In Part One of my interview with Susan Flannery, the Emmy and Golden Globe winning actress shared her path to DAYS OF OUR LIVES and recollections of the series. In Part Two, she shared more about expanding her career to movies, and the changes on DAYS as it went from 30 to 60 minutes.
We know that Susan Flannery is a dynamic force to be reckoned with in television and movies. But are you aware of how she acts on the strength of her convictions behind the scenes? Please read on as she shares her decision to join THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL, as well as her off-screen activism.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Soon after DALLAS you went on to work with Douglas Marland on A NEW DAY IN EDEN.
Susan Flannery: Yes. I stopped acting for awhile. My producing partners, Michael Jaffe and Gary Hoffman, did NEW DAY IN EDEN. It was the first soap sold to cable. It was Oak Communications. They wanted us to continue with more seasons. My partner Michael said he didn’t want to do it . I said to him, “Are you nuts?” But he didn’t want to do it so we didn’t do it.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: I never got to see it. But I had heard there was lots of nudity and it was too hot for network TV.
Susan Flannery: That’s how they sold it. But there was never really any nudity. It was always delicately shot. You know who got his first job there? Jack Wagner.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Would you have preferred for that to continue?
Susan Flannery: Sure, it was a money maker.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Did you enjoy being in the role of producer?
Susan Flannery: Oh yeah. That was fun.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: So given you had done daytime TV, had successfully done prime-time and movie work as well as producing, what led you to take the role of Stephanie on BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL?
Susan Flannery: Well I wasn’t going to do it originally. Frank Pacelli was a director on DAYS OF OUR LIVES with Bill [Bell] and then on Y&R. And he and I were friends over the years. I had left my contract with Columbia Pictures Television. It was just at the holiday time and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. Frank said to me, “Bill Bell is going to do a new soap opera.” I said, “Oh, good for him.” He said, “I think you should do it.” I said, “Nah, I don’t want to do it.” So he sat with Bill and said, “Susan Flannery’s contract was up at Columbia, and she’s not sure what she’s going to do, I think you should call her.” Bill said, “Really, you think she would come back to acting?” Frank said, “I don’t know but I think you should call her, Bill!”
So Bill called me and I said, “no.” He called me five times and I said, “no.” I said, “I can’t talk now, it’s too busy, it’s the holidays.” And then finally he called and said, “Can we sit and talk? Just come to the house.” I said, “No I won’t come to your house. Let’s meet at the Beverly Hills Hotel and have a drink.” So we sat and talked. And of course he talked me into doing it.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: How did he do that? How can anyone talk Susan Flannery into doing anything?
Susan Flannery: I don’t know. He just caught me at a weak moment. I also knew what a wonderful writer he was. And he had written so brilliantly for me at DAYS OF OUR LIVES. I really was between sixes and sevens, I really didn’t know what I was going to do. Sometimes things come to you in the most unexpected time in a way you don’t see coming from left field. And when an opportunity presents itself, sometimes you have to refocus and say, “Maybe this is the way things are supposed to be, so okay.” So that’s what I did, that’s how it turned out.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: You recognized you had some opportunities open to you and you chose not to fight it.
Susan Flannery: Well yeah, I guess that’s what it was. I fought it at the beginning and then I thought, maybe you’re not looking at this the right way. So here I am, 23 years later, holy cow!
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: You mentioned that during your entire run on DAYS you didn’t have a contract.
Susan Flannery: Not till the last year.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Did you consider doing the same with BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL?
Susan Flannery: No, they wanted us on contract. [Bill] knew I wasn’t under contract all those years and he didn't want to go through that again [laughs].
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Did you think you would still be on 23 years later?
Susan Flannery: Oh yes, I knew the show would run.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: What led you to know that?
Susan Flannery: John McCook and I, we both knew the show would be on the air for as long as possible. I said to him, “Things will change eventually in television, but we’ll have a really good run on this.”
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: When you say things will change...
Susan Flannery: That first year the union, AFTRA, came to us, we had been working without a contract. They asked us to come to a meeting because they were trying to find out what we wanted and what we thought. Frances Reid was there. And I said to them, “I think we should have foreign residuals, and we still don’t. Isn’t that right, Frances?” She said, “Well you can negotiate that in your individual contract.” I said, “But that’s not the point. Everybody should be entitled to it.”
And they looked at me like I was crazy. I said, “I’m telling you these shows are going to sell overseas. And the other thing we should have are residuals if they’re played on cable.” They looked at me [again] like I was a crazy. I said, “Here’s my prediction: you’re going to have a network on cable that will be dedicated simply to soaps, 24 hours a day. They’ll play old soaps and new soaps, and we should have the residuals. They’ll give it to us now because they’ll look at you just like you looked at me now, like I’m a lunatic, and they’ll say ‘give it to those idiots, what do we care?’” They didn’t listen to me and what have we got? SoapNet, that people get paid pennies for. I knew television was changing. I had been a producer. I had been with Columbia, I had been at the networks, I spent five years doing it, so I knew what was coming. It was like, who could not know?
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: What were the results of you standing up?
Susan Flannery: They didn’t take it seriously. It was so foolish of them at the union. They could have gotten residuals, even if they started slowly on cable, and then they could have increased it slowly every contract. So by the time cable broadcasts came around, they would have paid something. They get paid nothing.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Is that still the case?
Susan Flannery: They get basically nothing. I don’t think they even get a hundred dollars for a show. I don’t know because BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL isn’t on cable, it isn’t on SoapNet.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: When B&B plays overseas, do you get residuals for that?
Susan Flannery: We get residuals, but we still don’t get the residuals that we...we had a big union meeting at the Central Plaza Hotel. I stood up and said, “Excuse me, I’m going to tell you something right now. You give us foreign residuals or this union is going on strike.” And everyone in the room froze. And Eric Braeden turned around and said, “If she said we’re goin’ on strike then we’re goin’ on strike.” And we got the foreign residuals.
What they had was if you worked above a minimum, which most people did, they were allowed to credit that against your foreign residuals. We got that removed. So now people get money from foreign residuals.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: So your activist efforts in the union proved successful?
Susan Flannery: Yeah, well, Kim Zimmer and Martha Byrne, a few years before that, stood up and said to them, “We have to have a turn around.” Because they would work until twelve or one in the morning, get no money, and then have to be back at six in the morning. So then they had to pay [the actresses] a penalty. It was only when they had to pay the penalty that they made sure to get them out so they wouldn’t have to pay that penalty. When it costs money then all of a sudden they find a way. That’s why unions are so important. For the health, for the pensions, and to protect you.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Please go to Part Four of our interview, in which we discuss Ms. Flannery's thoughts about Stephanie Forrester's demons, as well as the future of daytime television.
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 blogging about surviving the holidays at www.shouldless.com.