Julie Carruthers, AMC remote filming
Today, September 23, marks the end of an era — the final day of ABC's airing of All My Children.
Most of the executives behind daytime television are women. A lot of them, like Julie Carruthers, put the juggling in the movie I Don't Know How She Does It to shame. Daytime producers have work, family, and an enormous long-term “work family” to juggle.
Carruthers is the single mom of two. Her children's father passed away, so she truly is doing it all.
As Julie says, “Working on soaps is more than a job, it’s a life choice!” Their entire lives, her children have been accustomed to script readings and DVD viewings interwoven into their days. They learned to read by highlighting sight words in her scripts — her daughter with General Hospital and her son with All My Children.
Julie admits, “I could probably get a mommy reprimand for integrating daytime drama with Dr. Seuss, but my work has always been a part of my home life and my family has always been a part of my work life.”
As a master juggler, miraculously, her kids’ schedules are in her head. She says, “My work schedule somehow integrates in my brain with my mom schedule, and when there is a conflict I try to navigate around it before there is a collision.” Recently she had to be in New York to be a part of the tribute to All My Children on The View the same day as “Back to School” night. When she realized she had a problem, she just reached out to the teachers to make sure she would stay in the loop of school life.
Juggling comes naturally for Carruthers, as it does for most producer types. But, unlike Sarah Jessica Parker’s character in the movie I Don’t Know How She Does It, she does have a thing about baking into the wee hours of the morning for school bake sales. Her kids usually suggest she buy the treats to save herself some time but, she confesses, “I guess that is my neurosis; to be the June Cleaver mom I thought I'd be when I was growing up.”
Carruthers is as Cleaver-like as they come in the industry. All soap producers end up being “mom” on some level to dozens of actors and usually over 100 staff and crew. The soap casts and crews are more like family than almost anything you find in the entertainment industry. They personally invest in each other and a trust builds.
Cast of All My Children on set
Trust is a big deal for Carruthers. She knows her kids know they can depend on her. She also knows the executives above her can be certain she is there for them. Her cast and crew know it too: “When the creative talent feels they can trust the person guiding them, they are more apt to take chances, make bold choices, and ultimately stretch past their comfort zone. When that happens successfully, that's when you see magic!”
Luckily Carruthers hasn’t had to forfeit creating magic for her family, her work, or herself. She started watching soaps when she was in junior high, and All My Children was her favorite. Her first soap-related job was working as a production assistant on the Daytime Emmys, where she had to shoot some behind-the-scenes footage for the ceremony. Twenty years later she walked onto the set as the new executive producer. She is humbled by her career at All My Children, saying, “It was and has been a huge honor to be a part of such a significant history.”
Everyone is, of course, hoping the AMC family will remain intact and the Pine Valley adventures will continue. Prospect Park, the visionary production company hopes to continue the production values with the same team for viewing via the internet and possibly cable as well.
Leave it to Beaver left the ABC airwaves far too early for its fans' taste, as will All My Children today. Luckily Prospect Park is working on moving it into the future with grace, and Julie will likely continue to make daytime magic. If AMC doesn't move into the future, Julie will certainly continue to delight and create in her inimitable high-powered creative mom way, following her passions both at home and at work.
We’ll never know if June Cleaver could have produced a soap opera as elegantly as Carruthers has. Carruthers hasn’t had a Ward Cleaver, and June didn’t have a more than full time job. I think Carruthers, like her many sister producers in daytime, who “have it all” should have June needlepoint them a nice little pillow that says “I don’t know how I do it, but I do it, and I love it!”