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James E Reilly interview 1999

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From SOW,a rare interview.

James E Reilly's Unbridled Passions

Beset by eroding ratings,the daytime industry waits and wonders if celebrated soap scribe James E Reilly-the only soap writer in recent times who successfully increased a soap's audience(DOOL) can work his magic again with his new show Passions,which is scheduled to debut in July. In Part 1 of an exclusive SOW interview,Reilly gives a 'state of the soaps' report,revealing his hopes,his fears – and his Passions!

SOW As you get closer to Passions debut,is the excitement level building for you?

JER Oh,yes,because it becomes more real. As I continue writing,the characters take on more of a personality. I find something new about them that I hadn't discovered when I have them in a new situation,so that's exciting.

SOW Especially because this time out,everything is of your own making.

JER That is the wonderful part of it:to see whether everything comes together,if you were right or if you were wrong!

SOW The fact that it's 'all you' must add to the pressure as well as the excitement.

JER Oh,I know,believe me,I hear it every day from various people.

SOW In what stages of preproduction is the show right now?

JER We are writing outlines and scripts. We are doing preliminary casting. No one has been turned down. There was a recent article that came out saying I vetoed certain casting choices,but that is false. The only two people I've seen are currently in a holding deal by the network. And we have picked an executive producer,Lisa Hesser.

SOW Were you involved with making that decision?

JER Yes. I was the one who first mentioned her name. I heard wonderful things about her in the past,and I have met her several times. She and I had a meeting in New York in December. That clinched it.

SOW Since the show will be out of LA and you will be in NY,it must be even more critical for you to find someone you feel comfortable with executing your vision.

JER Absolutely,It is a partnership. You have to be able to give over the scripts. It's difficult,because you can't do both. You can't be in the booth and in the writer's office at the same time. They are both full time jobs.

SOW In terms of production,has the network secured a studio yet? And what about the sets?

JER They have a studio in LA;I think the space they got was CBS Radford. And as for the sets,Lisa and I will be meeting about them soon.

SOW What are you specifically doing at this stage?

JER Outlines and overseeing scripts. We're going to have about 100 scripts in the can by the time we go into production. We'll be further ahead than most soaps. The network wanted it. It's a good idea because if things change you can go back and retool them. But it will be more work! You sit back and say to yourself,”Now,what characters are the audience really going to want to see? You are flying by the seat of your pants,because you don't have the characters yet.

SOW Do you have a writing team together?

JER I have a team,but I don't want to get too far ahead,so we haven't met as a full group yet. Ethel and Mel Brez are on board;they worked with me on Days. Ethel went on to AW and OLTL,and Mel went on to ATWT and LOV. Nancy Williams will be doing scripts. And Peggy Schibi. Nancy worked with me on GL and Peggy worked with me on GL and Days. The first five scripts have been written. I've already worked with everyone in my group. All we need is for everyone else to work together. So everyone will be together there for the first year. After that,we will go onto telephones.

SOW Will you have input on the appointment of other production personnel?

JER I will have input,I'm sure. There are certain people that I know and like,and therev are certain people that maybe I don't like. A lot of that is Lisa's call,because Lisa has to feel totally comfortable with her team. Lisa is the one working with them all the time.

SOW Will you hold any other official position besides head writer?

JER I will be just listed as head writer,but I will have input into production. When a show first gets on like this,you put all your time into writing. Contrary to what has been published,I would not “just pass people in the halls and not say hello”.I just wouldn't tell them,if they didn't already know,that I was the head writer. Because you have to have one voice talking to them;the producers are the ones who have to talk to the actors. If I were to talk to them,I might give them a point of view which might be different from what the executive producer has at that moment. And I have to think of them only as characters. It's difficult to think of them as characters and actors,because you get them mixed up. I know Deidre Hall slightly,but if I got to know her and her family too well,i probably couldn't have done half the things I did to her-that the devil did to her. You have to be very careful. The character has to be pure in your mind.

SOW Can you describe the setting of the show?

JER The town is called Harmony. It's in New England. Unless they changed it !(laughs)It's funny about about names. I spent a lot of time on them,and finally I said,”I can't think of anything that's wrong”.But then ,in the first day, two characters I didn't think would be talking to each other are. I'm looking at the script,and Adam comes along and says,”Hello,Eve”.I said.”Oh my god”.Adam got changed.

SOW What was the appeal of New England as your locale?

JER If you think of it,we have two shows set in California,several in the Midwest and Northeast. I wanted something that was distinctive and recognisable. Maybe it was seeing Peyton Place growing up. I wanted a New England town that has lots of history,where people knew each other going back generations. And,where it could be very small,but at the same time close enough to a big city. In this case,you're close to Boston and NY, You have the wonderful harbors and cemeteries and old churches.

SOW Are you putting a gothic spin on this?

JER Anything can be seen as gothic. It's going to be ..hmmm,maybe it will be!(laughs)

SOW From what I've read,it will be a cross between Peyton Place and Dark Shadows.

JER Not so much Dark Shadows. That would be the wrong twist. It is Peyton Place meets something. Hmmmm,maybe it is Dark Shadows,maybe it's X Files. I don't want to mislead people. But it will have more of a quirky element. Maybe Peyton Place meets Twin Peaks.

In Part 2,Reilly elaborates on plans for his characters,storylines,casting,his unusual relationship with the network and why his dog will be sticking his head in the oven.

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I always try to imagine what Passions would have been like if it had eliminated the camp. At the very least, I could see it being a lot like Days 1993-1995 more than anything else.

I don't know what happened to the Brez's, I assume they retired. It was always quite shocking sometimes to see Passions' writing credits. Oh how the mighty had fallen.

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I remember the original adverts and promo stuff did hint at a kinda Peyton Place small town vibe meets Twin Peaks/Dark Shadows weirdness (of course as Lynch and Mark Frost have admitted, they were both fascinated by Peyton Place as kids and put a lot of that into TP). I remember being so so so disappointed that it really didn't have the genuine scares and genuine creepiness (weird random WTF moments don't equal creepy) that was hinted at though the early eps did try to have some sense of community I suppose (I watched the first two months or so I admit...)

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I've never read this interview before!! I always smile whenever I read his interviews. :) Thank you so much, Paul!! Can't wait for Part 2.

Oh Paul, what issue was this in and who did the interview? I assume it was Marlena De Lacroix?

I wonder who Adam was before the name change. LOL

I had forgotten all about Ethel and Mel Brez. Whatever happened to them?

They retired.

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