From Bad to Good or Good To Bad: Seven Soap Characters Who Changed Before Our Eyes

Melissa Claire Egan

Thinking Fans Comment Update Sept. 9:  Sina nominates Maxie Jones … Greg would include Vanessa Chamberlain …  Aaron misses Annie Dutton … and more. See Comments below. 


By Patrick Erwin

It’s been interesting to watch recent scenes with Melissa Claire Egan as Annie on All My Children. Once a good girl, Annie has turned into a manipulative witch. She may not be a nice person anymore, but Annie no longer comes off as a Greenlee-wannabe and is far more interesting to watch.
Most soap characters serve a purpose and stay in their designated slot: heroine, villain, rouge, or temptress. But every once in a while, a character will undergo a major metamorphosis and make a dramatic change, redeeming their wicked ways or shedding their goodness to get in touch with their inner bad seed.

Here are seven examples of characters who radically changed in front of our eyes.
1.  Annie Dutton, Guiding Light: Speaking of Annies, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this one. When she was first introduced in 1994, Annie Dutton was a nurse with a big crush on widower Josh Lewis. She had a few secrets in her closet (a drug addiction and Cynthia Watrosthat surprise now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t marriage to Rick Bauer) but Annie remained a heroine, and the center of Josh’s romantic fantasies, until Reva returned from the dead.

When Annie realized she was powerless against the power of “Jeva,” she snapped. Among her sins: telling Reva she was her long-lost half sister (not true), trying to kill Reva by having her ride in a pilotless airplane, and, most dementedly, framing Reva for the death of a baby she’d already  miscarried. Cynthia Watros won an Emmy in 1998 for her performance as unhinged Nurse Dutton. 
Renee Jones

2.  Lexie Carver, Days of our Lives: Lexie is the character on our list who’s done a bit of a 360. She started out on the good side, as Salem’s all-specialties doctor and Abe’s love interest. When she discovered her father was none other than the Phoenix — Stefano DiMera — she started a transition that led her to make some bad choices, most notably keeping the secret that Isaac was Zack from Bo and Hope.

Lexie (played by Renee Jones) also had naughty indiscretions during this time with Brandon Walker (revealed to be Abe’s son) and ISA agent Tek. Now Lexie has reverted to her old, sane self. She’s the chief of staff at Salem Hospital, and she and Abe are coping with Theo’s autism.

3.  Barbara Ryan, As The World Turns: Barbara’s descent into the dark side was perhaps one of the most drastic transitions. Barbara (Colleen Zenk Pinter) was never exactly a saint, but her Colleen Zenk Pinter“crimes” were usually sins of omission (like lying about Jennifer’s father). After years of abuse at the hand of ex-husband James Stenbeck, Barbara just couldn’t seem to make it work with Hal.

When an ill-advised marriage to Craig Montgomery blew up in her face (literally), Barbara broke and got in touch with her inner bitch. She committed several heinous acts and was the catalyst behind the months-long kidnapping of Carly, Emily, and the late Rose D’Angelo. Barbara may have calmed down a bit lately (dealing with oral cancer has put a crimp in her scheming) but her children are still wary of her and what she’s capable of.

4.  Kevin and Jana Fisher, The Young and the Restless: I’m counting newlyweds Kevin and Jana as one entry on our list. They both started out as sinners in Genoa City. Kevin and JanaKevin (Greg Rikaart) was a creepy Internet predator who gave Lily an STD and nearly killed Colleen. He didn’t exactly have great parental role models in abusive “Terrible” Tom and self-absorbed Gloria. 

Jana (Emily O’Brien), meanwhile, was a quirky schemer who was revealed to be a player in the Nazi art scheme. She also killed Carmen Mesta, a crime she was excused from when it was discovered she had a brain tumor (not before she shared a cell, and many long conversations, with Phyllis).

Kevin found an unlikely new best friend and advocate in Colleen, and he and Colleen worked to get Jana the surgery she needed to remove her brain tumor. Both Kevin and Jana have reformed their ways — so far, anyway.

