The Cast System


Casting for the 25+ characters in Silver Shadows was something I dreaded for a long time, and quite honestly, was a big reason why it took me a while to get this project off the ground.  I considered not even casting characters, but I realized I had to because it adds some richness to the website.  So, I spent days racking my brain on who to cast in these roles. Since Silver Shadows is a period piece, it didn’t make sense to cast 2019 era actors in their current physical appearance.  The funny thing is, the time-period factor actually made the job easier. I don’t watch much current television, but I grew up watching TV shows from the 70’s, so it was not much of a challenge imagining actors in these roles.  

One of the other challenges in casting was finding younger versions of characters who already existed in The Blackthornes.  Some were impossible. so I wound up recasting them for the prequel.  Jonas only ever appeared in flashbacks in The Blackthornes, so I never cast anyone to portray him with the exception of slapping a picture of Eli Wallach on his StarLog bio.  I was glad to find an actor who I believed could handle a character as powerful as Jonas Lamont. I’d always loved Howard Duff and he was a staple to primetime soaps as the formidable patriarch, so it made sense to use him.

Other characters who appeared in The Blackthornes (primarily in flashbacks) but never got cast are finally given faces in the new series, so that was very exciting for me.  Royce Jennings, Renee’s parents Charles and Ann Merteuil, Marilee’s late husband Richard Wells, all play huge roles in Silver Shadows.  In addition, Topper Beachamp and son Troy are now given actors to represent them.  One of the most exciting to me was finally casting Deacon Edgewater, who was often talked about but rarely seen in the original series.  Here, he’s played by another primetime soap veteran, David Selby.

I struggled with who to include in the series. In 1975 many characters weren’t even a thought in their respective parents minds, so it was up to me to create characters to fill in the gaps, but still had a connection to the characters we already know. Those connections become more evident as the episodes progress. In this one, we learn that Ladys has some kind of resentment toward Jonas. Why? Sounds like a flashback in the making to me!

Thanks to everyone who read the first episode. I’m excited for what’s to come, and I hope that everyone likes this continuation of the Blackthornes universe.

Until next time…

AE

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The Phantom? Menace.

I can’t remember when exactly I first got the idea to do a prequel series to The Blackthornes.  Probably while I was still writing the original, which could have been some time in 2009 (season 4).  I do know that a prequel series (aside from any spin offs that I attempted to create or might create in the future) is the only way I feel this universe could go on.  That became clear in 2015 when I decided to scrap the ill-fated 7th season. In that forced continuation of the series, nothing came easy, and that was always the tell-tale sign to me that it just wasn’t meant to be.  I loved the way the series originally ended and I think it went out on a high, so the only way to maintain that seemed to be foregoing all attempts at a “new” season.  My love of the story and the characters and the history I’d woven, though, was still as strong as ever, so a prequel series was the only thing that made sense.

I recall discussing this idea on a forum or something a while back and one faithful reader mentioned the fact that so much has already been told – both through exposition and through flashbacks over the years – that he couldn’t see where a retelling of all of that in a new series was necessary.  That point has stuck with me ever since.  Of course he was right – it would be redundant to retell the story of Nathan’s rape trial, or Suzanne being hypnotized by Victor and killing Troy, or James and Alex meeting for the first time.  So the decision came as to where to place the action of the story.  It had to be far enough away (time-wise) from the original series so that important events don’t intersect and demand a retelling.  But it also couldn’t be so far in the past that none of the characters would be familiar to the reader.  For a while I considered moving the action around to different years.  Sort of like a This is Us on steroids.  But to be honest, this sounded exhausting and like it would require way more mental capacity than I have, so that idea never left the ground.  In the end, smack dab in the middle of the 70’s seemed like the perfect time.  This is a few years before characters like James, Alex, Suzanne, Renee and others in that adults group showed up in town, so this leaves me with plenty of story to make up to fill in the gaps, both with characters you know, and new ones.

