Imagine a kid riding a bicycle, taking his palms off the handle bars, and yelling, "Look, ma, no hands!" That image isn't a far cry from the life of Kyle Lowder, who's approaching his latest producing endeavor and his work as Days of our Lives' Rex Brady in a similar manner: with unbridled, child-like joy partnered with an obvious level of hard-earned expertise.
The actor has once again teamed up with his Ladies of the Lake partner Michael Caruso to bring their magical new film A Mermaid for Christmas to life. The heartwarming holiday flick stars Lowder alongside soap favorites Jessica Morris (ex-Jennifer Rappaport, One Life to Live), Arianne Zucker (Nicole Walker, DAYS), and Kathleen Gati (Dr. Liesl Obrecht, General Hospital) -- all of whom the actor says he's incredibly lucky to call costars. Filming of the family-friendly project will begin later this spring, but Lowder is opening up now about some of the behind-the-scenes fun, including the hoops they had to
jump swim through in order to bring a mermaid to life on-screen.
But it's not just producing that's making Lowder feel like he's got the world by the (mermaid) tail -- he's also happy to report that some big changes are heading Rex's way, and viewers will finally see a more likable side to his somewhat unpredictable character. Between that and the excitement of A Mermaid for Christmas, Lowder is freewheeling down the road toward one of the best summers of his life.
Soap Central: Congratulations on all that you have achieved so far with A Mermaid for Christmas. But I have to say, when I heard about this film, the first thing I thought was "How in the world are you doing a live-action mermaid movie?!" Isn't that one of the most impossible decisions of all time?
Kyle Lowder: It's a little ambitious! But we would never bite off more than we can chew because of egg on our face, that whole thing. [Laughs] But actually, it's a good question because when Michael Caruso -- who is the creator and the writer of the script and my co-executive producer on the project -- when he first told me about it during the first season of Ladies of the Lake, which was like three years ago, my first reaction was, "I can't wait to hear your explanation of how you would do this!" And my number two reaction was, "Do you have a hundred million dollars or Universal Studios backing this?" [Laughs] But to his credit, the script he wrote, the story that he wrote, it's not what people think. I don't want to give too much away, but it's not a CGI, special effects-driven film. It is a story, character-driven film, and the leading lady just happens to be a mermaid. Behind the scenes, yes, we paid an exorbitant amount of money to get some of the best, film-grade mermaid tails that we could possibly find to help the process, but that's pretty much it. We're going to throw Jessica in the water and shoot it! [Laughs]
Soap Central: How did Michael sell it to you? Do you remember what he said at the time?
Lowder: It got brought up a few times for relevant reasons over the past few years, and we wanted to put more into it, but then we got picked up for the second season of Ladies of the Lake, and it wasn't until Ladies of the Lake's second season was done -- and because of the Emmy nomination and the success that we had with the two seasons of that show on Amazon -- it wasn't until after that when we were kind of like, "All right, what's next?" And he came back to me and said, "We need to do a Christmas film for our production company." Christmas films are a very popular thing. I think Hallmark Channel alone does like thirty a year! So, he said, "We've got to get in on that, and I have the story." I looked at the script, and I just fell in love with it. He had a very rough kind of outline/treatment/preliminary script, and the story kind of evolved and got deeper, and the characters got more evolved and deeper, and we finally realized we wanted to do it, and then we kind of dove head first into it and started the process.
Soap Central: What has the process been like from that point?
Lowder: It has been a really awesome process for us. It was very different, though. Fans of the entertainment business maybe don't realize that production companies need the money to make these films, and this was really the first time that we [did that]. When I pitched the idea to Ken Corday for Ladies of the Lake, it was kind of the same thing, but I had worked with Ken before at Corday Productions for Days of our Lives, and it was a very comfortable atmosphere -- though not complacent or taking it for granted. I had just worked with those people before, and this was the first time that we had kind of ventured outside of our comfort zone into the entertainment industry and the world of financing and funding for projects. It was a wonderful learning experience for us. And the point I'm trying to make is that it further deepened our love and our excitement and our enthusiasm for this project and this story. The more we pitched it to people, the more excited we got. And like I said earlier, with the title A Mermaid for Christmas, people have an expectation of what it's going to be about, and they're right -- it's a mermaid during Christmas. But more than that, I think people will be pleasantly surprised to find that it's not what they might think, and it's a very heartwarming story, a very deep story, and the characters have a lot of depth, and it's a beautiful message. Michael describes it as very whimsical and magical and Christmassy and lighthearted and cute and funny and all that, but there is also a deeper story, a deeper message that is perfect for the holiday season, which is why it made sense.
Soap Central: Do you have plans for distribution, like teaming up with a network or a streaming platform?
