Part 1: Alina Adams Talks About Writing, Her Love For The Soap Genre And Meeting Agnes Nixon

TVSource Magazine: When you went to study at San Francisco State University, was it your intention to graduate and get into the soap industry?
Alina: Yes. Absolutely. From ten years old. Ever since I saw my first one, I knew I was going to work in soaps. I didn’t expect soaps to trail away from me but yes, that is always what I wanted to do. And actually, the first job that I had was in the soap field was a show that used to be on E! called Pure Soap. That was done in Los Angeles. So I wrote that show. That’s the first show I did. From there, I moved to ABC Daytime because they’d developed a show that was supposed to catch people up during the OJ Simpson trial interruptions. I owe most of my career to OJ Simpson. Then from there I ended up at Proctor & Gamble.

TVSource Magazine: You were doing Loving and The City, correct?
Alina: I was doing a lot of things! When I was at ABC Daytime, first I was doing the OJ Simpson interruption catch-ups then I developed a pilot for them because they wanted a talk show just about the ABC soaps. That would have been Loving, All My Children, One Life to Live and General Hospital. That pilot didn’t go but then I stayed there and worked on the transition from Loving to The City. They did a bunch of recap episodes that caught people up. So I wrote those. Then the talk show Mike and Maty had a soap segment and I produced that. So that’s what I did at ABC.

TVSource Magazine: So were you at all involved in the big Corinth serial killer storyline on Loving or no?
Alina: That was how they transitioned to The City.

TVSource Magazine: That was just amazing. I have been watching clips of it on Youtube recently and it was so much fun. and the transition itself was so easy and smooth.
Alina: Right! After half of your town’s been killed off, you’re gonna want to move! It’s like in horror movies when they say, “Don’t go in the house!” This was like, “Don’t stay in that town!” (laughs)

TVSource Magazine: Because you never know! It might happen again! It was such a well done transition.
Alina: I did shoot a promo where they’re supposed to be looking for the serial killer. And I don’t know if you remember, but they were always following the sound of the scissors. And so they’re following the sound through the ABC offices and finally they end up in the office of Jean Dedario Burke, who was the producer at the time and you have her voiceover doing, “I’m not the serial killer but I’m the one killing them all.” She was actually a good sport!

TVSource Magazine: While you were working at ABC Daytime, did you ever get the chance to work with Agnes Nixon?
Alina: No, I didn’t. I interviewed her a few times but never worked with her on a creative level.

TVSource Magazine: What was she like when you interviewed her?
Alina: She’s exactly who you’d expect her to be – which is not negative. She’s very much a proper lady. She’s very well-spoken, very passionate about the genre but not like… I mean, I’ve worked with a lot of soap producers. Like Paul Rauch, the producer with the big cigar, y’know? Agnes Nixon’s a lady and she has very strong opinions about how the show should be but everything’s delivered kind of calmly. Very graciously and elegant.

Opera2TVSource Magazine: Speaking of Agnes Nixon, she was always very great at weaving current issues into soaps and even touching on a lot of topics that many people were scared to do. In your own blogs and a lot of your interviews, you do the same thing. You’ve spoken very openly on racial identity, your interfaith family, et cetera. Would you say soap operas these days are missing a beat by not touching on these issues?
Alina: Are they missing a beat? Yes. Would I say they’re doing the wrong thing? I don’t know. And I’ll tell you why! I was at As The World Turns during the Luke and Noah storyline. And Guiding Light at the same time was running the Olivia and… Why am I blanking on her name? Natalia storyline! Which were very different and good in their own ways but here’s what happened!

Because they were running gay storylines, they got a lot of flack from everyone who felt it should be A, B, C and D. The shows that were not running gay storylines got no flack! Nobody called The Bold and the Beautiful to say, “You’re in the fashion industry in Los Angeles!” I always describe Bold and Beautiful as the show set in the fashion industry with no Hispanics, Jews or homosexuals.

And that’s the thing! No one was telling Bold and Beautiful they were doing something wrong. No one was giving them crap or threatening to boycott The Bold and the Beautiful. Where As The World Turns which was telling the story of Luke and Noah, but maybe not the way some would like, got crap! So I don’t necessarily know that the soaps are doing the wrong thing. There’s no benefit to it. There’s nothing to gain and everything to lose.

When I wrote my book on soap operas greatest moments, there was a lot of feedback I got from fans about the Natalia and the – why do I keep blanking on their names?

TVSource Magazine: Olivia!
Alina: It’s because I only hear Otalia in my head so I have to break it down. I wrote Otalia so many times that I forgot they were two different people. But anyway, they would say that [Otalia] made coming out to my family easier. Some people would say they saw homosexuals in a different way.

These are all wonderful things but they don’t move the ratings needle and they don’t put money in P&G’s coffers. I’m not saying these as negative things, they’re a business. So I don’t necessarily know that the soaps not tackling social issues is a bad thing for them. For society? Yes! For them? Not necessarily.

TVSource Magazine: It makes a lot of sense!
Alina: I was working on both shows and I saw the kind of push back they got for it. But why aren’t you going to picket General Hospital for having no [homosexual] characters?