5.  Adriana Cramer, One Life to Live: When Adriana came to Llanview, she was a sweet teenager celebrating her quinceanera (15th birthday) with godmother Carlotta. But Melissa Fumeroit’s hard to be a ray of sunshine when your biological parents are mobster Manuel Santi — and resident villainess Dorian Lord!

Adriana (Melissa Fumero) tried to stay on the straight and narrow, but she became unwound when her boyfriend Rex started having that old lovin’ feeling with high school sweetheart Gigi Morasco. She schemed to keep the two apart, especially after she learned Shane was Rex’s son (a fact she kept hidden). Adriana managed to get her man to the altar, but they broke up soon after once Rex got wise to her scheming.

6.  Rachel Davis, Another World:
Rachel spent many years trying to win Steve Frame’s heart. She gave birth to Steve’s son Jamie and literally drove Alice crazy before she decided to give up and walk away from the wreckage she’d caused.

Rachel (Victoria Wyndham) truly started to change when she started a relationship with older, handsome businessman Mac Cory. Mac saw past Rachel’s scheming and insecurities and found a kindred spirit insider. When Mac and Rachel fell in love, Rachel found herself in the unusual role of heroine — and fought equally manipulative stepdaughter Iris.

7.  Nola Reardon, Guiding Light:
Nola’s story is similar to Rachel’s in many ways. Nola was a blue-collar girl who had an active fantasy life. She’d fought tooth and nail to getNola handsome Kelly away from Morgan and into her own clutches. Among her sins: an elaborate plan to land Kelly, which included getting him drunk (so he’d think they slept together) and sleeping with Floyd (so she’d get pregnant).

Kelly learned about her misdeeds and wrote her off. In an effort to get a fresh start, Nola got a job working as the manager of an large estate. The owner was Quinton McCord, a mysterious newcomer to Springfield. Pregnant and unwed, Nola (Lisa Brown) became intertwined with the mysteries of Quint’s home, and the two fell in love. Quint’s quiet strength helped temper Nola’s curiosity and massive insecurities, and Nola reformed and settled into married life and motherhood.

All of these journeys were entertaining to watch, whether the characters were going to the dark side or coming into the light. In my opinion, these all worked really well and captured our attention and enthusiasm because the shows drew from the history and beginnings of these characters, and because these transitions were done at the right pace. Many of these changes occurred over months or even years. We, the audience, were  much more willing to embrace those changes as a result.

I’ve undoubtedly missed a few characters. Who did you watch as they went from good to bad, or bad to good?


Patrick Erwin blogs regularly at  A Thousand Other Worlds …


  1. Matthew Cormier says:

    Here are a few others who made dramatic changes:

    1. Lucy Coe Collins (General Hospital/Port Charles): Lucy Coe was introduced as the frumpy librarian who had a crush on Dr. Alan Quatermaine but almost as quickly turned into the anything but frumpy villianess whose insecurities led her to scheme and blackmail to get what she wanted; among her many sins; entering into a plan with Damien Smith to break up the marriage of Bobbie Spencer and Tony Jones. Lucy also started an affair with Alan Quatermaine during one of his many divorces from Monica Quatermaine. Lucy ultimately rescinded her mean ways when she befriended Dominique Baldwin and realized what it was like to be nice and care for someone. Lucy agreed to carry Dominique’s baby for her and Scotty, giving of herself.

    2. Marty Saybrooke (One Life To Live): Marty was a motorcycle riding, boozing, leather wearing bad girl when she came into Lainview; she acted out in petty ways; including accusing Andrew Carpenter of sexual molestation when he didn’t return her feelings of attraction. A bout with lupus and a brutal gang-rape however changed Marty for good, she realized she was a kind person inside and turned into the tragic heroine of the show. She’s since given birth to a son and has found true love twice. (Once with Patrick, once with John McBain).