The real “stars” of this series, I suppose, if I had to pick them, are Jonas and Lola; maybe similar to James and Alex in the original.  It’s been fun writing them because we only saw extreme versions of them in The Blackthornes.  Lola acting like a senile old harpy, and Jonas as the powerhouse mogul in flashbacks.  We now get to see what they were like when they weren’t the subject of a Blackthorne flashback.

This will probably get some laughs, but when I was thinking of the cast and what characters I needed to create, I took inspiration from an unlikely source: The Phantom Menace.  Yes, Star Wars: Episode 1.  That Phantom Menace.  I say this because I only imagine what George Lucas’s thought process was when he was writing the prequels to Star Wars. Characters we had heard about but never saw, characters who were in the original but are now younger, and brand new characters we were meeting for the first time.  It’s silly, but this is the type of thinking I put myself through in developing this series.

The website is pretty similar design-wise in most ways to The Blackthornes.  I didn’t get very creative in making something completely new, because I’m not great at making website to begin with, and I’d rather spend the time on the writing process.  The banners and photos are given vintage filters in hopes of making them appear reminiscent to graphics from the 70’s, but other than that, it’s pretty straight forward.  I think it services the series well enough.

The title, Silver Shadows, pays homage to the often referred to “silver screen”; that is, films and Hollywood in general. And “shadows”, which to me represent the past, or other variations of ourselves or others.    I spent years going over ideas for what it could be called and I could have spent years more doing the same thing.  I’m pleased with the title and I think it encompasses everything I want the series to be.

Next week in the blog  I’ll dive into the characters and why I chose to have these ones specifically featured, and why others I didn’t.

Thanks again for reading.  In lieu of an actual forum, feel free to leave any comments, feedback, criticisms, or questions in the comment section below!

Until next time…

AE

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10

Hard to believe that on this day 10 long years ago, The Blackthornes made its debut on the web.   That first episode, aptly titled “The Next Mrs. Blackthorne”, was a long time in coming.  I wrote the entire first season (twenty-three 6k word episodes) in the spring of 2004 while recovering from a motocross injury that left me on crutches for three months. Writing wasn’t new for me. It, along with politics and dirt bikes, were my lifeblood, and to some degree still are.  The earliest piece of fiction I can remember writing was a Star Wars fanfic that took place after Return of the Jedi but was essentially a scene for scene copy of the film.  Later there was a spiral-bound collaborative effort that was passed around the halls of Van Nuys High School for an entire semester, and was some of the rawest, raunchiest, perverse “erotica’ to spill from a tenth graders mind.

But things got serious when I wrote a forty-some episode series called The Young At Heart and was a cross between Dynasty, All My Children, and some hijinks that went on one year in school.  Then came a series called Moonshadows that lasted several seasons and that I tried to ressurect years later as one of many attempts at a spin off of The Blackthornes.

Finally, that spring of 2004, I was glued to SoapNet for weeks when I came up with the idea for The Blckthornes. It was basically Dynasty set in Hollywood.  For a while, I posted it on a Dynasty fan website as a spin-off fanfic, but eventually eliminated any reference to its inspiration series.  It wasn’t until over a year later that a friend helped me get a website going and directed me to Epiguide.  By early December of 2005 I had a very crude website built and posted a new episode every week.  Nobody read.  I can’t really blame them.  Over the years, so many webseries have come and gone that it’s difficult to allow yourself to make an effort to get into one if it’s just going to disappear in a few episodes.  Still, I remained resilient.  After a short hiatus following season one, I went full steam ahead into season 2 and posted every week.  Still, no one read.

Finally, when season three launched in January of 2007, I started getting some recognition from other webseries writers.  I don’t know if it was because I’d broken through the barrier so many new series find themselves up against as a “newbie” or that I shed some of my bad writing habits from earlier episodes and started writing more outside-the-box material.  Either way, I remember that being a very productive, fertile time in the community.   The rest, as they say, is history.  After six seasons The Blackthornes is an accomplishment that I’m very proud of, and defined a decade of my life.  Will I ever go back?  The truth is I don’t know.  But of course I never say never, and I love my characters like they were real people.  If I do revisit that world, it would have to be done in a new and different way.  For now, there’s a permanent timeslot in cyberspace for The Blackthornes.  I love nothing more than to tune in to a random episode and remember what was going on in my life when I wrote it.  It’s those memories that I wrap myself in when the world gets cold and lonely.

