Emmy winners Debbi Morgan and Darnell Williams are once again reunited in Pine Valley. The pair sat down for an interview that reflected on more than 30 years of soap opera history.
) and Debbi Morgan
) were a supercouple starting in the 1980s -- they just did not know it. "In those days," explains Morgan, "the show was taped like a play. We might get to the studio at 7:30 a.m. and be working into the night. One day, Darnell and I were finished for the day and decided to see a movie on 42nd Street. After the movie, I hear this voice say, 'That's Angie, That's Jesse'" I did not know what was happening. The crowd kept getting larger and louder. They started following us. Darnell says, 'Run, Debbi.' That is when we realized what was happening."
Morgan says Angie and Jesse have been married longer than she has been married to any of her four real-life husbands.
Says Williams, "Part of the chemistry is because we were and are good friends."
Williams recalls the scripts that he was given in the early years. "There were not any [people] of color writing the show. There still aren't any," he interjects. "I remember in one scene I had to say 'jive Turkey.' That's when I went to the producer and said, 'No one says that in real life.' They looked for me to help with the language. I was living in Brooklyn at the time. I would hang out in the streets to get the feel for urban talk."
After AMC was canceled, Morgan and Williams found themselves working on The Young and the Restless. "We did not want to be teamed up on the show. You can't do that. Jesse and Angie are All My Children. Our characters, Sarge and Harmony, were never meant to have a romance."
As for working on Y&R, Morgan says it did not work for several reasons. "You need this chemistry. Kristoff and I did not have a chemistry that transcended on the screen. Fans would be very upset with me because they did not like how Harmony was behaving. I don't think they realized sometimes I felt that way too. I am an actor and perform what the writers give me."
As for the lack of black writers on soaps, Williams feels it really is an old boys club. "The door really needs to swing open a bit more."
Both actors know the power of the soap writer. Morgan wonders why most writers never ask the actors about what was going on with their character before the writers joined the show. "When you have actors who have played characters for more than two decades, you would think they would want to talk to us. We know the background. I am not the type of actress who would be in the producer's office every day, but sometimes it would be nice to feel that you are welcome." Morgan says there is a major difference with the writing staff on the All My Children online reboot: "The writers are on the set every day. For years, I never saw any writers. I would see a name on a script, but that meant nothing to me."
Without naming names, Morgan and Williams know that time and again, people who did not know how to write the soap would be fired only to be re-hired. "At times the show was being run into the ground. That writer would be gone. A year later, they would be back,"
Williams again credits this "to that old boys club." Morgan adds, "We were on the set. The people upstairs did not seem to understand or care about the fallout."
Morgan recalls a storyline that really had her shaking her head. "Angie's dad loved her. His life was all about protecting Angie. He was against Angie and Jesse being together because he did not think he was right for his little girl. They bring on Antonio Fargas to play my dad. Now my dad was a criminal who stole Angie's baby. It made no sense."
As for the reboot that began on April 29th via Hulu.com, Hulu Plus, and iTunes, Williams thinks "it is the future. Being involved with the first one is wonderful."
Williams had moved to Los Angeles when AMC moved from New York to L.A. He bought a house. Evidently he does not know the soap opera axiom: buy a house, and you will lose your acting gig. Shortly after AMC was canceled, he went to Y&R to play demanding physical therapist Sarge. "A year before, Prospect Park said they wanted to do an Internet version. I was really excited. Then it didn't happen."
Morgan explains, "I did not even know they were thinking of trying it again. I get a call from Darnell, and he tells me they are doing it. After what happened the first time, you did not want to get your hopes up. Every time there was an obstacle, we would think this isn't going to happen. One of the unions wasn't going to give the go-ahead. The date kept being pushed back and all kinds of other things. I thought, 'this isn't going to happen' until it did."
Yes there are differences. Both agree they have been treated better during the Prospect Park project than they had been in all those years at ABC. "I am not bashing the network. I had a very long career thanks to them. Just the feel is different. Not just the presence of the executives on the set almost every day, but what we can do."
There has been talk of edgier language. Williams divulges, "In the first two weeks, we were all letting go with F-Bombs. I can be a potty mouth." Morgan says she "is not one to use lot of profanity in real life. There are times in my life and Angie's that a swear word is the only reaction. When we came back from break, we were told to tone it down a notch."
Taping soaps has changed over the years. "In the beginning, a day at the studio was just that. Now the schedules are different. A few years ago, our rehearsal time became very limited. We have even less time now. We tape several shows at a time. Scenes are shot out of sequence. Sometimes you are doing a very emotional scene, you don't get to do the scene that would come after it right away. So you have to have your emotions at different levels."
Then there is the craft service table. "We are not talking donuts and coffee," says Williams. "It is all this food. Good and healthy," Morgan marvels
Each of them has a special word for their fans. "It was the fans saying how much they wanted us that made this happen," says Morgan.
Williams concurs, "God bless the fans."