Thursday, January 16, 2014

OUTTAKES INTERVIEW with STEVE BLACKWOOD of DAYS OF OUR LIVES


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

TRUTH or SMEAR? Part 2 -- The Muhney-King Y&R Controversy -- MIXED MESSAGES


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. 

DISCLAIMER

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.

MIXED MESSAGES

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.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

TRUTH or SMEAR?! The Michael Muhney Y&R Scandal on the Internet



THE FIRING

On December 17th, the storm started.

Michael Muhney ("Adam Newman" from THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS on Twitter: 
I'm so sorry.  It breaks my heart to say this, but I was just let go from Y&R.  My last day on set is this Thursday.  My last air date will be Jan 30th.  I'm going to take some private time with my wife & kids, as I am most concerned for their well-being.  I have 3 episodes to film, and because they are my last, I will be giving it everything I have.  More details to follow...#xoxoxo
On December 18th, Michael did an exit interview with Nelson Branco of HuffPost TV Canada:
Q:  Who told you? And what's the official reason for your departure?  
A:  [Executive Producer] Jill [Farren Phelps]. We had a private talk in her office. She's always been very kind to me. We have a good rapport. It was intimate ... the way it was handled. [Pauses] Part of me feels this is because I've always been outspoken, and sometimes I've been too outspoken. Sometimes I've walked around with a big backpack full of hubris. That is entirely on me. CBS, Sony, and Jill Phelps are not to blame for that. If I'm going to claim to be a grown man, I have to own that. But it could be financial or story. It was explained to me that CBS and Sony want to give Adam a break for 3-6 months and then they'll bring him back with a different actor. Maybe he does need a break. Adam has been on screen a lot. He's not being killed off."
The backlash was fast and furious.  For the first time, The Young and The Restless was trending on Twitter due to fan response.  Many were blaming executive producer Jill Farren Phelps for playing favorites with actors and getting rid of cast members who didn't "toe the line".  Another theory was that Eric Braeden (Victor, Y&R; perhaps one of the most powerful actors in daytime) had him fired.

HuffPost TV Canada:
Q:  It's no secret that you and your co-star Eric Braeden [Victor Newman] have had your differences. Was he involved in your firing?
A:  I do know one thing for sure: I really look up to and respect my friend, [Emmy-winning "General Hospital" star] Maura West. She had the most dignified walk down The Green Mile that I've ever seen [when she was fired from "Y&R," too]. In her final days, when her character was dead woman walking, she held her head up high and was classy and professional right until the end. I plan on doing the same thing with everyone I've worked with on the show. I'll apologize for when my character bled into my real life at times and if I was intense a few times. But I'll let everyone know how blessed and honoured I was that I got to work with them all. I got to be an actor in a land where you can play dress-up and pretend with a collective group of other talented actors. I'm going to take Maura's lead. If there were disagreements in the past with Eric, for me, it has to be history.
Eric Braeden response on Twitter:
Unfortumately there is a Canadian soap gossip who is spreading TOTALLY unfounded, vicious crap fed to him by a certain actor!...Implying I had to do with MWest's departure is libelous!!
Maura West (ex-Diane, Y&R) response on Twitter: 
Have no idea why my name is involved in any of it.
THE INNUENDO

Soap columnist Michael Logan on Twitter:
If/when the REAL Muhney story comes out, U won't B blaming ANYONE at @YandR_CBS @Sony or @CBSDaytime
Doug Davidson (Paul, Y&R)  -- NOTE:  These tweets have since been deleted:
Please know we love you guys and we will continue to bring you the best show we can.  I've got at least 20 castmates that vow the same pledge.  The Young and the Restless is a team sport.  Honestly, JFP's is not to blame.  She is terrific.  Today's events don't reflect her leadership.  Trust me, there is more to the story.
Melody Thomas Scott (Nikki, Y&R) -- NOTE:  These tweets have since been deleted:
Not my place 2 reveal but the arrogance of some ppl who have NO knowledge of the situation is astonishing.  THE SHOW IS NOT 2 BLAME.  ANY actor would've been fired under these circumstances.  Terrible loss 2 the show & it sickens me that this has happened.  Jill is completely innocent in this.  So is the show, Sony, CBS, etc.  Tragic situation.
THE DEFENDERS

Sharon Case (Sharon, Y&R) said what words could not in this tribute video that she made for her friend and co-star.  YouTube link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Xx-9yMkvoY


As expected, many of Michael Muhney's fans have jumped on board with petitions, websites and a banner to be flown over the CBS studio.  Here are a few of them:

