Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Tony Geary: Exit Stage Right

"The Exit Interview"

It could be it's own movie title!!  What an insight to so many things when it comes to our favorite genre. Especially given the Sean Kanan interview which preceded it (and made many of the same points). 

First of all, props to Michael Logan for asking just about every question I would have asked. I can imagine him hearing the answers and saying 'holy shit' in his mind over and over again. Then saying it again a million times as he was typing it up. You don't find that kind of candor anymore. (if at all!) 

What can you spill about Luke’s exit?
He says goodbye to his old pal Sonny [Maurice Benard] on the dock and then disappears into the fog, hoping to go find himself and figure out what he’s going to do with the rest of his life. [Laughs] Which I think the writers ripped off from me

There are so many parts to the interview that I'm not sure where to begin. First of all, I want to say that these are Tony's impressions/feelings and it is what it is. Meaning I can't argue with most of them.  What I can do is try to explain how I see things in light of being a 35 year viewer of the show.  

Parts of the interview does read like a old, bitter actor leaving a show that has apparently made his life a bitch as of late. The entire segway into the 'taking the shirt off' and 'twitter followers' smacks of someone not really in touch with the modern audience of soap fans. Social media has become a big part of the PR for soaps and one must adapt. I don't think you need these things to be a good actor however, and he's right about that. 
The more I read the piece however, the more I can appreciate what is being said by him. Maybe it's not so much that he's 'old and bitter' but rather frustrated by the current writing style and disconnect between the writers and the actors. He does praise Frank for being on set all the time and interacting with everyone. We know Ron is in NYC--and since Tony apparently Skypes with Jane all the time, you'd think the two of them might have done so as well. Interesting how he says they've never talked. I know some people are saying for 'sure' they have because of a phone call mention at one point. Either way, TG's impression is that Ron and he didn't have any kind of a relationship what so ever.

This brings us to the whole script-writing and giving direction to actors. We know Tony has improvised in the past. I personally love it when actors inject themselves into the story. Some people out there are purists and also say that the writers words are sacred and should be delivered as written. Since I don't see soaps as Shakespeare, it doesn't bother me. I think yes, it would be annoying to read so many stage directions on my script. Especially if I wasn't used to that. I'm not a writer so I can't speak about the actor-script-writer trinity. 

Getting more specific about the actual exit story for Geary, things get a bit dicey. We all know he's taken his vacations over the years and the writers have had to accommodate that at every turn. I'm sure it's not fun to come up with the 44th reason that Luke is leaving town. I think somewhere in the 90s I would have made him some kind of international businessman running things out of his Dubai office. 
It does appear TG would love to have it both ways--or rather his way when it comes to how the show revolves around his schedule. He also appears to have liked the original Jake story line and the whole aftermath of that. (more on Guza later) He is correct in saying this last piece of story is a mess. Ron however,  did deliver a great performance piece for him with the whole childhood saga. No praise for that I see. 
The part I'm most angry with was Tony's outward disdain for the writing/story and just having to be there to finish out his tenure. He was so obviously NOT into this. Actors are supposed to not let that show. Well, he sure did. We did get 2 good scenes; with JJ and NP but other than that? Nope. Yes, the story was idiotic and I can't imagine having to play that Jennifer Smith mess but he could have injected some life into the scenes.  I also have to say that for someone that changes the scripts he sure didn't put anything joyful into the performance at all.  When he and Emma Samms can't even remember the Bill Eckert story (which was pretty big at the time) I know it's time for someone to retire. He bitches about not being able to change lines, but changes them anyway and in this case,  for the worse.
The latter Guza years were good to Tony and a couple of other actors on the show. Jim Warren even has pics of them all together so you know some input was welcomed. I think when he left and the new guard came in that whole "Boys Town" fizzled and it was back to 'real work'.  Or at least work that didn't meet the exact he may have had.  Let's face it, the entire virus/Kong story was ridiculous as well but he at least tried to have fun with it and made it entertaining.  Not so much now. It's like watching a flat cut out of a former character. 