    3. Elizabeth Weber (General Hospital); Introduced as the cigarette smoking, foul mouthed granddaughter of Audrey Hardy and sister to saintly Sarah Weber; Elizabeth was a troubled teen when she came into town. Elizabeth was not nice; but ultimately saw the error of her ways after being raped in the park outside the Valentines Day dance. Since then she’s been the saintly figure of Port Charles, lecturing everyone from Maxie and Lulu to Carly about how to live the moral life.

    4. Kendall Hart (All My Children): When she came to Pine Valley she had one thing on her mind: revenge. She wanted to get revenge on Erica Kane, the mother that gave her up for adoption. She did so in the most heinous way. She got a job as Erica’s personal assistant, weaved herself into every aspect of Erica’s life and than dropped the big bombshell that she was Erica’s daughter. Along the way she lied and said Erica’s husband Dimitri had raped her (he didn’t) which prompted Erica to stab him with a letter opener. She also left Erica’s other daughter Bianca in a motel room with Richard Fields, the man who raped Erica in hopes that Bianca would be sexually molested. Kendall was a brat basically, always looking out for number one and hating anyone she perceived to have done her wrong. But over time, Erica and Kendall came to terms with each other and Kendall became a mother and has found a real friend in Greenlee Smythe which helped kendall soften herself and find the good in people. Her heavy marriage to Zack Slater has futher helped Kendall become a more rational person.

  2. Ah, Annie Dutton… what a great waste of a good character. I loved Annie, she was the first true contender for Josh, and she fit in seamlessly with the GL ensemble cast.

    Unfortunately, as soon as Kim Zimmer decided to make a permanent return to GL, Annie HAD to become a one-note villainess. That was during the James Harmon Brown/Barbara Esensten era. All love triangles had to be good versus evil. They similarly ruined the Phillip/Beth marriage in order to force the audience to root for Phillip and Harley.

    I lost interest as soon as Annie lost her heart. I could buy her as desperate, as lonely, as flawed. But what I couldn’t buy was her descent into a psychopath just so we, the audience, would be forced to worship at the altar of St. Reva.

    And I was a huge Reva fan! But how much more interesting would that story have been if Josh truly had to choose between two loves? Instead, the writers forced him back with Reva, and made Annie a cartoon.

  3. Guiding Light’s Ross Marler and Josh Lewis both started their runs as bad boys with villainous tendencies. Both reformed with the love of a good woman. Both also became borderline self-righteous as time passed by.

    Guiding Light’s Holly was usually a victim — until she kidnapped all of the town’s children to prove a point that most of their mothers were absentee.

    Phillip Spaulding was earnest and pious — if flawed. However, he often took a tirp to a the dark side showing how his demons led him to make nefarious choices.

  4. I would like to include Maxie Jones to that list. She was a sweet little girl who we saw grow up before our eyes but then as soon as her mother took up with Luke leaving Mac, she started to act up and she hasn’t been the same since. Now she’s growing a heart (pun intended) but she’s still the devious girl who rebelled against her mother for leaving Mac.

    As I recall, Mac was also a little schemer or something. Didn’t he go around blowing up things that hurt the environment? I can’t really remember but isn’t that how he and Jax know each other because he tried to blow up one of Jax’s father’s shipments.

    Also Carly. She went from this complex character who wasn’t really a bad girl she just would jump in situation feet first without thinking but now she’s nothing but a one-note cartoon character.

    How about Michael Baldwin. The guy who tried to rape Cricket is now one of the most respected lawyers in Genoa City and Victor’s lawyer.

    Phyllis. She came to town lying about Daniel’s paternity to trap Danny, ran down Cricket and Paul, slept with her pysch doctor, etc and now she’s a lovey-dovey part magazine owner.

  5. Good observations, Patrick.

    My list would include Vanessa Chamberlain (GL). When she first came to Springfield, she was a temptress, “daddy’s girl”, spoiled and always got her way. Over the years, she mellowed considerably and finally ended up in a vanilla marriage to Matt Reardon. Not that it was bad, I just preferred Vanessa with a bit of an edge to her.