Lowder: That's a great question because we're getting a lot of messages about that. Like, "Where can I see it and when?" It's a very blah, boring answer but it's the truth: we are very fortunate right now to be in a position where we are in multiple talks with distribution options right now. We're very grateful that there has been a wide interest in this particular project, and we're in a position right now where we're just weighing all of the options that we have on the table. The good news is we are going to select one of these distribution options, and it will be available this holiday season. We are not shooting something and hoping it will land somewhere -- we have distribution in place, and once we finalize that situation, we will announce it along with the release date and where they can see it and all of that stuff. Because of the interest we've had, we just want to choose the situation that maximizes the viewership and what's best for the film.
Soap Central: Have you already started filming, or is that coming soon?
Lowder: It's coming soon! It's going to be the tail end of spring, early summer. And that's a perfect time of year, because as you can imagine, there's a lot of water involved! [Laughs] We want to make sure that the ocean and pools are warmer. The film has been in development for a year now, and we were discussing ideal times to shoot, and... we thought about shooting in L.A. in February, but it was like, "Wait, we can't put anybody in the water in February!" [Laughs] So it was like, given what we have in the script, we have to shoot it during a time when we can put people in the water, when it's hot outside and all that kind of stuff.
Soap Central: You've cast several stars who are very familiar to daytime fans. I'm going to say a name, and I'd love for you to explain briefly why that person caught your eye and why they were right for the role -- starting with Jessica Morris.
Lowder: Absolutely. We've known Jessica for years, and she did extremely well for us on the two seasons of Ladies of the Lake. She's an awesome person, firstly. [My producing partners, Michael Caruso and Barbara Caruso] and I -- like anybody -- want to work with people that we love to work with, who are just nice people and fun to be around. In production on a film shoot, you spend 12, 13, 14-hour days with people, and you want to make sure you enjoy their company. That's number one. And number two, Jessica is a brilliant actress. For me, Jessica is perfect [for this role]. She's from Florida, she's got that beautiful beachy kind of look, and she just kind of looks like a mermaid. All encompassing, it just made sense. I think Michael had her in mind originally for this, to be honest with you. Like really early on in the process. And I have to say, we are blessed that everybody that is in this was our first choice. I'll just say that across the board. Jessica was the first one in obviously, because we were like, "All right, who's gonna play the mermaid?" And it was just a no-brainer for us, from the get-go.
Soap Central: And you also cast Ari Zucker.
Lowder: With Ari, it was the same thing. This character of Tiffany that Ari is playing, she is the mayor of the town and she's a land developer. I don't want to give away too much of the plot, because I'm terrible at that and just start talking and give you a freaking synopsis of the whole thing! But something I love is that one might perceive her in the beginning as the typical villain, antagonist type, but there's actually a lot of depth to the character; Tiffany is a very well-rounded character. She's got a great story arc in there, so we knew that we wanted a woman who was imposing, and we needed a strong actress with a strong presence, intimidating and physically beautiful, but had the acting chops to not play this role one-note. She's not a villain the entire time, she's not a bitch the entire time, and who is very capable of pulling something like that off? Ari! We as a production company, Michael, Barbie, and I, are in a very cool position that we just happen to work with and know personally a lot of incredibly talented actors and actresses... and when Michael is writing, I think he usually already has somebody in mind. And I think that as he was writing this character, Ari just came to his mind. He's a huge fan of hers -- she did a cameo on his first show DeVanity years ago, like over a decade ago, and he wanted her for Ladies of the Lake, and I think it was the same thing as with Jessica -- he was writing this script and just saw Ari in the role. And I was like, "Well, there's no disagreement there!" I love working with Ari, for obvious reasons. She's not just the mother of my kids, she's also one of my best friends, as well. So, I said, "Sure, let's bring her on." I see her every day, I love spending time with her, and on the actress side of things, I can't wait to work with her.
Soap Central: And then last but not least, Kathleen Gati from General Hospital.
Lowder: Michael has known her for years; they are very dear friends... and Kathleen came onto our radar kind of the same way. I think she did a guest spot on Winterthorne, Michael's Emmy-nominated show before Ladies of the Lake, and then he developed a friendship with her personally, and then she was brought on in a second season of Ladies of the Lake to play Jessica Morris' mom in that, and she is just an insanely good actress. The character that she is playing, Connie, who is my mom in the film, it's kind of like what I said about Ari's character, Connie is not one note. In fact, none of these characters are one-sided. There is a lot of depth to them. And it was the same thing, "Who exhibits that mom quality and is a killer actress?" And Michael said, "What about Kathleen?" And I said absolutely. Kathleen read the script, and her reaction was the same as all the actors: she read the script and said, "I would love to do this!"
Soap Central: You were cast on the film, as well. How did that come about?
Lowder: That was Michael's doing, putting me in it. That was not my idea, for the record! [Laughs] He said he wanted me to play the guy in this, and I said, "Okay, I'm going to fight you on that!" But just so you know, it was not my idea to put myself in it. Although, a lot of A-list actors do that, so I'll take a page out of their books!
