Collins' Highlights from Otalia Orlando

So here are my thoughts from the day...

We (my sister- who has never even seen the show, but is very supportive of my craziness- and I) arrived around 9:30 in order to gauge how the autograph session would go at 2PM. That's when we were told that if we wanted to wait in line for the Q&A that they would probably be letting non-annual pass holders in. So we got in line. We were escorted into the fear factor auditorium over to the third row of bleachers stage left. michael o'leary (rick bauer) came out to introduce the different groups of actors. He introduced group #4, completely skipping 3. Apparently Crystal, Jess and Frank were in group #3 and they just walked out right in front of us. I saw Crystal, I squealed like a 12 year old girl at a Jonas Brothers concert, and then when she turned around to go back through the door because she thought she missed her cue, I saw her calf muscles (great legs) and literally thudded into my sister's lap.

I was determined to ask a question even though I hadn't prepared for one. I mean, we were expecting to get in. But I thought about all of us on the board and I wanted them to know how much we loved them. So I asked the question about fan response (which is way up earlier on this thread) and then sat there in rapt attention as Crystal and Jess spoke directly to our little section of BPD members. We all nodded in agreement to what they said and at the end of the answer, I think I yelled "thank you!" I'm just so appreciative to them.

Then, my sister Melissa (who doesn't even watch the show) asked Jess a question about how long she would be out for maternity leave and what they are going to do with her story.

Jess said she didn't know how long she would be gone or how the show would handle her absence. She said she is afraid to ask. She also said she likes to be surprised so she is just going with the flow as the storyline progresses. She did say she doesn't think she will be out more than the standard amount of time and that she hopes to not be gone from the show for long.

Side Note: Found out Ava is coming back! Did I miss that spoiler? How is this going to affect Otalia?

After the Q&A, Crystal walked purposefully over towards us while everyone else was leaving through the back. I walked right up to her no hesitation and shook her hand. Introduced myself again, and she thanked me for coming to the event. And was very effusive about the board. She is so thankful for how vocal we are, how we have so positively supported this storyline (even through what I call the hard times). I thanked her, yet again for doing the storyline justice. We both agreed that the writing has been superb. Then Jess walked over and gave me a hug and kissed me on the cheek.

She thanked all of us again for showing so much support for their story. Gwen gave them their buttons. They both were so excited. Crystal said the buttons were perfect. Exactly right. I told them that I was tweeting the entire day on the board and that everyone was following along from home. Crystal and Jess both said they loved the board and have visited it before. I told them how much we all love them and that the positive atmosphere over there is a direct reflection of them and the story they are telling. Then it was time for them to leave. We said we would see them at the autograph session.

Waiting to leave, the other BPD people and I did some speculating about the wedding and as we got outside the venue, we ran in to Jess (again) with Marcy Rylan (who plays lizzie). Apparently Jess's husband and Marcy's boyfriend were together waiting for them. As soon as they got out front, they were swarmed by fans. My sister and I helped take pictures for the fans and then tried to escort Jess and Marcy away. My protective mode came out pretty quickly. I didn't want to leave them to fend for themselves. Especially with Jess being so pregnant. We volunteered to walk with them to the front of the park, left them with their hubby and BF and made our way to sit somewhere and reflect. BTW, Marcy's and Jess's husbands had on matching outfits (white v-neck t-shirts and cargo shorts). When Marcy saw them, she looked at her boyfriend (who I think is named John) and said: "Why didn't you guys change when you saw you were dressed alike?" it was cute.

We returned for the autograph session around 12:30. Standing in line for over an hour was totally worth it because we were the first ones in line for that session. Crystal, Jess and Frank came out before the session started. I realized it would be the perfect opportunity to corner Frank about the storyline and welcome him to the Otalia family. I asked him if I could take a picture with him, under the condition that he pose with my "Team Otalia" sign. He was all for it. He says he loves the storyline, that he loves being a part of the storyline. And then gave the thumbs up in the photo. I asked him if he would like a button. That's when Crystal asked me for another one (she left the first one on her other shirt since she changed clothes for the autograph session).

When I gave Frank the Team Otalia button, he asked if we had any "Fratalia" buttons. I said, very snarkily, that we were not really on that bandwagon. Jess cracked up about that comment. I looked Frank in the face and said "You know what Frank; you know what we want for you? We want "Flynn". We want you with Lynn." Jess piped in and said "I think that's a great idea." And Frank responded, "Lynn, huh? That's interesting. I think I like that." I told him if he had any pull with the writers he should make that suggestion.

