself?

vH: At the wrap party this past weekend they screened all of the episodes. It was bizarre because it went from high drama to bizarre comedy. I loved watching it with a bar full of people. When that last scene was over, this old, French guy at the bar leaned over and said, in a thick accent, "Good for you!" I think he wanted to invite me to the bathroom.

LN: Of course I noticed when you were first mentioned on Empire - I think it was the first episode of the season, and Orlagh Cassidy's character sees your column in a tabloid and refers to you as a hussy.

vH: They put my name on the front cover of the tabloid on the show, and then we actually did get into Soap Opera weekly, which was so exciting.



LN: Will we see more of you on Empire?

vH: I won't be acting in any more episodes this season, but my presense will definitely be felt. Of course, there might be a sort of Betty White effect, where the public demands more von Hottie in season 3.

LN: I may just have to start a Facebook group. How familiar were you with soap operas before getting involved with Empire? Had you ever watched?

vH: When I was in high school, I used to rush home to watch General Hospital with my stepmother. I loved it. That was during the Luke/Laura/ Lucky era. But then my favorite character, Stone, died of HIV, and I was inconsolable. I couldn't watch anymore.

LN: And you say Brian and Greg are the most invested television viewers you know?

vH: It's true, I've been pretty invested, too. The annual nurse's ball on General Hospital has been a great inspiration to me. I remember one birthday party, where I planned costume changes midway through. My stepmother thought it was a bit much, but I got the idea from the nurse's ball and I stuck with it.

LN: I'd almost forgotten the nurse's ball! My partner is a nurse - I'm pretty sure she'd throw up if I told her about the nurse's ball. You know, a hospital set is the one thing Empire doesn't have. Most soaps have some sort of medical story line. Maybe they need a hospital.

vH: Or they could just have a doctor. Maybe the guy who played Stone on General Hospital.

LN: You said before that you were excited when the scene with Orlagh made it into Soap Opera Weekly. I imagine you get recognized a lot on the street.

vH: I'd like to say it happens every day but, in reality, it's happened maybe five times. von Hottie is more about creating the illusion of global fame.

LN: And these days, that's completely possible. So many people who are famous are famous for no reason other than that they've decided to be famous.

vH: Yeah, and bringing it back to Empire, it's the same thing. Sort of like good, old American ingenuity. If someone like Brian and Greg wants to make a soap - they make a soap. I love that.

LN: Like this blog. I'm amazed when I write something and then find out that like 500 people have read it. I don't even know 500 people - but soap fans and bloggers are, for the most part, really nice and generous. They're cool about posting links to stuff they find on the web.

vH: Oh, that's really sweet, that you all watch out for each other. It seems there's this enormous community of soap fans who are losing the thing they love.

LN: I found out about Empire because Roger Newcomb at We Love Soaps  promoted it a lot. Once I watched it, the thing I liked about it right away was that it was clearly written by people who love soap opera. I almost get a sense of that "let's put on a show" spirit from a Judy Garland movie. Network soaps are dying, but guys like Brian and Greg are putting on their own show.

vH: Absolutely. And it's the internet, so they can have as much making out as they want!

LN: I know! I love it that we see Cain and his boyfriend making out just because that's what couples do.

vH: Television has had some stuff like that, shows like The L Word. But usually it's all dramatic and stuff. I love tht the gays on Empire just make out because it's what couples do. I appreciate the making out. Brian and Greg have these online viewer polls to find out what people want, and that's what they want - more making out.

LN: Which, believe it or not, is a big deal. Empire is sort of the little soap-opera-that-could, because they're doing what networks couldn't or wouldn't do. Even in 2010, soaps pretty much always flake out when it comes to showing gay couples. So, yeah, your friends are doing something really significant when they include all of that making out.

vH: Hopefully more people will produce more content like this that does stuff the television people won't do.

LN: I'm not going to take any more of your time, but we've got to have drinks next time I'm in NY.

vH: Definitely.

LN: And I'm going to start that Facebook group. More von Hottie in season 3.

Check out more von Hottie

von Hottie Pinup and Guru 


Empire: The Series 



Saturday, May 8, 2010

La Lumiere: A New Light in Town

When Guiding Light wrapped in September of last year, long-time fans were left with a void. The overwhelming response to the So Long, Springfield tour, fan reaction to having actors such as Tina Sloan and Beth Chamberlin on Twitter, and on-going efforts by fans to revive the classic soap stand as testament to the sense of loss so many fans have experienced. While some may still be unable to accept it the fact is, Guiding Light is gone for good. It was a joyful moment, then, when details about 9After7 Productions came to light two weeks ago. The new production company, which is comprised of GL alums, aims to meet fan demand for more of their favorite actors by producing original programming. The first project 9After7 has decided to develop is a feature-length film- La Lumiere - which will be available on dvd (details for pre-ordering the dvd can be found at the 9After7 website.)  Beth Chamberlin, who is credited with penning the screenplay, graciously agreed to speak to me about life after GL, the state of television today, the pros and cons of web-based entertainment, and what fans can expect from La Lumiere.

