Master of the Game
Friday, January 24, 2003
You know how much work your favorite soap stars do to keep you glued to the television. They're always either at the studio rehearsing their lines or at acting classes honing their craft or at the gym getting pumped for that next love scene. But what you might not realize is that, even as they're putting all that effort into to keep you entertained, someone else is toiling just as hard to ensure that they get the opportunity to do so... their manager.
In fact, before A-list performers like Emmy Winner Billy Warlock (AJ, GENERAL HOSPITAL), and fan favorites Rebecca Budig (Greelee, ALL MY CHILDREN) and Julie Pinson (ex-Eve, PORT CHARLES) ever were handed a script to study, Michael Bruno already had had his nose to the grindstone — making calls, setting up meetings and, in essence, playing armchair casting director, pairing off his clients with the roles for which they are best suited.
Bruno's job is a lot like that of an agent, he says, but with a couple of major differences. First, he notes, "It's more personal, much more family-oriented. I like to do it that way rather than business-oriented." (As such, he not only makes every effort to be a friend as well as a representative to his roster of talent, but he also endeavors to foster warm relationships between the celebs themselves.)
Second, Bruno is a specialist in the field of love in the afternoon. "It's almost like, instead of a general practitioner, I'm a neurologist — all I do is daytime," he explains. "So basically, I either go to modeling agencies [to discover up-and-comers] or get submissions and get these young kids on [shows] — start them out, get them under-five [gigs], get them screentested and get them [contracts], like the one I did with Bruce Michael Hall (ONE LIFE TO LIVE’s newest hire, reportedly as Joey) and Marc Menhard (Boyd, AMC). That’s how Rebecca Budig started too.
"I also have the ex-daytimers calling me because they want to get back on," he adds. "And since that's all I do, it's like we sign a deal just for daytime."
Thanks to Bruno's focus on soaps, he is at a distinct advantage when, say, GH casting director Mark Teschner calls to announce that the show is in the market for a new Lucky. Immediately, Bruno gets an image in his mind: He knows the character, his look, his history... the works. "Other agents don't know the medium, so [telling them you're hiring a half sibling for Nickolas] is like saying,’ It’s John Doe's brother’ — it means nothing," he laughs. "By them dealing with me, we know exactly what s going on."
As a result, Bruno has one success story to tell after another. However, his latest tale — that of OLTL freshman Hall — may just turn out to be his greatest. The heartthrob-in-the-making had been playing adorably dorky Reese on PASSIONS for three years, and while he was well liked by execs and viewers alike, a turn on the front burner simply wasn't in the cards. "So I took a really big gamble with him," relates Bruno, "and I'm really proud of this. I said to him, 'You've got to trust me, Bruce. You're too good to stay in a supporting role. You need the opportunity to be driving story.'" And lo and behold, that opportunity knocked shortly thereafter, and Hall has since relocated from L.A to Manhattan to become a major catalyst on OLTL.
Despite the many, many feathers in his cap — he recently visited THE BOLD & THE BEAUTIFUL's set on a day when not one or two but three of his clients were taping — Bruno remains plenty ambitious. Never having been one to rest on his laurels, he has hatched dream crossover plot for one pair of performers in his stable (see sidebar below) and has big plans for several others. "I'll have Dax Griffin (Tim, SUNSET BEACH) on a show by March," he says. "He's my new obsession. He's great-looking... dirty-sexy. He'd be a perfect recast for OLTL's Kevin, especially if they're going blond now [with the Buchanan family]. He's got a great edge.
"I also know that they like Tracy lindsey Melchior (Kristen, B&B) at GH and PC," he continues, "so we're just waiting for the right character. It's a shock to me that I have people like her,
Julie Pinson and Carrie Genzel (ex-Skye, AMC) — all beautiful, all playing 28 to 32, all with fan bases — who are not on a show."
For the moment, anyway. With Bruno holding the reins, the once-; and-future leading ladies' careers could-j n't be in better hands. "In my opinion," ; he offers, "the casting of ABC has ; always been about finding breakout ; stars — the Vanessa Marcils and Came-j ron Mathisons and Roger Howarths." ! And at the end of the day, nobody is I better than Bruno at finding the best.
— Charlie Mason and Matt Webb Mitovich