The autograph session:
I asked Jess and Crystal to sign my "Team Otalia" sign. I explained that our mantra on the board is "we want it" (which was on the bottom of the poster) and they both thought that was great. BTW, Jess's laugh, so amazing in person. She is a genuinely happy person. While they were signing, I handed Crystal the bag of jellybeans that I bought for Jackie (there was a little card in which I wrote "Thanks for playing the role of our little "jellybean" so well! Love, the Otalia Fan Forum" and a "Team Otalia" button attached) since she called Emma "jellybean". They both thought that was adorable. Apparently Jacqueline leaves candy for them outside their dressing rooms all the time and makes cards for them and slips them under their doors. Crystal said "She does [all this stuff] and then doesn't think we know who did it". I told her, well, now you all can leave something for her. She said she would definitely give them to Jackie. I thanked them again for all the great work that they've done and then made my way to Frank.

I so debated having Frank sign my Team Otalia sign, but you know, I'm really glad he did. It was probably the most "spoiler" worthy conversation of the whole day. I told Frank that this event- meeting him- was very psychologically cleansing for me because, well, last week I loathed him once I found out that Natalia was going to accept Frank's proposal. Jess looked over and smiled at that comment. Crystal let out a little chuckle. Frank told me that it was going to be a great story that it would be different, that it wouldn't go the way we might think it would. And he said "By the end, I guarantee you're gonna love me, not loathe me." And I said "I'm gonna love you huh?" and he shook his head yes. And I said "We're gonna love you enough over at the board that we are gonna want to add a thread for you?" And he said "Absolutely". I know officially no longer hate Frank. He just needs a non-Natalia lady friend. Where's Lynn? Someone get Lynn!

As we were walking away, I ran into Brian, Jess's husband. I introduced myself, told him I was from the board. He said that he and Jess love the board, that they visit "often". That they love how positive it is. He commented that some of the other boards are just so negative and hate-filled. He told me that he has said to Jess before "You will never guess what they said about you today" after reading other boards and that it is normally mean. I told him that we are very positive because we believe so much in what the show, the writers and Jess and Crystal are doing with the storyline. I did admit that sometimes, like last Tuesday, we lose our way for a couple of hours (after the Y2PoD) but we always come back to the happy place, because Otalia is the endgame. I told him that we have been really impressed with the caliber of acting Jess has been dishing out the last couple of months (he started to beam with pride after that comment, it was really cute) and that we are so excited that she and Crystal are the ones who are inhabiting these roles. That we feel blessed. He thanked us for the support. Said that he knows Jess appreciates it. I gave him an Otalia button, which he wore proudly for the rest of the day. I then asked completely inappropriate personal questions about the baby. They are having a girl. He was just beaming talking about being a father.

Stewart_Wade and I debriefed about our little conversations, and while checking her Twitter page, discovered Destini had left her phone number wanting to talk to one of us. I called her immediately. Relayed the details of the day so far. And then asked her if she wanted to talk to Crystal. Of course, Destini was all about that. well, I had been through the line already and couldn't walk back up there and hand Crystal the phone, so I recruited another member of the board *shout out to cherry blossom* who was still in line to call Destini right before her moment with the girls so Destini could talk to Crystal. Though it was touch and go there for a second, Destini did get through and Crystal (& Jess) talked to her for 15 or so minutes. Crystal seemed much more interested in talking to her than signing the autographs for the Frank fans who were just stopping before they got to him.

Side note: at one point during the session, a fan in a wheelchair came up. The counter they all were behind was too high for the woman to get a picture with Crystal, so Crystal laid down on the table and leaned over as far as she could so that they could take a picture together. When it was all over, Frank helped her back over to their side. Quite gentlemanly. And also shows how giving CC is. I heart them both.

After the session ended, we watched as the girls walked away. We waved, and they waved back. Frank even waved. Damn it. I think he has won me over. That's when all these press people, including Michael Fairman- who wrote the Advocate article- blew by to try and interview them. I yelled "Michael!" he turned around and acknowledged me. I said "I've been looking for you everywhere" (which is true, I even had my sister on the lookout for him since I knew from the OutQ radio interview that he would be there). And he said "I'll be back". We could see them over on the side of the theatre where the Q&A had been, interviewing CC, JL & FD (on another side note, I did not see the press interview anyone else after their session. And we saw three of the 6). After the interview was over, CC JL and FD came out towards us, and so did Michael and another journalist (who I unfortunately cannot remember her name…too much going on). They asked if they could interview me about the storyline, I said sure (even though I was like "why would you want to talk to me?") but made sure to ask Crystal if she and Jess would record a little message for the board. They both agreed.

