In this golden age of television, where innovative streaming sites, subscription-based channels and even long-standing networks are crafting shows with cinema-quality effects and epic, sprawling plotlines, there’s one form of television that has been quietly churning out episode after episode for decades: the soap opera.
Soap opera style, marked by its fluid camera movements and dramatic, bordering-on-implausible storylines, is a relic of yesteryear. Its prolificacy, as it delivers five episodes a week to its fans, stands in sharp contrast to some of the most popular shows on television (“Game of Thrones” fans waited a year and a half for just seven episodes, while “Sherlock” took two years to produce its three-episode season). However, soap operas retain some of the most devoted fans in the world, with shows like CBS’s “The Young and the Restless” still thriving 44 years after its creation.
Christian Le Blanc started on “The Young and the Restless” in 1991 as the character Michael Baldwin. He later returned to the role in 1997 and has kept with it ever since. LeBlanc will head to Harrah’s 9 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 12, for a Q&A as part of Harrah’s “Soap Opera Month.” He is preceded by Greg Rikkaart (who plays Kevin Fisher on “Y&R”) on Thursday, Oct. 5, and followed by Tracey Bregman (Lauren Baldwin) on Oct. 19, and Kristoff St. John (Neil Winters) on Oct. 26.
For Sommore, the Atlantic City Comedy Festival will be like one big family reunion.
Before Le Blanc heads to A.C., we had our own Q&A session with him, where he filled us in on just how intimate soap opera stardom can be.
Atlantic City Weekly: You’ve been involved with the world of soap operas for so long, how do you compare soap opera fans other fandoms? It seems like they’re incredibly passionate.
Christian Le Blanc: I go through life with my fans. I break up with them. I get married with them. I have my first child with them, as they’re doing it. I’m in their living room five days a week with them. In a big way, you share all these moment with them. But the best stories we get, and we get them all the time, is moms and grandmothers and daughters coming and saying they all watch together.
I’ve been yelled at on the bus. People say, “Your wife is sleeping with the bartender.” It’s like you have all of these extra friends who are fans of the show. It’s that kind of relationship. I’ll walk down 45th street … and across the street I’ll hear “Michael, Michael, come over here.” They hug you. They pick you up. It’s that kind of familiarity.
ACW: Does that ever get draining?
CL: It’s not for everybody, and I always feel bad when people (on the show) are in a bad mood (and are approached by a fan). But you kind of put yourself in the position. The fans are nothing but sweet, and it’s also what earns the living.
The old saying “all good things must come to an end” has once again been proven to be true. …
ACW: You’ve been with “The Young and the Restless” consecutively since 1997. How have you kept things fresh and interesting with the role for that long?
CL: Everyone has their own technique. Some bring the character to who they are, but I’ve kept Michael very different from me … You have to watch yourself because the familiarity can breed contempt. The easiest past is what’s familiar. I work really hard to not rest on familiarity with the role. I don’t pander to the fans, either. I like to surprise them. I owe it to them.
ACW: What do you think the future of soap operas are? How do you think the industry is working to keep the format updated?
CL: I think you’ve got to embrace technology. I think people’s original reaction is against technology. “The Yong and the Restless” is the most downloaded soap opera ever … There’s a way to do it, but you’ve got to be clever about the medium. You have to be able to respect the fans that you have while still moving forward.
ACW: Let’s move to your upcoming Q&A at Harrah’s. What kind of questions are people asking?
CL: A lot of about the history of the character. There are story lines that dealt with prostate cancer on the show, and through that I learned much more about it myself. They’ll ask about that. A lot of people give responses to story lines. It goes all over the place. They ask about how fast the process is, how wounds are made and how bed scenes are filmed, about other characters, about story lines that they like, and what they’d rather see. They do surprise you with some really intelligent stuff. Then they want to know future story lines. A lot of it is their response to the show. Their input is great, so it turns into a very good back-and-forth. They finally have the chance to talk. And they always want to know about Eric (Braeden) and (his character) Victor.
ACW: What are you most looking forward to about the Q&A?
CL: We don’t have an audience (when we film), and my first lessons were on stage. Even when we have guests on set, if I have six or seven people out there, I’m better. I pop it up. The energy feeds you and it’s not just through a lens. At the Q&As you get that — you’re getting a response live.