Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Christian LeBlanc: The We Love Soaps Interview, Part One

Good news for soap fans!  Christian Leblanc, the three-time Emmy winning actor from THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS who was named one of the 50 Greatest Soap Actors of All-Time earlier this year, will be actively hosting and participating in both Soap Star Spectacular and Soap Cruise Fourth Voyage in upcoming months.  Please read on as he shares why it's in his job description to keep Jeannie Cooper out of jail, as well as what he thinks about VENICE The Series and the Indie Soap Revolution.   

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Let’s talk Soap Star Spectacular. You  are hosting this amazing event.
Christian LeBlanc: Lock your doors and hide your daughters.  I am hosting this.  I am wrangling the cats.  It’s better just to picture me with a chair and a whip.  That’s about what I’ve got.  There are at least ten people on stage.  Michael Gold’s whole concept of celebrity events is that you take away the “them” versus “us” velvet rope.  You’ll need a crowbar to pry the soap stars off of you if you go.  They are that way.  Come on, you have Kim Zimmer, Jeannie Cooper, Michelle Stafford, Michael Muhney, you’ve got all the freaks here.  Strike “freaks” and use “legends!” No, Jeannie is a freak.  She is one of those people who at age 80 something will leave you in her dust.  She is amazing.  I travel with Jeannie all the time.  I could not be a bigger fan.  I remember Greg Rikaart and I were once in a parade with her, in an open car, in the heat.  Greg and I looked like we had been hosed by a fire hose.  Jeannie, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., was coifed, powdered, beautiful, a lady.  We looked like we had just finished doing yard work.  So yes, I’m hosting.  I’ll be there to help you file the police report afterward. 

At Soap Star Spectacular  you get to interact.  We don’t get a live audience when we tape our show.  This is where we and the fans get to build something together.  It’s an interaction, not just us sitting on a stage.  It is the best of both worlds.  You get to do scenes together.  You get to have a Q&A where you’ll find out all our dirty little secrets.  And God help you, they will tell you!  It is my job to try to stop them from wrecking their careers. know.  It’s a losing battle.  There’s only so much you can do. I can only try to guide them into something that doesn’t give them as many years in the pen.  Between Kim Zimmer and Jeannie Cooper alone you have 40 years of history.  I sometimes just get lost in their stories. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Then I can only imagine what the Soap Cruise is like in January!
Christian LeBlanc: Well, then on top of that, you’re trapped! There’s no exit unless you want to swim to Cuba.  They have to say to me, “Leave the fans alone, they’ll miss their next event, shut up!” I’m like “WHY? Give me another vodka and red bull and leave me alone.” It’s one of these wonderful events where I’ve stayed up until two in the morning talking politics with fans.  Or, on one cruise there happened to be some people from New Orleans and I’m from there after Katrina and we just hung out.  We are there in Mexico where our time is our own.  You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen a bunch of actors on scooters charging into Cozumel.  Those poor children.  I’m most amazed that Mexico still lets us in.

It’s low grade chaos, but that was Michael’s point.   You’re not rushed along.  The experience isn’t so regimented so that you get hi and goodbye and something fairly surfacy.  If you want an autographed picture you can mail for one, this is a lot more than that.  These are all actors who love doing that.  This is not every actor’s cup of tea, not everyone wants to be on a boat and attacked by soap actors.  But for those of you who are willing, have we got a story for you! These are actors who all love being with the fans and who love performing.  We act out scenes that the fans cast.  We all fight to be the angry mob in whatever scene we are doing.  It’s that kind of mayhem.  There’s karaoke, acting out scenes out together, Q&A.  It’s so much fun.  I enjoy doing it.  I get to be in these situations that never would have otherwise happened, and I get to be in places that I never would have been.  We don’t usually get to hear what the fans think. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: I remember you began hosting the Creative Emmys this past June in your underwear.  Any chance that is going to happen again at either one of these events?
Christian LeBlanc: I try lots of things.  Whether or not they let me out on stage is another story. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: There seems to be such joy in you at these public events.  Whenever I’ve seen you host, or interact with fans at events, you emanate such happiness. 
Christian LeBlanc: Thank you.  You know how you’re indoors at work.  And I love my work.  But this is like the frat house goes on vacation.  The audience is not an audience anymore, they are basically witnesses to the crime scene.  They can participate as much as they want, but the actors are unleashed! I can try to keep them from destroying their careers but you can only do so much. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Speaking of not destroying careers, I wanted to discuss with you the future of the continuing story format through indie soaps being produced on the web. 
Christian LeBlanc: I was just talking to Kim Turrisi recently, the VENICE head writer.  I was busting her chops during a leukemia walk.  I insulted her every way that was possible to insult her.  She was on her phone looking at a game.  I’m like, “Think of the charity, dammit, you and your football.” She turned out to be Kimmy, who is such a friend now. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: It is such an interesting time for the soap industry.  Kim and Crystal Chappell are an exciting part of the changes. 
Christian LeBlanc: And you have to be excited about it.  Most people are afraid of it.  But if you look at it as an opportunity, those are the people who are going to succeed. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Have you considered being part of an internet soap?
Christian LeBlanc: I would love to, like THE BAY or something.  I was particularly interested in watching VENICE because of Crystal Chappell, Nadia Bjorlin, and people that I know.  It was fascinating to watch, and I was pleasantly surprised.  It’s one of these things that has to be explored.  I think Google Television is the way we’re all going to be going.  You’ll just buy your content piece by piece, you’ll get what you want.  But it’s all so fascinating.

The networks know, but then here’s GLEE, making money.  And all the cross promotion that does.  There is a formula.  I know the casting directors.  Kim Urlich, who was my sister [Diana] on AS THE WORLD TURNS, her husband is Eric Dawson, the casting director of GLEE. That had no hope at all, it was just an outside guess.  The gay character was some guy who wasn’t even up for the part but they thought was so special they put him in.  Then Robert brought him in, and it was risky.  Who thought that was going to succeed? You don’t know.  It was just someone’s vision.  You didn’t have people sitting in a room and saying we’ll do “A” and then “B” and “C” and we’ll do some focus groups and we’ll construct something.  GLEE wasn’t supposed to succeed.

It’s always been that way.  People think this is new, and that there was some golden age.  There wasn’t, ever.  People love to complain that the writing for shows was better in the old days.  We’ve always had stuff that we have to make better.  The problems have always been the same—lack of creativity, or you’re scrimping on the wrong things.  It’s always been a business model.  But it’s about the people who are excited and who have a vision about these things.  Bill Bell had a passion for soaps.  He thought in terms of soaps.  He never got my real name, he never used it.  He called me “Michael” because that’s how he thought of me in his head.  Now you had a genius there, he had a gift.  The thing that will take this industry down is ego.  It’s not money, not anything else, it’s ego.  People refusing to learn or they think they know it all.  One or the other. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: It seems fear plays a big part in that too.
Christian LeBlanc: Of course.  People want to prove they know enough, and then stop growing.  Like saying, “I know the solution.”  We have always have to reinvent ourselves, it is all about continuing education.  Use the new media, fight with all your strengths.  If you don’t know that, you get left behind.  It is a fascinating period.  It’s about the enthusiasm and creativity.  And pay your writers for God’s sake!  Because any story starts with good writing.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Come back for Part Two in which the outspoken LeBlanc discusses how daytime can continue to thrive, as well as his personal fears.

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Therapist now accepting new clients in New York City.  He is also the author of the popular book "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve." He is especially excited about hosting The Third Annual Give Up Your "Shoulds" Day on November 1st.   

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