You may not have heard his name, but East Hampton resident Ron Carlivati has written epic family feuds, stirring romance, suspenseful mysteries, action-packed adventure yarns and more, all during his remarkable career as a soap opera writer. The new head writer of NBC’s Days of Our Lives, Carlivati previously served as the head writer of General Hospital and One Life to Live, penning daily stories that kept viewers hooked for years on end.
“I started [working at Days of Our Lives] in January, which is crazy because nothing I’ve written has been on the air yet,” Carlivati says. “They film six months ahead. My first episode airs in four weeks. It’s very strange, I’ve written five months of material, stories with a beginning, middle and end, and they haven’t even started [airing].” Carlivati is coy about the stories he’s bringing to the show, but explains his philosophy on soap operas as a medium. “What’s great about this genre is one day you’re writing action/adventure, one day you’re writing a romance, a comedy,” he says.
Carlivati is living his dream as a soap opera writer, having been a fan of the genre since he was a little boy watching General Hospital with his mother, but he didn’t start out as a writer. “I had actually gone to law school and became a lawyer,” Carlivati says. “One of my bosses was a frustrated writer, and sold his first novel overnight for $2 million.” His boss, David Baldacci, would go on to become a bestselling author. “He was living through this exciting chapter and all of a sudden my job became really exciting. And he eventually left to become a full-time writer.” The rush of excitement that came with Baldacci following his heart led to Carlivati doing the same thing. Carlivati soon left his job at the law firm, moved to New York and pursued work, very specifically, in the soap opera world. “I told everyone I talked to that I wanted to be a soap writer and that my dream show was One Life to Live. Then, I went out for a friend’s birthday and a guy overheard a friend and I talking and he said, ‘Oh, my friend works for a soap opera, One Life to Live, as a writers’ assistant.’”
The serendipitous encounter led to Carlivati getting a job as an assistant at the place he wanted to work the most. Carlivati gradually moved up in the staff, from proofreading scripts and checking them for continuity to becoming a scriptwriter and eventually head writer. During his head writing tenure at One Life to Live, Carlivati won the 2008 Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series. His stories were critically acclaimed and varied. He covered social issues like homophobia and bullying, spun complex corporate thrillers about hostile takeovers and even went supernatural, sending several characters back in time to the 1960s in a story that paid tribute to the show’s 40th anniversary.
After One Life to Live’s cancellation, Carlivati went on to be the head writer of General Hospital, which was also in danger of being axed from the airwaves. “It is true that when I got the job, people told me it’d be for six months,” Carlivati says. “I came in and wrote the show that I remembered [as a child].” His approach paid off, and Carlivati worked on the show for four years.
Writing a daily show is a huge gig, and he relishes his time relaxing in his East Hampton house on weekends with his partner, David. “I love the small town feeling of the Hamptons,” Carlivati says. “I like our local places. Cittanuova—we go sit at the bar, there’s a bartender there, JJ, who’s the nicest guy. I don’t like to say ‘my happy place,’ but the Clam Bar at Napeague is my happy place!”
Viewers can expect Carlivati’s Days of Our Lives stories to start airing in mid-July. Days of Our Lives airs at 1 p.m. weekdays on NBC.