After 44 years on the air, ABC’s One Life to Life ended its run today with a fittingly poignant finale that was only mildly hampered by the incorrect belief at the time of taping that there would be a future for it online.
IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED THE FINAL SHOW, DON’T READ ANY FURTHER!
It was all warm fuzzies here as a baby was born (Destiny and Mathew’s) in the Buchanan mansion, a paternity was verified (Jessica is actually Clint’s daughter), a love fully restored (Viki and Clint), and loved ones were reunited (Cole found his way back to Starr). There was, of course, a cliff-hanger that would have propelled the show forward should plans for an online version have been borne out: Todd was arrested, straight out of bed with Blair, for the murder of Victor, who was quickly revealed to be tied up and held hostage by crazy Allison Perkins. But it wasn’t anything like the final shot that rang out on All My Children in September, before the screen went black. And while AMC fans will be left wondering in perpetuity about who got that last bullet, OLTL fans may yet get answers, as some of the key players involved in that story line head over to General Hospital. Kassie DePaiva (Blair Cramer), Roger Howarth (Todd), Michael Easton (John), and Kristen Alderson (Starr) will all be reprising their roles on GH next month.
But no one knew any of that was going to happen on Nov. 18, 2011. What was clear from the moment you approached the ABC studio in New York that day, though, was that something was different. There was a group of fans milling around the entrance in the middle of the day and, while autograph seekers waited for OLTL actors to come out, there was something else in the air. And once you hit the dressing room floor, still jovially manned by security guard David Coleman as it had been for the last 20 years, it was unmistakable. Tears mingling with laughter was the order of the day, as the remaining cast and crew went about the business of completing the show’s final day of taping.
Eight months before, ABC had announced it was canceling both All My Children and One Life to Live, replacing them with The Chew and The Revolution (which starts on Jan. 16). At the time of OLTL‘s last taping day, it appeared that both would go on to have a life after ABC, thanks to media and production company Prospect Park’s plan to move the shows online. That all fell apart the following week — but for the time being, there was hope amidst the sadness.
Some, like DePaiva (Blair) openly welled up at the enormity of saying goodbye to the show and everyone involved, while for others like Erika Slezak (Viki Lord), who would appear in the very last scene filmed, stoicism was the name of the game. “Oh, no. I can’t get weepy. Can’t do it to myself. That’s kind of destructive to myself. There’ll be plenty of time for that afterwards,” said the six-time Emmy winner, as she sat amidst the boxes in her dressing room, that now sported bare walls.
Slezak’s character ended her run with a proposal from her on-again, off-again love, Clint Buchanan (Jerry verDorn). (Technically, that’s a cliff-hanger because she never answered him, but she sure was smiling.) They’d just found out that Jessica (Bree Williamson) was in fact Clint’s daughter and not that of the now dead Mitch Laurence. With her twin girls safe and sound, all is well in Viki’s world as the show came to an end.
As setup began on that final extended scene in the Llanfair living room, the studio began to fill up with actors who’d long finished their final scenes, some who hadn’t been there for a while, and a passel of crew and execs, including head writer Ron Carlivati and exec producer Frank Valentini. (Both have now moved over to General Hospital, in the same roles.)
Longtime stage manager Alan Needleman had kept things upbeat on the floor all day, cracking his trademark jokes. But as that final scene filmed and the hugging started in earnest, even Needleman got emotional. Valentini gathered everyone after the applause capping the final scene died down, and gave a rousing speech. Those on the stage floor turned and waved for a final picture. But since most of the cast was not there for that final day, they had been pulled together weeks before for a limited edition official commemorative photo (seen above), which is now available for purchase.
OLTL had been home to so many actors. “I’ve never been an adult without One Life to Live. It’s like somebody erased part of my life,” said Andrea Evans (Tina Lord), who joined the show in 1978, returned throughout the years, and filmed her final scene just weeks before. “I had to be here for the last day.”
It wasn’t just the fans who’d watched Alderson (Starr Manning) grow up on the show. Many of the crew and staffers had known her since she was six years old. And that shared history was no small thing to her. “It’s actually really strange because I don’t know my life outside of One Life to Live,” she said. “The thought of leaving this family is really daunting. At the same time I know how close we are together and I have faith that we’ll keep in touch.”
It’s a stance Slezak espoused throughout the day. “Why bother saying goodbye? I love show business for that. You work with someone in 1978 and you don’t see them ’til 1983 and you go, ‘Hey! How are you!’ There’s no ‘You didn’t call. You didn’t write.’ You just move on. You see each other again,” she said. “And that’s how I’m going to treat all of this. We will see each other again. Someplace, somehow, somewhere.”