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Viewing Single Post From: Michael Fairman interview with Crystal Chappell
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http://michaelfairmansoaps.com/days-of-our-lives/the-crystal-chappell-interview-venice/2011/08/06/

This week’s birthday girl, Crystal Chappell, has a lot to celebrate this summer! Recently, she won her second Daytime Emmy and the first for her hit web series, Venice! And, she announced she is creating another web soap called The Grove, collaborating with her husband, actor, Michael Sabatino (Ex- Lawrence, DAYS) on the writing chores! And that is only for starters, because then came the good news for Venice fans that the enterprising Chappell is in pre production and getting ready to shoot season three of the phenomenal web soap.

But that is not all! If you really want to see the crème’de la crème of soap opera performances, you need to look no further than the past two weeks of riveting drama that featured Chappell doing some of the finest work of her remarkable daytime career on Days of our Lives. As viewer’s watched Carly Manning’s total descent into drug addiction escalate, and the horror of her arch-nemesis Vivian Alamain pushing drugs down her throat, and the subsequent total fall of a woman so badly damaged by what life threw at her that she feels she had no where to turn and no one to comfort her, Crystal’s performance have many screaming, “Emmy” for next year! Clearly, we also want to take this opportunity to name Crystal this week’s On-Air On-Soap’s Power Performance of the Week for her stellar scenes. Of course there has certainly been a big bump in the road this summer for Chappell, too, when the powers-that-be at DAYS made the decision to pink-slip her to make way for their new reset version of the series coming in late September. And while the decision has been heartbreaking for many, as you will read, Chappell has great perspective on it all.

In one of our favorite interviews to date with the soap superstar, you will get an inside preview of the focus of this feature… which is the exciting season three of Venice and what she has planned for her acting troupe. What will happen for Gina, Ani, Lara, Owen, Guya, and Sami? Crystal definitely has mapped out their paths! Plus, you will get some inside scoop here on what daytime actress might be one of the leads in The Grove, and something we know will go flying off the bookshelves…Crystal is also hard at work on her first book. Will names be named? Stay tuned! Here’s our chitchat with the birthday girl!


MICHAEL:

An Emmy later, we pick up our story! You won the Daytime Emmy for Venice, and we talked that night briefly at the Creative Arts presentations. When you took the Emmy home, how did it feel?

CRYSTAL:


Photo Credit: Steven Bergman
It felt great. A lot of people worked very hard and put a lot of energy into Venice, and it was completely unexpected! I was certain someone else would win.

MICHAEL:

Oh, c’mon! You were up against Tasty Time with ZeFronk!

CRYSTAL:

Seriously, I did not know if we would win. We were up against Disney and I kept thinking, “I don’t know how this is all going to play out.” (Laughs) But winning was a very nice validation of the hard work we put into it, and then I introduced her to my other Emmy, and they have been fast friends ever since! And that is sort of appropriate, in lieu of what Venice is about… that these two should sleep next to each other. I also noticed that the modern day Emmy has a little more cleavage!

MICHAEL:

They have given her a makeover!

CRYSTAL:

Yes, even the modern day Emmy goes to Beverly Hills for plastic surgery, or a nip and a tuck here and there. (Laughs)


MICHAEL:

So, season three of Venice is about to go into production and you are spearheading the whole shebang!

CRYSTAL:


Photo Credit: Lesley Bohm
I can honestly say, we are under a time pinch since we pushed production back a couple of months. But, I can honestly say that I am just as busy as I was before… no more, no less.


MICHAEL:

Are you giving yourself more time to learn your lines this season, from your own scripts? I mean, more than a day to memorize?

CRYSTAL:

Yes, I am reading it over and over again as I am producing this time. Hopefully, I am learning it as I go. (Laughs)


MICHAEL:

What do you think the avid Venice fan and aficionado can expect from season three?


