Marlena in New York Magazine


Thinking Fans Comment Update Aug. 15: The judges’ hits and misses, according to Dale, Cherry Ames, Purple Haze et al. See Comments below. 


As a longtime soap opera journalist, I was asked by New York Magazine this week to be one of five judges to pick five of the most promising young soap opera stars.  Yes, that’s moi, under my real name, topping the list of judges.  See the article here.




  1. Cher Marlena! Comment allez vous?

    Sadly, I am not overwhelmed by the talent chosen as the judges are! And I watch OLTL and GL! Let’s review:

    JPL: charming and funny, but goes way over the top a lot of the time. Some might like that kind of hamminess, but not moi! My favourite kind of ham is the unknowing kind – like Brenda Dickson, or Robin Strasser on a bad day. You know what I mean! Cute as he is, JPL tries too hard and can grate on me!

    CVZ – sweet and pleasant, but often delivers her lines like a speeding train. Enunciate, dear! The appeal of Ashlee eludes me but at least she is not as strident as….

    Marcy Rylan – she has the chops, no doubt about it. She can play funny and romantic, but when the tears and histrionics start, her voice can send me running from the room. Probably the best of the 5 picks!

    KA – I don’t know what to say! I honestly thought Ms. Alderson was better as a child, when Starr was devious and cunning. I just don’t buy Starr ( remember, she’s the product of Todd and Blair!) as a moony eyed, star(!) crossed lover. Maybe it’s the writing. She is surely prepared every day, and she is no line flubber, but sometimes I think Kristen is out of her depth playing such serious material as teen pregnancy. Give Starr back some of her DNA inherited spunk, and maybe this jeer can be turned into a cheer!

    VH: Well, I don’t watch ATWT. I hear and read nothing but praise for his performances, so maybe this one deserves to be on the list!

    Am I just in a bad mood today? LOL! I honestly don’t like criticizing these hard working folks! But think there are others out there who deserve consideration – Brittany Underwood (Langston, OLTL) comes to mind. Marlena, your opinion on these picks are of interest to me! Do tell!

    Marlena says: Dale, I was thrilled to be picked by New York Magazine to do this, because this is the very magazine that made me want to become a journalist when I was a teenager! They originally asked me (and the others) to submit ten names, which isn’t as easy as it sounds in today’s soap world.

    My list included Bradford Anderson and the actress who plays Diane on General Hospital, but the editor confessed they could only shoot New York City based actors. Marcy Rylan was not my pick, because I never saw great acting depth there. I also picked One Life to Live’s Brandon Buddy, because I have been blown away by his performances lately — he has grown so much as Cole. Plus, I think at the last minute I put in a vote for JPL because he has great charisma and charm, two qualities that have gone a long way with young audiences throughout soap history.

    But if I could go back in time, I would still cast my votes for the late Gerry Anthony (Marco/Mario, OTL) — now there was a masterful actor!

  2. Well done, Marlena!
    I’m so proud of you and my OLTL people!

    Marlena says: Thanks so much, norn! You are very sweet!

  3. Hey Marlena…

    I thought they were great choices! Goodness knows whether or not Dale was taking “bitchy” pills yesterday (and having known him for over thirty years I do feel I can say that! LOL!) but I must disagree with him on a few points.

    Love JPL! He can be a little over the top but in no way can be compared to Brenda Dickson! Sheesh! He is a breath of fresh air on the soaps. He can play drama and comedy….. as can Ms Van Zandt and Ms Rylan. The GL gals can take some pretty bland material and make magic. I think these three will indeed have big futures. Van Hansis is sublime as Luke. He knocks it out of the ballpark nearly everytime. I could just gush about him all day! As for Kristen I totally disagree with Dale. For one thing you can’t the actress for the change in the writing for her character. I think she does a fine job playing teen mom to be and it’s a credit to the actress to have made the change from bratty kid to teen heroine. Goodness knows we’ve seen much worse!

    I was happy that all 5 chosen were actors I am familiar with. I don’t watch AMC but am wondering why none of their young actors made the cut. Are they that bad?

    Meanwhile… the other article in the New Yorker on Ellen Wheeler. Um, so, like…. how has this woman kept her job???? Surely we will be hearing news of her replacement soon. GL can’t go off the air while she is in charge!!!! I can’t take it! Sorry for the rant!

