Lately, gays are all the rage on daytime television. ABCs One Life to Live, which told arguably the best gay storyline in soap history with then unknown actor Ryan Phillippe in 1992, is the latest sudser to spin a tale of love, lust, and betrayal from the rainbow perspective. A lot has changed since 1992, which is why the Emmy-winning series is returning to its gay roots. This time around the smart mans soap is tackling a new perspective on the age-old coming-out tale: last month, it was revealed that "straight" police officer Oliver Fish (played by Scott Evans) and gay med student/technician Kyle Lewis (played by Brett Claywell), shared a sexual past in college.
Written by out head writer Ron Carlivati, the surprising storyline has, in a relatively short time, become one of the most realistic and buzzed-about gay couplings on the daytime dial. One reason the storyline has gained much prominence (including mainstream headlines and attention) is because a recurring One Life to Live actress, Patricia Mauceri, refused to participate in an upcoming story that involved her character mistakenly thinking her son Cristian, Fishs roommate, is gay. Mauceri told her executive producer, Frank Valentini, that her Latino Catholic character could not realistically be pro-gay. The actress was quickly fired and the role was recast with soap vet Saundra Santiago, who debuts on September 3.
The controversial news story, which came not too long after The Young and the Restlesss Chris Engen walked out in the middle of his contract when he allegedly found out his straight character, Adam Newman, would have sex with a gay male character, Rafe Torres, was so talked about that even Perez Hilton stood up and took notice.
In their first joint interview, Out spoke with Scott Evans (yep, hes the real-life out gay brother of movie star Chris Evans) and former One Tree Hill scene-stealer Brett Claywell about pushing As the World Turnss super-couple Nuke (Noah and Luke) out of the spotlight and where Kishmet, as their onscreen couple is being referred to, is headed.
Out: Hey guys! How are the two most famous people in the soap world doing today?
Scott Evans: [Laughs.] Im not sure if they are here today!
Are you enjoying the mainstream attention youve been receiving thanks to Kyle and Fishs surprise gay romance?
SE: Yes, absolutely. As they say, any press is good press. I have to admit, I was shocked at how much attention weve actually received. I didnt expect it, but so far, its been awesome.
Brett Claywell: We were so involved in the storyline that we werent aware of how much interest our romance would elicit. Its nice to know when youre doing good work, people stand up and take notice.
Your squish name is either Kish or Kishmet. Which one do you guys prefer?
SE: I wanted it to be Kyliver. [Laughs.] Kish works.
Whats been the reaction from your family and friends over this highly publicized storyline?
BC: My family has been supportive of my career since the beginning. Ever since One Tree Hill, really. Even though the storyline could be controversial to some people, my family and friends are really excited. Even my extended family from Kentucky to North Carolina is very aware and supportive of the storyline. I think its been good for them to watch this storyline. In fact, they watch me on the show every single day.
Brett, youre from Greensboro, North Carolina, which isnt necessarily the most gay-friendly of states. I know thats a generalization but --
BC: It is a generalization but its absolutely the truth. Like I said before, when I began this storyline, I had to go through all the emotions of this story including calling my father to let him know who and what I was playing on One Life. So in reality, it was like I was coming out to my parents. There have been a lot of real emotions that have tied my reality and [the shows locale] Llanview together.
Hopefully, your casting and talent will help change peoples perceptions down south.
BC: Thats the entire purpose of this storyline. When I spoke to our executive producer, Frank Valentini, about this character, I said my intent was to make Kyle the homosexual next door -- who doesnt fit any stereotype, who just happens to have a different sexual preference.
Its ironic that Scott, who is out in real life, is playing the character in the closet and Brett, who is straight in real life, is playing the out-and-proud gay character --
SE: I think its ironic but some of the dialogue and scenes Im playing out have happened to real-life people I know, so its easy in a way. Ive seen the struggle up close and personal.
BC: I think the fact that Scott is an out gay man makes the dynamic between us more effective because its almost like Im putting myself in Scotts shoes, so it allows us to understand each other better.
