Thinking Fans Comment Update Sept. 9: Sina nominates Maxie Jones … Greg would include Vanessa Chamberlain … Aaron misses Annie Dutton … and more. See Comments below.
By Patrick Erwin
It’s been interesting to watch recent scenes with Melissa Claire Egan as Annie on All My Children. Once a good girl, Annie has turned into a manipulative witch. She may not be a nice person anymore, but Annie no longer comes off as a Greenlee-wannabe and is far more interesting to watch.
Most soap characters serve a purpose and stay in their designated slot: heroine, villain, rouge, or temptress. But every once in a while, a character will undergo a major metamorphosis and make a dramatic change, redeeming their wicked ways or shedding their goodness to get in touch with their inner bad seed.
Here are seven examples of characters who radically changed in front of our eyes.
1. Annie Dutton, Guiding Light: Speaking of Annies, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this one. When she was first introduced in 1994, Annie Dutton was a nurse with a big crush on widower Josh Lewis. She had a few secrets in her closet (a drug addiction and that surprise now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t marriage to Rick Bauer) but Annie remained a heroine, and the center of Josh’s romantic fantasies, until Reva returned from the dead.
When Annie realized she was powerless against the power of “Jeva,” she snapped. Among her sins: telling Reva she was her long-lost half sister (not true), trying to kill Reva by having her ride in a pilotless airplane, and, most dementedly, framing Reva for the death of a baby she’d already miscarried. Cynthia Watros won an Emmy in 1998 for her performance as unhinged Nurse Dutton.
2. Lexie Carver, Days of our Lives: Lexie is the character on our list who’s done a bit of a 360. She started out on the good side, as Salem’s all-specialties doctor and Abe’s love interest. When she discovered her father was none other than the Phoenix — Stefano DiMera — she started a transition that led her to make some bad choices, most notably keeping the secret that Isaac was Zack from Bo and Hope.
Lexie (played by Renee Jones) also had naughty indiscretions during this time with Brandon Walker (revealed to be Abe’s son) and ISA agent Tek. Now Lexie has reverted to her old, sane self. She’s the chief of staff at Salem Hospital, and she and Abe are coping with Theo’s autism.
3. Barbara Ryan, As The World Turns: Barbara’s descent into the dark side was perhaps one of the most drastic transitions. Barbara (Colleen Zenk Pinter) was never exactly a saint, but her “crimes” were usually sins of omission (like lying about Jennifer’s father). After years of abuse at the hand of ex-husband James Stenbeck, Barbara just couldn’t seem to make it work with Hal.
When an ill-advised marriage to Craig Montgomery blew up in her face (literally), Barbara broke and got in touch with her inner bitch. She committed several heinous acts and was the catalyst behind the months-long kidnapping of Carly, Emily, and the late Rose D’Angelo. Barbara may have calmed down a bit lately (dealing with oral cancer has put a crimp in her scheming) but her children are still wary of her and what she’s capable of.
4. Kevin and Jana Fisher, The Young and the Restless: I’m counting newlyweds Kevin and Jana as one entry on our list. They both started out as sinners in Genoa City. Kevin (Greg Rikaart) was a creepy Internet predator who gave Lily an STD and nearly killed Colleen. He didn’t exactly have great parental role models in abusive “Terrible” Tom and self-absorbed Gloria.
Jana (Emily O’Brien), meanwhile, was a quirky schemer who was revealed to be a player in the Nazi art scheme. She also killed Carmen Mesta, a crime she was excused from when it was discovered she had a brain tumor (not before she shared a cell, and many long conversations, with Phyllis).
Kevin found an unlikely new best friend and advocate in Colleen, and he and Colleen worked to get Jana the surgery she needed to remove her brain tumor. Both Kevin and Jana have reformed their ways — so far, anyway.
5. Adriana Cramer, One Life to Live: When Adriana came to Llanview, she was a sweet teenager celebrating her quinceanera (15th birthday) with godmother Carlotta. But it’s hard to be a ray of sunshine when your biological parents are mobster Manuel Santi — and resident villainess Dorian Lord!
Adriana (Melissa Fumero) tried to stay on the straight and narrow, but she became unwound when her boyfriend Rex started having that old lovin’ feeling with high school sweetheart Gigi Morasco. She schemed to keep the two apart, especially after she learned Shane was Rex’s son (a fact she kept hidden). Adriana managed to get her man to the altar, but they broke up soon after once Rex got wise to her scheming.
6. Rachel Davis, Another World: Rachel spent many years trying to win Steve Frame’s heart. She gave birth to Steve’s son Jamie and literally drove Alice crazy before she decided to give up and walk away from the wreckage she’d caused.
Rachel (Victoria Wyndham) truly started to change when she started a relationship with older, handsome businessman Mac Cory. Mac saw past Rachel’s scheming and insecurities and found a kindred spirit insider. When Mac and Rachel fell in love, Rachel found herself in the unusual role of heroine — and fought equally manipulative stepdaughter Iris.
7. Nola Reardon, Guiding Light: Nola’s story is similar to Rachel’s in many ways. Nola was a blue-collar girl who had an active fantasy life. She’d fought tooth and nail to get handsome Kelly away from Morgan and into her own clutches. Among her sins: an elaborate plan to land Kelly, which included getting him drunk (so he’d think they slept together) and sleeping with Floyd (so she’d get pregnant).
Kelly learned about her misdeeds and wrote her off. In an effort to get a fresh start, Nola got a job working as the manager of an large estate. The owner was Quinton McCord, a mysterious newcomer to Springfield. Pregnant and unwed, Nola (Lisa Brown) became intertwined with the mysteries of Quint’s home, and the two fell in love. Quint’s quiet strength helped temper Nola’s curiosity and massive insecurities, and Nola reformed and settled into married life and motherhood.
All of these journeys were entertaining to watch, whether the characters were going to the dark side or coming into the light. In my opinion, these all worked really well and captured our attention and enthusiasm because the shows drew from the history and beginnings of these characters, and because these transitions were done at the right pace. Many of these changes occurred over months or even years. We, the audience, were much more willing to embrace those changes as a result.
I’ve undoubtedly missed a few characters. Who did you watch as they went from good to bad, or bad to good?
Patrick Erwin blogs regularly at A Thousand Other Worlds …