The Don't FIRE Michael Muhney FB Page

Save Michael Muhney petition

For the Love of Michael Muhney Fund

THE SMUT HITS THE FAN

All throughout the holidays, that nasty little rumor was lurking on Twitter, Facebook and in the chatrooms. Once everyone had thoroughly recovered from their New Year's celebrations, TMZ decided to launch the feeding frenzy:
Michael Muhney, a big soap star who played Adam Newman on "The Young & the Restless" -- was fired last month after one of his co-stars complained to the brass that he grabbed her boobs -- on 2 occasions ... TMZ has learned.
Multiple sources connected to the show tell TMZ ... 38-year-old Muhney allegedly bullied and harassed 20-year-old Hunter King, who plays Summer on the show.  She went to higher-ups and complained recently Muhney had fondled her breasts on 2 occasions -- and she said both were unsolicited and unwanted.
Sources tell us ... the new allegations were the proverbial "straw that broke the camel's back."  Muhney -- who is married with 3 kids -- had been a problem on the set for a long time, allegedly bullying and harassing Hunter and others.  He even admitted in a recent interview with HuffPo's Canada TV after getting fired, "Sometimes I've walked around with a big backpack of hubris."
Muhney's last show will air January 30th.
Muhney has been an extremely popular character on the show, and fans are threatening to stop watching. 
Calls and emails to Muhney's rep were not returned.
Although the rumor had been lurking for three weeks, the "reputable" soap opera press had not touched it with a 10-foot-pole, reasonably concerned about the possible libel suits that could occur.  But now that the monkey was off their backs and onto TMZ's, they all had free license to report what TMZ reported.  Party time!  The destruction of an actor begins...


WHAT I DON'T KNOW; WHAT I DO KNOW

Since I started this OutTakes blog and the OutTakes blogtalkradio show in 2010, I occasionally find out things, sometimes whether I want to or not.  But in this case, I am no insider.  I DON'T KNOW the truth nor do I pretend to.

When the news broke about Michael Muhney's firing, I was upset and shocked just like so many other soap fans.  I won't lie.  I think Muhney is one of the best actors in daytime; and I can lose all objectivity about really good actors in daytime.  Why would they let this man go?  Even with the unpopular storyline of the hit-and-run murder of "Delia Abbott", Muhney was consistently knocking every scene out of the park, riveting me with his work as "Adam Newman".  I assumed he was being let go for the usual reasons:  a change of regime from the higher ups, ego, money, etc.  Despite the TMZ story...juicier and scandalizing and better than any soap opera storyline currently airing right now...I still suspect Muhney was let go for the usual reasons.

Here is what I do know:

I DO KNOW that Michael Muhney is good to his fans.   I loved meeting him in Battery Park in 2011.  Michael tweeted that he would be in NYC at that location, giving the time and date.  He did pictures, autographs and  a Q&A with all the fans that showed.  What normally would have been at least a $60 event had cost nothing; and everyone had a wonderful time.  Truly the actions of an egomaniacal monster! 

I DO KNOW that Michael Muhney appreciates those who do press for him.  After attending a Soap Opera Festival in Atlantic City 2012, I had written recaps of all of the Q&As there, including Muhney, Stephen Nichols (ex-Tucker, Y&R) and Michelle Stafford (ex-Phyllis, Y&R).  Stafford had leaked spoiler information during her Q&A that was obviously not ready to be released to the public (to be specific, Michael Damian's return to Y&R).  When I published the recap on this blog, Stafford and her fans attacked me for two hours on Twitter for "paraphrasing" her and was threatening to sue me.  At the time, I didn't even realize that Damian's return was still top secret info.  I deleted the article under the pressure, but I was still pretty upset.  Later that day, I received a Twitter PM from Muhney.  He wanted me to make a few changes to his article, thanked me for doing the piece...and said "Don't sweat it about Michelle."  Words I desperately needed to read during a very hard day that gave me the strength to keep on with the keeping on as a blogger and an interviewer.  Truly the actions of a reprehensible cretin!

I DO KNOW that Michael Muhney is passionate about acting and "Adam Newman".  Muhney was the first one to admit that he was a "prime time guy" and had serious reservations about taking on a soap opera; but on both occasions that I heard him speak, he talked about "Adam" with such depth and intensity.  The role was not just a paycheck for him but a passion.  Could he come across as arrogant and outspoken?  Yes.  Did he talk about controversial storylines, topics and actors?  Yes.  Did he make enemies?  Probably.  But he ALWAYS delivered on the screen.  Do we watch soaps for underwear models...or do we watch them to be drawn into other worlds by charismatic actors who make us feel, whether we want to or not?

