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ATWT: Jean Passanante's Full Article from SOD

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First I would like to thank schiffeg68 From the PGP boards for taking the time to type this up :)http://www.pgpphoto.com:3864/showthread.php?t=22523

As The World Turns said a lot of good-byes in the past year, from former Head Writer Hogan Sheffer, who left the writing staff to run the one at Days Of Our Lives, to the exits of Paul Leyden (Simon) and Mark Collier (Mike). As everything changes, we talked to head Writer Jean Passanante about the state of the soap.

SOD: Is it different to be a sole head writer as opposed to co-head?

JP: Well when I was co-head, I was really Hogan's lieutenant in certain ways. But I don't consider myself very "sole" because I have a great collaborative relationship with EP Chris Goutman and also the two co-head writers, Leah Laiman and Chris Whitesell. So believe me, I'm not doing this alone.

SOD: But all the blame, and praise, rests on you now.

JP: I guess so, but everybody who's been around long enough understands how collaborative this form is. I'll be happy to take the blame, but I certainly want to share the glory when there is any.

SOD: Who do you go to for history questions?

JP: I have various sources. One of the supervising producers, Vivian Gundaker, has been with the show for a long time and she knows everything. Our writers' assistants are adept at digging up obscure facts about characters. Things come up, like "Have we ever said what Paul's blood type is?" I do look at the Internet. Wikipedia, whoever's keeping that up-to-date does and amazing job. I do that sometimes just for fun, but we do our own research, based obviously on the actual show's records as well.

SOD: How far ahead do you work?

JP: That depneds on the nature of the story. Sometimes we have a deadline by which we know certain things have to be completed because we know an actor is leaving or something like that. In terms of story arcs, though, we could be thinking three months or six months or even a year if we know that a lot of major events have to happen during that time.

SOD: Can you make adjustments as you see story play out on-screen?

JP: Oh, yeah. If I had my druthers we'd have a very short time between what we wrote and what was on-screen. But it's not really possible because the production needs time, obviously. It would be great because you can always make minor adjustments. Sometimes you're writing for actors who you've never seen as a character. That's one of the great things about writing for a soap, is that you see that specific thing that the actor gives you and then you start writing toward that quality.

SOD: Any examples?

JP: Of course, the hiring of Jennifer Landon as Gwen is a classic example. There she was and it was, "Oh, interesting. Let's write story differently." Suddenly, it all changed.

SOD: What story are you most proud of?

JP: It's been wonderful to see the audience embrace Luke and his coming out. All of the actors involved in that story really committed to it. I'm looking foreward to carrying it further. I would also say that I think the Jennifer baby switch and all of the ramifications of that gave us a year and a half of story, basically, and that was very gratifying to watch. I felt good about how all of the writers managed to find very high stakes for all of the characters involved, to be able to play out the consequences for a long period of time. That, to me, is what soap opera is all about.

SOD: Are you still glad you killed Jennifer?

JP: I miss the character very much, but I think we got a lot of very strong dramatic material out of that departure.

SOD: Any mistakes?

JP(laughing): I was afraid you were going to ask me that.

SOD: You know I have to.

JP: It's hard for me to say specifically, but sometimes you ask yourself in retrospect, "Did we play that out too long? Should we have cut that shorter? Should we have expanded that?" It's not really opportunities missed, but... Okay, here's an example: I was just saying that the baby-switch story had enormous ramifications for everybody, and Gwen and her relationship with that baby was a strong component of that story. I won't say this was a mistake because we just made other choices, but she kind of fell out of that story a little bit. So sometimes I think that might have been interesting if she coninued to have more of a stake in that baby.

SOD: When you mention missed opportunities, is it because you're juggling so many stories at once?

JP: Yeah, it's hard to take a detour. To say, "I'll spin her off into this complete other story right now." But we do it. You see us do it all the time, where things intersect. But it can be hard, especially when you feel like you've got some real momentum going in another story.