LN: Did you have an idea of how significant the loss of GL would be on long-term viewers?

BC: For a long time, I didn't really have a full grasp of how strong a bond viewers made with the show and its characters. It wasn't really until I was on a book tour several years back, and met so many people who spoke about their strong feelings about the show and its characters. And it makes sense - we were in people's living rooms five days a week. So, no, I'm not surprised that fans have experienced a kind of mourning for the show, just as we have - those of us who worked on it, either in front of the camera or behind it. I've even heard from people who tell me that they recorded episodes which they've held on to, and watch from time to time. 

LN: On Guiding Light coming to an end after 72 years - an actor's point of view

BC: It's an odd sensation. For many months after the show wrapped we were involved in a rush of events, and there was so much going on. It sort of felt as if we were still working together, still shooting the show. It took a few months for it to really sink....to realize that, hey - we won't be going back to that place ever again. There is a kind of separation anxiety around the entire experience of working together in a very particular way, and now knowing that that's over. Many of us who were involved with GL have a lot of affection for one another and still get together, but it can never be the same. We'll almost certainly never ALL be together again as a group. This feeling of not wanting to entirely lose what working together for so many years, and enjoying one another almost as an extended family came to mean to us - it was the genesis of how our first project, La Lumiere, came to be. 


LN: How did 9after7 come about?

BC: Well, Fiona (Hutchison) approached Tina (Sloan) about putting something together, working on something new. Pretty soon a group of us were meeting on a fairly regular basis and asking each other 'what sort of project can we do?', 'what are the ideas that really excite us?' A lot of back and forth discussion ultimately led to what will be our first project as a company -La Lumiere.

LN: On the current state of television and what it has to offer

BC: There was a piece in the NY Times a while back about the way television programming is developed and marketed. It's all based on a model that was put into place in the 50s. During those post-WWII years, the demographic that sponsors wanted to reach - because there were so many of them - were people in their 20s. The model and how it's operated hasn't changed since then, which makes very little sense. The people who made up that original demographic group have aged and matured, but the model for developing and marketing entertainment has remained stagnant. These days, for this particular viewer, and even for a lot of viewers who are much younger, network television doesn't have a lot to offer. I've all but given up on television, myself, because I just don't find all that much to interest me. When I turn on my television, I almost automaticaly switch over to cable - to TNT or AMC - to see what's on. GL was around for 72 years. While there's still this idea in the world of television that it's crucial to aim programming at 20 year olds, the fact is our fan base skews significantly higher than that. These are the people that 9After7 is interested in engaging and providing entertainment for.

LN: When it comes to cable, it may just be the saving grace of both quality programming for those of us over 40, and for serial drama, in general. The best shows on television are on cable: Mad Men, Big Love, Dexter, In Treatment...and, when you strip them down, they're all soaps. 

BC: Hopefully, cable television will always provide a home for soaps - solid dramas that require the viewer to think, become involved and invested. It may well be that this is where soap viewers will get their fix. I watch a show like Mad Men and it's definitely a soap. Think about it: every soap has a pivotal gathering place, often a work place. In this case, it's an advertising agency. There are secrets and intrigue, office politics, lies, marriages, affairs - everything a good soap has. Mad Men doesn't have anything a show like Guiding Light didn't have, except, of course, Mad Men has a much bigger budget per episode than we ever dreamed of having. It's possible to put out a show that looks that polished when you have the time and money. The people who work in daytime have to do that five times a week, with one day to film each show. But, yes, the enormous success shows such as Mad Men or Damages only reinforce the plain truth: contrary to the current wisdom, there are lots of people out there who can and will sit down and watch a one-hour show, pay attention, become involved, and go back to watch week after week. There's this theory that people no longer have long attention spans, and I don't think that applies to everyone, or even most people. There's also the idea that television viewing is or should be a completely passive activity. In terms of emotional engagement, this couldn't be further from the truth when it comes to people who enjoy soap operas or serial dramas. In this respect, television can be very interactive, but I don't see that being likely when all one has to watch is a five minute clip or programming written with the idea that no one really pays attention or gets involved, anymore.  There are plenty of traditional viewers out there who want something more than reality television or a five minute webisode, and who want to engage fully in the viewing experience.

LN: I'm intrigued by your choice to make a full-length movie for DVD, especially when so many other people who have worked (or still work) on soaps are launching web-based programming. Can you talk about how you arrived at this decision? 

