If you've ever really wanted to know what goes on behind the scenes of your favorite daytime soap operas, grab a bucket of popcorn and get ready to binge-watch Tainted Dreams, the soap-centric series now available on Amazon.
The entertaining show, created by longtime soap opera producer Sonia Blangiardo and starring daytime favorites like All My Children's Walt Willey (ex-Jackson Montgomery) and Alicia Minshew (ex-Kendall Hart), offers curious fans a first-hand look into the strange, humorous, and sometimes downright insane things that happen behind the scenes in the world of daytime.
"You could love Tainted, you could hate Tainted, but it comes from a place of authenticity. None of that stuff is exaggerated," Blangiardo tells Soap Central of the stories featured. "Even the comedic stuff that seems a little off, I can personally guarantee you that every single one of those insane things... actually did happen. So [making this series] was great. It was very therapeutic, and it was very important for me. It was in my head for ten years, and I'm very proud it's out there, because I think the fans will get a kick out of seeing what it's really like. And again, none of it is staged or fake; it's all real."
Luckily for the producer/director, her talented cast was more than willing to sign on and even helped write the series by sharing the outrageous experiences they had over the years.
"Someone like Walt, who's been in the business for so long, he has more stories than probably all of us put together, and he kind of saw some of them in the scenarios and the interesting personalities [featured on Tainted Dreams]," Blangiardo says. "What resonated for the cast is that the story is really about the characters, it's really character driven. And I think they all related to the characters I asked them to play, because knowing who they are throughout the years, I really think I tapped into their strengths as actors and who they are. They were very relatable characters. But I think the other thrill is they've been a part of this world for so long, and when have they ever gotten to play a part in something they've been doing for a living for quite a few years?"
Casting Snafus, Surprises, and Miracles
Speaking of behind-the-scenes drama, Blangiardo experienced a bit of her own while filming Tainted Dreams, and it cost her several actors she had hoped would be part of the series.
"I need to preface this by saying I'm very pleased with the outcome, but at the time, I was very disappointed," she says of the difficult moment. "I was casting right around the time that Prospect Park re-launched All My Children and One Life to Live, and [some actors] immediately said yes for Tainted Dreams, and it turned out to be one of those things where they were caught up in the middle. I would never expect them to say no to Prospect Park, and basically, they had to choose. And honestly, they chose going back to the roles they had originated on network. Originally Kassie DePaiva [Eve Donovan, DAYS; ex-Blair Cramer] was in the mix and Vincent Irizarry [Deimos Kiriakis, DAYS; ex-David Hayward, AMC], and they reluctantly had to pass. And again, no hard feelings. Kassie is one of my favorite people, and I work with Vincent now on Days of our Lives, so it all comes full circle at some point. I'm like, 'We'll work together. It's not like we won't!' It just didn't work out for Tainted."
As Blangiardo alluded to above, sometimes what you don't have planned works out just as well -- if not more so -- than what you did have planned. And that was definitely the case when it comes to the super hot chemistry Willey and Kelley Menighan Hensley [ex-Emily Stewart, As the World Turns] share in the series.
"I don't know if Kelly and Walt had ever met, but they brought some of the best performances I've ever seen them do. They just brought out the best in each other," she shares. "They had chemistry that was off the charts, and it was like, 'Wow, two people who have never really worked together made it work amazingly.'"
Better DAYS Ahead
Of course, her Tainted Dreams actors aren't the only talented actors Blangiardo is working with at the moment. She's currently directing for DAYS and says the entire cast is a dream.
"The whole cast is so incredibly warm and talented. I love working with all of them: Ari [Zucker, Nicole Walker] and Eric [Martsolf, Brady Black] and Vincent and Suzanne [Rogers, Maggie Horton], everyone. It's a great team of people," she says. "We go so fast there. They never complain, they do their lines, and they make it all look amazing. So they have my utmost respect, for sure. What we used to do in twice the time we now do in half the time, and they're just lovely to be around and still so happy to be there."
She's especially proud of the work she did with Tamara Braun, who starred as Ava Vitali on the CBS soap last year.
"Tamara is so super, super talented. I directed the show that I believe aired around Valentine's Day last year, where Ava had a complete meltdown, and she really went to town on the room and broke everything and collapsed on the floor because her obsession for Steve [Stephen Nichols] had reached new heights," she shares. "One of the reasons that stands out so much is just because she was so powerful. I don't even think she had any lines, because she was by herself, but what she did and the emotional place she brought herself to, was incredible."
Now that former General Hospital and OLTL writer Ron Carlivati has signed on with the NBC soap, Blangiardo is sure more incredible material is on the horizon.
