CJAD: We have on the line, Emmy award winning daytime actress Louise Shaffer, who has written a book. It is entitled ALL MY SUSPECTS: A DAYTIME CRIME MYSTERY. Hi Louise, how are you.
LOUISE: Hi there, I'm fine, how are you?
CJAD: Fine, nice to talk to you. I must say that this is a book I am dying to read.
LOUISE: Oh good!
CJAD: I was looking at the synopsis here. I've got to share this. I mentioned earlier in the first part of our program when I was promoting this a couple of hours ago, but I've got to say it again. Real trouble finds its way on the set of television's top rated daytime drama, BRIGHT TOMORROW, when the American Broadcasting Network's Daytime President, Gregg Whithall, a guy just about everybody loves to hate, is found naked, and very much dead, in the stars' dressing room with nothing but a gold lame rose tied strategically to his private parts. Now, you WANT to read that! (laughter)
LOUISE: I'm so glad, that's the whole point. (laughter).
CJAD: This is the first time you've written a novel?
LOUISE: Yes it is. Well, actually no. Once before when I was out in California, which is a place in which I have a lot of trouble functioning because, a: I am the world's worst driver, with the possible exception of my Mother and I also don't do California speak too well. I wrote a 760 page very sensitive romance novel about the life and hard times of an actress. It was turned down by ten publishers. So this is my second effort and it is my first murder mystery and it was indeed.....it really is my first serious effort.
CJAD: Now, from those who know you from television, because they only hear your voice right now, let me give a little background. Louise Shaffer, you won an Emmy?
LOUISE: For playing Rae Woodard on RYAN'S HOPE. Rae also known to an awful lot of the fans as Kimberly's mother.
CJAD: And people might know you from ALL MY CHILDREN also?
LOUISE: Yeah, I played Erica's stepmother, Goldie.
CJAD: And SEARCH FOR TOMORROW.
LOUISE: Oh, I played two parts on that. I played Emily Hunter when I first came to New York and then most recently I took over for Marie Cheatham when I played Stephanie Wyatt.
CJAD: Now the role I know you from.....it's great when you can sink your teeth into twins or split personalities......
LOUISE: Do you remember!!!
CJAD: Serena and Josie....do I remember! Didn't you shoot your husband on the courthouse stairs?
LOUISE: You bet I did! Oh yes! (laughter)
CJAD: On the EDGE OF NIGHT.
LOUISE: You bet! That's wonderful! Oh, thank you. I loved that part. Thanks for remembering that!
CJAD: I bet you did. That was certainly some acting in that role.
LOUISE: Oh that was so much fun. She was one of the first split personalities to show up in daytime, as a matter of fact. What was really interesting about it was that show, when I was doing the split, was still live. It was the last one to go to tape. It didn't go to tape until, I believe, 80 or 79, or something like that. Anyway, when I was on it, it was still live and so that meant when I would change from Josie to Serena we'd be doing it during real live commercial breaks. It was amazing.
CJAD: That must be something. LOUISE It was great.
CJAD: So now you've put out this book, ALL MY SUSPECTS, which obviously you have an opportunity to go back to some of the situations you may have been involved with. Some of the background to put together these characters, because it takes place, obviously, on the set of a soap opera.
LOUISE: It takes place on the set of a soap opera. Absolutely. You're right. I think it comes out of a lot of years of experience in daytime, of course. It's all in my imagination, I hasten to add. It has a lot to do with the background I went through. I think it's funny. You collect a lot of stuff subconsciously that you're not even aware over the years of doing something. And then when you do something like write, it's just sort of all there. I mean, you can hear the voices and you can see the characters, even though they are all fictional. They are kind of.....I think I kind of creating them for a long time.
CJAD: Again, it is fictional, but you do have a soap opera background. Would people in the soap opera community recognize some of the characters?
LOUISE: No. It's very funny. Every once in a while, somebody will come and tell you "you wrote this about so-and-so, right?" And you say, "NO!" I think the wildest one is that there's a very nice lady I met a few days ago who somebody had told me that Angie was this woman, and I had never met her. I mean, we finally got together and met and somebody was convinced that Angie DaVito was this person. No, that's been one of the shockers of writing. And friends of mine who've written books before have told me, "you will not believe the people who will be absolutely convinced that you wrote about them and you didn't! You didn't mean it to be that person in a million years!" And you're stunned. Yeah, that's the kind of the amazing part. As a matter of fact, one person got kind of insulted and it was sort of, "I didn't have you in mind, I wasn't thinking about you at all!"
CJAD: Your career as an actress. You've done quite a bit of soap operas as we mentioned earlier. I was reading in some of the material that one of the reasons you drifted into writing was because you love writing, but also as women get older in television, there seems to be that problem.....
LOUISE: Yes, very definitely.
CJAD: Which is unfortunate, because some of the best actors are in daytime and some of the meatier parts come along for some older women, but not enough.
