As the World Turns hit the airwaves over fifty years ago. In the time since, the show has had its share of TV firsts … and it’s about to have another. For the first time ever on a daytime drama, we’re about to get a bona fide teen gay male couple. For some time now, we’ve watched as Luke Snyder (played deftly by Van Hansis) came out to his friends and family. For a genre not known for its subtlety, his coming out journey has been surprisingly realistic and poignant. Luke wasn’t the first gay male character on the show, but he has been the first to come from a central family and receive a significant story arc of his own.
A few weeks ago, the show added Jake Silbermann as Noah Mayer, an intern at the TV station at which Luke and his friend Maddie are working for the summer. Luke has been fighting his growing attraction to the seemingly straight Noah, especially as Noah started a romance with Maddie. But last week the boys did some sparking of their own when they ended up shirtless and in one another’s arms. Tomorrow, they exchange their first kiss: What does that mean for the show and for them?
We spoke with Jake Silbermann to find out.
AfterElton.com: As the World Turns is one of TV’s oldest daytime dramas. You’re making history as the first gay male teen couple on the show and, in fact, on daytime TV. How does that feel?
Jake Silbermann: I’m really proud to be a part of that kind of storyline, that kind of history. It is kind of a milestone for daytime television. As an actor, you hope you can play a role with meaning, but I never even hoped it would have this kind of significance, so I’m thrilled.
AE: Do you feel a sense of responsibility about the role?
JS: Just as much as I do with any role — just to play it honestly and truthfully to that character’s description — but I mean, yes, of course.
AE: So often when a show adds a gay character, that’s the only gay character on the show. But ATWT already has Luke, played by Van Hansis. Did Van take you under his wing and tell you what to expect?
JS: Both Van and Alex [Alexandra Chando who plays Maddie Coleman], who I work with a lot, they’ve been at this longer than I have. Generally, you learn from the people around you, and yeah, absolutely, I’ve learned a whole lot from both of them.
AE: I assume you knew you were auditioning for a gay role? How did you feel about the prospect of playing a gay character?
JS: I was excited. It sounded like a really different role for daytime, which it is. I was really excited about that.
AE: We recently did an interview with Paul James who plays Calvin on ABC Family’s new college drama Greek.
JS: Paul James and I went to Syracuse College together.
AE: That’s awesome. He told us a story about his manager telling him everyone plays gay and it’s no big deal while Greek’s creator Sean Smith told us there are still plenty of actors — straight and gay — who won’t play gay. Do you know actors still afraid of gay roles? What are your thoughts about that since having taken the role of Noah?
JS: That really wasn’t too much my experience. I know all types of people, and you always get different reactions when you tell people that you’re playing a role like this. Some people are just totally supportive, and yes, some people I’ve encountered are like, “Really? How do you feel about that? Are you okay with that?” And I explain to them I’m an actor who’s really happy to be playing this character.
AE: Did you read with Van to see what your chemistry was like with him?
JS: Yeah, we did. Van was present at one of our final auditions. We read together, and it was very natural.
AE: Gay fans have worried that the relationship between Luke and Noah would be treated differently than the relationship between the show’s straight characters. Was there a lot of discussion about that on set?
JS: Definitely not. No one ever said to me we’re going to treat this differently than a straight relationship. Nobody ever came to me. I knew the story we’re trying to tell, and it has to be told the same as it would be with anybody. I mean, maybe it’s a little more careful just in the sense that it is the first gay [teen male] couple on daytime television.
Lisa Lugassy (Senior Publicist for As the World Turns): If I can just interject for a second, I’ve listened to our head writer answer this question many times, and she’s said on more than one occasion that she really feels they’re telling this story the same way they’d tell any other love story, and the complaints that it’s taking too long is the same complaint they hear with all other love stories as well. It’s just the nature of daytime television.
JS: That sounds about right.
AE: Soaps are obviously known for their steaminess and the episode from last week where you and Van are shirtless and end up in each others arms fits the bill as steamy. Can fans expect to see more of that between the two of you?
JS: You’ll just have to tune in and find out. [laughs]
AE: Actors often say romantic scenes are awkward to play. How do you and Van approach them?
JS: I think they’re only awkward if you lose touch with where the character is coming from or who he is. Those scenes are important. Those moments are what romances are built off of. I personally don’t find them awkward whether they’re between me and Van or me and Alex. As long as it’s coming from a real place, it’s not awkward.
AE: Luke and Noah finally kiss tomorrow. Does Noah realize he is actually gay then or is he still trying to figure things out?
JS: Noah is definitely still trying to figure things out, and in some ways, the kiss brings up a whole new set of questions for him.
AE: Noah is very different from Luke who knew he was gay for a long time whereas Noah seems to be just figuring it out. Do you know anyone who went through something similar? Did you talk with someone gay for advice on how to play the role or what Noah might be feeling or thinking?
JS: No, I didn’t seek out any advice because I don’t think it’s really any different for a straight person or a gay person who is feeling these things. I think everybody understands the idea of being confused by the feelings that they’re feeling.
AE: How do you think Noah’s dad is going to react when he learns the truth?
JS: I think we can expect a very negative reaction from Noah’s dad.
AE: Can you give us a hint about what’s next for the two of them?
JS: The story is really about to just pick up. After the kiss, it’s really just beginning for them. I think there’s a lot of great stuff on the horizon. I don’t want to hint too much because part of the fun is not knowing.
AE: Conflict is drama, as they say, and that’s especially true on a soap opera where anything can happen. What would you like to see happen between Luke and Noah?
JS: Hmm. Drama is the best thing for a show, but I’d really like to see the characters move along with their relationship. I’d like to see them experience the same things a lot of the other relationships on the show have experienced.
AE: The scene when Luke came out to you was well written and you guys did a great job of acting in it. Have you ever had a friend come out to you?
JS: No, actually I haven’t. Not to me. Not the way it happened between Luke and Noah. I have had friends who have, over the course of growing up, come out.
AE: Today’s youth seems much more open minded about gay relationships. How do you think the older audiences will respond to the storyline?
JS: I don’t know. It’s definitely different for everybody, but I know I’ve already been contacted by people who wish this storyline was around when they were younger. We’re dealing with a lot of things that they’ve experienced in their lives.
AE: Folks would like to now more about you. How old are you and where are you from?
JS: I’m 24. I’m from the New York area, the East Coast.
AE: Did you always want to act?
JS: When I was younger, actually, I wanted to draw for comic books.
AE: Do you still pursue that?
JS: No, not really. I let that go a while ago. I doodle, but that’s about it.
AE: Single? Dating?
JS: I’m single.
AE: Any other projects in the works?
JS: Not at the moment. Right now I’m just concentrating on this storyline.
AE: Thanks so much for talking to us, Jake. We’re looking forward to seeing where this story goes.
JS: I really appreciate that. I just hope you all are enjoying it and I’m doing the character justice.