For a little over a year and a half, character actor Phillip Jeanmarie terrorized the denizens of the fictional cove of Harmony on the now defunct NBC (and later DirecTV) supernatural sudser Passions. Jeanmarie brought to life the role of Vincent Clarkson, a tabloid reporter who soon found himself in a down low affair with one of the soap's most popular—and previously hetero—heartthrobs, Chad Harris (Charles Divins). The storyline broke new ground as Passions proved to be the first soap opera to show two men in bed together, only Vincent wasn't all man. He/she was a hermaphrodite, who occasionally went by the name Valerie (One Life to Live’s Daphnee Duplaix) and a serial killer and a rapist... and the seemingly omnipotent, omnipresent force known as "The Blackmailer", whose reign of terror dominated the last few years of the series' storylines.
Today, Jeanmarie is sad the soap he once called home and likens to "being paid to go to acting school" is no longer on the air, but he’s channeling his experiences into his new role as Adam, a struggling actor trying to make it from gig to gig in Workshop The Series, a new web comedy created by Nate Golon and Kimberly Legg, who also star. I caught up with Jeanmarie to talk about his new show, premiering August 10, and of course to reminisce about the wackiness that was Passions.
Daytime Confidential: How did your role in Workshop The Series come about?
Phillip Jeanmarie: It's funny how it all came together. I actually met Nate at a workshop. We were outside talking and I told him I was on Passions. It turned out he had been on the show too, so we started talking and he brought up a list of the different things they had me do on the show. [Laughs] So we kept talking about an actor's journey, what we sometimes do for work, and he came up with the idea of doing a show about it from a comedic perspective. Hopefully people will like it!
DC: What can you tell me about your character in the show?
PJ: I play this character named Adam, he's an actor who has to go through different situations and make decisions that any actor has to make. "Does what this character is doing conflict with my moral beliefs?" and things like that. It's like, he wants to work, but at what cost? But we play it all for comedy.
DC: Does it borrow from your experiences playing Vincent on Passions?
PJ: I wouldn't say it borrows from those experiences. The only real similarity is Adam ends up getting a role where he has to dress up in drag and he has to deal with that. [Laughs] Basically, it's a show about the lives of actors, it takes you into our world and shows you a little of what we go through. Even if you're not an actor you will get it, because anyone can relate to having to do things for work they might not want to do. The show is like The Office, but about actors.
DC: Adam in Workshop The Series sounds like a far cry from playing a hermaphrodite serial killer! Were you sad to see Passions cancelled?
PJ: Oh definitely. Working on that soap was great. The pace was very fast and it took me awhile to get used to it. By the time I felt like I had, it was over. I made some great connections on Pasisons. It was awful when we were cancelled, and then James Reilly died so soon after.
DC: Most accounts say the late Reilly was rather reclusive and didn't interact with actors. Did you ever get the chance to meet him?
PJ: No, no I didn't. I wish I had. I wish I could have picked his brain, to see what was in there, what made him tick! [Laughs] Sometimes I felt like I was as much in the dark as the audience. It would have been nice even to talk to him on the phone.
DC: What did you think of all the crazy plot twists your character went through on Passions? Vincent went from being a down low brother to a hermaphrodite, cross dressing rapist/serial killer, who bore his own father's child!
PJ: I was actually figuring all of that out around the same time as you guys! [Laughs] I just learned not to overthink it, to go with your gut. It was fun. How many actors can say they got to wear high heels? Okay, so maybe a lot, but it was a lot of fun! [Laughs]
DC: Even some of Passions harshest critics—myself being one— praised your acting chops. When I told a colleague I was interviewing you, he said, "If anyone on that show could have won an Emmy it was him." What was your process for making Vincent seem believable even in the most outlandish of situations?
PJ: Wow, that is such a compliment from your colleague! You know I try not to judge a character. Vincent wanted to be loved. I know that sounds crazy, but that's what I kept in my head, that through all the stunts he pulled all he wanted, was what everyone wants, to be loved. He was horribly scarred and had this evil grandfather who was using him to hurt people, but all he really wanted was love.
DC: It seems like every time you turn around a daytime soap is making headling for showing—or not showing—intimacy between same sex characters. On Passions, you and Charles Divins broke ground by being the first men shown simulating sex on a soap opera. A lot of Passions fans who visit Daytime Confidential criticize the press and blogosphere for not giving Chad and VIncent the same attention. Does it frustrate you that your pairing didn't blow up the web or gay magazines like As The World Turns' Nuke or One Life to Live's Kish have?
PJ: No, it doesn't frustrate me. It's good to know we were even a part of history, you know? Maybe what we did on Passions made it easier for the soaps to do what they are doing today?
DC:Would you ever do another soap?
PJ: Oh absolutely! I am open to any opportunity, be it stage, film, TV, soaps. Passions was my first soap and I am a stronger actor for it. Everyday I was learning something about myself and growing as an actor. It was like being paid to go to acting school!