John Callahan (from SOD 12/23/97)
Imagine having John Callahan's (Edmund Grey's) job. Every day, he gets up, goes to the All My Children studio...and pretends he has a dead wife, a hateful brother and a daughter who's missing more often than not. It's harrowing work, drumming up all that sorrow, but Callahan's not complaining.
"Would I like to be happy for a while?" he chuckles. "Well, yeah. But what's most important to me is that the writers stay true to the character. Edmund was based on the bastard son in King Lear. And his life," he notes wryly, "was not one of gaiety and frivolity." True to destiny, Maria's death in August set Edmund on a tragic trajectory of near-Shakespearean proportions. But it also spawned significant distress in the actor's personal life, given that it facilitated real-life wife Eva LaRue Callahan's temporary departure from their home in New York to seek other opportunities. Her joining the now-canceled, Hollywood-based UPN sitcom Head Over Heels not only made Edmund a virtual widower, it turned the Callahan's relationship into a long-distance marriage that keeps them more frequently apart then together - and Callahan admits that commuter arrangements are hard.
"In two words, it stinks," he sighs, adding that they fly across the country as often as possible to be with one another. "We try not to have more than two weeks apart, but it's still a strain and emotionally draining. Between jet lag and getting out of your routine and just missing each other...it's hard." Temporary bachelorhood has necessitated changes in Callahan's routine; he's alone a lot more now and has more time to fill. "I have friends who I go out with, but I keep to myself, too", the actor says. "You learn to make use of the time that your different life now offers you. Maybe you read more, or work out more, or do projects that you've been putting off for a long time. You may enjoy some of the quiet, turn the isolation into something positive. But overall, it stinks," he repeats. "If you have to do it, you have to do it. But I don't recommend it to anybody."
Of course, he knew the lengthy separations wouldn't be a barrel of laughs; Eva's first mentions of it stirred up emotions so conflicting, they were all canceled out. "You want to know the definition of ambivalence?" he asks rhetorically. "It's how I felt when she said she wanted to try something new. I supported her, but I knew I was going to miss her." He means that both as a husband and as a co-star. Personal considerations aside, Maria's death threw Edmund's life into a tailspin, and Callahan wasn't really sure how the writers would bring him out of it. "Storyline-wise, there was a little nervousness," he confesses. "I figured that when you have a popular couple and one personal leaves, the other may lose some popularity, and that's not a good thing. But on the other hand," he continues, "I felt in my gut that Maria's death would spin off into some really good story, and that turned out to be true. My nervousness was pretty quickly dissipated by the way the writers handled things." Today, five months after Maria's death, the actor remains impressed by the writing - and, in particular, by the fact that the producers have so far resisted the temptation to throw their main romantic hero into a new affair. "Edmund's a man, and in real life, he would eventually recover," says Callahan, who thinks he would probably fight anything less than a full six months of celibate grieving. "Edmund can certainly have friends, but a romantic involvement? No. It hasn't been that long since Maria died. And remember, the never found Maria's body." Which brings us to the question he gets asked a hundred times a day: Now that Head Over Heels is no more, could his wife possibly be on her way back to AMC? "That's not happening in the immediate future," he reports. "Eva didn't leave to do a sitcom; she left to spread her wings and try other things. She just wanted to get some comedy under her belt; now she has. And in a way, it's a blessing that the show was canceled, because I think she got the hang of [doing comedy] and I'm not sure if that's what she wants to do. Now, she's sampling other types of acting and other projects, and I support that 100%". Putting his money (and time and career) where his mouth is, Callahan recently signed a one-year contract extension with AMC, even though it meant being separated from Eva for even longer. "It's always nice when somebody's got a job," Callahan explains. "For me to leave at the time she was trying to figure out what she wanted to do was not a smart thing. We talked abut it. You take turns supporting each other; sometimes, one will work while the other takes chances and looks for work and maybe turns down certain things and has the freedom to do so because the other person is working. And other people in other circumstances might no have the liberty to do that, or the luxury. Believe me, Eva turns down more than she accepts." But good, challenging jobs in Hollywood are elusive; it can take actors years to book decent projects. That said, Callahan maintains that after a finite period of time agreed upon by he and he wife, Eva will return, if not to AMC, then at least to New York, regardless of what happens in California. "She's coming back," he says adamantly. But what if she gets a really great show? "Then she'll get it in New York. Or if she does a movie, she'll be based her. She might go on location, but that's just work." Of course, a permanent return to New York could seriously hamper her career, given that most opportunities exist in Los Angeles. To take advantage of them, an actor has to physically live out there. Says Callahan: "There are sacrifices on both sides." There sure are - and one, admittedly, is pesky reporters constantly asking Eva about John, and vice versa. "We aspire to a fifty-fifty world," he laughs, "so we even have to share interviews. Which is fine, because I get pretty bored talking about myself after a while."
