Christopher Sean and Seeing More Asian Men On Television

Excellent interview with Christopher Sean on BuzzFeed:

The Actor Who Is Changing How We See Asian Men On Television.

Sean has been making waves on daytime television as a spanner thrown in the works for Will Horton and Sonny Kiriakis, the first gay married couple on NBC’s Days of our Lives. Sean is a terrific actor and has terrific chemistry with both Freddie Smith and Guy Wilson, who play Will and Sonny. I think the introduction of Sean has reinvigorated the Will and Sonny storyline and has created an additional cheering section rooting for Sean and either of the guys, but especially Sonny.

Eric Sheffer Stevens (l) joined As The World Turns in its last year on the air as Dr. Reid Oliver. His pairing with Van Hansis' Luke divided audiences between those who wanted to see the electric pairing of Stevens and Hansis and those wanting a happy ending for Luke and his former love, Noah, played by Jake Silbermann. Reid Oliver's death was central to the plot of the show's finale, though it did not satisfy many viewers.

Eric Sheffer Stevens (l) joined As The World Turns in its last year on the air as Dr. Reid Oliver. His pairing with Van Hansis’ Luke divided audiences between those who wanted to see the electric pairing of Stevens and Hansis and those wanting a happy ending for Luke and his former love, Noah, played by Jake Silbermann. Reid Oliver’s death was central to the plot of the show’s finale, though it did not satisfy many viewers.

Something similar happened in the now-iconic Luke/Noah pairing on As The World Turns. When the writers introduced Eric Sheffer Stevens as Dr. Reid Oliver, his chemistry with Van Hansis as Luke Snyder was palpable and it upset the fandom applecart in quite unexpected ways. In fact, ATWT’s headwriter at the time, Jean Passanante, noted that if the show had not already been cancelled that the actors’ chemistry could have easily led the writers to create a longterm romantic triangle. By the time the show came to an end — in qintessential soapy fashion when Reid was killed by a train but lived long enough to make sure his heart was donated to save the life of Chris Hughes (don’t ya love it! LOL) — the Nuke (Noah and Luke) and the LuRe (Luke and Reid) camps were already being drawn up.

Christopher Sean as Paul Norita on Days of our Lives. Sean plays a former professional baseball player who is wreaking good-looking havoc in the relationship of iconic couple Will and Sonny. |Image: Macey J. Foronda/BuzzFeed

Christopher Sean as Paul Norita on Days of our Lives. Sean plays a former professional baseball player who is wreaking good-looking havoc in the relationship of iconic couple Will and Sonny. When Paul came out to his Japanese grandfather on air, he spoke to him only in Japanese.|Image: Macey J. Foronda/BuzzFeed

On Days, Sean’s recently out ex-pro baseball player Paul Norita, has already slept with Will, saved Sonny’s life and it looks like he’s about to be exposed as Will’s grandmother’s stepson! Oh, did I forget to mention he’s Sonny’s ex as well? It’s a lot of soapy froth and I get a kick out of it. Sean’s chemistry with Smith was noticeable from their first scenes and Team WilSon (Will and Sonny) and Team PaulSon (Paul and Sonny) are already getting their standards made.

I am a hardcore member of Team WilSon, but I do love what Sean brings to the table. He’s a great addition to the cast and I love that he’s moving the needle on bringing more hues to a too-white canvas. And, dammit all, he is NOT hard to look at either!

Ubiquitous End of the Year Roundup: What You Are Reading ‘Round Here

Happy New Year. Looking back at 2014, I have come to the conclusion that, while I try to write about a broad array of topics, it is obvious that people come here to read about three subject areas:

  1. Web Series’
  2. Soap Operas
  3. Gay People

A web-based soap opera about gay people, well, that’s the trifecta, ladies and gentlemen! (Keep reading!)

