Fun Fact 1: For
Bill, All My Children was a family business. His mother,
Mary Gardiner, was a background extra, and his brother Mike Timoney,
was Tom Cudahy's groomsmen at his marriage to Erica Kane.
Bill Timoney (ex-Alfred Vanderpool) fondly remembers his
time on All My Children as the socially inept Alfred, college
roommate to good guy Greg Nelson and friend to town vagabond Tad Martin.
Though most people remember Bill for his run as Alfred, his affiliation
with the show began long before Jenny and Greg made it to the halls
of Pine Valley University. Meticulous fans could spot Bill onscreen
as a background extra as early as 1978.
"There is a photograph you always see of Greg and Jenny at the high school prom. Right between them, or behind them, is me. I was right between them, upstage," Bill said.
Bill recruited his friends to come in as extras on the show during the height of the Pine Valley High storylines. Bill coined them, "The Bad Extras Club," after the Gene Wilder/Richard Pryor slogan in Stir Crazy, "That's right. We're bad." The extras served to fill the shots as Jenny and Greg labored over their unrequited feelings, and Liza Colby plotted to keep them apart.
"All My Children was my first professional home," Bill said.
Bill grew up right outside New York City. His mother, Mary Gardiner, worked in the early days of live television as a model. Bill remembers being exposed to the world of entertainment at a very young age. "My mom was the Vanna White of her time. She used to bring my brother and I to her agency. Eventually my brother and I got cast in TV commercials," Bill said. "I have footage of me in my first TV commercial from when I was eight months old."
As Bill grew up, he fell in love with classic cinema. In college he decided acting was his calling. Without an agent, Bill was not sure how to start his search for work. Bill hoped his mother's former career would help him get started. "She said, 'all my business contacts are dead,'" Bill remembered. Gardiner had stopped making television appearances years before to raise a family.
Gardiner teamed up with achurch friend in hopes that she could sway Bill back into a more traditional career. She was Joan D'Incecco, All My Children's famed and original Casting Director. D'Incecco and Gardiner had become close friends while putting together charity fashion shows at their families' church. "Her son was going to school with my kid brother. Her daughter was in dance class with my sister," Bill said. "Joan told my mother, 'Why don't I bring Bill in with me. He can audition and see it is really hard. Hopefully this will dissuade him.'"
"That was the plan," Bill said. "New York City was this big bad place. I did not have an agent. People were flying in from LA for auditions. I could see it was going to be really hard. It was a big deal."
By 1978, All My Children had gained a solid viewership and was ranking at the top of the ratings chart. Bill was another actor trying to get his big break on the daytime serial. "It was the middle of the Devon McFadden and Dan Kennicott thing," Bill remembers. "Phoebe was pretending to be in a wheel chair. Brooke caught her walking, trying to fix a drink."
"I was sitting outside the office waiting for my turn when Nick Benedict (ex-Phil Brent) came by and sat next to me," Bill said. "He gave me a few tips. He did not look at me like I did not belong. It was a wonderful thing."
"It came down to me and one or two other guys for the role of Wally McFadden," Bill said. The role would go to Jack Magee, and was recast two more times before being written off the show. But the producers at the show liked what they saw from Bill. D'Incecco told Bill they wanted him to start as a background extra and under-five. "Joan got me a commercial agent. I transferred colleges and moved back home. Joan's assistant used me as a background player as much as she could," Bill said. "Joan called my mom and said, 'I have really bad news, they really like him.'"
So began Bill's days in the "Bad Extras Club." "The club had certain rules," Bill said. "Don't talk to the contract players unless they wanted to chat with you. Whenever you were in a dancing scene, your head had to be upstage so whomever you danced with had their face to the cameras. If it was somebody's first day as an extra, we did the best to get them on camera."
Bill became the go-to background extra for his early years on the show. "I was the stand-in for the young man who played Tad Gardner Martin, John Dunn. John was in High School. Sometimes he could not cut class to tape if he had an exam of something." Bill said. "I got to understand the going-ons by going to the set so much."
