Smart or Strange, Casting Makes a Big Difference

 

Michael Easton and Kelly Monaco: Supercouple in action

By Marlena De Lacroix a.k.a. Connie Passalacqua Hayman

Sometimes even the smallest thing can throw off a soap opera. For example:

Consider the miscasting of the central role of Billy Abbott on The Young and the Restless. He’s the bad boy who lost his daughter Delia to a drunk driver and who may or may not have impregnated his estranged wife Victoria.  Powerhouse Billy Miller had been playing the role, but when he left the show mistakenly miscast the role with David Tom, who had played Billy as a young man. Tom seemed too young to play the grown-up Billy. Worse, Tom made him a whiner.

Happily, Y&R corrected its mistake with one of the best recasts of the soap year: primetime actor Burgess Jenkins.  Jenkins is the right age for the role and looks like his Abbott  brother Jack, as played by Peter Bergman. Moreover, he makes a good leading man for Chelsea (Melissa Claire Egan) with whom he has become involved.  Their sex scenes have been sizzling. Cheers to Y&R for such a successful recast.

Look-alikes on The Bold and the Beautiful

Nothing good can ever come of confusing your audience. But that’s just what has happened on The Bold and the Beautiful where two actresses who could pass for look-alike twins have been cast recently as unrelated characters who aren’t necessarily supposed to look alike.

What? Well, there they are. One of them is Ashleigh Brewer, who plays new Forrester jewelry designer Ivy, a cousin of the show’s main family.  The other, who plays Alyson, a young woman assistant in the Spencer organization, is the real-life Princess Theodora of Greece and Denmark, an actual member of European royalty.

Given B&B ’s vast international audience, casting a real princess known to viewers on the Continent probably is a cool move. But why do Ashleigh and Alyson appear to be twins? Is there a nifty plot twist in the offing? Or did B&B just screw up? If the latter is the case, neither the worthy young actresses nor the viewers are being well served.

Good Chemistry on General Hospital

In the 80s they were celebrated as supercouples – lovers played by actors who had such powerful chemistry, their popularity was unshakable no matter how many times they split up and reconciled.

General Hospital has such a supercouple right now in Sam Morgan (Kelly Monaco) and Silas Clay (Michael Easton), veterans both.  So potent is their chemistry that it is portable: Eason and Monaco have played against each other on Port Charles in the past, he was Caleb and she was Livvie.  They really demonstrated that chemistry last week in a tear-laden break-up scene. Seems the love of Silas and Sam may not be strong enough to survive the interference of Nina Clay, played by the forceful and sensational Michelle Stafford.

Boo hoo   But does anyone really believe these two magnetic and highly bankable sizzlers are finished with each other? Surely GH will invent yet another pairing for them.       

Do You Root For or Against Them?

By Marlena De Lacroix a.k.a. Connie Passalacqua Hayman

Hunter King’s Summer Newman: good intentions, bad choices

Soap roles can conform strictly to type: heroes and heroines we root for and villains and villainesses we root against.  Happily, however, most soap casts are big enough to include characters who do not conform to type. These off-beat characters have personalities drawn in various shades of gray, and as such make their soaps immensely more vivid and engaging.

Here’s a quartet of soap characters who defy who defy clear “good guy” and “bad guy” labels. Do you root for or against them?

Summer Newman, The Young and the Restless (played by Hunter King).  Depending on how you look at her, Summer is either a sweet young heroine or a mixed up young girl who is dumber than a box of rocks.  As the biological daughter of Nick (Jack thinks wrongfully he is her father) she always finds herself in lots of trouble. Last summer she came under the influence of con man Ian. Recently she bailed out and married Austin, a young man who mistakenly shot Chief of Police Paul while trying to kidnap Avery.  She means well, but do good intentions always excuse bad choices? Will Summer be left alone while Austin goes to jail?

Hilary Curtis, Y&R, The Young and the Restless (played by Mishael Morgan).     Hilary originally appeared as a villainess who tried to come between Lily and Cain.  Then, Devon fell in love with her as did his father Neil, who managed to marry her.  Recently newlywed Hilary and Devon were caught by Cain as they were about to make love in the laundry closet.   Now, do you root for or against Hilary?

Maya Avant, The Bold and the Beautiful (played by Karla Mosley).    Is Maya a hero or a villainess?.  She came to town and was engaged to Rick but broke that off and he married Caroline. Meanwhile, she became engaged to Carter.  Recently, she unsuccessfully propositioned Rick in the steam room  and tape recorded Oliver’s confession that he initially was attracted to Aly because of her Forrester name.   Is Maya to be trusted?

Maxie Jones, General Hospital (played by Kirsten Storms).  Maxie was born on the show, and we’re supposed to root for her.  However, it’s hard because she has done many stupid things, like pass off her own biological daughter as Lula and Dante’s.  Recently Maxie has gotten herself all involved with muscle bound Aussie Levi, although she clearly is falling in love with Nathan. Isn’t Maxie making it harder and harder to root for her?

 

Character Actors Add Much Needed Character To Soaps

By Marlena De Lacroix a.k.a. Connie Passalacqua Hayman

Bergen Williams as truth-telling Alice Gunderson on General Hospital

Soap stories, most of which are about romance and love triangles, do tend to get repetitive.  Adding variety and spice to this formula are character roles, which do a lot to make soaps more interesting.  These characters often provide comic relief and serve as “talk tos” for the main characters.

