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Claire Labine:
Online Chat Transcript
SoapNet.com, February 14, 2000

SoapNet: Good evening, and welcome to our very first chat on SoapNet.com. As many of you may
know, SoapNet, the first cable network dedicated to soap operas, launches only one hour from now. We hope you will tune in...and if you do not have SoapNet, that you will call your local cable operator or satellite provider and ask for it. Call 1-877-WANT SOAPS to get SoapNet!

One show that we will be very proud to bring you on SoapNet is Ryan's Hope, which aired on ABC from 1975 to 1989. We are fortunate tonight to have one of the creators of Ryan's Hope for our chat. Please welcome Claire Labine.

SoapNet: Thank you for joining us tonight, Claire!

Claire_Labine: Thank you for asking me!

soapguest: Can you tell us about the genesis of "Ryan's Hope?"

Claire_Labine: Yes, let's see, the practical genesis was that the original show we were working on was canceled. Paul and I were really crushed. He sent audition material to Procter and Gamble. ABC called back, and said would Paul and Claire be interested in writing for a show that would be similar called General Hospital. Paul looked at me and said can we think about this. He said how 'bout a show about an Irish American family who live across the street from a hospital?

Claire_Labine: On Where the Heart Is, we had told a story about a college professor, Jim Mitchell, (Palmer on "All My Children"), that was involved in a clandestine love affair. They were forced to meet on the other side of town at an Irish bar. We called that bar O'Neil's Red Hand, which is a reference to the coat of arms. Playing the part of the bartender was a non-actor, who is John Scallion. But in those days we loved him best...he had a red beard. We couldn't wait to get back to an Irish bar. The reason it was Ryan's bar was because of Mary Ryan Munisteri, who later came to work for us. If Mary Ryan hadn't been born a Ryan, well Ryan's Hope wouldn't have been Ryan's Hope.

guest-christine12: How did you cast the main characters for Ryan's Hope?

Claire_Labine: We were blessed with one of the most extraordinary casting directors, Shirley Rich. And Gilbert Parker, our agent, said I have a suggestion for you for a casting director. We said who, he said Shirley Rich. So Shirley knew all of the young wonderful actors in the theatre and coming out of Juilliard, but she also had a line into the American Music theatre.. That's why a lot of the members for the cast had musical backgrounds. Helen Gallagher who played Maeve, she was a multiple Tony winner already. Malcolm Groome and Ilene Kristen, she played Delia. Shirley rounded up these people and we sat entranced day after day listening to them doing the audition scenes. We would put 2 or 3 contenders on tape; we knew immediately who we wanted to cast... Kate Mulgrew looked so much like Helen Gallagher, and Ron Hale who played Roger Coleridge looked like Frank Latimore, who played Ed.

guest-RHfan: Do you have any favorite moments from your history on Ryan's Hope?

Claire_Labine: There are so many. I think one of the most spectacular days was when Michael Brockman said that they were picking up our show. And when we got to fully understand that we were going to produce it. Also, the first day of taping. About 22 or 23 years later, I was introduced to Bob Iger, and he said that the very first time he met me was the first day of taping of Ryan's Hope and he was the assistant to the studio supervisor. I came to the guard and I dropped a lot of papers. I laughed and he said this is just a wonderful day. He is such a nice man and he said, you were so nice to me, and I said to him "Thank God."

[Editor's note: Bob Iger is now the President and Chief Operating Officer of the Walt Disney Company.]

guest-nightlighter40: Was Mary's theme or Jillian's theme ever recorded on an album? Both were such haunting melodies!

Claire_Labine: That's a good question. I don't believe that either of those were recorded. I know the title scene theme was and I think that John Gabriel recorded some songs that he had written. But Mary and Jillian's were not. I don't think so.

SoapNet: Do you think SoapNet is a good idea?

Claire_Labine: Oh, are you kidding, I think its a BRILLIANT idea. I really do think that it would provide a lovely and terrific help to faithful viewers. You can come home at night and see your daytime shows and of course you can see Ryan's Hope all over again. I can not urge you enough to call 1-877-WANT-SOAPS.

guest-ryan1297: Claire, did you start out as a writer? What was the first show you worked on, and how long did it take until you started Ryan's Hope? By the way, I loved the Ryan Family!

