OUTTAKES INTERVIEW with RENO VENTURI -- talking about the webseries, PLEADING SANITY.
Wednesday, June 4, 2014
OUTTAKES INTERVIEW with fashion and nature photographer KRISTIAN SCHMIDT
OUTTAKES INTERVIEW with BLAKE BERRIS (ex-Nick Fallon, DAYS OF OUR LIVES)
Hear what Blake has to say about his indie films, DAYS OF OUR LIVES and his upcoming play, IF ALL THE SKY WERE PAPER.
Monday, May 19, 2014
May 13, 2014 Interview with GLORIA LORING. A consummate singer and entertainer, Gloria Loring is the recording artist of the #1 hit song "Friends and Lovers," co-composer of television theme songs for Diff'rent Strokes(1978) and The Facts of Life (1979), an audience favorite from daytime TV's Days of Our Lives (1965), spokesperson for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), the author of seven books, a keynote speaker, one of the few artists to sing two nominated songs at the Academy Awards, and is the mother of world-wide singing sensation Robin Thicke. Radio interview available at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/outtakes/2014/05/13/gloria-loring--heavenly
OT: Tell us a little bit about HEAVENLY and who you play in it.
GL: This is kind of a short film from about 12 to 14 minutes. It's about this woman, Johnnie that I play...who has a daughter and a little 8-year-old granddaughter. She has had a tough life, but she has figured out how to survive. She has had some drinking and drug problems -- which is good for me to play because I need to have a lot of compassion for her and feel that she's justified to have those things. So I need to open my heart to people who have those kinds of problems. I certainly have my own little addictions, whether they be to shopping or an extra cookie or whatever it is! So I understand trying to fulfill one's desires or trying to anesthetize pain. Johnnie has this daughter who is trying to be upwardly mobile in society with her church; and the daughter has this bible study class that meets at her house. Johnnie shows up (with her big hoop earrings!) early because she gives her daughter botox injections. Even though she's not a doctor or a registered nurse, she has figured out a way to make some extra money by getting Boxtox from Mexico. She knows that her daughter has her bible study class; and she wants to get some new clients. So she shows up. Of course, there's a lot of fuss with the daughter about that. Johnnie does wind up giving some introductory offers of Botox to a couple of women there. It's about the relationship between the mother and the daughter; and what's actually going on behind the scenes. The fascinating thing -- and I don't want to give the surprise away because it really is a zinger at the end of the movie -- is that the basis of this story was drawn from the headlines with a woman who was involved in doing something that got her arrested. Johnnie seems to be the problem, the one who is doing everything wrong in this movie. But in truth, she's not as guilty as one might think. That's what's really fascinating. I love that has -- like in any really good movie -- something that really gets our attention and leaves us talking and wondering and thinking and contemplating what's going on here. It's going to be great fun. I'm going to sort of disguise myself. I went out and got a fabulous red and blonde wig to wear. Johnny's much more flamboyant than I am in my personal life, although I certainly have been on stage; so I know how to be flamboyant. We have wonderful actors in it. It's going to go out to the film festivals; and we'll see if it goes somewhere from there.
OT: The directors, John Stanley and Timothy Turner, were talking about using the film to bring back retro styles of cinematography. For example, deep focus shots like in CITIZEN KANE. Was that an appeal for you in doing this project?
GL: Yes! The video that I did for the appeal on Indie-Go-Go is shot in black and white. We don't normally see many films in black and white anymore. It really brings the eye down to form and structure. Tim graduated from architectural school; and John is a photographer. So their eyes are attuned to structure and form. I think they're really fascinated with that. They have a fabulous camera that they got in order to shoot this in the highest quality black and white. I think it's going to look really beautiful. I think it's going to be very attention getting. The subject matter, the relationship between the mother and daughter -- and of course, the granddaughter figuring into that. I had known John [Stanley]. Ten years ago or so, his wife was my assistant up here in Lake Arrowhead. They've stayed up here in the community; and they have two little daughters. He didn't even call me. He sent me a package and said, I'd really love you to read this script. We're going to make it into a film; and I had you in mind when I wrote the role. I read the script; and I thought I want to do this. Most all of us are donating our services. I don't think anybody's hardly getting paid. We're doing it because we love the script. We're doing it out of love. And so we welcome people to go out on Indie Go Go and help support us. There are all different levels. Even with just a $25 donation to the film, you get to download the film; and you get signed posters as you go up the scale of how you can participate. It's very exciting.
OT: I think it's wonderful these days when people want to put together passion projects and get them up that they have these sites like Indie-Go-Go where people can help make these projects happen.
GL: You get to feel like you played a small part in getting something accomplished. You feel like you're one of the co-producers in a sense. We've had some response already. We're working on some larger donors. So we're going to see how it all goes. We're supposed to start shooting in a little over a month. They have a lot to do in fundraising during that time. I'm just letting people know that it's there. Hopefully, folks will step in and step up and help us get this done.
OT: Could you tell us a little bit about your book, COINCIDENCE IS GOD'S WAY OF REMAINING ANONYMOUS?