In 1981 the show began to see a change in focus. Headwriter Agnes Nixon sought to introduce a new decade of youngsters to the teen set. They were Laurence Lau as Greg Nelson and Kim Delaney as Jenny Gardner. The Jenny and Greg romance dominated the early 1980's and garnered the show national attention. Bill saw his airtime as a background extra increase. As more roles were being written to support the younger storylines, Bill sought to capitalize on the opportunity to land a contract.
"I was pretty close to booking the part of Greg, but they hired Larry," Bill remembered. His second chance came about with a role he was not all too unfamiliar with. Executive Producer Jacqueline Babbin wanted Bill to read for the role of the now much more grown up and promiscuous Tad. "They remembered I did a lot of work for John Dunn. It was a brand new producer. I had never met her before. The first time I did was for the final reading," Bill said. As Bill awaited his fate, his fellow "Bad Extras" were shooting a big Jenny and Greg scene. "This was my third audition for Tad. I went to lunch with my buddies," Bill said.
When Bill came back to the studio that day, Casting Associate Suzanne Ringrose approached him. "She said, 'I had good news for you,'" Bill said. At that very moment, Delaney turned the corner. "She asked, 'Is he going to be Tad?'" Bill remembered. Ringrose replied, "No, Alfred."
Delaney and Bill both responded with, "Who's Alfred?" The producers were also casting for the recurring role of Greg's mentioned but never seen college roommate. Though the role was not contract, they already had a number of appearances lined up for Bill. "I jumped up and almost hit the ceiling. Kim gave me a great hug. Some people in the industry will tell you that doing background extra work never leads to bigger jobs. I'm living proof that they're wrong."
"When you are a recurring day player, you usually exist as a sounding board. You say things like, 'and then what happened?' Amanda Bearse (ex-Amanda Cousins) was a recurring player. Liza needed someone to talk to because she was evil and always standing apart plotting," Bill said. "Strong (Peter, ex-Bob Georgia) was another non-contract recurring day player in the AMC youth storyline, serving as Tad's sounding board."
"But Alfred Vanderpool was such an exception that most of my cast mates assumed I was under contract. Whenever Alfred appeared, his scenes were not of the, 'and then what happened, Gregory?' Rather, his scenes were about him, usually about how uptight he was when he tried to ask out Dottie, Hillary," Bill said. "Greg and Jenny had to teach Alfred how to relax, how to talk to girls.
The role of Tad would go to Michael E. Knight, who has played the role on and off ever since. "Joan told me Jackie turned to her and said, 'Bill is not right for Tad. I want someone more evil. But, he was the best actor you've shown me yet. Let's find him something," Bill said. Knight recalled from his final audition that the temperature in the studio was so cold he had to keep his hands in his leather bomber jacket to keep warm. That type of swagger was what made him stand out to Babbin and eventually won him the role.
"Michael is such a professional and good at what he does. He is the luckiest man I have ever met in the business," Bill said. "I remember the first time he left. He was leaving for LA. It was the last day before he left and he got a call at the studio from his manager."
"He had booked a movie," Bill said. "He never made it to LA. He was on his way, but then came back to the show. I marveled at that, to get such a deal on your last day on contract."
Though Alfred was a new face for the Pine Valley younger set, Bill was already familiar with his cast members. "Kim, Larry, Marcy (Walker, ex-Liza Colby), they had all gotten familiar with me," Bill said. Lau and Bill had a secret handshake they would do on and off screen. Walker and Bill had met years prior to their time at the program.
"In 1979….I auditioned opposite a young blonde. She told me she had just moved from Chicago and it was her second audition. She didn't even have a place to live. She was staying in New Jersey with friends," Bill remembers of his first encounter with Walker in New York City. " I gave her a lift home because she was a really nice person, and I was happy to help out another 'new in town' young actor, the way Nick Benedict was nice to me. In our profession, ya gotta pass kindness on."
"It wasn't really on the way," Bill remembered. "I probably had to go an additional thirty minutes out of the way,"
"She knew nobody," Bill said. "We did not exchange numbers, or stay in touch. I had her headshot in my bag. She gave it to me to give to casting directors in case I heard of anything. I recognized her immediately when she came on as Liza." When the pair was reunited in 1998, Walker remarked that Bill never forgot anything.
