Monday, April 27, 2009
Daytime talent manager Michael Bruno reflects on the state of CBS'soaps
Although best known to fans as the Simon Cowell of SOAPnet's I WANNA BE A SOAP STAR, talent manager Michael Bruno is more familiar to industry insiders for his success working behind the scenes. What does the real-life starmaker have to say about the future of your favorite shows?
"It's a shame," Bruno reflects of the conclusion of SOAP STAR. "People told me their favorite part wasn't the eliminations or the 'how to hold a baby' segments but the acting tips. Aspiring actors loved learning why we picked certain people and not others." Bruno's biggest tip for performers today is to stay open to the changes in daytime TV. For example, his longtime client, AS THE WORLD TURNS' Julie Pinson (Janet), is still working without a contract, even though she's been involved in frontburner storylines for a year! "Julie actually may be in a better position this way," he suggests. "Shows have two columns of actors [contract and F, non-contract], two columns of money, and 'x' amount of money to use for each group. Julie has to be the biggest star on their non-contract list, [so] she can be used a lot because of that."
As daytime dramas continue tightening their budgets to survive, Bruno believes that it's the over-40 crowd who will be asked to stick around without the security of a regular paycheck. However, they won't be eliminated altogether. "Soaps still need to be multigenerational; it only strengthens story when you draw from your history," he suggests. "When people are watching during the holidays or if they're home sick, they'll say, 'Oh, great! So-and-so is still on the show.'"
Equally important is planning for the future, which Bruno thinks THE YOUNG & THE RESTLESS does best. "Co-executive producers Maria Arena Bell and Paul Rauch are doing everything right," he insists. "They're playing favorites and have built such a strong next generation of 28-35-year-olds. They have 10 years of story there!"
The soap guru also applauds the industry for taking risks with storylines. While response has been mixed about the intimacy (or lack thereof) between ATWT's Luke and Noah, GUIDING LIGHT is still forging ahead with the pairing of Olivia and Natalia. "Viewers have asked, 'Why don't [Luke and Noah] have more love scenes? Why aren't they written like the straight people?"' Bruno observes. "Being a gay male, I have a different perspective on it: It is still progress that they're on... They're being written as real people. It's not just a gay audience watching. The network has to cater to all of their viewers."
— Kelli M. Larson with reporting by Michael Maloney