"We don't comment on actor negotiations." "It is our policy not to comment on contract negotiations."
As a soap opera lover for 30 plus years, I can't count the times I've read statements like the ones above in Soap Opera Digest, Soaps In Depth or the late great Soap Opera Weekly when reporters were trying to confirm backstage drama. Since becoming a soap blogger, I've been chagrined by such statements myself many a time over the past eight years.
Most recently I experienced this familiar situation when I knew dead to rights Jason Thompson was leaving General Hospital for The Young and the Restless and reached out to CBS brass. I was told by multiple official players, "We can't respond to rumors" and/or "No comment".
It's the dance of the soap press and the suits. We all have to do it. Even if we decide to go ahead and break something we know to be fact, we have to wait until the networks decide to announce it via press release or with their mainstream publication of choice.
Judging from the social media antics of ABC's Current Series Executive for General Hospital Nathan Varni, that dance is over. Now when backstage drama breaks, a soap opera's supervising executive apparently has the right to go on podcasts, Facebook and/or Twitter to discuss pertinent details of private actor negotiations.
I know what some must be thinking here. "Wait, isn't that what you do, Jamey?" Yes, you're absolutely right. I do break pertinent details of private actor negotiations, because I'm not an ABC employee. I'm a blogger.
This morning, Wubs.net posted a private message Varni wrote to a fan concerning Rebecca Herbst's status at General Hospital. See the message below:
I'm not going to get into the actual content of what he shared with the fan, because it's neither here nor there. This post isn't about Herbst, or whether she will stay at GH, go to Days of Our Lives or join the Peace Corps. It's about an ABC executive repeatedly taking to social media to discuss what was once privileged information. Yes, I said repeatedly.
Numerous fans have screencapped similar exchanges with Varni since he began his Eve Harrington-esque rise to power at GH. If anyone worries he might have been hacked, he pretty much does the same thing on podcasts.
Recently on Daytime After Dark, he revealed Tequan Richmond (TJ) isn't getting storylines because they're waiting to see what happens with his pilot. Correct me if I'm wrong, but Y&R leading man Justin Hartley has a hot pilot this season and is on every day. I digress.
Why is Varni's behavior being allowed to happen? More pointedly, why is Vicki Dummer, Executive Vice-President of Current Series for ABC Entertainment Group, allowing it to happen?
Should every GH star be worried that if news of their contract negotiations breaks, one of their bosses will be on Facebook or Blog Talk Radio saying, "Don't blame me! It was her!" This behavior is highly unprofessional and yes, this is coming from someone who once wrote headlines with phrases like "Pig Vomit" and "Crotch Crickets" bandied about.
Varni shouldn't even be doing press for General Hospital. It's unprecedented for someone in his role to even be giving interviews about storylines to magazines and going on multiple podcasts, let alone DMing and PMing fans.
His predecessors, Agnes Chu and Sara Saedi, didn't behave this way. Why does he get a pass?
I'm not saying Varni needs to be fired. He seems to be a passionate lover of television and I can respect that about him. I am saying, however, he needs to be reminded what his actual duties are pertaining to the shows he supervises and that perhaps it's time he be reassigned off of ABC's last daytime soap. General Hospital should be the star on social media, not its executives.