Another World holds a special place for many Canadian soap opera watchers. For many, it was the first soap opera they got hooked on, while for some it was their only soap and no other series could compare to it. Almost 15 years after NBC cancelled the 35-year-old series, many fans continue to remember the show fondly and can even escape to Another World thanks to clips on YouTube.
Last week, Stephen Schnetzer, who played the role of popular attorney Cass Winthrop on the soap from 1987 to 1999 met with Canadians fans at the Dakota Dunes Casino in Saskatoon. Schnetzer took some time to chat in between flights to discuss what ultimately led to Another World’s cancellation, the famous friendship Cass had with Linda Dano’s Felicia Gallant as well as his character’s romance with Frankie Frame (Alice Barrett Mitchell).
Why do you think Another World still resonates with fans, especially in Canada, almost fifteen years after it went off the air?
I think it hadn’t run its course. It was kind of a power play, which brought us off the air. The audience hadn’t grown tired of the show – it was still a good show! The show that replaced us, Passions, never did as well as we were doing. Albeit, we weren’t in first place, but ratings for everyone had been dipping. It was the start of the decline.
I think it still resonates because it was just a really terrific show. The actors and characters were always entertaining. It wasn’t just dramatic, there was all kinds of entertainment for the audience.
That’s the thing many remember about Cass. He was a romantic hero, but there also a lot of comedy with him. Especially with Linda Dano’s Felicia.
Oh yeah, absolutely.
Is there a difference between the Canadian fans and the American fans?
I don’t know if there’s that much difference between them. They’re both crazy about the show. A “fan” is fanatic. I just think there are certain pockets across Canada. For example, where we’re going in Saskatoon, when we used to go out there for appearances [when the show was still on the air], we were told that 80% of all TVs that were on were watching Another World. I think you won’t find that kind of coverage, that kind of massive base, ratings wise in America. From fan to fan, they were totally into the show and characters.
When word got out that you were doing this appearance, there was some feedback from fans across Canada wondering if you’d be visiting any other cities, including Toronto.
That’s a little hard, you know… Another World went off the air in 1999, so we’re 14 years removed. This is kind of a sentimental journey. A one-time-only nostalgia tour! But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen again.
Let’s get to the bottom of that highly publicized Another World to As the World Turns crossover in 1999 where yourself, Tom Eplin (Jake McKinnon), Jensen Buchanan (Victoria Hudson) and Lisa Peluso (Lila Winthrop) were supposed to move from Bay City to Oakdale but only Jake ended up staying. Although you did appear on and off as Cass until 2006, fans were expecting something a little more permanent.
That was an experiment that had to work itself out. I actually did a year and a half [recurring]. Tom did stay for three years.
Sure, and then they had killed off both Vicky and Jake. So fans lost Another World all over again in 2002. You also popped up on Guiding Light for a bit.
They wanted some fans to cross over for sure, from NBC to CBS. [Since Another World, As the World Turns and Guiding Light were all produced by Proctor & Gamble.]
You mentioned that the cancellation was a power-play decision. Can you shed some more light on the cancellation of Another World?
NBC was tired of being associated with P&G. They constantly fought about storylines…what was too much and what was not enough. So they didn’t want to be in bed with anybody anymore. NBC wanted to produce their own show.
It’s been long rumoured that ABC wanted to acquire the rights to the series but P&G didn’t want to sell those rights.
Yes and then there was some modest talk about turning it into [a series]of webisdoes, the way One Life to Live and All My Children tried to do.
Would you have been interested in that? We were on One Life to Live as well.
I was not interested in doing it because it was even more barebones than what network soap operas had become and I thought it was a real uphill slough. But, I was curious about it…to see if it could get momentum and become a more viable product. So far, it doesn’t look like it’s happening.
Yes, a lot of fans feel like they’ve just lost their shows all over again.
Out of all of Cass’ great loves, from Kathleen (played by Julie Osborn), to Frankie (Alice Barrett), Lila (Lisa Peluso) and even his best friend Felicia (Linda Dano), who would you pick as Cass’ greatest love?