GL: It's a memoir, but it's a memoir with a message. That phrase -- coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous -- is a quote from Albert Einstein. Someone said that to me when I was telling them of how some coincidences came into my life to help me raise millions of dollars for diabetes research after my son Brennan was diagnosed with diabetes. I told the story of these coincidences; and this fellow that I was talking to said, Oh, but you know coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous. And I said, whoa, wait a minute, I've got to write that down! Coincidence is what? God's way of what? Remaining anonymous! It seemed like such a big idea. It sounded really smart, but I couldn't quite get my mind around it -- what that meant and how that worked and all of that. As the next several years went along, I noticed these coincidences that were happening. These coincidings. Just as I secretly decided to separate from my husband Alan Thicke back then -- Robin Thicke's dad, a woman started sending me letters of comfort that I had met once. She had said, I just started getting messages for you. I pray, and I'm getting messages for you. The letters she sent to me were so enormously personal as if someone knew my greatest fears and doubts. So that was another one of those great coincidences. That's probably one of the biggest reasons I wrote the book is because of this particular story. I needed to know more about this; and so I researched quantum physics because Albert Einstein was a physicist. He had this great vision of the universe. I also investigated spiritual traditions and observations from the great spiritual masters about what that presence and power and love many of us call God -- what it is, how it works, where it comes from, where it resides, et cetera, et cetera. I found this wonderful junctioning of these two things. This idea of a great spiritual beingness and quantum physics. So I wrote the book with my personal stories with some of that information in it. So people could get a bigger vision for themselves. It's true that very often exactly what we need to know and exactly what we need to grow to the next level are just waiting to come into our lives. Many times, it is whispering at us or tapping us on the shoulder or stepping into our lives in the form of someone who offers us either an opportunity or an obstacle to overcome. If we have our eyes to see and ears to hear, if we have a bigger vision like Albert Einstein's vision, that these coincidings -- these meaningful events in our lives -- may be trying to tell us something. If we have that, then life starts to become an adventure. Somebody or something happens...and we go, hmmmm...what is this asking of me? What is this drawing me toward? What is this asking me to turn away from? As opposed to possibly feeling like, oh, crud, another terrible thing happens or just my luck. That sort of defeatist attitude. There's lots of stuff that's real tough that's going to step into our lives, but if we have a bigger vision, we can then use those difficult circumstances. That's what I'm able to do now because of all of this investigation and research. This was a long process. It took me over ten years to write this book. So it's been really exciting. I've been getting responses from people saying that this has really changed the way that they live their lives and look at their lives; and they go back to it again and again. There's a lot of wisdom in it from different traditions and different great minds and hearts. It's been exciting to hear how it's been received and used by people.
OT: So you're also writing a column for SOAP OPERA DIGEST.
GL: Yes, I write a column called "How to Drop the Drama". When we get a really big vision for our lives and we know that things may come in that will challenge us for a reason and we can find that reason for ourselves, then our tendency to create drama for ourselves around difficulties subsides. I've been teaching this and giving workshops for quite a while. So with talking with Stephanie Sloan at Soap Opera Digest, my publicist said, you've got to share this stuff in a column. So for the last year or so. I may get myself back to my office desk and sit down and write another book -- because I have more than enough information and wisdom to go into it. That may be one of my next projects. But talk about coincidence! I was here at the house; and I was working on some singing. My manager and I were talking; and I said, you know, I really want to do some more acting. Do you know within three days the script for the film arrived? And also, I was cast in a play. Within three days of just thinking about, hmmm, you know, I really want to get my feet back into acting. I want to find those moments in that way again. I do them with music; and I do them with speaking engagements. It's about being in the moment and communicating. I had a wonderful time in the play. We were in Palm Springs. It was written by Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron. The play was called LOVE, LOSS AND WHAT I WORE. It's about five women on stage who talk about these articles of clothing that they wore at pivotal times of their life; and how they remember those events in their life through the clothing; and the clothing reminds them of feelings and people. It's very funny and very touching. We had a very successful run. I look forward to doing more now. I do have some new agents; and they've been getting me out for a few things. There's a huge amount of competition, but there's a place for everybody. I love doing the live theater. I've always been a live performer. Live first; and then television. There's something about hearing the audience respond to you in that moment that is just so satisfying. You're connecting to people. One night, you do the line; and the laugh is kind of hmmm; and the next night, you go, I know what I've got to do. I know what I have to feel when I deliver the line; and you deliver the line. And the laugh's big. And you go OK, I've found it. And it's just so much fun! It's just a ball!
OT: Do you still keep in touch with any of your past co-stars with DAYS OF OUR LIVES?
GL: Every once in a while, I run into somebody. Our lives have taken us in so many different places. The people I've had the most connection with through the years after leaving the show would certainly be Bill and Susan Hayes. I've seen them a couple of times. And Thaao Penghlis. Thaao's such a wonderful character. I just love him. He was so much fun to work with. He was so energetic. We just had a really good time. Joe Mascolo has a home up here in Lake Arrowhead; so every once in a while, I run into him at the grocery store.
OT: Do you look back and have a favorite DAYS OF OUR LIVES storyline that you're really proud of?
GL: I was really happy that we got to do a storyline about diabetes. My son had been diagnosed; and they decided to have Liz's daughter, Noelle, get diabetes. That was very satisfying because I had had a lot of letters from people whose children had diabetes. One woman lost her little daughter to undiagnosed diabetes. She said, you have to let people know that this can kill. It was really heartwrenching and very powerful to be able to bring the information and share that with people; and maybe make them a little more aware in case one of their children was diagnosed, et cetera. I think that storyline was very deeply satisfying, to be able to do something that perhaps was more than just entertainment, that was really educational for people.
OT: Not only do people remember you as "Liz" from DAYS, but now you're "Robin Thicke's Mom"! Could you tell us anything about what Robin is up to right now?
GL: I tell people I used to be Gloria Loring. And now I'm #RobinThickesMom! He is in the midst of all the upheaval of his personal life. He has written in just a couple of weeks a brand new album. More than one album. He probably has two by now. They are rushing that album to completion. It will probably be out around the end of June. He's working very hard. I know he had a photo shoot for the album cover. They are doing a video. There's just all kinds of stuff going on. In the middle of that, we're all taking care of his little son, Julian. Everybody's managing really well, bringing the best of themselves forward. That's who my sons are. They both try their very best to be a good dad and a good husband and a good friend to the people they love.
Indie Go Go campaign for HEAVENLY https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/heavenly-an-independent-short-film
Gloria Loring FB page: https://www.facebook.com/gloria.loring.9?fref=ts
Gloria Loring on Twitter: https://twitter.com/GloriaLoring
Gloria Loring FB page: https://www.facebook.com/gloria.loring.9?fref=ts
Gloria Loring on Twitter: https://twitter.com/GloriaLoring
Friday, May 9, 2014
May 7, 2014 Interview with MICHAEL CARUSO, creator and star of DEVANITY. The hit web series is nominated this year for Best Web Series at the Daytime Emmy Awards. This show -- full of dysfunctional family drama, sex, drugs, murder and a dazzling array of guest stars -- has been on the internet since 2011. With its third season up for a nomination, OutTakes talked with Michael about this series. Radio interview available at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/outtakes/2014/05/09/michael-caruso-creator-and-star-of-devanity
OT: Congratulations on your Daytime Emmy nomination for DEVANITY. Are you planning on attending?
