All My Children Star on Cancellation: 'Network Television Is Eating Itself'

Willey (left) with Susan Lucci.

Willey (left) with Susan Lucci.

Walt Willey, a star of ABC’s All My Children, spoke to The Observer last week after the final day in production of the soap for the network. It wasn’t a sad day of taping, he said: “The scenes we were shooting were party scenes anyway—the atmosphere matched the scenes. It was kind of a party atmosphere. You wouldn’t know we were canceled.”

And technically speaking, the show was not cancelled—the show is to live on in some form in a deal with the production company Prospect Park which is to see the show landing online. “It’s in transition, not in pause,” said Mr. Willey.

“I hate change,” Mr. Willey said of the shift to “airing” All My Children online, “and I think, five days a week, we’re your only friends at that time of day. For the most part, we always drew an audience—Grandma watched, and therefore, the grandchild watched. Viewing these shows was a tradition.

“I think this will reverse it. Now the grandchild will say, ‘I know how you can watch your show [online].’… I think about this crap a lot.”

As for the replacement of All My Children, which is to go off the air September 23 (its replacement, the food-themed talk show The Chew, is to commence September 26), a decision that All My Children star Susan Lucci recently decried. Mr. Willey said, citing soap operas’ brand loyalty, “I think they could have done it in a far smarter business way, and they’re going to see that very shortly… Network television is eating itself for the same reason soaps are in trouble.

“If ABC had not wanted so badly to get out of the business, they had a great opportunity to do what Prospect Park was doing [by broadcasting online]. I just think there’s an incredible demographic there—I wouldn’t want to see them leave the fold, these are the folks who have been watching for so long.”

Mr. Willey, who does not know if he will be one of the actors returning for the Prospect Park All My Children, is embarking on a short tour entitled “A Tribute to Pine Valley” in October (including a stop at Town Hall on October 26). “It’s this thing that harkens back to the glory days,” said Mr. Willey. “We did these big shows, people are starved for that—there’s nothing like it anymore. There were these super-soap weekends at Disney—now those are gone. People are really wanting this.” :: @DPD_