Within days of filming the last scenes of CBS’ longest running serial Guiding Light, Jordan Clarke (Billy Lewis) took the time to speak with Soaps.com about the end of an era, daytime TV and life after Guiding Light.
Soaps.com: 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."
Soaps.com: 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."
Soaps.com: 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!"
Soaps.com: 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!"
Soaps.com: 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….)
Soaps.com: (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. "
Soaps.com: 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."
Soaps.com: 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!"
Soaps.com: 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."
Soaps.com: 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."
Soaps.com: 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…)
Soaps.com: 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…)