Jordan Clarke Speaks With all about Guiding Light! image



Within days of filming the last scenes of CBS’ longest running serial Guiding Light, Jordan Clarke (Billy Lewis) took the time to speak with about the end of an era, daytime TV and life after Guiding Light. I appreciate you taking the time speaking with me today. I’m a huge GL fan and am just bummed about this cancellation. I can’t wait to get this interview up for the fans to read and enjoy as everything comes to a close. There are truly some people that are heartbroken over this.

Jordan: "I tell ya, the past two weeks have been very, very tough." I can imagine. When did you all finish filming?

Jordan: "At about 5:30 pm on Tuesday. The last words ever spoken and ever taped on Guiding Light were mine. The last scene taped was of me, Frank and Tina Sloane. It won’t air as the last scene, but it was the last scene that was taped. The whole day they got everybody out there and they’d take scenes and say "Here’s the crew and here’s how long that person’s been on, and how long this person’s been on", and they went straight down the line. We went all the way to the end of the day. Tina, Frank and I had the longest longevity of the show and that’s why they did it like that." Do you have any spoilers or secrets that you can share with us about what we’re going to see on the last month of GL?

Jordan: "You know, they’re letting the press release out as they want. Everything is wrapping up, and I can say that it is pretty good!" It’s got to be really difficult to tidy up 72 years of storylines. Do you believe that the fans are going to be happy with the finale? As happy as they can be I should say.

Jordan: "It is tough! They put a lot of people in there and resolved a lot of stories. There are ups and there are downs. It’ll be very interesting to see how the fans react. It’s got some of the old soap stuff in there too; which is nice. It’s some fun stuff and I think the fans are going to like it a lot!" How is everyone on the team at GL doing now since the whirlwind that started April 1 is about over?

Jordan: "I’ve learned that life is really about changing, and as an actor you really have no security. I mean, I’ve got it as about as good as you can have it. I’ve worked on and off of this show for 36 great years! It was weird though when the final word came in. You kind of feel like you need to move on, but you don’t really. I’ve worked more in the past month than I did in a couple of years! Crystal’s going back to Days of Our Lives, Robert’s doing a show on off Broadway, I’m going to do a web series with Crystal and few other people out in Los Angeles. You know, you schedule a lot of stuff for yourself to keep the paychecks coming in." (Laughter….) (Laughter….) So, you’re going to be a part of Crystal’s web series, Venice?

Jordan: "Yes. It’s going to be a great deal of fun. She and I might be working on another project together too. I am a big admirer of hers and I think she’s kind of a fan of mine too. I would work on anything with Crystal! She is so talented and such a hard, hard worker! You know, I think Betty Rae started a tradition cause she cast me in 1974 as an OBGYN name Tim Ryan. She really had an eye for a different kind of talent. It’s interesting because I think Rob has kinda kept that eye. Most of our cast is really tight. I don’t think we have any weak links; not now. We used to get one every once in awhile, but not now. Our cast is really gifted. I’m gonna really miss them all. You know, I’ve had a child who died, lost relatives, my mother, but the family stays. This time I feel like I’ve buried the family and the people stayed. My wife said it pretty good, "I know you feel bad about this going off the air, but wouldn’t you feel worse if it was going off the air and you weren’t on?" I said, "Absolutely!" I’m glad I get to ride it out. " Let’s just put it out there. I know the ratings are tough. I get that. But to be perfectly honest with you, GL is at a 1.4, but you have All My Children, One Life to Live, Days of Our Lives, General Hospital and As the World Turns all fighting for the spot right above GL at a 1.5 (approximately). There is not a big spread there!

Jordan: "I don’t think that was it. I think that CBS wanted us out. I certainly don’t know that for sure, but I think that was the case. And for some reason, P&G went along. Now, I really can’t say with the ratings. Everyone knows who you are on GL; Pittsburgh, Charlotte and all over. I feel this ratings thing went out the window years ago. It really is a lame dead horse that people use the way they want to use it to justify this number that I don’t think is real. It doesn’t really mean anything anymore. You’ve got people watching soaps on their DVR’s, some still with VCR’s and some watching shows on Soapnet. There’s so many ways that people choose to watch that it doesn’t make sense to go by shows numbers that are judging who's got the set and who's got the set on at this time." Absolutely! Nobody that I know watches the ‘stories’ (as my grandmother always called them) at the time they come on live. But, just because we don’t see it then doesn’t mean anything. We still watch them after work or on the weekends.