So, what have I learned? I learned that more people read this blog in 2014 than in years past and I learned that the busiest day on the blog was June 16 and the most popular post that day was Where the Beautiful People Go to High School, which is about a web-based soap with (not entirely, but strong) gay themes. It was also the year’s most-shared piece. More than 2,000 readers shared it on their Facebook pages.

More people commented on I Do: The WilSon Wedding, Playing the Long Game and Celebrating the Zeitgeist than any other story of 2014 and the top referrers to the site were: Facebook, Twitter, will-sonny.livejournal.com, willxsonny.tumblr.com and reddit, followed closely by thebacklot.com. Top clicks included thebacklot.com, YouTube, Kickstarter, stage17.tv and my marketing blog, markblackmon.net.

Visitors came from 112 countries, including 5 people from Qatar, 1 from Armenia, 1 from Mongolia and 54 from the Russian Federation. To be fair, the vast majority of readers are from the U.S. and Canada, but the international reach is quite astonishing, especially since I did nothing to cultivate it. The Worldwide Web is not named hyperbolically!

So, with that long, drawn-out introduction, here is this year’s Top Ten list of most-popular posts.

10. High School Same-Sex ‘Cutest Couple’ is Prom-Bound Internet Sensation
cutestThis one, originally posted in June 2013 had the 10th most views in 2014.

It got a second wind this year; I don’t know why. Prom season, maybe.

I did some quick digging and couldn’t find any updates on these prom cuties. Perhaps, like so many others, they went off to college and discovered new cuties to hook up with. If you know something about them, though, let me know.

9. Saying Goodbye to the First WilSon Incarnation with a Bit of Snark
snarkwsNothing of great import here; just what the title implies. A shoutout is due for “snicks” from thebacklot.com who put these hilarious slides together to commemorate the end of Chandler Massey’s run as Will Horton on Days of our Lives.

Over the last year there’s been a lot of yammering about Days letting Chandler go and recasting the role, but mostly I believe it’s just the Interwebs’ usual stuff and nonsense. If you know the show, though, these are hilarious.

8. Why I’m Supporting EastSiders — And Why You Should, Too
esdr2A screed. A smack in the face. A wake up call. Maybe a primer on how crowd funding and word-of-mouth actually work. This was written at a time when it seemed that, by traditional metrics, the Kickstarter campaign for the second season of Kit Williamson’s bravura web series may not make it to its goal. I figured that I needed to do something. So I yelled a little! Like I do.

Did it help? Doubtful, but they did make their nut and Season 2 is coming soon! So many people have said that this series is so good that it should be on TV. And even though Kit recut the series as a feature length movie that aired on Logo, you won’t find anything this good on television. Nothing this good ever makes it to television. I mean, they don’t call it the ‘boob toob’ for nothing!

7. Wallflowers Returns for a Second Season — No Shrinking Violets Here
wallflrTruth in advertising: I only watched this show because John Halbach asked me to. I thought the first episode was very good and I said so here.

I did one other post about the show during the second season but what I didn’t expect to have happen was quickly to turn into an unabashed fan of Kieran Turner’s series about a band of romantically challenged souls.

Recently, I had the opportunity to watch the series in one binge and it may be even better the third or fourth time around. It’s a delight. Nuanced. Crisply written. Witty and smart in all the right places. Warm. And in the final episode? Still surprising. Full of grace notes, this.

Watch it, if you haven’t already. This is my nominee for “Best New Thing I Found on the Web in 2014.”

6. Kit and Van and Cal and Thom and … Cassandra?
vankitThis one ties for my vote in the category of the best thing I wrote in 2014. You may not think so, nor may the judges from the American Academy of Specialty Bloggers*, but I think its good and it’s an issue that is near and dear to my heart. I opened up a little and told a bit of my story, old and creaky though it may be.

Kit and Van are smart and creative and are both on my shortlist of people I would pay to watch read the phone book. It hurts not at all that they are also drop-dead handsome. I love their sensibilities, I suppose. Ones to watch.

