Well, I finally did it! After 6 months of anxious anticipation, I visited the Guiding Light studios on April 28th. While there were only 4 of us on the tour, I'd like to take you all through the day, and how this fan viewed seeing the "behind the scenes" of her favorite show.
We started the morning pretty early, very anxious and nervous about going to the studios to see where GL tapes each day. My Road Trip partner Julie and I met up with Lil around 8:30am. We walked to a coffee shop on 44th Street (where the studio is) and sat to wait for Caroline. She arrived, and we all got to talking about how we got started watching GL and what we thought of it today.
For those of you who don't know, I have been watching GL since 1976 (I was 9, which makes me 33 now) and got hooked through watching every day after school with my aunt (who has since died). Every day, we had a date in front of the TV, me with my after-school snack, and she with her cup of coffee to be transported from OUR kitchen, into the kitchen of Bert Bauer. The cast was like family, and we got involved in the lives of the characters they portrayed. Bert Bauer (played by the daytime legend Charita Bauer) was like a surrogate grandmother, doling out advice and words of love and encouragement from the Bauer kitchen. The first real storyline that I can recall was Holly and her current (1976) beau Dr. Peter Chapman, going to a tropical island for a getaway. I am not sure where they filmed this remote, but it looked like paradise to this 9 year old!! I remember wishing that when I grew up, I could have some handsome man take ME to a tropical island for a week of love and romance like Holly (Maureen Garrett) and Dr. Peter Chapman (Curt Dawson).
As the time drew nearer for our tour, we grew anxious and even more nervous. Who would we meet? What would we see? It was then that I looked out the window and saw Frank Dicopolous (Frank) walking by, on his way to the studio. That did it! We were all reduced to giggling school girls who saw a cute boy! We grew more and more excited when, minutes later, Kurt McKinney (Matt), our tour guide walked by as well. I had seen both Frank and Kurt before, but you still get a thrill to see people you "know" as well as you know them (or really, their characters) from GL.
We got our things together, walked to the studio, where Kurt had already arrived, and were directed to the reception area on the 4th floor. Since it was 10am, GL was on in New York City. (it is also a day behind my show in DC, but as I had left for NYC the night before, I hadn't seen it). We then were told to go to the 6th floor, where Kurt was waiting for us.
I cannot tell you how excited we were when he walked through the door. I suddenly had images of Gene Wilder in "Willy Wonka" taking the kids on the tour of the chocolate factory (not that I would mind that, either). This was the place where we each spend an hour of our day (through the magic of television), so it is a lot like coming home again.
Kurt greeted us warmly and ushered us into his dressing room. Now I have been reading soap mags for years, and read countless interviews with stars and thought I knew what to expect. But, his dressing room was SO small!! Picture a fairly nice sized walk in closet, with a window and a small sink. Immaculately kept, but very tiny. Only room for one small chair, and no phone. Hardly a relaxing place to study lines or catch some zzzz's between tapes (If you'll notice in this week's SOD, other shows have MUCH bigger dressing rooms for their stars). Kurt handed us each a GL script to collect autographs (I got the one from the 4/28 show) and away we went to the Land of Wishes, Hopes and Dreams - the GL set!!
Having been a Communications major, I have been on television sets before. But they have all been news sets, with not much furniture in them. I had somehow assumed that this set would be larger than the news set. Boy, was I wrong! I didn't get to take pictures (the flash would damage their cameras) but I will try to explain it as best I can.
Picture a large warehouse with rooms (not floor to ceiling) back to back to back. We walked in past Jesse and Drew's place, with the checkered bed spread and pictures on the wall. This was pushed off to one side. You then go around the wall (kind of like "The Dating Game" and WHAM! You are there in the Spaulding Mansion! Outside Alan's door are Grant Aleksander (Phillip -- in shorts and glasses!!), Beth Chamberlain, Mark Dobies (in bike shorts and sweaty from his morning workout) and Kim Zimmer all without makeup -- looking still WAY too good to believe!!!! We were stunned to see them all hard at work, and in their "grubbies" looking like you and I do in our "down" time.
Past Alan's front door is the interior of the Spaulding Mansion. Inside you see the famous staircase where Annie was "pushed" by Reva, and Beth walked down the aisle (twice). The interior was dressed up for a party for Lizzie (Hayden Pannettiere) and covered in pastel colored balloons. On the Spaulding sofa were Tina Sloan (Lillian, in dark glasses) and Justin Deas (Buzz). Seeing Justin alone really made my day. He NEVER comes to fan events and to see "Tom Hughes" (as he was to me, growing up watching ATWT where Justin played opposite real-life wife Margaret Colin, now on CBS' "Now and Again") we were thrilled. Around the room were Michael O'Leary (Rick), Amy Ecklund (Abby), Frank Dicopolous (Frank), Brittany Snow (Susan), Hayden Pannettiere (Lizzie) and Anthony Addabbo (Jim). Amy Ecklund had her hair cut shorter than shoulder length, but it looked cute. And Justin Deas had about the worst case of "bed head" I have EVER seen!!! LOL!! All the cast was ragging on him, too. They seem to be a tight knit group.
