Can things get any crappier for One Life to Live's Bo and Nora Buchanan? Oh, yes indeed. The fan-fave couple — played by Emmy winners Robert S. Woods and Hillary B. Smith — are currently in a mess o' trouble because their teen son Matthew killed Eddie Ford, the town psychopath, and they have yet to report it. Their intentions are good — they're trying to find the best way to help Matthew (Eddie Alderson) through the legal system — but it's a clear obstruction of justice made worse by the fact that Bo is the police commissioner and Nora is the D.A. Now they've got bigger problems: This coming week, their kid is punched in the head during an altercation with Eddie's son, Nate. On May 23, Matthew will collapse and, later, he's diagnosed as being very nearly brain-dead. Then comes word that Bo's brother Clint (Jerry verDorn) needs a new heart or he will die. You can see where this plot might go. TV Guide Magazine spoke with Woods and Smith about this tragic one-two punch for the Buchanans and — of course — that even bigger blow called cancellation.
TV Guide Magazine: Before we discuss Bo and Nora's troubles, let's get the real-life trauma out of the way. How are you guys dealing with the end of OLTL?
Woods: We were all blindsided by the news that we'll go off the air in January, but we're doing OK, I guess. It's weird. We thought we were in pretty good shape.
Smith: When I was on The Doctors we got canceled and we were only two weeks ahead back then. It was so abrupt. I like that we have seven months to get our act together. Even before we got the official word, I kind of thought we were in trouble and I was concerned that they'd stop us before we had a chance to write appropriate endings.
Woods: All of us are determined to go out on top — proud, strong, head held high.
Smith: I want us to go out with every fan celebrating how much they love the show, not by boycotting us as some people want to do. We should keep OLTL vital and alive for as long as possible so that when we do go off the air we all feel satiated. After that, we can decide how we want to react, but while we're still on the air, let's celebrate. I know there's a feeling of great helplessness and ownership. How can you do this to what is mine? Our show is a legacy that keeps our audience connected to the past, to their upbringing, to their mothers and grandmothers. And it's being dismissed. Our fans aren't just heartbroken about losing their soap, they're heartbroken for the genre.
TV Guide Magazine: Despite all of Bo and Nora's troubles, isn't it great they're going through this hell together? There are so few real couples in soaps anymore. Watching you two back together makes us feel better about the world, schlocky as that sounds.
Woods: It's what this medium is all about. It's about the decisions you have to make that put you to the test. Bo and Nora are being tested emotionally, physically and spiritually but they're hanging together and fighting as a team. They make each other strong enough to take on the world, which is cool.
Smith: We're living in an ADD world and so many relationships reflect that. Despite their struggles and estrangements in the past, Bo and Nora have an enviable relationship, and that's what people want to watch. [Laughs] Just this morning, a lady at Lord & Taylor told me how lucky I am to be married to a real hunk like Bo Buchanan. Woodsy, she told me to tell you, "Hey, from Mae at Lord & Taylor out in Bridgewater, New Jersey!"
Woods: I might have to make a trip out there. [Laughs]. That reminds me of all the times women have come up to my wife, Loyita, and said, "I wish I had a husband like Bo Buchanan." And Loyita always says, "Yeah, me, too." [They both laugh hysterically]
Smith: One time back in 1990-something, one of the people in our production office called me to get a hold of Bob because he was on vacation. I had to explain that we were only married on the show.
Woods: Hey, if you can fool the people you work with who should know better, that's a real testimonial!
TV Guide Magazine: Aren't Bo and Nora in major hot water here?
Woods: They're trying to figure out how to go about dealing with the murder legally while still doing what's best for their son.
Smith: They're stepping through a minefield of emotions. Neither will be able to live with themselves if they break the code of ethics they live by. They know what the end result is going to have to be. They just have to figure out the process, the best way to approach the inevitable, while still trying to wrap their heads around the fact that Clint manipulated all of them. He manipulated their son into killing someone. That's huge.
TV Guide Magazine: This is one of those great soap stories that has every viewer thinking, "What would I do if my kid was in this kind of trouble?"
Smith: A friend of mine has always said to her child, "If something bad occurs, you call me immediately and tell me exactly what happened — the truth and nothing but the truth — and I'll grab a shovel and help you bury the body!" The important thing is to tell the truth, confess to what you did and own it. But Bo and Nora are having trouble with that.
Woods: And as angry and resentful as they are with Clint, because you can so easily hate the guy, they still love him because that's what they're always about.
Smith: Well, Bo can love him. Nora can't!
TV Guide Magazine: Even if they ultimately to do the right thing, dragging ass like this is really bad. They're guilty by reason of delay.
Smith: They are definitely obstructing justice and Nora could be disbarred.
Woods: They could both be out of jobs and disgraced in the community. But because this is about their son they love so much, they're ready to go right to the edge. How close to the edge can they get and find the best possible outcome for this? How much time can they buy?
TV Guide Magazine: And then, suddenly, both Matthew and Clint are dying.
Smith: Things get so bad that Bo and Nora actually set aside the murder — their minds just can't handle that much. Decisions need to be made about Matthew. They're told he has minimal brain activity just as Clint's condition is suddenly worse. They're being jerked around from one tragedy to another. It's too, too much. Matthew's getting worse. Clint's getting worse. All they need now is a tornado to hit Llanview.
Woods: And Bo has horrible guilt, feeling responsible for causing Clint's heart attack. But at the same time, Bo wants him behind bars, paying for what he's done. Yet here's Clint barely fighting for his life. It's pretty complicated stuff.
TV Guide Magazine: This sounds like strong, really adult drama, the kind we haven't seen on a soap 10 times before.
Woods: I'll tell ya, this story has pulled a lot out of me. Needless to say, there are a lot of times when you come to work thinking, "Oh, God, let's get this done and go home." But this material, man, you can really do something with it!
TV Guide Magazine: When Clint knows he's terminal, he goes on TV and confesses to killing Eddie Ford, a pretty decent if not downright heroic thing to do. Don't Bo and Nora think, "Hey, why don't we just shut the hell up and all this will go away?"
Smith: Oh, Nora goes right there! Of course, she does!
Woods: [Laughs] It's like, "Hey, here's the solution to our Eddie problem! Wanna go have lunch?
Smith: [Laughs] "Works for me! I think we're kinda done here."
TV Guide Magazine: OK, you wisenheimers, there will be happier days for Bo and Nora, right? Tell me they will live through all this tragedy to jitterbug again.
Woods: [Laughs] It'll have to be at a much slower tempo! Nothing on this body moves as fast as it used to. Loyita and I recently went to Billy Warlock's house for his birthday. We're having a lot of laughs and a few drinks and then we all start dancing. Well, the next day, I am so stiff I cannot move and Loyita's knee is as big as a cantaloupe. So I don't know about any more jitterbugging.
Smith: Oh, my God, even back in the day we would do those jitterbugging scenes and be using Tiger Balm for weeks!
TV Guide Magazine: It sure would be a great way to end the show in January.
Woods: Well, maybe we could do a fox trot in the last episode. Maybe a waltz. [Laughs] But definitely no barrel rolls!