By Abby West
Updated January 12, 2011 at 09:52 PM EST
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When so much of the news about soaps these days has to do with endings, One Life to Live executive producer Frank Valentini’s story seems to give hope to the genre. Valentini, 48, has spent all of his 25-year television career at OLTL, working his way up from assistant to the executive producer, and recently re-upped for another two-year stint as showrunner.

When he joined the show in September 1985 as assistant to then-EP Paul Rauch, Valentini had no real exposure to soaps and definitely didn’t foresee it being such an integral part of his life. “I was just a film and television major from the University of Buffalo who wanted a production job. I had no preconceived notions, no prejudices, and no favoritism,” says Valentini. “[Rauch] asked me if I was willing to work hard. I said yeah, if you’ll teach me.”

Turns out learning is kind of what Valentini is all about. As he made his way up the ladder (as associate director, stage manager, coordinating producer and senior supervising producer/director), Valentini also studied acting (“to become a more knowledgeable director”), stage combat, and photography (“because being a director is really about me taking photographs”). He’s since become a published photographer a few times over.

While his work fostered new interests, it also allowed him to nurture his love of music by continuing OLTL’s tradition of having contemporary music artists perform on the show. In recent years, thanks in large part to the connections of music director Paul Glass, artists such as Mary J. Blige, Snoop Dogg, Timbaland, One Republic, and All American Rejects have come through Llanview. Now Valentini’s considering spotlighting emerging artists, “featuring some unknowns and turning the audience on to new people.”

Self-proclaimed adrenaline junkie Valentini, who took the show’s top spot on his 40th birthday in 2002, has had other offers throughout the years, but credits his ability to take on new projects simultaneously with satisfying his wanderlust. In 2008, he directed ESPN’s Endless Drama baseball web campaign and last year did ABC Daytime’s “What If” webisodes, which had well-known characters from All My Children, One Life to Live, and General Hospital running into each other.

And when he’s not working, he’s traveling. He’s hit 70 countries already with plans to travel to Mongolia this summer. “It’s important for me to get very far away… for my sanity,” he jokes.

The future for OLTL is bright, he says, in the short term (surprises planned for Valentine’s Day, more guests like Kourtney Kardashian and Wendy Williams) and in the long term, even as they fend off daytime contenders like CBS’s The Talk. “We continue to do fun exciting things. We have a very strong Internet presence and Internet fan base,” says Valentini. “I think that has a lot to do with our strong young cast. It’s been key to us to maintain the characters of Llanview while introducing new family members.”

So for the next two years Valentini has lots of plans for the place he didn’t know he’d be calling home when he walked in the door 25 years ago. “I’ve really grown very fond of the cast and the crew and folks at the network,” he says. “And I’m always learning. I think when I stop learning, it’ll be time to go. But I don’t think my personality will allow that to happen.”

Follow me on Twitter at @EWAbbyWest

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