EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Meg Kelly and Michael O'Leary on SudsvilleTV, and Their Love of the Daytime Soap Audience

Michael O'Leary
Meg Kelly won three Daytime Emmy Awards as part of the writing team at As the World Turns. She also wrote for One Life to Live and Days of our Lives. Michael O'Leary played Dr. Rick Bauer on Guiding Light for decades, picking up an Emmy nomination along the way. He also won an Indie Series Award in 2012 for his work in the web series world. Both multi-talented artists are part of SudsvilleTV, an exciting new online network that is expected to launch this fall with a lineup that includes the Kelly-penned soap opera Year Rounders, and O'Leary-hosted game show Michael's Amazing Soap Trivia Challenge. We Love Soaps recently spoke with Kelly and O'Leary about SudsvilleTV, and the love they share for the soap opera audience.

Read our exclusive interview below.

WE LOVE SOAPS: Meg, can you tell me about your background? I know you wrote for As the World Turns, One Life to Live and Days of our Lives. Was writing a soap something you aspired to do?
MEG KELLY: It's funny, I was an actress for years. I was with Arena Stage stage at 12 and 13, and toured Russia with them, and then I went to Circle in the Square in New York. I did commercials and Off-Broadway, and a Broadway show. My husband's an actor, Tony Rizzoli, and when we moved to L.A., I didn't really want to act anymore. We had our first child, we had our second one, and somewhere in that I started writing screenplays. I signed with ICM, and was a finalist for the Nicholl Screenwriting Fellowship, but I just didn't want to go down that path.  Because I had young kids, I went into daytime to be at home with the kids, and hands-on with them. So I did that, and it was great.

What I loved about daytime initially was you had to work at home. They didn't want to see you, so a lot of us were raising children and writing daytime, and it allowed for a certain balance in life. I wound up having a lot of respect for it, and really liking the audience.

My writing partner at the time was Hogan Sheffer. We did a pilot for CBS, then he got hired as head writer at Days, and asked me to come on as co-head. We had a lot of fun with story over there. Hogan had been a script doctor in L.A., and I started out with screenplays. The telenovelas were doing well at the time, and the rest of daytime wasn't doing so well, so we decided to tell our stories in 13-week arcs and use the screenplay mode. It was a really fun way to write, and the audience seemed to like it a lot because it moved quickly. It's a model I'll be using here with Year Rounders, and our other dramatic series will have a beginning, middle and end, and be told in screenplay structure as a soap--dramas driven by families.

WE LOVE SOAPS: That's like what ABC Family does. Actually, everything I watch in primetime I consider to be a soap, even though most don't want to be called that.
MEG KELLY: You're exactly right. The Sopranos was a great soap opera, and Game of Thrones.

WE LOVE SOAPS: I was just reading an article about seasons of 10 episodes being the new 13, which was the new 22.
MEG KELLY: It's fun to tell story in 10 episodes because it's very tight storytelling, and you can really make for a compelling season when you have parameters like that.

WE LOVE SOAPS: Meg, I know you created Year Rounders, but aren't you also partners with Joseph Craig and Conklin-Intracom in the whole SudsvilleTV venture?
MEG KELLY: Joseph and I are partners, providing content to Conklin. It's not like a partner in that sense. Conklin looked for content providers, met with us, and really liked our content and our ideas. They are the creating platform, and we are the content. Michael [O'Leary] and I had partnered on this originally, and go back a couple of years on this idea.

WE LOVE SOAPS: SudsvilleTV has created an incredibly ambitious programming lineup. One thing I've seen on social media is some people are wondering how you can pull this off? Is Conklin financing it? How is this all getting paid for?
MEG KELLY: We are very lucky to have Conklin on our team.

WE LOVE SOAPS: Is there going to a subscription, or will this be free?
MEG KELLY: Some shows will be free to watch, others will have a pay per episode model.

