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Douglas Marland interview


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I don't think this interview has been posted before. It's from SOD August,1982. It's quite lengthy,so I'll post in two parts.

Enjoy!

SOD How did you become a soap opera writer?

DM I started out as an actor.I'd been an actor all my life,until eight years ago. I was on The Doctors and As The World Turns. I always wrote as a sideline, though. It was a way to ease my frustration when I wasn't working. I guess it was the last two or three years of my acting career that I found myself wanting to spend more and more time writing.

SOD What was the first soap you wrote for?

DM I worked on AW for a while and then NBC asked me to take over as headwriter on The Doctors. From there I went to GH. It was thrilling to be part of the rebirth of a forgotten show that even the network thought was a turkey. It was probably the single most exciting experience of my career.

SOD Why, Doug, after you helped catapult GH to #1 in the ratings, were you suddenly fired?

DM I think I was fired because Gloria Monty (exec producer of GH) and I are two equally strong creative forces and I was just as strong in my convictions about the storyline as she was in hers. We came to loggerheads. Also, it was disconcerting to me that the writing was never mentioned as one of the reasons for the success of GH. Once I brought this out into the open, once we reached that point, there was no return.

SOD How did you get to your present position as headwriter of GL?

DM Well,after GH, I wrote ATWT for a while and P&G switched me over to GL. When I started watching GL, I was fascinated by it; there seemed to be a lot of potential. Of all the shows I've been with, GL is my favorite. I like the feeling, the chemistry of GL-the family ties and family values,the love. I adore the Bauers. The values the characters hold give me a great jumping off point for things to stem from for all kinds of storytelling. The show was very well set up. I inherited the wonderful Alan/Hope romance and had the pleasure of marrying them. And I had the pleasure of killing off Roger Thorpe, who'd been the villian of the piece for eight years. Although I hated to lose the actor who played Roger, it was fun to devise a way to give him a finale equal to his talent.

SOD What elements of GL did you feel needed to be changed?

DM One of the things that bothered me was that they're weren't any teenagers. Because I love writing young stories the best, I wanted to bring in someyoung characters. So that was the birth of Morgan and Kelly, and I changed some of the other young characters like Katie, Hilary and Floyd. I also brooght Tim back. It's wonderfully exciting to see how the audience reacts to these characters now who were new two and a half years ago. They're standard characters now.

SOD How do you conceive your characters? Are they based on people you know, from the newspapers, or from your imagination?

DM I think a combination of the three. They're all brought about in different ways. Kelly is a special character to me. I think we all tend to project something of ourselves into our characters if we're going to create a hero. After I brought Kelly on, Nola came about. That was a lucky day! I wanted a girl who would be from the wrong side of the tracks. That was the other problem with GL-everybody had achieved. Everybody lived in a nice house and nobody worried about money. I thought,”We have all the haves,where are the have nots?” I remember we were testing for Morgan and suddenly on this tape of Morgans, came this red haired,big brown eyed girl with a throaty voice who had a sound different from everybody else's. I was fascinated. This girl was no more like the Morgan I envisioned than the man on the moon,bit I couldn't take my eyes off her. I had to get her under contract before anyone else did because she was wonderful. Since I wanted to bring on a have not family, I put Nola in the boarding house, as the daughter of Bea Reardon. That's how Nola was born. Everything else came from what Lisa Brown brought to the role.

SOD Do you discuss with the actors the direction you want their characters to take?

DM Yes,I do,especially with the young actors. What I really do with most of the characters is watch, and the first time I see it's terrific I call the actor aor actress and say, “This is dynamite,now just stay with it”.

SOD Do you listen to the actors when they suggest storylines and/or changes in the direction of their charcters?

