Thursday, January 21, 2010

NY Times Arts & Leisure Weekend: AMC Event, Part Three

In Parts One and Two of our recap from the recent ALL MY CHILDREN event during the New York Times Arts & Leisure Weekend, the panel of actors including Agnes Nixon, Susan Lucci, Debbi Morgan, Cameron Mathison, and Rebecca Budig, along with executive producer Julie Hanan Carruthers, answered questions about the past, present, and future of ALL MY CHILDREN.  In this final part, they answer questions about learning multiple scripts at one time, and answer tough questions from the audience.

Jacques Steinberg: You talk about learning six episodes on one plane ride.  How do you learn it? What tricks do you use to keep it in your head?
Rebecca Budig: I pray.  It used to be that we did a show a day, and that was totally fine.  Then it went to two.  Now I have three on Wednesday and three on Thursday this week.  And I was like, “I don’t know how I’m going to do it!” I think it’s a muscle.  You start to really focus.  [To Cameron] We will use each other and say it over and over, and it will be in there by Thursday, right?

Jacques Steinberg: Then is it gone the next week after the scenes are shot?
Rebecca Budig: Unless I can’t get my lines done during the scene, which is rare.  But when it happens I obsess on it and then I know it backwards and forwards, up and down. 
Cameron Mathison: I on the other hand forget immediately.
Agnes Nixon: Debbi has all the medical stuff.
Debbi Morgan: I think I would have rather been a lawyer.  Medical terminology sometimes is just the worst.  I started as a student, and I think by the time I became a doctor on ALL MY CHILDREN it was 1984.  I just never felt right in that field.  It just didn’t feel comfortable to me.  But I hope it looks real on TV [audience laughs].  Once we had this little boy, he must have been about 10 years ago, and Angie is taking care of him and put the thermometer in his mouth, and the little boy says, “Don’t you think you should turn that the other way?”

Highlights from audience Q&A:

Response to question from lifelong viewer who stopped watching because of Julia Barr’s firing, and Erica’ unabortion story:
Julie Hanan Carruthers: I guess I’m allowed to say we are bringing Julia Barr back.
Susan Lucci: I was so thrilled.  Just now out in L.A., I saw “Ms. Barr” written on one of the dressing rooms.  I turned to Julie, and she said, “Yes, she’s coming back.”

Response to question about ABC’ s commitment to keeping daytime soaps on the air:
Julie Hanan Carruthers: I think there is a commitment to keep soap operas going.  The biggest example of that is they invested millions of dollars to move ALL MY CHILDREN and it’s cast to L.A., to facility that is three times the size of what we were working with here.  And we’ve upgraded to HD, we shot the first three shows this week.  I don’t know a bigger way to show your support, commitment, and investment in the future than doing that.
Jacques Steinberg: Also one thing that CBS doesn’t have that ABC has is SoapNet. 
Julie Hanan Carruthers: That’s correct.  ABC owns all it’s soaps.  We are part of the ABC family as opposed to being an outside entity that’s being bought by the network.  I think they have a personal interest as well as a business interest in us. 

Response to question to Susan Lucci about maintaining the integrity of her character:
Susan Lucci: I love the part of Erica Kane and I feel like a very lucky actress indeed to have the opportunity to play her.  There have been some times, for example in the past year and now it’s changed.  Now we’re seeing Erica be Erica again.  But for awhile we were seeing her be more reactive than active.  And that didn’t seem like Erica.  I would try to hold on tooth and nail to the character and I think we all do during those occasional spells.  I think we’re very much on the same page at ALL MY CHILDREN.  I find with costume design, hair and make-up, we’re very much on the same page.  We may have a discussion but no one is going to force us to wear anything that feels like it isn’t our character.  It’s a collaboration.  As Agnes said at the beginning, we really are an ensemble. 

