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?

Four More Who Make My Day

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

Even when the plots of our soap operas drag or are otherwise unsatisfying, there are always actors who make our day.  I named some of my favorites here a while back. Now, here are some more, all on General Hospital:

Anders Hove: GH’s own bad grandpa (ABC Photo)

Anders Hove plays Faison, a classic villain who has been in and out of Port Charles going back to 1990.   He’s Danish and with his long hair and wrinkles is perhaps the most bedraggled looking character on all of daytime TV.  His visits usually have to do with his obsession with lady love Anna Devane and with his favorite diabolical undertaking, kidnapping.  This time he’s in town after revealing to Anna that her daughter Robin (who his bossy wife Dr. Obrecht abducted a year and a half ago) is still alive.

Hove’s latest visit is so much fun because we’re getting to see the domestic side of the Great Dane.  He’s continually in conflict with Dr. O, his quarrelsome spouse from hell (the outstanding Kathleen Gatti). The two fight like the old married couple that they are. This time he’s also fighting with evil daughter Britt (does the apple fall far from the tree?), who has introduced him to his “grandson” Ben, who is not biologically Britt’s son.  It’s hilarious to see this villain kiss his “baby.”  We hope Faison sticks around, even if at the moment he should still be in jail for impersonating Duke Lavery.

Finola Hughes

Finola Hughes is always a treat since her spy/police chief character Anna Devane  came to town in the 80s.  She is what soap women rarely are: career oriented and mature but still vulnerable and brimming with emotion.   Now she’s obsessed with finding her daughter Robin, who has thought dead for some time but is still alive.

The most interesting recent Hughes moment came with her impersonation of the vile Dr. O, who wore a mask impersonating Anna. She was an actress pretending to be a character pretending to be her character. Tricky stuff, and Hughes made it a jolly tour de force, complete Dr. O’s signature hauteur. Elsewhere, she played herself with equal charm in some marvelous scenes with Hove.

Bryan Craig. We’ve been very rough on Craig who plays Carly and Sonny’s son Morgan.  As Kiki’s husband, he was very weak.  However, since Morgan has hooked up with older woman Ava Jerome (the outstanding Maura West), Craig’s performances have gotten better. Perhaps working with the accomplished West buoyed him. Now he’s a lot more forceful.   Going forward, it should be interesting now that he’s discovered Ava’s brother Derek is really his father’s enemy, mob boss Julian Jerome.

Ilene Kristen. Here’s a big soap surprise. It seems that GH is incorporating the old soap Ryan’s Hope and Kristen’s character Delia Reid Ryan into its own storylines. Sam and Silas will go to the Upper West Side bar to find out if Delia is really the mother of Ava Jerome.  We can hardly wait to see Kristen (formerly Roxy on One Life to Live), who is always kooky and funny,  in her two appearances scheduled for  this week.

One Life to Live: Still Surprising After All These Years

By Ed Martin

One Life to Live showed me something last week that I haven’t seen in 30 years of soap viewing: A mass wedding of two dozen gay couples. This show has pushed the envelope in a number of crazy ways since the ‘70s, sending its characters to heaven, to an underground city and careening through time. What a pleasure it was 

OLTL‘s comedic elements are greatly appreciated and should not be taken for granted. Daytime executives and show-runners seem to have forgotten that funny characters and comic set pieces were de rigueur during the glory years of General Hospital and Days of Our Lives, the two soaps that commanded the largest young audiences (while keeping veteran viewers engaged, as well) during the genre’s heyday.

to see the show execute a storyline that was out of the ordinary without being out of this world. It was a stunt, to be sure, but despite [Read more...]