MC: Absolutely. Are you kidding? (laughs) It’s not every day you get a nomination like this so it’s not one of those events where you say, yeah, I was gonna go but I decided to stay home and wash my hair. My wife and I will absolutely be in attendance with several other people from our cast and crew. We’re very excited about it. It’s a tremendous honor; and I’m still kind of recovering from the shock of it all. I don’t know if that has necessarily happened yet. But we will definitely be there.
OT: Have you been to the Daytime Emmys before?
MC: I’ve never been. We’ve watched it on television in the past. At this point, I have a lot of friends who are on daytime. So I watch all the interviews and the red carpet stuff. I’ve never actually been. It’s crazy because the ceremony is in downtown LA where my wife and I actually both live and where we filmed DEVANITY. It is right up the street from us. So it couldn’t be more convenient.
OT: So how did the idea of this web series come to you in the first place?
MC: We started DEVANITY in 2011. The honest answer to this is that I always wanted to be on a daytime soap opera. God has given me many wonderful gifts in life, but being an Abercrombie & Fitch model is not one of them. So unfortunately it just never really panned out that way. I realized that if I wanted to be on a soap, I was going to have to create one for myself. We live in the jewelry district of downtown LA. So we would walk by all of these beautiful windows with all of these amazing creations. I turned to my wife one day and I said, “You know, nobody has ever done a show about this.” I think ultimately a great soap at its core has to be about typically family – and something for that family to fight about. That’s kind of where the genesis of DEVANITY began. It’s about a family that runs a very dysfunctional jewelry empire. That was kind of the birth of that whole idea.
OT: That’s cool to create your own content. That if you couldn’t get in a soap, you would make your own.
MC: Yes, absolutely. Honestly, I think that is where this industry is going; and not just with soaps…but movies and television. A lot of people are now realizing that they need to reclaim their careers and the kind of characters that they’d like to play. More and more people are doing that. That is what is so spectacular about this category – and what is so spectacular about this online movement – is that it is really giving people this incredible chance to create, tell their own stories and do their own thing.
OT: When I interviewed DEVANITY cast member Gordon Thomson, he was saying how DEVANITY was similar to DYNASTY, except with an edge. Being able to do stuff that you couldn’t do in the 80s on ABC. Did you watch a lot of primetime soaps as a kid like FALCON CREST or DYNASTY? Were those influences for you?
MC: When those shows were on, I was a little too young to get them. My grandmother’s favorite show was FALCON CREST; and the whole world stopped whenever it was on. And then my mother and my aunt loved DALLAS and DYNASTY. I believe DALLAS was originally on Friday nights on CBS. I remember sitting on the steps in my parents’ house in New York, watching my whole family watch DALLAS. Obviously we were in no way allowed to watch shows like that when we were kids. I didn’t really discover DALLAS until many years later when I was in college. There was a channel that doesn’t exist anymore called TNN which is The National Network; and they reran the entire series. I pretty much fell in love with DALLAS; and I didn’t see DYNASTY until many years after that. I’m a huge fan of those shows. I find them captivating. I love the concept of the high drama and high glamour. It was not my intention to set out to duplicate either of those shows in any way, but I think it is such an incredibly flattering thing when you’ve got one of the major stars of DYNASTY comparing my little web series to this iconic television series. I take that as a huge extraordinary compliment. Working with Gordon has probably been one of the coolest things to come out of DEVANITY. And we’ve actually become very good friends post-DEVANITY. It’s been really great.
OT: Speaking of DALLAS, also a congratulations for Charlene Tilton who won Best Guest Star at the Indie Series Awards this year…
MC: She did! Charlene is a firecracker. She is so full of life and energy, so enthusiastic. I have to give her props. She joined us in Season 3. She was supposed to return for Season 4, but there was a scheduling conflict; and she was not able to solve it and do the scene that I had written for her. When I reached out to Steve Kanaly who played Ray on DALLAS for 10 years, he wasn’t familiar with the whole web series world. He reached out to her. And she said, “Steve, you’ve got to do this. You’ve got to do this show.” So she helped me get him on Season 4 of DEVANITY which was just incredible. Sheree J. Wilson joined us in Season 4 as well as a guest star. So we’ve got a little DALLAS contingency on DEVANITY which has been pretty exciting. I was so proud of Charlene for winning that award. She absolutely deserved it. She did a phenomenal job. A total dream to work with.
OT: You also had some great daytime actresses on the show like Andrea Evans and Arianne Zucker. How did you manage to get all of these amazing people?
MC: Rewind to back after Season 1 had ended. Season 1 was a very exploratory season for us; and we were really testing the waters. If you had asked me when we started if we would have been in Emmy territory four years later, I never would have thought that in a million years. We were just trying to create something and see where it went. After Season 1, I realized that we really needed to step up our game. I wanted to bring in some name talents. Kyle Lowder, who used to be on DAYS OF OUR LIVES and BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL – he and I actually went to college together. He’s a couple of years younger than I am. One of our other cast members, Erin Buckley (who played my sister Jackie) was going to the Daytime Emmys years ago. I said to her, “Well, if you happen to see Kyle Lowder there, tell him I said hi and see if he’d be willing to have a conversation.” And she did. And he was. We brought him on in Season 2 as a guest star, which was amazing. Kyle’s great; and I always love working with him. In Season 3, he came on as a series regular. One day, we were talking on the phone; and he said, “Hey, do you think you might have something for Ari?” And I was like, “Uh, yeah! Are you kidding me? Of course I do!” I had to twist it up a little bit…so I wrote her character as his character’s sister (which was kind of gross because they were married at the time). Ari Zucker, I would say, has to be one of the nicest most down-to-earth women I’ve ever met in my life. She is absolutely the girl next door. She came on set; and she acted as if she had known everybody for a million years. She couldn’t have been cooler and more go with the flow and just happy to be there. With Andrea Evans – typically what I do is I just reach out to agents and managers, that’s how I hire people or ask people to work with me. I have their characters already written so they get their script; and they get to decide whether they want to do the show or not. We’ve been very blessed that the show does have a very good reputation in the industry. I haven’t had a lot of problems getting the people that I’ve sought after. We’ve just been very lucky in that regard. And Andrea Evans is another one. This is just daytime royalty sitting in my living room. The most normal down-to-earth kindhearted person you could ever hope for. We were talking about our love for animals; and she was telling us about her daughter. Just a really normal lovely sweet lady.
