One Life to Live aired the first gay love scene in soap-opera history last December, and in the months leading up to it the participating characters—Kyle Lewis, played by Brett Claywell, and Oliver Fish, played by Scott Evans—gave countless viewers a reason to tune in. Kish, as the couple are better known, were written off the show earlier this year despite outpourings of support from fans. Yesterday morning, when the Daytime Emmy awards were announced, Kish found themselves snubbed again—neither Claywell nor Evans received a nod. We caught up with Claywell to hear his thoughts on the Emmys, playing gay, and One Life to Live's campiest moments.
Details: For those of us who have only caught the Kish clips on YouTube, can you talk a little about your history on One Life to Live?
Brett Claywell: I was actually hired to play a different role. I filmed for two days, and the producers thought the role wasn't going to work. So they decided they were going to write something specifically for me, and it just kind of evolved from a medical student, and that began last spring.
Details: When did you find out that your character, Kyle, would be involved in a gay love story?
Brett Claywell: Around last summer. Scott and I had been working together a little bit, but they never established what the story line was going to be. And then they sat us down one day after work, and they said, "We're thinking you're gonna have a history, that they had a relationship in college, and we're going to move forward with the love story." That was around last June.
Details: And when you found out you were going to be playing the gay character, were you like, "Daytime Emmy, here I come!"?
Brett Claywell: Not really. You can only do as well as the stories written for you. So I didn't really know what to expect. I was apprehensive for sure. I didn't know if it was the right role to play. I didn't know if it was the right decision to make. I took about a week with it. After thinking about everything, I realized it's my job to play characters and tell true stories, whether or not the character's straight or gay. And this story was a love story. So it just felt like it was the right time and the right moment and the right story.
Details: What kind of research did you do to prepare for the role?
Brett Claywell: I didn't do any research because I didn't think it was necessary. I've been in love before. I've had great relationships. And so I don't think there's a big difference between a gay relationship and a straight relationship. Love is love. For me to play a gay character required no extra work than playing a straight character.
Details: There's been an enormous amount of fan support for Kish. Did you get any negative responses?
Brett Claywell: Evidently there were people who responded negatively, I guess, because the story line was canceled. But I never heard anything but the positive. We had people come up to us at the glaad Media Awards who said that they'd been in a relationship for 12 years, and because of our show they'd decided to finally get married. I had a fan who said that his parents have watched the show since he was a kid, and he finally came out to them because of this story line.
Details: You guys weren't the first gay characters on a daytime soap, but you were definitely—
Brett Claywell: We weren't the first gay characters on daytime. We were the first love scene.
Details: Was that a lot of pressure?
Brett Claywell: It was an extreme amount of pressure. At the time, we didn't really know it was the first of anything. But it was the pressure of understanding that we had a responsibility to the LGBT community to represent things accurately. That we do things with integrity, with dignity, that we tell the story equally to any straight story we would be telling. Most soap operas are about relationships—the stories are about love, or breakups, or pain, or sadness. In daytime, it's very easy to lose the realism. You're doing things in one take. You're doing 40 pages in one day. It's very easy to lose that honesty and that connection and that realism in a scene. But I think the truth and honesty between Scott and myself is the reason that this has become so popular in such a short amount of time.
Details: As you say, realism can be a challenge in daytime. What was the most ridiculous thing that you had to do on the show?
Brett Claywell: Oh, well, besides the kissing and the love scenes? I mean, I had to do a strip scene. That was before Kyle was out, I guess. Before anyone knew he was a gay character. The girls were having a bachelorette party, and I took the place of the stripper. That was like three or four weeks into the role. That was probably the weirdest, most awkward moment. You just do it, and they move on. It's not the same as prime time, where they spend all of this time setting up the shot. And the choreography, and everything like that.
Details: Did you have to explain to a girlfriend that you were kissing a guy for work?
Brett Claywell: Well, I had to explain what I was doing to a lot of people. But there was no specific one single female in my life, no. I'm enjoying being single.
Details: Have more guys been hitting on you since you've played a gay character?
Brett Claywell: [Laughs] I think that for anyone that's ever known me it's pretty evident that I'm a straight man. So I haven't gotten hit on more, I've just had so many thank-yous and so much support from the gay community—I couldn't be more appreciative of the love I've gotten.