CRYSTAL:

I think they are going to see their favorite characters picking right up where we left off in season two into season three. There were a lot of stories left hanging in season two; with the Colonel mailing that letter to Ani, the fight between Lara and Ani, and Guya’s new business! Before, Guya could sense spirits, and now she can actually see them for a reason. There is clearly some unfinished business between these two sisters. We are going to figure out what it is about and the audience will know about that. Ani and Lara’s relationship will go in a new direction, and so will Gina and Ani’s. But I can tell you it won’t be what you’d expect.

MICHAEL:

So wait… Lara won’t end up with a man? Please God! No All My Children foibles on your show! (Laughs)

CRYSTAL:

Nobody is ending up with a man, I can tell you that. But… they can be friends with a man. (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

Lara, played by Nadia Bjorlin, took a dark turn in episode eleven that won the Emmy. Will we see her go down a different path with her life in season three?


CRYSTAL:

Lara is going to work very hard to prove to Ani that she can pull it together. She is going to do just that by looking for ways to do better, and she loves Ani. So there is definitely a triangle here when you add Gina to the equation. And sometimes you do these in the name of love for the right things. But maybe it is not the most honorable thing to do. But Lara is still a good person. The thing I like about all three of these women is that they are good people and flawed, and they are making mistakes along the way.

MICHAEL:

Will the same cast be intact featuring both east-coasters and west-coasters?

CRYSTAL:

Molly Burnett (Melanie, DAYS) is coming onboard and I will not say as who just yet. And whether she is a good girl or a bad girl will actually play into season four. She has reason to not be so nice. I adore Molly, and one of the fun things about producing the show is that I get to work with people whom I really respect and love, and they are just good actors. And that in essence is what this Emmy represents; a lot of hard working people behind the scenes. I think this cast rose to the occasion and I think that is why the Emmy came home with Venice.


MICHAEL:

The big question is, when can fans get their fix of Venice season three? When will you be launching?


CRYSTAL:

I think we are on target with this. I think around late November or early December will be the first episode, hopefully around Thanksgiving. And then new webisodes will be longer, believe it or not. Last time we shot 145 pages in 5 and half days. This time, I think we are up to 170 pages and that is just through episode 10. We have more time to shoot it this time. The shortest webisode was 10 minutes last year, and the longest was 20 minutes. But because of the page count I am working with, cumulatively, we are going to have more show at the end of the season.


MICHAEL:

In our last chitchat a few months back, you announced to me that you have created an entirely new web soap called The Grove, which is a classic soap opera style series. With Venice launching at the end of the year, when can we expect The Grove to debut?


CRYSTAL:

Once we wrap Venice, I will be getting into The Grove. I already have the long-term story on The Grove. Michael Sabatino and I are going to sit down and write the season and I think it will launch in February or March of 2012. So right about the time that Venice is wrapping up its season, we will be cross producing, basically. So I will be shooting The Grove and then turning that around. There will be a two-month hiatus basically, and then I will start writing Venice again. So we are going to move forward with both series.

MICHAEL:

OK. I ask this every year, but are we going to see a major gay love story in Venice during season three, featuring Jamie?

CRYSTAL:

We will see more of that relationship develop in season three, and in fact, Harrison White (Jamie) wrote the long term of the story.

MICHAEL:

I am also assuming that Jamie and Gina will get into some laugh riot situations that only two best friends could get into!

CRYSTAL:

Given the fact that Guya can now see her dead sister… who now lands in the body of a whore at Amber’s memorial, you could say that. There is a lot of closure that has to happen with Guya and Kate. So we end up at the Memorial. And as it happens, in Amber’s family being a hooker is a very honorable profession, a la Las Vegas. In other words, this is an escort or a paid date with “benefits”. So this is not something that is frowned upon, necessarily. It is a very interesting group of people. But the whole thing is wonderfully kinetic, and there is a lot of fun for Jamie, Gina, Guya and Owen.

MICHAEL:

I want to talk about Owen, played by Galen Gering, for a moment. Could there be a dark turn in his character in season three?

