Ten Minutes with Charles Divins

by Ross von Metzke


Saturday March 17, 2007

One minute Passions' Chad was all hot and bothered over getting back together with Whitney. The next he's shacking up on the side-with a man.

The daytime soap best loved for its over the top, outlandish storylines doesn't always make the most sense when it comes to character development, but its never had a problem being timely or pushing buttons.

Which is why Passions' latest undertaking-a character on the down low-seems so at home on the soap, which will end its run after eight years on NBC in September. With Charles Divins in the role of Chad, a man who's offered no indication he's into anything other than women, the storyline runs the risk of being inaccurate-possibly even downright offensive.

Unless, of course, you consider the following: Passions has more gay storylines going than any other shows on television. Not only that, they're black, which is a demographic severely under represented on television unto itself, not to mention the near non-existent presence of black, gay characters on television. Sure, this may be the same show that broke up a brawl in Rome with last minute assistance from a band of dykes on bikes, but its also taking risks where other TV shows have failed.

We sat down with Charles to talk about his character's sudden outing, the mood on the set and how Oprah played a key role in honing his performance.

Q: Finding out that Chad is gay is a really big change in your storyline on Passions, because we haven't had any indication in the past that he has any interest in men and he's been so devoted to making a life with Whitney.

Charles Divins: Yeah, as far as a character change, there couldn't be anything bigger, more out of the blue. It's one of those things, obviously if you watch the show, it's been building as a mystery who he's been seeing. So it was a thought that crossed everyone's mind before, but it was just a matter if (the writers) were going to go there or not.

Q:: Were you shocked?

CD:: Yeah, I was actually kind of shocked, because they could have gone so many different places, and because it's a pretty heavy storyline to pull out on Passions. Obviously, it's socially conscious, but I was kind of surprised they'd go there.

Q:: How familiar were you going into the storyline with the whole concept of men being on the down low?

CD:: You know, it's been on Oprah. Once it's been on the book club (laughs)... But, especially in the black community, it's something that is known and that its talked about.

Q:: I think it's really interesting on Passions that the gay storylines they've tackled are with black characters.

CD:: Every storyline we've tackled... (laughs) I mean, what haven't we tried? No, seriously, it is interesting.

Q:: Are you expecting any sort of negative feedback?

CD:: A lot of the fans who have followed Chad are going to have a negative reaction just because it basically destroys any hope of Whitney and Chad being together, but hopefully, the response will be good with regard to the portrayal of a gay character and the fact that there isn't another black, gay character on daytime.

Q:: Did you have any fears going into the storyline?

CD:: No. I mean, there's always concern, but it's 2007. It's a lot more visible on TV and in society.

Q:: Passions is known for being pretty out there and over the top with their storylines? What's the challenge as an actor to avoid making the character a stereotype?

CD:: That's the wash. With this kind of storyline, you want to make it as grounded and real as possible. And this storyline isn't just about Chad being gay, it's about him coming to terms with who he is sexually, so that's the underlying storyline, underneath all of the big drama we put on the show. It's kind of hard to find the balance and still fit into the tone of what Passions is, to try and tell a story that is interesting and has some real roots.

Q:: I know that Passions is going off the air in September. Is it tough playing out a storyline like this knowing there's a set time it has to end?

CD:: Yeah, because it's so new, and it's tough playing out a storyline when you know it doesn't really go anywhere. You know, it's a good storyline, something that could have some good drama behind it. It's a full character change, it's just not going to play out. It's going to be four months and then we go off the air. And you know how slow things move on Passions.

Q:: On any soap! So what's the mood like on the set?

CD:: Everybody's sad, excited-everybody has a different outlook on what the ending of the show means. There are people who've been on since the beginning, and it's been on for almost a decade now, it's been home-most of their adult life has been spent here. But you know, change is good, baby.

- Passions is on NBC weekdays. For more information, visit the Passions website.

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