OT: How was it acting in a series that you were writing?
MC: In the plus column, with the introduction of DEVANITY, I become so immersed in the world that I very easily slip into the role of Jason DeVanity. He’s kind of like a second skin to me. The bigger challenge is that not only am I acting in it, but I’m also the producer and the set designer and the costume coordinator and the crazy person that has to order lunch for the cast and crew and whatnot. So I don’t think it’s necessarily the acting part that’s the challenge but the fact that I wear probably 15 to 20 hats. In addition to that, I’m very fortunate that my wife is the co-executive producer; and she’s right there by my side. And we’re working together. I have a wonderful team of people. A very small crew, but they are incredibly dedicated. My director, Kelley Portier; her husband, Rod Portier, who is our cinematographer. Everybody chips in. Kelly has always been really great at saying “OK, Michael. Now you get to just worry about being an actor.” So we tried to make sure everything was squared away so when it was time for me to be in the scene, that’s the only thing I have to focus on. Which is really nice to be able to do.
OT: I love the beginning sequence with the jewelry and the classical music. Was that what you created?
MC: I picked the theme music years ago that has always been our theme. The wonderful composer, Vivaldi – a far more creative genius than I could ever hope or aspire to be. It’s actually a program that I licensed. I licensed the actual program; and then you slip in the moving images and screenshots of people. We basically paid for that. Rod puts it all together and adds the names. So you have your great big opening title sequence. I am a very big fan of opening title sequences from those shows from the 80s. I think it really helps to get your audience churning and burning. It gets them ready to go. And it really sets the scene for what we are going to expect. What is the kind of story that we’re going to tell?
OT: So sadly this was the last season of DEVANITY. Why bring the show to an end?
MC: I’m a very firm believer in not overstaying your welcome. Good storytelling has a good beginning, middle and end. What I didn’t want to do is to keep it going just for the sake of keeping it going and then burn out and diminish the quality. I really wanted to end it on a high note. Keep in mind that we’ve been doing this for four years without major financing, without people to cut us checks. We all do this as a passion project. I can fairly say that after four years of burning the candle at both ends, I think that everybody was ready for a break and to walk away from it. Those six or seven episodes – although the audience is seeing it in a six or seven week cycle – we’re looking at that all year. From the writing to the preproduction to the production to the postproduction, we don’t ever get a break. We all work full time jobs on top of it to pay for the show. So I think that it was an equal mix of both creative and logistic decisions that it was a good time for us to say, OK, I can end this and be happy with how it is going to end and start on a new soap opera. Work on something different. As much as I love DEVANITY – it’s like my child – I love my show but it is time to move on; and it’s time for something new.
OT: So you plan on working on more web series in the future?
MC: I do. I’m currently developing a new soap opera which I’m exceedingly excited about. It’s going to be very fun and very cool. I’ve talked to a couple of actors about it; and they seem very excited to do it as well. I’ve made a firm commitment to take a break and take the rest of this calendar year off. I’ll formally start preproduction at the beginning of next year. I told myself that the whole purpose of ending DEVANITY was to take a little time off and recharge the batteries. But you get an Emmy nomination…and it’s like Wow! If that isn’t a battery recharge, I don’t know what is. It’s all very surreal how everything comes full circle. It has always been the little project that could. I’ve always been very committed to never resting on our laurels. We’ve been very fortunate. We’ve got so many wonderful nominations from the Indie Series Awards and HollyWeb and all of these great festivals. We’ve had a lot of love given to us. And that always inspires me to say…how can I be better? How can I make the next show better? How can we really dazzle and excite the audience? And tell a great story? That’s what I’m really hoping to do with my next show. So I think this is a really good thing. We’re just going to enjoy the moment and celebrate four years of DEVANITY. The truth is there are so many people that are still discovering the show. That’s the beauty of a nomination like this is that it opens up the doors to a whole new audience – that you thought knew about it, but they didn’t. They’re finding it for the first time; and they’ve got four seasons to play with. I’m very proud of that fact.
OT: It’s also exciting that ONE LIFE TO LIVE, the web series, is up for Best Drama. That’s the first time ever that a web series has been up in that category. So that just shows you how the world is changing.
MC: I think that entertainment is changing. At the end of the day, whether it is on TV or on the computer, a good story is a good story. If you create a good story and fill that story with characters that the audience cares about, the audience is going to follow those characters. The medium of either television or the computer is just a tool – just an instrument to tell those stories. The most important thing is that the soap genre stays alive, that it thrives, that it’s healthy; and now you have this influx of new blood that’s willing to try things a little bit differently. We were always the black sheep. I don’t come from a daytime background. I don’t have a soap opera pedigree. I’m not a connected person in that sense. So we really kind of came out of left field and were able to build that from scratch and cultivate that audience. Soap fans are the greatest fans on earth. They’re loyal. They’re loving. They’re passionate. And they really embraced DEVANITY. I think this is a very exciting time in soap opera history. It was a little rocky there for a while but I think that the internet has given soap operas the opportunity to transform and to have a rebirth. A dramatic Phoenix from the ashes kind of thing.
OT: When you look back on DEVANITY, do you have a favorite moment, storyline or scene? Is there a special highlight for you?
MC: I don’t know if there’s one moment in particular. I think it was the first day – and it wasn’t something that you saw on screen – but the first day that Gordon Thomson filmed with us on the set. We’re sitting there; and he’s telling us a story about working with Charlton Heston. Then he started telling us a story about working with Jim Henson. Then he started telling us about Aaron Spelling. Those are three people that I worship. These are the greats. Gordon has worked with each and every one of them, talking about them from first-hand experience. It was just this really surreal moment that an actor that I really looked up to was performing in something that I had written – and was generous enough to be telling these stories, not in a comparison kind of way, but just talking about his life and experiences – and being so grateful to be a part of DEVANITY. Those are moments that you don’t forget. Watching Gordon and Andrea have lunch and they’re chit chatting; or having Charlene or Sheree talk about their time on DALLAS. We have two pitbulls; and Maxwell Caulfield loved to play with the dogs. And I’m like, these people are in my home! This is crazy! Who does this? Who gets this? This is like a trip to Disney! That’s what I take from DEVANITY. Not just the celebrities…but all of these amazingly hard-working gifted talented people that have believed in my dream and worked with me to achieve it. It’s been this delightful collaborative wonderful process that will I never forget.