Claire_Labine: Thank you, fan! I love them too! Yes, I wrote from the time I was a very small person when I thought that I was going to be an actress. I went to New York, and it took me about 14 hours to realize that the market for 6 foot? ingenues would be limited, and that I might want to write. I transferred from the Journalism School at the University of Kentucky to the Columbia School of Dramatic Arts, where I was a playwriting major. I worked for NBC as a secretary afterwards.

Claire_Labine: My first job in television as a member of the writers' guild was as a writer for Captain Kangaroo from 1966-68. On a horrible winter day in '68 I was fired. I called Gilbert Parker, who was my agent and I said I needed to make some money. He said how about writing for a soap opera, and the only one that I ever watched was Love of Life. My children were babies, and so I checked in every time I could. My audition material for CBS was for Love of Life for which they did not hire me. I was hired as a dialogue writer for Where the Heart is in 1970 for 6 months, and then the head writers quit and they asked me if I wanted to be Head Writer and I said no. They hired someone, his name was Paul Avila Mayer and Paul called me up and said "Tell me how we do this?" And when they were ready to fire the current head writer they asked me again and I said no, but I would do it with Paul Avila Mayer, who was also writing for the show. They said yes. We did that for about 20 months Then they canceled it. At the same time that Michael Brockman gave us the development deal for Ryan's Hope, we were offered writing jobs for Love of Life, so were doing that at the same time as Ryan's Hope. I haven't worked so hard in my life! It was something else! We did that until '75 and we got the pickup for Ryan's Hope in Feb. of '75 and went on air on July 7, 1975. 7th of July of '75 we went on the air.

guest-jenny: What advice do you have for aspiring writers who want to get into writing for soap operas?

Claire_Labine: First thing is write all the time. Write in dialogue form. If you can, go and take a play writing course. Not a film/television course. That's what teaches you story writing and dialogue. Then decide what show you would like to be on, and besiege the head writer. Write them good letters. Assure them that you would work for them for nothing. Just to get your foot in the door. Send them samples - short samples if necessary. Sit down and choose 2 characters of the show, write a 5 page scene between the two of them that is full of emotion, so that the head writer gets a sense that you understand the voice of the characters. Don't reinvent them. Write them as you understand the head writer's definition of them. Don't give up in under a year.

Claire_Labine: I would like to tell you a story about a guy named Ron Carlivatti. Ron is a lawyer and is a friend of a friend of our youngest son. Ron called me and said that he was a lawyer, but he wanted to write for a show called One Life to Live. I said send me some material and I would send it over to ABC. He did and I did. I got a call from him saying that the writers' assistant job was open, could I be of any help? I was quite ready to help 'cause his scripts were very good. So I called and said I understand you are hiring a writing assistant. So Ron was hired as the Writing Assistant on One Life to Live. So later I was hired as writer on One Life to Live and there was Ron. He was a wonderful, brilliant assistant and he kept on writing these scenes and handing them to me. But it was clear that he was a wonderful dialogue writer.

guest-sleepyhead: Are any of the characters on "Ryan's Hope" based on real life family or friends?

Claire_Labine: Yes. Indeed they are. I like to think that Maeve was a combination of my maternal grandmother, and my mother. Maeve was herself. Helen brought to that character such humanity, such dimension, such a fiercely honest talent, that she was the one who defined that role. All we had to do was close our eyes and say what would she say in that scene. I must say I used to be scandalous about reserving her scenes for me, cause it was such a pleasure to write for her.

guest-jenny: Can you tell me about any projects that you're currently working on?

Claire_Labine: I am superstitious about that. We are working on one, I think it's nifty, I think it would have a home on cable and not network.

guest-totallykate: Which original role was the hardest to cast?

Claire_Labine: AWWW!! OH, it was a combination of two. Two days before we started taping, Johnny Ryan and Jack Fenelli, and I think Seneca, were cast. But Jack and Johnny went down to the wire.

guest-luknlaura: You received a lot of critical acclaim for your success as head writer for GH, specifically for the Stone/Robin storyline and Monica's breast cancer storyline. You've written for two shows that involve hospitals. For medical type storylines, do you use consultants from the medical business? What is the process there?

Claire_Labine: Absolutely! Paul and I learned a lesson very early on. Our first consultant was a forensic pathologist. He had a different point of view, since his patients were dead. For many years I depended on our family physician, John Daly, and asked him questions on General Hospital. I never had anyone who would do research. We would talk to whoever we needed to. The first time I had a staff member do it was at GH. And they had a staff person. A paid consultant. And indeed that was on One Life to Live. I was dazzled by it!

