Image Credit: Steve Fenn/ABCFans of ABC’s One Live to Live are still reeling from the news that the producers have decided to eliminate the storyline involving gay couple Kyle Lewis (Brett Claywell) and Oliver Fish (Scott Evans). Last year, the characters participated in daytime’s first-ever love scene involving two men — a development that was lauded by organizations like the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. Last month, the daytime drama received a GLAAD Media Award two days after the news broke that “Kish” had been cut. Says Jarrett Barrios, GLAAD’s President, “While we understand that the close of storylines is a frequent occurrence on daytime dramas, canceling this story just as it gains momentum is a step backward in ABC Daytime’s representation of the lives of gay Americans.” (ABC says there are no plans to advance their story but “the door is always open for their return.”)
The actors will have their last scene together on April 12; Claywell’s final episode is April 16. Claywell talked to EW about the loss of his character and why he thinks ratings had something to do with it. (OLTL remains the second least-watched sudser in daytime, behind the canceled As the World Turns.) Check out the Q&A after the jump.
Have you already wrapped your last day on the set?
Yeah. The story broke the last day I was on set. It happened very abruptly. I could see the writing on the wall, but it was very abrupt how it happened.
How long have you been on the show?
I was hired in November 2008 to play a different role. I was supposed to be a young high school teacher who had an affair with a student. They decided to go a different direction with that. They sat us down in June of ’09 and said that the two characters had a relationship in college. They just kind of put it together.
At that time, did the producers talk about wanting to do some groundbreaking things with this relationship?
No. They didn’t talk about it when we first got the role. It slowly built up steam, I guess. We had no idea the impact we were going to make. We weren’t aware of how big this was going to become to people. It became a pretty big deal.
Why do you think Kish resonated with fans?
We were the first [gay] love scene in daytime. It had a lot to do with the writing, but it also has a lot to do with the way Scott and I played the roles. We made a choice in the beginning that we were going to underplay a lot of this storyline. We just wanted it to be really honest and really authentic and just simple. Just tell a love story. That was the most important thing to communicate — love between two men, honestly, on television. I think that people really responded to that because there weren’t a lot of bells and whistles.
Why the decision to go with a sex scene?
I don’t think they were intentionally building towards something. I think that scene came because of fan reaction. It was more from demand than anything. Because there is a community out there, a large percentage of people who are misrepresented in media, in television, in all forms of art.
Did you think the sex scene was explicit?
No. I keep saying that if you take Milk and you take Brokeback Mountain and you take the work we did, I feel like we stand toe-to-toe with the work that was done. But we told the story differently. The love scene between Oliver and Kyle…it was a moment where one man was finally coming to terms with sexuality after years of denying it and after his family disowns him. He was finally coming to terms and accepting the fact that he is comfortable with this man loving him. For Kyle, my character, it was a moment to be nurturing and loving towards somebody who’s going through a really hard moment to become comfortable with himself.
It sounds like it was a very fulfilling role for you.
Incredibly. I come from North Carolina. My father’s from Kentucky. No way is my family narrow-minded in any way, but I was surrounded by a society that was. In a way, for me, it was equally as fulfilling to play this role. This role changed my life in many ways.
When you were preparing to do the scene, were you starting to get any push back from the network? Were the writers second guessing themselves?
No because our writer is actually a gay man. There were a lot of ABC execs in the booth when we were filming it. I know a lot of people were there watching to make sure that it fit all the standards. I just think people are still so tender and touchy about this subject. It surprises me for sure.
How long after that episode aired did you start to hear that maybe this didn’t go over so well?
The day I was released from the show!
How much time had lapsed between the day that episode aired and the day you were released?
The episode aired December 30 and we were released two weeks ago [on or around March 11].
Between that time, you didn’t know if there were any problems?
We weren’t filming as much anymore. They were barely using us. If the ratings declined, there has to be some reason and somebody has to be blamed for it. I’m very proud because I feel like we were one of the best storylines on daytime television. I’m very proud of my performances and I’ll stand by any one of them. Any day that I worked, I’ll stand by what Scott and I did together.
The ratings haven’t been that great for the show.
No, they’re definitely not. They’re trying to protect it, I think, for sure. It’s sad what is happening to the genre. It’s a sad thing to watch.
Do you think had there not been the sex scene, you guys would still be there?
I don’t know if we’d want to be there if we hadn’t done the sex scene. A year ago, I wouldn’t be saying this. I think the storyline would have been incomplete without the sex scene. Daytime, for 42 years or however long it’s been on television — that is what daytime does. They tell love stories over and over and over to people across the country. Year in and year out, day in and day out, they’re telling stories of love and they’re telling true stories of relationships. We would not have been truthful if we had held back that scene. I will never, ever regret [it]. I’m very proud and I stand by all the work we did.