TVSource Magazine: How did you react to Maya’s transgender storyline?
Alina: I thought it was fantastic. It was so much better than I’d expected!

TVSource Magazine: Why the surprise?
Alina: Because I thought it was just going to be textbook connect the dots! They didn’t go there!

TVSource Magazine: Which sometimes happens with Bold & Beautiful.
Alina: They zigged when you thought they’d zag and it was amazing. Mind-blowing. I don’t know if you read my Entertainment Weekly piece about how they’re being treated like every other soap couple and that’s a surprise!

TVSource Magazine: Exactly! She’s being treated as the woman she is, which is great!
Alina: A woman who has done some pretty rotten things and it’s not been white-washed. I love it! I actually want to see more of it! I think they built it and then we didn’t see them for two weeks.

TVSource Magazine: It’s been such good story, even my 70-plus year old grandmother is riveted, she’s loving it.
Alina: It was wonderful on a personal level – but I actually want to see how are their numbers? Are they actually going up?

TVSource Magazine: I think they’re pretty stable. They haven’t moved up by much.
Alina: See, that’s the thing! It doesn’t move the needle! That’s my concern from a personal standpoint because if these don’t deliver, there’s no reason to do them. They’re going to get the awards and the praise and they deserve it, it’s wonderful. Back even in the days when the Emmys weren’t hidden on some obscure channel and when they were a big deal, you could really win! There was a year, I think, when As The World Turns was nominated for around 23 Emmys! But it doesn’t move the needle and that’s the business. There’s really nothing you can do about that.

TVSource Magazine: You’ve always been a champion and pioneer for moving soaps to the internet. The industry had been a little stubborn for a while but now a lot of the shows are on social media, doing streaming and other things. Do you wish that they did more?
Alina: I wish they had more interactivity. When I did the tie-in books, I was saying – They were tied into the show. The As The World Turn books were written on air and the Guiding Light book was about what happened to John while he was gone, so it filled in the missing things. They were very different stylistically. I wish there was internet stuff like that. I kept pitching to [P&G] that you see characters on their phones all the time, why don’t you have fans send tweets and they can interact live on the show? I wish they did more of that. Not even just posting deleted scenes but you can put entire storylines on the web to test them out and see how they play. I actually think soaps should do a lot more of embracing the internet.

TVSource Magazine: I completely agree! Even now if you follow any of the soap Twitters, they don’t get that many retweets or favorites. A lot of people don’t really know that they’re on that platform.
Alina: Yeah! And the actors tweet and that’s great too. But what if you could interact with the character during the live show? What if Mike – Mike’s the first name I could think of, whatever – I don’t think a show even has a character named Mike anymore. But anyway, he’s on the phone and at 3:20 or whatever it is, you can send tweets and one of those tweets will be answered live on the air then he’ll turn around and say, “I’ve got a tweet from Bob” or whatever.

You can do that! You can slip that in at the last minute, just shoot his back and put a voiceover! Technically, it’s all possible. Creatively, soaps have never been the most progressive medium as far as embracing it. And I don’t mean that in a political sense, I mean that as far as embracing what the new things are. If you think about it, they used to be! They went from radio to TV when there was nothing on TV. They went to color! They did all sorts of things. But it’s like they can’t get out of that box to tell their stories on multiple platforms.

TVSource Magazine: Do you know who actually does that with their characters? Degrassi! The teen soap from Canada. All of their characters had character Twitters, you could follow them and sometimes they would respond to fan tweets but it was for showing what the characters were doing while the show isn’t airing.
Alina: Another thing is that everyone has their favorite character and everyone’s favorite character isn’t on every day unless it’s Sonny. (laughs) But! But that’s a good way to keep fan engagement, you know? Elizabeth isn’t on today but she can tweet what she’s doing today! She’s taking the kids to the park, here’s a selfie!

TVSource Magazine: Right, it’d be very easy to do!
Alina: You can even do characters not on the canvas anymore. One of the things I did for Guiding Light was Mindi’s Twitter. Which was Mindi when she was off-camera. So she was writing about her life! So you can do all these things and yes, it takes some work but it doesn’t even take that much money. You can get an intern, to be honest. You need an intern working with a writer’s assistant and just run it through, then that’s it.

TVSource Magazine: Imagine how much more poignant Ally’s storyline would be on The Bold and the Beautiful, if we knew what her father was doing off wherever he is now?
Alina: If you could see her tweeting him, “Everything’s great, everything’s fine” while making up this whole fake life about how well she’s doing. Exactly, it would be complimentary. It’s brilliant! You should pitch that to someone.

In the second part of our interview, Adams shares her favorite and least favorite soap, whether she would like to write for soaps again and if she thinks there will be a new daytime serial in the future. To learn more about Adams past, current and future projects visit her website.

Photos courtesy of Alina Adams.

 

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About the Author

Coryon Gray joined TV Source Magazine as a staff writer in October 2014. Prior to TV Source Magazine, he's written for and moderated Asian entertainment blogs and forums. On top of writing duties, Coryon is also a panelist for the TV Source Podcast, Soap Countdown Podcast and Our Take Media.