Opposite the Spaulding Mansion was "Company" which is where we stood and watched the run through. It was so odd to be "in" Company and standing up to the bar where so many scenes are shot. Really very neat to see the set up-close, with the barstools and tables and chairs all around. Even the pay phone was lying on the bar, waiting to be hung for their scenes on the set.
Brittany and Hayden were doing the choreography for their dance number and working with the lighting guys (including B.J. who was very nice and answered all of our questions) to get the shot just right. I'd say there were about 20 people on set that worked on the scene (plus the ones we don't see, doing the music in a booth). Between each run through the actors came over to say hello and sign our scripts. After a while, we went back out into the open area to talk (we had to be quiet when they were working, although they were cutting up quite a bit). There we saw three men (two with their backs to us, the third I didn't recognize at first) talking near the soda machine. Julie leans over to me and tells me that one of the three is Bradley Cole (don't ask me how I didn't recognize him) and the other actor was not-yet-seen Timothy Adams (Rob Layne). I didn't want to bother him, so after they finished talking, Kurt calls them over. Bradley didn't stay long, but I did get a picture with him, and then he and Timothy had to go work on their scene. We made our way over to studio 2 and San Cristobel. . .
When you come into the outer studio area, at least Friday, the San Cristobel staircase was there, pushed to the side. Now THAT was HUGE!!! Of course, like the Spaulding staircase, it has to be taller than one floor. But the width of the set, in comparison to the others, was enormous! It looked just like it does on tv. I have no idea how long it takes the sets to be built, but I'll bet this one took awhile! We walked around the courtyard set to the San Cristobel "jail" where Rob is about to be executed!!!! Luckily, Prince Richard comes in and rips a black hood off of Rob's head and saves him from certain death! It is a very powerful scene and really impressed me as this was the first time I had seen Timothy Adams work. After they blocked that scene, we got to talk with Timothy. He will first be seen May 12th or so and said he has had some really powerful scenes leading up to the one we saw as well. Laura Wright (Cassie) was not there that day, but he said that they had already taped scenes together (and I got the impression that he had taped with Tammy, Katie Sagona, as well). He said that he is only signed for 6 weeks now, so if you like him when you DO see him, write or email CBS soon. I think you will really like what he brings to the show! Rassie fans, take heart, I am sure your couple will marry, but things will be interesting before Cassie walks down that aisle. And, I wish I could describe this better, but, between each run through, Timothy was doing these free standing handstand into a push up thing that was REALLY impressive looking (those who know me know I am not the athletic type, I watch, but I am a major couch potato -- or computer spud !!! LOL!!)
As we made our way downstairs for the last part of our tour, Justin Deas tried, unsuccessfully to sneak past us. Frank came out of his dressing room to chat and Kurt asked both to sign our scripts. Then we noticed that Justin had a big ole glop of shampoo in his hair!!! This multiple Emmy winner was walking to the shower with the shampoo already applied! Frank and Kurt (well, and the group of us) gave Justin a hard time, which he gave right back!!! He is such a character! I got a picture with him (which I should get back soon, but I have a feeling he was making a face - we'll see). Still, it was definitely a highlight for me!
Next up on our tour was a stop at Hair & Makeup. There were 3 chairs in a brightly lit room that looks just like you would imagine (but their makeup selection was pricier than mine -- mostly MAC and Clinique). Lil's husband, Frank, joined us for the remainder of the tour. We ran into Amy Ecklund there, who said her last tape date is July 12th and that she'll really miss the GL fans who have been so supportive of her. Grant Aleksander joked that when he started on GL, the makeup processes "took 5 minutes, but now it takes an hour and a half!" I think not, Grant!
I also learned some interesting "behind the scenes" things: all of the other sets are pushed aside until they are needed, and a night crew comes in and sets them up for the next day's shooting. The actors get their scripts (mostly) and month out, but revisions are very common. There is also a gym downstairs, near makeup and hair that we saw Mark Dobies (Noah) in pumping iron.
After we, reluctantly, left the studio, we went to lunch with Kurt at a Thai restaurant. We spent the next 2 1/2 hours talking about the show, what our thoughts were, and what we'd like to see. Kurt really was attentive to our ideas and concerns and encouraged us to keep writing in and telling TPTB (and P&G) what we'd like to see. The key, according to everyone, is to be POSITIVE - NO PERSONAL ATTACKS. If you don't like something, please feel free to state your opinion, but remember, that the CHARACTER is NOT the actor. Kurt even laughed and told us just last week that he got a letter from someone who wanted to know why "he didn't let Vanessa testify." Hmmmm. I thought it was MATT that didn't let her do it, NOT KURT!!!! Please try to keep in mind that the actors do NOT write the show, and can't control what they do. He did say that he reads all of his mail and so does the show.
Finally, it was time for Kurt to go home to his family. We snapped a few more photos and said goodbye. The day was worth every penny and I want to thank all of the cast and staff at GL and the GLFC for helping to put this together.