EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Michael Caruso Previews His Highly-Anticipated Drama 'Winterthorne'

Michael Caruso created and co-stars in Winterthorne,
premiering Thursday, August 27 at 6 p.m. ET.
Michael Caruso graduated from Syracuse University with a B.F.A. in Drama. After leaving New York City he moved to Los Angeles and appeared in indie movies The Blackout and Mind the Gap. He went on to create and star in the Emmy nominated series DeVanity, which ran for four successful seasons. The Indie Series Award winner has written promo work for FOX's Empire, and became a series regular on Pretty, in addition to guest stints on Acting Dead, and Progress: Ask A Cam Harlot over the past year. We are now just three days away from the premiere of Caruso's highly-anticipated new drama series Winterthorne, which he created and co-stars in.

Winterthorne is the story of Miranda Winterthorne and her rise to power to control the family’s multi-million dollar candy business. Martha Madison leads the stellar cast, which also includes John-Paul Lavoisier (Days of our Lives, One Life to Live), Linda Gray (Dallas), Kathleen Gati (General Hospital), Kirsten Storms (General Hospital), Gordon Thomson (Dynasty, Santa Barbara), Kevin Spirtas (Days of our Lives), Ron Hanks (Golden California) and Josh Thrower (90210, The Young and The Restless).

We Love Soaps spoke with Caruso to get the scoop on what fans can expect from Winterthorne. Read our exclusive interview below.

WE LOVE SOAPS: What inspired you to write Winterthorne?
MICHAEL CARUSO: After DeVanity was finished, I really needed a break. We had basically not stopped in four years, and I took a little time off, though not as much as I was originally anticipating. I started getting cravings to work again, and much like how my grandmother had inspired me with DeVanity from her love of her super soaps of the '80s, my grandma loved candy. When I was a kid she use to get gum drops and cinnamon bears and all this fun stuff, and we would talk and eat candy together.  It was a really lovely memory. Nobody's done a show about candy before, and I thought it would be fun to take something very innocent and happy on the surface and add a very dark undercurrent to it, and kind of create a family that used something like this as a front for something much deeper and scarier. That's pretty much how Winterthorne was born.

WE LOVE SOAPS: Do you still love candy?
MICHAEL CARUSO: I would say that candy doesn't love me. My metabolism pretty much told me years ago the jig was up. [Laughs]

WE LOVE SOAPS: There has been a lot of candy in the trailer and promotional photos. I probably would have eaten it all.
MICHAEL CARUSO: You would think that but honestly after being around it all day it wasn't as enticing as one would think. We had one dinner scene in the show where we're eating candy, and it was about seven hours worth of me eating take after take after take of gummy worms. By the end of the shoot, I was so cracked out on candy it was ridiculous. I was bouncing off the walls.

WE LOVE SOAPS: Did you have it in the back of your mind to try to make Winterthorne as different from DeVanity as possible?
MICHAEL CARUSO: I didn't want to make the same show. DeVanity was a show about rich jewelers, and I didn't want to make a show about rich candy makers. I would say that the roots of Winterthorne go much deeper than DeVanity did in the beginning. The DeVanity characters evolved and developed over the seasons, and I really tried hard to create a very strong foundation in this first season of Winterthorne, and really let the audience get to know who these people are over the four episodes within the core family. There are moments of camp and humor but it's far, far less than DeVanity. I really didn't want to do the same thing, and wanted to challenge and push myself in a different direction as a writer.

WE LOVE SOAPS: You have won many awards over the years, including for production design a few months ago at the ISAs. DeVanity always looked beautiful but, based on the trailer, Winterthorne is a whole new level of design and style. What look were you going for?
MICHAEL CARUSO: I wanted to do a modern fairy tale. I wanted to create a world that exists in reality but it's a fantasy, to do something you could really say is a fantasy but with no magic power or magical characters. Everything we do is rooted in something real. To create that world, I took elements from history, and it's kind of a blend of genres--a little gothic, a little whimsical, and we incorporate elements of nature with feathers and textured elements to create people that kind of live by their own rules and exist in their own plane.