Until next time.

AE

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Exeunt

I promised myself I wouldn’t cry!  🙂  I just finished writing the final scene of the final episode.  After two weeks of changing this and moving that around, I found that the end result wasn’t much different than when it started.  To me, that usually means it was pretty set in stone to begin with.  I wanted this episode to be about closure for a lot of characters, or about potential-closure.  I wanted there to be enough life-changing developments that it warrants this being the last episode, but nothing too dire in nature.  There’s been plenty of that already.  For anyone who may wish they’d have gotten more of a “final scene feeling” from any of the characters, I could have written a hundred pages of wrap-up for these people and it still wouldn’t have been enough, so I eventually had to cut it off somewhere.  I wanted the finale to have the sense that life goes on.  The first part of the finale was about questions answered, mysteries solved, etc, and this was the wrapup.

To me, the final scene in the series was always written in the cards.  Or in my story bible, to be more literal.  James and Brooke were the foundation of the series in the beginning, and they came close to reuniting a few times.  It only makes sense that the end would leave the reader wondering if they do get back together.  Things always end as they started, at least in my mind.  That’s why the wedding in this episode, followed by the screening of the new movie, were mirrors of the first episodes.

For now, I’m going to take a break, read a lot, work on some miscellaneous writing projects, and then probably miss the interaction and the friendship I share with other producers about our series, and start planning out a new one.  I have no idea how I could top The Blackthornes, and I don’t just want to throw down a story about the “intertwining residents of a small town filled with secrets” because that’s been done to death.  🙂  If I told you some of the ideas I have for webseries, you would never believe it in a million years. Only when I can combine all those ideas into one sprawling, epic story will I do it.

Then there is the issue of sixty-some episodes I have already written for a series I wrote prior to The Blackthornes called Moonshadows (not connected to the resort of the same name).  I uploaded the first episode onto my site a few years ago, where at the time I considered touting is as a spin-off.  Moonshadows can only be described as how Knots Landing was to Dallas.  Smaller scale, more suburban, more day-to-day activities mixed in with the intrigue.  Shady politics and general business shenanegans are featured heavily in the series, and it’s definitely more of a male-dominated series than The Blackthornes.  I’m not sure how or if I could release the series because at this point I’ve used some of the storylines, or parts of the storylines, in The Blackthornes.  It may just have to stay on the shelf indefinitely.

The Blackthornes will stay on the web in its current home.  I’ll probably change the url at some point when I do a new series, but I’ll update everyone when that happens.  If I get desperate for a project, I’ll probably do some clean-up of the site at some point. Updating bios and that sort of maintenance-type stuff.

At the risk of sounding cheesy, I did want to thank my faithful readers for offering your support and feedback over the years.  It made The Blackthornes so much fun to write, especially when I started listening to readers’ opinions.  🙂  Looking forward to many more years of reading your work and enjoying the ride!

xoxoxo

AE

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“And Now to Find out Who the Killer Really Is….”

I’ve already mentioned my self loathing for reneging on my promise of “one more episode”, only to surprise announce there would actually be TWO more (bad planning on my part), but I actually think it worked out well this way.   The two parts of the finale are so vastly different in tone that releasing them together as one episode would have just been weird.  In their current form, part 1 is the classic OTT schtick that the series I suppose is known for.  Part 2 will be more of an emotional journey mixed with some expected intrigue.  This is how I usually pattern my season finales anyway, so I don’t know why I didn’t plan it this way anyway.  Needless to say, if you think everything happened in this first part, it didn’t.  There’s plenty more to come.  AND enough time to give the core characters the proper send off.  

Disclaimer:  (I hate having to do these).  The scenes that bookend the episode aren’t meant to be taken too literally.  There are no hidden secrets or easter eggs contained in them.  They’re more or less a indication of a possible scenario at one of Jonas Lamont’s industry parties.   They aren’t necessary to understand the story.  

