One Life to Live's Brett Claywell: 'We Told a Story in a World Where Most People Are Afraid to Tell It'

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It's entirely possible you missed a small revolution that played out on daytime TV this year, in a gay storyline on One Life to Live involving Officer Oliver Fish (Scott Evans, the younger, openly gay brother of Fantastic Four star Chris Evans) and Kyle Lewis (played by straight actor Brett Claywell), an old college friend whose sensitive hunkitude draws Fish out of the closet. Sure, gays on TV are nothing new, but Kish, as fans began to lovingly refer to them, shattered the age-old image of the gay eunuch, while demonstrating, in a New Year's Eve consummation scene for the ages, that two masculine men in a committed relationship could make sensitive love without the use of a Lady Gaga backing track or cardboard box of sex toys. (Pottery Barn candles of varying heights, on the other hand, are another story.) It was transfixing, paradigm-busting stuff, heralded by media advocacy groups and perfectly timed to coincide with the gay marriage legislation fiascos of 2009.

Unfortunately, it didn't add up to ratings, which were some of the lowest in One Life to Live history. Last week, both men were informed by producers that the storyline is being dropped and that the characters would be written out of the show by April. We approached Claywell, who was still a little stunned by the news but upbeat, for the real story. What we found was a brave, thoughtful and affable actor who seems to realize he was just a party to something big.

You seem in good spirits!

That's one of your jobs as an actor -- you try to keep yourself in good spirits as much as possible because you don't know what tomorrow can bring. Certainly better news than last week. [Laughs]

Can you talk about how you found out?

I had stopped into One Life to Live's production office to drop off my Emmy reel. And then they saw me there and called me in and told me the storyline is no longer continuing. So I found out the same day I was handing in my Emmy reel. That was quite ironic.

Had they already told Scott?

Scott found out the same way everybody else did, which was a little unfortunate. He told me somebody tweeted him. But they might keep him around a little bit longer. As an officer, there might be more work for Officer Fish that does not involve Kyle, but I think that's part of the reason that he wasn't informed the same way I was. I'm just trying to look at it in the most positive way. I don't think it was a slight to him that he wasn't informed. I think it probably had a little more relevance to Brett Claywell than Scott Evans at the time.

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To be honest, I'm not a One Life to Live watcher.

That's OK, I wasn't before I was on the show either.

But I became aware of it when I kept stumbling across these steamier and steamier clips of the two of you.

There was lots of steam in that relationship. [Laughs]

Can we go back to how you first got the part? Were you forewarned of what would be required of you?

I was actually hired to play another part, a high school teacher. But the dynamic wasn't what they wanted it to be between me and the high school student I was supposed to be dating. It wasn't supposed to be an evil villain preying on a high school girl, but because of the age difference, that's how it came off. So they hired another actor to play that role, but told me they liked me and would create another role for me. They did, and over time this is kind of the direction it went.

They told me Kyle was going to be a gay character, and I took a week to mull over what's going on. I could never have played this role without the support, belief, patience and communication of our executive producer Frank Valentini. The whole One Life to Live family embraced Scott and I on the journey. There was a physical relationship that developed, as might develop in any relationship, that might have been an unexpected journey for me to go on, but in a testament to how truthfully we told that story it was absolutely the right decision to be made. I'll forever be proud of everything we did last year.

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Comments

  • Randy says:

    I wonder if any of this has to do with pressure from right wing homophobes and religious bigots.

  • Donna says:

    This isn't new for ONE LIFE TO LIVE. Back in the late Sixties, they were doing amazing, ahead-of-their-time stuff with black characters and even had a major black character who tried to pass herself off as white. Not surprised it was OLTL that did this type of gay storyline first.

  • I'm an OLTL viewer and participant in the online fandom. Let me tell you, we are NOT pleased by this move, to say the least. Don't Put Kish In The Closet and Save Kish are just two of the websites that have sprung up in protest at their firing. Daytime Confidential and We Love Soaps and other soap news sites have been all over the story, which, BTW, doesn't just involve a boneheaded decision to get rid of a groundbreaking storyline and popular couple that have garnered the show more press attention than its had in years, but also the completely sleazy way ABC Daytime has tried to spin it following the outpouring of outrage, including using "unnamed sources" to tell a soap columnist that one of the actors was partying too hard and had caused scenes to be cancelled and the other to be becoming a diva. ALSO, this was just the latest in a line of firings in recent weeks that seem nothing more than calculated to drain OLTL of its diversity (racially, sexually, etc.).

