Thinking Fans Comment Update: Dayna says Otalia is “a modern romance told with beautiful soapy writing” … Levi says Guiding Light is getting better, and “I am finally happy to tune in every day” … and more. See Comments below.
The friendship between Guiding Light’s Olivia (Crystal Chappell) and Natalia (Jessica Leccia), two women who live together with Olivia’s young daughter, Emma, is generating a lot of favorable buzz among fans online. Viewers are responding positively to the duo’s friendship — and are talking about those rumors that these two are more than just friends. Our own Patrick Erwin takes a closer look at this story in this two part series. Today, he talks about what’s making this a hit. On Monday, he’ll address the possibility that the characters may be more than just friends.
By Patrick Erwin
The most engaging story for me on Guiding Light right now is the crisscrossed lives of Natalia and Olivia. GL‘s latest production model (overall storyline design) is to showcase a more “realistic” view of Springfield. The “Otalia” story is one of the first stories GL has done that really gets the mixture of realism and drama right. Here are the reasons why I think this story is hitting all the right notes:
Realism: It’s a great story about two people becoming family to each other — three, of course, if you count Olivia’s daughter Emma (played wonderfully by young Jacqueline Tsirkin). Only love can save the world, indeed! These days, friendships and alliances seem to last about as long as a commercial break. But
As a viewer, it’s a great relief to see characters we’d actually like to be friends with, versus characters who make us want to take an antibacterial shower after we see them.
with Natalia and Olivia, we’ve watched their lives parallel (and intersect) for a year, since Natalia’s husband Gus Aitoro passed away and Olivia received his transplanted heart.
The joy and entertainment value of this story is seeing these characters learn to deal with each other and come to care about one another. Other than a nice, limited dose of business intrigue with Decker, there hasn’t been a lot of corporate intrigue or twisted, dark plot twists forcing these two to be around one another. The differences in character — Olivia’s locomotive-like focus on business and Natalia’s faith — have been nicely underscored without being hammered over our heads.
Wednesday, one of the scenes between Natalia and Olivia moved me like no GL scene has done in years. Olivia and Natalia have become really comfortable living together and Olivia felt it was a great home for Emma. Due to a misunderstanding, each thought the other wanted out of the living arrangement. When they cleared that misunderstanding up, the vulnerability they shared as people and the tears they cried — first of worry and then of relief that their newfound family wouldn’t break up — were deeply moving.
Jessica Leccia: I don’t mean to slight Crystal Chappell, who has played Olivia wonderfully (even through some very shady storylines) and continues to add layers to Olivia as a person. But Jessica Leccia has really been extraordinary as Natalia. Leccia reminds me a lot of Tammy Blanchard, who used to play GL’s Drew. Both had a character that the audience disliked — characters that we initially thought were pointless, but came to love.
Natalia (and Leccia) had a challenge when she came to town last year. Viewers were likely to hate the woman who would break up Gus and Harley. And it didn’t help that the story involving Rafe, Natalia’s son, was a dud. But since the focus on Rafe has been minimized, we’ve seen Natalia more clearly. And I think the main reason viewers are responding so positively is this: In Natalia, GL finally — finally — has a potential tentpole character that we’ve been missing so much since Maureen Bauer’s death.
What is a tentpole character? Well, there needs to be a heart and soul of the show. Natalia has the potential to be that heart — loving and empathetic, but strong and nobody’s fool. Maureen Bauer showed Roger Thorpe respect but wouldn’t play games with him, and I see the same strength in Natalia when she deals with Alan Spaulding.
We like them, we really, really like them: When you like the characters involved in a story, it goes a long, long, LOOONG way towards making that story a successful one. GL has tried to modernize its canvas by featuring a series of unlikable, ethically-challenged characters like Jeffrey O’Neill, Jonathan Randall and Grady Foley. Some of those stories were a great success and we eventually came to care about Jonathan, for example.
But as a viewer, it’s a great relief to see characters we’d actually like to be friends with, versus characters who make us want to take an antibacterial shower after we see them.
Monday: Olivia, Natalia and the will-they-or-won’t-they controversy.