The reveal as <spoiler> as the killer was important to me because I didn’t want it to be a new character like Denise or Keaton, but rather one that has been around since the beginning.  <spoiler> has actually been around since the first episode.  I was glad that I could utilize a character with so much history as the villain in the final storyline.

I’ll have more to say next week.  Back to editing this bitch.

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The Shakespearean Candidate

This episode undoubtedly had more climaxing stories than any other episode before it.  I really struggled over where to cut this episode off.  First, I had Michael’s kidnapping climax, Alex and Keaton’s climax, and the killer being revealed all at the end.  In rewrites, however, I put the latter off till the beginning of the next one.  The first scene will be very much what one would expect from me, I think.  It isn’t clear where or when the action is taking place, a gimmick I do in the premiere of every season.    

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  All That Glitters puts the cogs in motion for the finale.  Miranda decides to give Kelly a break and help her reconnect with her long-lost father.  She figures she’s got the happy ending she’s always wanted, so why shouldn’t everybody?  Even a skank like Kelly.  And I couldn’t let the series end with Miranda still living in her father’s house.  Of all the people who have lived there over the years, she’s the one who has never left.  It’s time for her to grow up, I decided, thus Eddie’s surprise purchase of their town home.  And what of Eddie’s plans to adopt Tiger as his own?  Someone may have something to say about that.  Tune in next time to find out.  🙂 

Jackie’s return was inevitable.  The surprise (hopefully) was that it doesn’t have anything to do with what one would expect (her son David’s surgery, her husband Nathan’s life being on the line, or the plentitude of secrets her father Jonas implemented before he died).  No, this is Jackie.  She comes back when an opportunity for massive wealth presents itself.  Obviously she could be in some trouble.  Does anyone think she won’t wiggle her way out of it?

I’m not sure how apparent is was to readers that Keaton was Alex’s son.  Obviously half way through this episode I more or less spelled it out.  This was a setup I’ve had in motion for years (literally).   I always had the idea that Alex had a third child.  She went as far as “slipping up” here and there throughout the course of the series and saying “my three children”.  Also, back in the season 4 finale, when she accidentally took too many pills and fell unconscious in her apartment, she was holding a photograph of a baby.  I never explained this.  Shortly after that, she decided it would be a good idea to adopt a baby (her way of making things right with the baby she gave up).  So needless to say, this was probably the longest-running storyline in the series.  I hoped to confuse (distract is a better word) the reader by insinuating Keaton was Marilee’s son, or Nathan’s son.  I’m not sure if it worked.  I know I’ve had a tendency in the past to make things a little too obvious, then when the conclusion happens, the reader is like “duh”.  LOL.   At any rate, I’m glad Alex’s secret child has finally been revealed.  The question now is, “is he a killer?” 

I still have a few scenes to write and some tweaking to do for the finale, so we’ll see how it pans out in the end.  Expect a slightly longer final episode, which I usually try not to do because I struggle with keeping them under 30 pages at it is.  But for the last one I’m going to not limit myself.  If it winds up five extra pages, I won’t beat myself up.  Just a warning to all – settle in for that longer than usual read!

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From the Stars

Back in season 5, I started a mini arc involving Michael and his imaginary friend “Adam”.  Originally, I thought of doing a quasi-paranormal storyline that tied in with Miranda and her pregnancy (she was Michael’s primary caregiver during this time as Brooke was off being kidnapped in the jungles of Mexico).  It would eventually come out to have a reasonable explanation, obviously, as The Blackthornes has never had a supernatural element to it.  Anyway, I never got around to really getting this storyline off the ground.  Ethan came back in the finale and I just chalked the Adam thing up to a way of Michael coping with his father’s absence.  