Do you think maybe you should have left the show after the revelation that Luke murdered his parents?
I would agree that was the better choice, but I would have hated to miss my final scenes with Jonathan Jackson. I don’t mind telling you that, for our last episodes together, Jonathan and I sat in my dressing room for two nights in a row, well into the night, and we deconstructed the scenes we’d been given, and it was an incredibly creative, collaborative experience. Without changing the writer’s intention, we tried to bring to the fore what the audience knows about Luke and Lucky’s relationship, because it just wasn’t on the page. I feel our work it resulted in some of the best moments Jonathan and I have shared on screen. And that’s saying a lot, because we’ve had many. The boy is extraordinary and a true artist. He lives like an artist. He can’t get enough of this world. He is so curious and alive. A real Renaissance man and I so admire him. For that selfish reason, I am glad we ended the way we did.

This interview stands out for a lot of reasons. First, it's basically one of the most honest points of view we've ever had and secondly, it's also like explaining the death of soaps as the old genre existed. They just aren't the same. I don't for one second think they can be the same given reality TV and the fact many kids just don't get into them anymore.  The audience is growing older and we're not always in those golden demos they so covet.

So, it is what it is. I have great memories of TG and the early Luke I fell for-- as an actor/character. Wish these last months could have been as enjoyable.  I think everyone on soaps works damn hard. I think respect can go a long way. I actually wish I hadn't had read the piece.  I like the illusion that people all work together to make a great show. Wish there were was more respect to go around--in all directions. 

Read the entire interview on TV Guide Online 

 But there you have it. I have almost, but not quite, come to grips with the fact that my obituary is going to read: “Anthony Geary, Luke of Luke-and-Laura, died today.”


katydid53 said...

I think Tony's exit interview was open and honest. The writing as of late hasn't been that good. These are great actors and they are given cheesy stuff to do. His last adventure could have been so much more exciting but bringing back a dead kid is just not right. To me it seems Ron didn't like any of the story lines of the previous writers and he is going to rewrite history simply because he can,he's the head writer!!Kudos to AG for telling the truth. Other actors probably want to do the same but as they are still in the business they can't.

bellafleur said...

Tony's continued lament that he would only be remembered as "Luke" brings to mind two things: one, an accident of fate gave him early fame and recognition as a particular character, beyond anything he as a young actor on a soap ever dreamed of, but which hung over him like an albatross the rest of his career. HIs efforts to transcend this identity were apparently frustrating and not successful. Two, he chose to return to and remain in that role for 30 more years, and it was good to him, until it wasn't. He could have left again and made more effort to become known as Tony Geary, and possibly been better able to do so, especially during the years when Luke n Laura were no long such a household name. I can understand his frustration at the changes in quality of writing over the last years, when as a viewer I have sometimes been embarrassed for the actors who have to play out the bizarre and silly ideas written to advance a plot. The fact remains however, that he had a choice and he chose to stay at GH, and seems to have been well rewarded for it. Blaming others for his feelings now shows an actor (who has won 8 Emmys for his talent) with little insight into how his choice to stay where was comfortable on some level defined his career. I wish him well in his next phase of life. He is talented and will hopefully finally be free of the weight of the Luke persona

bellafleur said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CapeMcMoose said...

Thanks Karen for another provoking piece.

Maybe I'm just burnt out on it all -one biting interview after another. I will say - with exception of Jane - I wonder if TG just missed his strong supporting cast these past few years. Rarely anything with MB. I am sure JMB is sorely missed as Nathan and Jonathan. Tony had great respect for this "younger set". Just that day to day joy playing against them was gone. And who knows what Tony was told in the way of setting a final exit date. Seemed like so many schedules needed to coincide for this big adventure story. Could simply have been dragged out.. "wait one more month".. I think we saw he exit starting to be dragged out with the uneven direction of the Fluke story IMO.