WE LOVE SOAPS: Michael, can you tell me about your show, Michael's Amazing Soap Trivia Challenge?
MICHAEL O'LEARY: Think of it as a game show meets Christopher Guest in Best in Show. So it's going to be a real game show, the details of which are still being ironed out by Joseph Craig. Mark my words, it's going to be hysterical. It's not your traditional game show because you will have an actual game show, cash prizes and contestants, but there's another twist to this: Michael will have family members who interact with him behind the scenes. I can't get into details about that but, rest assured, it's going to be funny.

WE LOVE SOAPS: Meg, what inspired you to write Year Rounders? And are the characters based on any real people you know?
MEG KELLY: I don't think so, not really. I don't know if you the boat The Essex that was deliberately attacked by a whale in the early 1800s, and the whale became immortalized in "Moby Dick." One of the African-American characters in the show is a descendant of one of the sailors on The Essex.

We have these close family friends from two families who have four generations of friendship. That was sort of the basis for my idea, two families who had been friends for generations in what was once a fishing village, which survived by becoming a vacation destination. A lot of it is ideas that came out of the history of New England, and the fishing industry there. I think it's fascinating you had these families there for generations, then things got overfished, and people had to reinvent. It's still a little wobbly, with 10 weeks a year to make a year's living. The whole tenor and tone of this village changes for those 10 weeks a year until Labor Day. "Year Rounders" are the people that opt to live there year round.

WE LOVE SOAPS: Alicia Minshew was announced as the first confirmed cast member. Can you give us any hints about who else might be be part of the cast or crew?
MEG KELLY: I can't yet! We have a lot of commitments but have some paperwork to get through.

WE LOVE SOAPS: What else do you want fans to know about SudsvilleTV?
MEG KELLY: It is really different, and designed to embrace what we love about the fans. I love this audience, and came away really enjoying writing for them. I find them to be a warm, fun, and unaffected group. We are excited about bringing something to them that is more dimensional. We are trying to embrace the whole daytime fan, and celebrate them. We think it's a fun audience, and an overlooked audience.
MICHAEL O'LEARY: Roger, you better than anybody else sees the connection with our soap audience and the talent. To Meg's point, with this game show--and it's just one of our shows--you're going to get a chance to see the fans actually connect with the talent in a more personal way than we're used to seeing. It's going to celebrate the fans who have been supporting us in this genre we love so much, and we're going to get the chance to make them the star, too. Beyond the idea, the tenor we want is to connect with the fans in a really personal way.

WE LOVE SOAPS: Do you have official launch date yet?
MEG KELLY: We don't yet because the platform is being built. We have been told it will be ready in October.

WE LOVE SOAPS: When you say platform, are we talking about a Hulu-type thing?
MEG KELLY: Yes. This is something Conklin was building and developing when we met with them.

WE LOVE SOAPS: Many networks are geared toward niche audiences these days. SOAPnet had a lot of potential but at some point they decided they wanted to cater to the Lifetime movie audience instead of soap opera fans.
MEG KELLY: This is a fun, fun audience. One of the things I loved is when you meet them, they have a personal connection. I'd hear, "You write for that show, I used to watch it with my grandmother." Or "I used to come home from school and watch it with my mom." I think they're unique that way. Somebody they love is who they shared the experience with and, to me, that was the saddest loss. So how do we in the 21st century bring great storytelling back to this awesome audience, and give them ways to emotionally connect again with people they love through these shows? That was how this all started. SudsvilleTV was born out of the audience.

EDITOR'S NOTE: To keep up with the latest on SudsvilleTV, visit SudsvilleTV.com. And be sure to follow SudsvilleTV on Twitter and Facebook.

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Roger Newcomb is a producer and writer in New York City. He has written and produced a full-length indie film, Manhattanites, and two radio soap operas. He founded and produces annually the Indie Series Awards, which honors the best in independent entertainment on the Web. He was executive producer on the indie short May Mercy Lie and, from 2009 to 2013 he created and hosted We Love Soaps TV. He has also made acting appearances in shows such as Imaginary Bitches and Empire. Recent film appearances include the documentary Soap Life--ruminating alongside Agnes Nixon and Eileen Fulton--and James Franco's indie feature, Francophrenia.

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