DM Oh yes, I always listen. But I don't think actors are always the best judges of where the storylines should go, because it's all tied to them personally. I always listen if an actor doesn't understand why a character does something or where he's coming from. I'm a firm believer in open communication. The better communication,the better the show. The old myth about a headwriter being some strange, mysterious person who sends material and says hello to the cast at the Xmas party is awful. I'm trying to destroy that myth. I go to the studio and socialize with the actors,talk to them. You write better for the actors when you get to know them as people. Sometimes when you get to know them, you find another side to their personality that you don't see on screen.

SOD Do you have any favorite characters?

DM I'd love to say that I don't,but I do. Kelly is one of my favorite characters. I love what he stands for as a human being. I love the fact that he can be wrong. I love the fact that he can be crazy jealous, which is an insecurity. Suddenly, you're seeing men who can be sensitive. Kelly can cry and still be a man,which is today's man. Hillary is a woman who can see doing anything side by side with a man. She holds her own. Her brain works. She's very much representative of today's woman who's out in the world doing things and has a life of her own. Yet they still want a home and family just like the woman who stays home all day. I love the charcter of Morgan because she's so complex and layered. Nola is one of my favorite characters of all time. Floyd knocks me out. He's dear, kind. Gentle, talented. Carrie is a fascinating character. I love them all, bit I'm partial to the characters I've created because they're mine.

Part 2 to follow

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How long was this before he left GL?

Good interview. I've never seen such a clear statement on why he left GH. I didn't know he'd actually been fired.

Great to hear his views on men and women. That type of attitude, that men can cry, and women are equal to men, would never be allowed on soaps today.

He so clearly was so fond of the Bauer family and what they represented. If the show had continued to feel this way after his exit so much would have been different.

I also like the part where he talks about trying to socialize with the actors. I know some headwriters don't agree with that, different approaches can work. Of course now most writers probably don't live near the studio anyway.

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Thanks for posting.

Marland's GL has always intrigued me because though it seemed to have many of his trademarks, he approached it quite differently than he approached ATWT. Though, ATWT was always a more conservative and less wild soap than GL. Dare I say, in certain ways, his GL might have had more of a fun and cool factor to it that wasn't apparent on his ATWT, as good as it was/is.

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You can see some of his GL style more in his 1986 ATWT, the fantasy sequences and the behavior of Meg at that time, and some of what he did with Shannon and Barbara -- they're both shades of the way he wrote Vanessa. Other than that his ATWT was more sedate, aside from psycho Lillith, who is treated as such a camp figure she even has her own wild music cue (thankfully the actress plays against that, which makes it even better).

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True, ATWT was more conservative than GL (that's something to remember when you ask why his writing for the former show seemed more restrained in comparison to the latter), but what I enjoyed most about Marland's work as a whole, not just on these two shows, but also on LOVING, was the integrity he brought to his characters. AFAIC, his characters never did anything that was dishonest to who they were fundamentally; and if a character behaved in a way that was, well, surprising, Marland made the effort to explain why. Marland, like Nancy Curlee and Agnes Nixon, was a storyteller who genuinely loved daytime and believed in the good they could accomplish in our everyday lives. As a fan, and as someone who was once inspired to become a writer himself largely because of his efforts, I still miss him terribly.

Thanks, Paul, for posting this. Looking forward to Part 2. :-)

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Anyone who hasn't seen some of the Marland material which is available on Youtube can find a lot here. The audio isn't great but to have this much from 1981-1982 is astounding.

http://www.youtube.com/user/classicGL

Just search some of the titles and the clips will come up.

The Chase (about Roger kidnapping Holly and going off the cliff...this story also introduces Nola)

If It Isn't Love (about Amanda taking over at Spaulding, her turmoil over her mother marrying the man she loves, and a fantastic scene where Carrie's bitchy, gossipy alter causes trouble at a party)

Summer School (the antagonism between Kelly and Morgan which leads to their attraction towards each other)

Game Over (Kelly confronts Nola with her baby lies)

You Needed Me (Kelly and Morgan get married)

The Usual Suspects (Eve Stapleton is being stalked, and suspects include gun-toting Amanda, her flaming uncle, and a deliciously insane Vanessa)