Its out of fashion to air coming-out storylines because head writers feel the coming-of-age angle has been done to death. However, head writer Ron Carlivati is tackling life in the closet from an adult perspective. In the past, soaps likeOne Lifeaired the adventures of coming-out with teenagers. So this storyline is interesting because the further you go into the closet as an adult the more damage is done.
SE: I agree. And it becomes more and more difficult to come out and deal with living in the closet as you grow older.
Viewers only recently learned that your characters are gay, yet both of you had to act out an awkward tension between Fish and Kyle for months before we learned they shared a romantic fling back in college. Looking back at your YouTube clips, it appears as if you were playing out that sexual history. [Check out their love story from the beginning here]
When did you find out Fish and Kyle were gay?
BC: The writers knew long before we did. Scott and I --
SE: We envisioned a few scenarios because we didnt necessarily know they were gay or what exactly their history was.
BC: We played out that they shared a mysterious past but neither of us defined exactly what their past was. We didnt share our theories with each other, but weve both come to realize now that we both suspected they could be gay.
Fans had their suspicions that Kish may be romantically linked when Kyle called Fish by his first name, Oliver, who is rarely ever called that on the show.
BC: A lot of our prior scenes are now gaining new weight because their history has been revealed. Before we knew what the story actually was, we purposely chose to focus on the subtleties of their characters.
In hindsight, your first scene together when Kyle and Fish were reintroduced at the gym was ripe with sexual tension.
BC: That wasnt our intention but luckily it worked out that way.
SE: There was a point when Brett and I had to ask our head writer and executive producer what their back-story actually was. When they sat us down and mapped out the storyline it came as a shock but you take what is given to you and your job is to make it realistic and work to the best of your ability.
The characters will share a kiss on August 6. What was it like taping a same-sex smooch?
SE: I dont think its what people are expecting. The kiss comes from a different place. People will just have to wait and see how it plays out.
Were you guys nervous filming the kiss at all? Did you guys have to go out and get drunk the night before?
SE: From the beginning, Brett and I have been friends. Hes extremely easy to work with. Of course, there are nerves, but that happens every day when you come into work. I think we went in with the intent that were both professionals --
BC: Throughout this entire process I had to confront a lot of my beliefs in my life, in my acting and my career. I came to realize the job of an actor is to tell the truth of a character truthfully. Whatever emotion youre supposed to have, whether its love, hate, or jealousy, you must honor those emotions. That day wasnt hard for me because Kyle truly loves Fish. While Im in that character, thats what I portray -- love for Fish, which is where this upcoming kiss originates. The kiss comes from love not passion.
Antonio Banderas once said that its funny how society will pardon you for killing a man, but condemn you for life for kissing one.
BC: Exactly. As a nation, weve crossed so many social barriers but this is one that has still yet to be universally supported. Whatever I can do through this character and storyline will hopefully inspire and support equality.
Brett, its been beautiful to see you grow and blossom these last few months as an actor.
BC: Its definitely been a roller coaster these past six months. The journey I have experienced as an actor and as a character has been challenging because it seems every month something changed. [Claywell was originally hired to play a different character, a straight role, Schuyler Joplin, which eventually went to Scott Clifton; subsequently, the show had to create an entirely new character for Claywell at the last minute, since they had already signed him to a contract]. To actually be able to understand who I am playing and having a foundation to build off of has given me a chance to be moved, empathize, and grow. I think thats coming out in my character. Most importantly, this experience has transferred over to my real life. And to be perfectly honest, I can say that I havent enjoyed working with an actor on a day-to-day basis like I have with Scott, so I think its all worked out considering I was hired to play an entirely different character. I believe everything in life happens for a reason. I also believe that this character and storyline came to me for a reason at this time in my life. I just hope I can do the story justice. Im proud to be involved in this important storyline.
Even though Scott is a big diva on the set --
SE: Im the big diva?! [Laughs.] Youre asking me about Brett, right Nelson, and not Brett about me? [Laughs.]