5. Actor Hunter Canning Talks ‘The Outs,’ ‘Whatever This Is’
hunttommyThis is just a paragraph. I mean, really, Internets? The linked interview is good, but I didn’t write that; just this paragraph.

One supposes that people are drawn in by this devilishly cute picture of Hunter (right) and his The Outs and Whatever This Is co-star Tommy Heleringer

The Outs and Whatever This Is, both from the mind of Adam Goldman and company, are two more of my favorite web series.

Originally posted in Oct. 2013.

4. ‘Sonny’ Skies or Clouds on the Horizon? The New Normal Comes to Salem
freddieAn early-in-the-year piece that focused on daytime television’s first male-to-male marriage proposal on Days of our Lives. I thought it was a compelling jumping-off point to say something about LGBT representation in the media at large and this storyline in particular.

This hit quite soon after the role of Will Horton was assumed by Guy Wilson and a lot of people were saying nasty things about Guy on social media. Sometimes I wish people would keep their yaps shut. So, I slapped at them a bit and ended up getting a number of positive comments including nice note — maybe it was a tweet? — from Guy. I still think it was a good recast. So there.

3. Where the Beautiful People Go to High School
ydGay. Web. Soap: my blogging sweet spot! HA! A quick little review of the web series Youthful Daze. Proving that you never know what will hit and why, this is the most-shared post on this blog and it was shared more than 1,000 times in the first 12 hours it was up. It’s over double that number now.

It’s a very good series. I was more impressed than I thought I would be, to be honest with you. Bryan James has created a real soap in the best traditions of serials with a lot of, as I put it in the original piece, angsty teens and improbable dramas. I’m glad these types of shows exist and continue to thrive on the web. It makes me think there is a higher purpose to it all than merely showcasing silly photos of cats.

2. I Do: The WilSon Wedding, Playing the Long Game, and Celebrating the Zeitgeist
idoThis piece hit big after the April telecast of the wedding of Sonny Kiriakis and Will Horton on DOOL. It was an outstanding week of programming and it was the first time in my soap-watching memory (and that’s a LOOOONG time) that I can recall a multi-year story arc  tied up so well. It really was this genre at its finest and it didn’t hurt that everyone surrounding the two outstanding actors at the center of the action was a veteran soap performer.

In the months since the wedding, I haven’t felt as enamored of the writing. It’s seemed inconsistent and sometimes downright head-scratching. Still, there was a part of that first arc that so enraged me that I nearly stopped watching, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, but I do wish the writers were more artful in their plotting.

This is the piece that ties with No. 6 for best thing I think I wrote this year.

1. Finnish Soap’s Gay Storyline Finds International Fans Thanks to YouTube
saltutI published this piece originally on Jan. 4, 2013 and it has made it into the “most viewed posts” list almost every week since and yes, it was the most-viewed post in 2014. That’s the second year.

Go figure.

It’s a quick cut about a gay teen storyline on the Finnish sudser Salatut Elämät. Thanks to the uploader and captioner who goes by the handle missfinlandia88, I still watch these clips from time to time on YouTube. It’s not the greatest soap I’ve ever watched — sometimes it’s downright groan-worthy — but other times it’s pretty good and I enjoy the two leads. Also, I appreciate the fact that while the stories are sometimes a little far-fetched, at least the Europeans have moved past the U.S. in their inclusion of LGBT characters into their stories.

***

Anyhow, if you’re still reading, that’s the list. Thanks for reading these for the past year. Thanks for your comments and your “likes” and shares, which tend to be the only way one knows that you are connecting with the world. And thanks for continuing to check in. I started this blog a couple of years ago as a way to talk about things I wanted to talk about. I didn’t expect anyone would care. I was pleased — and shocked — to find an audience and am excited that it continues to grow.

Best wishes for 2015!

*Oh, stop Googling. I made it up.