Watch DEVANITY at http://www.devanity.com/
Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/DeVanity
Michael Caruso Twitter https://twitter.com/MCarusoactor
Thursday, January 16, 2014
STEVE BLACKWOOD (remembered for his role of "Bart" on Days of Our Lives talks about his acting book -- The Steve Blackwood Sessions -- as well as his career of teacher and film actor. Among Steve's numerous film credits are: Ed Gein, Machine Gun Preacher, Mooz-lum, Beyond the Mask and Cedar Rapids. Having recently moved to Newburyport, Massachusetts, Steve currently teaches acting around the Northeastern area.
OUTTAKES: What have you been up to since Days of Our Lives?
SB: First of all, I miss the DAYS fans. I miss being on the show very much. The gang was great. But what happened was when they killed me off and my evil twin never came back [laughs], I moved to Michigan. In Michigan, they had a tax cut where they were doing lots of movies. So as it turns out, when I left LA, I actually was starting to work more in movies than I ever did before. I did a movie called Machine Gun Preacher with Gerard Butler; and I play the evil banker. Also, I did a funny scene in Cedar Rapids with Ed Helms. I did a voiceover in The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure, the cartoon movie. And I did a part in Mooz-lum starring Danny Glover. And I just finished a movie called Beyond the Mask which is a historical drama. I play one of the mean loyalists who try to kill George Washington; and John Rhys Davies (for The Lord of the Rings movies) is the star of that. So it’s been crazy busy. And I’ve also been teaching in colleges as well as an adjunct professor. Professor Blackwood. Professor Bart! And it’s been great. I’ve really been enjoying the teaching. Suffice to say, it’s been very busy. I miss the show…but one chapter closes, and another one opens up. As it turns out, I think I have a knack for teaching acting.
OUTTAKES: Speaking of new chapters, you have a book out called The Steve Blackwood Sessions. What inspired you to write this book?
SB: My favorite acting book of all time was a book called Respect for Acting by Uta Hagen who was my acting teacher no less in New York City. It’s like my bible. What I wanted to do was to write something – a combination of what I learned from Uta in New York and what I learned from Milton Katselas, the acting teacher to the stars in Los Angeles; and I wanted to condense it into a practical handbook for actors that condenses everything into a motivational handbook for them that they can carry around with them to auditions. I never had one of those; and I wanted to fill that void. I wanted to follow my mentor’s path and to write an acting book. But it’s not just an acting book. It’s motivational. It’s kind of about following your dream. I grew up in a middle class neighborhood in Detroit where everybody was either a carpenter or an insurance salesman; and I danced to a different drum. I followed that. This book is to encourage all those people that have a different drum inside them and to follow that different drum wherever it goes. If you follow what you love, the money will come. So I wrote this book not only to inspire actors but to inspire people that gave up on their dreams or are thinking about giving up on their dreams. My answer is don’t, don’t, don’t. So that’s why I wrote this book.
Pictured with Ed Helms and Alia Shawkat, Cedar Rapids (2011)
OUTTAKES: You’ve been an actor for thirty years in the business; and this is your first book. How was your experience of writing it?
SB: It was great. It’s a lot harder than I ever imagined. First you write; and it’s like, oh, this is great, this is easy! I wrote a lot about Days of Our Lives and some funny times that I had in there. I write about doing some of the comedy with Deidre Hall (Marlena) when she was “Hattie”. I loved doing that. Deidre loved doing comedy; and it gave her a chance to stretch. I always wanted to bring as much comedy as I could to DAYS. In fact, I talk a lot in the book about tags -- the final camera shot of both actors at the end of the scene. One time “Bart” came in; and I did something good. Joe Mascolo (Stefano) surprised me. He came up to me and he gave me a big kiss on the lips. So my tag -- my close-up at the end – was not acting. It was real shock and surprise! Joe was great to work with. He was always surprising me with stuff; and he kept you on your toes. He’s a real pro; and so is Deidre. I talk a lot about the wonderful actors there…like Thaao Penghlis (Tony) who is a most kind man and very giving. Thaao was one of the actors that was into my comedy. He would play straight man to me and not be worried about being upstaged or anything like that. He knew that it was lending itself to the scene. He was a good guy; and I miss my partner. And I miss “Rolf” (Will Utay). I write about all of them in The Steve Blackwood Sessions. To answer your question, the hard part [about writing the book] was towards the end…when you are nervous and you have to submit it to the printer for the final print. And you’re worried if you have the punctuation right. You start to go over the book again and again. And it’s “Oh, it doesn’t sound right to me…” and “It stinks!” [laughs] And you go through all of the second guessing of yourself. When you get to the point where it’s actually going to go to the printer, that’s when it got real hairy; and I started going over it. For all you first time writers, I suggest you get an editor and not do what I did. My assistant and I did a lot of this work; and it was just mind-blowing how much you miss…because you didn’t get a comma here…this sentence needs to be cut…that sort of thing. And that all happened right at the end. I was just doing eleven hours a day every day, just reading it over and over and editing it over and over again. Because you want it to be right the first time. They’re going to be printing thousands of books; and you don’t want to live with mistakes. It was a wonderful experience – and also very hard work! It is not as easy as I thought it would be.
"Bart" montage from Steve's work on Days of Our Lives
OUTTAKES: What did you love the most about playing “Bart” on Days of Our Lives?
