As The World Turns Returnee Scott Bryce: Why is ATWT Wasting This Multifaceted Talent?

By Patrick Erwin

My soap habit was initially formed, as many of our habits were, through hand-me-downs. My mother diligently watched Days of Our Lives, Search for Tomorrow and Another World.  My sisters loved Young and the Restless and were part of General Hospital‘s Luke and Laura craze.  Even my Guiding Light habit came from a neighbor who watched the show every day.

The first soap I ever discovered on my own was As The World Turns.  I discovered the show in1986, and the first thing that compelled me to watch was me flipping through the channels and exclaiming, “Hey!  That’s Nola Reardon!”  (Or rather, actress Lisa Brown as her ATWT character, Iva Snyder.)  The second thing that compelled me to watch was one of the actors.  He was tall and handsome, with big round soulful eyes.  I was transfixed to the television as his character played weariness, heartache, resolve, and hope, with a glimmer of mischief and devilishness.  The character was Craig Montgomery, and the actor was Scott Bryce.

Over the next eight years, Bryce was in a number of romantic entanglements and storylines.  I always found it utterly fascinating to watch him at work, and see his character interact with nearly all of the cast.  No matter what the story, Bryce sold you on what Craig was doing.  Bryce’s Craig was a catch in Oakdale, and his dance card sounds like a Who’s Who of Oakdale ladies:  his beloved Sierra, Betsy Stewart and, later, her sister Emily, Lucinda and her sister Sam, Iva and her sisters Ellie and, now, Meg.  (I’m sensing a trend here!)

I was most fascinated by the subtext that Bryce would play during his scenes.  Like the late Michael Zaslow, Bryce would always play a brilliant undercurrent.  When Craig was making a mistake or was up to no good, that undercurrent would still make us root for him, and it kept the straight-and-narrow Craig from coming off as milquetoast.  With certain actors — especially the divine Elizabeth Hubbard as Lucinda Walsh — that subtext would sing.

Craig was sorely missed from the canvas for several years.  When he was brought back in 2000, he was portrayed by Hunt Block.  ATWT decided to focus on Craig as a Machiavellian quasi-villain.

Block’s dry wit and humor was able to leaven this darkness to a certain degree, and Block’s work during Craig’s loss of his son Bryant was notable.  But as time went on, the writing became more and more one-note, and so did Craig.  Ostensibly justified by his anger at Bryant’s death, he became a master manipulator that put Carly, Rosanna and even his daughter at risk, and eventually he became involved in the baby-swapping scheme that sent him to jail.

The character returned from jail last fall, and was portrayed at that point by actor Jeffrey Meek.  Whether it was the writing, the direction, or the actor, Meek’s Craig was almost unrecognizable to veteran ATWT fans.  This nuCraig was a mustache-twirling villain who seemed to be looking for damsels in distress to tie to railroad tracks, a la Snidely Whiplash. So it was a great relief to fans when we heard earlier this year that Scott Bryce was coming back to ATWT to reclaim his role.

And yet, many months later, many of us are scratching our heads.  I’d love to ask the powers that be at ATWT a simple question:  If you weren’t going to let Craig Montgomery be the glorious, multifaceted character we all know Scott Bryce can play, why did you bother to bring him back?

In the first months of Bryce’s return, he seemed to have been handed a backlog of scripts that were written for his predecessor — all with a one-note, villainous Craig.  Clearly, none of the writers currently penning ATWT have any knowledge of Original Recipe Craig, and are pulling from the ATWT bag of tricks.  For the last several years, that bag seems to consist primarily of one trick — take a well-known Oakdale resident and make them crazy, mean, or demonically and unredeemably bad.  (Hey, it worked for Barbara!  Not as well for Adam Munson, though.)

It didn’t help that the initial story that Bryce had to play was Craig taking advantage of Lily to steal Worldwide, a plot that made little to no sense, and was only saved by the fabulousness of seeing three beloved pros — Bryce, Hubbard, and Martha Byrne — at work.  From there, Bryce was flung into the Paul/Rosanna/Craig/Meg story.  I’d love to explain the finer points of this story to you, but it’s a muddled mess that I’m not sure I understand.  All four of the actors there (including the Emmy-winning Roger Howarth and Cady McClain) were saddled with plot that seemed to change direction daily.  Yes, we want our characters to be multifaceted, but when they change personalities and motivation every day (today a villain, tomorrow a hero, next week an adulterer) it becomes indecipherable and unwatchable.

