Soapdom Gets Up Close and Personal ...
... with B&B's Shannelle Workman, Antonio Sabato, Jr., Winsor Harmon, Lorenzo Lamas, Kayla Ewell and Jack Wagner
On Thursday May 19th, the very uptown fashionistas from The Bold and The Beautiful hit mid-town Manhattan with more style and charm than Forrester Creations and Sally Specktra combined. High atop the very chic and trendoidal Hudson Hotel’s Rooftop Terrace, the beautiful men and women, who usually behave badly, were having fun just being themselves and that was more fun than you can imagine. If you think they live and dress like their alter egos, guess again. They were relaxed, open, and just plain normal. Like all press junkets, there was plenty of food, but most people were too busy yakking to sit down and eat a proper meal. Journalists from as far away as South Africa and as close as the Big Apple were seated at tables with audio and video equipment ready for the 411 on a worldwide television phenomenon.
This is Shanelle Workman’s (Gabriela, B&B) first experience with a show that has such a global reach, “It is surreal so far. I haven’t been on long enough to get the full impact,” she commented. She was aware of the show’s popularity, but she didn’t really understand it until recently. “Somebody was saying, ‘You can’t walk through Italy without somebody knowing who you are.’ When I thought worldwide, I thought a couple countries, but Ronn Moss said, ‘You’ll be mobbed.’ He made me get it.” She hasn’t been on long enough to feel the high voltage of stardom because her shows haven’t aired overseas, yet. But the two South African journalists were busy taking down every word Workman said, since her character won’t appear in their part of the world for months.
Workman, who is of Brazilian and Greek descent, identifies very closely with the role of Gabriela. “I’m very close with my mother and my family. I’m also a very loyal person, a loyal friend, and that’s what this person is.” After leaving One Life To Live, it wasn’t long before she landed Gabriela, “It was just a really good acting role. Very meaty stuff…crying and different emotions. I love to challenge myself and I think this role is a challenge for me.”
“This has been my grandmother’s favorite show for 18 years. She’s still crying about it. She’s in love.” Workman grew up with the show and knows all the characters well. “It’s been wonderful for me to give my grandmother this gift.” She’s going to fly her down and organize a visit to the set. As for those highly charged romantic scenes, Workman isn’t quite sure how her grandmother will respond. “She saw me do a few on One Life to Live (ex-Flash), but these are going to be much more risqué. My character’s beautiful on this show and on One Life to Live, I played more of a punk rock girl.” Clearly Workman is a soap fan and prefers drama to comedy. Best of all she’s in sunny Southern California, “I’m an LA girl. I like getting in my own car and being in control of my own destiny.”
At the tender age of six Workman made her Broadway debut as the young Cosette in Les Misearables, and she hasn’t stopped working since. She just finished, Jump Shot, a movie with Kim Bassinger, Ray Liotta and Tim Roth. It’s a small supporting role, but it’s juicy. “I play a college girl who seduces Ray Liotta for a better grade.” Smart teacher, he turns her down. To find out more you have to see the movie, which is still in production. She likes films, but prefers the fast pace of daytime television, especially the glamour of B&B. As far as she’s concerned, there’s nothing like it on TV. Lucky girl, fashion designer, Roberto Cavelli, sent her a dress for the Emmy broadcast. “I’m not eating until then. I have to starve myself to get into this dress.”
Workman’s favorite scene so far happens to be the very first one she shot with Daytime icon, Susan Flannery, “She’s like an Erika Slezak, one of the most unbelievable actresses, one of the best out there. I feel so lucky just to have this job.”
It’s been 11 years since Antonio Sabato, Jr., last appeared on General Hospital. Fans know he’s been a busy man making movies and TV shows non-stop. Sabato is nothing, if not practical, “It’s harder than it’s ever been because of all the reality TV. The business has changed dramatically. It’s a different time now. I wanna be with my kids and I want work as an actor, it’s what I love to do. I don’t want to do reality TV. I’ve turned reality shows down for the past two years.”
It seems B&B came into his life at exactly the right moment. “They came in with the chance to create a character who could do something new and fresh, who could be with a family of 20 characters, which is perfect and it’s a 30-minute show. It’s steady work and if you take it seriously, and you really want to so something with it, you can. It’s up to you to make it special and to make it more artistic that what it is, or otherwise you can just punch the clock and go to work.”
“I have so much stuff to bring, ‘cuz of all the stuff that I’ve learned. In eleven years, I’ve traveled the world and I’m a father and I appreciate the craft more than I’ve ever did.” Sabato literally just started to tape his episodes, one week’s worth. “The first show I’m going to be on will be the 16th of June.” “I can only tell you what I’m allowed to say. Hunter Tylo’s back. The reason why she’s back is partly because of my character. There’s a story there, they knew each other. He helped her get away.” Sabato signed on for two years, he’ll see where it all leads.
