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?

Ask Marlena: Whatever Happened to the Marlena Awards?

cowardly lionBy Marlena De Lacroix

Hi everyone! I’m ecstatic to be snowed under with the many, many Ask Marlena questions submitted by all of you in the past week.  They are all intelligent and thoughtful and I am so flattered to hear from so many Thinking Fans I’ve gotten to know over the past year. I’m starting with just one great question today, and will try and answer many more in the days ahead. Plus, the letters have given me ideas for new features (see below). Feel free to submit more questions as soap events warrant.

Hey Marlena, I’ve been a fan of yours ever since the very first Critical Condition column in Soap Opera Weekly and I have a (hopefully) great question for the new column.  The month of March used to always mean two things to me:  the (blessed) return of warm weather, and the annual Marlena Awards.  Thankfully, the sun still shines, but questions like “Who was the best stand-alone actor of the year?” and “But who will win the always coveted Marlena Marlena?!” have sadly gone unanswered for years now.  So, my question for you is:  Whither the Marlenas?

Love always,
Brandon (your #1 fan!)

Thanks for remembering, Brandon, dearest darling.  I invented the Marlena Awards because I was so frustrated in the mid-late 90s by how out of the touch the Emmys were with the kind of soap opera [Read more...]

One Life To Live at 40: That’s Entertainment!

OLTL cast

Thinking Fans Comment Update July 18: EricMontreal22 recalls OLTL 1980 … Dale salutes Phil Carey … norn calls Llanview home away from home … and more. See Comments below.

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By Marlena De Lacroix

Happy 40th birthday, One Life to Live!  I’ve been wracking my brain for weeks, trying to come up with an overall through-line for the four decades this show has been broadcast daily on ABC.  But it’s hard to find one, because, within that span of years, the drama has gone through so many different eras and been presented in so many different styles, by so many writers and producers with individualistic approaches.  So why have I continued watching through it all?  Forty years is  a long time, indeed most of my adult  lifetime!

And then it struck me:  I’ve watched OLTL so long simply because it has always been entertaining, and in so many ways!

I loved the social  relevance and the breakthrough ethnic and racial diversity of the early Agnes Nixon years.  When Carla Gray, who was black and passing for white, confessed all her problems and her pain to [Read more...]

I’ll Take Manhattan(ites)

By Marlena De Lacroix

My friend Roger Newcomb, who is the editor of  We Love Soaps, invited Moose and me to attend a Tribeca screening of Manhattanites, the film he co-produced with Lyle Kaminer. We really enjoyed  it, and I think you’ll like it too, especially if you are a soap fan.

Manhattanites tells the story of a group of young people whose busy lives intersect toward the end of the film in a fiery coincidence.   The hub of all this activity is a downtown coffee shop where everyone, sooner or later, seems to end up.

Gretchen (Caroline Hay), an ambitious waitress at the coffee shop, longs to leave her job to become a television news reporter, a dream [Read more...]