Interview: Ambitions’ Jamey Giddens Teases Shocking Mid-Season Return
Paying homage to the old school, glamorous, shoulder-pad-wearing divas.
The Ambitions mid-season finale ended on gripping cliffhangers: Amara Hughes (Essence Atkins) found her half-naked husband Titus Hughes (Kendrick Cross) in a hotel room with Stephanie Carlisle Lancaster (Robin Givens), Senior Lancaster (Tony Vaughn) was shot, young Joaquin Trujillo (Eli Daoudi) was kidnapped and Evan Lancaster (Brian White) found his dominatrix unresponsive in their dungeon. The fallout to those shocking events will begin to play out when the series returns on November 12 at 10:00 PM on OWN. Soaps.com talked with Ambitions’ Jamey Giddens for the scoop on what’s to come in the back half of season one and what he has learned making the leap from soap opera critic to soap opera creator.
Clash of the Titans
Giddens previewed the return of Ambitions will see a shift in Evan after the death of his father Senior and the kidnapping of his and his mistress Bella Tru’s (Erica Page) son, Joaquin. “He’s sort of been a puppet for [Stephanie’s gentrifying land developer lover] Greg Peters [Gino Anthony Pesi] and the Carlisles so far in the show, but that’s going to change in these next episodes.” Meanwhile, Stephanie will be feeling quite pleased with herself for finally getting vengeance on Amara for marrying her ex-boyfriend. She’ll also be grappling with her father-in-law’s death, who Giddens promises Stephanie does love, no matter how dysfunctionally. In addition, Amara and Titus will try to figure out the state of their marriage after the hotel reveal, while also dealing with Amara’s ex-lover and current stalker Damian Collins (Alexander Mulzac), who Giddens teased is the gift that keeps on giving. Viewers can also expect to see Stephanie’s parents, Stephen (Steven Williams) and Irene Carlisle (Donna Biscoe), enjoy a larger presence in the back half of the season, as Stephanie enters into a “clash of the titans” type storyline with her father in a battle over the family law firm. And that’s where Irene comes in. “You’ll be shocked to find out just how far Mother Carlisle is willing to go to make sure her daughter gets her throne,” Giddens hinted.
Classic soap super bitches
If Ambitions feels reminiscent of classic primetime soap operas there’s a reason for that. “My main goal for Ambitions was to create a spiraling, juicy, suspenseful soap opera that kind of recalled the glory days of the Aaron Spelling and the Lorimar soaps,” Giddens explained. “The Dynastys, the Dallases and Knots Landings of the world with black and brown characters front and center.” In fleshing out his characters, Giddens drew inspiration from Dynasty’s Alexis Carrington Colby (Joan Collins) and Dominique Deveraux (the late Diahann Carroll), Knots Landings’ Abby Ewing Sumner (Donna Mills), Melrose Place’s Amanda Woodward (Heather Locklear) and All My Children’s Erica Kane (Susan Lucci). “With Stephanie, she is definitely, I hope, a fun sendup to the classic old soap super bitches,” Giddens said with a laugh. “I always loved those glamorous shoulder-pad-wearing divas who could turn a phrase.”
Originally conceived as a daytime drama, Giddens had to adapt when co-creator and executive producer Will Packer informed him they’d be pitching Ambitions to OWN as a weekly hour-long series instead. That meant cutting the 40 characters he created for a daily soap opera down to about 10. Though it was tough to kill some of his darlings, as they say, Giddens mused, “The fun part of that is we know they are out there in the world. Stephanie’s son Trey is out in the world. We can bring them in to stir things up at any time in the future.”
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The other side of the critique
While he’s still the co-owner of the soap opera blog Daytime Confidential, Giddens no longer blogs or podcasts, feeling it’s bad form to critique a soap opera when he’s writing his own. But now that he’s on the other side of that critique, he’s learned a few things. Namely that it’s one thing to “shake your fist” and rant on Twitter about what one thinks a show should be doing and quite another to actually put out said show. “You have to please your production company. You have to please the studio. You have to please the network,” Giddens explained. “It’s not just about, ‘Why aren’t they writing what I would want to write?’ There are a lot of different variables.” He’s also a proponent of simply supporting the genre. “As a fan of serialized storytelling, I’m in a place now where I’m like, let’s support all of it and show as much love as possible. That is not what I felt when I was a blogger screaming about everything I thought was wrong,” he said, chuckling.
Though he doesn’t watch as much as he used to, daytime soap operas are still in his blood. “I love the classic stuff. If there’s a wedding, there’s going to be a disaster. I’m pretty old school,” Giddens said. Most recently, he loved the juiciness of Days of our Lives’ Julie Williams (Susan Seaforth Hayes) waiting for a heart just as Stefan DiMera (Brandon Barash) was fatally shot – “That kind of only-happens-in-soaps irony that your mortal enemy now has the chance to give you a heart to save your life.”
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Can we expect season 2?
As for his own “only on a soap” drama, Ambitions has yet to be picked up for a season two. Considering the network has been nothing but positive about the show, which received a significant ratings spike by the mid-season finale, Giddens is hopeful. However, he pointed out those live +3 Nielsen ratings are key, meaning the number of viewers watching the episodes live or on DVR/streaming within the first three days of its original airing. “It’s super important to watch within those first three days,” Giddens said. “That’ll help us be able to come back and tell these stories for years to come hopefully.”