    Marlena says: David, you and Dale are so great! The actress I recommended from All My Children, Ya Ya De Costa (Cassandra), just got the boot from that show. And I was appalled by the Ellen Wheeler story, too! This is what happens when you get a reporter who knows nothing about soaps or the soap world! The whole story was a triumph of publicity — specifically that of Televest, a.k.a. P&G. They successfully placed the same story in the L.A. Times a while back. What a bunch of hooey!

    And by the way, I gave Ellen Wheeler her very first press interview back in ’83 or ’84, when she was first playing Vicky and Marley on Another World and “dating” Tom Eplin. She was very sweet then. He, darlings, was a huge pain!

  4. The only pick I would dispute is Kristen Alderson. She may not be responsible-her material has varied from shrill brat (I’d like to wash her mouth out when she calls her own mother a “bitch”) and bland ingenue/heroine. I think Starr, given her parentage, should be an angst ridden outsider in high school. A Janis Ian or Wynona Ryder in Beetlejuice type character. And I do not watch ATWT so I can’t say anything re: Van Hansis.

    JPL can be delightful. In fact, he usually is. And Marcy Rylan is showing her talent more and more. She’s no longer the cutesy pie Barbie doll but the heart broken mother.

    Caitlin is a treat and so refreshing. Please, I hope the writers will do her justice and not turn her into just another pretty little vapid heroine.

    I would have substituted Bree Willaimson for Kristen. The scenes at Nash’s funeral were amazing, IMO.

    Given how very difficult acting in soaps is these days (little if any rehearsal time, lots of material to memorize, little direction, and implausible material to play with a little truth) I think most of the daytime actors,young and old, are to be commended.

    Marlena says: I think Kristen has become a much better actress over the years and is really taking her current material — the pregnancy — very, very seriously. Star and Cole ache to be one of those star-crossed teen couples from 50s movies, like Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty in Splendor in the Grass, a couple with real ANGST. But they are not written that way. Is teen pregnancy all sweetness and cuteness as it was in the movie Juno, or is it something INCREDIBLY wrenching? This story needs to be more about the interior drama for these two young characters and less about the misadventures of the be-clevaged-to-the-belly button mamma Blair and Daddy Dearest/Snidely-Whiplash Todd!

  5. LOL, “poor” Tom! Over the past few days I’ve read more about him than I have in years, and none of it’s been exactly glowing. But I won’t go into that…

    David, I’m afraid AMC’s younger set is not that very strong. Pretty, yes, but no real thespians there. Sure, the material is rather hokey to begin with, but I think their acting is either too strident or under cooked.

    JPL is an interesting case because he’s displayed his ability to be vulnerable, and even touching as an actor. I think humor (smart-assedness) is his crutch, it’s where he’s comfortable, and he enjoys playing up that quality of Rex’s.

    KA and BB are doing very good work as of late, and I must agree, KA was a cute as anything enjoyable little brat. I was a little surprised (maybe even a little disappointed) that they gave her a very premature Iris Wheeler/Texas treatment by declawing her for the sake of creating a sympathetic young heroine. It’s okay though, she seems like a down to earth young lady who will continue to grow. She has the potential to take Starr through many changes, and I think it would be wonderful if she got many more years of career out of OLTL. I mean, in like five years Starr’s baby will be 15.

    I really wish I could speak about more of our young soap actors, but I don’t follow the bulk of the shows regularly as I once did. And sadly, I’m usually so annoyed and turned off by the young guys who are either trying so hard to be cool or “natural” (FAIL) or the girls who sulk around with crossed arms and sour faces like the dog just farted.

    Although I did feel like he tried a little too hard to emulate his idol Christian Slater, that Jonathan Jackson had something that’s missing in the pool of young soap talent. He had a light, a sensitivity, a true desire to be real and to be good which (to me at least) wasn’t just about impressing fans. I don’t know, perhaps I’m being influenced by my knowledge of his faith, but you can’t deny that there was something pure and special there.

    Erika Slezak said something wonderful in an interview a while back. She said (in so many words) that she missed the character of Joey Buchanan because he was such an open, sensitive, warm character unlike the parade of young guys on OLTL who were all about pop and flash and smoulder. I think she makes a very important point. And nice doesn’t mean boring (unless we’re talking those last two Joeys, I mean Nathan Fillion Joey). I don’t think Joey and Dorian were boring at all. I guess Mike McBain sorta fits the bill, but I think he has an uncertain future in Llanview.