  • barb says:

    I can not believe that this story line this Fish and Kyle story line is being dropped. I have been watching OLTL for years. Im over 21 this is life. The story line could have been two straight men but because its two men grow up. Noone complained whenTodd raped and kidnapped a women. That was ok. It is time to accept everyone for who they are not who they care about.

  • Strepsi says:

    I think this has more to do with how TV calculates ratings and ad dollars. Many many more people seem to have watched it online (as did I) storyline by storyline, which does not factor into the Nielsen ratings or ad rates. What if Networks uploaded individual storylines (which is easy in soaps as they would be 10 minutes a day, or Youtube length) and put the ads on them? I would watch the ones I wanted on demand, and networks would have not only monetized the largest new soap demographic but also get real feedback numbers about views and storyline popularity.
    Anyhoo, great great work from OLTL and two terrific actors.
    Make that two terrific actors who also happen to be scorching hot. We'll see more great things from both!

  • anonymous says:

    "Unfortunately, it didn’t add up to ratings, which were some of the lowest in One Life to Live history."
    Thats not as big of a deal as it sounds. Many soap operas have been hitting new lows almost every year.

  • Ealan says:

    I hate that Kyle and Oliver are being written out. It's the most important storyline that soaps have done in quite some time and the story has been so well executed by the actors involved. But OLTL is in an unfortunate situation- a shrinking budget, a bloated cast and sagging ratings. Isn't OLTL the last of the NYC-based soaps? The bottom line is soap operas are a dying breed so I guess they did what they had to do. But still, its a shame they couldn't have been a little braver and kept these characters and got rid of some of the "same old, same old" like Todd & Tea/Todd & Blair, the always suffering Jessica, Mitch Lawrence (who has died about nine times now), etc...)

  • Cc says:

    Such a classy well spoken guy. He cares for his work, and he as well as Scott did tell an incredible story. He will go on to do great things and I will follow his work and support him.

  • saveferris says:

    Great interview. I hadn't watched OLTL in about 15 years and got pulled back in because of Kyle and Oliver. Brett and Scott did an amazing job with this storyline and it sucks donkey balls that they're being written off. There is so much potential to explore a storyline about the challenges faced by gay parents, but who needs fresh and compelling material when you can regurgitate the same old tired crap? For ABC to blame one storyline for the low ratings is nonsense. Kyle and Oliver have never been featured as heavily as other characters, not by a longshot. As a straight white woman, I found it really refreshing to see a realistic and well-played gay storyline on mainstream TV. They also shitcanned all the black actors but one and there are rumours that a prominent Latina actress just got the heave-ho, too. We need more diversity on TV, ABC, not less.

  • Margaret says:

    Brett is pure class and he and Scott are being used as scapegoats and erronously blamed for ratings that have been on the decline since long before they were on the show..we dont even see them often enough to be responsible for any ratings drop and OLTL needs to admit that it was faux lesbian Dorian,the mass gay wedding, incestous pyscho Mitch and the rampant teenage sex that is to blame and not the very beautiful romantic love story of Kyle and Oliver...they have touched the hearts of people worldwide and brought a new diverse audience to the show and ABC is making a monumental mistake in ending it and losing the two most talented actors they had...the chemistry between Brett and Scott is truly amazing and their dedication to their story is inspiring and when they leave i will join their countless other fans who will be leaving with them....OLTL without Kish will not be worth watching....

  • Soap Fan says:

    Actually, they didn't.
    All My Children is the groundbreaking soap! Outstanding African American characters, hot topic issues, interracial relationships...you name it! AMC has featured gay storylines long before OLTL (and I'm not just talking about Bianca. Back in the day there was a storyline involving a male teacher). As the World Turns has the MOST popular gay couple on TV today: Luke and Noah. BTW: they were on the scene before Kyle and Oliver. I know 'cuz I watch both soaps!

  • Disbelief says:

    No Kish --- I can't believe it. OLTL you just lost a viewer dedicated to the new direction you where charting. I am done.
    Hurt to the Heart

  • Bizarre... I just stumbled on your site by searching for 'financial spreadbetting' on Google. But I haven't found any articles on that on here?

  • christa lyon says:

    my commet for brett and scott they did great job with the show oltl and being written off the show by april and i be support them all the way i know it feels being wirtten off with oltl and with abc and daytime soap they need to bring them back as role of kyle lewis and oliver fish and their child sierra rose meaton when gigi goes see oliver fish as scott evans to see her nicese sierra rose please abc daytime soaps make decision to bring brett claywell and scott evans and their child sierra rose back on with the show with oltl

  • jennifer says:

    kish was good on one life to live really enjoyed them big mistake to cancel them. wish they could come back

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