Jordan: "That’s genius, and you know, it’s the way our entertainment should be! We should be able to do it all at our convenience and use the technology. We kind of did that when we took on the new model so that we could survive by being cost effective. I’ve always said that creative accounting is the name of the game. Take the movie Jaws for example. On paper, it never made any money! Creative accounting is definitely an art form that’s come along. We put our heads together and thought of different ways to keep on going, but then something said ‘Let it go.’ I think if it was to come back, I don’t think it would’ve come back after it has already gone off of the air. I don’t think they would have been able to save it. I got that feeling when we talked with Brian and he said "There’s a one percent chance of it getting picked up by someone else." Well, that’s like saying that it is not going to happen! I think they knew that as far back as August or maybe November, but they kind of promised to let the new model go for a year…and they even let it go to April. We did the location shoot down in Orlando, and I don’t know if they were just seeing if it could be shot there or what. You know, in my mind I was saying, ‘This is okay to think about for a couple of years because they wouldn’t have spent all of this money on this’…but, that wasn’t the case. (Laughter…) Justin Deas and I; we’re both skeptical. We’re both hardcore pessimist. We both agreed that it was okay to relax now and that the show was going to be on for a while. How wrong we are!" I think it took everyone by surprise considering the ratings overall in daytime. I think there just has to be something else there.

Jordan: "That’s 100% true. I think the economic climate in the fall definitely changed everything. You look at the difference between CBS as a corporation and ABC and NBC. They’re small little television corporations and CBS is this huge conglomerate, right? So, maybe that has something to do with it. I think Broadcast Center is kind of a dinosaur. It’s ahead of all the fillies, but I don’t think it’s cost effective anymore. So, you gotta put reality shows in there, or game shows to make it cost effective. You can’t put in huge salaried shows." Do you know reports are true about As the World Turns being put on notice about their possible cancellation?

Jordan: "I haven’t spoken with anyone over there. I knew something was going on at ABC and that All My Children would be moving out to Los Angeles." That’s a big deal after filming for all of those years in New York. What do you think that’s all about?

Jordan: "I was told that one of the shows had to go. The building that One Life to Live was in was sold. They’re moving them into the studio on 66th street where AMC is at and AMC is moving to LA. I can’t figure it out…I don’t know." (Laughter…) It’s too much isn’t it?

Jordan: (Laughter…) "It is too much! You know, it’s kind of sad. New York is the heart of Soap Operas. NY is where they started. Daytime is a great forum. I don’t watch them; they don’t work for me. But, acting in them is absolutely wonderful! I’ve had a great time! I’ve done movies and plays, but this is very satisfying work. The family is terrific and I have worked with some great people. Great people that have gone from there and gone to there… the film side of the business that is. In this business you’re only as good as your last thing. Everybody prices themselves out of one category or another. It’s like a whole bunch of catch twenty-two’s!" (Laughter…) What was your take on the new format that Guiding Light switched to? Did it work…was it a success?

Jordan: "It became much better when they got the sound, cameras and lighting nailed. They had a lot of young people in there that learned from the older crew members. I’m a strong believer in production value, and the production value that we’ve grown accustomed to in this county is phenomenal! You go to Europe and they dub everything over there. People over there, it doesn’t bother them at all that things are subtitled. As for me, I can barely watch something that is dubbed or the music’s out of sync. Sounds stink so they don’t shoot it. It saves half the money! Everybody’s used to it because they put it in twenty different languages cause there’s fifteen countries. It all depends on how you were schooled, and I was schooled to appreciate production value. The sharpness of technical people in our field is pretty good. I learned from all of the older guys at CBS. I’m talking about guys that were cameramen from the thirties that came all the way to the seventies. They worked the camera and it was flawless! After we launched the new model, we had a show one time that was kina ‘Jerky’. I went up to the kids in the office (cause I was about to complain to Ellen Wheeler), and asked them what they thought of it. They responded by saying it’s the best show they had ever seen! They’re kids that are into Youtube, they use cell phones and all this digital stuff. This kind of model doesn’t bother them in the slightest because that’s the kind of things they’ve grown up with. I found it a little difficult at first, but after a while I got comfortable with it. You know, I think it’s the way of the future and people better just get used to it. It works!" Speaking of the future, do you think ten years from now we will turn on the television and see daytime soaps?