In all the scenes I’ve seen Bryce play, those soulful eyes still say a great deal, and he’s just as capable an actor as ever.  I hope ATWT gets wise to the powerhouse they have in Bryce and crafts an appropriate story for him that shows Craig as a human with strengths and weaknesses, rather than as a one-note meanie.  The show is having a hard time shading all of its characters right now.  Many of the characters seem to share the same outlook and/or sensibilities — Carly, Meg, Alison, Gwen and Rosanna are, to one degree or another, all the same character — and I hope ATWT gets cracking and starts showing us some subtle shadings.  There is no better character to start with than Craig Montgomery.

Comments

  1. Oakdalian says:

    I disagree that it made no sense for Craig to steal WorldWide from Lucinda. After all, he believed that she had a hand in baby Johnny’s abduction, and losing Bryant was one child too many. He wanted her to feel a fraction of what he felt. The bizarre aftermath involved making Meg CEO of the company, and getting so wrapped up in her that he hasn’t mentioned finding his son in ages. That’s where I drew the line. Perhaps Craig became a more tender character because of Douglas Marland, but before that he was trying to kill Steve and driving Betsy crazy. Treachery is not strange territory for him. I just hope Scott Bryce isn’t driven away from ATWT like Cady McClain. Everything you said about his talent is true.

  2. Rashad Khan says:

    “Perhaps Craig became a more tender character because of Douglas Marland, but before that he was trying to kill Steve and driving Betsy crazy. Treachery is not strange territory for him.”

    True, but Craig did atone for his actions, and Marland allowed him to evolve. Now, it seems, Craig has regressed; and in fact, he’s more un-empathetic than ever. Congratulations, Ms. Passanante, you did the impossible: you made the Mary-Ellis Bunim era look better by comparison.

  3. lynn says:

    In many ways, the waste of Scott Bryce’s return to ATWT embodies everything that’s wrong with soaps in general, and ATWT in particular.

    “The show is having a hard time shading all of its characters right now.” All of its characters?! With the exception of Luke and Noah, how about any of its characters? Sure, you’ll get shades of gray from Lucinda and Holden, but that’s only because Elizabeth Hubbard and Jon Hensley will find nuance and subtext even when there is none to be found in the writing. Everyone else is stuck with one-note writing. The problem is that TPTB don’t see any advantage to shading, subtle or otherwise, because for them characters, and characters’ histories, are nothing but cannon fodder to be exploited in the service of plots that have no purpose or logic. Then they move on to the next inane story.

    Hard as it is for us to watch (and we can just turn it off), I can’t imagine how difficult and painful it is for someone like Scott Bryce to not just have to watch his character be destroyed day after day, but to actually have to play it. I wonder for how many of them has it become just a paycheck. When the actors talk to the media, they all put the best spin on things for the fans. Well, except for La Liz, God bless her, who’s never been one to suffer in silence. But with everyone else, you have to read between the lines; not very far between the lines, to be sure. The young ones have absolutely no frame of reference; for them, what they’re doing today is soap opera. I wonder if the vets ever remind of the glory days they’ve missed?

  4. CG says:

    I have to agree with the above comment – I watched ATWT daily from 1987-1996 and then again from 1999-earlier this year when I finally gave it up in disgust.

    Someone needs to hire a much better writing team or just pull the plug.

  5. A fabulous article that I came across too late. The finest assessment of the strengths of Bryce and the tragic weakness and ineptitude of the powers that be at ATWT.

    We’re petitioning for the re-hiring of Bryce here:

    http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/savescottandcraig/

    This is the biggest waste and loss for ATWT.

  6. J.D. says:

    Scott Bryce was the best actor to have played Craig off & on
    As The World Turns for 25 years He was the Only one to put
    life into him. In the last year that Poor Baby has tried to please
    somebody who could not be pleased I am not only disgusted
    with the fact Poor Scott got fired but the way they fired him over
    the phone was Gutless. I am Never watching As The World Turns They just lost a permanent Viewer Congratulations.
    I hope they are proud of themselves. They wouldn’t know a treasure if they found one. Scott Bryce was a treasure. the decision to come back has to be Scott’s If I were Scott I would
    not want to be in a where I was not Wanted or Appreciated for
    my talent to bring a great Villain with a heart to life

  7. J.D. says:

    Scott Bryce IS Craig. There is no other way to go about it. I tried watching other actors pull it off in Bryce’s absence.
    They can’t do it. Scott had that special something that made his character believable: his heart.

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