DeVanity was very much set in Los Angeles, but we don't know where Winterthorne is set. There's no city that's ever named, and it could be anywhere. It's for the audience to decide. Unlike DeVanity, the sets are a lot more complicated with candy in every shot. We have a scene where we used five thousand marshmallows. The candy is part of their day-to-day lives, and that was the main production design challenge.

WE LOVE SOAPS: You worked closely with your wife, Barbi, producing Winterthorne and in many different areas of the show. What is the secret to your success as a husband-and-wife superteam?
MICHAEL CARUSO: Barbi and I love working together, we always have. We're very lucky in that regard. The secret is to really listen to each other so you don't feel the overwhelming need to have to win every disagreement we might have.  But we really don't disagree that much on things. We look at it as something fun for us to do as a couple. Where maybe a couple would go to the Bahamas or whatever, we produce these shows and really, really enjoy it. And when we're finished with the work, we turn off that switch and we're just Michael and Barbi, and try to keep the two separate.

Obviously it's a very engrossing process, and hard sometimes to separate, but we never let anything interfere in the marriage itself. We have a lot of fun doing it. We enjoy getting the candy or flowers, and because we do everything together we feel included in each other's process.

WE LOVE SOAPS: Let's talk about your all-star cast. Martha Madison is not only talented but is one of the nicest human beings alive. Did you have her mind when you were writing Miranda Winterthorne? Or when did you know she was the right actress to play the role?
MICHAEL CARUSO: She was the only one ever considered for Miranda Winterthorne. There was nobody else. I've been gestating on this story idea, and we had met her at the Daytime Emmys two years ago when she was interviewing for Soap Box. There was something about her that struck me. She has an energy, a drive, a charisma that I find very inspiring. Also, what fascinated me about Martha was as Belle--at least her original incarnation--she was a sweet and soft character, and I felt no one had ever explored the other side of Martha. When we met with her, I really challenged her, and said I want to create a character that people aren't expecting, and a person that is going to shock to audience into seeing what you're capable of doing.

She was immediately drawn to that. I wanted to almost rebrand her in a way as Martha 2.0, the new Martha Madison who is a grown woman capable of a lot of different things and many layers. It's such a female-driven storyline, and Martha's such a powerful woman, I really wanted to create a character that conveyed that. I knew who the character of Miranda was in my mind, I just needed her to say, "I'll do it." As soon as she said yes, everything went forward from there.  But she was always our Miranda.

WE LOVE SOAPS: I'm excited to see the entire cast in action, but Dallas star Linda Gray has a special place in my heart so I'm especially thrilled to see her as Joanna Winterthorne. What has it been like working with Linda?
MICHAEL CARUSO: Linda is so kind and sweet and gentle. She was so open to the process and excited for us, and just an absolute pleasure to work with. This is a new medium for her, and not something she was familiar with. Her character is so important, and really sets everything in motion for, not only the season, but the rest of the series. She is that person. It was a joy. She really took it seriously and jumped right in. She told some fun stories from Dallas, and was just great to hang out with on set. Everyone was excited to work with her. It's crazy when you have television royalty performing something you wrote. It's such an honor.

Working with Kathleen [Gati], Gordon [Thomson] and all the actors, it's such a privilege when you give somebody your script and it resonates with them and they say they would love to do it.

WE LOVE SOAPS: When and where can viewers find Winterthorne?
MICHAEL CARUSO: You can find us at winterthorne.com. It is free and will be streaming 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can also follow us on Twitter (@Winterthorne1) and you can like us on Facebook. The first episode airs Thursday, August 27th, and then we move to Fridays the following three weeks. It will air four weeks in a row.

WE LOVE SOAPS: I know you have also been busy working on other projects, including Club 5150.
MICHAEL CARUSO: Club 5150 was a blast. We had an incredible time. Crista Flanagan is the star of the show, and probably one of the most talented actresses I've ever worked with. She is so funny, absolutely hilarious, and is also an incredible dramatic actress. We got to work with Deidre Hall and Eden Riegel, and the whole cast was amazing. It was a really enjoyable shoot, and I think the audience is going to like it.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Watch the Winterthorne extended trailer below:

Winterthorne premieres August 27 at 6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT on winterthorne.com, immediately following Linda Gray's guest appearance on Soap Box with Lilly and Martha.


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.  He currently co-hosts entertainment talk show Serial Scoop Now.

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