All My Children's Triangle For Valentine's Day

by Seli Groves
The Spokesman Review

Girl loves boy who loves girl who loves boy who loves girl who realizes that while it's very nice to have such an active love life, she must eventually make up her mind which of the boys she loves more than the other, and which boy will then have to be sent away after she makes her choice.

This scripted passion ploys for ABC's top-rated soap "All My Children" is set (not surprisingly) to run its course through the crucial February sweeps period (the idea is to earn higher ratings than the competition which means you can then charge higher rates for commercials).

The three people in the triangle are Nina, Cliff and Matt played by three of the best actors in the business: Taylor Miller, Peter Bergman and Michael Tylo.

"I like triangles," Bergman said, "especially if I think I'm the one who has the better chance of being chosen." He smiled, "Seriously, if a triangle storyline is written well, it can be very effective. There's a lot of emotional area to cover. In this one with Nina, Matt and Cliff, the choices aren't as easy as you might expect. Nina loves Cliff, but she also loves Matt."

Of course the triangle might not have been set up at all if Peter hadn't decided to take time away from "All My Children" to try his luck in Hollywood. When Peter left the show, Cliff "disappeared" in the jungles of South America. Although it was assumed he died, on soaps, such assumptions are presumptions to say the least. No one is ever dead forever if there's a chance his or her resurrection will make for a good storyline.

A distraught Nina turned to Matt who was there to comfort her in her hour of need, and she married him.

"I'm not sorry about the time I spent away," Peter said. "It was a veyr good experience for me. I went out to Hollywood with my wife and child and I looked around for a while and then realized that I had something very good back here, so I came back."

And so did Cliff.

"But what he came back to was a wife who was married to a man he once considered his friend. That can be pretty upsetting for a guy."

Especially because Nina's mourning period ended before the wreaths on Cliff's memorial stone wilted.

"That too," Peter agreed.

Peter noted that the audience was reacting favorably to the triangle story. "They like the idea of Nina having to choosen between Matt and Cliff. I'm sure many think she should pick Matt, but I have a feeling most would prefer Cliff coming back into her life," he said.

Peter obviously knew who was going to win fair Nina's hand (and the rest of her as well), but even when actors are told how a storyline is likely to go, detours can be made anywhere along the line.

"Sometimes stories don't work out," Peter said. "When that happens, you'll see a sudden shift. The direction the characters were going in changes. Usually the shift can be made smoothly. But sometimes a story is left unresolved. The audience feels it, and so do the actors."

For the most part, Peter feels it's no important for the actor to know how a story will end.

"This is a soap," he said, "which means you go along day by day playing your character as if you don't know what will happen to him because he doesn't know either."

"Sometimes, though, it would be more effective if the acto did know what was coming. For example, several years ago, we were doing a murder story. None of us knew whom they were going to name as the killer, so all of us played our roles as if we weren't guilty. About two weeks before the story ended, they told one of the actresses that she was the killer. I feel she should have known it earlier because up to that point, she played her role the way we all played ours, but the killer knows who he - in this case, she - is. If the actress had been told about it, she could have altered her performance to reflect the murderer's guilty secret."

Is Peter playing Cliff as if he knows he'll be Nina's choice?

"I'm playing Cliff as if Cliff believes he should be her choice."

The other man in contention for the lovely Nina is the adventurer Matt, played by Michael Tylo whom "Guiding Light" fans will remember as the exciting, often-enigmatic Quint Chamberlain, the man who fueled the fantasy of Nola Reardon (Lisa Brown) in some of the best soap stories ever seen on the daytime screen.

"I'd bet on Cliff," Tylo said, "although I think the right choice should be Matt. Cliff is a good man, but whatever he could give Nina can't compare with what Matt has to offer. With Cliff, she's just another doctor's wife. Where's the excitement in that? With Matt, there's excitement in everything he brings to their lives. She must have known that because she didn't wait too long to marry Matt after learning Cliff had 'died'."

So why do you think Nina would choose Cliff over Matt?

"Because she loves him. She loves Matt, too, but in a different way."

How does it feel to face the prospect that it might be your legs that buckle in the triangle?

"Well, no-one would want to lose a woman like Nina," Michael smiled, "but I think it's all for the best. It's time Matt went on to a new relationship."

Tylo, whose wife is expecting their first child this spring, was looking forward to that new experience. A hockey fan (his idea of a heavenly reward would be to skate on a line with his current favorite hockey star Yvon Cournoyer, and with Gordie Howe, and every member of the Detroit Red Wings, whoever suited up for a game). Tylo says he'll probably bring his baby to a hockey game as soon as she or he is old enough. (Neither Michael nor his wife want to know the sex of their baby before it's born.)

"How much do I like hockey, someone once asked me. I told them how much. When you become a member of SAG (Screen Actors Guild), you have to give them your middle name in case someone else with your name preceded you in the business. So I gave them a middle name, just in case..."

And if someone else named Michael Tylo does turn up to have prior claim to the name?

"It wouldn't bother me at all to be known as Michael Yvon Cournoyer Tylo."

Taylor Miller, the beautiful actress who created the role of Nina Cortlandt, had her own ideas about Nina's situation.

"For the first time, she's telling the men in her life that she wants to be in control of her life. She'll make the important choices. Up to now, she pretty well moved in the direction her father, Palmer, or Cliff, and to some extent Matt, wanted her to go in. But no more. She's grown up. She's mature. Most of all, she won't let anyone - let alone any of the men who say they love her - make her a victim anymore."

Taylor didn't always play Nina. She left the show at one point and the role was recast. The viewers didn't accept the new Nina who seemed to be stuck in a rut. She had become a passive, whiny non-entity.

"Let's face it," Taylor said, "she came into the world with all the privileges. She was raised to have everything done for her. She was a spoiled rich kid. The fact that she wanted to change is to her credit and it's something I very much admire in her."

As for the triangle, regardless of whom Nina chooses, whom does Taylor think of as being her best choice?

"Cliff. She's strong enough now that she can be Cliff's wife without losing her identity, without being overwhelmed by him."