Deep Soap: ‘All My Children’s’ Jill Larson on Schedule Change & ‘Days of Our Lives’ Daring Storyline

by | May 24, 2013 at 12:30 PM | Deep Soap

"All My Children" (Photo: The Online Network)

Jill Larson Sets the Record Straight About “All My Children’s” Schedule Changes

Thursday, “All My Children” star Jill Larson (Opal), who posted an articulate explanation of why the show is moving from four episodes a week to two episodes a week on Facebook, elaborated on the changes to the show’s production model during a media conference call. Larson emphasized that she sees it as positive move because the show is now in direct competition with the prime-time broadcast and cable shows that stream online, and it needs to be of equally high quality, both in terms of production and writing. She also revealed that, due to the show’s contractual structure, which pays actors by the number of weeks that they work, not the number of episodes, she does not believe that the actors salaries will be cut, even though fewer episodes will be produced.

She also revealed that the cast’s strong social-media presence is not just because they are all enthusiastic about the show. It’s a required, contractual part of their jobs. She admitted she hired someone to get her up to speed on Facebook and on Twitter, then discovered she loved interacting with fans.

I asked the candid actress about an issue that’s of concern to many viewers: How many episodes of the show are guaranteed to be produced? She admitted, “That’s not a question that I could answer because I don’t know the answer. We have an agreement to go through one cycle, and I think that cycle was supposed to end in October, and now I think has been extended to November. I know that by making this change, there will be episodes posted 52 weeks a year, as opposed to what it going to be before, which, I think, was only 42. It’s going to be all-year round now. There’s not going to be a downtime in the way they were anticipating and planning before.”

Larson acknowledged that she was concerned when she learned the number of episodes would be cut. “Of course, when we first heard this news there was a [sense of], “Oh yeah, right. This happened before. Now we’re going to be canceled.” It’s hard not to go there initially, but the truth is these people have invested their hearts, their souls, and their money in making this happen. They believe in it. On the very first day before we shot the very first scene, they said that they hope this is the beginning of another 40 years. We have to try and have confidence and faith that they are exploring and discovering what they have to do to make that a reality. But that’s their intention.”

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“Days of Our Lives” Delves Into the Issue of Male Rape

Back when “Days of Our Lives’s” Nick (Blake Berris) first voiced his determination to raise Will’s (Chandler Massey) son as his own, in large part because he did not think gay men should be parents, I mused on Twitter that Nick’s homophobia would be a lot more interesting if it turned out he was sexually assaulted in prison. But I didn’t think that was where the storyline would actually go, because “DOOL” has long been a show where the bad guys are bad for no particular reason. Despite having a major character who is a psychiatrist, complex psychological issues are rarely explored. Plus, male rape is still an issue that is difficult to discuss on television. ”General Hospital” copped out on a similar storyline a couple years ago by having Michael magically get over the trauma of being raped in prison by dating an older stripper.

I’m thrilled to say that I underestimated “DOOL.” Last week, Jensen, the man who raped Nick, was released from prison. He kidnapped Nick and his wife as revenge for Nick getting him placed in solitary confinement. In a moment of perfect soap irony, Nick’s enemy Will became the only person who learned what had happened to Nick when he overheard a conversation between Nick and Jensen. Nick, tied up and believing he was about to die, told Jensen that he had ruined his life and humiliated him. Jensen retorted, “I told you how things worked the very first day that I saw you. I told you what I could do for you. And in return, exactly what you had to do for me. And you did it. You did, you put up a good fight. But after I beat you a few times, you fell right into line, just like you were supposed to…. You were my bitch!” There’s a scenario you haven’t seen explored on daytime, or even on prime-time shows, other than “Oz.”

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Suddenly, everything about Nick made sense: Why he was so eager to get married to someone he had only dated a few months, why he was enthusiastic about raising someone else’s child. He was desperate to convince himself that he was still a strong, normal, heterosexual man. Berris’s performance was the stuff that Emmys are made of, as he exposed the vulnerability and shame that drove him to blackmail Will, and do everything else that has made the audience hate him for the past few months.

Massey was equally good as he silently went from hating his nemesis to sympathizing with him to the point where he was willing to fight Jensen to save Nick. Will got shot in the struggle. He’ll be fine, of course. It’s a soap. When he wakes up, it will be fascinating to see what sort of relationship these two will forge, and what Will will do with the information he now knows about Nick. Will he encourage him to get help, or will he use it as leverage to regain his parental rights?

Whatever path the show takes, I hope that Nick will be shown getting some sort of therapy, perhaps with Marlena (Deidre Hall), and suffering lingering effects from his trauma, rather than being able to quickly move past it now that Jensen is dead. Kudos to “DOOL” for daring to address a difficult issue with depth and sensitivity.