No Labels, Please!

September 8, 1992
by Caelie M. Haines
Soap Opera Weekly

Y&R's Michael Tylo is too busy at his craft to care what you call him.

MICHAEL TYLO (BLADE) insists he knew all along that one day he'd be a part of The Young And The Restless. "I've always wanted to work with Bill Bell (of Y&R and The Bold And The Beautiful)," Tylo says. "Bill and I became friends, and he kept saying, 'Well, I'd like to get you on The Young And The Restless.' And I kept thinking, 'That would be nice.' But he would say this at a Christmas party or something..."

Bell eventually came through with the role of Blade, a photographer with no last name. "It just kind of worked out," Tylo says. "It was a non-contract role, and after I worked it a couple of times, Bill surprised me. At Y&R's 19th anniversary party at Chasens he told Hunter (Tylo's wife, who plays B&B's Taylor) and me that he's decided to make Blade a contract role. It just really shocked both of us. So I signed a three-year deal with them, and I'm very pleased to be working again."

Tylo describes Blade as "a nice, mysterious character. It's not an everyday job, doing photography; he's not like a doctor or a lawyer." But then Tylo has never played the traditional soap hero. He made his first impression on daytime audiences as Guiding Light archeologist Guinton McCord Chamberlain (1981-85), who "was a gothic soap character. He had adventures - his life reflected one of the greatest soaps ever, the film Rebecca. And Doug Marland is a wonderful writer." (Marland created Quinton during his 1979-82 stint as GL's head writer, and is now As The World Turns' head writer.)

Landing his first soap role "was major for me," Tylo admits. "It was a wonderful time. When I came on the show Charita Bauer (Bert Bauer) was still there, and she was just absolutely terrific. It was a great group to work with. And it happened to be my mother's favorites soap, so she didn't have to switch networks to watch me."

When his role on GL ended, Tylo moved to California, but he says he never really adapted to it. "I still haven't, but it's a lot easier now with the family (Hunter, stepson Chris, 11, and son Mickey, 4). The first time I lived in L.A., I was up for a play. This stupid agent I had called me one day and said, 'Hey, Mike, you do plays, don't you?' And I said, 'Yeah why don't you take a look at my résumé.'"

Tylo is an accomplished theater actor. He made his living in regional productions for years, after he graduated from Detroit's Wayne State University and before starting GL. He continues his story: "I went out on an audition, and when I came back there was a message on the answering machine: 'I got a reading for you on Monday, Mike. It's called Heidi Gobblin. It's a play.' So I called him back and said, 'You mean Hedda Gabler? Ibsen?' And he said, 'Ibsen, yeah, that's right, I had that guy in college.' So I hung up with him and immediately called my agent back in New York and asked her to please get me back there. She set me up with a reading for All My Children. They flew me in for a test and then told me I had the role."

On AMC, Tylo played Matt Connolly, who was "again, a different kind of soap character," he says. "And again I was working for a good [head] writer, Agnes Nixon. It was wonderful. Matt was a soldier of fortune, kind of a macho individual. But then again, he had this sensitive side. I likened him to the character of Rick in Casablanca; you never knew with him except that he was always loyal. That evolved into the storyline with my now-wife, Hunter (who was the using the name Deborah Morehart and playing the role of Robin McCall). He took this girl and stroked her and made her take a modeling job and do better things with herself."

The couple began their offscreen relationship "about the time the story started," Tylo recalls. "But we weren't aware of the fact that they were going to put us together, and we kept (our relationship) very quiet. Nobody knew what was going on between us until just about the end of that story. We wanted our privacy. And as a matter of fact, when they did find out they immediately let her go, which I thought was stupid. They called it financial cutbacks, but what it really was that this producer, Jorn Winther, found out about us. We thought we were being nice saying, 'We wanted to let you know we've become engaged.' But he immediately got mad about it. And then he called Hunter into the office and said, 'We're going to let you go, but we want you to star without a contract.' She didn't want to do that, and he said ugly things to her. I got very angry because he was using her personal life to get her to stay and do what she wanted."

These days, things are much happier for the couple. "It's so nice working across the hall from my wife (Y&R and B&B both tape at CBS Television City)," Tylo says. I'll watch the monitor while she's working and sometimes it's hard for me to realize when I see her on television that this is a woman who has given birth to two children, who is Mommy at home and everything else. I mean, she's beautiful and glamorous and classy, and yet here at home she is Mom. It's a good balance, and we're very happy."

Although Winther left AMC, Tylo decided not to go stay on the show after his contract ended. "It got kind of messy," he admits."...But the people in the cast were pretty wonderful. Susan Lucci (Erica) was terrific. Julia Barr (Brooke) organized everything for our wedding. We have pretty fond memories of Susan, Julia, Mark LaMura (ex-Mark Dalton), who is our son's godfather, David Canary (Adam/Stuart) with whom I shared a dressing room, and Peter Bergman (ex-Cliff Warner; now Jack on Y&R). It's really nice to be working with Peter again. Even though on AMC we were always in conflict, we were really very good friends."

Tylo's next project was the miniseries Lonesome Dove. "Then I did a pilot called Hawk, which was a spinoff of Spenser: For Hire. Then I did General Hospital for six months. (He played Charlie Prince). It was supposed to be a two-year deal. This kind of left a bad taste in my mouth because we had just had lunch with the head of daytime (at ABC), and she'd assured me there was all kind of story and everything else, so we moved everyone out here to California and a couple of weeks later they dropped me. So the overall experience with ABC was not a very pleasant one."

For the next few years Tylo stayed away from the soap scene, but not because he was tired of the medium. "I'm an actor, I like to work," he says. "The next thing I did was the series Zorro (he played the town mayor on the syndicated show, which appeared on cable's family channel). I went to Spain for two seasons, and shot 50 episodes. And I learned a lesson: that this society is too intent on labeling. We like to label ourselves, and the industry here likes to label you, to put you into a niche and say, 'You're a nighttime actor. You're a film actor. You're a soap actor.'"

"When I was over in Spain we would have English guest stars - guys I had seen in major motion pictures - and I was curious as to why they were doing television," he continues. "And they said they were just actors; they work where there's work. When I came home I saw three of them in Mel Gibson's Hamlet. You work where you can and do what you can because you're an actor, and an actor need to work in order to get better."

Although he's been given the label soap actor, Tylo has no regrets. "It's a compliment," he says. "Just for somebody to say, 'hey, you're an actor' is a compliment. And I'm working with some terrific people. Victoria (Rowell, who plays Drucilla) is a wonderful actress. And Jess Walton (Jill). Peter Bergman I consider a very good actor, a hard-working actor. There are great people in this business, and it's criticizing them to say they're just soap actors. It's too damn bad. And it's other people's loss."

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