This is when Stewart_Wade asked her to sign an 8x10 she had of her and asked to borrow my sharpie. Now, I'll admit the sharpie was big. And I had to explain which tip to use (it has a fine tip and a chisel tip). Crystal looked at it, uttered her now famous blue line and then looked at me incredulously. I said to her "I don't travel light". She just thought it was hilarious.

So while the girls were recording their message for the board I was interviewing with Michael. He asked me if I was an administrator from the board. I said, no, but I was one of the earlier members. He told me that he heard my question from the Q&A session from that morning and asked if I really had traveled from Atlanta just for this. I said "absolutely!" I told him his Advocate piece was amazing. He said "You're Collins, from Atlanta, right?" I said yes. He said he remembered my comment which is below...

QUOTE Awesome article! this made my night. and after the episode today with the proposal of denial at the end, i certainly needed it. Guiding Light has created a breathtaking and heart-racing love story between these two women over the last year. and they've done it without any fan fair or sensationalization. just great storytelling out of the GL writers, unrivaled acting from crystal and jessica and unwavering support from CBS and Telenext. This is the only show I lose sleep over, the only show I yell at the TV over, the only show I cry over. It truly has been a journey for all of us, and I can't wait to see where this road leads.

He asked me why I thought the story line was important. And I told him it was important for its normalcy. The way the show was portraying this family in everyday situations and that family just happened to be two women and a child. That it was important that it doesn't warrant special promotion or sensationalization to try and draw people in because the story speaks for itself. And it stands on its own. We talked about the story from Emma's point of view (how innocently she sees her family and her "two mommies". How she doesn't understand why anyone would not accept their family), we talked about Doris (how we were initially worried about it being a plot device to make another character gay and maybe they were trying to create a triangle, but how yet again, the GL writers did an amazing job. Oh, and also how great Orlagh is!).

I hit all the talking points. I told him how thankful I feel to have Crystal and Jessica to play these parts. We all know Crystal is a powerhouse, she delivers a master class performance every time. That's why she has been on so many soaps, any show would kill to have her. But Jess has shown great growth over the last few months in this storyline and now we are all quickly falling in love with her. I commended Ellen Wheller and Jill Lorie Hurst for taking a personal interest in this story and stated how privileged I felt to have found this storyline and to be a part of this moment. And we talked about the importance of the storyline to the GLBT community. But I was quick to point out that the story is bigger than that, that I always describe it as a "label-free love story" and that for as long as GL, EW, CC and JL don't label the relationship, I won't. Because labels limit the scope. And how they give power to those who want to oppose it. And then we talked about being let down by other shows.

Michael asked me if I watched any other soaps. I told him I was a previous AMC watcher, that I loved Bianca and that I continue to love Eden. He then brought up the current Binx storyline on AMC. We had a thoughtful conversation about where that story went wrong. He asked me what I thought about Tamara Braun. I told him that I really loved her as Carly on GH and knew her from her role as Ava on DOOL so when I heard that she would be playing Bianca's girlfriend, I was ecstatic. I was so happy that we would finally have a relationship for Binxs that didn't revolve around the "does she like boys or girls" question and yet that's what ended up happening anyway. I told him that I felt bad for Tamara, that in pre-air interviews she seemed genuinely excited about telling the story and then what was actually shown was completely different than what the girls thought it would be. He agreed. He said he just did an interview with her and that she was very honest about the whole thing. I get the feeling she feels as cheated as the rest of us.

Which is yet again, why I love GL so much. They are invested. And they are not gonna let us down, because this isn't a plot device, this is a super couple. An integrated into the town super couple. I know we talked about other things, but he recorded it so hopefully he will have the interview up somewhere sometime.

Michael did say that he just recorded a couple new video interviews with Crystal and Jess that should go up on his site soon, so look for those.

So that was my day ya'll. it was surreal while it was happening and now, looking back, it still is the craziest thing. But I so loved tweeting the event for everyone. It gave me a mission. And that made me be more forward. I didn't want to let a single board member down. I knew I had to represent us well. So thank you all for giving me a reason to put myself out there and speak some true words. Ours from CC and JL are coming, soon.

ETA: the shows that were filmed at universal will air starting on April 24th. The girls were not there for filming, but I think that they will integrate other storylines throughout those 7 days.

See all of Collins' photos