LOUISE: Yes, I think so. I think a reality of our business, and a very sad reality is that men get older and are perceived to be more attractive and women get older and they've gotten older. I've always loved to write and I've wanted to write for a long, long time, but certainly, I'm no fool. And as I started getting older, I started realizing I was not going to be one of the ones who got everything lifted up around my ears, so I better find another line of work, as well as. I mean I still love to act. I did nine days on GUIDING LIGHT last year. It was a lot of fun, I loved it. I still enjoy doing it, but you've got to be practical. You know, when people like Meryl Streep are having a hard time finding good roles, it's just a very bad scene for older women. I went through a lot of periods of feeling very angry about it and feeling very abused. Then finally I said, "no, I'm just not going to be a victim. I have this other love this other love. It's always something I enjoyed, so let's start working on it."
CJAD: Like a lot of people, you're not the first person to do this. I know a lot of people who have drifted, or read about a lot of people who have drifted to behind the camera from in front of the camera writing on soaps operas. Was that easy for you to do?
LOUISE: Well, writing dialogue, yeah. I was very fortunate in that Claire Labine who is now the head writer of GENERAL HOSPITAL and had been the head writer of RYAN'S HOPE was willing to mentor me to the extent that she gave me some outlines of RYAN'S when I was on, as a matter of fact ALL MY CHILDREN, and let me just kind of work with them, and taught me what to do about writing dialogue and then I wrote for her for the last year that RYAN'S was on the air. So that was a kind of nice transition and an easy one for me. It was also a show I knew very well, because I had been on it as an actor. That kind of eased over the transition into the writing for me.
CJAD: Was there any difficulty, though, that you were now writing for some of the characters you worked side by side with.
LOUISE: That was rough, a little bit. I must tell you. Initially, that would get a little bit hard. It was hard only until I made the emotional decision that this was my career. When I was still thinking in terms of acting, it got a little...it was a little bit rough. But when I started saying, "okay, come on now, this is a much more practical choice for you, and you love doing it anyway, " it eased up a lot. And by the end, I would be writing stuff for some of my pals and thinking, "boy I know Ron Hale is going to knock this one out of the ballpark," or "Mike Levin will really do a job on this." You know, that kind of thing. And of course, writing for Helen Gallagher, who played Maeve on RYAN'S was an experience because Helen sort of lived Maeve, so you could always hear Helen's voice.
CJAD: Have you ever decided to go even further and perhaps try you hand at being a head writer or director. I know some other actors have done that too.
LOUISE: I don't know. I'm finding right now that the novels are wonderful. I mean, Angie, who is my detective in this book, and hopefully she becomes, if people like her, and I'm hoping they will, she becomes a detective in a series. I'm now working on a second book where she's working backstage at a talk show. I find I have a very strong voice and Angie speaks in that voice very, very well. I think I like writing the novels. My own novels best of all in terms of writing, because I really have an enormous amount of creative freedom when I'm doing my own thing. Which is not to say that I wouldn't like to continue maybe doing some writing for the soaps, but I don't know, being a head writer takes an enormous amount of skill.
CJAD: Doing this as a job now. Working on soaps as a writer and also writing the novels. Does this mean we lose you as an actress?
LOUISE: That's strictly up to the people who cast. I've let it be known that I have an enormous amount of energy. I will never stop writing my novels. That will always be with me. Angie is just too much fun for me.
CJAD: We should mention that Angie is the detective.
LOUISE: Yeah......well she's not. What she is, is she's not a detective professionally. Angie is a producer of a soap opera and she stumbles onto this murder that happens on her set and she is very territorial about her set, thank you very much. She kind of helps the police solve the mystery. She doesn't do it totally, because she kind of backs into it and she really.....one of the things I'm trying to maintain for Angie is her amateur status. She backs into these things. She stumbles into these things. She's inquisitive and she's smart, but she truly doesn't get out there and do it like the pros. In the end she does have to turn it over to the female cop, who's name is Teresa O'Hanlon. They will, I hope as I go through the series, they will start working more and more closely together as Teresa begins to trust this civilian who really can be counted on to come up with the goods very often. And Angie is developing a kind of a fascination for it all. It starts out almost like solving a puzzle, but it's getting to be a passion in a way.
CJAD: This not only sounds like a great idea for a series of books, but perhaps a series of TV movies.
LOUISE: I would love it. I would love it! Obviously that's a natural for somebody like me. I can't wait for you to read it. I really want to you read it because I think it's made to be done on television or as a feature of some sort. I think it's made to be done by actors. I hope other people as they continue to read it....we've been very lucky. We've gotten nice reviews. We just got a nice review from a newspaper down in Washington, D.C., and everybody who has read it has been very positive about it. And I will admit we do have some interest. We have some people interested in doing it as a dramatic piece of sorts.
CJAD: I think that would be great.
LOUISE: Yeah, I'm really thrilled about that and I can't talk about it because we're in negotiations, but we do have some people interested.
