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Date Posted: 15:19:10 05/31/02 Fri
Subject: Behind The Scenes During "Live Week"
As everyone in the soap world knows by now, OLTL broadcast live May 13 - 17 from its Manhattan studio. Despite executive producer Gary Tomlin's pledge to go out of his way to make the undertaking as difficult as possible, there were precious few snafus during the five hours of live telecasts. Behind the scenes, however, was another story.
"I directed today, and the dress rehearsal was a total disaster, thanks to me," admitted Tomlin after the Emmys. Indeed, this reporter was in the broadcast booth Friday, and it was mind-boggling how Tomlin pulled everything together in the short time between the 12:15 dress rehearsal (Taped in case the power went out during the live feed) and the 2 p.m. broadcast. The worst problem was that the order of the last scenes was mistakenly switched during dress, which meant that the camera came on an unprepared Troy and Nora in bed while not properly lit, then went to Blair walking in to her house for the episode's big finish of Todd saying, "You've come back to me!" and then went on to a nondescripts scene of Jessica stumbling onto Rex at the diner. (Show over, cue the music). Elsewhere, one actress was winging it as she stumbled for the right words in a scene by herself, and another actress forgot her lines so completely that she said, "Line!" during a scene and the stage manager had to cue her from offstage. It was all righted in time for the broadcast, but there was more than one staffer smoking cigarettes on the front steps of the studio during the 45 minute break.
There were snags in the other days, too, thanks to Tomlin's ambitious agenda. Imagine the success of a scene predicated on the weather - or a tiny baby. "There was a scene where Suzanne (the nanny) brought [Jack] out," reveals Kassie DePaiva (Blair). "During the dress rehearsal he went (insert sound of a whoopee cushion here) and made the biggest stinky diaper ever. Had it been live, I would've died. He totally stunk up the whole room."
Hillary B. Smith (Nora) had to contend with the elements during Thursday's remote. "We had to reposition the scenes in Central Park during an act break because the sun came out," Smith reports. "You could see it in the first scene when I walked out and said, 'Troy, please don't go!' because I was squinting in the sun. We had two minutes (until the next scene) to reposition so that we were in the scene for the kiss. I had sunglasses, but you really want to see the other person's eyes when they're looking so deeply into your soul," she says with a laugh.
Kamar de los Reyes (Antonio) had about two minutes to run from Central Park all the way back to the studio and onto the set of Carlotta's Diner in the same act. "I was nervous about getting back in time," he admits. "I had to run up a hill [and then about three blocks]. It wasn't that far, but I sprinted the whole way. The security guards were trying to keep up with me. Finally, I heard, 'Just let him go.' I made it back two scenes prior to my scene, so I was able to chill for a second, have a little water."
The park was a crapshoot. "Oh, we would have taken umbrellas if it had rained," downplays Kristen Aldersen (Starr). "We had no plan at all if it rained," counters Tomlin.
Friday's episode featured Smith's worst fear - a live love scene. "I rolled over and the sheet didn't roll with me," she groans. Ty (Treadway, Troy) sort of grabbed the quilt and rolled on top of me. I said to Gary, 'Isn't this why we hire 20-year-olds? Isn't this why we have young people on the show, to do those scenes? Why am I doing this?' "
Robert S. Woods (Bo) experienced some consternation when he forgot his lines during a scene with Fiona Hutchison where Bo asked Gabrielle not to move out. "You kind of got an idea that I was fumbling around, but it wasn't a disaster," Woods says. "I was all over the page. It came out like a big rambling monologue, which fit the situation, I guess."
Woods was part of Tomlin's other big gamble (besides the park and the baby) - a black and white fantasy sequence. "Niki was in the coffee shop and she started daydreaming," he recalls. "They wrote the Raymond Chandler-type monologue, which was a voiceover. During that whole time, Erika (Slezak, Viki/Niki) was running down the studio to put on an overcoat and scarf and be there ready to come in for the fantasy. Because you saw this fade-out on her, you probably thought, 'This is taped because there's no way she could possibly be in it if she's still sitting there dreaming about it.' But it was all live. Afterward, there was another voiceover giving her enough time to get rid of the overcoat, take off the scarf and sit back down in the coffee shop. It was unbelievable."
"Once you stepped onto the set, you were pumped," chimes in Mark Derwin, whose character, Ben, spent the bulk of the week chasing "Viki" around. "All I cared about was listening. I figured I'd be fine if I could do that. But I was everywhere. I had two lines here, run over there, two lines there. It was fun to be in every act. I had Woods chasing me all around all day Friday; what's funnier than that?"
DePaiva disagrees. "Basic primal fear." She shudders. "I had very important material, and sometimes that can't be done in one take. I felt a huge responsibility to the material. I thought, 'Oh, man, did they have to pick this week?' I'd rather be in a bathing suit."
Some viewers speculated that the actors were using cue cards, because in some scenes they were spotted looking away from there scene partners. The truth is that toward the end of each show, the stage manager would stand off to the side indicating to the actors if the episode was short or long. Wednesday's show was short, so Roger Howarth (Todd) got the sign to ad-lib about Blair and the baby until the last commercial. Conversely, Thursday's episode came in seven minutes long at the dress rehearsal. "Linda Dano (Rae) and I went from a three page scene to a two-line scene," reveals Smith "We had to keep doing cuts: 'OK, another page gone, so now you're playing from here to here.' We were like, "That doesn't make any sense!' It was hairy."
Actually, not as hairy as just basic continuity. "You want to talk about weird?" points out DePaiva. "I had to watch SoapNet last Friday just to know where I was coming from, because we taped the scenes going into live week six weeks ago. And we taped the scenes after the live week five weeks ago."
"It was like theatre," sums up Tomlin. "I have to say, everybody on 66th Street this week was flying so high we'll probably have to do it again."
"Are we talking this decade?" quips Smith. "If so, I'll need a long nap - and a vacation!"
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