    Another GLer I would add to my list would be Amanda Wexler Spaulding. She started out as a sweet, virginal girl controlled by her overbearing mother. As time went on, though, she found her Spaulding roots and ended up in the mansion. After the writers made her Brandon’s daughter instead of Alan’s, the character was ruined IMO. But unlike alot of viewers, I enjoyed Toby Poser’s portrayal of the character. She had the edge that Kathleen Cullen didn’t have and wouldn’t have been believable as a Spaulding, involved with Roger Thorpe. But that’s a story for another time….

  6. I need to quibble with you about Barbara Ryan. She had already turned twice by the time you get to her. Originally a super sweet good girl, she turned into a bad girl when Brian McColl left her for Shannon O’Hara. That’s when she suddenly became a selfish schemer, soon making Tom think he’d slept with her, almost breaking up his marriage to Margo. She eventually mellowed out with Hal’s love (when she was falsely accused of murder), but then as you documented, she turned bad again. 😉 Barbara’s the good girl/bad girl yo-yo of daytime.

    Marlena says: When Esther quibbles with you, you got a problem. This gal knows her soap history like no other. And has always been kind enough to help Marlena when her soap memory cells were on vacation!

    Patrick says: Esther is right. I referenced the more recent trip to the dark side for this article because (a) it seemed much…..darker (kidnapping and baby-selling, anyone?) and (b) it felt more permanent.

    Barbara’s earlier journey into bitchdom mainly focused on her romantic battles over men with Margo and Shannon. It lasted for about a year before she met Hal and became nicer.

  7. About Barbara: long time ATWT viewers will remember that Barbara was indeed, once upon at time, the soap heroine (back in the day when Margo was having an affair with Barbara’s husband, James Stenbeck). But after surviving James and the death of Gunner, Barbara went on the backburner for a while.

    Enter Douglas Marland, and after a romance with Brian McCall ended badly, Barbara kind of snapped and decided she wasn’t going to be a victim anymore — which for Barbara meant letting Tom think they slept together one drunken night and then rubbing it in Margo’s face, and trying to turn Brian against his new love, Shannon. It was only after James’ first return as the mysterious monk at Duncan’s castle, that Barbara started heading back to at least middle ground — more of a survivor not afraid to get dirty, rather than an outright villainess. Then came the return to villainy that you brought up …

  8. In order:

    1. Winter Austin (The Edge of Night) — Blackmailed by slimeball Wade Meecham for her porno past, Winter was the classic good girl who went astray and paid for her mistakes when her past caught up to her. When Meecham was murdered, a framed Winter was arrested and tried for his death. When she was found not guilty, everyone in Monticello (and the audience) breathed a sigh of relief. Until it was revealed that Winter was a cold blooded murderer who had framed herself and killed others along the way. Shocking, I say! Positively shocking!

    2. Katie Synder (As the World Turns) — Who would have ever guessed that over the years lying, scheming, blackmailing, troublemaking Katie would evolve into a loyal wife to Brad and a caring stepmother to Liberty?

    3. Opal Gardner (All My Children) — Everybody loves Opal now. She’s sweet, loyal, sarcastic, a little naughty and way over the top. Erica’s best gal pal. Few recall Opal when she was first introduced to the show. As portrayed by the fabulous Dorothy Lyman, Opal was pure trailer trash hell who made Jenny work at Foxy’s while trying to force her into a life of showbiz so Opal could get rich. Oh, and Opal was quite the little racist, too: she hated Jenny’s friendship with Jesse because she thought Jenny & Jesse were getting too close — and they were headed for an interracial relationship until ABC got cold feet and introduced Angie and Greg, but I digress … (There would be a huge irony for Opal revealed later when her Black/mixed race son, Adrian, showed up in Pine Valley). Years after Jenny’s death and Opal’s marriage to Palmer, Opal’s change of heart (and actress) became apparent when she took in the young and newly out of the closet Kevin Sheffield.

    4. Kim Hughes (As the World Turns) — The very married Kim was quite the saucy adultress when she hit Oakdale (and the sheets with Dr. Bob Hughes … who was married to Kim’s sister). Now Kim and fellow adulterer Bob) are the pillar of society. Take that, kiddo!

