Catching Up with Janet Iacobuzio (Part 2 of 3)

One of the most famous scripts written by Janet Iacobuzio was the
Bianca Montgomery coming out episode on All My Children.
By now, we were a glass of wine into our meal and the memories were all flooding back! Enjoy Part 2 of my 3 part interview with soap scribe Janet Iacobuzio, currently at Days of our Lives.

In case you missed it, you can read Part 1 here.

NA: To say we were madcap at Another World would be an understatement. I never worked on a show where the cast and crew got along so well with each other. What are you fondest memories of our days there?
JI: I don't know if I ever had more fun. We laughed ALL DAY LONG. We also worked really hard and put up with a lot of BS. And most importantly, we loved the show and we were fiercely protective of it. The Cosby Show being shot in the adjoining studio in the '80s left us with a ton of great stories about him and all the guest stars. Not everyone can say they saw Robert Culp put his foot in a tray of catering lasagna on the back stairs and nearly kill himself while running to the set. We heard him scream (and the the thump) from down the hallway. Taking "hells and damns" from the censors at NBC on the phone, the night before taping. (They'd cut a certain amount of them. They'd tell me to tell the directors not to let the sex scenes show too much. It was pro forma and ridiculous.) We used to all be fans of Santa Barbara and watch it on the monitors. Brad Pitt was an "Under Five" before he was Brad Pitt. Then we all saw Thelma & Louise and screamed. Oh, the stories I could tell. But should I???

NA: So how/when exactly did you transition into Writing?
JI: From the time I was at Edge, I wanted to write. I didn't talk about it a lot, though. I was shy. At Edge, I read and re-read every script and breakdown and started to see how it was done. At AW, I had to read scripts all of the time, sometimes twice, track them against the breakdowns, divide them up for scheduling. I did continuity for a while but if you ask my dear friend MK Weir, I was the worst continuity person in the history of television. When I was at the agency, I wrote a SFT script and showed it to a few people who basically said I was horrible. But I didn't give up.

NA: A writer writes!
JI: Maybe 2 or 3 years later, I wrote a script and showed it to Michael Laibson, my Executive Producer at AW. I said: "Just let me know what you think when you get a chance". I didn't hear anything for a month, so I thought he hated it and that was that. I thought I'd be getting coffee and lunch for directors for the rest of my life.

NA: John Whitsell: Bacon and egg on a roll!
JI: One day, my phone rang and it was Michael and he said: "Can you come to my office?" I was sure I was getting fired. I walked in, he told me to close the door. I did. He told me to sit down. I mentally tried to visualize my checking account and if I had enough money to make the rent after he let me go. And he said: "I read your script. You clearly know how to do this. How did you learn?" After I found my voice, I said I'd been paying attention to Carolyn and Richard Culliton's scripts for 3 years and had been practicing. He said: "I want to give you a shot". And that was it. I stayed on for 2 months, did both my day job and a script a week. When they picked up my contract, I quit production and started writing scripts full time, working from home. I was 25.

NA: Help me out here, 'cause it seems like when we drifted apart after "Bay City," you ended up writing for every soap under the sun. Give me the full rundown.
JI: All over the place! I was at AW. Then I went to All My Children and wrote breakdowns. Then scripts on One Life for a bit. Back to AW as editor and breakdown writer. Then General Hospital for breakdowns. I co-headwrote for a minute and half with Chris Whitesell and he's now co-head at Days with my old friend, Gary Tomlin. I heard Gary speak a million years back with Sam Ratcliffe (who was a great guy and a wonderful writer and who is sorely missed) at a WGA panel. I remember thinking: Wow, these guys are so amazing. I wonder if I can do what they do someday. And then I did and we all were good friends for many years, so I've been quite lucky.

At GH, Chris and I were placeholders until Bob Guza could come back and when he did, I was first brought back down off my temporary high horse and then eventually let go. Bob was a total mensch about it, and I never forgot that, to be honest. From GH I went to Sunset Beach on scripts where Gary was EP and I worked for a good, long while there. A very, very good gig. When they went off the air, I think that's when I went back to AMC. I was writing breakdowns and scripts, alternating a bit. I wrote the script for Bianca's coming out from a gorgeous breakdown by Fred Johnson which was, as you can imagine for the time, ground-breaking and amazing and thrilling and ultimately the kiss of death. ABC wanted to do this big coming out story and to their credit, did do it, made Erica Kane the mother of a lesbian, I mean - a big, big deal. But then the girls kissing kind of put the Suits over the edge and that was the end of that.But they kept her gay - I think.

Though I remember hearing she had a baby at one point but I think I heard she went off into the sunset with her girlfriend, so that's good. It was a very important time in daytime, sort of the end of the old school, the start of the new, really. And now I work for Days of our Lives which is 40+ years on the air and still going strong - with a married gay male couple with a baby. So, that's the good news. I also wrote for One Life for over 4 years and there were some things I did there that I am very proud of as well. I had an abrupt ending there that still leaves a bad taste in my mouth but I had a lot of amazing times there and I'm grateful for that. From there I went to As The World Turns - wait - I was there earlier, in the late '90s at the end of OJ, too...

NA: As Johnny Cash would say, "You've Been Everywhere!"
JI: But this time at ATWT when I came back, really loved it, loved the staff, the stories, the characters, the show, the job, all of it. And then we were canceled. Writing the end of that show was one of the hardest things I ever did, one of the saddest. ATWT was the show my grandmother would be watching when I'd go to her house after school, her "Story" which helped her learn English. I treasure that time there - and it was back in Brooklyn! The old Avenue M studio where you and I started out at AW all those years before.

NA: But no more Robert Culp stepping in the lasagna.
JI: I'd go to meetings there once a week at the end, when I was doing breakdowns. That wonderful Italian lady who was head of housekeeping was still there and gave me a greeting beyond all greetings when she saw me walk in. Great place. Oh and in the summer of 2004, I worked for Sony Pictures TV International on a joint US-Russian telenovela called Dear Masha. I lived in Moscow for 3 months. Craziest thing I did in my whole life. Wouldn't trade a second of it, even though I was desperately homesick. That is a story to beat all stories I will tell you one day. I blogged about it, pre-blog days. I have threatened to make it into a book of sorts, at
different times of my life...

NA: In that case, we'd better order more wine.

EDITOR'S NOTE: In Part Three, Janet reflects on the evolution of daytime and we continue on about the state of Soaps, "Then and Now"

Nelson Aspen is a regular contributor to We Love Soaps and popular broadcast journalist around the world. His new book, "My Prime Time" will be released this fall. You may visit him at www.nelsonaspen.com or follow him on Twitter @nelsonaspen.

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