With your luck, Brett, youll learn Kyle is actually a straight female stripper next month!
BC: [Laughs] We dont need another stripper on our show!
[Joking.] Have you guys figured out who the top and bottom is yet?
SE: The focus of this storyline is not [sexual yet]. The writers are trying to be respectful to the serious nature of Fishs [internal homophobia]. Its not like Kish is going to be, Were out! Im gay! Were lovers! The physical nature of their relationship probably wont be addressed for some time. The love story is going to evolve slowly.
BC: Weve been really proud to act out the internal conflict. One Life is focusing on the deeper aspects of the story. And we hope they continue to.
Itd be nice if they did that with their opposite sex romances. Brett, Kyle follows Fish around like a lost puppy, often staring at him from across a bar longingly. As of press time, it appears to the audience that Kyles love in unrequited. How do you convey his pain and love without making Kyle look like a delusional stalker?
BC: Its easy because Ive been in love many times in my life. And my heart has been broken many times in my life. My performance comes from a genuine, real place. To me its not acting, its more being.
Scott, do you think you being open about your sexuality inspired the writers to make Fish gay?
SE: I have no idea. Maybe it did. I was hired last year to play [the recurring character of Fish]. At the time, I didnt think the character had [a long shelf life]. Im surprised Im still here, to be honest. I think One Life wanted to tell a gay story and looked at their canvas to see which characters they could tell it with. I dont know. Maybe me being gay did influence their position, but to me it doesnt affect me either way.
Its weird that Scott is still recurring, yet Brett is on contract. Would you sign a contract, Scott?
SE: No! Im taking off for Paris and never coming back! [Laughs.]
BC: Hes not going anywhere!
SE: Of course I would sign a contract. I love it here and love the people I work with. Im not in a hurry to get one. As long as the story is solid, I think Ill be on the show regardless of my contract status.
Brett did you do any research to play a gay character?
BC: No, I didnt. Like I said whether or not Im playing a gay character or a straight character the emotions are the same. I dont feel playing a gay character is any different.
Its interesting because I guess it comes down to whether you employ the Stanislavski method or not. Meryl Streep told me she researches every role she plays -- including if she had to play herself!
BC: I just find it interesting that we choose to label whether or not a story is straight or gay. When a female and male character hook up, no one comments that its a straight storyline. We believe our storyline is about love and anguish -- and not necessarily about a relationship between two men.
SE: Its everyday life.
One could argue it is a gay storyline because of the fact that Fish is in the closet and cant deal with being gay.
BC: I think its a great that this storyline is so important to so many people. And yes, the fact that its a gay storyline is important at this particular time. But its not more important because its not so widely accepted.
Brett, have any of your One Tree Hill fans followed you over to One Life?
BC: Yeah. I think there has been a lot of crossover. When Im out on the streets, I hear from my One Tree Hill audience that they started watching One Life because I joined the show. Its important because a younger audience could benefit from watching this story as much as our older fan base.
Allegedly, earlier this summer Chris Engen, an actor on The Young and the Restless, walked out on his contract because his straight character slept with another man. Since Brett was originally hired to play a straight role, I wanted to find out what you thought about an actors right to edit a script or storyline so it mirrors their own personal beliefs.
BC: We dont want to comment about anything that happened on any other show. However, I believe, so far in this storyline, Ron and Frank have been receptive to working in a team atmosphere. Any concerns weve had, they have respected. They understand how we want to play the story, and likewise, we understand how they want to write and produce it. As an actor, its important to tell a story that connects to the audience -- and thats all that matters. Hopefully, you believe in the story and character as well. But as far as our team here on One Life, right down from the producer to the lighting technicians, luckily, were all on the same page.
And luckily, so are the fans. Now the most important question in this interview: Do you guys wear briefs or boxers?
BC: [Laughs.] Im sure youll find out soon enough.
SE: Use your imagination!
I dont think that will be problem.