Sometimes you’ve got to get dirty before you can get clean. The soap world may be a daily part of millions of lives around the world, but behind the gripping plot lines and much loved characters, lies a secret world of off-screen politics, competitive courting, cliquey casts and cynical producers. Ahead of a new book dishing the dirt on this cutthroat world from one of soap’s biggest stars, Victoria Rowell, we thought we’d tease you with a few tasty secrets about the soap world. Be warned these secrets come straight from the inside and will shock and surprise in equal measure…
5) Sleeping with the Costume Designer
We’ve all heard tales of colleagues who slept with their bosses to get that promotion, and rightly or wrongly, we usually decide to dismiss them as hearsay. Well, it seems that in the soap world competitive courting is not only a reality, but goes as far as the costume designers on set.
Victoria Rowell assures us that on one show she worked on (which shall remain mysteriously unnamed) competitive courting of the costume designer, presumably to secure the best costumes on set, was actively engaged in by up to 30 cast members at a time. It may come as a surprise, but costume designers – responsible for the presentation of actors and actresses – are part of an off-screen crew that wields an enormous amount of power behind the scenes. Exact figures for how many successfully closed their advances are not known – but what is obvious is that the world of soap can be a seedy place, where doing the nasty with the right person is sometimes what it takes to clamber up that greasy pole.
4) African American Storylines Come Out in Summertime
There are various powerful and surprising forces at work behind the scenes of your favorite soaps, some of which might just make you double-take. One of the less well known secrets outside the industry is that storylines involving African American characters come to the fore, or get ‘pumped up’, during the summer months. Seems weird, so why is this?
To cut a long story short, it seems a few producers and scriptwriters appear to still be taking the tired and downright offensive notion that only African Americans are at home during the summer as true. Believing everyone except African Americans would have jetted off on holiday, or be out at their holiday home boating, these producers attempt to cynically target those who they feel will be their core viewers during this period. The whole idea is rubbish, of course, but it shows an uglier side of the ratings war and hints at some deep lying problems at the heart of the soap world.
3) Shhh… Don’t Tell Anyone: Soaps are Dying
Hush, hush… don’t tell anyone – especially your mom. Soaps are, apparently ‘dying’. Yes, you heard it here first, courtesy of Victoria Rowell. Well maybe not first, but it is a commonly accepted fact in the soap world, and a little known one outside it.
Once upon a time there was real life, and then there was ‘reel’ life. People who lived in real life liked watching people who lived on ‘reel’ life, because it seemed much more interesting and rewarding. They could live out their dreams vicariously, or experience their worst fears without bearing the consequences: essentially they could emotionally invest in soaps in a way they couldn’t in real life.
Today soaps are falling like flies and there are a variety of reasons. Writers have sacrificed the successful formula of a heightened version of real life, for endless headline grabbing plots of murder, incest, divorce and violence – effectively numbing their viewers into submission. As a result soaps have become more costly to make, with less viewers, making them an unattractive production. People have turned to other forms of pop entertainment: blogging and online gossip pages have stolen people’s attention, and in many ways, Facebook and Twitter have helped turn our own social lives into something closer to soap operas. The bottom line is: why watch soaps when your own life can be one?
2) Black Writers Are Held Back
The vast majority of the viewers for the ever-popular The Young and the Restless are African American, a fact that is only supported by the show’s massive popularity in the Caribbean. Many of its most prominent actors and actresses, as well as storylines, involve African Americans – yet there has, however, never been a black writer. Victoria Rowell feels this is indicative of a secret conspiracy that lies behind the soap world and the writers and producers who control it, something that mirrors the dark social reality at the heart of America.
Victoria Rowell was herself asked to write for the show briefly, but declined, turning down the chance to become the first ever African American writer for the show. She feels that whereas the soap establishment is happy to have black actors and run storylines around African American communities, the real power and controlling influence is held by whites behind the scenes, just like political reality in America. It seems that the secret heart of the soap world resembles real life in a darker, more disturbing way than we might ever have imagined.
1) Victoria Rowell is Blackballed
Victoria Rowell is one of the nation’s most loved stars, famed for playing the vivacious Drucilla Winters in The Young and the Restless, and Dr. Amanda Bentley in the cult TV show Diagnosis: Murder. But a little known secret is that she is being held back from garnering the applause she deserves by soap colleagues who resent her and constantly shut her out from the all important pre-nomination list for the Emmy awards.
Victoria says this is symptomatic of the cutthroat, boot-licking world that soap really is behind the scenes, and puts it down to the fact she doesn’t fraternize with the right people. Backstage politics, cliquey casts and a crew who hold an enormous amount of power – from costumes, to filming – all play a huge part in deciding exactly who gets put up for what nomination. And although it might shock and upset you to realize that all too often acting prowess and artistic ability take a backstage to off-screen politics, yet again we see how closely soap mirrors real life: both on-stage and off-screen, and in a way we might find highly uncomfortable.
For more tasty secrets from Victoria, check out her new book Secrets of a Soap Opera Diva.