Director, Producer, Artist

Let’s Talk About the Kids (of All My Children!)

Posted on: March 16, 2013

photo by Chapman BaehlerI want to talk about the new young people on All My Children, and why I think (and hope) the audience should give them a chance.  I am not known for blowing smoke up anybodies hoo-ha, right? Let’s just start with that as a baseline for this conversation!

Before you totally freak on me, let me tell you that I TOTALLY understand what happened to AMC during the ‘oughts of 2000-2010. The show lost heart (in my opinion) and it’s way.  Franz and company dominated and upended the show during that time, throwing old favorites into the fire and overwhelming the fans with too many new faces.  I can totally get why someone might say, “Oh please, not again!” or “Stop ruining my show!”

Here is why I think, no scratch that, I KNOW that is NOT going to happen.

First off: lets look at the COMPANY of actors on the list.

On the classic side, there are: Julia Barr (Brooke), Jill Larson (Opal), David Canary (Adam), Ray MacDonnell (Joe Martin), Debbie Morgan (Angie), Darnell Williams (Jesse), me (Dixie), Eden Reigal (Bianca), Vincent Irrizary (David), Francesca James (Evelyn), Jordi Vilacuso (Griff), Lindsay Hartley (Cara), and Thorston Kaye (Zack)… that’s THIRTEEN veterans of the show in place from the START, and you can bet there are more to come.

On the newbie side there are: Eric Nelson (AJ, son of JR), Ryan Bittle (JR), Jordan Lane Price (Celia, can’t tell you who she’s related to… YET!), Heather Roop (Jane), Sal Stowers (Cassandra, daughter of Angie and Jesse), Robert Scott Wilson (Pete Cortland, son of Opal and Palmer), and Denyse Tontz (Miranda, daughter of Bianca)… that’s only SEVEN and almost all of them are related to long standing, beloved core characters!

Then lets consider that Agnes Nixon was not allowed to give hardly ANY input when Franzie was running things. He REALLY threw her to the fire!  NOW she is back in FULL FORCE and is totally and completely respected by the new bosses of the show. I have personally heard Jeff Kwatinetz talk about how blown away he is by her and her genius.  Not only that, but Ginger Smith, who was an associate producer under every regime since I started, oh 25 years ago (lets not talk about that number, shall we?) is AT THE HELM.  In all my years, I have never known ANYONE who LOVED and UNDERSTOOD All My Children at it’s CORE like Ginger.  She is the MAIN reason I returned. I love and respect her so much.

Now let me tell you about my experiences with these young people.  I don’t know if you’ve heard me talk about this yet, but you will.  The short version is: when I came to the set the first day, I COULD NOT LEAVE IT.  Even though I wasn’t shooting until the end of the day, I stayed on the set for HOURS.  Guess who sat next to me all that time? Eric Nelsen, who plays “AJ.”

We sat and watched the monitor and I talked to him about the show, it’s history, how to work with cameras, everything that came into my mind on that very special day. He was a total doll, respectful, grateful and attentive. He studied at PCS, aka Professional Children’s School for Actors, and I could tell he is very passionate and committed to his work.  As a child actor myself, we had an instant bond.  Later, I got to watch him do his thing on set. He is totally committed, adorable, and incredibly talented. I can’t speak highly enough of this young man. I totally adore him.

I also got to meet Sal Stowers, “Cassandra,” that day. I had no idea she was the winner of America’s Next Top Model and I am glad I didn’t!  I had no preconceptions when we were introduced. Who I met was a completely respectful and thoughtful young LADY, who was excited to be a part of the show and couldn’t wait to prove herself. I got to hang out with her a little and found her to be totally delightful. She’s funny, kind, sweet, and a vegan! She gave me a little shit about my shearling coat as is an animal activist and I am proud that she did! She was right! I am a bit of a mama bear and told her she needed to be super gentle with herself because this is the hardest job you will ever love. She seemed really grateful for my insights, which I took as a sign of respect. After seeing her work, that respect works both ways, let me tell you!

I also met the adorable Denyse Tontz as “Miranda.”  This little lady is so cute and only SEVENTEEN!  She’s also a singer songwriter, and such a talented, natural actress.  I looked up her VIDEO and it was stuck in my head on a loop.  She’s funny and fun, too!  At the after party on our last night of the two week shoot, she and I danced our BUTTS off with Eric, Sal, Rob, Jordon and the whole production gang. I can’t wait for you to fall in love with her, like everyone else on our show has!

