Website 5th Anniversary feature: Guiding Light Taken Off The Air

April 3, 2009
A MichaelTyloOnline Exclusive

How do you feel about Guiding Light being taken off the air?

I feel really disappointed. Given that it's had a 70+ year run, I'm very saddened by it.

Do you think it will have an impact on the soap opera genre and daytime tv as a whole? What is the future of soap operas? Was GL only the first of many to be canceled?

Yeah, I think it will have an impact. It's not too far behind, they'll be taking off the youngest. I think the reality television thing and all of that stuff is cheaper to produce. People are voyers just like they were in soaps, but it's cheaper to produce.

When I teach playwriting, for instance, there are rules that you follow. If you want to break the rules, at least you have to know what those rules are. I think it's not just the idea of cable television and satellite dish that are killing the soaps, I think the writing has gone outside the rules. Irna Phillips developed this way of doing soaps and had the formula. Soaps that have steered away from it have suffered terribly. That's why the Young and the Restless, started by Bill Bell, who was taught by Irna Phillips, stuck with it. And its numbers, while not real high, are still better than anybody else by a longshot because they still follow the formula. As soon as they break it, they're gone. It doesn't matter if you have the prettiest sets, the prettiest people, the best actors. It all goes back to the writing. And I think people get carried away with it. I think that's the major fault in it is.

When you had Agnes Nixon writing, Doug Marland writing, Bill Bell writing, these people that were trained by Irna, they knew it. They knew how to make it work, they knew how to bring new characters in that were parts of family that people were already cheering for. They didn't just have people to come in out of the blue. Even if it appeared to be out of the blue, they were a distant cousin or so-and-so's bastard son or daughter There was something that immediately connected you with them. You wanted to see how it would work out. Now there are no secrets. It's just kind of...crap.

P&G is supposedly looking into some options to keep GL going - Internet, cable tv - do you think this kind change of medium might work and attract enough viewers?

If they get the writing and they get the producers to understand that and trying not to try to reinvent, it'll be fine.

You were a part of GL for years as a major character. How did it change you / force you to grow as an actor and as a person. What did you learn during the years?

I learned a great deal. I learned there are things in writing, there are things in plays, there are things in television. First of all, number one: you have to have a good narrative story, it has to be interesting. Number two: you have to have a dramatic question. Number three: you have to have relationships. You're not there acting by yourself, you have to develop a relationship and a rhythm with the people you work with. It's selfish in so far as what you want to bring to the table, and it's selfish what the other person brings to the table. For instance, when I worked with Lisa Brown, a wonderful actress, she would always bring a lot to it, she taught me that.

You have to have conflict because people want something. It's like Romeo and Juliet. Romeo was in love with love, Juliet wants commitment, they both want love, but there's a difference and they struggle through it and we become interested because of the conflict. It's a very real thing that we can all relate, and that's why we become interested. It's the same thing with soaps. What was it that Blade wanted? What was it that Quinton wanted? His overall objective was to get back at his father who dismissed him. In the meantime he had these other relationships but the ongoing thing was he wanted to get back to his father somehow, either to punish him or to reunite with him. It was always there and anything that interfered with it became an obstacle and you were always going, 'get over that so you can get here' and you start to cheer and you become engaged, and they don't have it anymore.

What do you remember from your first day on the set of Guiding Light?

It was 1981, Charita Bauer, who started on radio with Guiding Light, took me immediately under her wing, introduced me to everybody and was so sweet and outgoing that she took the edge off. I was scared out of my mind, but I watched her work and she made it seem easy. She was very instructive and very kind. There was no conflict, they all wanted it to work, and that was the thing: 'Let's get together'. It was a wonderful collaborative effort.