Thursday, October 21, 2010

Christian LeBlanc: The We Love Soaps Interview, Part Two

In Part One of our interview with Christian LeBlanc, the Emmy-winning outspoken talent discussed his hosting and participating in both the upcoming exciting Soap Star Spectacular and Soap Cruise Fourth Voyage, as well his take on VENICE THE SERIES and the Indie Soap Revolution. In Part Two below, LeBlanc shares his perceptions on the future of daytime television, as well his fascinating artwork.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Do you think it’s possible for daytime television to tap into that enthusiasm again as it did 20-30 years ago?
Christian LeBlanc: I think because there are so many choices you have a culling of the herd. You can’t sit on your laurels. Sitting around for one hundred years doesn’t make you relevant, it makes you old. The story you told yesterday is what is going to make or break you. I really think you can tap into that if you’re writing good stories, and if you’re not playing down to your audience. Who would have thought THE SOPRANOS would have succeeded? Watch the writing in MAD MEN. There’s no reason why we can’t have that. Write a good story, people will come.

In daytime we have a lot of things that supposedly plays against us, but that has never not been a factor. Soaps started at fifteen minutes for God’s sake. So there’s got to be a media change, and a way for it to make money, you have to think outside of the box. Serial work is fascinating. Prime-time is now doing continuing stories that don’t end at the end of the episodes, stories that leave you hanging. They are adopting a soap format as far as characters coming in and out. Look at DAMAGES. What they have at the core is amazing writing and amazing acting.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Daytime soaps have so much to offer in the unique way they connect with audiences, five times a week, year after year. They have the ability to promote spiritual wellness by showing these characters overcome traumatic adversities.
Christian LeBlanc: Of course, just like any good theater. And not by doing it as a PSA. The mistake is to make it a public service announcement. But when you integrate important topical things into your plot line, and you do it well, and you respect your audience, and you make it real, and you use your good actors, then you’re just helping people understand what it’s like to be human.

It’s like when you watch [the Broadway play] "Doubt" and you see Cherry Jones on stage. I’ve never been a nun, I’ve never been faced with that choice, but you get the element of what it would be like to question something. You get that sometimes to not be sure is a smart thing. It leads you to think. That’s what good writing does, like good therapy. You don’t give the answers, you point somebody in a certain direction, give them a nudge, and let them find their way. That’s what true drama is. The audience is with you, you are not teaching them anything. They are with you in the situation you have created because you’ve been honest.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: I think Y&R has been exceptional in that way, it has traditionally told stories as intrinsic part of the character’s life, not as Very Special Episodes.
Christian LeBlanc: You have depth of talent of Y&R that has been pretty consistent. We don’t have characters that just tag along. Jeannie Cooper is highly skilled, she has over 35 years on the show. You see Sharon Case at the top of her game. Billy Miller is brand new but you have someone really talented there. Michael Muhney too. We just got Maura West. There are young stories, older stories, and to tell stories, you need the multi generations. This is the only show where a character in her 80s hauls her own storyline alone. You have to have that kind of stuff to give what soaps can offer. Young people are interesting but they are much more interesting in the context of a multi-generational story. Nobody wants to see MELROSE PLACE all the time, 24/7. Nothing against MELROSE PLACE, I just find that my taste is a little bit broader than that.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: You mentioned living in New Orleans. I know you have had much of your art work displayed in shows down there. How did that begin for you?
Christian LeBlanc: I hate negative cash flow in all its forms. I was studying medicine at a university and was actually working at a hospital when it happened. My older brother is a fantastic artist. My younger sister studied it. But I’m self taught in what I am doing now. I used to make cards for my nephews. And then the big bump came when I was off the show [in 1993]. They let Michael go because I was just too damn mean. I was doing the play "Ladies In Retirement" with Julie Harris, and Charles Nelson Reilly was directing. It was one of those wonderful things where it all came together. He loved my artwork, and Julie Harris is a bit of a workaholic. She said, “You should be doing this, why aren’t you doing this?”

So through Julie and Charles I started selling my pictures. Through a friend of Jess Walton’s I had my first art show in Washington DC. And then I just had one in my hometown where I was reviewed. All legit! It was fascinating, I sold half myt pieces the first night. It’s really one of those wonderful things, I get to be so free with the art. Every time I am sitting in front of a blank piece of paper it is terrifying. But I’ve never studied it, so I tell myself, “Just start and it will work out fine. It always has before." I’m not supposed to be good at this so there’s no judgment. I just dive in.

It’s fascinating to have that in comparison with acting where you should be able to do the same thing, that is, dive in without preconceptions. I get so fearful sometimes about acting, whereas I don’t have that with the artwork. I’m afraid it won’t work sometimes but I have no judgment on it. If you don’t like it, there’s the huge check I got for my last painting. My part of the creativity is just to dive and let go. Everyday I remind myself, “Look, you just did this piece. You haven’t taken a damn class. People love it. You started again, you trusted, it worked out. So what did you do with your acting today? You got all tense and scared. You knew you had to be excellent, you knew people would be watching you.”

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: It sounds like you allow yourself a freedom from judgment in your artwork that isn’t there in your acting.
Christian LeBlanc: Yes. And you have to capture that freedom again in your acting. We all do. I want to be the best actor I can be, that’s where my passion really lies. If you don’t like my picture that’s fine. But with acting it’s pretty much YOU that you are selling. Its your personality, its your complexity, its your history, its you. That’s why we are such rampant egotistical personalities sometimes. You have to be so strong.

EDITOR'S NOTE: To meet Mr. LeBlanc himself, please sign up to attend Soap Star Spectacular or Soap Cruise Fourth Voyage. Until then, come back for Part Three we discuss coping with fears, as well as what drives LeBlanc's constant energy and enthusiasm.

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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