Last week soap opera fans were shocked by the news that ‘One Life To Live’s groundbreaking gay couple Kyle (Brett Claywell) and Oliver (Scott Evans), better known as Kish, was being written off of the show. Ironically the news broke days before their storyline won a GLAAD award. Claywell sat down for a candid interview about why he was let go, how the rumors about his departure make him feel, and what his experience on OLTL meant to him.
When did you find out you were being written off the show?
I was stopping by One Life To Live [last week] to drop off my Emmy reel and I found out the same day.
That’s some strange timing.
Yeah. That’s some irony right there. The next day the story broke on-line.
Were you surprised?
A little bit but slowly the story had been dwindling. I really only filmed four or five days since New Year’s Eve. They were obviously pulling back from our story. I was surprised because I really felt like we had really made an impact. But, at the end of the day, I also wasn’t surprised because I could see the writing on the wall.
Were you given a reason for being written off?
I think the reason that has come out is pretty much the reason I was given: we didn’t test well with their mainstream audience.
Do you think Kish was blamed for the show’s ratings drop?
I’m not going to accuse anybody or speak on things that I really don’t have knowledge of. I feel like we did tell a really good story. I feel like we brought a lot of new viewers to the show. We have a very loyal fanbase but evidently the network and One Life To Live didn’t feel like we were contributing as much as we maybe thought we did.
There was a column in TV Guide Canada that alleges that you two were written off for performance issues. I wanted to give you the opportunity to respond to that.
Scott informed me of that yesterday. It’s amazing to me that two people can put so much of their heart into a story that can be so passionate and serious and tell a story as honestly and as truthfully as we tried to and just open our hearts to the world and just try to make a difference, try and touch people and stories like this will come out that are absolutely, 100% false. I’d love for anyone to watch one day of any of the work we’ve done and tell me that Scott and I were not 100% committed to what we were doing. We were so dedicated to our work. It’s hurtful. I’m really offended that someone would make completely false claims. I’m angry. It’s slander.
It struck me that if you were being unprofessional, you probably wouldn’t have gotten an Emmy pre-nomination.
One of the last days that Scott and I worked together, the argument scene that just aired two weeks ago when I had the DNA test, we had all these scenes that were from different episodes, 41 pages of dialogue that Scott and I filmed in maybe an hour and a half. We work so methodically together and so well together. We would film scenes in one take like everybody does. You ask the directors we worked with. The fact that you can spend a year and a half pouring your heart into a story and one person with one article can try to bruise that reputation you have, it’s disheartening and it’s offensive.
Have you taped your final episode?
Yes. The day the story broke was my last day on set.
Do you think there is any chance the show will bring you back, since Kish are not going to be killed off or sent out of town?
I think they intentionally left it open. Whether or not it’s going to happen, I can’t predict the future. But Scott and I would both love to work together again. We filmed our last day together and we didn’t even know it was our last day together. I feel like there’s still some closure [needed] both for the story and us working together.
What has the response to Kish’s departure been from your fans?
The fans are what made me so proud of what Scott and I did together. Everybody used to say that I have no idea the type of impact we’re making. I never really have paid too much attention to it. I do my work and that’s what I’m putting out for the world and hopefully it’s received well but it’s not my business how it’s received. Now I kind of get an idea and it makes me very proud and appreciative of all the support we’re getting. It makes me proud of the work we’ve done because we’ve showed we made a difference in people’s lives. All the people that come up and speak to us, all the people that tell us their story or how our story related to theirs. It’s been a beautiful journey to do work that means so much to so many.
Are you going to stay in touch with your fans? Soap fans are so supportive, they’ll be there for the rest of your life no matter what you’re future projects are.
