Chris McKenna tells us about his time on daytime soaps and what the future holds. Read more here--->>>
Chris McKenna's family lineage is one of professional athletes and scholars. But Chris had his own ideas. He came out of the womb singing, dancing and doing impressions. Chris seized his big opportunity for stardom when he landed a role in his school's play of Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs as Dopey (Dopey never looked so good!). His only line was "I love you Snow White." The whole crowd cheered and Chris knew this is what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.
His mom, as any good mom would ask around on what the next step should be. The recommendation was clear, Chris belonged in New York. There Chris landed more roles, garnered more attention and landed more feature roles. He was cast in an after-school special for HBO. From there, his soap career began at the age of 12 when he was cast as Joey Buchanan on One Life to Live. Chris talked about the groundbreaking arc during his time with the show.
Joey Buchanan, many actors had the opportunity to play Joey Buchanan but you had the opportunity to play him at a unique time. One Life to Life was ahead of the times with their story of Billy Douglas the first openly gay character. Tell us how it was on set. The first gay teen character that was revolutionary in the early 90's.
Chris: I know and to be honest at the time I couldn't appreciate it. I didn't have context. It wasn't a big deal to me as I realized it was later. I mean people would tell me. But I couldn't appreciate it. It was maybe six or seven years ago I got a fan letter from somebody who said that he was gay. And that he hadn't told anybody. He didn't realize he was. He didn't realize it. He didn't realize wasn't alone until he watched that and how much it affected him. I wrote him back. I was crying. There were many stories like that people would tell me back then. I was gracious about it but I really didn't appreciate how important it was. I'm really proud to have been a part of it.
Absolutely. And the world, thank God, movies, TV, we've all made such great strides in that area. Still, a long way to go.
Chris: Of course.
But definitely a big difference between now and Joey and Billy.
Chris: Absolutely. Thankfully that started a trend at least in that venue. It's really important. Something I'm proud of and that letter really affected me. Just the fact that it affected one person that way was important.
Very important. Now on the other side of the soap spectrum, there is Detective Harding. He started off a little hard but in a nice way. But then he became the cabin killer. When you came on did you have any idea where things were headed? Or was it one of those things where you came on for one thing and then well we are going to go in another direction? It seemed like it was one thing and then it was totally something else.
Chris: Yeah, there was the changing of the guards there...Originally, I was a replacement. I was replacing Chavez. I came on. I had a great time. It was so fun being back on a soap set after 20 years or maybe it was more than that. They liked what I was doing. They went back to reshooting scenes to add more Harding and that was great. We had a great time. I was really busy doing other stuff. Then there was the changing of the guards with producers. And then it turns out Harding was the killer. Yes, that was a surprise.
Yes for us too. We thought Harding was going to stay around. For me personally, I was hoping you'd mix it up with Abby or something like that. I was hoping for a longer term.
Chris: It seemed like the plan. Also, at the time I was doing State of Affairs the Katherine Heigl show. They didn't know what was happening with those things. So, there was more at play.
Yes, I loved you on that show. You all were hot. I was so disappointed when it was canceled. I don't know if that's professional but you all were hot. (laughter)
Chris: It's very professional. (laughter). I appreciate it. I had a great time. And yes I miss Harding too. If you recall he did drop the fact that he had a brother on the phone right before he died. They built in the back door.
We are going to keep that in mind. Especially in Genoa City, they need some more men on canvas.
Chris: Real men right? (laughter)
Yes. Real men. (laughter) We need a couple more men to mix it in with Sharon, Phyllis and Abby so you never know. What about B&B? They buzz was you were Katie's new man and then you weren't Katie's new man.
Chris: I don't know. I read all the buzz too. They called me and asked me if I'd come in. I did. I had worked with Heather Tom before. She's great. I worked with her on Rizzoli & Isles. They didn't ask me about my opinion. (laughter). They had me come in. I can't tell you what their plans were. But it turned out I only did one of those.
We had you all hooked up with Katie. Then we were like wait what happened?
Chris: Yes, it was great for fan fiction. But for now, it still remains fiction...I love soap operas. That's where I started. I love the way they work. It's so much fun on those sets.
Any preference? Your resume is so extensive film, TV, soap opera. Do you have a preference?
Chris: I make a point to not have a preference. I enjoy doing all of it. I try not to go too long without doing a play because theatre is where I actually started before soaps. I love theatre and I've always been active in that community. It's been a couple years since I've done one and I'm about due for another. Because I don't want to lose-I hear you lose the nerve to go on stage after it's been too long. It gets too easy too cushy in front of the camera with extra takes. I don't want that to ever happen. But I love doing film. I love television. I love doing soaps and theatre. I can't pick a preference, if I like the role if I like the people I'm working with, if I like the script. I love the work. I love the work. I love this job. It's my favorite. It's the only thing I'd ever want to do.
If you weren't doing this, there is nothing else-some people say I would have been a doctor. A vet-
Chris: No-never-you, don't want me operating on anybody. (laughter).
Well, how about a salesman? (laughter) So for you, it was acting or bust?
Chris: I could play any of those literally on camera. But no matter what I'm going to be drawn to entertainment. I've been writing now. I've done a little directing. I want to do everything involved-I love bringing stories. And I love the power that theatre, television and film have on people I know. I know the power it had on me, the effect they had on me. I'm intoxicated by it. I'm always going to be involved.
Chris is writing, developing and launching new projects. He can't tell us the specifics yet. But he promises to let us know when he can. Chris is excited about his new endeavors. He loves being a "rookie" again after being a veteran for so long. He is learning new things and having fun.
There was a One Life to Live reunion a couple of months ago. It was the first time Chris had seen Erin Torrey and Kirk Geiger in decades. Chris said, "it was incredible to reconnect with them."
Chris is still very much a part of the soap family. "I love the fans. I still follow all the soaps and all the soap fans. It's been a love affair since I was eleven."
Chris, the love affair goes both ways!