Well, 'RTSB' fans, the moment you have been waiting for has ARRIVED. On TUESDAY, January 15th, 2013 (the 20th Anniversary of the demise of our beloved 'Santa Barbara), the SONBC-Award winning Blog, 'Return to Santa Barbara' relaunches. And from what we learned in this interview with creator juniorz1 aka Greg Ziobrowski, it's going to be a doozy. Shocking returns, plot twists, new stories being launched, and MANY of the ongoing stories of this extraordinary fictional continuation of SB either wrapping up or springing off in new directions.
At first, the network execs at SONBC (and many fans for that matter) were rightfully skeptical about the show's return. However, in his most REVEALING interview yet, Greg us anxious, excited, concerned, and confused all at the same time. One thing is for certain though: If everything Greg states here comes to fruition, 2013 is going to be one hell of a year for 'Santa Barbara' and 'Return to Santa Barbara' fans. Read on in the article for some surprising casting tidbits, a surprising recast, and all the interesting twists and turns that Greg/juniorz has planned for this year.
SONBC: First off, congratulations on your comeback today! It's been a long wait- 6 years to be exact- for the continuing story of 'Return to Santa Barbara' to make it to the airwaves. Can you give us some insight on that?
JUNIORZ1: To best understand, one must go back to the beginning. Many thought that I brought 'Return to Santa Barbara' to SONBC as a ratings stunt to jump-start the network and give "King Reilly's DAYS" a run for its money. That simply isn't true, though I won't deny I was thrilled with the ratings we did receive, which far exceeded that of the original program. We were the top-viewed blog almost every week we aired, even if we only put out 2 or 3 episodes in that week. But make no mistake, I was as shocked as anyone by that reception. In fact, I had no idea what was happening, until people began registering to SON with Santa Barbara-themed names just so they could post in the 'RTSB' comment section. I think around 30 members joined in November 2006 simply to read and comment on the blog, which was a nice surprise. The biggest compliment, however, is how much they enjoyed it and the comparisons my writing got to that of the Dobsons years on the show. For someone that was always a HUGE 'Santa Barbara' fan and dreamed of writing it as a small child, there was and is no greater compliment and I was humbled.
But back to why it came about. Another SON member, KMan101, Private Messaged me, asking about the history of SB because he was thinking of bringing it to SONBC. I didn't respond, as I had already thought about bringing it on myself and there was no way I was going to allow someone who didn't watch nor know the history of the original series, try to write a version of 'Santa Barbara' without my take coming out first. A couple weeks later, I announced in the BLOG section of SON that I would be starting a brand new soap, "Return to Santa Barbara." I was inundated with requests from long-time members of this board to write 'RTSB' so anyone could read it, even if they hadn't watched the original show. But my creative vision was already planned in my head, and had been since Marcy Walker left SB in 1991 and I began writing my own version of SB when I was 12 to get through that difficult time. (Editor's Note: JuniorZ has never kept his adoration for Ms. Walker hidden here on SON- it's well known that he is her biggest fan in these parts). The stories of 'RTSB' had been conceived in 1994, the final year that I wrote my version of Santa Barbara, which I was the only person who ever read. I used to have a binder filled with 'SB' episodes and even created a spinoff in 1993 that focused on The Hartley family (Nick Hartley's family, that is), which I put in a separate binder. When I had stopped writing SB in the 90s, I was at what I thought was one of the strongest points I had in my stories. And that is what inspired 'RTSB.' Characters like Elizabeth Wayne and Dr. Edmund Lavery may have been new to real-life Santa Barbara viewers, but they had been in my head for 12 years when this blog began.
SONBC: Talk to us about the casting of 'RTSB.' For a new take on a well-known old soap, there was a surprising amount of new characters, actors, and recasts of beloved characters. Some of the time, the originals returned (like Robin Mattson replacing Leann Hunley as Gina right before the premeiere, and Justin Deas returning and replacing Tuc Watkins in the now-infamous spoof episode that first aired on January 15, 2007 and repeats today). Care to explain yourself here?