CJAD: Getting back to the problem that unfortunately some of the actresses are facing today. I go back to the cast of THE EDGE OF NIGHT, which was really a marvellous show. I think of yourself. I think of Maeve McGuire who played.....
LOUISE: Yes Maeve is brilliant!
CJAD: ....who played Nicole Drake. And also Ann Flood, who was Mike Kerr's wife Nancy Kerr. These are again, actresses that every once in awhile they seem to pop up from time to time on other shows, but have not necessarily had ongoing roles in regular soap operas since EDGE OF NIGHT went off. It's unfortunate, really.
LOUISE: No, the bottom line, I mean, look at it. In the past two years, I can think of.....now there may have been more....but I can think of two contract roles which opened up for women over forty. Two. One wasn't even a contract role that opened up. It was the replacement of a role that was already was there, which means that one actress left the part and another actress picked it up.
CJAD: Would that be THE GUIDING LIGHT role.
CJAD: Alexandra Spalding?
LOUISE: Yes, exactly. Other than that, I can think of one other part that has opened up for a woman who is no longer in her thirties. I don't even know if the actress who is playing it is that age or not. But at least it could have been something that could have been for an older woman.
CJAD: Why do you think that is, because there are certainly a fair number of women who are writers and/or head writers?
LOUISE: Yes, I don't know. I haven't been able to figure it out. I know that the common wisdom is when you get to be a certain age as a woman, you're just not castable. I don't know whether that's because, as a rather tactless gentleman once told me, you get to be a certain age, you're no longer sexually viable in this country. Or whether this has to do with the fact that the market is skewed toward a younger audience because the feeling is that these are the people that have not yet made their lifetime choice of product and brand names, so we want to attract the younger people, because they are the ones that we still might be able to get to buy our brand as opposed to another one. I don't know what it is exactly. But it isn't just television and God knows it isn't just daytime. I mean, look at the numbers of older women who are brilliant actresses. Brilliant movie actresses, who are complaining constantly about, "the only way I can find a role is if I start a production company and do it myself." I don't know, why do you think it is?
CJAD: I have a difficulty understanding it myself, especially considering anyone who has watched soap operas in the daytime, especially some of the roles that have been played by people who are still playing. Eileen Fulton comes to mind.
LOUISE: You bet!
CJAD: They have been playing the role for years and years and years. I don't think they've gotten any worse over the years. If not they've gotten better. If they don't give them the parts then the second worse thing is they put them on the back burner forever.
LOUISE: Yeah. Well I have to tell you. It was interesting because a friend of mine and I were talking about this one day and she said, "it's sort of like you go through high school and you learn everything that you're supposed to learn and you get your graduation cap. You're a good little girl and you learn how to do it. And you just get to the point where you know what you're doing and they cancel graduation and the prom. It's just gone!" And I feel that way very strongly. The sadness of it has been that I know now, I am really in a place where I can be a good actress. I mean, up to a few years ago. Maybe four or five years ago, I did well, but I didn't always know completely what I was doing. I didn't know me. I was still scared. I was still nervous. I still had a lot of fears and doubts. I feel very sorry that I don't still have that outlet anymore.
CJAD: Do you find there is still a stigma between daytime and nighttime actors?
LOUISE: I don't know. I don't think so, because a lot of the young kids that come off of the soaps now, tend to go into nighttime. I mean, look at them all. They seem to do quite well.
CJAD: But it seems to be that stepping stone. You do the daytime and you do the nighttime and you don't go back the other way.
LOUISE: Oh yeah. No, I think that's true. I think the only two people who have been able to actually do that are Susan Lucci and Deirdre Hall, aren't they? I guess Emma Samms has done it a couple of times too.
CJAD: Scott Bryce also, from AS THE WORLD TURNS.
LOUISE: Yeah, there are a few who have managed. And I think there is that young woman from ONE LIFE TO LIVE who is just wonderful, who played Beau's wife. I think she's now doing a sitcom also.
CJAD: Oh yes, the Gene Wilder television series.
LOUISE: Yes exactly. I still think there's a stigma attached to daytime. I think you're right. The kids, they use it as a stepping stone to get into nighttime, but it's very rare that you bounce back and forth between the two with any degree of comfort between the two. I wish that would change, because don't whenever they do a movie of the week with daytime people, don't they usually clean up in their timeslot?
CJAD: Great numbers.
LOUISE: Yeah, I mean it's phenomenal what daytime people can pull in at night.
CJAD: Well, Louise, I've got to let you go.
CJAD: But I thank you for talking with us. And again the book. I'm really looking forward to this. ALL MY SUSPECTS: A DAYTIME CRIME MYSTERY. Published by Putnum. It sells in Canada for $24.94 ($19.95 U.S.). It's the beginning of a series. I'm looking forward to this and the follow-ups too. I hope they make it to the small or big screen.
LOUISE: Okay, so do I.
CJAD: Thank you very much Louise.
LOUISE: Thank you.