YCDTOTV.com spoke with versatile cast member Abby Hagyard about her time on the show, and below is what she had to say!
How did you become involved with YCDTOTV?
The kids were trained by acting coach Carole Hay. When Ruth Buzzi was no longer being used on the show and they were looking for a replacement, Carole suggested my name. I met with Geoff and Roger over lunch and was hired on the spot!
Describe what it was like to be involved in such a popular TV show.
The show was great fun. The kids were terrific, and the crew at CJOH in Ottawa is the best. You must remember, though, that from our perspective up in Canada the show was quite unknown until it was picked up by YTV. We had no idea that we were so popular until we traveled to the US on promotional tours. What a surprise!
What is your first memory of YCDTOTV? Your best? Your worst? Your funniest?
My first memory of the show is the first rehearsal I attended. I sat in for about 20 minutes then Roger Price took me outside. "How do you feel working with my 'bratties'?" he asked. I said, "Roger, I've only been in there 20 minutes. At this point all I feel is tall!"
My best memory is getting surprise chocolates on Mother's Day one year from the entire cast of kids. I made the mistake of offering them around and I thought I was going to be trampled in the stampede. Can you tell I don't have children!?!
My worst memory is the last taping day. Very sad to say good-bye to the kids, to Roger and to a great show.
My funniest memory... that's tough! There are so many. I guess the best one was on the 'poltergeist' show. On my cue (I thank the poltergeist for taking care of the dishes for me) these dishes are supposed to disappear in a small explosion. Our SFX man was having a lot of trouble getting the sink full of dishes to explode. After four tries, he loaded the sink with this HUGE charge. When the line came and he hit the button he nearly blew up the entire building. You can actually see my hair flatten from the blast and a moving shadow is a light screen flailing around just out of camera range. No one could hear... Les couldn't get his voice... and then the giggles hit us all.
Let's try some name association. What comes to mind when I mention the following cast members:
Christine McGlade: The most natural TV talent I've ever seen. Funny thing was, she didn't care if she EVER did a show again.
Les Lye: The best. Funny, amazing writer, terrific actor, generous, kind... They don't make them like Les any more.
Lisa Ruddy: She had/has incredible potential and it kind of got lost when Christine was on camera. Very sweet, very generous, an excellent sense of humor.
Alasdair Gillis: He and I started on the show the same day. He's a really nice guy. Extremely shy at first. Mischievous. He got out of acting for a while, traveled to Europe. I hear he's doing some work again. He's very talented.
Doug Ptolemy: I have good memories of a vacation in Miami with Doug. He was one of those deviant kids that was cute enough to get away with just about anything. So of course he tried just about anything!
Chris Bickford: Chris joined the show near the end, and I have to say that next to Alasdair, he was just about my favorite. Moody, but yet very funny. We had some amazing scenes together.
Vanessa Lindores: She always got these awful scenes with her braces and glasses taking so much attention. She was fun.
Justin Cammy: Very smart and lots of fun. He's since gone on to teach.
Klea Scott: She's now working in television in the US (Brooklyn South was the last show I saw her on, I think). She was wonderful on our show.
Alanis Morissette: Everyone wants to know about her now. She always seemed older than her age, and though she was lots of fun and worked hard and did great scenes, I always had the feeling she was working on something bigger. Guess I was right!
Kevin Kubusheskie: I'll never forget the day we all realized he was suddenly too tall to be on the show. It seemed as if it happened overnight! We had to shoot all his scenes sitting down. He was a lot of fun.
Describe the process for taping a show.
Shows were taped in blocks of five episodes. All the kitchen scenes shot together, then the living rooms, classrooms, dungeons, etc. (Because I usually appeared at home as Mom, or in the Library as the Librarian, or an occasional odd character there were times when I hardly saw the rest of the cast.) Then the shows were pieced together in the editing suite. A block of shows, including rehearsals (Monday through Friday after school) and tapings (Saturdays and Sundays, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.) would last about a month. Then they'd edit the show and get scripts ready for the next block. Two or three months later we'd start the process all over again.
What were your favorite sketches to do?
All of them. It was a great show and the scripts were fun.
How was your relationship with Roger Price? How about Geoffrey Darby?
Geoff Darby got his start with Roger Price and YCDTOTV. He was very young, but extremely good with the kids from the very beginning. He had a strange sense of humor, but was totally professional. Roger Price is eccentric, brilliant, totally committed to quality entertainment for and with kids, and an important influence in the development of television comedy in North America. I really liked them both a great deal.