None of these things that I experienced personally of Michael Muhney's character can defend him if he truly is a bully and a molester of a 20-year-old actress, but they do give me pause.  I'm not out to try to get him rehired as "Adam Newman" because there has already been too much scorched earth for a return to be possible.  He is not the first talented actor to be fired from a soap nor will he be the last; and ultimately it is Y&R's call.  What I object to is how social media seems to be manipulated by Y&R, CBS and Sony to create an incredibly nasty smear campaign against Muhney.  This is not just the firing of an actor.  This is an attempt to permanently destroy him on a global scale via the internet.  THAT is why I am writing this article.  Am I wrong?  Then I challenge someone credible with these accusations to state real proof. 




GIVE HIM A FAIR TRIAL...AND THEN WE'LL HANG HIM!

-- The Actors Doth Protest on Twitter Too Much:  Look at the uncalled-for reactions of Eric Braeden and Maura West on Twitter.  Eric Braeden had a pretty volatile reaction to Muhney's response in the HuffPost interview.  All Muhney had said was that "if there were disagreements in the past with Eric, for me, it has to be history."  Did he out and out accuse Braeden of anything?  Muhney went out of his way to duck Branco's outright question.  And how did Muhney imply that Braeden had anything to do with Maura West's firing from Y&R?  He simply said he wanted to leave as gracefully as that actress had left.  And why was Maura West so upset that her name was brought up?  Wasn't Muhney paying her a compliment?

-- What ever happened to those "More to the Story" tweets anyway?  Now we are seeing pretty pictures of scenic spots and puppy dogs on the Twitter pages of Melody Thomas Scott and Doug Davidson.  What happened to those warriors for Jill Farren Phelps?  There was a reason those tweets were deleted.  Can anyone say lawsuit?

-- If this is all about sexual harassment, why did Y&R allow any of these cast members to tweet anything in the first place?  Aren't lawyers involved?  Shouldn't a gag order have been put up in place immediately on his firing?

-- And About that Firing:  If Muhney was fired for sexual harassment, why did they keep him on to finish three more shows?  Wouldn't the termination have been immediate to avoid liability?  I'm not a lawyer, but just sayin'.  Also, would Muhney have tweeted about it and done an exit interview if he knew he had something to hide?  Playing pretty high stakes, I'd say.  Or was it Muhney spinning his own publicity and doing some slapdash damage control before it all hit the fan?

-- Consider the Source:  Brian McDaniel, "a staple on TMZ and one of the editor producers for the show" is married to Anjelica McDaniel, Senior Vice President of CBS Daytime programming.  An article from Highlight Hollywood is now confirming that McDaniel leaked the story to her husband.  More evidence of a CBS executive manipulating social media in an attempt to permanently destroy Muhney's career and protect Jill Farren Phelps; and if Hunter King is a victim, she apparently was collateral damage.

-- What is the deal with Maria Arena Bell (former Y&R executive producer and head writer)?  First, she said on Soap Opera Digest:
Michael brought amazing dimension and complexity to the role of Adam Newman, and his and Sharon's (Sharon Case) was a great dark love story.  Sadly, that story was seriously derailed in the last year, so I am not surprised that the show would look for a solution to their problematic storytelling decisions.  It will be a tough role to recast.
Oh, but wait.  What she REALLY meant to say was...
Let me be clear.  Tommy, I am a fan of Michael Muhney, the actor -- not the person.  Frankly he should have been let go months before because of his behind the scenes actions.  It's still a loss for the fans.  Instead of acting quickly, they tried to turn the fans against the character of Adam.  Bad move.  And they should not recast right away now.  It's too damaged.  The only thing that matters in this story -- now in TMZ is that a young girl is protected.  She should have been all along.  People should have been more decisive, not less in this matter.  (Highlight Hollywood)
OK, so let's get this straight.  Bell talks like she knows for a FACT that Muhney did some suspect "behind-the-scenes" actions to Hunter King.  But Bell was no longer producer and headwriter.  Was she there?  Did she see him do it?  How does she know ANYTHING for a fact?  Unless she knows that Muhney was up to no good during her own reign...and if that was the case, why didn't SHE fire him? 


-- He Said, She Said:  Now there is a report by Examiner that Hunter King made up the whole thing because Muhney rebuffed her advances.  A nice plot twist to this reality soap opera behind the scenes.  Or is this a sad case of avid Michael Muhney fans blaming the victim so that their actor won't be further destroyed?  Now two careers can be destroyed for the price of one.  And the beat goes on...


-- You think blackballing with a smear campaign at Y&R is an impossibility?  Read Brenda Dickson's book about her experiences as "Jill Abbott".  She can tell you all about it.  My True Hidden Hollywood Story.