Oh my god… [Laughs] You’re killing me here. If I pick one, then the fans of the others are going to get upset and feel like they’ve lost them all over again, as you say.
I think the friendship with Felicia was the most special because it was not a real love affair. It started out as it for about two seconds but it became a friendship. We created our own family. These were characters who didn’t have their own families on the show. They weren’t in the McKinnon family or the Cory family. It was a miracle that our characters survived without being members of the core families. We created our own and it was through thick and thin…there they were. We also had Wallingford (Brent Collins) for a while. It was a special relationship. A male/female relationship like that is kind of rare.
That’s true. Especially on soaps, you don’t really see friendships like that anymore.
You seem very close with Linda Dano in real life as well. She tweeted some photos from a Christmas party recently.
I was there! In fact, she had a smaller gathering last night in her New York apartment and wanted me to come but I had to call and say that I have to get up at four in the morning to make my flight to Canada.
Had Another World lived on, where would you see Cass being today? What would have been the type of storylines that you would have liked to play for Cass as well as with his daughter, Charlie?
I never thought about that… I never had to think of that because they always came up with great stuff. He’d just keep bopping on. Once in a while, he’d get in trouble with his shenanigans! Lawyering! And of course, cross dressing! Every once in a while, he’d be pulling out Crystal Lake’s clothing and lip-synching Aretha Franklin!
Let’s talk Frankie. If we don’t talk about that romance…it was cut way too short.
As a romance, the one with Frankie was the best.
I’m not sure if you’re aware with what’s going on at The Young and the Restless. Jill Farren Phelps is making some similar decisions over there like she did at Another World, getting rid of popular actors and characters. What was your relationship with Phelps when she was the executive producer? Ryan was killed off during her time there and then Frankie was brutally murdered.
Yeah, that was pretty harsh. It’s one thing to kill a character but I’m not sure why she did it that way. Alice [Barrett Mitchell, who played Frankie] didn’t pull any punches. If they were going to write that dark spot, she was going to go there. Jill is a great producer. She shakes it up. If things aren’t working, she has the guts to pull the plug on very important characters. You need to maintain that kind of objectivity, I think…and that’s why I couldn’t be a producer or an exec, because I think you need to be able to do that and I think I’m too soft.
It was nice seeing you on Homeland this past season where you played Carrie’s (Claire Danes) psychiatrist. How did that role come up?
Just another audition that I went up for. It was a lot of fun.
Your son Ben has gone into acting. The Book Thief was really well received. Your wife, Nancy Snyder, is an actress as well. Was this something you wanted to pass on?
We’ve let him take the lead. We followed his lead, we didn’t encourage him. We were just there to offer guidance when he asked for it and we still do. He’s very fortunate to have a couple of people who have navigated the industry to a certain degree. He’s off to a great start. He went to Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. He got his degree there. One of the few Americans in the program. He was actually the only American in his class and graduated first. That was pretty amazing. His career is off and running. He’s got three films under his belt!
You must be very proud.
Any upcoming projects for yourself? Something fans can look out for?
I just finished a play at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis called Tribes, which had a run for 11 months off-Broadway in New York and now I’m just looking for the next thing to do!
Would you return to daytime? You played Hope and Julie’s brother, Steven Olson, on Days of our Lives at one point, would you return if they called? Judi Evans (ex-Paulina, AW; Adrienne, DAYS) is back there.
It would be a great idea! There’s a lot of people on Days of our Lives that I used to work with on One Life to Live. Gary Tomlin and Chris Whitesell are head writing. Gary was executive producing for a while. Janet Iacobuzio, Lorraine Broderick…a bunch of other people, some of my favourite writers from Another World are working over there. So, never say never! I just thought that if it was going to happen, it would have happened in the past 14 years and it hasn’t. I know that I’ve been considered for a few roles from time to time, but that would be great to go back!