Daytime dramas have been making LGBT storylines more compelling and current than ever, with notable storylines of just the past year including the continuation of The Bold and the Beautiful's head-turning transgender storyline; The Young and the Restless' lesbian storyline, which earned both Camryn Grimes (Mariah Copeland) and Cait Fairbanks (Tessa Porter) Daytime Emmy nominations; and Days of our Lives' romance between Will (Chandler Massey), Paul (Christopher Sean), and Sonny (Freddie Smith) -- all of whom are front-burner characters.
With these storylines and others making headlines for all the right reasons, the stage was set for daytime alums Kevin Spirtas (ex-Dr. Craig Wesley, DAYS) and Michael Slade (former DAYS head writer) to create the next LGBT smash hit. And the beauty of their series is that not only does it give a fresh perspective on the world of gay relationships, but it also gives middle-aged characters a proper chance to shine.
Called After Forever, the unique, romantic, and heartbreaking Internet series is the fruit of a chance encounter between the former Salemites. Spirtas and Slade ran into each other at a gym and realized that they both had very similar ideas for a fun new story, thus the birth of the series that follows Brian (Spirtas) and Jason (Mitchell Anderson), a 50-ish New York City gay couple who have it all -- until they don't.
The eight-episode first season -- which follows the couple and their friends through a journey of love, loss, and moving on -- also stars Tony Award winner Cady Huffman, Michael Urie, Anita Gillette, David Dean Boattrell, Jim Newman, Finn Douglas, Robert Emmet Lunney, and Colleen Zenk (ex-Barbara Ryan, As the World Turns). And lucky for fans, it's available now on Amazon via this link.
However, before you get too lost in the incredible magic that is After Forever, check out Soap Central's interview with Spirtas. He delves deep into the creation of the head-turning series, touches on daytime's bold LGBT storylines and talks a bit about his time as DAYS' Dr. Craig Wesley.
Soap Central: Kevin, are we really supposed to be believe that you -- handsome devil that you are -- are really playing a 50-year-old in After Forever?
Kevin Spirtas: Ooohhh! Look at you, sweet talker! [Laughs] You know, I am very grateful for the way my modules have arranged themselves. But I have to say, I think it's good living. It's healthy living: mind, body, and spirit. And I think one of the things that we're very excited about with this particular show is that we are taking snapshots of an entire community of not just gay men, but middle-aged people. They're often brushed aside and swept under the carpet. From my point of view, and my co-creator Michael Slade's point of view, we both felt there was an important need to make sure that this community, this whole world of people, [is portrayed]. We're not just the young, hunky cadets of tomorrow, and we're not the eighty-year-old people down the hall. There's a whole vibrant and virile life that goes on for middle-aged people. So back to good living and healthy living, it's mind, body, and spirit. You have to stay dedicated to that and focused on that. And I also say thank you; I take the compliment, and I appreciate it.
Soap Central: So, was that part of the inspiration for the series, that you noticed there was maybe a bit of a lack of middle-aged people being portrayed in television and movies?
Spirtas: I didn't plan to write with Michael, and Michael, I don't think, planned to write with me. But I had an idea for a new web series that I thought would be fun and kind of "now." And he had his own idea, which I didn't know about, and we ran into each other. I didn't even know him, really. I just knew that he had worked on Days of our Lives as a writer, and he had come in just as I was leaving. It was the end of my contract, so I was off soon after. But he recognized me, and he said, "I was writing at the end of your contract," and I said, "Oh, so you're the one who killed me!" No, just kidding. [Laughs] I didn't know who he was, really, but he recognized me at the gym, and we were talking, and I said, "So, what are you doing now?" And he said, "I've been writing some plays, and there are a couple of other projects I'm working on," and I said, "Wanna do a new series?" Like that. I just tossed it out. And I only said it because I knew that I was going to need some assistance with helping my ideas become real. I'm a good storyteller, I'm a good idea person, I know I can act, and I can give you dialogue. But I knew I was going to need the muscle of a trained and well-exercised writer. Somebody who had the experience and really knew how storylines and characters develop. So, I said, "I think it would be great to write a really fun series about a 50-year-old gay man who is going to enter back into the world of dating." And he said, "Call me. Maybe there is something there." So, you can call it kismet, you can call it a crossing point, you can call it a miracle, you can call it anything you want; it was just meant to be. And that's what we took advantage of, really, just the moment.
Soap Central: I really love your bravado, the fact that you had no fear and just said, "Hey, do you want to do this?" It shows you really believed in your idea.
Spirtas: Thank you. People say, "Do you believe in luck?" or "Do you believe in destiny?" And I just sort of say that being at the right place at the right time is good. But if you don't have the preparation behind it, [it's not always going to work]. Preparation meets opportunity, that's luck. And I think Michael and I have been in this business long enough to know that we had something to say. And even though it's not exactly what we started with, it's this beautiful entity now called After Forever that became the baby out of our two ideas. I still look at the screen and think, "How did we get that up there?!" I'm still excited and in awe that we really sat down and it came through in a great way.