Tangled Web (various goings-on involving the schemes Quint was in with Helena Manzini, along with Vanessa stirring the pot with Tony and Hillary, and some drama surrounding Josh blackmailing Lesley Ann and causing problems for Kelly and Morgan)

Beneath the Surface (Carrie and Ross marry as Carrie's mental problems lurk in the background)

Machinations (Diane Ballard's rise and deadly fall)

There are also a few short individual scenes, like Hospital Corners, and one where Ed flashes back to an argument with Alan over Rita

There's also Enough is Enough, Roger chasing Rita through the hall of mirrors, although I can never remember if that counts as Marland.

kerster22 also has several Marland episodes, like 81 Christmas and a 1982 episode about Carrie's mental problems.

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I think people often forget how well Marland did camp and outrageousness, it was more apparent on his GL than ATWT, but this guy really knew how to make some things that looked too OTT on paper come alive on screen.

And that's very difficult to do. Bad camp is just pure hell. Just look at how much of his work at GL which other writers were unable to duplicate, like Quint/Nola. Instead most of his characters and stories seemed to just be marginalized or written out by a few years after his exit.

Yet he was also very good at the warm family moments. I love the unabashed sentimentality and the purity of Kelly and Morgan's wedding, their duet to each other, the kids singing "You Needed Me." It's the type of sheer and shameless heartfelt quality which the entertainment industry now generally sees as unworthy, even though a lot of people still like it.

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I think people often forget how well Marland did camp and outrageousness, it was more apparent on his GL than ATWT, but this guy really knew how to make some things that looked too OTT on paper come alive on screen.

Again, he grounded everything in character; and because everything he wrote came out of character, even the more outrageous stories clicked. He didn't do camp for the sake of it, or wedge characters into stories that were too preposterous for them.

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Again, he grounded everything in character; and because everything he wrote came out of character, even the more outrageous stories clicked. He didn't do camp for the sake of it, or wedge characters into stories that were too preposterous for them.

He also seemed to really get the identity of each of the soaps he wrote for. As much as I enjoy some of the later 80s GL it has no real identity, everything could have been imported from anywhere else. Marland's GL, along with Nancy Curlee's, has that sense of representing the roots of the show.

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Sorry for the delay...Part 2

SOD What do you think makes an actor stand out from the rest?

DM I think it's a combination of the storyline and the actor playing in the role. You have to have a multi-faceted character with a lot of things boiling inside and then cast an actor who can pull on the various sides of the character. You have to fascinate the audience so they never know what to expect-”What is he going to do tomorrow?”

SOD Where do you get your storylines from?

DM If you keep your characters alive and consistent, they tend to create their own stories. I guide them,but they do make their own plots. I don't believe in telling a plot-no matter how good it is-if it isn't right for the characters. You have to keep your characters,more or less, consistent. If they're going to change,you must build up to that. You can't change them overnight. The audience has to understand the character's motivations. I'm interested in telling stories that work for my people.

SOD Do you prefer writing for lighter characters such as Floyd, or the more serious ones like Kelly?

DM I enjoy them both. A writer needs relief from the heavy drama as much as the audience does. It's a wonderful release to switch from a tense, dramatic moment to a lighter one. If there's too much intense drama all the time, the show becomes top-heavy.

SOD What are you most proud of accomplishing on GL?

DM I guess I'm proudest of the young people I brought on have been accepted by the audience.. they've become an important part of GL and if I took them out now, the audience would scream. If I'd taken them out a year ago, the audience would have said, “Thank God you got rid of all those kids running around”.

SOD Many viewers complain that soaps have become too youth centred. What's your feeling on that?