Claire_Labine: The Heart transplant story was a direct result of a couple of things. She was a dear friend of mine had who had a transplant. A dear friend of mine had had a transplant. The husband of one of the producers on GH was a noted heart researcher. There was a good moment I went down the hall and I said I wanted to have a heart transplant here with Felicia's child. In about two seconds it became clear it was going to be from BJ. I have never seen anything fall together the way it did. We went back to the office and had the story in about 2 hours. That story coalesced and we knew it was good cause we couldn't talk about it without crying. And we knew the Stone story was good. It was so painful for us to write. One would wake up one morning and have all this interesting stuff. There was this very palpable sorrow when were writing Stone's death. I am very proud of it.

guest-nightlighter40: Speaking of Where the Heart Is, do you know if rerun episodes are available for excellent programs like it as well?

Claire_Labine: You know, I don't know? I guess it must have been done in the era of Kinescopes. But I don't know.

guest-singer: Did you have a favorite villain on "Ryan's Hope"?

Claire_Labine: OH YES!! Well I hate to define him as a villain, but Roger Coleridge cheated and attempted to seduce another guy's wife. Poor Roger, he had a cold father. What's a boy to do? The glee with which Ron played Roger! And one of the great joys of getting to watch this again is going to be seeing Ron grow into the role of Roger and watching Roger become one of the most delectable characters. LOVED ROGER!

guest-ghgal: How has General Hospital changed since you worked on it?

Claire_Labine: You know I can't really answer that cause I haven't been able to watch it. I can't believe that it can be very different cause the cast has not changed that much, nor any of the writers.

guest-chattygirl: Are you still in touch with any of the cast members of "Ryan's Hope"?

Claire_Labine: Yes! Kate Mulgrew. We see her as much as possible. Ilene Kristen. Nancy Addison. I see Ron Hale. I will tell them to call 1-877-WANT-SOAPS!

guest-daytimefan: Have you ever worked outside of daytime?

Claire_Labine: Yes I have. When Ryan's Hope was canceled in 1989 Matt and I did a development situation, and both of us wanted to work outside of daytime, so I wrote some movies of the week. I wrote 5. I really enjoyed it. It's not as satisfying as serial. I deeply feel that serial is the writers' form. I like that. I produced and wrote a movie in 1979 in the middle of Ryan's Hope. I would really like to take some time to write a play. In addition to the thing that Matt and I have developed.

guest-mary27: Which do you believe is harder too write for, daytime or primetime?

Claire_Labine: All writing is hard. There is no writing that is easy. In terms of physical endurance, Primetime is one show a week and in Daytime we do five. And it's really hard to sustain. I think to do daytime well, to write it, is probably in the long run the hardest thing in the world to do.

guest-tvman: If you were planning to go back to a soap right now, which one would be your first choice?

Claire_Labine: OH, I don't know if I can answer that question. Not because I am trying to be political. When I am watching soaps I am watching as a viewer and not a writer. I haven't thought about it 'cause I haven't thought about going back.

SoapNet: As successful as "Ryan's Hope" was, if you could do it all over again what would you change? if anything?

Claire_Labine: Oh, there is so much that one would hope to do better. The first thing is I would love to have had it straight before we were in production if Frank Ryan was going to live or die. Which was how after Frank Ryan, his sister picked up his torch. Then everyone fell in love with Frank, then everyone said that we couldn't' kill him, but we said we have to kill him. And of course they were right. We wrote Frank and Seneca and Jill. For years and had a perfectly wonderful time doing it. To entertain ourselves we would write it from different points of views. Oh, yeah, everyone complained bitterly. Everyone complained about how long Frank was in the hospital. The bed for Frank had never been included in the first quarter's budget. Frank had to stay in the hospital cause that was the only budget that we had for him and actually we only had one hospital room! So if we wanted to show Frank's room and Nick's room we had to redress Frank's set, and then the actors would go off, and the crew would redress the room for Nick's room. It wasn't easy.

guest-crzywriter: Do you ever think about creating another show, or returning as a head writer for one of the current shows?

Claire_Labine: At the moment, about 14 hours a day! LOL

SoapNet: Well, thank you Claire Labine! You were great! It was such a pleasure to be with you! Thanks so much for bringing Ryan's Hope back on the air!

Claire_Labine: Thank you SO much!

SoapNet: Have a good night! Bye everyone!

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