Sunday, June 16, 2019

Today in Soap Opera History (June 16)

1930: Clara, Lu & Em premiered.
1989: Another World's Rachel said goodbye to Mac.
1992: One Life to Live's Asa married Blair.
2006: Days of our Lives' EJ and Sami danced the tango.
"History speaks to artists. It changes the artist's thinking and is constantly reshaping it into d ifferent and unexpected images."
― Anselm Kiefer

"Today in Soap Opera History" is a collection of the most memorable, interesting and influential events in the history of scripted, serialized programs. From birthdays and anniversaries to scandals and controversies, every day this column celebrates the soap opera in American culture.

On this date in...

1930: Clara, Lu and Em, radio's first network daytime soap opera, premiered on WGN-AM in Chicago. It continued through the 1930s and early 1940s on the NBC Blue Network and CBS, finally airing as a syndicated series in 1945.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Kendrick Cross on Playing His 'Ambitions' Character: "Suddenly It Was Perfect"


Ambitions premieres Tuesday, June 18 at 10 p.m. ET on OWN. Kendrick Cross stars as Titus Hughes, a passionate attorney and dedicated husband to Amara (Essence Atkins). Titus has accepted the challenge of being in-house counsel for a big pharma company run by Hunter Purifoy (Brian Bosworth) to fight a class action suit brought by the powerful Carlisle family.

Cross explained how he eased into the role when We Love Soaps visited the Ambitions set in April.

"Initially, when I first got the audition all they gave me was the scene," he said. "I didn’t know the backstory or anything else. I developed that character. When I got on set, I had eleven different people telling me 'no, he's this" or “no, he’s that.' I was a little confused for the first two episodes."

Today in Soap Opera History (June 15)

1981: Edge of Night's Raven planned on becoming Mrs. Whitney.
1983: All My Children's Opal held a press conference.
1984: Guiding Light's Beth and Lujack hit the beach on horseback.
1999: Another World's Tyrone told Marley he loved her.
"History speaks to artists. It changes the artist's thinking and is constantly reshaping it into d ifferent and unexpected images."
― Anselm Kiefer

"Today in Soap Opera History" is a collection of the most memorable, interesting and influential events in the history of scripted, serialized programs. From birthdays and anniversaries to scandals and controversies, every day this column celebrates the soap opera in American culture.

On this date in...

1966: Antony Ponzini debuted as Danny Fargo on Another World. Danny hit Missy Palmer (Carol Roux) with his car. He helped her into the car with her wallet left behind on the street. She passed out and woke up at his place where she told him her name was Ann Summers.

1966: On The Guiding Light, Bill Bauer (Ed Bryce) lamented the failed relationship with his son, Ed (Robert Gentry).

Friday, June 14, 2019

Today in Soap Opera History (June 14)

1967: Dark Shadows' Maggie remained frustrated locked in a cell.
1983: General Hospital faced a hostage crisis.
1993: As the World Turns' Hal and Barbara were remarried.
1996: All My Children's Hayley and Brian wanted to relive their prom.
"History speaks to artists. It changes the artist's thinking and is constantly reshaping it into d ifferent and unexpected images."
― Anselm Kiefer

"Today in Soap Opera History" is a collection of the most memorable, interesting and influential events in the history of scripted, serialized programs. From birthdays and anniversaries to scandals and controversies, every day this column celebrates the soap opera in American culture.

On this date in...

1967: On Dark Shadows, locked in a cell in the Old House basement, Maggie Evans (Kathryn Leigh Scott) opened the music box when she heard Barnabas (Jonathan Frid) coming, pretending that she had been listening to it. He didn't believe her and left Maggie frustrated in the cell.

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Brian J. White Loves Shooting 'Ambitions' in Atlanta


We are only four days away from the premiere of the Jamey Giddens-penned and Will Packer-produced primetime soap opera Ambitions, which debuts on Tuesday, June 18 at 10 p.m. ET on OWN. Ambitions is a multigenerational family saga centered around one woman who, having recently relocated and intent on revitalizing her marriage, finds herself going head to head with some of the most powerful and deceitful players in the city. Brian J. White stars as Evan Lancaster, the Mayor of Atlanta who is married to attorney Stephanie Carlisle (Robin Givens). Evan's dream is to be the first African-American governor of Georgia and there's no line he won't cross to get there.

The all-star cast also includes Essence Atkins as Amara Hughes, a lawyer in the U.S. Attorney's Office who has newly arrived in Atlanta with her husband, Titus (Kendrick Cross); Brely Evans as Rondell, Evan's sister, who runs a not-quite-profitable restaurant called Thelma's Place; and Erica Page as Bella, a fashion designer in Atlanta who designs all of Stephanie's dresses for her.

