For weeks, the daytime community has been abuzz with the news that a brand new online soap opera network will soon be launching. Called SudsvilleTV, the upcoming platform already has a couple of shows in the works, including a series penned by the network's creator, former As the World Turns and Days of our Lives writer Meg Kelly, as well as several stars who may be interested in coming aboard, including All My Children's Darnell Williams (ex-Jesse Hubbard), and Guiding Light's Beth Chamberlin (ex-Beth Raines) and Orlagh Cassidy (ex-Doris Wolfe). GL's Michael O'Leary (ex-Rick Bauer) was the first to join the network for a game show called Michael's Amazing Soap Trivia Challenge, so soapcentral.com caught up with him to get the scoop on all things SudsvilleTV, including what fans can expect from the soon-to-launch network and how Prospect Park's failed attempt to bring AMC and One Life to Live online has played into SudsvilleTV's decision-making process. Read on to hear O'Leary's insight.
soapcentral.com: News about this new network kind of hit the soap community, like BAM! It just blew up overnight. So how far along in the development process is everything, really?
Michael O'Leary: Oh, we've been working on this, well, let's see, Meg and I started off by working on the pilot episode for a concept she came up with for a show, and what happened was, she got involved with an entertainment attorney in New York City, Amy D'Agnostino. I always have to give credit where credit is due, and it was our entertainment attorney who connected the dots for us and had this person who was looking for content for Conklin-Intracom, and they're a global company based in Greece, they have offices in New York City and in Georgia, and they were looking for content providers. So I wasn't a part of the meetings, but Meg was, and they really liked the content that Meg had come up with, which is really ingenious, and Joseph Craig, who is a renowned Broadway producer, got involved. So key people started getting involved with this, and it just sort of, I'm remiss to say it's come together, but all of the pieces are starting to look much more positive, you could say, than they did a couple of years ago.
soapcentral.com: How did you become involved? Were you friends with Meg Kelly?
O'Leary: Well I've known Meg from the soap community. She was head writer for DAYS and As the World Turns for a while, and somebody connected us over at Proctor and Gamble. I was looking for a writing partner, and I was working on Steamboat at the time, and one of the Proctor and Gamble supervisors, Bill Graham, connected us. We met, and I really liked Meg a lot because she's just a really nice, talented person, so we were thinking of different ways to collaborate on things. Nothing really transpired right away, we just knew that we liked each other and wanted to work with each other because we brought different things to the table. And she came up with this wonderful concept. She came and saw Steamboat and thought it was funny, and she thought with the people I knew from the soap community and could collaborate with and bring them on board to look at this. I can't say who just yet, but some very familiar faces have read Meg's script for Year Rounders and really liked it a lot and want to be a part of it. But you know what, everything has happened so fast, so quickly, and in such a short amount of time, I'm still trying to catch my breath here. I'm just taking it one day at a time, and right now, it looks like we're going to be shooting Michael's Amazing Soap Trivia in October, and it's a very, very funny concept. Sort of a Best In Show/Might Win/Christopher Guest flavor to what is going to be a real game show. There will be all of these characters surrounding Michael, just sort of head cases, and I think it'll be really fun.
soapcentral.com: It sounds like a completely different kind of project for you, so how did the idea of a game show come about? Was that your idea?
O'Leary: No, no, no. That was Joseph Craig's idea. He's come up with 16 different shows along with Year Rounders, which will be our sort of flagship show. He's done movies with Whoopi Goldberg, he's a very creative guy, and his sense of humor is just as sick as mine, so when I talk to him on the phone, we just laugh. We've been laughing the past few days... I have not yet seen a script. He's supposed to be sending it to me shortly, but conceptually, it's very funny, and we're talking to some people who seem to be very excited about it, and it would be great if we can get them on board.
soapcentral.com: Yeah, I'll bet. So what are you most looking forward to when it comes to Michael's Amazing Soap Trivia Challenge?
O'Leary: You know what, I just want to act again. I've really missed it, and it's a chance to do some comedy, something I've wanted to do. I did a little bit in Steamboat, but that's what I'm looking forward to. And also collaborating on the other side, as well. I like to write, and I'm looking forward to coming up with different ideas and different shows. So that's what I'm looking forward to, actually. Just being on the phone and collaborating with him, it brought that old feeling back.
soapcentral.com: Have you spoken with anyone about appearing on Year Rounders, as well, or will you mainly just be focusing on the game show?
