By: Sam Benshoof, INFORUM
STAMFORD, Conn. – Soap operas are no longer just the stuff of daytime television.
In late April, longtime ABC soap “One Life to Live” made the switch to the Internet, where it now airs two new episodes per week on Hulu.com through the OnLine Network.
One who witnessed that transition from old TV to Web TV up close is Jerry verDorn. Since 2005, the Minnesota State University Moorhead alumnus has played character Clint Buchanan on the show, which is celebrating its 45th anniversary today.
We caught up with verDorn, a Sioux Falls, S.D., native, who shared his thoughts on what the switch to online means for soap operas like “One Life to Live.”
Q: It’s been a couple months since “One Life to Live” made the switch to Hulu. Has the difference been noticeable for you?
A: Well, first, I’m delighted to be a part of the history of it. I’m old enough to remember people telling me about the soaps when they went from radio to television. Now, to take another leap from television to another format is historically very similar to that.
It was a lot of fun, and I’m glad it happened. But, it has not changed my life when I go into the studio. We shoot a lot of scenes in a short amount of time.
What’s different is, every five weeks, we go away, and “All My Children” comes in, and they do five weeks. My wife says it’s the best part-time job in the world – you work real hard for five weeks and then get five weeks to recover.
Q: Do you think the new medium has had any effect on the intense fan base of “One Life to Live?”
A: I believe it has. It’s kind of a dream situation because of the intensity of the viewership – and they are a lot more intense than someone who’s watching a cooking show or a talk show in the afternoon. I mean, these people will tune in.
And now they don’t have to wait for a specific hour in the day to tune in. If they liked an episode, they can watch it multiple times, if they so desire.
My sons, who are in their 20s, when I told them I was going to do this, they said, ‘Well yeah, it’s about time.’
They’ll watch television like sporting events, but the rest of the time they’re on their phone or their iPads, and they watch (TV) when they want to.
I think it’s an excellent match for the soaps to do that. Our intense viewership, if they wake up at 3 in the morning and they’re angry at my character, they can watch the thing again and yell at their phone.
Q: Have you personally experienced the intensity of that viewership outside of the studio?
A: Oh yes. They’re not shy, for the most part. Particularly if you happen to be playing a villain, which I was for the first few years on “Guiding Light.” I was a very bad boy.
People would see you in public and recognize you, and they’d give you some advice. And sometimes it’d get rather colorful and salty.
The character I’m playing now has a tendency to veer back and forth between being good and gruff and tender and raising hell and a wide scope of things, so at the grocery store or wherever, they recognize you and give you a bit of advice.
Q: You were also on “Guiding Light” for 26 years before “One Life to Live.” Did you ever think that you’d stick around the world of soap operas for so long?
A: After about 12 years there I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. At the time I had two kids – they were about 6 and 4. So real life steps in and adjusts your professional life.
I didn’t want to quit because then my insurance would go away, and if I had a recurrence it would be somewhat catastrophic for my family.
So luckily, they wanted me, and second, I did it from contract to contract because I wanted the insurance, and that’s pretty much the case today.
If I had not gotten diagnosed, my career would be totally different than what it is now. But that happens to a lot of actors – where something happens in your real life that just takes your career in a totally different direction.
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