Prior to taking on the role of Evan in Ambitions, White starred in numerous television series and films including Ray Donovan, Bronx SIU, Chicago Fire, Scandal, Hostages, Beauty and the Beast, Mistresses, Man of a Certain Age, and many more.

We Love Soaps caught up with White when we traveled to Atlanta in April to speak with the Ambitions cast. Check out what she had to say in our exclusive interview below.

WE LOVE SOAPS: What has your experience been like shooting this series in Atlanta vs. Los Angeles or other cities?
BRIAN J. WHITE: I love Atlanta. I've had a house here since 2005 in Sandy Springs so I'm a taxpayer and a big fan of Atlanta. It's been wonderful. My wife and daughter have been here with me a third of the time. They both love it here as well. I don't think there's a better place for the topics that we are touching on than a southern city like Atlanta, which seems like D.C. (Chocolate City) but still the south. We're talking about all those issues and it's in a city that's predominantly black. It sets the stage for a wonderful conversation that we're trying to have about how things really work underneath the surface.



WE LOVE SOAPS: What was your first reaction when you read the script for Ambitions?
BRIAN J. WHITE: I worked with Kevin [Arkadie] and Sheila [Ducksworth] on a previous version of this. I was running for the Mayor of Atlanta. The show got picked up and different things happened. We weren't able to make certain things happen at TV One. Sheila and I were producing partners and then she called up one day and told me she was joining forces with Will Packer. They called me up six months later and said "we have a new version of something you're familiar with and we would like you to be a part of it."

WE LOVE SOAPS: How is working for OWN network?
BRIAN J. WHITE: They let us do our thing. On another other show I worked on, there was like 650 people at the monitor and they were very specific. Here we stick to everything but we don't see the studio execs as much. OWN really collaborates with us and they are really trusting Will and his team to deliver the show that they agreed to put on the network. That's a big difference from some of the larger broadcasting networks where you can really feel the pressure. You can see the fun we’re having on this show. There’s more freedom.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Lovers, competitors, enemies, traitors, scandal—and that's just for starters! Don't miss the premiere of Ambitions on Tuesday, June 18 at 10 p.m. ET, only on OWN. Check out the Ambitions trailer below.



Shruti Sadana is a bicoastal producer and actor. She attended SUNY Purchase where she earned her B.A. in Cinema Studies. After graduating, she interned at EUE/Screen Gems in New York City and assisted with high profile events for Gen Art. She also worked on several productions behind the scenes and in front of the camera.  She recently produced the transgender rights short film ​Denim,​ starring Jazz Jennings. She also produces content and interviews celebrities for the online magazine, ​Hey Beauti. Shruti has worked on several cover photo shoots for their online platform with some of the industry’s most well known talent: Steve Howey (​Shameless, Reba), ​ Sarah Shahi ​(The L Word, Person of Interest, Reverie), ​ Emmanuelle Chriqui ​(Entourage, The Passage, You Don’t Mess with Zohan, Shut Eye). ​ Her interviews include Priyanka Chopra, Megan Fox, Malin Akerman and many more. Her positive nature, work ethic, and keen sense of understanding people on a deeper level has lead her to build strong relationships in the industry.







Thursday, June 13, 2019

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Essence Atkins Thinks You'll Become Addicted to 'Ambitions'

Essence Atkins stars as Amara Hughes in Ambitions.
Anticipation is building for the premiere of the Jamey Giddens-penned and Will Packer-produced primetime soap opera Ambitions, which debuts on Tuesday, June 18 at 10 p.m. ET on OWN. Ambitions is a multigenerational family saga centered around one woman who, having recently relocated and intent on revitalizing her marriage, finds herself going head to head with some of the most powerful and deceitful players in the city. Essence Atkins stars as Amara Hughes, a lawyer in the U.S. Attorney's Office who has newly arrived in Atlanta with her husband, Titus (Kendrick Cross). Originally from Texas, she is quickly gaining attention from the U.S. Attorney’s Office as a diligent investigator and prosecutor.

The all-star cast also includes Robin Givens as Stephanie Carlisle, the wife of Atlanta Mayor Evan Lancaster (Brian J. White), whose true loyalty is to her own family's prestigious law firm where she is the latest in a long line of distinguished lawyers; Brely Evans as Rondell, Evan's sister, who runs a not-quite-profitable restaurant called Thelma's Place; and Erica Page as Bella, a fashion designer in Atlanta who designs all of Stephanie's dresses for her.