Can Telenovelas Put an End to Homophobia? | Roberto Perez

This is an excellent thinkpiece on HuffPo Gay Voices from early in August. I would have referenced it earlier, but I’ve been busy recovering from some surgery by not writing! Perdóname.

Perez references the telenovela (soap opera, in English) Que Pobres Tan Ricos, a Mexican drama broadcast in the US on the cable channel Univision. His thesis is that these types of programs tackling gay relationships and homophobia is helping the Latino community better understand LGBT people.

He is absolutely correct, of that I am positive. Alert readers will surely know by now how often I have beat the drum for serial drama and its power to impact the culture. I am reminded of Freddie Smith, the actor who plays a young, gay character on Days of our Lives, relating the story that a fan had written him telling Smith that he had come out to his grandmother by telling her that he was “like Sonny.” It was a perfect way for that young man to relate to his grandmother, who did not have the life experience to process, “I’m gay” in a way that would make sense to her. However by using a character that she understood — and liked — as the analogy, he was setting himself up for success and acceptance.

Anytime we can use powerful storytelling to make others understand how very much alike we all are, the better off we’ll be.

Here’s a link to Perez’s post. Can Telenovelas Put an End to Homophobia? I wouldn’t bother trying to check it out on Univision, though. Que Pobres was cancelled at the end of August. No se puede siempre ganarlo todo … or something like that.

Where the Beautiful People Go to High School

Back from my moving-across-half-of-the-country sabbatical to bring you a quick check-in on the goings-on at Westfield Prep. And there are a lot of things going on!

For the uninitiated, Westfield Prep and environs is the mythical(?) Southern California setting for the super-soapy teen web drama Youthful Daze.

When Tommy Dinato (Ethan Daniel Corbett) comes back to town, it’s clear that he has a past with Drew Castle (series creator Bryan James), but it’s not until a heated argument turns into a heated make out session do we learn that their history is a romantic one.

YouthfulDaze2

Nothing stays private for too long thanks to the movie studio everyone carries in their hip pocket. Will this restroom snogfest become fodder for the high school gossips or is it Grade-A blackmail material? As they say, tune in tomorrow.

Now, campers, your faithful correspondent, ‘Uncle Grandpa,’ is a bit long in the tooth for angsty teen drama, no matter how cute the angsty teens happen to be, but I was struck by this statement from creator James, “…[Youthful Daze] showcase[s] the straight storylines and the gay ones with no hang ups or discrimination in execution. We are a soap opera that has something for everyone.”

And that’s the way it should be. Besides, every generation needs their angsty teen stories and improbable dramas; it’s how we learn we’re not alone in the world. Take this well-crafted little soap out for a spin, I think you’ll enjoy yourself.

Here’s a preview, and below a link to one of the latest episodes.

http://ww2.webisodesnetwork.com/youthful-daze/videos/1304

Soapland: Corrie vs. the Rest of the World

hulu — DAVE HOLMES TELLS YOU WHY YOU NEED TO BE WATCHING ‘CORONATION STREET’.

Corrie-Rovers

The Rovers Return Inn, the local for Coronation Street on the venerable ITV drama.

Interesting piece by Dave Holmes, who thinks you should be watching Coronation Street. I don’t have anything against Corrie, per se, only if I was making a suggestion as to which British soap to watch, I’d encourage you to watch Emmerdale.

In fact, I already have. Several times. And Hollyoaks.

Like Holmes, I’ve done my fair share of disparaging American soaps, but I’m currently captivated by the Will Horton-Sonny Kiriakis love story on Days of our Lives, so I’m not going to say anything snarky about, you know, Stephano or annoying town gadabout Julie Williams.

But regarding Holmes, isn’t it convenient that the only U.K. continuing drama available on hulu is Corrie? Hmmmm??

WilSon, Love & Thanks – Thoughts for Valentine’s Day

This is a “Thank You Letter” of sorts.