But the role he loves most is the one he seems to be born to play - dad! His 10-year old son is a hockey and skateboard freak as well as a 3rd generation Thespian. Sabato wants his son to understand the difficulties and hardships most actors face. “He’s fortunate to be in films that we both do.” His mother is the recently Oscar nominated actress, Virginia Madsen, “My father is an actor so he appreciates the business and the craft. I’m behind him whatever he wants to do. But he has to appreciate it.”
“I’m just excited to be seen in Italy and to have my friends watch me every day.” He has a great fan base in South Africa, as verified by the two very enthusiastic journalists. This put a great big smile on Sabato’s face, “I wish I could go. I wish I could go surfing in South Africa right now. With this kind of schedule, I don’t have as much traveling time. I can’t go racing as much. I can’t jump out of planes as much.” His new bosses want to protect their investment, but this bad boy has other plans, “I don’t have to tell them everything.”
Windsor Harmon’s (Thorne Forrester, B&B) has his eye on South Africa, too. But his first priority is lunch. He’s been talking non-stop since 11AM and he’s starving. In between bites, he tells us about his admiration for the late Bill Bell. “He’s a pioneer. He created shows. He saved shows. He produced. He wrote. Bill Bell changed Daytime. You won’t see the likes of someone like him, I don’t think, ever. He employed a lot of people and he changed a lot of people’s lives. He hired me. He was in the office the day I came in and they offered me the job.” As Bell walked out the door, he gave Harmon a big thumbs up!
Since actors play a continuous game of musical chairs on all the soaps, there has been much speculation that Harmon would return to All My Children, where his old cast mate, Bobbi Eakes has found a new home. “They’re not getting me back. I know there’s talk out there, but I’ll put those rumors to rest right now.” This is a guy who loves LA, “I like to drive my cars and go to the beach. I don’t like the city. I love New York, but it’s not for me. Harmon’s got three kids, the youngest is two, who’s the spitting image of his Dad, and “My mom calls him payback.” None of his kids watch the show, and he really doesn’t either. “It’s hard to watch yourself. I usually watch the speed channel. I like to race cars. I want to go for a ride in a Formula-1 car.” Neither his wife nor the show know anything about this deep-seated passion, but they will now!
Harmon’s got a great sense of humor and when SOAPDOM wanted to know what he likes best about B&B, he didn’t miss a beat, “That it’s a half-hour! It’s the best part-time job in the world. ”
Harmon believes there are some similarities between himself and his character, Thorne. “I think you have to bring something of yourself to your character, you have to have somewhere to pull from, but there’s a lot of things he does that I wouldn’t do.” Everyone at the table laughed when he said, “I would never sleep with my brother’s wife. Never. It’s just not gonna happen. Ever. There’s a lot of girls out there, I don’t need one that my brother has. Jeez!” There’s that great sense of humor again, never taking himself or the show too seriously, “This show is drama. It’s over the top drama. But what it does for an actor is that it’s a challenge. In real life this s*#t does not happen. Let’s be realistic. It’s fun over the top drama and it’s exciting because we don’t get to do this in real life. I have this alter ego, where I can be a maniac. It’s absurd. It’s fun. I enjoy it. That’s why I do it.”
As he finishes the last bits of roast beef Harmon, is very grateful for the show’s enormous overseas popularity, even if it makes travel a little difficult at times. “I can’t go to Europe without setting things and having body guards. I can’t do what normal tourists do when they go to Europe.” Hey, maybe he should try Lithuania, “No, I think we’re there, aren’t we? “ Not yet! It’s not one of the 120 countries where B&B is seen.
“These junkets give all the journalists a chance to talk to everybody,” Lorenzo Lamas (Hector Ramirez, B&B) is quick to point out. “When it comes down to it, out of sight out of mind and if you’re an actor you have to realize that the visibility is valuable. It’s what keeps people in tune with what you’re doing and it keeps your name out there. It’s all good when you’re talking about selling a product.” And, he ought to know. His father, Fernando Lamas, his mother, Arlene Dahl, and his step-mother, Esther Williams all made a big splash on the silver screen.
“When I come to New York, it’s a two-pronged mission. I’m here to represent the show, primarily, but because I have family here I like to connect with my Mom and my sister and my brother.” Lamas was born in Santa Monica, but grew up in the Big Apple. It’s hard to find the time to see family, friends, and work. On this trip, it’s all about the work. Very often he stays with his mom, but she’s out of town, so he’s on his own.
Lamas has a very six degrees of separation connection to B&B’s creators. In the 1950’s his mother, actress Arlene Dahl, was a model working in Chicago. At the same time Bell and his wife, Lee Phillips Bell, worked in local television. But that’s not how he got the job. It was hard work, auditions, and chemistry!