Prior to taking on the role of Amara in Ambitions, Atkins starred in numerous television series and films including Half & Half, Smart Guy, Mr. Box Office, Marlon, Are We There Yet?, Girlfriends' Getaway, Deliver Us from Eva, A Haunted House, Dance Flick, and many more.

We Love Soaps caught up with Atkins when we traveled to Atlanta in April to speak with the Ambitions cast. Check out what she had to say in our exclusive interview below.

WE LOVE SOAPS: What was your first reaction when you read the script for Ambitions?
ESSENCE ATKINS: I loved the idea of telling the story, especially from Amara's point of view. I auditioned for Will, and originally auditioned for the role of Stephanie. They liked what I did but wanted to see me as Amara. When I read the pilot, Amara was the character that I immediately connected with because of her earnestness when it came to keeping her marriage together. I went through a divorce in 2016 so there is a lot of "would have, could have, should have" moments that I still wrestle with a few years later, and questions that I have. I put a lot of that into Amara's character.

That's the great thing about being an actor.  It's truly like therapy [laughs]. There are moments, wherever you are, in which you can find ways to use that and work through it to a certain extent. The marriage that I had that fell apart now gets fought for in this dynamic.

WE LOVE SOAPS: What stood out to you?
I love the story. The story of Ambitions and what it drives us to do, which is a strange marriage of ethic, desire, power, tenacity and all the things it requires to really execute whatever your ambitions are. That's what we are wrestling with, and those are the stories we are telling. Those are the balls that are in the air, and the loyalties can shift on a dime depending upon what it is you are really after and what it is at the core of what is driving you. I love that about it.

That's what is so fascinating to me because as actors we are kind of like amateur psychiatrists. We're always trying to figure out what the traumas are, what the core of things are, and what the motivations are.  Not to sound so ridiculously thespian but literally these are things that we are always mulling over through our characters. It's fun to be on the roller coaster that is Ambitions. We'll be sitting next to each other at table reads and go, "Woooooow" [laughs]. The way things that come alive at the table versus us just reading them on the paper. Robin will say something or Brian will say something and it just comes to life, and you're thinking, "Oh, this is going to be so good." We are really excited when we have our table reads about what’s next. Sometimes, we're very surprised [laughs].



WE LOVE SOAPS: What is it like working for the OWN network?
ESSENCE ATKINS: I've never worked for OWN before. This is my first time. I think we are in agreement that it is an honor for us to work for someone under the leadership of Oprah Winfrey, the brand itself and navigating a world where there is familiarity in terms of what kind of content you see and what kind of guests she has.

I've done a number of shows where I have been a series regular. Every network is different. What I really appreciate about the OWN Network is feeling supported. Just because you have a show on the air doesn't mean the network is behind you, or they believe in you or are going to set you up for success. All we have control over is the "artist" part of it, doing our best, showing up to work, making sure we are prepared and executing it. The rest of it is out of our hands and then really becomes a partnership. Support like yours--where you go out to the world and tell people that this is worth their time. Also, the support from the network because they are putting the marketing dollars behind it to bring awareness.

With all these multiple platforms, choices and people pulling for your time, it's hard for the audience know where to look. It requires the network and studio getting behind the show so they can make some sort of impression. Without that you get lost in the shuffle. We are really excited about being on a network that's really going to go deep for us. They are going to go hard, and that's a really great position to be in as an actor.

WE LOVE SOAPS: Why is Ambitions a must-watch show?
ESSENCE ATKINS: It's a great forum for storytelling. I think anybody who likes suspense, drama, romance, sex and betrayal is going to become addicted.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Lovers, competitors, enemies, traitors, scandal—and that's just for starters! Don't miss the premiere of Ambitions on Tuesday, June 18 at 10 p.m. ET, only on OWN. Check out the Ambitions trailer below.



Shruti Sadana is a bicoastal producer and actor. She attended SUNY Purchase where she earned her B.A. in Cinema Studies. After graduating, she interned at EUE/Screen Gems in New York City and assisted with high profile events for Gen Art. She also worked on several productions behind the scenes and in front of the camera.  She recently produced the transgender rights short film ​Denim,​ starring Jazz Jennings. She also produces content and interviews celebrities for the online magazine, ​Hey Beauti. Shruti has worked on several cover photo shoots for their online platform with some of the industry’s most well known talent: Steve Howey (​Shameless, Reba), ​ Sarah Shahi ​(The L Word, Person of Interest, Reverie), ​ Emmanuelle Chriqui ​(Entourage, The Passage, You Don’t Mess with Zohan, Shut Eye). ​ Her interviews include Priyanka Chopra, Megan Fox, Malin Akerman and many more. Her positive nature, work ethic, and keen sense of understanding people on a deeper level has lead her to build strong relationships in the industry.