On Valentine’s Day, after an elongated mulling-it-over period, the character of Will Horton on Days of our Lives is going to accept the marriage proposal of his longtime love, Sonny Kiriakis.

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Guy Wilson (l) and Freddie Smith play Will and Sonny, a young gay couple set to be married on NBC’s Days of our Lives.

I thank the DAYS producers and writers and NBC for that. For making a same-sex couple a part of the landscape. For treating that couple no different than any other young lovers. For weaving them into the fabric of the core families and for understanding the importance of allowing this relationship to play out over time. They should definitely be thanked.

I also want to thank the young men who portray these characters — Freddie Smith and Guy Wilson. They are doing yeoman’s work and they’re excited about doing it, which is even nicer.

“Will said no when Sonny popped the question last month because it’s a soap and it has to be dramatic,” said Smith in an interview with The Advocate that was published online on Feb. 13. “But when I found out they were finally getting engaged, I was thrilled.”

Also last month, when I wrote about the significance of Sonny asking Will to marry him, I got this:

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 9.10.43 PM

I was really quite shocked, I have to say, even though I had already heard through the grapevine that he’s a genuinely nice guy. No one, least of all me, expected him to (A) read what I had to say, (B) care that I was saying it, or (C) think it was important to let me know. That’s rare.

So, thanks, Guy. Not only was it nice, but he turned me from someone who was a fan of the character to a fan of the actor. In my loooong tenure in the theatre, I learned that while the business is full of prima donnas, the nice folks who persevere always finish first.

(Also, in my other life, part of what I do is explain branding and marketing and relationship-building to people. That tweet? That’s marketing.)

In the Advocate article, Smith also said that he’s received many letters from fans telling him of the impact of this story.

“In fact, one of those letters that touched me the most was from a young man who told me he was able to come out to his grandmother by saying, ‘Grandma, I want you to know that I’m just like Sonny.’ That really tugged at my heart because without this storyline he may have continued to keep his feelings to himself, but he was able to be comfortable enough to be honest instead. That’s why I’m so happy DAYS is showing this, because it’s part of life and people need to see themselves reflected on TV.”

So, thanks Freddie, for understanding the broad reach and importance that can come from telling bold, yet distinctly human stories over the long term and telling them well.

I’ve said it forever — and often loudly in defense of the importance of the continuing drama — but we humans only exist by storytelling, by sharing our experiences with one another, by finding out what we have in common with others and what sets us apart.

tumblr_mzhzgc7eXq1risl97o1_500

Will said no to Sonny, when he proposed last month. How he could resist that face is beyond me!

I am so excited, as a gay man, that we are seeing so much more inclusion and diversity in society and having it being reflected back by touchstones of cultural significance, like DAYS; it’s such a positive step forward. We have to press on and not let this fall by the wayside.

As I write this, I do wonder how it would have been if, when I was in my early 20s and coming out, I had been able to say to my own grandmother, “I want you to know that I’m just like Sonny.” That’s probably how I would have done it, too. Grandmother did love her ‘stories!’ Guess that’s where I get it from.

Anyhow, thanks world, for changing and for welcoming our “tribe” more and more into the rich polyglot of society.

My own husband is upstairs in bed. I’ll join him in a bit. He said he wanted a nice dinner for Valentine’s Day, so, not being the roses and chocolates type, I took him at his word and I will cook something a little fancy for dinner. Maybe we’ll uncork a bottle of wine.

The rest of the day, we’ll both do a lot of “gay things” that are so foreign to the rest of the world: work, run errands, walk the dogs through the infernal never-to-melt snowbanks that surround us. I may even do what I’ve been threatening and look for work in the warm part of California! We’ll end the day talking about our future, how happy we are, and how we met more than a decade ago because, even though it’s OUR story, it’s a good and funny one. Maybe we’ll put on a movie. Or maybe we’ll watch Will say yes to Sonny all over again. After all, it’s good to warm your heart before turning in.