SB: The writers and the producers let me rewrite the material so I wasn’t just a one note minion to “Stefano”. They ended up letting me do the comedy; and that is what I truly loved. My mentors were Cary Grant and Jack Lemmon. I just loved doing comedy, trying to figure out a way to play it straight – not to play goofy comedy, not to do over-the-top comedy, but to keep it real. What if this minion, this “Bart Biederbiecke”, was not the sharpest knife in the drawer? I ended up taking the script and adding to it; and the writers let me do it. Every time I got a script, I started working that. After a while, the writers got the idea of how the character was going by watching what I was doing on TV; and so they ended up writing for “Bart”. They ended up writing for the comedy…which was wonderful. So my suggestion to actors is to follow your gold. If you have a knack for comedy, keep doing that. If I had played “Bart” the way they originally wrote it – where “Stefano” and I were building a secret room for “Susan” and we were going to lock her away – I would have been out and never been back on that show. I would have done the two weeks that I was supposed to do; and that’s it. But somehow or another, those wonderful DAYS fans hooked onto the comedy; and they kept me going on there for ten years. What I loved the most about it was to find the funny in the soap opera because everybody needs to laugh once in a while. Life is hard sometimes. I just want to make people laugh.
Pictured with Thaao Penghlis and Josh Taylor, Days of Our Lives (2005)
OUTTAKES: Did you have a favorite moment or storyline from DAYS?
SB: There were a lot of them! The crossdressing was kind of funny. The time that I was a male stripper to “Bonnie” was a funny thing. I loved working with Deidre as “Hattie” during that whole sequence. We just had so much fun. I was doing kind of a Columbo wrap-up of the whole case in front of the whole cast. Even Bill and Susan [Hayes] were there; and I was wrapping up my cracking of the case of the “Bart/Hattie” situation. I finished this whole sequence where I had two pages of dialogue…one big monologue; and the whole cast applauded. It was so cool and fun. The dramatic thing that I remember the most way back when was when I kidnapped “Bo”; and I hung him up in the warehouse and there was a fire. It was great because I really got a chance to play an evil villain in that. “Bart” wasn’t as funny back then as he ended up evolving to be. I loved that sequence as well. The whole “Princess Gina” kidnapping “Bo”. That was a real cool storyline to work on.
Pictured with Lauren Koslow, Kristian Alfonso and James Scott,
Days of Our Lives book signing (2013)
OUTTAKES: Let’s say Ken Corday calls you tomorrow and wants you back on DAYS. If you could write a storyline for your character, what would you like to see happen with him?
SB: Here’s what I’d like to do. I’d like “Bert” (Bart’s evil twin) to come back – and for him to be almost like James Bond. He’s not funny at all; and this is what would be funny. They all think he’s “Bart” but he’s the evil twin. They all think he’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer. But he’s very cool. He’s very sophisticated. He’s very smart. He outwits “Stefano”. The comedy would be everybody thinking he’s the dumb one, but he’s the smart one. That’s what I would do. I’d love to play the other side of the coin. That would be funny.
OUTTAKES: What is it you like the most about teaching students?
SB: I love to inspire them. I love to get them thinking outside of the box. Especially the students because they’re just starting off. There’s a lot of people telling them what to do. I think college should encourage individuality; and that’s what I try to do in my acting classes. I ask the actor what would they do if they were in the given circumstances of a scene. What would they do? For instance, if the actor’s name is John Doe…[I’d ask him] “John, what would you do?” He’d say “Well, I think that the character…he’s more sophisticated…” I’d say “Don’t say he. Say I. What would I, John Doe, do in the circumstances if my wife was leaving me and I wanted her to stay? I ask these students to reach into their personal histories. If a girl is breaking up with them, I’ll say, “Has someone ever broken your heart? Go back and think about that when you’re doing the scene.” I like to personalize that. I try to teach, motivate and inspire kids; and even if it’s inspiring them to change their own personal lives, whether it be that someone is suppressing them in their life or if some friend of theirs is saying, “What is this acting stuff? You don’t want to be an actor. How are you going to make a living as an actor?” You start listening to those voices of those people. You start believing it; and then you end up doing the very thing that you don’t want to do. So this is what I try to tell them. If they’re an actor, I encourage them to go all the way with it and to personalize that role. To bring themselves to whatever role they do.
Ed Gein (2000)
OUTTAKES: What sort of acting classes do you teach?
SB: All of it. Two-person scenes from plays and from movies. From The Silence of the Lambs, heavy material like that. Or we’ll do monologues – two to three minutes of something from a play; somebody talking to themselves or talking to somebody else solo. Also, cold reading seems to be the most popular thing in my seminars. I bring in my own copy of different movies and plays; and I say you have about five minutes to look it over – and then boom, you have to be up there reading it. A lot of times when you go to an audition, an actor will read for a part; and then the casting people will say, no, we want you to read for this. So you basically are cold reading it. You basically have to make some fast strong choices as an actor to try to book the role…or at least to book the callback. Cold reading is a technique in and of itself. A lot of people will read new copy and keep their face down in the copy. I teach them to read one line at a time and bring those eyes up off the copy and onto the camera because the eyes are the windows of the soul. Especially on camera which picks up everything. I do a lot of different techniques. I even do a little improv in my classes as well.
Misled (to be released)
OUTTAKES: You give a lot of credit in your book to Uta Hagen and Milton Katselas. What would you say were the most valuable lessons you learned from these legendary teachers?
SB: The biggest lesson that I got was how to work with your partner on stage or on camera…meaning how to listen and how to react. If you watch any television shows – soap operas or whatever, the ones that are really the most interesting to watch are the ones that seem to be spontaneous. They seem to be reacting to what’s being said to them in the moment. That’s what Uta would teach us. It is death for an actor to anticipate the next line. A lot of actors will rehearse and go over it and go over it; and they’ll actually rehearse how the line’s going to be said. I don’t believe in that. I believe if you’re listening and being in the moment, it will come out differently ten different times. You don’t have to do it the same way over and over again and again. One of the great actors, Jessica Tandy, was doing A Streetcar Named Desire as “Blanche” with Marlon Brando – people would see her give a different performance each night. That’s what I try to do myself and what I try to teach the actors. Don’t anticipate how you’re going to react or what you’re going to say next. Know what you want, but it all depends on what you’re getting from your partner. In fact for me, the best acting lesson that Uta and Milton taught me is to gauge how fellow actors are reacting to me when we are working together – and to go for what I want. If they don’t give me what I want, try something else. To basically base my performance on their reaction and what I’m getting from them and make it about them. Then you end up being the most interesting one in the scene. But you’re making it about them. You’re not worrying about how your lines are coming out and how you are reading the line. Never do a line reading. Be in the moment. React spontaneously. That’s what they taught me.
