Monday, July 25, 2011

INTERVIEW: Julia Barr Reflects On Her Career and Brooke English, Part 2 of 2

In Part 1 of our interview with Julia Barr, the Emmy-winning actress shared memories of moving to New York City, landing roles on RYAN'S HOPE and ALL MY CHILDREN, and her 30-year portrayal of Brooke English. In Part 2 below, Barr talks about leaving ALL MY CHILDREN, returning in 2010, and tells us what she thinks of the show's move to the web.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: By the time you left the show, there had been changes to the writing staff multiple times. No one thought these shows would last first decades when they first started. Is it possible to keep a soap true to itself for that many years?
Julia Barr: If you see nine seasons of FRIENDS, they kept their writing pretty good. But I think it's difficult for a lot of shows.  It's difficult because you have to have a central vision that's very strong that you can implement through your writers and producer. If you lose your vision or core of understanding of who the characters are, and just go off on a tangent, you are writing in a limbo, and your actors are acting in a limbo.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: When ALL MY CHILDREN was canceled, Agnes Nixon was interviewed and one of the first things she talked about regarding the show possibly ending was Erica's Daddy issues. It reminded me of what the character was all about and just how far away some of the stories had gotten from the original vision of the show.
Julia Barr: Remember that old expression, "If it ain't broke don't fix it"? Well, it was never broken when they started to fix it.

Part of it is that times do change. I don't know how long daytime would go on because there is so much competition with cable and lifestyles. But it's going to be interesting with Prospect Park to see what happens online.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Whenever I talk to the actors on the show or the fans, there seems to be a lot of agreement about what works and doesn't work.
Julia Barr: The networks began to panic when there began to be a noticeable audience dropoff which they attributed to O.J. Simpson. There was so much drama going on in that real environment. Some people stopped watching and when you break a habit like that, it's hard to get people back.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: It definitely is if they tune in and don't see faces that seem familiar.
Julia Barr: Dare I wax poetic, it's like a garden that needs to be tended. It requires a great deal of care and interest on a lot of levels. I think that was abandoned. It began to be thought of like, "well, that doesn't matter" for this or that character. They found out it mattered a lot.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Have you shot your scenes for the finale yet?
Julia Barr: Not yet. I'm going out the third week of August. I believe I will be there for the last 10 days.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: You came back last year and fans loved having Brooke back on the show again. What was it like taping out in Los Angeles?
Julia Barr: It was great. Strangely enough, after all these years, they had brought back Debbi and Darnell who I had known forever, and all these people that I knew were there--Walt Willey and Susan [Lucci]. Even some of the newer people from the last five or six years I knew. Except for a few people it was like old home week. The crew and production staff were wonderful.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Do you know how they are ending Brooke on the TV version?
Julia Barr: No, I haven't seen anything or heard anything. I probably won't know until I go out there.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: What was the biggest change that happened from a production standpoint from 1976 until now?
Julia Barr: They've definitely sped up the tempo of the show. The scenes are much shorter and jump around much faster. The actual format is shorter too. It used to be 50 minutes for an hour show and now it's down to 37 minutes with commercials. The editing and pacing are much faster. The way they shoot the show is completely different than even 15 years ago. They do bits and pieces from several different episodes in one day. When I first joined the show it was shot from beginning to end.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: I really enjoyed the older scenes we got back then on both RYAN'S HOPE and ALL MY CHILDREN. We could know so much about character at the end of a five-minute scene. And now some of the scenes are 15 seconds long.
Julia Barr: They feel like they have to get a certain amount of information in and that people have gotten used to shorter periods of concentration. I asked a guy whose a filmographer and producer Jill [Larson] and I have been working with if people's attention spans are getting shorter and he said it's actually beginning to lengthen again.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: We actually just posted an article that says the same thing. And the devices for TV and the web are merging together as well.
Julia Barr: That's why I think they can produce ALL MY CHILDREN and ONE LIFE online. Eventually it will be connected for people.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: We cover a lot of indie soaps, and there are a lot of different approaches from subscriptions to product placement that producers are taking. But no one has come close to making the type of money that is currently needed to produce ALL MY CHILDREN or ONE LIFE TO LIVE. So everyone is curious how this Prospect Park deal is going to work.
Julia Barr: As am I. But it's in the works. When they talk about different platforms, I think they are saying they know how to make money from this. I don't know exactly because that still seems to be the biggest problem. You can get a commercial product to give you a certain amount of money, but I don't think it's the money that networks made.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: A while back it was reported you were working with Jill Larson on a couple of projects, WRITTEN OFF and VINDICATED.  Are they still in progress?
Julia Barr: It's taken a while. Jill wrote something called VINDICATED in 2007 and we finally put it together in 2008. It was Linda Dano, David Canary, Michael E. Knight, us and others. We were just getting ready to re-edit it when the announcement came that ALL MY CHILDREN was moving, and that put Jill in a different gear getting ready to move to L.A. We're back with the people who produced it for us and we're putting together a teaser/trailer.

We also worked with the same people in something they wrote called WRITTEN OFF. The two in tandem are pretty funny. They are trying to sell them. We may find an angel for one or both. But they are still very much in the works. It just takes a while sometimes.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: I really admire everything you do in helping animals with various organizations.
Julia Barr: Thank you. They've been a big part of my personal life and I do whatever I can.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Any chance we'll see you doing some New York theater in the future?
Julia Barr: As much as I love theater, I'm not sure I want to do another show unless it's a short run. I love seeing my husband in the evenings [laughs]. I went away to do "Arsenic and Old Lace" in Ottawa, Illinois, with Walt Willey last summer. We were in rehearsal for 12 days and we did three productions and it was a lot of fun. I hadn't been on stage 25 years and it was great. It was way out of my comfort zone because it had been a while. If the opportunity presented itself for something short, I would consider it. I would definitely do more AMC if they came calling and it worked out.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: I hope it's in good hands moving forward.
Julia Barr: I think it will be. We're all just waiting.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: If you could go back 35 years to when you started on soaps and give yourself one piece of advice, knowing that you know now, what would it be?
Julia Barr: The most important thing in any profession is to be true to yourself because things can come and go, and change for better or worse. You have to have a good foundation for who you are and what you feel about things to weather the ups and the downs. Particularly in this business, it can take you up and down, and you have to love it and be true to yourself.

- Prospect Park Makes Statement: Contract Talks May Delay AMC/OLTL Move to the Web

Roger Newcomb is a producer and writer in New York City. Aside from co-hosting WE LOVE SOAPS TV, he has written and produced a full-length indie film, Manhattanites, and two radio soap operas, SCRIPTS & SCRUPLES and ROCKLAND COUNTY. He has also made acting appearances in indie web series IMAGINARY BITCHES and EMPIRE. He has consulted on numerous indie soaps and is currently an associate producer on THE BAY and executive producer on the upcoming indie short May Mercy Lie.

1 comment:

  1. Nice interview with interesting questions. Thank you!