Jacques Steinberg (to Susan Lucci, in reference to losing the Emmy award 18 times): It struck me from afar that you had that in perspective, that it wasn’t as big a deal for you as it was for us.  How did you keep that in perspective?
Susan Lucci: Thank you for that comment.  I love what I do, and that was my focus.  I would say that in the studio, from day to day, month to month, there is very little talk about Emmy or awards.  It’s really about playing the scenes.  This is a company of very talented actors who care about their work.  So we would be running lines and working on scenes and doing the work.  You put your roller skates on in the morning and you don’t take them off.  So that’s really what the day to day was.  Having said that, I was really thrilled to be nominated every time, and amazed, and so touched that anyone else cared.  I was thrilled that anyone cared.  You do get whipped into a frenzy, at least I did, every year.  I would wait to hear my name, hopefully.  After the ninth time that I didn’t win, every year after that I would go numb when they would announce the name.  I wouldn’t hear it.  I could just tell from the reaction that no one was looking at me.  But when it came time when I won that night, and Shemar Moore very charmingly announced, “The streak is over!”  I thought he was announcing some play off game!  Rosie O’ Donnell was sitting next to me.  She reached over and took the evening bag off my lap.  And people were looking at me at that point.  My husband Helmut Huber raised me up on my elbow and I whispered in his ear, “Are you sure?” Then I was in fear that I’d go up sometime and I shouldn’t go!  It was a very thrilling moment.

We Love Soaps' friend Renee Marquis:  Are there any challenges that face you in L.A. that you didn’t have in New York, or challenges that have followed you?
Debbi Morgan: I think we’re all very excited about being there.  I think initially it was a bit of a shock because everyone set up roots in New York and lived there for so long and so forth but we really just started.  We’ve only been there for about a week.  Speaking for myself, I was kicking and screaming.  I live in Maryland so I’m going to have a long commute. But as Julie said, they’ve built a beautiful state-of-the-art studio for us, we’re going to be shooting in HD.  I think everyone’s heart is racing and caught up in the excitement of it all.
Julie Hanan Carruthers: It’s a great energy.  The biggest challenge was leaving people behind. 
Renee Marquis: So it’s like a fresh start?
Julie Hanan Carruthers: It’s definitely a fresh start, and I think you will also see on the shows on the air, and in the writing in the days to come, that it’s a fresh start in refinding and redefining our foundation as it was meant to be.  The 40th Anniversary weighed heavy for all of us on the show.  It gave us an opportunity to look back and to see why it’s such a jewel.  And that Agnes has known what she was doing for a very long time.  She is our source of inspiration.   

Response to question about chemistry between Rebecca Budig and Cameron Mathison:
Cameron Mathison: We really hate each other in real life.
Rebecca Budig: [laughs] I think it’s just that we’re really good friends.  We’ve known each other for 10 years now.
Cameron Mathison: Every time I speak she laughs. I think it does have to do with what happens off camera as well.  I think the whole cast, we are so fortunate, our cast gets along so well.  I’m not just saying this because we’re here and there are cameras in front of me.  The cast gets along so well.  I think that dynamic builds such an amount of trust and comfort on set that you can just really go through things and be yourself.  When I traveled back and forth to L.A. for other projects I would stay with Rebecca when she wasn’t on the show. Our friendship doesn’t happen just because we’re on the show.  And Susan and I and Helmut, I play golf with Susan’s husband.  These things happen outside the show, and I think that helps with chemistry on screen.  If we didn’t get along...I’m just not that good of an actor.
Rebecca Budig: We work on our stuff, we work on it before we get on set, and we trust each other so much.  I always like trying to make him laugh. 

Response to question to Susan Lucci about favorite stories:

Susan Lucci: That’s such a difficult question to answer because yes, I have had so many wonderful storylines.  I can tell you some of my favorites scenes.  When Erica was modeling all over New York.  At the Met, coming down the grand staircase, all of it.  I still cannot drive by the fountain at the Plaza Hotel without remembering that day in December I sat up there in a little chiffon dress while the crew was sitting there in parkas and they were selling hot chestnuts on the street. It was so much fun! I don’t know if any of you would remember this, but Erica was in a hotel room in New York and she was hoping Jack would follow her.  And she opens the door and it’s Adam.  And there was a 13 page food fight that we had that was one of my favorite scenes of all time.  The crew stayed in, no one went to lunch. We rehearsed it, we rehearsed it, we shot it at about 9:30 at night.  We did 13 pages, highly choreographed, in one take.  We had a wonderful time.  On a more serious note, certainly the time where 11-year-old Bianca had the eating disorder.  And later, when 16-year-old Bianca came out to her mother, these were amazing scenes. They were amazing opportunities to shed light on everyone’s point of view and show respect for the humanity of our audience who was watching. 

Editor's Note: Thank you so much for reading! And special thanks to Brett Overman of The New York Times for making this event possible!

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