It's impossible to calculate the number of producers, writers, actors and network executives who have come and gone during R. Scott Collishaw's long tenure at scrappy soap Another World. In fact, the word fixture comes to mind. Along with three or four veteran actors, the loquacious and witty Collishaw was the glue that has held the show together during its bumpy final years. This guy knows where all the bodies are buried.
Now, with AW's June 25 finale in sight, Collishaw takes a fond look back at his days, nights and humble beginnings in Bay City.— Jonathan Reiner
How long have you been associated with Another World?
I've been working on the show for 12 and a half years, but I started watching in 1974.
Did you start out as an intern?
I actually started out as a temp. Here's what happened: Through a friend I got a job on Search for Tomorrow. I was the temp secretary on Search for two weeks, and on the Friday of the second week I was there the show got canceled. [P&G] called and said, "Do you want to go to Another World?" So I started at Another World the following Monday, and I've been here ever since.
Do you remember your first day?
Oh, sure of course I do. It was scary. I watched the show so I knew a lot of the actors, and I didn't know what to expect. Sometime within the first hour and a half I remember I saw Vicky Wyndham (Rachel) walk up to her mailbox, and I said very sheepishly, "Hello, Miss Wyndham. I'm a big fan of your work. I'm just here temping, but I wanted to tell you how much I love you." She became a fast friend ever since.
I remember the first few months as being very exciting for me because word got around the studio very quickly that I'd watched the show for a long time. And within a month of being at the show I remember I got summoned to the executive producer's office. I thought, "Oh, God! What have I done." And I walk in there and [executive producer] John Whitesell says, "OK, I have the head writer on the phone. Can you tell that story again about Mitch and Rachel and when he stole the baby and went to San Diego? Can you explain that to her?" They were talking about bringing Mitch back, and I was the only one who remembered Mitch and could tell them anything. So it was an exciting time, for sure
When did you become the show's unofficial historian?
Probably right about that day! And that was before I was hired full-time. As my duties changed and I got better and better positions, more and more I became the person an executive or a head writer would go to if they had questions about what happened five years ago or 10 years ago. And sometimes they didn't want me to remember! I'll be very honest... over the years there have been many times when I've very sheepishly walked into someone's office and said, "You know, Rachel was already blind twice. Do we really want to make her blind again?" And they'd all go, "Ah, shut up! We don't want to hear that. We're going to do it anyway."
As a longtime viewer, was it frustrating that the show didn't pay attention to history?
Certain times were more disturbing than others were. You have to look at it with a sense of humor. If it was done differently and it was a different kind of story, certainly it didn't bother me. But I'll be the first to admit that I was extremely bothered and raised a big stink when they tried to make Maggie Cass's daughter. I was the one voice screaming and yelling, "You can't do this, you can't do this! We all watched the shows where Cecile stood up in court and said Jamie's the father of my baby! No, Sandy's the father of my baby." It was between the two of them. Cass wasn't even in the picture. That really bothered me. If you remember, by the time we got to the end of the story, we said that Cecile was lying, and I think that's because I put up such a stink. I had said, "You can't do this. This is really insulting to the viewers who watched the show."
How are you coping with the cancellation?
The fan part of me hasn't felt it yet, honestly. I suppose in six months when I want to turn it on and it's not there, I'll go, "Wow." That part I haven't been able to process because the producer part of me is still so much involved in all aspects of what it means when a show goes off the air: The sadness, trying to keep the show interesting each day, having to go to the Emmys. Personally, I've sort of put up a wall. I have a feeling that on the 26th I'll just collapse in my apartment all alone in a puddle of tears and deal with it.
Is it hard keeping the cast and the crew motivated?
It's really not. We've been doing this for so long that to a certain extent there's an automatic pilot going on. I would say in some instances the performances have gotten even better. Some actors are doing the best work I've ever seen them do. And I don't think that's because the show is going off the air; I think it's because the material we're doing is really good. The hardest thing to keep people motivated about are the functions that don't relate to getting the show on the air. I'm talking about photo shoots and the 35th anniversary party and the Emmys. You kind of get tired of the stares and the "Oh, I'm so sorry." After a while you want to say, "Shut up, already! We know!"
Let's go back to the day (executive producer) Chris Goutman broke the news... what was going through your head? I mean, you've been working at AW for 12 years that's more than college and high school combined!
God, when you put it that way! I was numb. A lot of things went through my mind. I was not surprised, honestly. My biggest surprise that day was how surprised people were. There were quite a few people in the building who were just shocked. They really didn't expect it. And I did. I had given up hope months before that it would go our way. It's been a really hard struggle. The last five years in particular have been very difficult. It's been hard to get enthusiastic about a show when you didn't feel anyone else was enthusiastic about it. We tried. We gave it the best we could and poured everything we had into it. And it's hard when you don't feel that other people feel the same way. You can read into that what you will. I will say it was not P&G; P&G was great.
Of the stuff you've been directly involved with, what moments stand out as particularly memorable?
The remote that we did in Banff, Canada, was absolutely one of my favorite and proudest moments. It was the first large remote I was asked to produce, and I put my heart and soul into the thing. I wanted to make sure the remote had everything you could want. I think we succeeded. I thought it was beautiful. It was the culmination of a great story and the beginning of a great story for Grant, Ryan and Vicky.
When it comes to specific shows... I produced the second black-and-white show ("Murder on the Honeymoon Express"). Also, and this is self-serving, but who cares I'm proud of episodes I produced that have won other people awards. I produced the episode with Felicia's (Linda Dano) intervention. I was very proud of the show where Ryan (Paul Michael Valley) died, which Charles Keating (Carl) won an Emmy for. And so many people I enjoyed working with. Anna Holbrook (ex-Sharlene Frame) was another. I loved Anna Holbrook. Carmen Duncan (Iris), a dear, dear friend and a wonderful actress. And my buddy Tom Eplin (Jake).
I want you to use one word to describe all the executive producers you've worked with. Let's start with John Whitesell.
Powerhouse. A very powerful, overwhelming, brilliant man who knew this business really well.
Father. It makes me want to cry when I say that. He helped me along. He took me under his wing and taught me and trained me. I am forever in Michael Laibson's debt.
Post-production. She taught me how one can really shape a show in post-production.
Dialogist. He was brilliant at bringing writers, cast and crew together. He created a very homey atmosphere here. I think that showed on the screen.
Jill Farren Phelps.
Brilliant. No one knows how to spin a story, stretch a story, reinvent a story and fix a story like Jill Farren Phelps.
Determined. Was she determined to make this show work! Tireless is another word. She taught me perseverance. She taught me honesty in telling a story.
And, finally, Chris Goutman.
Untouchable. Without peer. Absolutely the best. Brilliant with actors, brilliant with crew, a wonderful manager. No one dislikes him; not a single person. And I mean that throughout the industry. He does it better than anyone.
What's next for you? So you see yourself staying in soaps?
I would like to. I love daytime and I love long-term storytelling. My immediate goal is to find another job in daytime, so if anyone from another soap reads this, please call me.