CRYSTAL:

It is kind of his turn to deal with some issues. Gina went through hers, and I am not saying they are all resolved, but she found at least a meeting of the minds with her father and she is back at work, dealing with her love life. And Owen reaches out to his father and does not seemingly do the right thing, and it’s the same response as sister Gina gets! He hits the wall with this man. So Owen is not the same in season three, he is acting out. Sami has disappointed him…although he has disappointed her. Owen is angry; his life is a mess, basically.

MICHAEL:

What about Sami played by Gina Tognoni? I hear something is not quite right with her. What can you preview?

CRYSTAL:

We find out things about Sami that never really happened. Maybe there are things she talks about that aren’t real. She is not a well person, but she speaks the truth… or she believes she is telling the truth.

MICHAEL:

Did you decide to do that to give Gina Tognoni some story to play, and to bring her talents more front and center?


CRYSTAL:

She is a brilliant actress, and when she hits those raw places and her humanity in scenes, it’s amazing to watch. What inspired this story arc was watching her on Guiding Light as Dinah. I think she will be amazing and I am very excited about it. I love writing for people and people that I love, but I also love writing for people’s strengths. I want the best out of them; because I know at the end of the day they are going to walk away with feeling good about their work.

MICHAEL:

You are an actress who now directs and writes and you know the game, and how the actors need to work and like to work. And I hear from all of your co-stars that they love working with you. And, that somehow you have a way of working with them to bring out what they need to accomplish in a scene. I loved hearing that, because if it were me and I heard Crystal Chappell and Susan Flannery (Stephanie, B&B) were going to be directing me, I would run out the door! (Laughs)


CRYSTAL:

And you know what? I guess there was a moment when Susan and I worked together with Nadia and Jessica, and Susan disagreed with a point in the shot I wanted to get, and I said, “Well, I really feel that this is what I want.” And Susan was nothing but cool. She has been amazing. She and I made a great team on the set! We were double teaming people! (Laughs) I just want people to have a good time about their work and feel safe. An actor has to feel safe in order to do their best work. That is just how it has to be.


MICHAEL:

Speaking of another force to be reckoned with and one of the great actresses of the genre, I hear Nancy Lee Grahn (Alexis, GH) might be in The Grove?

CRYSTAL:

At Nancy Lee Grahn’s recent fan event, I kind of tricked her. I was onstage talking to the audience while she was talking to someone else, and I said, “Nancy, just say, “Yes.” And she said, “Yes.” I have been mentioning it to her here and there, but I have not actually sat down with her. I can tell you that Nancy has been so supportive of Venice. But I can say there is a great, great part for her in The Grove. Michael Sabatino and I were saying to each other, “Nancy would be great for this role.” And then you start writing for that actor and you know what they can do, and I get excited. And I can tell you; I have a harder time writing for myself. But I love writing what his character is going to do or her character is going to do. That is fun for me, and then I don’t have to learn so many damn lines! (Laughs)


MICHAEL:

So you now have a great team of writers on board as your writing team for season three of Venice, including Jill Lorie Hurst. How are the writing chores going to be divvied up?

CRYSTAL:

What is good about this season of Venice is that I gave them long-term story and the writing team broke it up into dialog. I wrote a few scenes, but 98% of the scenes were written by them. If you see something really adolescent and immature, that’s probably the scene I wrote. (Laughs) There is a scene I wrote between Guya, Owen and Gina and they are having one of their nights. And they are playing nun-bowling! (Laughs) That is the kind of stuff I write, all the fun stuff. But all the smart stuff comes from these incredibly smart women writers with mature, moving, and beautiful dialog, that has that spark and humor to it.

MICHAEL:

Who is the one that says, “I want to write the lesbian sex-scenes?”

CRYSTAL:

Well, that would be me!


MICHAEL:

You have new items in your Venice the Series V-Shop, which launched on August 3rd and many of them autographed by members of the cast. And I hear a brand of tequila…Tequila Revolucion is a new sponsor for Venice?