Yellow gloves... What's up with those?
When we shot the first few shows, the Nickelodeon producer's decided my hands were far too elegant to belong to a housewife. It was my idea to just hide them and eliminate the problem altogether. You'll notice the librarian wore white cotton gloves as well.
When you look at the entire cast of the show's run, what era of the show do you feel was the best in terms of creativity and acting?
My first appearance on the show was 1982. I was very fond of those first episodes with Kube and Alasdair, Christine and Lisa, Justin and Dougie and Vanessa. Lots of the later shows were great, and as I said, I was very fond of Chris Bickford. But I think the show lost most of its charm for me when we became 'famous' here at home. The kids weren't the same. They were more aware that they were becoming 'stars'. I guess I enjoyed the days when we were just shooting this crazy show and having fun.
Who were your favorite kids to work with? What was your favorite episode?
Alasdair and Chris, Lisa and Klea and Liz, Alanis, Kube were probably my favorite kids. My favorite episode??? You must be kidding. I loved them all. There was an episode with Chris Bickford when I had to keep getting him dressed for school. And when I washed his leather jacket and it shrank. When I became a werewolf. When Les and I were hobos on the street. When we were driving in the car with the dog. Most of the kitchen scenes. When Les and I were Santa and Mrs. C. Get the idea? This isn't easy!
What were your feelings about the 1989 cast being almost totally revamped? Did it worry you that none of the old school kids were there, or did you figure the kids would easily fit into the system?
Two things happened in 1989. First, we thought the show was going to be cancelled. Second, it seemed as if everyone suddenly got too old. Roger was very determined that the kids on the show would leave once they looked too mature to be playing young teens any more. It broke his heart, but that's why the show was a success for so long: our young audience really felt they could relate to our actors because they were the same age and the subject matter never got too sophisticated. So, in 1989 we literally had to start over. But it was a good formula, great writing and excellent directing. The kids got first rate training. How could the show not be a hit? (Besides, think of all the talent Les and I brought to the show "cough, cough")
Why do you suppose the show had such a small Canadian following being that it was produced in Canada?
Rumor had it that the head of CTV (back then) hated the show and did everything possible not to encourage it. That's probably not true. Another rumor had it that Toronto was jealous that a hit show was being shot in Ottawa and did everything possible to try to kill it. That's probably not true either. Or maybe they're both true. You decide.
Do you keep in contact with anyone still? Anyone stand out as lifelong friends from YCDTOTV?
Sure. I've done a lot of work with Les Lye over the years. I run into several of the kids every now and again. Ottawa is a funny city. Stay here long enough and everyone comes back.
What have you been doing since your time with YCDTOTV?
I've been so busy since the show ended I don't know how I had the time to do it! I've appeared in The Care Bears and The Adventures of Teddy Ruxpin. I've written, produced and performed 14 stage plays. I wrote a stage comedy show that was adapted for CTV back in 1992. It was called, "Gloves Off!" (guess why) I've been producing a live talent show series since 1998 that tours community events across the province (so far)... fairs, festival, exhibitions. We're working on a pilot with Carleton Productions (they co-produced YCDTOTV) and they hope to show it to the national specialty cable Life Channel. The showcase is called, "Abby Hagyard's Catch A Rising Star". I've also created an interactive series of high performance training workshops called, "First Person Singular". These are really catching on. People are tired of high priced 'guru' types lecturing at them. They want solutions that actually have some connection to THEM. First Person Singular is extremely interactive and has lots of humor. My client list (just since 1994) includes hospitals, universities, legal firms, high tech companies, social service agencies and clinics, youth groups, parenting groups, etc.
Anything else you would like to tell fans about the series?
There is one thing no one has ever talked about on YCDTOTV: The most extraordinarily talented woman, who worked on the show in its entirety and who made the show what it was, was Liz Ciesluk. She was the make-up, hair and costume genius who built all the padded clothing and costumes, designed all the characters and gave us life. She is one of the best make up artists working in North America today. These days she does a lot of specialty work with film and operas. In addition, she is a gifted renaissance art dollmaker. I'm very proud to call her a friend (in spite of how she made me look!). Lizzie doesn't have a web site up yet, but she's working on it. I'll send you the address when it's done. I guarantee it'll blow you away.