Jordan: "I have no idea. I think it’s all transforming now. It’s all changing, morphing somehow. I hate the idea that national network television is going to be game shows and reality shows, but they ramp em’ up and get fifty episodes out of it. It’s still a medium that’s a slave of writers. The shows that are well written, like CSI, they catch you and get you involved with those characters. That always works! I think GL was always strong in that...and families and character. When they started getting away from telling the melodrama, it kinda hurt. But, there was no way to do it with the old them (at least I was told). The budgets just wouldn’t work. So, you get new blood in there, like Ellen and all those producers that were also editing and directing, but only getting one salary. Multitasking is really the name of the game. I look at my daughter, her friends and all that they do. They all work with improve, directing, writing and animated voices. They feed on all aspects and do whatever it takes to get it done. It’s unbelievable the difference in technology now compared to when I started out. It used to be on big two inch tape and huge cameras. Now they use these tiny cameras that are no bigger than a cigarette lighter, and they take phenomenal picture!" There are quite a few GL fans out there that hold Ellen responsible for the cancellation of their favorite soap. On the other hand, I’ve read many comments from cast members that describe her as the number one champion for the show. Can you offer any insight around her tenure as Executive Producer?

Jordan: "If we wouldn’t have done the new model, we would have died over a year ago! There is no question about that. Ellen would run from one scene to the next. There was a lot to do. Do you want a long set, do you want a close up set? People had to figure it out and it’s always been that way with soaps. You pick up a kernel and you go to it and you end up with sixty percent of those shots in close up. In soap operas, what do people do? They come into the room and they sit down. You were always limited as far as action. But you tell a story with substance and people will watch it and follow it. I remember being at a grocery store back in the late seventies, and this lady said, ‘Oh, you’re on my story!’ She then proceeded to tell me that I (my character) needed to tell so and so this and such and such that. It was like I was in her life!" Twenty years from now when you think about Guiding Light, what are you going to remember most fondly?

Jordan: "Oh, the camaraderie for sure. It was a place that was a pleasure to go to work at. No matter how good or bad the scenes were, I knew we could make it work. Billy was a terrific character to play. It’s like a caricature…there’s a lot of me in there. You’re able to put a lot of yourself in and the audience wants things for you. I felt a real connection with the people, and I was so grateful because for a long time I didn’t have a job and I didn’t get a paycheck. You know, if I’m in Georgia (I used to live in Florida and traveled back and forth) at the Waffle House at four in the morning and a family in their pajamas spots me eating my BLT, I would welcome them with open arms because these people are what make the show! Having an audience…and now it’s sad. I’m sad to think that we still have an audience out there and they’ve supported us for a long time. They’re still there and we’re taking something away from them that I’m not so sure they were ready to have it go away." No they are not. It’s a very emotional situation because no other show has ever touched so many people for so long. We’re talking seventy-two years here. It’s certainly going to be a very dreary day when I turn on the television at 3 pm on Monday 9/21/09 and realize that there is no more GL. There will definitely be a moment of silence there for me and reality will sink in. I feel for all of the fans that are going to have to go through that!

Jordan: "What’s weird is that when they stopped showing us at 3 pm in some markets, I felt that it was a death note. Lots of places are still at 3 pm, but not like it used to be when GL definitely had a place." What do you want to say to all the fans out there that have been with you through the ups and downs of Guiding Light?

Jordan: "I’m just so grateful that they all watched. When I won my Emmy, I said ‘Hey. The person I’ve got to thank (besides P&G) is the fans.’ I love my family, I love Jesus and I love lots of people. But, without the fans, I would be nothing! I’ve had so much fun playing this character and I was always aware that there were people watching the show and it really meant something to them. I had a great deal of pride in doing what I did. I’m thankful that they loved the show, and boy, we loved doing it! I always like to laugh and have a good time and really believe in family. I think that’s what this country is made of, so it doesn’t surprise me that people liked it. Love from heart…from my heart!"

- Shannon Burrell