CRYSTAL:

(Hiccup) Yup! (Laughs) I put myself out there and I tested the tequila. So to get a good sponsor I said, “I will come in person to taste your products! (Laughs) Well, first of all what is funny about this is, I love, love, love a good tequila, because I don’t drink crap. They are our first big sponsors and we have these new Venice shot glasses to go with the tequila! Fans can buy those at the V-Shop.

MICHAEL:

It has been unbelievable watching you over the past few weeks on Days of our Lives as Carly battles her drug addiction and continually and continually spirals downward. It has been must-see daytime television. And I know you wrapped at DAYS six weeks or so ago. How was your last day on set? I know Nadia Bjorlin (Lara, Venice, Chloe DAYS) did not get a big farewell for her last tape day.


CRYSTAL:

I finished taping June 24th. I want to be clear about something… with someone like Nadia Bjorlin who was on a show for 12 years; there should have been a celebration for her. But for me, I don’t like that kind of thing. My objective going back was to work. And I can honestly say, I would not have gotten to do all the things I have been doing, if it wasn’t for DAYS, and I am eternally grateful for that. Look, they are in a state of change and flux and they need to focus on what they need to do. I have some things coming up in the daytime world that are very positive. I am hopeful, and I will leave it at that. I had the lovely Maria Arena Bell (executive producer and head writer, Y&R) come up to me at the Emmys and tell me what a big fan she was of mine, and so we will see. Something will happen!


MICHAEL:

I am sure you will be back on daytime! The powers-that-be would be stupid not to snatch you up. So I understand you are moving back to your home in Central California and exiting the big city for now.


CRYSTAL:

This is something as a mother I felt I needed to do. Because I felt terribly guilty, as a lot of moms do, and that is as actor’s pulling my children around, and my eldest son in particular. I mean, when I grew up I went to 11 different schools by the time I graduated from high school. But you adapt, but you are always saying goodbye to somebody. I just saw what this was doing to him. So I made a promise to my children, that I will not move them again. They love it up there. L.A. is right here and these days you can work anywhere if you have an internet connection. We live in a very small town, so I am going to have to come back down here to L.A. to get my city fix and see my friends, but I will not move my children. They will go to school with those kids that they have known before and back into the school they were at before So this has been nothing but positive. I can tell you that my kids have had an amazing turnaround in the last six weeks. My eldest was going through a hard time and my little one had gotten very quiet. I think they have been sensing in the last several weeks that I have been a very happy person. And Michael is doing amazing and is a wonderful partner for me. He is getting his electrician’s license up and he has his construction business up there, and things are just so peaceful.


MICHAEL:

It’s got to be hard for the kids and for you when Mom is not there and off working. Now with you having some more availability, that should be good for the kids, don’t you think?

CRYSTAL:

I think being more available to my kids is part of it, but I also believe life has taken me in the exact path I need to be, and so I do not regret any of it. I just want to keep moving forward.


MICHAEL:

As fans watch your final month and half as Carly, should we expect her descent into drug hell to go further? She is such a mess right now!

CRYSTAL:

It gets worse! But I will say a year ago, Gary Tomlin (ex-co executive producer, DAYS) said to me, “We need to give you something more substantial.” And I did not think it would go this far, honestly. I was not expecting a storyline like that. And I don’t find it depressing, and I don’t understand that mentality, because they actually played it realistically and through rehab and everything else. I am getting a lot of messages from people saying, “This is hard to watch. But this is what I am going through.” I got to work with great people. Melissa Reeves (Jennifer, DAYS) did some great work in the story, and you cannot do that work if you are not given the opportunity. So I was proud of them for trying it. And I do like the journey that she takes, and ultimately it’s about forgiveness and learning how to forgive yourself.

MICHAEL:

So with all things being equal, including being pink-slipped from the series, you have liked the drug addiction storyline for Carly? It has been some of your most gut-wrenching work to date, and that is saying something after the myriad of soap plots in your career!