Soap Central: Why did you want to do a show like After Forever?
Spirtas: I was living in New York, and I fell into a little pocket of producing on Broadway and a couple of other benefits. It was really exciting, and a lot of attention was given to me about how I kind of moved through this pocket quickly and easily, but it wasn't satisfying me all the time. I still had this desire and this craving to act and to perform. But I didn't see a lot of parts coming down the pike with my name on them, and I went, "Where's my next role?" So that's when I started to look at my life and where I was and thought, "Okay, what kind of role would I do? What do I know? Hhhmmm... Gay, fifty, single man, dating again... Oh, my God, there are a lot of fun, weird, and wacky stories in that!" And I thought it could be a very interesting modern-day project to lock into that would be funny and have some pathos and some drama. So that's where that started to come from; I started to look at what I knew and what I could hold onto and go with. And that's when I ran into Michael. So again, preparedness meeting opportunity. I wanted to create some content so I could work with great people -- and we've got great people. I couldn't be more proud of this piece. It constantly surprises me and catches me by surprise.
Soap Central: I watched the teaser trailer, and there is a lot of comedy but also a lot of heart. Just from your perspective, what drove you when it came to writing and producing the story, and what do you want viewers to take away from it?
Spirtas: I don't want to say too much [about the story], but I want people everywhere to take away that love is a continuous, expanding, living and breathing entity. We have love in our lives, and then we also have loss in our lives. You want the audience to take away that there is a place for healing, and we all can be healed and start again. I feel that when a lot of middle-aged people get to a certain milestone, they are very suppressed or they're scared or they don't know how to move on. There is loss in so many different capacities. There's loss in jobs, in culture; we're shipping stuff out to foreign countries to work for us over there for cheaper. But we did not prepare for this type of world where it's like, "Oh, we don't need you anymore. Goodbye." Loss takes on such a grand scope, but there's still a silver lining underneath all of it. I don't want to give too much away, but after the first episode, everything falls into place, and you'll know. But there is beauty in the relationships between these people, and they are all are dealing with loss on a certain level, different things that come around. You can heal, and you can continue on, and you can keep living. And you can live After Forever.
Soap Central: Ah, good one there!
Spirtas: That's kind of how we look at this couple. We toyed with "and they lived happily ever after," and asked what happens after then? And that's how we came up with After Forever.
Soap Central: I was quite happy to see that you chose former One Live to Live director and producer Jennifer Pepperman to direct the series. How did that come about?
Spirtas: I didn't know Jenn. That was a Michael find. He had worked with her on One Life to Live. We had someone else in mind, and we had started to work in that direction, and she actually got too busy. So, we had to say, "Well, maybe second season." But Jennifer had just finished a short film she had written and directed, and it was really good. I just happened to be in New York, finishing up some work with Michael, and he couldn't go to the screening, but I went, and I introduced myself to her, and I was just so impressed. I came back to Michael, and I said, "I think that we should talk to her." And sure enough, we [brought her on board]. And the great thing about Jennifer is that she saw [what this could become]. There are eight episodes, and they're essentially eight shorts, anywhere from nine to eleven minutes each, approximately. There are no commercials, and I am telling you, they are fast, packed, and they slam. You hit the ground running, and you go. And it's amazing what you can get into this amount of time. Jennifer saw every single thing we had to get in, and she got it all in, and it wasn't overcrowding, and it wasn't too much. She helped us really figure out the beats of all of this stuff. Michael really helped the structure a great deal because each episode has its own little beginning, middle, and end.
Soap Central: Is there a reason you chose to do it in this format as opposed to, say, a full-length film format?
Spirtas: I think the cool thing at the time was web series. I had just been working on a show called Hustling, and then I got nominated for an Emmy for Winterthorne, and all of these were serial teleplays, I could say. And Michael and I and Jennifer happened to come from the world of storytelling day by day by day. Our look is a little bit different than a regular daytime soap, but there's just something very clean, and you get a lot said in those little, short moments -- those chapters, so to speak. It's a different way of telling a story, and if you binge watch it, it is like watching a movie. It's an hour and a half, and it's a lot of fun.
Soap Central: I know IMDb isn't always accurate, but it says on Mitchell Anderson's page that he played the role of Kip on Days of our Lives back in 1985. Did he ever talk about that with you?