The Greenhouse Effect Being a celebrity couple has its perks - and its pitfalls, like the tabloid photographer who crashed the Callahanís' wedding in Hawaii on November 30, 1996. "That was the one time that we just wanted to be John and Eva, so I took a little umbrage," recalls Callahan, who was nevertheless prepared for the uninvited guest. "One doesn't normally put security into the budget of a wedding," he deadpans, "but, well, it's better to err on the side of caution. I mean, why do people get homeowner's insurance? Why do people insure things at all? The odds are greatly against a negative event happening. But I didn't want anything to ruin that day, so I got wedding insurance." After the guards apprehended the intruder, he was detained, Dimitri style. "He spent the entire wedding locked in the greenhouse, so he got a great shot of orchids."
Boys will be Girls Believe ir or not, Tad and Edmund weren't the only ones crossdressing this year on AMC. Also guilty? Baby Maddie, played by Jordan Vance. "Jordan's the best baby in the whole world," Callahan enthuses. "I love that kid. Unfortantely, she's he. He's definitely a boy, and they can only put him in dressed for so long, because he's starting to look like a linebaker."
Two Wild and Crazy. . .Gals
The first thing that went through John Callahan's (Edmund) mind when he heard that he and Michael E. Knight (Tad) would be doing drag was: "Are we going off-the-track or are we going designer?" Seriously, the scenes gave the AMC costume department a unique challenge. How do you convincingly dress 2 six-foot-tall actors so they both look like women? "We started with the logistics. They really coundn't do a sull clothing change," custome designer Charles Schoonmaker says. "That wouldn't make sense. Tad and Edmund are getting dressed at the airport. We sort of figured out they would just have coats. Then Francesca James (AMC's executive producer) said, 'Have fun with it.' So we ended up getting the shoes. We figured that they could roll up their pants, put on knee-highs, put on the shoes, they can put on the coats and hats, and mabye one of the ladies has a wig in the bag. That's how it sort of came together. Then we talked to Judy (Blye Wilson, casting director) and made it knows that we needed big gals to make it seem reasonable that these guys would be putting on their coats. It was all sort of a joint thing. Of course, the last ones to really know what was going on were the actors. But they were willing to go with the flow. "I ended up going to this big gal's shoe store near Macy's [and trying on the shoes myself], because my boot is a little smaller than John's and a little bigger than Michael's," Schoonmaker continues. "Meanwhile, Maggie (Delgaldo, costume designer) got the coats, I think, at Lord & Taylor. We thought that we might need doubles - one size for the real ladies and one size for the guys, but in fact, casting did such a great job that we were able to use one of each in both cases. You don't want to buy a lot of stuff for a one-time deal. Hair did the wigs - and came up with a very good color for John Callahan! It was very flattering." The actors agree. Knight adds, "We fought over who got the red and blond wig; he (pointing at Callahan) got the fur coat. "But," Callahan interjects, "he got the regular platforms. I had sling backs, and believe me, I haven't worn sling."
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