CRYSTAL:

I loved the drug addiction storyline, because it made me work hard. I find it hard to challenge myself in acting these days. I feel like I need to go back to the classics and do some work on that. I was inspired and happy to be put back into the quarry and split some rocks open and really work hard. I got that opportunity with Carly’s last storyline and I got to work, as I said, with some wonderful people. I think there is some really wonderful stuff coming up.

MICHAEL:

I know that you wanted to get out there to the soap fans; that someone was very instrumental at keeping DAYS alive for the past two years!


CRYSTAL:

Yes. September is coming up. I just want to say that, it would have been the last month of Days of our Lives and I am not saying you have to agree with someone’s taste in story or anything else. But I think people should know that this show would not be continuing past September if Gary Tomlin had not gone in and negotiated this deal. It is Gary that got the show the deal it has with the network. So you do not have to agree with certain things about him, but just be aware with that. I think if nothing else just say, “Hey, thanks.” He kept the show on for a couple of years.

MICHAEL:

You have some more exciting news to share here with everyone! You have now begun writing a book. Is it going to be a memoir? (fingers-crossed)


CRYSTAL:

I am writing a book… a memoir. I write with humor. There are things that I don’t get as a person and I look at someone’s behavior and I go, “Really?” Or, I hear things and I go, “I have no idea what you are talking about.” It’s a perspective, and it is linked to the partial reason why these soaps are failing and I will leave it at that. And that is my perspective as it pertains to what is happening now. I just started writing it and it starts out with new media on Emmy night, and then we will go back. I am excited about that! I learned a lot from all the soaps I have been on. Michael has been on different soaps, and we moved around and so did a lot of actors in soaps, and so everyone has his or her stories. It has been interesting.

MICHAEL:

Please tell me, you do not have the same ghost writer as Susan Lucci and Kim Zimmer? I am speaking with Zimmer next week!

CRYSTAL:

Will you ask Kim, when you speak with her, if I am in her book? Kim is such a talented bitch. I love her!

MICHAEL:

Venice now looks to potentially be the forerunner for the web for soaps. With the news that One Life to Live and All My Children are moving to the internet courtesy of Prospect Park, what were your thoughts when you heard this news and have been following the small updates from the company itself? There is a lot to work through to get this to happen, it would seem. They hinted the shows would be on seasonally, which is similar to how Venice operates.

CRYSTAL:

Initially, I thought the news was fantastic, but I thought there is no way you are going to keep the same format and get advertisers, and I did not understand that. And, that seemed to me that it was not thought out. But I think it’s possible, if you can get this cast to be wiling to work for much less, and doing it seasonally, that is not a bad idea at all. But you are talking about asking actors to take a pay cut. I can tell you; I am going to go to AFTRA to see at least how to get these actors; healthcare and pension. It’s going to be a challenge, and if they can do it, that will be great. But a lot is going to have to be sacrificed, that much I know. They are going to most likely have to use non-union crews.

MICHAEL:

I was hoping it was not just a bone they threw at the now long-suffering ABC Daytime fans of OLTL and AMC, when ABC and Prospect Park sent out that initial press release. Clearly, things were not in place at all when they made that announcement.

CRYSTAL:

It is about the format and being able to direct people to the web. There is Internet television coming out, but that is the future and we are not quite there yet. I would do seasonal subscription, if they want my two cents. That is what I would do and they can do that. And as long as these actors are willing to work for less and they use a non-union crew, that is my take on it, otherwise it is very costly. This is what I want to go in and talk to the union about. We need a new scale for new media that is reasonable. I cannot afford for my show what now exists for television. So I want to be able to say, “Here is your salary, and that much is going to go into your pension and that much is going into your health care.” It all has to be worked out from here on. And I don’t know how they are now going to not have a hiccup. Realistically, you have to ask yourself, where is the money coming from? Who is investing? And, what are they getting back from it? Because, it is all about money. How is that going to work and how does that happen? If they need to talk with someone, have them call me!
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