Debonair, devilishly handsome and determined to speak his mind, Mark Pinter (Grant, Another World) is one of the feistiest guys on soaps. You could never accuse him of sticking to the party line, and his honesty is refreshing in today's age of corporate mumbo jumbo.
That said, there's more to Pinter than his outspoken opinions. He and his beautiful wife, Colleen Zenk Pinter (Barbara, As the World Turns), are raising a blended family outside New York, yet they always manage to lend loads of time to various charities and local causes.
Pinter's heart is always in the right place, even if his mouth sometimes opens a little too wide. He spoke candidly to TVGEN about AW and soaps in general. Jonathan Reiner
Are you enjoying the current storyline? I know it's been all over the place, but...
Can we make this a candid interview? Currently? No. I think it's being rehashed and redone, not that we do that all the time in daytime, but I think we're vamping.
But it must still be fun to work with Kim [Rhodes, who plays Cindy].
Oh, of course it is. She's a wonderful comedian and she's going to be big star. She's got that written all over her. She's a terrific actress. Thank God that they paired the two of us up. It's almost been two years. But we've been through a lot of writers even in just the two years we've been together.
Is it tough on the cast to have so many different writers come and go?
Oh, yes. It disrupts the rhythm of the show, and the transition usually takes at least three months, if not more. I think it is also very disturbing to the audience as well, what audience we have left.
For someone who's been in the business a long time, and has been on this show for a while, do you have any tricks for coping each time a new head writer comes on?
I used to, but I'm finding it more and more difficult to hide my concerns for the show. Not just for this show, but for daytime in general. I think it's very disruptive searching for this elusive audience. By that I mean the young audience. In the process we're abandoning and turning our backs on the audience that has been with us here in daytime for 30 years. I understand it's about business, making money for the network, and advertising, but you should try to find that middle ground whereby you don't alienate one group of people to cater to another.
Do you think the different writers have been able to write the character effectively over the past seven years you've been with the show?
I think a few have been able to grasp the character of Grant quite well. Peggy Sloane and Carolyn Culliton really "got" Grant. But I take some credit for the character having survived this long. Don't get me wrong this is the best soap character I've played, and Another World has been a terrific experience. But I suspect part of the problem is that writers aren't allowed to write anymore. What I miss the most are the days when actors got a chance to act where two actors could sit down over coffee and do a scene together. Now it seems that the shows are only concerned about pyrotechnics, floods and sinking ships, so I think those days are over. I think our audience has dwindled so much that all we can do is hold on to what we have. We have less of an audience this year than we had a year ago. It may very well be that the other shows don't have as much, either. When we get to a certain point when the audience has eroded, and the advertisers and network aren't making the kind of money they want to make, then the show goes off the air.
Is it hard putting on a happy face for the fans?
I don't anymore. I did for a lot of years, and it got me in trouble about a year ago when I said something publicly. I really got hauled in on it. And I felt like I wasn't being vindictive. I was just fed up, and I was speaking the truth. I want to engage the viewers, and anyone who reads this they're really interested in why they, as viewers, are so frustrated. Why is the audience leaving us?
A lot of fans feel that the network executive, or whomever is in charge, is laughing at them when they make suggestions or write in to support a character.
Whether they're laughing or not, they're definitely not listening. I don't think they sit in their conference rooms and say, "What can we do to alienate the audience?" But what they don't do is consider what the audience feels, [nor do they] even consider reading letters. Do they really act on what the focus groups say? I don't think so. So I don't hold back anymore. If it gets me in trouble, well, OK. I'm a big boy. I'll take responsibility for it. But everybody knows what's going on.
What if someone in power came to you and said, "We don't know what to do with the character. What do you suggest?" What would you say?
Well, I think the way to turn around the character is to have something awesome happen to him. I've begged for years to have the character turned upside down. Change comes with tragedy, with loss. I don't really go to them anymore and offer suggestions. I stopped doing that a couple of years ago. They listen, but nobody really acts on it. You begin to wonder whether they're just laughing at you. As frustrating as it is for the viewer, it is more frustrating for the actors, because we seem to take one step forward and two steps back.
Do you and the rest of the cast talk about all the changes, and how it's affected the show?
Oh, yeah. We talk about it a lot.
Shifting gears a little, I'm sure it's no secret that I think Colleen is great. I like to mention her as often as I can. Do you guys ever have a little jealousy thing going on? If things are going well on her show, do you say, "Gee, why can't I have that on my show?"
No, because she has been so underutilized ever since Douglas [Marland, ATWT's acclaimed head writer] died. I'm very sad for her, and I feel her pain and I know her frustration as an actress. We cry about it, and sometimes we laugh about it. Oftentimes it brings in bitterness and a negative energy, and you don't want to go there. She has spent 20 years on that show, and I don't think anybody, with the exception of a few writers like yourself, has even recognized that that's a long time. Take a look at that body of work. She's never been nominated for anything, and it's because she hasn't put herself out there and played that game. And I don't understand that. She's a terrific natural actress, and I think it's time she gets recognized.
I couldn't agree with you more. The baby Johnny story was heartbreaking, and what's even more heartbreaking is the fact that she's hardly ever on these days.
Again, this is what's happening with daytime. We'll tell a story, but we'll tell it within the framework of your [contractual] guarantee. You can't tell a story like that with two shows a week. It deserves better than that. But we all understand why that's happening. We're all being held to our guarantee. That's just the way it is. It's all about money and about the fact that new young faces can be out there [on the screen] for a lot less money than those of us who put in a lot of time who happen to have a larger salary. You know, we put in our time for our larger salary, but we're expensive. That's the reality. That's why story is being told the way it is. It's all about money.
The writers have to write according to guarantee, not according to the heart.
That's what I mean about writers not being allowed to write. You can't write good stories when you can only use someone in 55 episodes in six months.
Well, I just hope that there is better news the next time we talk. It doesn't hurt to pray for a turnaround.
We do pray. It deserves to stay on the air. It's got a long, beautiful history, and it's going to be 35 years old next year. It will be very, very bad for all of us in this business to see a show go off the air. All we can do is pray that the fans we still have will support us, and that the ones who left us will come back and give us another chance.