Bill knew he had a large task at hand to make the character of Alfred likeable. He was a member of the Main Line's upper-crust. An intellect whose social skills bordered on nuisance. "Jackie wanted me to act like Thurston Howell (from 'Gilligan's Island'). I was to be very preppy and clench my teeth when I walked. I did not want to do that. I hated preppy stuff," Bill said. "I used to go up to Michael Knight and turn down his collar."
Bill came up with two character traits that he attributed to Alfred's longevity. Firstly, he was to never speak a contraction. "He said, 'will not,' and 'can not." Soon, they stopped writing contractions in my lines."
Secondly, he wanted Alfred to win over the audience by channeling their love for Jenny. "My plan was to harness the magic of Kim Delaney. Kim is such a natural. The way she smiles, the way she laughs…it was why she was America's sweetheart," Bill said of his co-star. "Dorothy Lyman (ex-Opal Gardner) had taken her under her wind and taught Kim what it takes."
Bill did not think he had the relationship with Delaney to ask her to be his accomplice. Instead he decided to act on the element of surprise. He would do things differently during taping than what he did during rehearsals. He knew Delaney's natural reflex was to laugh if something went not as planned. "Kim laughing, enjoying me as Alfred, read as Jenny enjoying Alfred. If Jenny loved Alfred, the audience would love Alfred too," Bill said. The planned worked.
Bill continued to infuse his own views of Alfred subtly into his role. He would reword his lines to make them a reference to "Bugs Bunny" cartoons. He also sought to make lines more comical, which made him a perfect scene partner for fellow class clown Knight. The two would improvise their lines frequently in the scenes as friendly rivals.
Though Alfred became more a fixture with his arguments with Tad, bonding moments with Greg, and hopeless crush on Liza, Bill was on the show without a contract. On his days off, he was working at a liquor store. "Alfred is from Sewickly, Pennsylvania. When our PVU freshman year ended, Alfred apparently went back home and got out of Pine Valley for the summer. So I didn't appear on any episodes that summer. While I hoped Alfred would return that next Fall, and he eventually did, I had no contractual guarantee from AMC that I would," Bill said. "So I always needed another gig to pay the rent."
"Customers would volunteer to help me run lines," Bill remembered.
In 1984, Bill opted to get lingual braces to correct a crooked tooth. The procedure left Bill with a slight speech impediment. One day, Babbin stopped Bill in the hallway to ask, "When do you get the braces off the back of your teeth?" Bill honestly answered he had about a year left. "I had a feeling. She was being a good producer, to find out her options," Bill said.
Tad was in a romance with Hillary Wilson. The writers wanted one more spoiler to delay their pairing. "Two days later, Peter Strong was jumping up and down in the hallway. They had signed him to a contract. Hillary was going to marry Bob because he was dying," Bill said. "I felt very happy for Peter. After all, I knew what getting a contract could mean. But I remember feeling that Alfred could have fulfilled the same function in the Tad/Hillary storyline as Bob."
"Jackie Babbin never stopped me to chat in the hallway before, so her question about the braces and speech impediment had a reason behind it. Now, I was not in the room when Jackie and the writers discussed devices to keep Tad and Hillary apart, but I couldn't help thinking that it could've gone another way," Bill said.
"I did outlast several contract players," Bill said. "They signed you to three years… some would be gone before that time. I remembered contract players would complain. They wanted to leave. But I loved being here. I would have signed in a heartbeat."
Bill never forgot his time as an extra. His dressing room was always the extra lounge where the day's groups could leave their bags and get ready. "If you were assigned in the dressing room with me, you had ten extra people in the room," Bill said.
"All the extras, we used to go out to lunch as a big group. One time this guy said he could not come. He did not have the money to. I told him, 'No sweat. I will float you,'" Bill said. Bill thought nothing of it. Weeks later, the extra was at the front desk with the money to pay Bill back. He had been cast in Nixon's newest soap opera, Loving. He was Perry Stephens, Loving's Jack Forbes. Through Stephens, Bill became good friends with Bryan Cranston. The three remain close friends long after their soap stints ended.
