In Parts One and Two of our interview with Ron Hale, the wonderful actor discussed his pre-RYAN'S HOPE career in theater and movies, as well as what made RYAN'S HOPE such a magical time for cast, crew, and viewers. In Part Three below, Hale shares what led to the decline of RYAN'S HOPE, and how his "six month" role on GENERAL HOSPITAL turned into a fifteen year legacy.
We Love Soaps: What, in your mind, led to the decline and ultimate cancellation of RYAN’S HOPE?
Ron Hale: The network.
We Love Soaps: How so?
Ron Hale: I’m not saying anything out of school here, this is common knowledge. Paul [Avila Mayer] and Claire [Labine] fought tooth and nail from day one to keep the integrity of what they wrote and what they created. Networks have a habit of people getting paid money to be in executive decisions and making decisions, whether they are right, wrong, or indifferent, just to justify their paychecks. This is in every business, not just ours. They’ll say, “You shouldn’t have this” and “You need a little more of this,” when the show was moving along just beautifully. Everyone had to put in their two cents, and I saw Paul and Claire fight constantly to keep that show the simple and beautiful show that it was. Ergo, when ABC took over, holy mackrel! All of a sudden, you took this simple perfect little set-up with these families on the Upper West Side, that everyone in America could relate to, and they said, “Well, we need some gangsters and stuff.” It was a formula, that was working on other shows. That was great for the other shows. But they didn’t fit on RYAN’S HOPE.
I never blame an actor for getting a job. If somebody gets hired on GENERAL HOSPITAL or RYAN’S HOPE, if the network hires them, they hired them, and you are happy the actor got the job. Now maybe five months into it you realize this isn’t a wonderful person and they can’t act their way out of paper bag. But it’s not the actor’s fault that they got the job. So they started bringing in some people from the left coast. And, nothing against them personally, but attitudes changed. Actors were coming on the show and walking up to the cameraman and saying, “Are you getting a medium shot of me, or a profile?” All of a sudden you’re standing there going, “What!?” We never asked that of our cameramen. We were just doing our scenes and it was up to them to take the shot. Some actors would ask, “Are you coming in tight on me?” and we were rolling our eyes asking, “What the hell is this? Just do the frickin’ scene, let them do their job.”
So things just got weird. I remember working at this great restaurant/bar in New York back in the '60s on the Upper East side. I would make a ton of money there when I wasn’t acting. It occupied the lower floor of a building. The place was packed, great food, great ambiance. After a couple of years they bought the building next door, tore down the wall, and doubled the size of the place. And guess what? Their business went right down the crapper. They couldn’t stay with a simple thing that worked. They got greedy. The people that were there on a constant basis stopped coming. That is what I liken RYAN’S HOPE to. It was this wonderful little restaurant and it was doing so well. Then you come in, you start fiddling around with it, and that’s what I saw. Then ratings started going down, and you had the LOVING situation. Agnes Nixon, of course, had a tremendous amount of power though.
We Love Soaps: RYAN’S HOPE lost their primary time slot to LOVING.
Ron Hale: That was part and parcel of it. When it came down to the end it was basically them saying, “If one has to go it’s going to be RYAN’S HOPE. This is an Agnes Nixon show and we’re going to keep it.” I’m not against her. I just remember the politics involved.
We Love Soaps: How did the role of Mike Corbin on GENERAL HOSPITAL come about?
Ron Hale: My wife passed away in 1992 from a car accident. I had to sell our house, and went back to my brother’s theater in South Carolina and did a production of "MacBeth" with him. Then I got a movie called Trial By Jury starring Armand Assante and William Hurt. I was hired for two weeks, and it turned into four or five. Everyone kept saying, “Come out to L.A., they love a fresh face,” even though I wasn’t a fresh face. But the idea was that there were guys in my age range that get used all the time. So I sold my house, I jumped in my car, and drove west. I stayed with Nancy Addison’s husband, Danny. I had enough money leftover from the sale of the house that I knew I could live in L.A. for a year. I thought, “If I don’t get a job in L.A. this year then I might as well pack in the whole acting thing.”
Out of the clear blue sky I got a call from Mark Teschner, who I hadn’t seen in years, who cast LOVING. I did not know Claire was head writing GENERAL HOSPITAL. Mark said, “I hear you’re in town. There is a role coming up around December, it’s just being written, I don’t know if you’re interested in daytime.” I asked what it was about? He gave me a breakdown of the character, I didn’t know who Sonny Corinthos was. He said, “They’re writing this character to give this kid a background. He’s kind of just there and doesn’t have a background. He’s kind of a sleazy guy who ran away from his family. His kid hates his guts, but he comes to Port Charles to try to make amends. After six months you’re going to take a bullet and die.” After six months they figured Sonny and his father will start to get close. At that point the old man will jump in front of his son, take a bulllet, and get killed.
Six months later Wendy Riche called me into her office. She said, “You know you’re taking the bullet in a couple of weeks.” I said, “Wendy, don’t remind me. She asked if I was enjoying it, and I said, “You know I am, I am loving this role. I’m working with Maurice, and Tony Geary, all the time, I’m working a lot.” She said, “We love you, the audience is crazy about you. We want you to take the bullet, but would you like to live?” I said, “Would I ever!” That was 15 years ago!
EDITOR'S NOTE: Press here for Part Four in which Ron reveals a new direction he is taking in his life. Plus, does he feel Mike Corbin deserves forgiving for his past mistakes? Come back to find out!
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