CENTER STAGE: Shawn Christian Delves Deep Into Addiction — At ‘DAYS’ and Beyond!
Deep down in the basement of NBC’s The Burbank Studios in Los Angeles, beneath the busy and hectic world of “Days of our Lives’” Salem, lies a cozy dressing room that offers a warm and comfortable respite from cameras, producers, directors, publicists, wardrobe and all of the other distractions of a daytime television set. The lighting is low, candles flicker, and there’s a plush, body-hugging beanbag that just begs any visitor to sit back, sink in and possibly take one of the best naps of all time. We at Soap Opera Network could have fallen into the beckoning trap, but the dressing room’s owner, Shawn Christian (Daniel Jonas), was way too excited to discuss his current storyline and his new television project, “Addicts Anonymous,” to allow any snoozing to happen. And as soon as the passionate actor launched into conversation, there was no desire for napping on our part, either! Read on for the exciting details Christian shared. But be warned: You’ll be on the edge of your seats (or, if you’re lucky, your beanbags).
First thing’s first: Christian is extremely passionate about the television project he’s producing, so much so that it radiates from him before he even opens his mouth. And when he does start talking about “Addicts Anonymous,” a single-camera mockumentary about college kids battling through different addictions that stars Molly Burnett (ex-Melanie Jonas, “DAYS”), Freddie Smith (Sonny Kiriakis, “DAYS”), Lori Loughlin (“Summerland,” “Full House”), Matt Walsh (“Veep,” “Ted”), Jerry Lambert (“Shameless,” “Family Guy”) and himself, the words almost don’t want to stop! “Freddie [and Jack Briggs and Nate Hartley] had been working on it for three years, and I had seen a clip of what they were doing, and I go, “Can I talk to you Freddie? I really love this show.’ And I shared with him my vision of how I imagined it to be, that it could truly be the breakfast club of this generation of college kids,” he says. “I didn’t know the tone yet, but I expressed how I imagined it in having relatable characters for everybody, and I pitched it to him and he said, ‘Oh my god, I love that direction.’”
Christian’s ideas eventually won him the title of executive producer, and he and the team have since created what the actor says is an unbelievably funny and beautiful package of six 10-minute episodes which he hopes will be picked up by a television network. “I’m going to try and sell it as a series, a single camera comedy like ‘The Office,’” he shares. “There would be no greater high than to get this show picked up, and all of these people, who I think are brilliant actors, let that build their career. And I could watch them just explode. I would be in heaven. That would be the greatest rush, because they are all so talented.”
And that’s something he truly means, as he’s been working round the clock to make it happen. “I’m on the phone with entertainment lawyers and writing up contracts and marketing and trademarking, and I’ve built a website, and I’m working on getting the name and the rights to it, and we’ve got this campaign on Kickstarter, and we’re honoring all of those commitments,” he says in one breath. “It’s a challenge. But it’s like, I am addicted to it! I am truly. It’s not like work. It is my addiction.”
Funny enough, Christian’s day job has also required him to delve deep into the world of addiction. As J.J. (Casey Moss) spirals more and more out of control, Daniel is forced to take a step back from Jennifer (Melissa Reeves). And being told to fly a kite has been a tricky situation for the doc. “Jennifer is trying to juggle being the best mother she can and also move forward as a widow in her romantic life — and the priority is obviously her children,” Christian explains. “It is a really classic tale of a single parent trying to move on with a romantic life. It’s very, very challenging, and it’s hard to rebuttal [her choice to put J.J. first], certainly because Daniel has his own child, and he knows he’d put the kid first. So he has to learn to step back, but it’s not so gracefully.”
In fact, as we’ve started to see already, Daniel takes some drastic steps to alleviate the situation — which only seems to make it worse! “[He goes] for steps to care for or protect Jennifer, and puts himself and his reputation in jeopardy. And consequently, J.J. has to try and figure out who the real Daniel is,” the actor says. “It’s actually very interesting, because it culminates with Daniel’s history, where he’s been and where he’s at now and where he’s trying to go. And J.J. has got to weave through all of that, and so does Jennifer, to get to why he’s trying to do what he is doing. It doesn’t look good on the surface.”
Consequently, Daniel isn’t sure if he’s coming or going. “There are secrets that [he’s] being put in a position to withhold from Jennifer, and it’s all to protect her, but what you put at risk is your trust,” he explains. “But he can’t come forth and [reveal anything], because there are other ramifications for her son, who will now get in some serious legal trouble. And so Daniel doesn’t know whether he should step in or step out. The more he steps in, the more complicated and angry he gets, and… it truly makes her life hell. So it gets very complicated.”
Drugs, parenting, tortured pasts and pushed-off romance certainly make for an exciting storyline, but the actor says it’s just one example of why “DAYS” has had such lasting power. “The show has done a great job throughout history of taping into that fantasy world of that high-arc romance and drama and still having a grounded storyline and relatable storylines to people, which is very hard to do,” he explains. “That’s how these shows started — relatable, in your home. It wasn’t such this dramatic thing when it first started. It was the housekeepers… and these relatable storylines, couch and coffee scenes, and kitchens and family. “DAYS” has always remained true to its family root storylines, which is a testament for how many generations. You have J.J. and Jennifer and the grandparents and everybody here. So I think it’s done a great combination of family and relatable storylines as well as this high-arch drama and fantasy. It’s a great tradition, and I’m proud to be a small part of it.”