Though he never met Nixon, she was a fan of Bill's work. "A friend of mine did. He introduced himself as a friend of mine and she told him, 'Tell your friend that the Erica's and Greg and Jenny's may be a big part of the show, but it is the Alfred's of the show that are the foundation for many of our viewers,'" Bill said.
In the early 1980's All My Children stood out for its diverse group of comedic characters. There was Alfred, Tad, Edna Fergueson and a character the likes of which Daytime had never seen, Opal Gardner. Lyman came on to the role thinking it was a short term gig. "She was supposed to be the ex-wife of villainous Ray Gardner. Her job was to come from West Virginia, and dump her daughter off where Tad was staying with the Martins," Bill remembered. "They were going to establish Opal as a rotten mother."
"She (Lyman) decided to make the character more interesting with conflict. She wanted a dichotomy to the character," Bill said. "In her first scenes, they (Lyman and Delaney) are on a bus. Opal turns to Jenny and asks , 'Why did you do that?' Then, she was supposed to slap her across the face and say, 'Never do that again.' Come tape time, Dorothy does, 'Why did you do that?' Bam! Across the face. She then tenderly puts her hand on Jenny's face, kisses her and says, 'Momma loves you baby. Now never do that again.'"
The cast of All My Children in 1982. Bill is on the top row, seventh from the Left next to Larry Lau (ex-Greg).
Can you name everyone in the photo?
"The director told her not to do it that way. But
Dorothy kept doing it her way. She was supposed to be on only for a
couple of days. The audience went crazy for her," Bill said. "In
a matter or weeks, Dorothy was signed to a contract. It was that moment
that galvanized much of what you saw in the 80's. I secretly believed
that is why Dustin Hoffman's character in Tootsie was named 'Dorothy.'
If you follow the timelines, it was on the heels of the Dorothy Lyman
"I think that spilled over to Michael and I," Bill said. "They started letting more comedy reign in."
His comedic prowess did not go unnoticed. "One of the greatest experiences of my life was when Carol Burnett (ex-Verla Grubbs) came to town," Bill said. "The associate producer was with Carol. She stopped me to introduce me to her. Carol blows by her and says, 'I know who this is -- hello, Bill!.' She then told me how much she enjoyed my performances in the Alfred role."
"It was a surreal moment in my life," Bill said.
By 1987, Alfred's role began to diminish. He was now a professor of Anthropology at his alma martyr, Pine Valley University. He remembered his last plot had him hitting on Cecily Davidson (Rosa Nevin), who had eyes for more dangerous men. "I had heard Susan Lucci (Erica Kane) once say that the one person who would do well in Hollywood was Bill Timoney because he was good with the sitcom stuff," Bill said. "She asked me what kind of deal I had with the show. I told her I did not have a deal. Everybody was stunned to see I did not have a deal. I decided to leave the show for Hollywood."
Bill remembered his early days in LA were not easy. "I could not get any work. I was thinking about leaving the business. What was I supposed to do?" Bill said. A phone call lifted his spirits. "It was Carol's assistant. I had written Carol telling her I was in town. Her assistant had an appointment for me. That kept me in the business."
Bill found his niche as a voice actor and producer on Japanese animation films. He also continued to guest star in television. Staying true to his Daytime roots, Bill had hired D'Inecco as a Casting Director for one of his projects. He also collaborated with his old friend Bryan Cranston. It was on the set of Cranston's 1998 movies Last Chance, that Bill heard a familiar voice for the first time in a long time when he got a surprise phone call.
"The voice said he was looking for Bill Timoney. It was Michael Knight," Bill said. "He said, 'They're looking for you! They want you to come back as Alfred.'"
"Maybe it was Jean Burke (former Executive Producer), she was a big fan of mine," Bill said. "Suddenly, Alfred was at the bank. He came out with a safety deposit box that exonerated Brooke. That's when it all started again."