Spirtas: I don't think he has ever mentioned that! So now I've got to find out. And this is a really interesting thing about Mitchell: he is retired from acting. He left Hollywood about 15 or 20 years ago, I think. He felt the need to do something different with his life, so he went to Atlanta with his husband, he opened a wonderful restaurant called Metro Fresh, and it's very successful and has delicious food. I think he sort of stays creatively connected in the community, but I called him one day and said, "Um, Mitchell, my friend Michael Slade and I wrote this series and we want you to read it, because we want you to be our leading man." And he said, "Ah, you're cute. Listen, good luck." And I said, "No, seriously!" And he told me he didn't have time, he had the restaurant, and he had to keep things going. But I said, "Just read it." So, he read it and called me back in about two days and said, "When do we start?" There are a lot of talented actors out there and wonderful people who could easily step into this role, any of these roles, really, because there is a lot of talent out there. But I knew as an actor, and even from a producer's standpoint, I needed someone who I knew I was going to have an immediate connection with and immediate chemistry with. We've known each other for 30 years, so it was really great that he said yes. We had a twelve-day shoot, and we had to hit the ground running and go. It was fast and furious. I'm so grateful to him, and he's so good in the show. I think he's just fantastic.
Soap Central: I hope you ask him about Days of our Lives if you get the chance. I'd love to hear about his experience, especially considering your history with the show, as well!
Spirtas: Oh, I'm going to!
Soap Central: Soap operas make up a pretty small portion of your résumé, actually. But you're really known for those roles. How do you feel about that and the never-ending love you get from soap opera fans?
Spirtas: I'm grateful, my God. It is one credit, but the credit was almost eight years long, so it's a big credit. I'm grateful that people like us, they support us, they want to see us do more. They see us as something they're familiar with; we're not that character, but they see us as a character, and it's very ingrained sometimes, because there is a lot of time that accrues. But I think the wonderful thing is that they will still support you no matter what. And especially those Days of our Lives fans. They are cr-cr-cr-cr-wonderful! They will follow you, and they will stand beside you, and they will really support you. I think it's great. We want to do new roles -- we as actors -- and we want to expand. I think in everybody's career, there's one role that is really the pinnacle role, the absolute icing on the cake, the cherry on top. And I may have been playing Craig for a long time, but I don't necessarily know if that was that role -- though I'm very glad and very grateful that I got to play a role like Dr. Craig Wesley. I felt like there was a lot that Craig actually went through. He started off as such a pain in the ass! [Laughs] But then he became such a loving husband and father and the chief-of-staff of University Hospital. But I still think there is more for me, and I think After Forever is a pathway to that, perhaps. I'm interested in seeing what happens with that, especially because it's in a world where there is so much content. And who is going to see this? And how is it going to be seen and when is it going to be seen? But it's coming out there, April 24, on Amazon.
Soap Central: Is that to say that you don't think you would ever return to DAYS if they were to ask you?
Spirtas: Oh, no, no, no, no! I had fun on that show, and I had fun on that set. Oh, my God, and Patrika Darbo [ex-Nancy Wesley], come on! We had just a total blast. So, I would be a pill if I didn't go back! I would love to.
Soap Central: DAYS has a really spectacular gay storyline going on right now with not just one but four front-burner gay characters, which is amazing. It wasn't that long ago that the shows would get too much backlash to carry a story like that forward. In fact, The Young and the Restless just recently halted a lesbian storyline, reportedly due to fan backlash, though nothing official was said.
Spirtas: Here's what's interesting: I hold the space for the fans to be open-minded, and I hold the space for the creators who are taking these stories and taking chances with story and holding true to their vision, because if that can be done, we can shift a lot of consciousness and a lot of prejudices would be gone. And that would mean we could have everything, and we could all be together. And that's why Michael and I felt so good about writing this project, because it was of truth, and each of us had a part of that story in us. That's a part of us, and you can't deny that. So, if I take that outside of Dr. Craig Wesley or take it outside of [another role of mine], Nick in Friday the Thirteenth Part Seven, whatever it is, we're different slices of different things all the time, so I always get a little tight gripped when I hear, "The fans didn't want it." Well, give them a reason why they should want it! And that might help. Look, The Bold and the Beautiful did a transgender storyline, which I thought was absolutely so well done. I remember catching part of it because there was so much [attention] around it, and I thought that was really, really well done. [B&B's executive producer] Brad Bell and the rest of the team, they did it right. I didn't see Y&R's lesbian storyline, and I didn't see a lot of the gay storyline on DAYS, but hats off to them for doing it.
Soap Central: And to you, as well, for After Forever!
Spirtas: Well, thank you. It catches me by surprise that we actually got it done. I can't believe that this is really something that we brought [to life], and I hope it has a life for at least fifteen seasons! [Laughs] It has a different feel to it than most of the short-form, quick series that you've seen, and I think people are going to walk away with more than just hope. I think they're going to walk away with love and understanding.
Check out the teaser trailer for After Forever below and then click on this link to begin viewing the series, available now on Amazon.
What did you think about our interview with Spirtas? What do you think about the premise and teaser trailer for After Forever? Would you love to see Dr. Wesley pop back into Salem? We want to hear from you -- and there are many ways you can share your thoughts.