Cut to my planning stages of season 6 where I wrote the second episode titled “From the Stars”, which was one giant Ethan flashback chronicling his life in the year and a half he’d been gone.  The title of that episode was never fully explained, other than a few hints I dropped about Emmett, the man who rescued Ethan from the earthquake, having some kind of mysterious connection to NASA.  He loaded his apocalypic bunker with NASA supplies and had weird notebooks full of complicated equations, prompting Ethan to question this, but never getting an answer.  Well, here we finally have the explanation.  Or you will by the next episode, anyway.  🙂  At the time I thought “wouldn’t it be cool if this guy came back later in the season to exact his revenge?  And wouldn’t it be cooler if “Adam” popped up again, and everyone thought Michael was projecting about his parents broken marraige, but this time it was a real person?   I’m glad to have made something out of that storyline from season five, and in a way that makes sense.  

What was even more perfect was that – without my even trying – readers seemed to think “Adam” would be connected to the storyline of The Benefactor.  I guess that’s just because of my weird infatuation with space and stars this year.   Purely coincidental. 

Not so coincidental was my placing that phrase “From the Stars” in as many episodes as I could.  The most glaring, to me, was in “Nobody Lost, Nobody Found” (the episode after Benji kills Sierra).  The scene opened with the sentence: “Glimmering reflections of light from the stars flickered across her wide open eyes that still stared up at the night sky.”  Doesn’t have anything to do with Adam or that storyline, of course.  Just another obscure reference I drop in that usually only makes sense to me. 

Trivia:  “From the Stars” is the name of a song by White Lies about a disaffected man who returns home to his father’s funeral and gets drunk in the penthouse of a hotel while brooding over their relationship and the affect the recession has had on his home town.  It sounds very Blackthornes flip-side to me.  

I really enjoyed writing this episode.  It was also very hard because for the first time I can really envision the end of the series and I can feel the tone of it.   I have the bones for the last two episodes done, but as usual they need a lot of tweaking.  I’ll probably be tweaking until the minute before the very last episode gets posted.

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Through the Jungle and Through the Night

Alright, so here we are coming down to the wire.  Hopefully you should be seeing a climax of sorts happening by this episode.  I have 3 episodes left and a cluster of scenes that make them up.  I knew I’d need to do some juggling to get the timing right on a lot of things so that’s why I planned it this way.  Ex: a scene I wrote for the finale is now being moved to next week’s episode.  It’s tricky.  The “killer” storyline is barreling to its conclusion, Eddie and Miranda are back on the mend, Brooke is about to learn that Kyle is more or less untrustworthy (whether warranted or not), and several key characters are set to make their return.  This week was Heather, and maybe Philip.  Although Philip was just a device I used to have someone tell Brooke the obvious – that her man juggling is getting ridiculous.  I could have handled this with a different character, but in the spirit of continuity, I decided on bringing him back for an episode. 

I’m enjoying these last few episodes because I’ve gotten to do some scenes I’ve always wanted to do.  The one with Lola being chased in the theatre was one of them.  It’s been an idea I’ve had for a scene for a long, long time.  I don’t know why.  I just like the dramatic, theatrical, symbolic feel of it.  Believe it or not, it was a scene that inspired the series.  Weird?  I know.   Have you noticed the “space” theme in this season?   Another obscure bunch of references I’ve wanted to do for a while.  Some of that should make more sense in the next episode. 

Also, bringing back some past characters has been fun.  Heather, Philip, and next week Winter Austen.  Plus I get to squeeze a few more scenes out of old standby peripheral characters like Marilee, and some with Kenny coming up soon.  

Finale in a month from today!  Heading home in a few days to finish it.  I hope everyone likes it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it. 

Thanks for your support.

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No Stone Unturned

Pretty straightforward episode I suppose.  It wound up having a little bit of an ominous feel, which was appropriate for the approaching holiday.  There’s lots of things to touch on right now and some more set up to do, which was largely what this episode was all about.  People have asked me “when are things going to start winding down?” Well, the truth is, they are winding down.  It just may not be especially visible to the reader.  Characters are having epiphany’s right and left, reflecting on their pasts and the things that make them who they are.  These are the things that I feel are important to closing down a series.   Of course there will be conclusions, revelations, reunions, and the like, as to be expected.  I think the finale will be satisfying to people who are familiar with the series.  But also, with a series that moves at the pace that The Blackthornes does, I can’t exactly start having people say their goodbye’s when there are still 4 episodes left! The action will take us through to the first part of the finale, which is going to be lots of fun to write.  I’m starting on it next week, actually.  Did I mention that?