STOP THE MADNESS!

I'm not saying Michael Muhney is an angel.  Just because he's a great actor who did an awesome "Adam Newman" doesn't mean he's guiltless.  But I'm not saying he's guilty either.

I'm saying CBS, Sony and/or Y&R need to man up with a public statement that they fired Muhney over sexual harassment if that is the truth (as opposed to having cast members tweet quasi-accusations and spreading stories of "allegations" on smut sites like TMZ). Or better yet, if Muhney is innocent, I am begging him to come out with a statement in his own defense.  Somebody stop the madness!!!

RELATED OUTTAKES ARTICLE:

MICHAEL MUHNEY Q&A SOAP OPERA FESTIVAL
http://outtakesinterviews.blogspot.com/2012/03/michael-muhney-q-soap-opera-festival.html

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

OUTTAKES INTERVIEW with DEANNA MESKE, creator of GOVERNMENT LIES



Deanna Meske -- actress, model and entrepreneur -- tells us about her web series, Government Lies, as well as her career in film and television.  Among current and upcoming guest stars for the Government Lies web series are Lane Davies (well remembered for his role as "Mason Capwell" on the NBC soap opera Santa Barbara) and Jacqueline Fleming ("Harriet Tubman" from Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter).  To find out more about the show, check out the IndieGoGo campaign at http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/government-lies-the-series--41



OUTTAKES:  Tell us what GOVERNMENT LIES is about.

DM:  GOVERNMENT LIES is a thriller/suspense story. It starts out with Erica. She’s one of the main characters. In the opening scene, she’s having an affair while her husband is away in Afghanistan at war. He’s been away for a while. She starts to feel guilty; and she breaks off the affair right at the beginning of the episode. She goes down[stairs] while her husband is going to leave. Tom, her husband, comes home and shocks her. She’s in this predicament. At the end of the episode, the lover ends up being killed. It looks like Erica did it; and she gets arrested. The FBI get involved; and the police and military say that her husband is actually dead. So we don’t know if she actually imagined if he came home. Or did he come home? Because we have an actual official notice saying that he is dead. Now she’s on the run. That is when Lane Davies comes in. He’s actually a friend from the past who works with the FBI. She’s on the run now trying to find out what’s going on and who killed her lover. She says that she didn’t do it, but she has lapses in her memory. It’s a suspense thriller with government elements, meaning there’s different people in the government and other groups that have big secrets. Somehow Erica and Tom and Jake (played by Lane Davies) are somehow involved with all of this. There’s mind control elements, brainwashing. Kind of a sci-fi mix when it comes to that.

OUTTAKES:  We already have two episodes out now (as of December 4, 2013). When can we expect the next episodes to come?

DM:  Episode three has been filmed; and it’s in post-production right now. I would say probably within the next two weeks. It’s actually done. And we’re scheduled to shoot episodes four and five from December 17th to 19th of this year. The latest would be the middle of January.

OUTTAKES:  The first episode was around five minutes. The second was ten. Are they going to be ten-minute episodes from now on?

IDM:  ’m really working to get them down to seven minute episodes. That was my original goal in the first place. The second one went a little longer where you had the “previously” section. The pace is going to pick up. Even though it’s pretty good now, it’s going to move a lot faster than it did in Episode two.



OUTTAKES:  What inspired you to come up with this story?

DM:  I’ve always been an actor in the 48-Hour Film Festival Project -- which is basically that filmmakers get together; and they have 48 hours to make a film. I’ve always been cast as an actor. The last year that they did it, I was cast as a lead which was great…but I wanted to produce my own and write my own characters. I always get cast in these very typical cute girl roles. I wanted to play something deeper and grittier. So I put together my own production team. I found a writer that I liked; and he had this idea. He gave me his script. I tweaked it up a little bit. When we filmed it and shot it for the 48-Hour Film Festival -- as I was watching it, I saw that this could totally be a web series. Everybody I talked to about it said, no way, it can’t be a web series. It is so obvious that she killed him; and what are you going to do with it? I said, oh just wait. I have ideas on how we can twist this and turn this and make it into a web series.

OUTTAKES:  That’s pretty interesting that this started out as a short film…

DM:  A short film that was filmed with no planning. No rehearsing. Nothing. In 48 hours, you shoot it and you edit it and you post it. We just got on the set and we did it. We didn’t have any rehearsal. So it still turned out pretty good, especially for something shot in that short of a time with no preproduction planning. You don’t really know what your genre is until that day you have to shoot. So we didn’t know we were going to use that script before seven o’clock that night; and we had to start shooting that night.