  6. Purple Haze says:

    It’s really tough to do a list like that and not be able to include Bradford Anderson. What is so remarkable about him is that the actors who are in scenes with him are forced to improve their game. Kristen Storms is far more compelling since she has become involved with him. Steve Burton has risen above his usual “one note” performance and you really get to see the overcompensating bully in Maurice Benard that he usually hides under his dimples!

    No way you can “phone it in” if you are in a scene with Spinelli!

    (BTW, I know what you mean about “TMI” on Ellen Wheeler’s ex.)

    Marlena says: I agree as usual, Purp. Great letter! Marlena has been very down on GH since Michael’s shooting, and one of the only things that I feel comfortable about enjoying anymore is Bradford Anderson’s great talent. I have a feeling that I was the only soap expert picked by NYMagazine to submit his name.

    Let’s face it — most of us are unusual, not regulation soap hunk or hunkettes. And that’s why Marlena has always, always been partial to non-traditional soap characters played by great talents. David Froman, who played Gunther on Edge of Night; the late Brent Collins, who played Wallingford on Another World; Thom Christopher, who played Carlo Hesser of One Life to Live, and of course the late Josh Ryan Evans, who played Timmy on Passions are among my favorite all-time soap characters. I had the pleasure of interviewing all the actors who played these marvelous characters, and I hope someday to meet Anderson, too.

  7. Chere Marlena,

    Thanks for telling us about the story. Glad New York Magazine saw fit to do such a story since the mainstream generally overlooks soaps. Really sorry they didn’t quote you in the story though. Seems bizarre to assemble 5 experts, yet only includre quotes from 2 of them (one of whom was out of a job by the time the story hit the streets).

    But I agree with your choices. If you have to limit it to the NYC based soaps, these are certainly some of the brightest.

    I’ve loved JPL almost from the start. And Van won me over quickly since he was thrown into the coming out story immediately. I’ve always loved Kristen — watching someone grow up on TV has a way of enderring them to you (as an aside, how wonderful was it to see Erin Topey back on OLT for those two 40th anniversary days).

    Caitlin and Marcy took a while for me to warm up to. Marcy especially since she was playing the character so completely different from her predecessor Crystal Hunt. But both are doing fantastic jobs.

    The only other East Coast person I might have considered is Mick Hazen (sp?) who’s playing Parker on ATWT. He’s saddled with a bad storyline right now (with Liberty), but has done some great work since he started 1.5 years ago. He manages to hold his own in scenes with Maura West and Michael Park.

    Marlena says: Mick Hazen — bingo! He has just been tremendous as Parker! And totally underrated. He plays a real kid, very believable. Parker’s romance this summer with Liberty has been very realistic — teens having sex at too young and age and parents freaking out. I wish I’d made him one of my picks. Thanks, James.

  8. Smelly Kelly Jay says:

    Dale mentioned Brenda Dickson. I don’t think I ever saw her in action before I just recently saw clips of her Y&R days on her website (

    Wow, her Jill and Jess Walton’s Jill are SO different. Dickson is very. . . um. . . Joan Collinsish. Was she always that way, even when Jill was the young ingénue?

    MD, you’ve been reading Jossip lately, haven’t you?

    Marlena, congrats on being chosen to contribute to the article. You mentioned David Froman/Gunther on EoN. I always thought he was sexy as all get out, and Gunther 2 was one of my favorite characters on the show. . . charming and funny. Gunther 1. . . not so much. I didn’t like how he treated my man Gavin. I was sorry that Gunther and Mitzi didn’t get together until the end of the show. What a fun couple they would have been.

    More on topic, I’m a sucker for cute, funny guys, so I like John Paul, though I do agree with some that he can be too much as times. However, his charm, charmisma, and chemistry with Bob Woods make him a keeper. And he brings a lot to the character and show when he could easily coast and get pretty far on just his good looks.

  9. I don’t watch much of any of the soaps now, but I can comment on Carolyn Hennesy and Bradford Anderson.

    Both are fabulous actors and have been able to convey from the beginning that certain quirkiness that can make or break a character. To be able to parlay a day player status into a recurring or contract role is not an every day occurrence.

    In the case of BA, I think he’s gotten saddled with just a bit too much of that script-wise, but he really makes it work. Hennessy has had to deal with her character’s co-opting of Alexis traits. Yet, she’s been able to make Diane her own.

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