Thanks, finally, to those who read these scratchings. Your thoughts, comments, shares and likes are well and truly appreciated.

Go love somebody. Happy Valentine’s Day.

‘Sonny’ Skies or Clouds on the Horizon? The New Normal Comes to Salem

Who could resist this face?

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Sonny Kiriakis (Freddie Smith) proposes to a headless Will Horton (Guy Wilson) on the NBC drama Days of our Lives.

Evidently, the new incarnation of Will Horton on Days of our Lives; that’s who.

Will said “no” to Sonny — actually, he first said “Wow!” — and then explained himself and the couple ended up in the sack anyway at the end of a rather sweet scene that had a few subtle comedy bits thrown in for good measure.

The most interesting thing about this scene to me was the fact that a network television show actually showed a man proposing marriage to another man. A first for daytime; a first since the DOMA and Windsor decisions last summer; and a first not to make a distinction between same-sex and opposite sex couples. It’s a powerful step in the right direction and I have to applaud DAYS for it.

Anyone who follows this blog knows that I was no fan of how Will ended up becoming a father, but the soapy aftermath — including Freddie Smith’s bravura comedic performances delivering the baby and his beautiful monologues at Will’s bedside after he was shot — has cemented my love for this couple.

I desperately want DAYS to keep them together because they can be significant role models for gay youth; a powerful arrow in the quiver of hope for young people who believe they cannot find a solid relationship. I really don’t care if they make them a crime-fighting duo (might be fun) or have Sonny and Will take over the sketchy Kiriakis empire from Uncle Vic and do battle with a new generation of DiMeras or maybe Sonny, Will and T could roll the Brady pub into a burgeoning Salem nightspot conglomerate. Whatever. But I would like them to do it together and not fall into the old, old soap opera trope that finds only old people happy together.

When Will and Sonny began seeing each other, Sonny’s mother, Adrienne, sort of “poked the bear” in the guise of Will’s father, Lucas, telling him that the way the world was changing, who knows, they could end up as in-laws. Evidently, a lot has happened since then because Salem, according to Sonny’s proposal, is now in an Equality State. That made me laugh, I have to admit, but it’s also another gold star in DAYS’s column. Historically, soaps have been far, far behind the curve of social change — let us not forget that the very first same-sex male kiss in daytime was Luke and Noah on As The World Turns in 2007!! — so it’s nice to see a daytime serial in touch with the zeitgeist.

Read all about the episode in the fantastic (as always) blow-by-blow liveblog courtesy of “snicks” on The Backlot: Liveblogging “Days Of Our Lives” A Decent Proposal – thebacklot.com.

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Three episodes in and Guy Wilson has already been proposed to! Must be something in the water in Salem — and I don’t mean Nick Fallon!

The New Guy
I’m kinda tired of the nonsense in the comments on articles about Guy Wilson and whether or not he’s going to be as effective in assaying the character of Will Horton as two-time Emmy winner Chandler Massey.

Soap fans can be just downright nasty sometimes, forgetting that recasting is a part of life for a continuing drama. It was assumed, once upon a time, that nearly every role would be recast at some point. When there were two dozen soaps on the networks, it was always an interesting day when the announcer would say, “The role of Nola Reardon will be played today by….” It was like having a substitute teacher. The actor could be sick, but the story never stopped.

And pre-Internet spoilers when you didn’t know everything in advance, “The role of Nola Reardon will be played today by” was how you knew that it was a temporary recast. But when Dan Region intoned, “The role of Tom Hughes will now be played by”  that meant a new contract player.

What I’m saying is, suck it up, folks. Recasts happen. Guy might be the best thing that’s ever happened to this character. You don’t know. Or, he could just suck. You don’t know that either. Just give him a chance to settle into the role. Ultimately, the character is more important than the actor in the broad scheme of continuing drama.

You should just be happy that DAYS decided that the character and the couple were important enough to the landscape to invest in a new actor.