SOD: Are there any logistical reasons that people are missing from certain storylines or scenes?

JP: It can be as simple as the actor was on vacation. Obviously, people have lives and you have to let them take their vacations. (schiffeg68's comment THIS EXCUSE SEEMS LAME TO ME, JMO.)

SOD: Do you have people saying, "This person should be here for this"?

JP: Obviously, everyone has an opinion about how we should do things, so we understand that's part of it. Sometimes when fans point out things like this to me, I think, "You know, you're right. I wish I could go back and change it, but it happened and you just have to move on".

SOD: What's the biggest complaint you've heard from fans?

JP: Every now and then, you hear that there's something inaccurate, or a medical or legal thing. We just won the Sentinel for Health Award for the Lucinda breast cancer story. We tried to make it as realistic as possible, but even with that, you're always going to have to bend the facts a little bit to fit with your timing and structure and everything else. I understand the frustration, especially if you've gone through something similar yourself. I would say we try our best, but we have to always bend to the drama.

SOD: We get a lot of complaints about people not being punished for their crimes.

JP: I understand that. That's a dilemma, of course, because you want people to have consequences to their actions. We also don't want to play them in prison for any length of time.

SOD: Do you take into account what fans suggest?

JP: You have to take everything in. You have to listen, and ultimately the producer and the show and I will make our own decisions, but it's important to hear what the fans are saying. People are watching who have a much longer experience with the show than I do and it's important to respect that.

SOD: Do you worry about loss of rooting value for characters? Katie's schemes, Carly and Simon actually being in love......

JP: Obviously, Carly and Jack are such a beloved couple and I think it's a great credit to Maura West, Paul Leyden and Michael Park that they've created some debate. Just the fact that people are choosing sides is amazing. So I think that's what makes it interesting. As far as the Katie thing goes, things will change. You push a character in a certain direction and then we have to play the consequences.

SOD: Do actors pitch story?

JP: I've had that experience on other shows, but not so much here. The great thing about this show is the actors are very understanding of the way we work. They're also very knowledgeable about their characters, so when I have had conversations with people, it's been very helpful.

SOD: How do you feel when people change things?

JP: Sometimes, it's surprising and fun, but I don't think you'll find any writers who say, "I love that!" [laughs.]

SOD: It might also affect story.

JP: That's one of the things that's a little frightening about writing for a soap opera. It's such a domino effect. If somebody were to change something that's suggested, a slight emotional adjustment to what we're doing, there may be 10 or 12 scenes down the road that don't really make sense. ATWT is a pretty tight ship, actually. We don't have too much of that kind of thing.

SOD: How long would you like to continue in this job?

JP: As long as I can.

Some more tidbits from JP

SOD: Will John's absence ever be addressed?

JP: He's been mentioned, and I certainly think there would never be an attempt to pretend that the character hadn't been on. I know we talked about it when Johnny was born. It's honestly something I haven't given a lot of thought to at this point because it's been a long time since we've seen him. That's a legitimate question and I'll think about it.

SOD: Why did Carly and Jack take in J.J., the son of his nutty ex. Julia?

JP: We played that it was what Jack wanted and the kid was totally alone in the world. If she didn't want to open her family to this child, Carly's a pretty hardhearted person. Carly's not a perfect human being, but she's not cold hearted, especially toward children. J.J. is an innocent.

SOD: Will Henry ever find real love?

JP: I think people should stay tuned because we love Henry and we have fun things ahead for him. He deserves to be loved.

SOD: Would you ever consider recasting Simon or Mike?

JP: It's a hard quesion to raise right now, because PL and MC are those characters to me. I would say, probably no. But that's just how I'm feeling at the moment.

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Well, I could respond to that inquiry with "down the tubes".

I think that's true. I don't think everything is her fault. Obviously, there's also fault in the producers and other writers of the show if they're letting junk like this get put on-screen.

The Gwen pimping makes me sick!