JUNIORZ1: Sure. This wasn't supposed to be 'Santa Barbara'-lite. This was always going to be a new, updated version of the series. Sometimes, to gain proper interest in veteran characters, new characters need to be introduced to ignite story. While Elizabeth Wayne, Dr. Edmund Lavery, Steve Hall, Sherri Rhodes, Joann Walsh, Carla Ramirez, and Marta Ramirez were all brand new characters, each one of them was written in story with the veteran characters of the show, gave those characters fresh stories, and while the viewers didn't love them at first, I think I mostly found ways to make them care about them as much as I did and as much as they did their beloved characters. Elizabeth was probably the MOST HATED character on the show in the beginning, because many of my fans were CC & Sophia fans and she clearly was going to be an interloper in that relationship. They HATED the backstory because it didn't paint Sophia as a heroine. But what many of them failed to remember is that on 'Santa Barbara,' Sophia was ALWAYS written as the heroine who had the backstory of a villainess, ESPECIALLY in the era when she had supposedly married CC and broken up his marriage to Pamela. The Elizabeth backstory just added another layer to that, perhaps a darker one than the SB fans were used to with Sophia (she took part in forcing an illegal abortion on her younger sister when both were very young). But it was written in a way that nobody in the storyline was innocent- not CC, not Sophia, not Elizabeth, and certainly not Sophia & Elizabeth's father (a character never mentioned on the original show and while he had long passed before RTSB in the storyline, he was certainly integral to the backstory.)
As for the recasts, I admit I had issues with some of the casting decisions made on 'Santa Barbara,' particularly Marj Dusay's take on Pamela Capwell Conrad and Jack Wagner's false version of Warren Lockridge. But Pamela was going to be pivotal to 'RTSB' and I had story planned for Warren as well, so both were re-introduced with recast characters. And while viewers seemed indifferent to Grant Aleksander taking on the role of Warren Lockridge, many were incensed that Carmen Duncan was playing Pamela. I was surprised to learn just how many fans Marj Dusay had, but she just never fit the role of Pamela for me (Shirley Anne Field, the original Pamela, was far closer to what I had always imagined Pamela to be) and I refused to bring her back even when fans were adamant that Pamela was supposed to be a brunette like Mason. But there was a method to my madness, and Marj Dusay had never once entered my mind while I was writing my Pamela. I wanted Pamela to be a blonde because I wanted her to be getting proper revenge on Sophia, and copying her hair color was part of that. I never once said Pamela was a natural blonde and I believe I even mentioned her having her hair bleached in one of the episodes. Carmen Duncan was, and still is, my Pamela, and probably always will be.
I also had this conviction that NO actor on 'RTSB' could be employed on another soap. The only exception I made was with Nancy Lee Grahn's Julia, which is only because I have met Nancy in person and there is NO WAY she would allow another actress to play Julia if she were offered the chance to re-create her. Even though she's played GH's Alexis far longer, most still consider Julia Wainright to be Ms. Grahn's signature role and I truly believe she would leave 'GH' in a heartbeat if she could play Julia again.
SONBC: One of your most highly touted recasts, and highest rated episodes, was the introduction of Linda Gibboney as Victoria Lane, a character originally played by Kristen Meadows.
JUNIORZ1: Actually, that was my HIGHEST rated LIVE episode. When that episode was published, there were nearly 20 people waiting inside the blog to see who would be playing Victoria. It was the pinnacle of the series at that time. However, I think many will be surprised to learn that when 'RTSB' returns today, Kristen Meadows is back as Victoria Lane and is now a contract player. (EDITOR'S NOTE- Check the cast crawl on the right, which has been updated to include the current contract & recurring cast of 'RTSB.')
SONBC: You are famous for your secrecy, which we think has been one of the key reasons that 'RTSB' has been so successful. Can you please give us a bit of a teaser/preview of what's to come on 'RTSB.'
JUNIORZ1: Yes, I can.....
SONBC: Ok..... Well, will you?