Speaking of dancing, Robert Scott Wilson aka “Pete Cortland” is a dancing machine! We had so much fun that night. I’m going to share with you one thing that happened because I think you will appreciate it. I think it says a lot about his character. After the full funky freakout on the dance floor I pulled him aside and said, “Hey I might have to leave soon, could you do me a favor and look out for the girls?” The club was picking up and the clientele was looking a little too, shall we say, ready for good times. He leaned over and said, “Don’t worry, I think of these girls like they were my sisters. I am totally on it.” I LOVE THAT! He is also a charming actor, and is really going to make a few ladies fall in love with him. He can’t help it, he’s just that kind of guy!

Newcomer Jordan Lane Price, “Celia,” and I got to hang out a bit as well. I met her the day of the big photo shoot at Sleepy Hollow Country Club. She was looking so beautiful in her blue dress, and I told her so. She made a little fun of herself, telling me, “I am totally pulled in by a corset! I believe in normal bodies. I hope they like me!” I assured her she looked amazing and asked her how she felt about the work she had to do the upcoming week.  She confided she was a bit overwhelmed. This is her first job and she was being asked to do a lot of pages, a couple days in a row, which is a LOT for a newbie to handle. So I told her how to do it – how to do what we call “breaking down a script.”  She was genuinely grateful and from what I heard she did an amazing job. I find her incredibly touching. I may have to adopt her.

Then there is Heather Roop as “Jane.” Heather is HILARIOUS and so much fun! She is a southern gal who really knows how to lay it on the line and I LOVE THAT as you probably can guess. We had drinks one night with Lindsay and Sal and DAMN if us girls didn’t know how to get right down to it! We all promised each other we would have each other’s back.  WOMEN GOT TO STICK TOGETHER, right? If WE don’t tell each other how it is, WHO WILL?  Damn, that was a fun evening.

Last, but certainly not least, there is Ryan Bittle as my son “JR.”  How do I put this? Uh… DREAMBOAT?  I got a good looking son, people. WOW.  And he’s really a man’s man. Strong, but with this beautiful secret vulnerability.  Since CBS couldn’t release Jacob Young to do the part of JR, I think we got really lucky with Ryan. He is devoted to understanding the character and giving the audience a great new look at him.  I think you will be as riveted by his work as I clearly am.

One other point, and I made this on my FB page but it bears repeating: All My Children is a show about generations of families. I started as a teenager, as did Julia Barr and Susan Lucci! Even Michael Knight played a teen story with “Tad and Jenny and Angie and Jesse,” remember? Teen love stories are a long standing part of the tradition of soaps. I also want to assure you that because AGNES is back, there is a great balance between the young people and the vets. It all WORKS because it is all woven together in a modern, but CLASSIC way.  Trust me, if I thought it was crap I would NOT be taking time on my DAY OFF to write this blog, or tweeting or FB-ing or all the other stuff I’m up to. I am doing it because I BELIEVE in what is being created. After two shows and 25 damn years in daytime, (cough, gack, did I just say that?) I KNOW what it feels like when a show is in the “sweet spot” and I am telling you, this production is HITTING IT OUT OF THE PARK!

Let’s not turn the soaps into a nostalgia trip. Lord knows, I can’t live up to the past. I can only move forward and try to create something new and authentic for you. Thank god for YouTube, there are hundreds of videos up there with the great shows we once did, so they can keep on giving joy! Maybe one day someone will get smart and put it all on DVD’s for people to own in a higher quality. I sure love seeing them, and I do look back from time to time to ponder my youth and sigh with what we were all able to create as an ensemble… but NOW I am SO EXCITED about the future… it’s simply BLOWING MY MIND.

Okay, really for real, the last thing: I could write a whole ‘nother blog on this point, but let’s just touch on AGISM, shall we? When I was young, I was told I better make it while I was young because there would be nothing for me over 40. Now, thanks to the hard work of a LOT of FABULOUS women, that has totally changed and THANK GOD. But is it me, or does it seem like we are all looking at the kids and giving them a really hard time? The Millennials in particular. Maybe they remind us we ain’t getting any younger, but personally I find them an awesome generation. That’s why I write for! I think this generation has so much to share and teach us. I love their VOICE, their liberation, their street savvy, their art.  I say BRING IT!

So hang in there and thanks for listening to all my blah blah!  All My Children will be up on HULU for FREE April 29th at NOON and, please, remember: give the kids a chance!  You might just fall in love with soaps all over again…

Oh and PS: OF COURSE you are allowed your opinion! Free speech, baby! Rock it! Agree, disagree, SAY YOUR PEACE!  I love ya no matter WHAT. Guess I’m just stoopid that way.



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