DM I don't feel youth has been overdone,but I'm willing to say I'm wrong. The interesting thing is that the kids I brought on as teenagers two and a half years ago are becoming young adults. In another eight or ten years, the young people will be right where Ed and Mike and the older characters are. If I could have replied to all the people who complained about the teenagers I brought on, I would have said, “Now wait a minute. When you started watching GL, how old were you? How old were Mike and Ed? They were the same age as these young people you're complaining about”. I really wanted to say to these people, “Give these new characters a chance. Give the people who are watching the show for the first time the same chance to identify with the young people the way you identified with the young characters when you started watching.” I like the young characters because I think the audience can forgive them of almost anything. It's much easier to forgive a 22 year old of something than a 32 year old, because you feel that by that age they should know better, There's a vulnerability in youth that's always appealing and exciting.

SOD Another complaint we hear is that there are too many divorces in soaps. Why is that?

DM I think because you have only a limited number of characters. What you're doing is taking the population of a town and trying to represent with 30 people what goes on in society. The divorce statistics are incredibly high and you do need to keep freeing characters up for new romantic entanglements. I don't think the high rate of divorce is that out of sync with what's going on today.

SOD Do you think you've made any mistakes at GL?

DM Perhaps that I didn't fight harder with the network's decision to chop some of the older characters. If the decision hadn't been handed down to me, I'd have worked harder to find them something to do.

SOD How did you feel when GL won the Best Writing Emmy?

DM I was shocked because I was convinced GH would win. They were a solid number one, and the most publicized soap in the history of daytime television. I had no clue we would win. I just expected to go to the Emmys and have a wonderful time. I also feel vindicated because when you've been fired from your last job and then win an Emmy...It was a wonderful vote of confidence from my peers.

SOD Do you have plans to bring minorities onto GL?

DM Yes, I do. In fact,I created the first black characters on GH. Im going to bring a minority family onto GL some time soon, I'm working on a storyline now.

SOD Do you always become involved in the casting, or do you leave that up to the casting director and producer?

DM I'm very involved in the casting, because the writer is the only one who really knows the characters and where he wants them to go. I've approved every new actor who's come onto the show, even if other people didn't want him in the role. They never fight me on it. Having been an actor myself, I feel I have an instinct for actors and what they can or cannot do.

SOD What about the current trend for celebrity guests on soaps?

I have mixed feelings about it. As far as Elizabeth Taylor is concerned I think to bring her on as anybody but Elizabeth Taylor is wrong.(As you know, Elizabeth Taylor recently appeared as Helena Cassadine on GH). People believe soap characters are real. not actors. Suddenly, there's Elizabeth Taylor on the show playing someone else. I feel it explodes the 5 day a week reality and believability of the show. I don't see anything wrong with bringing her on as Elizabeth Taylor if there's a place where she would logically fit in. We're bringing in a lot of name people into Wired For Sound on GL. We'll have singers coming on as themselves. To sing their hits. That's a realistic situation to bring people into,so there's nothing wrong with it.

SOD What's your hope for GL's future?

DM To beat GH in the ratings! That would be wonderful! Seriously, I just want GL to be a good, healthy show that everybody's proud of. I want it to be a show the audience enjoys and really cares about.

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SOD Do you have plans to bring minorities onto GL?

DM Yes, I do. In fact,I created the first black characters on GH. Im going to bring a minority family onto GL some time soon, I'm working on a storyline now.

Interesting, but I'm not surprised it didn't pan out. I wonder how things would have been had this come into fruition though. Then again, maybe this minority family would have been shipped out faster than most of Reardons were.

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Shortly after his departure,black characters Clay and Helen Tynan arrived in Springfield,bit they didn't stay long. I wonder if they were the characters Marland planned to introduce but following writers didn't have enough background or interest in them.

As for his claim that he introduced the first black characters to GH,I guess he meant in recent times as in 1969 Kim Hamilton was Dr Tracey Adams who had a romance with blind patient Douglas Burke(Adolph Caeser).

I kinda agree with him re celebs on soaps,but I guess its on a case by case basis.Wouldn't the same thing apply with soaphoppers? If viewers knew say =Jane Elliot as Tracy on GH,would they accept her as Carrie on GL?

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