BC: Well, I know I'm not the only one who prefers to sit back and relax in front of my television and dive, head first, into something engaging that lasts more than a few minutes. I'm not exactly sure why this is but, when I've tried to watch web-based programming,  I find myself wanting it to 'hurry up and end.' I believe it has to do with the relationship I have with my laptop. I've read where people with insomnia should get used to being in bed only for sleep, so that they make a psychological connection between the bed and actual slumber. I feel as if, for me anyway, there's a definite connection between my computer and work. It's a great tool that I often use for work, but it's at odds with relaxation.  When I want to relax, I don't really want to be caught in the trappings of work. 

I've learned a lot from running an online store. So many things can go wrong, from a technical point of view, and there's so much to know. That's just on a site that revolves around selling tangible merchandise. When it comes to streaming video, it'd be a huge learning curve to ensure that things run smoothly. The rule of thumb, really, is that if something can go wrong, it probably will. For a consumer, the number of technical problems that can and often do happen with online programming can be very frustrating.  Offering programming on the web, in my opinion, requires a wealth of technological knowledge and/or being able to afford the services of people who have the needed expertise. 

I really feel - everyone involved with La Lumiere does - that our particular fan base will respond to a full-length feature, and to owning a DVD that they can watch on a full-sized television screen. I can get online right now, and order a DVD set of Mad Men or Damages, and lots of people do exactly that with their favorite television dramas these days.  It may be how and where people get the bulk of their programming in the future, especially people over 40. Also, doing things in this way, and on this scale...it offers us an opportunity to do some stuff from a production value point of view, that probably wouldn't be possible with another format. 

Another aspect to consider is the financial one. No one has really been able to make programming for the web profitable. Sponsors haven't invested the kind of money into it that they have in television. Part of the beauty of what we're doing with La Lumiere is that we know how this works. This team knows about telling  a story in this way, and we've discussed what we were each able and willing to put into the project. 

LN: Aside from the many technical problems, with web-based programming, people have been either shocked that there would be subscription fees, or unclear as to what the subscription fees would grant them. One thing that appeals when it comes to  La Lumiere, is that it's perfectly clear what one is paying for: a movie on DVD that the consumer gets to keep and watch whenever they want to. 

BC: When we decided that we wanted to work together again, we took a look around, saw that other people were doing web-based stuff, and decided not only that it wasn't for us, but that that area was probably being well-served. There's room out there for all kinds of entertainment, and I'm all for people trying different things. That's what we're doing - trying something different...something that I really think will appeal to people who miss Guiding Light.

LN: I notice you're offering a walk-on appearance for a significant amount of money. To be honest, as much as I love soaps, and Guiding Light in particular, I asked myself, "Who would pay that kind of money for a walk-on?" My workmate said something that made a lot of sense. She said, "It's not like giving money to strangers. Those people - those actors - they feel like family. Getting the chance to work with them, and to support a project that will give us a chance to see them together, again - that will appeal to someone who can afford it." 

BC: If someone does decide to take us up on that offer, it could also be someone who wants to break into the business. It's a chance to work on a professional production, with people who have been doing this a long time. It could be a very good opportunity for the right person.

LN: Every GL fan knows that Beth Raines was such a long-suffering character. If the show had gone on much longer, I'm not sure what new tragedy or hardship the writers could have devised for her. Since you're the writer on this project, I have to ask: have you taken the opportunity to infuse your character with some humor - something that was sadly lacking in Beth Raines' life?

BC: It's funny you'd ask that, because I most definitely have. Without giving too much away, I can say that the character I play in La Lumiere is often unintentionally funny. She doesn't always know that the things she says will make others laugh. I haven't veered entirely away from Beth Raines, though. What I think fans of GL will see when they watch La Lumiere is some very familiar things, and some things that are totally new. Because so many people associate the actors involved with the characters they played on GL and working opposite specific counterparts, I've decided to mostly keep to pairings that are familiar, even though the characters are different...to ease viewers into the idea that we're still working together, but that this is not Guiding Light.

LN: That seems like a wise way to begin. I'm not sure how I'd feel tuning in to your first project and seeing you and Grant Aleksander on the same screen, but not as a pairing of some kind. 

BC: I recognize that about this particular kind of fandom, and it'll be as gentle a transition as possible. I hope people will like the mixture of the familiar and the brand new. This may be different in our future projects, but we're doing this one step at a time. 

LN: Thanks so much for being so generous with your time, Beth. Any parting words for folks reading this?

BC: Thank you for your time. I want people to know that we'll be reporting on the progress of La Lumiere as things develop, so I hope they'll check out our website (which is undergoing changes and updates) and  sign up for our newsletter.