Colorful and amusing character parts have enriched soaps since the beginning.

On Another World in the 70s, Anne Meacham as Iris’s assistant Louise Goddard always drew laughs when she talked to plants about  the show’s tangled plots, “confiding” in the greenery in a deep, soothing voice. In the 80s, Brent Collins on AW  was memorable as Felicia Gallant’s wise-cracking sidekick.  (A versatile actor, he also played the evil, unfunny Mr. Big on As the World Turns.)  At the same time on Days of Our Lives,  Arleen Sorkin and  John DeLancie served as comic foils to leads Marlena and Roman – Arleen as the ditzy blond  Calliope and John as the stuffed shirt Eugene.  Meanwhile, on All My Children, the country-fried Opal (Dorothy Lyman, Jill  Larson) was the talk-to for Erica, and was so popular she became a main character.

Now more than ever, today’s meager menu of four soaps needs to be made tastier by the addition of the adroit services of stellar character actors:

All the goings-on at The Bold and the Beautiful’s Forrester Creations are comically commented on by Pam (Ally Mills) and her boyfriend Charlie (Dick Christie), turning the office staff into an irreverent Greek chorus. Often they “get” what’s happening before the main characters do. Pam, you may recall, was first to catch on to how crazy Quinn is.

A fine example of comic acting was on display just this month as Ilene Kristen guested on General Hospital as her old  Ryan’s Hope character Delia Reid Ryan, her patented kookiness undiminished by the passing years,  Delia, in a real stroke of writing brilliance, was revealed to be the mother of  Ava (Maura West).  Like mother like daughter — both are conniving  and mocking. This time Delia came to stay with pregnant Ava and her baby daddy Sonny and wound up busting into Sonny’s safe before she was escorted out of town by Sean.

Another comic character that is much beloved by the GH audience is Alice Gunderson (Bergen Williams), the truth-telling wrestler and former Quartermaine maid who is now a real thorn in the side of Tracy.  Alice is on to the fact that Tracy is trying to secretly take over ELQ, the family business.  Recently Alice proved she really does have a heart by having a heart attack, and now needs a heart transplant to save her life.

Speaking of thorns, a shining example of tour de force character acting is now being offered by Ray Wise, whose seductive con man Ian Ward is now a thorn in the sides of many Genoa City residents on The Young and the Restless.   Right now, he’s suing Nikki for emotional disturbance (!) because she lied and told him he was Dylan’s biological father. In this storyline, Wise has been particularly well paired with Melody Thomas Scott (Nikki) and Eric Braeden, who plays Nikki’s exasperated and combative  husband Victor.

 These are some of my faves. Who are yours?

Daytime’s Most Famous “Love to Hate” Characters

By Marlena Delacroix a.k.a. Connie Passalacqua Hayman

Eric Braeden as Victor Newman: Still Machiavellian after all these years

For any soap opera, a “love to hate” character is money in the bank.  Fascinated by their endless power to manipulate other characters and instigate interesting plots, these diabolical characters are adored by audiences who avidly follow all that they do. 

“Love to hate” characters dot soap opera history and frequently have long lives.  One of the first “love to hate” females was Lisa on As the World Turns, played by Eileen Fulton. Lisa drove her husband Bob and other ATWT characters crazy for decades.  On Another World, the original Rachel, played by Robin Strasser, was a “love to hate” character who evolved into a heroine, subsequently played by Victoria Wyndham. Stasser went on to play another and more famous “love to hate” character, Dorian Lord, on One Life to Live for decades.  Another iconic “love to hate” character, All My Children’s Erica Kane, made famous by Susan Lucci, quickly became the heroine of her show and was beloved for four decades as she stirred up trouble for generations of characters in Pine Valley.

“Love to hate” characters are usually played by women, but there have been some notable exceptions.  On AMC, James Mitchell’s Palmer Cortlandt caused trouble for his daughter Nina for years.   On TheYoung and the Restless, Eric Braeden’s conniving Victor Newman has been the catalyst of many twisted plots for 30 years. And he’s still going strong,mastermindinglots of problems for his children Adam, Nick and Victoria, and causing his wife Nikki to leave him over and over again. (They recently reconciled after Nikki forgave him for hiring a Cassie lookalike to frighten Sharon. But does anyone believe Victor is properly repentant and will change his Machiavellian ways? )

Right now, there are two “love to hate” characters on soaps who are relatively new and fascinating:

Spunky Quinn Fuller (Rena Sofer) came to The Bold and the Beautiful’s Forrester Creations as a jewelry designer along with her illegitimate son Wyatt.  Since arriving Quinn will do anything to help Wyatt win over the love of Hope Logan, including threatening and torturing Wyatt’s brother Liam, who is also in love with Hope.  This week Quinn even threatened to kill both Wyatt and Hope.  Quinn is so delicious as a “love to hate” character, she’s sure to be with us for a long time.

And on General Hospital, Nina Clay, as played  by Michelle Stafford (who originated and played another “love to hate” character Phyllis Summers Newman on The Young and Restless) has turned out to be a real terror since she came to Port Charles to bust up the romance of her husband Silas and Sam Morgan.  She has even resorted to faking paralysis to get her husband to feel sorry for her and stay with her. In interviews, Stafford has stated that Nina is a sociopath – great news for connoisseurs of “love to hate” characters.   She certainly has a long future ahead as a troublemaker on GH.

So, do you have a favorite baddie, past or present? Please share.