And Jen's death was definitely a mistake. I'm not saying that JF was irreplacable (because she definitely was not!), but ever since the character died, something has been really off about the show.

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Am I just dense? Why AREN'T stories like Gwen's struggling to "let go" of baby Rory/Billy/Johnny played out? Because it's more important to make Will and Gwen into Romeo and Juliet, who have to sleep on a park bench in the middle of a snowstorm rather than sleep apart and then get married six weeks later? REALLY?

And you know who should have had even more trouble separating from Rory? CARLY, the preteen baby-brother-killing mastermind murderess. Because she actually cared for that child for more than three weeks. But nope...Carly sniffled, let Gwennie pull her guilt strings, then decided to work in a strip club.


And even I wouldn't have [[email protected]#$%^&*]ed as much about CousinITScreechJJ, if they'd brought up the fact that Carly had a hard childhood, and was shown bonding with Screech, who hated her. But nope....presto, bang-o...add fertilizer and it's an instant, blended, HAPPY family. :angry:

Just so we can have endless repetitive conversations. FIVE DAYS A WEEK.

Honestly, if she ever sat and watched a weeks' worth of episodes straight through, she'd understand how recycled the dialogue is.

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If this is the interview that Jean P. was being lambasted for throughout the Internet a couple months back, I think people overreacted. She didn't say anything about finding it too hard to keep track of history, or not believing there were missed opportunities, as some posters alleged??

Also, about wikipedia, she says she looks at it for FUN, but the writers' assistants do their own research in the show's records, so I don't think there's anything wrong with that.

To me, it's a good interview, other than her comment that she's never even thought about addressing John Dixon's absence.

My opinion of her writing is still that it's dark, twisted, and repetitive -- but I don't think she gives bad answers in the interview.

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I think the interview she was lambasted for was in SID a couple of weeks back.

SOD: Do you worry about loss of rooting value for characters? Katie's schemes, Carly and Simon actually being in love......

JP: Obviously, Carly and Jack are such a beloved couple and I think it's a great credit to Maura West, Paul Leyden and Michael Park that they've created some debate. Just the fact that people are choosing sides is amazing. So I think that's what makes it interesting. As far as the Katie thing goes, things will change. You push a character in a certain direction and then we have to play the consequences.

If Pissy knows Carly and Jack are such a beloved couple...why did she spend the entire YEAR making them look like idiots? Yeah...I know...to pimp Paul Leyden, JP's wet dream.

Ugh...I feel my blood pressure spiking again...LOL.

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Yet, you dropped it like a hot potato. It wasnt mentioned anymore or talked about. If the audience was embrasing it why didnt you stick to it? What a hack!!!!!!!!!!!!

How much time do I have?

GMAB!!! You are kidding right??? :rolleyes:

That's because this woman doesnt know the history and she doesnt carefully plan the storyline out. It is all rushed out!

She doesnt even know what the biggest complaint the fans have...LOL. My biggest complaint with the show is that she is still head writer.

Then why put them in that corner if they arent going to be punished. Quite ruining characters left and right. Stop all the madness in Oakdale.

I don't see the long time fans being respected. That is a complete joke!

Ummmm...yeah right....Katie's consequences is putting her in another triangle. There is no one to root for in these storylines. There is suppose to be good vs evil. Not evil vs evil....hack!

Hopefully, not for very long. If the angry ATWT fans get u fired!!

That's funny. Considering she doesnt give a damn about her kids now. She is leaving them for Simon. She is cold hearted! What a hack!!!

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Well...I hate that Carly's fallen for that loser Con. (Self-delusional needing to be needed isn't love...that's my story, and I'm sticking to it..) But technically, Carly isn't leaving her children for Simon. She's avoiding prosecution. It's not like PodCarly didn't spend the beginning of last year risking her freedom to get Jack back on the police force.

I DO wish Carly could get her brain out of Pissy's vault.

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