"Every time Adam needed a shill, they called me," Bill said. "I don't know how Alfred stayed at the bank for so long. He was such a pushover. Every time someone needed to write a bad check, or if Babe made goggley eyes at him… he would break the rules for them."
"Megan (McTavish, former Headwriter) remembered Alfred and wrote good moments for him," Bill said. "She wrote a scene where Tad was trying to get back at Liza, and Liza wanted to date him again. He set her up with a stranger. The stranger turned out to me. I was putting the moves on Liza again."
"I did not wear my checked sweaters and bow tie again," Bill said. "I felt it was time to let the character grow up; he could still be eccentric, but he couldn't remain that awkward teenager any longer. That's also the reason why I stopped wearing glasses on the show."
"Then there was the stuff in 2005 when I finally got back at Tad and locked him up in the bank," Bill said. "I know that was Megan's doing. She had known about our relationship from those years. She finally let Alfred get back at Tad."
Though Bill fondly remembers the Greg and Jenny era, he also remembers the day it all ended. "In 1984, Kim and Marcy both left. Kim, Marcy and Larry all signed with the show at the same time. Marcy said she was going to renew, but left at the last minute for Santa Barbara. Kim made no secret she was not going to renew," Bill said. "I don't think the network believed her. When they realized she was serious, it was too late. They asked for a contract extension."
"From what I heard, Kim wanted to be killed off. She did not want to come back ever. It was the eleventh hour and the show had to deal with how to write out Jenny," Bill said. Jenny would die after her jet ski was set to explode by her former fiancé, Tony Barclay.
"So many people in the audience did not forgive us for that. Killing Jenny was a big part of All My Children beginning to lose its audience," Bill said. It did not help that the show hired a Delaney look-a-like to romance Greg. The story failed to fill the void that Delaney's departure left in the young set storyline.
"Really, it was poor Larry. Greg was really worked between these two wonderful actresses, Marcy and Kim. When they left, Larry was stuck," Bill said. Eventually, Lau would leave the program too and the role of Greg was too recast with Jack Armstrong.
After Bill left the program, he continued to be seen in daytime. In the late 1990's he landed a recurring guest role as Holly Reade's assistant on Guiding Light."I have a hard time saying no to work. I am not one of those rare actors who can afford to say 'no' to work," Bill said. He had been in New York recording some voice over roles when Frank Dicopolos (Frank Cooper, GL) helped him land the role.
In the early 1990's, Bill also moonlighted with Perry Stephens in a nightclub act. "I was the warm up, since I did stand up. Perry would do the nice songs. We would do duets," Bill said. "So Perry taught me to perform as a singer and I helped Perry be funny." Their show also featured a guest soap actress the likes of which included Kim Zimmer (Reva Shayne, GL), Liz Vassey (ex-Emily Ann Sago), Sue Scannell (ex-Nicole, Dynasty) and the late Nikki Goulet (ex-Mary Finelli, RH). He also directed acts for Catherine Hickland (ex-Lindsey Rappaport, OLTL) and Babs Hooyman (ex-Ethel, Opal's Glamoramma Assistant).
Bill continues to act and produce primarily out of New York City. He and Bryan Cranston have a project in the works. "My wife and I live on the Jersey Shore. Our dog loves to chase deer in the woods, which is really hard to do in Manhattan," Bill said.
Bill has been busy performing in regional theater. "My first job out of school was a nine months as part of Shakespeare touring company. I got to see a part of the country I never got to see before," Bill said. Bill and his wife are auditioning for roles together so that they can travel and act together.
He will never close the door on Pine Valley. "I love to work with Michael E. Knight. It is always a blast," Bill said. "Now that Darnell (Williams, Jesse Hubbard) and Debbi (Morgan, Angie Hubbard) are back, I would love to work with them too. Darnell and I had great scenes back in the days of Jesse and Jenny.
"I absolutely loved the part and going back to Pine Valley. No matter the changes it has gone through, it is always exciting to me. I always go back when they ask me," Bill said. "So many times I thought it was the last time I would hear from them, only to come back."
For more on Bill Timoney check out the Main
Interview conducted on February 3, 2009