I realized this week that we don’t have a fanbase. We have an army. I think I need to start making uniforms for them. I couldn’t be more appreciative. Moving to New York and telling this story… being an actor you’re on an island sometimes. You’re just standing on your own two feet dealing with all the pressure and the stress that come with certain things. Playing this role was more difficult than anything I’ve ever done in my life and it was more rewarding than anything I’ve ever done in my life. It’s probably the proudest accomplishment I’ve ever had in my life. A lot of that is a testament to the fans because they give you strength. They help you know in the times that you feel most alone that you really aren’t. Knowing that your work is really important to somebody, that it means something to somebody… every moment that I might have had a weak moment where I was getting overwhelmed there was a word from somebody that doesn’t even know that I read it that affected me just enough to get me through. You say fans, because you don’t know them, but they’re more like friendships. The support they gave is like no other.
What was it like attending the GLAAD awards?
I honestly expected it to be a little crazier than it was. Scott and I had a good time together. It wasn’t as much of a maelstrom as I thought it would be. At the end of the day Scott and I felt like we did good work and felt like we tried to tell the story as truthfully and honestly as any that’s on daytime television. We tried to tell it no differently, as accurately and as honestly as any story that’s on television or film. I think if you put the Kyle and Oliver story against any love story that’s been told, I feel like we’d stand up. That night was just a night to celebrate that even if just for Scott and I.
How do you feel about headwriter Ron Carlivati and Executive Producer Frank Valentini?
I want to make sure that I put on the record that from my eyes and from my perspective I have no bitterness or no anger towards Frank and Ron. Frank, he kept me around. The character was created. The character was revealed to be a gay man. Through the whole process we had nothing but communication and support and belief and trust with Frank Valentini. People need to remember that this story never would have been told without either of them. Without Ron’s writing but especially without Frank’s support. I never would have played this role probably without Frank’s support. At the end of the day it was sad to go. It’s our family in a lot of ways and a little part of us feels like we’re being thrown under the bus by our family, maybe, but I am appreciative and indebted to Frank for being bold enough to tell this story and to tell it as truthfully as we did. That truth may have shocked some people. It may have created discussions in households and in places that never would have had the discussion. To be bold enough to make that choice and to stand by it is why we did the work. I forever will be grateful to Frank and I think people should understand that… It might be a slower train than we want for equality to be on the streets or on the air but this still was progress. The support that ABC gave us, the bravery that One Life To Live had as a show, the beauty in the words that Ron wrote, and the strength of the performances that Scott and I gave, this should be nothing but a celebration for a year that changed daytime television.
This was story that had the potential to bring in new viewers. It seemed like ABC as a whole did not do much to publicize it, especially the groundbreaking love scene.
I think they knew for a while that maybe they were fading us out. For the greater good of the show, you’re not going to push stories that don’t have a future. I kind of feel like maybe that was the case. I definitely believe that we could have made this bigger than it was but at the end of the day my job is to do the work and let other people do the job that they do.
Which scenes did you submit for your Emmy reel?
The hard thing about me submitting my Emmy reel, which I was very frustrated about, I feel like this year was a test. I had to do so much with so little because there was no huge Kyle episodes. A lot of my best work is split among a lot of different episodes. I ended up submitting the episode the night before I get married, I think it was October 27th, which is partially attributed to suggestions from our fans. I didn’t even remember that episode and then a lot of people were talking about it. We’re only allowed to submit one episode. That was the one I had to pick mainly because it had the most work in it. It doesn’t show any of the journey, but it was a really good day of work. I was really proud of the work Scott and I had done that day.
What are you going to do now?
I’m flying to Los Angeles next week to have some meetings. I should be moving out very shortly.
You were originally cast as Schuyler, who is also being written off. Looking back, are you glad you ended up playing Kyle?
I feel like I was given an opportunity to showcase my work in a way that Schuyler would not have allowed me to do. Your whole career as an actor you’re just trying to get somebody to notice that you have talent. You’re just trying to get somebody to notice how good you can be, your potential. The whole three years I was on One Tree Hill I kept asking for a storyline, “Give me something to do.” They never would. I even had somebody tell me, “You’re going to be much better at comedy then drama. You’re not a dramatic actor.” To finally have someone write me a story that allowed me to show what I can do, I felt like Kyle gave me this opportunity to show what Brett Claywell can do as an actor. The journey with Scott and the work that was done, I think absolutely at the end of the day playing Kyle was my destiny for this show. It was definitely the role I was supposed to play.