OUTTAKES:  How did you get Lane Davies to get involved with this series?

We were co-stars. It was one of the first TV series that I did as an actor. I just moved here from Florida to New Orleans. I had played one little role in Florida; and then I came to New Orleans and I booked this TV show. And he was the lead in it. We met and stayed in touch. I kept telling him that I really wanted to get him in one of my series. I had made this other series called NEW ORLEANS PIE. It’s more of a college comedy, so I couldn’t find a way to fit him into that. And then this one came. And I was like, oh, this is perfect! He would be perfect for this role. He said, yes, definitely. And so he was on board for that. 



DM:  We also have Jacqueline Fleming who has come on board for GOVERNMENT LIES. She’s been in lots of things. She’s been in ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER. She played Harriet Tubman. She just booked a lead in a pilot that might get the green light to shoot in New Orleans.

OUTTAKES:  How can people contribute to the series?

DM:  We have a couple of different ways. We definitely need contributions because I could make this move a lot faster. We have an IndieGoGo campaign where people can get prizes there. But I’m looking for companies that want to do product placement. Because I’m the creator of the show, I can put anybody’s product or service right into the show. We can use links. We can visually show the products. We could actually have the actors talk about the product -- built into the script so that it’s very natural and seamless.

OUTTAKES:  Will there be more of the NEW ORLEANS PIE episodes coming up as well?

DM:  I have four of those in the can. The reason why those aren’t out is because that is my trial web series. I was a new filmmaker. I did not go to school for filmmaking. I have since taken some seminars, but at that point I did not go to school. So I was learning; and I had this idea. I still have it. It’s a great web series idea with older women going back to college later in life and just running into all of these random crazy things. I can probably get all four episodes out by the end of January. They’re already filmed and mostly edited. I just have to tweak a few things. I’m actually co-editing on those as well so that takes a little bit of time.

OUTTAKES:  Do you think that scripted drama on the internet is the future of entertainment as opposed to regular television?

IDM:   watch all of my TV on the internet right now. I watch it all on NetFlix; and I sometimes will watch on Amazon. I think it’s going to be filtered through the bigger companies. I’m submitting GOVERNMENT LIES to a place called WIGS right now. It is a channel where they show short films and series. So you have to filter it through a channel. If you watch the CW Channel on Web TV, all their main shows are on there. They have advertisements for their web series. And they have two original web series right now. I think you’re going to find that more and more. The trick is how you’re going to make money doing it so that you can make better productions.

OUTTAKES:  Aside from shooting these web series and running Outlook Productions, you’re also an actress and a model. What upcoming projects do you have going on that people can see you in?

DM:  Right now I have a film called ELSA AND FRED. That was my most prestigious role to date. I play a role opposite Shirley MacLaine, Christopher Plummer and Scott Bakula. That movie should be coming out. And I just shot a Nioxin hair commercial in DC. I have six episodes coming out on The Food Network on a show called MYSTERY DINERS. I play an undercover agent in that show. So that’s kind of fun; and that’s out right now. I have another show coming out. They haven’t told us the name. It’s on Investigation Discovery; and I play a really gritty role. I play this killer; and it was a very non-attractive role. It was really fun playing that. It’s kind of an evil role too. That should be coming out soon; they haven’t told us the name of show yet but it’s brand new. We filmed that in Mexico.



OUTTAKES:  What inspired you to want to become an actor?

DM:  I always knew that I wanted to be in the entertainment industry. I just didn’t know what I wanted to do. Before I started acting, I was thinking maybe I should be a singer. I started looking into that; but I was just too shy to sing in front of people. And I thought I can’t even do this. This isn’t going to work for me. My voice is getting better, but I could just never see myself performing. And then I went out and auditioned for this role for a short film. I got a part; and I thought, oh this is so much fun. It felt so natural to me. It felt like this is what I needed to do. That’s when I moved to New Orleans and started acting here to build up my career. I pretty much knew right away when I got on the set.

OUTTAKES:  What advice would you give for actors trying to break into show business?

DM:  I would advise to only keep positive people in your life who believe in you. Be prepared for people to say the famous things when you tell them you’re an actor. Oh, that’s a tough career. Oh, that’s a hard business. Oh, it’s hard to make it in that business. Get used to that -- or just don’t tell people that you’re an actor -- because people will say that to you left and right; and it can really discourage you and make you want to give up sometimes. I would say just ignore those people. Figure out the game. You’ve got to figure out your strengths of how you fit in and where you fit in. I’m still figuring that out. And make your own content. That’s why I make my own content. Because it helps me as an actor. It helps me understand the business; and it helps me build relationships with directors and producers…and just get it out there.