OUTTAKES: If you have a new student in your class who has never done any acting whatsoever before, what advice would you give them?
SB: I’d say to study. Keep studying with teachers, be it me or somebody that they connect with in their gut. A lot of times, there will be a really good acting teacher and a good actor – and they don’t connect. They don’t vibe with each other. So find the teacher that you vibe with the most. The second thing that I would say to the new actor is to do. You can’t just be in a classroom studying acting. You’ve got to get out there. That’s what Milton Katselas taught me in Los Angeles. Administrate. Meet casting directors. Get into plays. Experience is the biggest teacher. You’re going to find out what the audience is reacting or not reacting to by doing the plays. Do student films if you can’t get into the bigger films. But doing is what is going to give you the experience. Acting class is great, but you’ve literally got to get out. I’ve seen too many people that are professional acting students. They stay in class; and it’s a safe environment. You can’t. You’ve got to get out there and mix it up. Audition. Get into something. That in and of itself is a great experience. The experience of doing the student film, the low budget film or the big budget film is going to give you more confidence to do the next one. Doing one play will give you confidence to do the next play. But do, do, do…
Pictured with Molly Paddock, Mooz-lum (2010)
OUTTAKES: What inspired you to become an actor?
SB: I went to college in Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan; and I was going to be a journalism major. I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to write for newspapers. Then I took an acting class in college. I found that I had a knack for it. I always loved movies, but I didn’t know I had a knack for acting. We had this showcase at the end of the year; and I heard the applause – which was addictive. Do you know what I mean? It was just like, wow, they like me…like Sally Field. They really like me! [laughs] So that hooked me. Then I started doing more scenes in college. I changed my major from journalism to theater – and never looked back. My family wasn’t into it at all. They weren’t very supportive because they weren’t from that. I was the only one in my family that was in the arts in any capacity. So it was like I was breaking new ground. It was very frightening, but I knew in my gut that I had to do it. Then I read Respect for Acting. In Michigan, I picked up a copy. And then I said I’ve got to study with this woman, Uta Hagen. So once I graduated, I drove out with a waitress friend of mine to New York to take classes. I had to audition at HB Studio in New York for Uta Hagen. She accepted me. It was a wonderful day when she did that. I was her key student. I made coffee for her; and I had a discount on the classes. It was kind of like a scholarship. I was in a New York acting class with Matthew Broderick and Jason Alexander, people like that. It was a great class. But it all started when I read Uta’s book and the college classes. That’s when I said this is what I want to do with my life.
Pictured with Tom Mahard, John Rhys-Davies and Franco Pulice
Beyond the Mask (to be released)
OUTTAKES: Were there any stage actors or film actors that you found particularly inspiring?
SB: Cary Grant. Jack Lemmon. The ones that did the comedy. Michael Caine…who also has a great acting book and videos. He’s a wonderful teacher as well. Vanessa Redgrave. People like that. George C. Scott. So many great ones have inspired. Filmwise, it had to be Jack Lemmon and Cary Grant. Especially Cary Grant. This guy was my idol, the genius of them all. Comedy is so hard to do. People don’t know this, but Cary Grant deserved five Oscars. He never won one. It’s much harder to do comedy than to do a big emotional scene and cry. It’s much harder on film to make people laugh. And to do it with the class and the timing that he had. Lucille Ball said comedy is just hard work. And Lucy was another big influence of mine. If you watch Lucille Ball on I Love Lucy, she’s fantastic. She’s real. She’s got physical life when you see her. You believe she’s in a kitchen. You’ve got to play this stuff straight; and the people will laugh more. You don’t go for the laughs. You be real. And she reacted like Lucy. What would Lucy do in that situation? It was great.
Boeing Boeing cast, Meadowbrook Theatre, Rochester, MI (2009)
OUTTAKES: What is your favorite project you’ve worked on, not counting “Bart” on DAYS?
SB: In Michigan, I did a play called Boeing Boeing which was one of those experiences where everything went right. I played “Robert”, this guy who walks into madness. His former college roommate in Paris has three stewardesses that he’s trying to juggle; and I’m just the wide-eyed observer to all of it. It was a wonderful part in an unbelievably funny play. We won a lot of awards; and the audiences loved it in Michigan. There was a standing ovation every night. As an actor, it was like I was in heaven every night. That was the best experience. On film, aside from “Bart”, I did a role in Machine Gun Preacher with Gerard Butler. We had a lot of fun. We added a lot of dialogue to it and kind of improved it. I play the banker at the end of the movie who denies him the loan. That was a favorite part of mine too.
Pictured with Gerard Butler, Machine Gun Preacher
OUTTAKES: If you could play any role, male or female, young or old – what would be your dream role to play?
SB: As much as I love comedy, I think down the road I’d like to do “Willy” in Death of a Salesman. Because my dad was a salesman. I try to pick projects that hit me in the gut; and that would be one of them. I’m not quite ready for it now, but down the road – in another five years, that would be a role I’d love to tackle.
The Steve Blackwood Sessions is available for order at Amazon.com
This interview was previously recorded on 3/18/13 on Blogtalkradio. Available at link: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/outtakes/2013/03/18/the-steve-blackwood-sessions-bart-days
Saturday, January 11, 2014
For all of you reading this article, I encourage you to read TRUTH OR SMEAR, PART ONE first so you have a good idea of where I'm coming from. A thanks to all of you who have given me positive feedback and consider me unbiased. A lot has gone down this week...and I'm not quite so sure that I'm still unbiased...but I'm trying. PART TWO might turn out to be more of an opinion piece. All comments on this blog are moderated. Any personal insults to any of the Y&R actors will not be put up. Also, any comments that are rude to those commenting will not be put up.
I do not support Hunter King for her allegations...if there are any. I do not attack Hunter King for her allegations...if there are any. I do not support Michael Muhney against Hunter King's allegations...if there are any. I do not attack Michael Muhney for Hunter King's allegations...if there are any.