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Mr. Brightside

So when I outlined this episode, I was high.  When I went to write it, I was not.  I wrote all the Moonshadows and serial killer scenes first and left the scenes with Brett till the end, thinking they would be a breeze.  Originally, I intended 3/4 of the episode to center on this story, drawing in a lot more past characters than I wound up using.  When I started writing those scenes, however, none of my outline made sense!  So in the end, I only used a few of those past characters, and in just a couple of scenes.    It was really disappointing that this “great idea” I had wound up being too ridiculous for words.  So I altered it quite a bit and I think what I was left with turned out okay.  Originally, there was a whole sub plot about Magnum and his parents.  It was basically a continuation of the story I did in early season 5 where Quinn faked Magnum’s disapperance so Eddie would come in and investigate.  Quinn just wanted to get close to Eddie, hoping he would fall for her and solve their family’s money problems.  Quinn and Magnum’s father had left their mother, leaving them broke.  In this follow-up to that, it was going to be revealed that their father left because their mother was having an affair with Van.  Thus the bigger motivation for Magnum to turn Van in to the police.  Instead, I took care of all that story in one or two sentences of exposition. 

In this episode, two characters that I’ve always envisioned as so minor that I never even bothered to make bios for, are featured fairly heavily.  Van Edgewater, who first appeared in episode 75 as a friend of Benji and Blake’s, has popped up now and then over the last three seasons, usually in support of Benji’s hijinks.  It’s a little late to give him a full fledged bio now, but I always envisioned him as the guy who played the Winklevoss twins in The Social Network

Next, his father, Deacon, has never really “appeared” on screen until the last episode.  His name has been dropped numerous times since the beginning of the series, though, as the CEO of Double Strike Studios, who produced some of Alex’s early films as noted in her StarLog page.  This is one of several characters that came about from my brainstorming names to plug into those StarLog pages (that haven’t been updated in forever, btw), without intentions of ever using them for actual story purposes.  (Others were Frank Dunning, Eric Autumn, Elana Hendricks, and Cassidy Solomon – who are coincidentally now all dead – LOL).  But here he is, making a real life appearance and a mini storyline of his own. 

While this little adventure of Brett’s is technically an extended way of solving his legal troubles with The Benefactor, it also has a couple of other intentions, which will be revealed in the coming episodes, and has a lot to do with how Brett’s character ends up in the series. 

I wanted to remind readers of Brett’s origins as an opportunistic con man, and as far as he’s come in six years, he’s still relatively the same.  I’ve said before that Brett is my favorite character in the series.  He’s really the one who was the most dispensible.  He has no real ties to anyone in the series (except for now that he has a daughter with Heather), so I always had to find ways to keep him around.  I like him because on the surface he’s this well-groomed, blue-eyed, blond-haired All American boy next door who looks like he could be straight from the Ivy League.  Inside, however, he’s devious.  But more than that, there’s a reason for his deviousness.  He has a daughter now whom he must provide for.  I did a flashback years ago that showed him at home with his father and his step mother and they treated him like shit.  He was young but had to leave home at an early age, resulting in him conning people to survive.  I like how far he’s come.  He took advantage of some people, but everything he has he’s earned.  He’s probably the most driven character in the series, and for the right reasons.  I’ll probably miss him the most.  One of my ideas for a new web series at one time was a spinoff featuring Brett working as a producer in the porn industry.  I don’t think that will ever happen, but I would have loved to continue writing this character. 

Lots of stuff to cover in the last 5 episodes!  But not so much that it will feel rushed or too bogged down.  I’m determined to have enough flexibility to really give everyone an appropriate send off rather than a rushed ending.   Back to writing!

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