As far as Jake coming back from the dead - I am not convinced that was to redeem the character of Luke, as it is / was to continue to fuel the fan wars of this Liason/ JaSam story.

As far as "pecs and social media" .. I took it as it was more important to bring on actors with a following or pecs, as opposed to the priority being put on the abilities of an actors. Two cases in point are Emme Rylan's Lulu and Ryan Paevy's Nathan. GH used to have a stellar cast - whether you liked the character or not, the acting was always top notch.

As far as acting. I was never aware that the writers wrote in how actors should "act". Seems a bit backward to me. Actors should interpret writing - not writing dictate acting. Just might as well hire a bunch of no name dayplayers and save a whole bundle on the budget.

Greg said...

I was pretty upset by Tony's comments. Yes, I agree with most of them.
I think it was a bad idea to bring Jake back. Yes, it is good short term but it really takes the poignancy of any death on the show. In this case, they brought back 2 dead characters Jake and Frank Smith, in the same week! (I think Jake coming back is really more for the Jason story, so Jason can have one kid each from Liz and Sam etc.). I also agree with Tony that the current social media environment is difficult for actors.

BUT- several newsflashes Tony-

- If you so hate the limitations of the genre and this and that, why did you stay in? You could have been doing theater or film projects or whatever in Amsterdam years ago!

- I can count on a single hand the actors in daytime who got the perks that you did. Maybe Eric Braeden just goes for the cash but I have not heard of any cases where the actor works 8 months a year, a shooting schedule is done around your residence in another country, you have script approval, you have the power to basically kill an idea in it's tracks. And I'm sure the salary was not bad either.

- Yes, you are a great actor and have won many Emmies but also timing helped things greatly. Leslie Charleson was part of the Monty revolution which saved the show. But now she is lucky to get 20 episodes a year. Jackie Zeman and Kin Shriner were on before you, they are recurring and weren't even that for years. Genie was on before you but she has a completely different status. So part of it was your great skill but another was that you were there just enough to be solidified as a true legacy character on the show AND a male heart throb, so that made the difference and got you this life you wanted.

- Keep in mind too, there are actors on the show with families who had new children who weren't able to maintain the schedule you were. I'm sure many of your colleagues would have loved to veto some of their scenes and scripts

- It is a tough business now. Back in the day, GH had an audience of 25 million or so, now it fights for 3. Budgets are tighter and tighter. And GH is just responding to this new social media-driven world.

- Finally, you keep talking about how they kept playing that f**cking tape of the wedding. Ironically, that was a big part of what drove your success and the perks which came with it. People get pegged into their key roles. Ask Sally Struthers, who played Jennifer Smith and was also on All in the Family, one of your earlier roles. She will be remembered as Gloria 40+ years later. You will be defined forever at least in part as being Luke and Laura and in part because of that iconic wedding. I find it kind of sucks that you can show so much scorn for it when it was your own ticket to success.

Greg said...

Tony is VERY harsh to Ron considering Ron just got him his 8th Emmy. He wrote the anniversary show just around Tony and gave him some very unique material. They went to Tony when they did the double story and asked if it was ok with him. I think it would have been a bit classier to show just a little more gratitude even though I don't disagree with many of his comments.

Greg said...

One final note:
He says he doesn't want people telling him how to act. I'm sure they make the scripts for everybody the same way, including for the kid who plays Spencer to newbies to the show to instructions on holding the babies. Yes, it might have said on the page "Cry Here" but it seems Tony of all people was given maximum latitude to do what he wanted. For God's sakes, he and Emma Samms screwed up a major plot point on the show, just because they felt like it. I really, really doubt people are butting in to tell Jane and him where to cry and where to inflect.

SaveOurSuds said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Tony's interview! I always enjoy reading your opinion and I think you and I felt the same way about it in many respects. I've been trying to wrap my head around it myself.