Soap Central: I'm really excited to see how this film works out, because one of my favorite movies as a kid was Splash, which I'm sure you're familiar with. I love the way that film was made -- they were able to do so much, and that was even in the 80s!
Lowder: Okay, so what I love about Splash, and I'm such a huge fan, the wonderful thing about older movies like that is nowadays, and there's nothing wrong with this, but movies nowadays, technology has come so far, and green screen and special effects and CGI work and visual effects and all of that have become a huge necessity and really great staple of modern day filmmaking. But if you don't have a hundred million dollars to hire industrial magic, the Star Wars and Transformers special effects, there's something very beautiful about saying, "How do we make this work without doing some special effects that won't look that good?" Or, just, "How do we organically do this?" So, the Splash thing, I think you're right -- they just put Daryl Hannah in a tail and put her in the water, and that's kind of what we're going to do. And all of the scenes that would maybe require some kind of really cool special effects and whatnot, we found a very organic way of doing that. And also, this is really about the story and the characters. Obviously, it's a Christmas movie with a mermaid, but we don't lean on the gimmick in that regard. Michael has a very beautiful and relevant holiday story to tell, and I think it's really about that. Our director of photography, cinematographer, we're so thrilled to have him, and I bring that up because it's going to be visually stunning, but at the end of the day, it's really about the characters and the story. We made sure that the tails were amazing, but beyond that, it's going to be old-fashioned filmmaking. We'll put the tail on her and throw her in the ocean! [Laughs]
Soap Central: I'm going to segue into some DAYS questions if that's okay, starting with what the process was like of you returning to the show as a completely new character. I know it was quite awhile ago, but do you remember how it felt to return in the shoes of someone brand new?
Lowder: It was interesting in the sense that enough time had gone by, enough years had gone by, and I was enough removed from the show and the character, that I was disconnected from Brady. Also, the fact that Eric Martsolf has played the role for so long -- and successfully, with Emmy wins, the whole thing. That is his role. So, it was not as hard as people might think to come in and play a new character. If I was gone for a limited amount of time, a few years max, and then tried to come back and play a new character, it would have been a little weird for me. But we're talking, what, thirteen years between stints? And I do need to say this, because it's true: I do not take it for granted that in a very fickle, "What have you done for me lately?" business, that the fan response to my return was extremely humbling. This is the business where people just forget. And after thirteen years, people were treating me on social media and on the Internet like I'd never left, and that meant the world to me. But, yeah, it was thirteen years removed. Although, when I stepped foot on the set again, it was like a time warp! It was many of the same faces, and the studio is the same, and the sights and sounds and smells are all the same. But for me personally, I walked in there and thought, "Did the last thirteen years ever happen?! Is it still 2005?" [Laughs] But in terms of playing the character, it was surprisingly easy, that transition.
Soap Central: Rex has some odd behavior, like the strange position he's in right now, pushing Sarah [Linsey Godfrey] toward marriage when it's clear that she's in love with Eric. Why do you think he is acting like that?
Lowder: He's a challenging guy to play. I love Ron [Carlivati, DAYS' head writer]; he writes really intricate characters, and Rex is very complicated. If you're playing a villain on a show, or if you're playing a guy like Rex, where he's not a villain, but he doesn't always have the best behavior a lot of the times -- whether it's infidelity or being aloof or in denial or both with the Sarah and Eric situation -- even if you hate your character, you still want to love to hate him. You still want him likable, you still want to watch him. And the danger is you really have to commit to the work and to the scripts and the scenes and the character, but you don't want to go too far to where people are like, "Ugh, I can't even deal with him. I can't watch him on screen." So, it's always been a challenge to play him and to really try to make him likable, amidst all of the Dumpster fire that he is! [Laughs] It's tough sometimes, because he is in denial more than he doesn't know about Sarah and Eric. He's a very impulsive guy, whether it's his infidelity or wanting to marry Sarah now and on his terms and quick. He's not a guy who really thinks things out a lot, which is ironic because he is literally a brain surgeon. [Laughs] So the character really came out kind of strong with some bold choices and some bold behavior and decisions, and he has rubbed a lot of viewers and fans the wrong way, and that's cool. That's entertainment. You can't always be a great guy all of the time. But I think it's important to say that I have loved, from an acting standpoint, that he is not an easy character to play. I always love a challenge.
Soap Central: Do you think Rex's impulsive behavior or likability will change anytime soon?
Lowder: He's a consistent challenge, but the good news is that coming up later this summer, I have a storyline and a lot of scenes where I have the opportunity to kind of round him off a little bit. It takes about six to eight months for that to happen with a character, where you come on and fans make a certain opinion of him right away based on a couple sides of his personality, and I'm finally able to show [just not one] piece of his pie, his personality pie, if you will. Hopefully that rounds him out a little bit more for the viewership and will help the likability factor a little bit, which will be good.