A MESSAGE FOR NELSON BRANCO (author of UNCENSORED)
For the sake of both Michael Muhney and Hunter King, I hope your sources are right. My apologies to Angelica McDaniel for mentioning her in Part One if she was not involved with the TMZ fiasco. If you are following this story, his column about it is worth the read. A subscription magazine for $2.99.
A MESSAGE FOR ERIC BRAEDEN (VICTOR, Y&R)
Thank you. Because of that interview that you did with Radar (available at the link), you actually distracted attention from the Hunter King allegations and gave us all something else to think about. And I believe you. I remember at the 2012 Atlantic City Soap Opera Festival where Michael had made comments about "Victor Newman" -- definitely an exhibition of too much hubris and the need for more humility. Now the "young lion" has been fired and is being tarred and feathered (justifiably...or not) on the internet nonstop; and it is great that you've forgiven him. I don't know what your politics are, Mr. Braeden, but I have a great book written by MSNBC's political commentator Chris Matthews called THE HARDBALL HANDBOOK: How to Win at Life which is all about life lessons he's learned through engaging in politics. In it, he advises to "fight up, not down". When you fight down, people interpret that as someone in a position of power who is picking on someone underneath him; and it doesn't look good. With all due respect, Michael Muhney is gone; and you're still on Y&R. You're sitting pretty. There's really no need to reveal the "truth" about him as you see it. If you consider my blog to be "drivel", you have my apologies. It is just that people might get the wrong idea and think that you're part of a smear campaign...or something like that.
A MESSAGE FOR ALL THE Y&R ACTORS ON TWITTER WHO HAVE SHOWN SUPPORT FOR HUNTER KING
What a beautiful gesture! Hunter King absolutely should not be attacked and bullied on the internet anymore than Michael Muhney has been, ESPECIALLY since no accurate or credible facts have come out as of yet regarding either one of them. But please be aware that in this situation, both actors are victims about a story that may or may not be true; and should have never gotten out in the first place. When you show support for her, you appear to be picking a side whether you mean to or not. What you say is support for Hunter King can also be interpreted as an implication that you are attacking Michael Muhney and supporting the TMZ story. Don't assume that just because you are picking a side in this controversy (whether because you actually saw an alleged incident...or didn't like Muhney...or genuinely feel for King) means that your fans will all follow along with you just because YOU said so. You may very well lose fans instead. They all might get the wrong idea and think you're part of a smear campaign.
A MESSAGE FOR ALL THE Y&R ACTORS WHO HAVE REACTED NEGATIVELY TO MUHNEY'S FANS OR HAVE DONE INTERVIEWS ABOUT WHAT MUHNEY IS "REALLY LIKE"
You should be so lucky to have fans fly banners around on your behalf like what has gone on for Michael this last week. Because that banner (unlike all the King/Muhney gossip and all the trumped-up interviews) is REAL PROOF. PROOF that Michael played a beloved character so brilliantly that people are willing to take out the time and money on his behalf...and that fans hate that he has been fired, hate these "allegations" against him and wish that the clock could be turned back to November 2013. Rather than mocking the fans and saying that they should spend their money on charity, why don't you get off Twitter & Facebook and spend your money on charity? If fans are rude to you, here's an idea: why not block and ignore? This is the Wild Wild West of the Internet where people are allowed their freedom of speech, for better or worse. A great majority of the fans are angry and expressing it -- and yes, some of them are getting pretty aggressive, vile and nasty in their opinions. But YOU are the ones getting paid to play your characters and be part of this show -- which means that YOU have a higher standard to live up to and should be setting an example. If you snap back at the fans, you are only feeding the anger and the controversy more. If you do interviews and gossip about what Muhney "was really like" behind the scenes, you are only feeding the anger and the controversy more. They all might get the wrong idea and think you're part of a smear campaign.
A MESSAGE TO JILL FARREN PHELPS (PRODUCER OF Y&R)
With the reality soap opera going nuts on the internet, nobody credible seems to really know anything; and if they do, they're not saying. What we all know is that the soap opera you run in reality...(remember that show called The Young and the Restless?) is BORING. If the fans actually had something entertaining to watch, maybe they would have something else to talk about. If the actors actually had something to do, maybe they'd get off Twitter. It is no secret that the show has taken a triple hit with the loss of Michelle Stafford, Billy Miller and Michael Muhney. Get your actors under control (meaning put them under a gag order) before they do more damage than they've already done. Do your job and make the show bounce back, despite everything. Here's a hint: writing plots about killing off little girls...and then doing the endlessly rehashed soap opera storyline of the whole organ donation transplant thing...doesn't work. Spend your time uplifting the soap opera genre and save your show which is tearing apart at the seams. Otherwise, people might get the wrong idea and think that you're spending all your time on a smear campaign rather than trying to produce a good television show.
A MESSAGE TO THE FANS
To the fans of Michael Muhney: I'm sorry. This sucks! To the fans of Hunter King: I'm sorry. This sucks! To the fans of The Young & the Restless: I'm sorry. This sucks! To the fans of the daytime genre: I'm sorry. This sucks!
A MESSAGE TO HUNTER KING
You're a beautiful lady with a lot of talent. I've enjoyed your storyline as "Summer", especially your scenes with Peter Bergman. And yeah, I wish Jack were really Summer's dad...and I think the whole thing about Sharon switching the results was a cop-out on the writers' part. Whatever happened, this too shall pass.
A MESSAGE TO MICHAEL MUHNEY
When you met fans in NYC, Battery Park, April 2011 -- you mentioned that this quote was particularly inspiring to you as an actor:
"Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm." -- Winston Churchill
Never lose your enthusiasm...for the Greek origins of the word "enthusiasm" means "energy from the gods". Your talent is a gift from the gods too. Don't waste it. Many of us want to watch you act again and will follow you to your next acting project. Whatever happened, this too shall pass.
Never lose your enthusiasm...for the Greek origins of the word "enthusiasm" means "energy from the gods". Your talent is a gift from the gods too. Don't waste it. Many of us want to watch you act again and will follow you to your next acting project. Whatever happened, this too shall pass.