    5. Eden Capwell (Santa Barbara) — She was one half of daytime’s most glamourous and romantic couples. A spitfire, a hellion, intelligent but untamed. Fierce and independent. After several head writing and producer regimes, Eden wound up an emotional mess with multiple personalities who slinked off the canvas, only to return strangely in her other personalities. The end was tough to take, but the beginning and the middle were awesome.

    Marlena says: Hi DS9, great to see you again. Thank you for bringing back some ancient, but oh-so-powerful storylines. The Winter Austin story on EOL was elecrtifying! And I love your Kim Hughes paragraph, kiddo! Truly LOL.

  9. AMC has done the impossible: make me interested in Annie! She’s now fun to watch, and MCE is rocking the crazy bitchitude. Hopefully they won’t write her into a corner and let her go … She should be able to get away with killing Richie for years. And why not? No one seems to care that Tad never paid for basically killing Dr. Greg Madden …

    Marlena says: David, you totally scooped me on this. I agree … Egan is now terrific. But I also liked her as a good girl, too!

  10. What about Carl Hutchins of Another World fame? He terrorized all of Bay City, but then was part of a celebrated romantic pairing with Victoria Wyndham’s Rachel (whom I’m quite sure he had tried to kill) toward the end of the show’s run.

    Marlena says: Matthew! I have always adored your comic posts on SoapZone/GH! You are a hoot!

  11. Characters undergoing sudden personality changes can have mixed results I think. Sometimes it can breathe new life into a character, but other times it feels forced and can come across as ridiculous (and gets me hollering at my TV “He/She would never do that!”)

    Jake (AW): one of the worst transformations ever. Sure he was shady, a little rough around the edges, but he had a heart, and then suddenly he became a villian and raped Marley. Thank goodness the writers came to their senses and started writing Jake as a decent guy again!

    Tricia (Y&R): From sweet girl to killer (hitting Tony with her car and shooting Ryan) She was a great psycho – I miss her!!

    Jack (DAYS): Went from raping beloved heroine Kayla to becoming the charming, goofy husband of beloved heroine Jennifer.

    Jonathan “brain tumor” Lavery (AMC), Dinah Marler (GL), Carl Hutchins (AW)

  12. Beth Raines on GL-when they made her a neurotic awful mess, they ruined her character (and I believe it’s one of the reasons GL is bad right now)

    Marlena says: One of the many!

  13. My list:

    Jill Foster Abbott—-remember the sweet companion to Kay in the early years. However, the undying love for Phillip Chancellor and consequnetly having his baby made the rivals Jill and Kay are today.

    Reva Shayne—-she was hired by Alan and was manipulative for a few years before she came the show heroine.

    Lauren Fenmore—-still may have some demons here and there but not as bad as she was to Traci in the 80’s. And her against Sheila reformed her.

    Kay Chancellor—yes she yo’s yo’s a lot—not a baddie—but has her evil side when pushed to the limit. On a side note, I heard she might be playing Marge again.

  14. Matthew Cormier says:

    I just thought of a big one: Opal on “AMC”: didn’t she start out as pretty big white trash villian under Dorothy Lyman and only became a saintly figure when Jill Larson took over?

    Also what about Erica Kane? She started out as a pretty self-centered teenager who has over the years slightly matured into a caring mother and thoughtful citizen. Her reluctant acceptance of Bianca’s sexuality was a pretty big step in the right direction and her ability to eventually forgive Kendall and become a caring mother to her must have been a HUGE leap forward for her. She’s definitly changed.

  15. Julia Lindsey Snyder on ATWT. Annie Parrisse was being wasted as nice girl Julia. She came in second to Carly with Jack (who doesn’t, though?), became addicted to drugs via David Stenbeck, and never really clicked with Jake. One breakdown later, Julia became a deliciously hilarious psycho played superbly by Parisse (who hasn’t really ACTED since, despite her small movie roles and boring primetime LAW & ORDER stint…and the woman can ACT). Remember her Viagra-induced rape of Jack, years before the same act towards Jax on GH inspired so much controversy?

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