O'Leary: Well there are going to be some soap people on it, and then there will be some primetime people we hope to get. It's going to be a mix. It's not going to be a purely soap opera cast. Meg already has ideas of who she wants in it, and so we'll wait and see. As you know, we've talked to Darnell Williams [ex-Jesse Hubbard, All My Children] about coming on board, which would be great. One of the families on the show is an African American family, and we'd really love to have Darnell on board. And also we've been talking with Beth Chamberlin [ex-Beth Raines, GL] as well.
soapcentral.com: And Orlagh Cassidy [ex-Doris Wolfe, GL], as well, right?
O'Leary: Yep. It's sort of like, hold on to you saddle here. At least, that's what I feel like. Things are happening really fast. But you know, it's a day at a time. All I know is that we're going to be shooting this show starting in August, and I'm really looking forward to it. There are going to be other shows, too, and another game show. I probably sound a little out of the loop a little bit, because everything is happening so fast. And Meg and Joseph Craig have really been the ones doing most of the work, actually. We're lucky that we have a wonderful entertainment attorney, and this major strategic partner has come on board. There's still work to be done, but right now, it looks like we're going to be launching these shows in the fall, so we're excited.
soapcentral.com: Did you happen to follow any of the drama with Prospect Park, the production company that took All My Children and One Life to Live online? That whole operation kind of jerked the fans around, so...
O'Leary: Yes, yes. We have been very diligent in [looking at] what those mistakes were, and we've done a lot a lot of research and have had a lot of people give us very important information so that we don't relive those same mistakes.
soapcentral.com: I'm really glad to hear that. It was the first of its kind, and whether they planned it or not, it really took fans on a ride. I wouldn't be surprised if some fans were wary of SudsvilleTV because of that, so I'm glad you guys took the Prospect Park situation into consideration.
O'Leary: Well, we've been working with some very talented producers from the soap world who are very familiar [with the genre] and very talented, and they went through that thing with Prospect Park, and they learned a lot of lessons. They were so invaluable, because you had to go through that to understand what happened, and they've been able to give us a learning curve on that. We'll be making our own mistakes, but we want to minimize those, and we have a great cast that wants to be working with us again and have fun.
soapcentral.com: Does it feel a little bit surreal to be back in the soap opera world? I mean, Guiding Light was cancelled almost six years ago, which seems crazy.
O'Leary: Yeah, it does. A lot has happened in the past five years, so it does feel a little surreal. I hate to say it doesn't seem real, but it is surreal, so I just try to stay in the middle of the boat, so to speak. I love it so much, but at the same time, we all know this a very complicated industry that we're all working in that changes every single day. But I tell you what, I look at the roster of people that are involved right now, and I couldn't be happier with that. And there will be more names announced soon. It's a testament to Meg, the people that are getting involved with Year Rounders. The script is really extraordinary, and we're excited for that show, too.
soapcentral.com: Do people still stop you on the street and call you Rick Bauer?
O'Leary: I keep getting recognized for, well, somebody thought I was Ray Liotta the other day. That was pretty humbling. They were so excited, "Oh, my God, I can't believe it's you! I'm so excited, I'm shaking," and I said, "Thank you very much, what's your name? Blah, blah, blah," and they said, "Oh, I just loved you in Good Fellas," and I said, "Um, who do you think I am? I'm not Ray Liotta!" Which I guess is a testament that I've gained a few pounds! [laughs] Honestly, I get Ray Liotta more than I get Michael O'Leary. And sometimes Tom Hanks. It was Tom Hanks when I was younger.
soapcentral.com: I always used to think Tom Hanks, as well! Too funny. Is there anything you want to leave off with for the fans? Anything you want them to know about SudsvilleTV or anything else?
O'Leary: I think the story here is that things are really evolving, and they've happened just recently, so it's changing every single day. It's not like this happened a year ago, six months ago. All of a sudden it just happened a month ago, three weeks ago. And we're all going, "Wow, where did that come from?!" So there's a little bit of that right now, but we're just encouraged, and we're going to be shooting in the fall, so hold tight.
Are you excited about SudsvilleTV and O'Leary's game show? Which former soap stars would you love to see join the network and/or its series Year Rounders? We want to hear from you -- and there are many ways you can share your thoughts.