JUNIORZ1: Since your question is now properly phrased, I'd be happy to. Certain storylines will be wrapping up and spiraling the characters involved in them into something new. One of those is the Edmund/Soretta storyline (Soretta is a fan created nickname for the current version of Sophia, who has been brainwashed into thinking she is Loretta Lavery, Edmund's first wife). That actually started in the 2010 episodes. The fans have been DYING to see Sophia back in Santa Barbara and going toe to toe with her sister Elizabeth and nemesis Pamela, and I have been dying to write it. It is going to happen this year, I can assure you that. The storyline & fallout have already been set up and the repercussions of it will be felt throughout the canvas. But as they say, be careful what you wish for. I can promise that Sophia's happiness will be short-lived.
This will also spring Lionel & Augusta and the entire Lockridge clan in a new direction, one that has been inspired by my own family drama of 2012. I am EXTREMELY excited to start writing that storyline, as it will be quite a release for me. 'RTSB' viewers will learn, through the Lockridges, the reasons that I was unable to bring 'RTSB' back in 2012 and I think they will be SHOCKED. It's one of those soap stories that is so unbelievably tragic that fans won't even believe it could possibly happen in real life. But it did. In my own family. And my perspective will mostly be written through Laken Lockridge, which should be interesting, since Laken has always been a bit of a blank canvas. But Shell Danielson is back (on contract) and Laken will be a very clearly defined character from here on out, which I don't believe she ever was on 'Santa Barbara,' which is part of what makes it so interesting to write.
The Julia/Mason/Mary triangle will come to a (sort of) resolution, as Mason & Mary finally meet and (try to) bond with their long-lost child, who is now 27 years old! That's a LONG time not to know your own child and it will be an adjustment for everyone involved. But don't be fooled for a second- this will not be an easy decision for Mason and though a decision has been made, that pain & longing of the losing party will continue on throughout her upcoming story. While this part of the triangle may be over, this is a soap. And on soaps, it's never over. Think Nikki/Victor/Ashley on Y&R.
Brandon's storyline is going to spring into action and will be HUGE. I'm also introducing one of my all-time favorite actors, Victor Webster, in the role of Chip. True, he isn't hispanic, but neither is Chip (only 50% of him is). The younger generation of 'RTSB' is going to move from the background to the forefront, which is always how it was planned. HOWEVER, their stories will also heavily involve veteran characters, so I think the viewers will be quite invested in them. EVERYTHING on 'RTSB' has a ripple effect, always, and Brandon's storyline is MAJOR, as it should be. Brandon, and the fight for Brandon, was a HUGE part of the first 5 years of 'Santa Barbara,' so it's only fitting that we revisit that history.
Finally, one character I'd like to talk about is Joann Walsh. She has been re-cast (see the cast crawl) and now has a VERY PERMANENT direction that will be SHOCKING to long-time SB and RTSB fans. I've always said Joann isn't who you think she is, and she still isn't. But the direction that I originally intended for her has shifted more times than I care to count, so much so that I no longer had a handle on her myself during the last months of 'RTSB.' That has completely changed and is inspired by my re-watching old storylines on YouTube. I truly think the fans will be shocked by this and are going to just LOVE it!
SONBC: Well color us intrigued. Any parting words?
JUNIORZ1: Yes. I want to thank all of the "Return to Santa Barbara" fans that have been SO patient in waiting for the series to come back. I was truly humbled in 2010 to be receiving 1000 hits a week for only writing 12 episodes. But this year, there will be FAR more episodes than that. I want this to be a gift to everyone who has patiently waited and politely asked me over the years when 'RTSB' would be returning. I'm so happy and excited to bring it back that it's indescribable. I just hope the fans enjoy reading it as much as I have writing it.
SONBC: Thanks JuniorZ. Look for a repeat of the infamous 'RTSB' "spoof" episode that was written in 2007 sometime today and for the first brand new episode of 'Return to Santa Barbara' to launch in PrimeTime tonight. After that, I will do my best to stick to the schedule as planned, which you can also find on the right side of the blog. And be sure to check out the updated cast list on the right, and a news item this weekend explaining the reasoning for some of the changes.