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?

Soaps: Where Intelligent Women Still Rule

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

Jane Ellliot’s Tracy Quartermaine is one of soaps’ leading Brainy Ladies

Women are still the core of soap opera.  They are what the plots are about and they make the stories go.  An overwhelming number of women on soap operas are very intelligent, assertive and masters of their own fates.  Here’s a round-up of the most intelligent and sometimes devious women on soap opera right now:

Quinn Fuller, The Bold and the Beautiful (Rena Sofer):  Quinn came onto to the show as a jewelry designer more than a  year ago.  She is sharp as a tack.  She will do anything to make sure her son Wyatt lands up with Hope, instead of his half-brother Liam, with whom Quinn has frequent arguments. This week Quinn bribed Bill Spencer into giving Liam the Spencer name, her leverage being sex pics of herself and Bill, which she threatened to show to Brooke.

Katie Spencer, B&B (Heather Tom): Katie fancied herself a regular girl until husband Bill cheated on her with  Brooke.  So she stepped up, using all her intelligence to run Spencer Publications, and at the same time obtaining custody of son Will.  Recently she lost it all because of supposed lost ownership and custody papers she previously signed, but wound up with soap’s ultimate prize: the love of and engagement to rich and handsome Ridge Forrester.

Jill Foster Abbott, The Young and the Restless (Jess Walton): Jill started her Genoa City life as a hairdresser, but grew into a more prominent position as she got older.  She married John Abbott and went to work at his company. Recently she married  charming Aussie  Colin Atkinson, but strongly assumes he only married her for Katherine’s inheritance.  This week she handcuffed Colin to a pipe in the attic and made him sign divorce papers.

Leslie Michaelson, Y&R (Angela Conwell): Leslie is a lawyer who represents unpopular causes and equally unpopular people like Ian Ward.  Recently she spurned the love of crybaby and general pain Neil to make a fast marriage to Dr.  Barton Shelby.

Alexis Davis, General Hospital (Nancy Grahn): Alexis is the smartest woman on daytime television, a very good lawyer and a strict mother. Only a smarty like Alexis could  keep criminal Sonny out of jail all this time.   Alexis’ problem is that she always gets involved with bad men like Sonny and her current crush, Julian Jerome.

Tracy Quartermaine, GH (Jane Elliot): Tracy has always been the smartest of the smart, a leading Quartermaine since the rich family came to town decades ago.  Her Achilles heel is Luke Spencer, to whom she has been married three times.  These days a secretly criminal Luke wants to wrest control of  the Quartermaine company ELQ to himself.  Will Tracy catch on and ward off his evil efforts?

There are more, of course. Who are your nominees for the Soap Opera Brainy Lady Hall of Fame?   

General Hospital’s Entertaining Throughline: Kiki Isn’t a Quartermaine

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

For a soap that is frequently troubled and all over the place,General Hospital had a very entertaining week. That’s because it had a very definite throughline — the revelation to many that Kiki isn’t a Quartermaine – aimed at a Friday cliffhanger destination. Michael’s brother Morgan was set to marry her, but Michael, knowing that Kiki isn’t his biological  Quartermaine cousin, burst in at the last second to break up the wedding.

Kristen Alderson’s Kiki: Not a Q

Some adroitly complicated plotting got us to that point. Kiki’s lack of Q DNA has been something of an open secret for some time. The audience has long known the truth.  The only person who now really doesn’t know is Kiki herself, who carries on under the delusion that she has a Q family vote in who gets control of ELQ, Tracy or A.J. (Earlier she voted with A.J. who emerged victorious in the struggle.) Kiki’s mother Ava spilled the beans to Morgan, who then redoubled his efforts to get Kiki away from Michael.

So if Kiki isn’t a bona fide Q, what is her true lineage? It turns out her biological father is the normally chilly, Spock-like Silas, from whom this news elicits actual human emotions. Live long and prosper,  Michael Easton, a.k.a. John the cop and Caleb the vampire. You are the Leonard Nimoy of soaps.

The bombshell news that Kiki isn’t a real Q burst via the Port Charles Press, whose editor Connie found Kiki’s birth certificate after Tracy let her break into Ava and Franco’s room in the Q mansion. Going forward, this dramatic piece of investigative journalism may in some way lead to Connie’s exit from the show, or indeed from this earth. Kelly Sullivan, the spunky actress who plays her is due to leave the show, and fan speculation is that Connie will be murdered.

Who done it, or more accurately, who’s gonna do it?  It could be Kiki herself.  Ava was seen physically threatening the life of Silas should he go near his biological daughter, so violence toward Connie for exposing her long held secret is a possibility.   A.J. almost strangled Connie while confronting her that she had published the secret that led to him losing ELQ.  Sonny himself is mad at Connie for exposing the secret, since Michael and Kiki would stop thinking of themselves and being related and that would somehow ruin Morgan’s chance to marry Kiki.

The show had several great scenes this week. Sonny pistol whipping a hysterical A.J., when  he found A.J. threatening to strangle Connie was exciting.  A scene in which Tracy and Elizabeth debated A.J’s past failures was particularly well acted by Jane Elliot and Rebecca Herbst. Also well-turned by Michael Easton and Maura West  was a scene in which  Ava physically threatened Silas with a scissor to his  back should he make contact with his new daughter.

All week there was a real sense of suspense. Would Kiki and Morgan ultimately marry?  Will Connie really be done in, and by whom?   We’ll have to all tune in to GH next week to find  the answers to these ongoing  questions and more. Thankfully for the continued success of GH, we’re looking forward to it.