B&B gives something he’s rarely experienced as an actor, camaraderie! They embraced him with open arms. “When you’re new on a show, you go with optimism, but you never know how it’s going to be with the other cast members, whether there will be feelings of animosity because they’re bringing a new character in and there’ll be less time for them. I was made to feel so welcome from the very beginning and that is really unique. I think it’s the most valuable quality that our show has.”
If Lamas could change one thing about the direction of his character, it would be what all fans would change, “I’m hoping for a romantic storyline. I love my daughter on TV, but for crying out loud.”
Speaking of his TV daughter, Kayla Ewell’s (Caitlin Rose), has been on the show about a year. “I love it. I love the people I work with and the opportunity to work and to create a character no one else can play as well as me because I created her. I’m an actress and I just want to act and to be able to get up every morning and go to work with these amazing people who appreciate it just as much as I do. I have an amazing opportunity.” Before this Long Beach, California native came to B&B, she did some episodic prime time and a couple of commercials, but nothing steady. “I love going to the same place every day and seeing the same people and knowing this guy’s going to do my make-up and this guy’s going to dress me.”
When it comes to clothes, Ewell leaves it all up to the genius of Birgit Muller, the show’s two-time Emmy award winning costume designer. “I let her do her thing because she’s so creative. She has these visions in her head and all of a sudden you’re putting on this gown that’s absolutely amazing and she just thought of it one night. The whole show is fashion forward. It’s based on ‘we create what’s fashion’. She -- in her head -- is responsible for that. She’ll take this tank top, cut it up, tie it in different places and suddenly it’s this creation. She deserves every single Emmy she’s earned.”
Unlike Caitlin, Ewell is having the time of her life. Barely out of her teens, she knows she’s one lucky girl. Caitlin, well her life’s a soap opera! “She’s about to go through a rough time. Her boyfriend’s going to dump her, that’s a tid-bit for sure. Since her mom left her, her life sucks. She’s going to need someone come cheer her up.” But who is that “someone?” Ewell’s lips are sealed.
Ewell never watched soaps. No one in her family did. But when she landed the role of Caitlin daytime dramas took on a whole meaning, “My dad and my brother said, ‘we’re only going to watch your scenes.’ Now, they’re hooked and they want to know what’s going to happen next and they love watching it and they just really enjoy it.” Now that she’s part of the daytime family, Ewell’s kind of started her own fan club, devoted strictly to the fans. “There’s no fan like a soap fan because you’re in their living room every single day. It’s not like a prime time show or a movie that you go see in a theatre. You are in their living room every single day and that’s why they’re the most loyal fans. So, we love the fans. I love the fans.”
How did Jack Wagner (Dominic Payne) feel when he heard he’d received an Emmy nod for Lead Actor? “Totally shocked because I had no idea when they came out. I just received all these calls in the morning and when I heard the phone I thought something had happened.” It was 5:30 in California, and even the most energetic types are usually asleep. “It’s been so far between then and now. I’ve been working and going about my life, but now to be in New York and with the awards here, it’s actually exciting.”
Life on B&B has been a time of renewal for Wagner. “It’s forced me into being creative again. I just have to thank Brad Bell for collaborating with me to create this sea captain who drinks and smokes and lives on a boat and goes to this stivey sea bar called Chucks.” Maybe that’s what makes his character stand out in a show that’s very slick, very beautiful, and very urban. Wagner believes “it was really a challenge for Brad to trust me enough to create this character. Another challenge was making this odd ball fit into the high world of fashion and money. He’s unconventional and really doesn’t like to conform to those kinds of things.”
Wagner thought his life was going to be a piece of cake once he hit the studio. Wrong! On the first day of shooting he found himself on a ship that went aground on this huge hydraulic set, “Water came pounding in and I was on set for 10 hours that day and I’m thinking, ‘I thought the half-hour soap would be a little easier.’ It was a long first day and it’s paid off for me.”
Unlike Antoni Sabato, Jr., Wagner took a slight detour and ventured into the world of reality television. “It seems like your auditioning to be a host now, more than you’re auditioning to be an actor.” Wagner, a great golfer, began hitting the greens as a young boy in Missouri. When he got to the University of Arizona he thought he would be the next Jack Nicklaus. Wrong again! He turned his attention to theatre and never looked back. A couple of years ago he combined his love of golf with television production and took the ESPN challenge. “I created and hosted my own show, OFF-COURSE. I had friends of mine on, James Woods, Heather Locklear, and John Elway and we’d see them in real life and on the golf course. But I don’t think I was cut out to be a host. I like to act.”
People were coming and going and it seems like there just wasn’t enough time to talk to everyone. Susan Flannery ducked out right away. She was hosting a luncheon across town for all the best actress nominees. Hunter Tylo and Ronn Moss were very much in demand and didn’t have time to talk to everyone. My South African tablemates were extremely disappointed. But it was a lovely spring day in the Big Apple and we did get to spend quality time with a number of B&B’s top stars! Who could ask for anything more?
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