John asks: Do you see yourself as having been a mentor to Ron Carlivati?
Claire Labine: What happened was, somebody I knew suggested he call me. And this very personable person called me up, explained he had been a lawyer, and what he really really really wanted to do was to be a writer on ONE LIFE TO LIVE. He knew he couldn’t start as a writer, but he would do anything, and did I have any suggestions? I said, “My first suggestion is that I put down the phone and call Jean Passanante because I happen to know they are looking for a writer’s assistant.” So I called Jean. She said, “We haven’t hired anybody and we’re desperate.” I said, “I have a lively candidate for you.” She said, “Send him over.”
So off he went, and they hired him in about two minutes. He’s very smart, he’s very personable, and he’s obviously very dedicated to the show. Then after we arrived, there he was, he was our writer’s assistant. He began writing spec scenes (scenes from the current outlines), and handing them to me and saying, “If you have a chance, tell me what you think of it.” Several scenes into this I thought, “Holy moly, we can get another writer’s assistant, why not see what he can do as a dialogue writer?”
That was where we left it. He was really enormously accomplished, had a terrific sense of humor, and his scripts were very lively. I never doubted that he would ultimately become the head writer of ONE LIFE TO LIVE. It was just one of those things that seemed inevitable. I don’t take much credit for mentoring anybody. If they fit in and hang out and share the fun then it almost always works out. I haven’t seen any of his headwriting stuff, I honestly and truly don’t know what’s going on [on the show]. I certainly am very fond of him as a person, and I greatly admired him as a script writer.
PJ asks: Right after you left OLTL, Eli, the HIV-positive teenager Carlotta Vega adopted, vanished without a trace. If you had stayed, what story did you have planned for him?
Claire Labine: I don’t remember Eli. I don’t think he was my invention, he was probably Jill's [Farren Phelps]. I wouldn’t have done another HIV story, I had done that with Stone [on GENERAL HOSPITAL]. I wouldn’t have touched another HIV story for a long time. I felt we had given that our all and I wouldn’t have gone back to that.
Jase asks: It has been rumored that the Téa character was originally modeled in part after Jill from RYAN'S HOPE. Is that true?
Claire Labine: No. Not consciously. But unconsciously, who knows. There certainly were similarities. She was very independent and gutsy. I adored that actress [Florencia Lozano], I thought she was wonderful. And I thought her stuff with Roger Howarth was magical.
Jase asks: How was the decision made to focus on Téa and Todd rather than Blair, who spent much of your tenure in a coma?
Claire Labine: Well, they were both such wonderful actors and I wanted to see them together! That was one of those things that evolved from chemistry. I don’t think that was in our minds at all. But when we saw them together...it really seemed to work.
Jase asks: Also, did you have any role in the multiple personality or "DID" story ONE LIFE embarked on with Todd in 1998, or was that all taken up by the writers after you left?
Claire Labine: I didn’t know anything about that. I don’t know anything about it.
We Love Soaps: It was an idea they played with in the summer on 1998, then it was dropped.
Claire Labine: I think it would be a little bit tricky to play a multiple personality story on that show because of Viki.
Matt Cormier said: Ms. Labine, first of all thank you for the richly entertaining shows you've given me for the last two decades. they have informed my life and enriched me more than you'll ever know.
Claire Labine: Thank you, Matthew!
Matt Cormier asks: During your years at OLTL you wrote some of the most wonderful stories that show has ever seen and I've always admired your ability to write stories that include socially relevant issues with comedy and soap staples like romance and love. Why do you think soaps today are not written with social issues at it's core?
Claire Labine: I don’t know! [Laughs] I mean, if you want to relate them to the real world, God knows there are plenty of issues for them to relate to. Good grief, I don’t know the answer to that, I couldn’t begin to figure it out.
The Film Panel Notetaker says: Under yours and your son Matthew's head writing during your brief stay at ONE LIFE TO LIVE, I witnessed some of the best character development and witty dialogue the show has ever had. The episode when Mel's mother, Mary "Dr. Maude" Boylan as played by the marvelous Helen Gallagher, came to meet Dorian and her Kramer girls for the first time with granddaughter Dorothy (Mel's daughter) at La Boulais, was just so incredibly charming, sophisticated, elegant, yet tense and dramatic. I also loved the chemistry between the characters of RJ Gannon and Jacara Principal, whom together created Bluejay/Indigo Records. And to top that off, there was Club Indigo's transgendered mixologist, Wendi Mercury [played by Shequida], who was a sympathetic ear to Llanview's denizens.
Claire Labine: I don’t think I can take credit for Wendi. I adored it. Somebody is going to howl, but that wasn’t my idea. I’m not sure who’s idea it was, but I loved it. It may have been Matt or Eleanor [Labine], it may have been Jean, it may have been Ron. I have no idea where that came from, but I loved it too.
The Film Panel Notetaker asks: How do you come up with all these brilliant characters and just make it work?
Claire Labine: I don’t know how you make them work. I do know if a character is grounded in reality...and when I say reality, my best friends would tend to shy away when I start looking at them in a speculative way. You take bits and pieces from people you know and love, or people you know and don’t love. You knit them together, and try to make sure it’s a psychologically sound amalgamation of personality traits. If you’ve done a good job hatching them, then you sit back and let them tell you what their story is, because they do!
EDITOR'S NOTE: Press here for the final part of our Q&A with Claire in which she answers YOUR questions about GUIDING LIGHT [yes, I asked about "Holivia"] and more general responses to YOUR questions!
Damon L. Jacobs is a Marriage Family Therapist practicing in New York City, and the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve". He is re-imagining a world without "shoulds" at www.shouldless.com.