"I've known Ron Carlivati for several years and am both personally and professionally very happy for him. I know he will do great things. He is a very talented man," she raves about the scribe, adding that being a soap writer is one of the hardest jobs in the business. "I respect all who have held that position and am humbled every time I receive a script as a director, especially after having experienced that creative process on a very small level with Tainted Dreams."
Back In Pine Valley and Llanview
While it's great news for DAYS that Carlivati is busy orchestrating the lives of characters in Salem, OLTL fans may be a bit bummed that his hands are tied now that ABC has regained the rights to the show from Prospect Park. Many hope the network will resurrect the show along with AMC, and while the future of both soaps remains unclear, Blangiardo has a unique view on what could be done to help satiate fans.
"I would love nothing more than to see All My Children and One Life to Live on the air again... but I think the network is maybe past bringing them back [in their previous format]," she says, adding that it would cool if ABC explored digital possibilities for the two soaps.
"We live in a digital world, the properties are back in their possession, they have amazing brand recognition, fan loyalty, and just history that you can never replace," she points out. "They very well could be talking about [bringing the show back to the air]; I'm not privy to that. But... what I think is a very realistic possibility is to bring it onto their online market. Maybe not every day, not five days a week necessarily, but create what Tainted is doing, create little mini-series that could be going on a little more ongoing throughout the year so you give everybody a taste of All My Children and One Life to Live without saying 'It's on, 1:00 PM, Monday through Friday, on ABC.' That formula doesn't necessarily have to be what could resurrect the brand. Again, I don't know if that could or would ever happen, but that would be lovely to see that option explored if they would be willing... and I'm not talking about producing the shows for Hulu or another platform. I'm saying produce them for your digital outlet, which ABC has. It would still remain in house, and the budgets wouldn't be astronomical. There are ways to shoot inexpensively, as a studio is just a very expensive thing to maintain."
Renewal News Drama
For those curious about how major network decisions affect the cast and crew of soap operas, Blangiardo teases Tainted Dreams dives into the drama of renewal news, as well. "When I started [in the business], renewal issues were never a question. I'd go to work on any given day, and I knew I'd be at work three years from that day," she explains. "As the World Turns was the first show I worked on that was canceled, and I remember the negotiations every year leading up to that moment and the tension that was building up until the official, 'Okay, we were picked up for another year.' [When I started] that wasn't even a possibility, and then it became a very real reality. So even that is incorporated into Tainted, because it's just the way the medium has transformed itself, where every year, you're just waiting to hear, 'Okay, we're good,' or 'We're not good.'"
Blangiardo is currently feeling that heat with DAYS, and funny enough, with Tainted Dreams now on Amazon, she may soon be feeling the renewal anxiety again. Season one of the series is now available for viewing, season two is on its way, and if the reviews continue to be positive, there's a chance the team will produce a season three.
"I was very surprised to get as many reviews as we have on Amazon, and most of them are positive. There are a couple of negative, which I was prepared for. But honestly, I'm thrilled that [most viewers say] they love, love, love the series," she reports. "A lot of the reviews say things like, 'Sat down to watch one episode and ended up binging.' I have a couple of those reviews, and the fact that this show is resonating into those needs to just keep watching makes me so happy... We're working on finalizing season two, so at the very least, I know we'll have two out there, and obviously we are hoping for a third, and we'll see if that happens."
Tainted Dreams stars soap favorites Alicia Minshew (ex-Kendal Hart, All My Children), Terri Ivens (ex-Simone Torres, AMC), Walt Willey (ex-Jackson Montgomery, AMC), Michael Lowry (ex-Jake Martin, AMC), Larkin Malloy (ex-Travis Montgomery, AMC, and ex-Sky Whitney, Edge of Night), Grant Aleksander (ex-Phillip Spaulding, Guiding Light), Kelley Menighan Hensley (ex-Emily Stewart, As the World Turns), Marnie Schulenburg (ex-Alison Stewart, ATWT), Colleen Zenk (ex-Barbara Ryan, ATWT), Natalia Livingston (ex-Emily Quartermaine and ex-Rebecca Shaw, GH; ex-Taylor Walker, Days of our Lives), and Austin Peck (ex-Rick Powers, OLTL; ex-Brad Snyder, ATWT; and Austin Reed, DAYS).
Anyone can watch the series for free on Amazon, and Amazon Prime members will be able to watch without ads. If you are not an Amazon Prime member, click here for a free 30-day trial.
What do you think about Sonia Blangiardo's interview? Have you or will you tune in to Tainted Dreams? Would you be happy to see ABC bring AMC and OLTL to its online market? We want to hear from you -- and there are many ways you can share your thoughts.