Tony saying that Ron and he never talked was a stand out to me. It's been pointed out that this is false so it's a bit of a head scratcher for sure. I think you're onto something with your boy's club theory. Ron and Tony probably talked but it wasn't while hanging out at the pub having drinks and shooting pool so Tony doesn't want to count it. He wanted more nepotism. LOL I'm glad the boy's club is gone. That stuff shouldn't be going on in a female based genre.

Another big turn off for me was when Tony mentioned sacrificing salary in order to maintain control of his scripts. He made it sound like he was a starving artist making sacrifices for his art! NO! I felt that was just a bit disrespectful to his co-stars who work more and get paid fractions of what he makes. That made him sound really out of touch and ignorant.

Overall I wish he had not been so bitter and self-indulgent in the interview because I think under the ego there were some good points and truths. I think he is right about JE needed to be the star of GH. I've said that a million times. This soap opera should have a matriarch as it's focal point not a mobster. Luke's exit story is a flop. I think their could have been some nice family moments instead and Luke should have either died or left to be with his sons. The stories we are getting now do show a distrust in the actors abilities to play heartfelt material, to play little moments and make them shine. They don't need back from the deads, wigs and relish. Sadly a lot of the really crazy stuff is given to the show's cream of the crop and it's really up to the actors to try to make it work which is a lot to expect from them IMO. I'm still upset that SK got stuck with relish stories and fat jokes instead of romance.

Shelley said...

I both loved the interview and cringed at the same time. Your perspective is spot-on. He's surely leaving on a bad note as far as his frustration but he's allowed that. The storyline a have been, overall, pretty bad. That being said, while the "Fluke" story drug on far too long, it also gave him some fantastic acting storyline at the end. The "Luke's childhood" stuff was fantastic writing and acting.
I don't think he really has been happy for the choices he's made in retrospect. Apparently he is saddled with what he will leave as his legacy, rather than accept that it was only he who made those choices. It's given him a good life. I know he complained a few years back they didn't want to pay him well. It's always been something. He wanted great salary, 1/4 of the year off, script approval... yet he is upset the writers then have trouble putting him in the storyline in any sort of meaningful way. The above poster is correct, he's lucky to not have gone the way of Jackie or Kin or Leslie, actors we never see. I've thought for years it would be a better show without him, not because he's bad but because his constant schedule disruptions don't allow for good, quality stories. I think Jane may be better off now--she can actually grow Tracy into something rather than just being at the whim of what he's doing now.

SaveOurSuds said...

"Greg said...
Tony is VERY harsh to Ron considering Ron just got him his 8th Emmy. He wrote the anniversary show just around Tony and gave him some very unique material. They went to Tony when they did the double story and asked if it was ok with him. I think it would have been a bit classier to show just a little more gratitude even though I don't disagree with many of his comments."

From what's been reported, the whole Fluke debacle was written specifically for Tony and to keep him on the show. It didn't go over well and I think hurt ratings so maybe that's caused some of rift. Both Ron and Tony got flack for that story line and rightfully so. Maybe now there is a lot of the blame game going around.

kdmask said...

Greg--good point about him not going the way of so many of his generation on this soap.

Thanks for all the great comments everyone! I'm one of those people that don't like to watch those programs that have "The making of_________" because I like the illusion that my movies bring. I do wish I'd never read most of his interviews or had been online during his exit.
I could have kept my memories just shiny and golden that way!

Love4dogs said...

Dang! I just had this all typed and lost it.

After reading this interview, I am not as sad as I was to see him go. I loved the character and have watched GH since before he was on. Sure, no workplace is perfect, but he was given a lot of perks others are not afforded. To have him disdain the fact that in his obit it may mention this role is a slap in the face to viewers. He says he is not retiring from acting, just from GH. Well, he could have done that a long time ago, but didn't, probably because of the sweet deal he had with taking extended time, ad libbing at will, and rewriting portions of scripts.

He did not come across as gracious. He came across as a pompous, cantankerous old guy.