Soap Central: Definitely. But I guess in the end, the most important thing is that you make people feel something -- anything! It's better to be super loved or super hated rather than they don't care about you one way or the other.
Lowder: I couldn't agree more. Indifference is the worst ever. And I live by that, having a strong opinion. Whether it's bad or good, right or wrong, just have a strong opinion, make a decision, and own it. And you're absolutely right: if people love Rex, great. If they hate Rex, great. If they're kind of like, "I don't care," then that's a problem. That was the danger of him! Sometimes you don't want to go "all in" with some of his transgressions in terms of playing them, but then it's like, "No, you have to go all the way." Because like you said, you've got to make people feel. And it's not about half-assing the work, but I have to make bold choices as an actor with this guy, otherwise people will be indifferent to him.
Soap Central: You're playing a doctor now, which comes with its own challenges. I'm curious, if you had the right training, do you think you'd have the personality to be a good doctor in real life?
Lowder: I think I would have very good bedside manners, and I would like to think that I have very good communication skills. I have been told that I have a pleasing personality and demeanor, so I think in that regard, I would be good as a doctor. But I give too much credit to actual doctors in this world to say [I'd actually be a good doctor] because that takes a very specific kind of intelligence. I consider myself to be a reasonably intelligent human being, but that is another level! I consider myself an intellectual in some regard, but I'm more purely creative. I tend to see the world in more grey and possibility as opposed to black and white, "this is what it is" science-minded. I have so much respect for what you have to go through to become a doctor. I don't think I would survive all that school! Michael and I say all the time that we are so grateful to have the careers that we have because this is how we function. It's just a very creative atmosphere as opposed to a regimented career -- not that one is good or bad or better or worse or right or wrong -- but for us, that's how we thrive, in this kind of creative entertainment atmosphere. But to bring it back around, it's been cool to play a doctor. I've never been able to do that before. There's something that happens to you when you put on that white lab coat and that stethoscope around your neck. You just kind of transform, and I have a newfound respect for people in medical professions. I've got to read some of these lines with all this medical jargon in them, and I can barely get them out! [Laughs] It's like, "We need to pump 35 cc's of epinephrine," you know? I'm really good with memorizing lines, but sometimes, to do doctor speak, I'm just like, "God, I can't get this out!" It's a whole newfound respect for that field.
Soap Central: Before I have to let you go, I wanted to ask -- you're getting so much executive producing experience under your belt, and it seems to be something that you're really loving. Would you ever be interested in producing on one of the network soap operas?
Lowder: Oh, absolutely. I made a decision about four or five years ago that I love this business so much, and I want to learn more about it. I want to learn the business side of this business, and I want to learn how to be behind the camera. Being an executive producer and being behind the camera, on the creative side of things, has really showed me that I get so protective of our projects. Our projects are my babies, you know? And I love the process. The development of A Mermaid for Christmas in particular, it has been over a year now. And the idea is years older than that. I love the process of shepherding an idea into multi-drafts of a script form and then making it better, making it deeper, that process, and then you finally have a working script that you like, and then you have to go out into the world and pitch it to people and try to get them to feel the same enthusiasm that we feel for it. And that's a very scary thing, because you're like, "This is our baby, and what if somebody is like, 'Your baby is ugly'"? [Laughs] It's shepherding a project, whether it's a TV show or a film, shepherding the idea to the creative process and then to the development process, and then the pre-production process, and then the actual on-set filming process, which is the most fun, and then the post-production where the editing and the music comes together, and then you see this finished product, and I have never felt more professional joy in my life. That being said, to answer the question, the answer is yes. I would love to expand my producing career just as much as I would love to expand my acting career. Michael and I talk about this all the time -- we have a production company, and we're all a team, but we want all of us individually to succeed in our own right, because that only makes our company better. If I ever had the opportunity, if I got asked personally alone to go produce something or he did, then I'd be like, "Absolutely. Go be as successful as you can, because that only helps us." So, yeah. I just want to make sure that I have the opportunity right now with our production company to better my skills as a producer. And like I said, the same way I'd like to expand my acting career, I'd like to expand my producing career. Without a doubt.
UPDATE (June 13, 2019): Lowder took to social media on June 12 to announce another addition to the cast of A Mermaid for Christmas: Nadia Bjorlin (Chloe Lane, DAYS).
What do you think about our interview with Kyle Lowder? What do you think about the idea and the cast of A Mermaid for Christmas? How do you feel about Rex possibly taking a turn for the better this summer? Do you think the character is redeemable? We want to hear from you -- so drop your comments in the Comments section below, tweet about it on Twitter, share it on Facebook, or chat about it on our Message Boards.