A Romantic At Heart

May 30, 1982
The Pittsburgh Press

Michael Tylo, enigmatic and austere as archaeologist Quint McCord on afternoon television's "Guiding Light", displayed neither of those qualities on a recent visit to Pittsburgh.

The firm set of the jaw and probing blue eyes are also reserved for McCord, a role Tylo created last September on CBS's top-rated soap, seen weekdays at 3 pm.

Those blue eyes flashed and the jaw frequently dropped in a bright smile as Tylo, despite a bushelful of acting credits, told of his ambition to p"produce and direct film, including films for TV."

Tylo was in town to appear on KDKA-TV's "Pittsburgh 2Day" show, on which he grimaced when a "Guiding Light" fan, calling to ask what happened to the "old" Ed Bauer, offered that the "new" Ed Bauer looks like a "wimp".

Wearing a tweed sport coat and crewneck sweater on an 80-degree day, Tylo maintained a McCord-like patience when he signed a high school girl's autograph book, then honored her request for five more signatures for classmates, each of which he personalized.

Those films he plans to produce and direct will be swashbuckling epics like those that brought fame to Douglas Fairbanks and Errol Flynn.

"What we really need is a return to the romantic, fantasy-type films. We've been inundated with the realistic type dramas too long," Tylo said, citing the recent TV production of "Ivanhoe" as a step already in that direction.

Tylo's own talents with a foil - he took up fencing at Wayne State Univeristy - were shown off in several "Guiding Light" earlier this year. He also studied theatrical fencing and stage combat at the National Theatre in Budapest.

His three-year contract with "Guiding Light" prohibits him from any outside work for the first nine months, but he plans to produce "Young Bucks" off-Broadway next fall.

Tylo wrote and directed some community theater productions in his home town Detroit. On a lecture visit, the renowned director Sir Tyrone Guthrie was impressed by his work and invited Tylo to Ireland to work with him on an adaptation of Oedipus Rex.

Tylo, who received a BA degree in acing and master's in theatre at Wayne State, performed in repertory theater ("Death of a Salesman", "Lion In Winter", "Hamlet", among others) while in college.

He also performed in regional theater and toured nationally with "Winslow Boy," the final stop being the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts.

His most recent stage appearance was in "Cyrano de Bergerac," which starred Anthony Zerbe, at the Long Wharf, a pre-Broadway house.

Tylo is also a self-appointed goodwill ambassador for "Guiding Light" who appreciates the people whom he is surrounded by and works for.

Cast of 38

"It is one of the better soaps, extremely well-written with five storylines going at one time. We have a cast of 38," Tylo said.

"There're two storylines on the front burner and three on the back on any given episode."

"Our head writer, Douglas Marland, created the Luke and Laura phenomenon on 'General Hospital'. He used to be an actor and has a great rapport with the cast."

"I'm very fortunate to be surronded by some great talent. The casting director, Betty Rae, has put together an amazing company of actors. She has the knack of getting the right person for the right role."

While it is "still a soap," he said "Guiding Light" is not confined to "white bread characters who get married in the spring and divorced in the fall."

Although the show is being aimed more and more toward a younger audience, Tylo said "we can't alienate the older viewers who remember Charita Bauer (who playes Bert bauer) all the way back to radio's 'Guiding Light'".

Tylo said shows are taped a week in advance and that scripts are handed out one week before tapings.

"I kind of like not knowing what's ahead because it enables me to play each scene as honestly as possible. It's easy to act that way."

"That way I'm able to follow James Cagney's famous advice to 'learn your lines, plant your feet, look 'em in the eye and tell the truth.'"

He said his television experience is helping him prepare for his future directing endeavors. "I'm learning camera techniques from the directors and I'm developing a following."

Cards and Gifts

He said he receives about 100 letters a week. "The snide stuff and death threats they don't let us see," he said, indicating CBS reads the fan mail n advance.

Tylo said he and his wife, Deborah Eckols, whom he met in graduate school as a fellow cast member on "As You Like It," received 25 cards and presents from fans on their anniversary.

"It's hard to accept presents because you don't know how much they had to pay for them," he said. "But you can't send them back because it would hurt them."

He said he enjoys the instant and near-instant recognition he receives from "Guiding Light" fans.

He laughed when telling of an incident at Greater Pittsburgh International Airport when a woman security guard asked him if he knew he looked like Quint McCord.

"I said 'yes' and she said 'Do you know who Quint McCord is?' and I said 'I'm Quint McCord.'"

"She blurted out, 'Oh my God, you are. There's the scar.'"