By the Eye on Soaps Staff

Good food, good drink, good company, good atmosphere and good conversation... what else could a bunch of soapcentric girls want?  Well, honestly, we want those things and wish we all lived close enough for that to happen (more than once a year, anyway).  In lieu of that, we settle for emails flying all across the country and ultimately landing here at the monthly EOS Round Table conference where we will slice, dice and pick apart specific subjects pertaining to ABC soaps or soaps in general.  We welcome you to get a drink, place a food order, put up your fuzzy bunny slippers and join us. 

We will take each question individually with responses from our participating  staff members posted afterward.

1)  What characters on ABC soaps, past or present, if any, do you feel could not, should not and if you have your way, would not ever be recast successfully?  Why?

CAROLYN ASPENSON:  I really don’t believe in the “this character could never be recast” theory.  In my opinion the actor is the character, the character is not the actor.  With that being said, I think any actor could step into a recast role and make it their own.  Would it be a different character with this actor? Absolutely.  Nothing can change that.  Typically when an actor leaves a role the character is changed to some degree to fit the acting style (and personal style) of the character. 

There have been several successful recasts throughout ABC history.  Who doesn’t remember the angst and trepidation of the fans when Sarah Brown left the role of Carly on General Hospital?  Sarah Brown gave Carly a rough around the edges, tough persona.  That was Carly.  Tamara Braun stepped into the role and though it took the fans time to adjust, she won them over.  She changed Carly, making her more subdued and less rough.  I don’t think the story played out by the second Carly would have been the same had Sarah Brown stayed in the role.  Tamara Braun left and in walked Jennifer Bransford.  She brought something entirely different to Carly. We saw desperation and the true insecurity of the character.  Personally I thought Jennifer  Bransford was phenomenal.  I think the problem those at ABC had was with her acting abilities.  She ‘out-acted’ everyone in her scenes.  Jennifer Bransford was powerful as Carly which I feel was her demise.  They couldn’t have the kind of strength she brought in scenes with Maurice Benard.  She was simply too over powering.  We now have Laura Wright who again brings an entirely different take on the character.   

Another character recast that works for me is (and some of you are going to throw up when I say this) Natalia Livingston.  Can you imagine Amber Tamblyn playing against Maurice Benard as his love interest?  Something about that just doesn’t ring true to me.  Of course Emily has been changed dramatically, but the stories she’s involved in since Natalia came along are stories designed for an older Emily, not the Emily who left a few years ago.  

There are also character recasts that haven’t worked.  I’ve never thought this to be the actors fault, it’s more a combination of storylines and character changes that make an actor a poor recast.   

Jacob Young is JR.  He’s the best JR on AMC and is doing an excellent job as this character.  As Lucky Spencer however, it was not a match.  The storyline was horrible, the character changed from the Lucky we knew and loved to some alien version of himself no one knew or even understood.  I honestly thought it was Jacob Young until I saw him as JR Chandler.  He can act, but GH didn’t give him the material, in my opinion, to be  Lucky.  Apparently someone liked him in that role because he did receive an Emmy.  

I think characters like Erica Kane, Tad Martin and Luke Spencer could certainly be recast however I don’t think ABC would take the risk.  I imagine the majority of fans watching these shows have an emotional attachment to the actors and the characters they play and would likely prefer some characters ‘die’ rather than attempt a recast. 

THE MEDIA HO:  There are three that immediately come to mind, and I'm sure no one will be surprised when I say that AMC's Erica and GH's Luke and Brenda should never, ever, be recast. Let's face it, both Erica and Luke are characters well known outside the world of daytime drama. They are icons, like J.R. Ewing and Mister Rogers. Don't mess with icons. I am slightly flexible about Brenda: should Eva Longoria decide to leave prime time to return to daytime as Brenda Barrett, I could live with that. (Heck, IRL she even replaced Vanessa Marcil in Tyler Christopher's affections, so she's got the part down cold!) However, there's about as much chance of that happening as the proverbial snowball in you-know-where.

Certain actors grab hold of a role and never let go. Anthony Geary, Susan Lucci, and, yes, Vanessa Marcil fall into that category. As does Lynn "Lucy Coe" Herring, but I've been begging for her return for years, and no one has paid attention. Ditto Cynthia "Faith" Preston.

KELLY B:  Luke Spencer.  He proved he can’t even come back as a look-alike cousin and pull it off successfully.  There’s just one Luke – and one Laura.  We’ve been looking at the back of someone’s head for the past four years.  At least TIIC haven’t tried to make us loyalists swallow a recast.  They let us keep our little fantasy.    

Jeez, there are so many veteran characters that have come back lately in the form of the appropriately aged original actors.  I love that  I guess there are others that; while I’m not pining away for their return, I just couldn’t imagine someone else stepping into their ‘Property of General Hospital Wardrobe Department’ shoes.  Helena, Brenda of course, Lucy – I’m still holding out hope that they’ll resurrect the Nurses Ball one day.  The others that leap to mind are more fringe characters, like Elton and Reginald.  They might not have had major storylines, but they had ‘IT’.

JENJEN:  I can think of a few roles which shouldn’t be recast, such as Erica Kane, Brenda Barrett or Luke Spencer, but mostly I think all roles can be recast successfully.  I think if fans really like a certain character, they’ll be open minded and give a different actor in the role a chance.  If it’s the actor a person is the true fan of, as opposed to the character, then you probably can’t make them happy with a recast anyway, so a show can’t worry about people they can never make happy.  The show has to move on and tell the story they want to tell.   

As far as why I think there are a few characters that shouldn’t be recast, some actors are able to work magic and lift their characters up into an odd reality that other characters never reach.  There seems to be a once-in-a-lifetime kind of chemistry that occurs, almost like a “boy meets girl” kind of romance, only its “actor meets role.”  Everything clicks in a way I can’t describe and no recast is going to duplicate it.  Yeah, you could hire a petite, brunette actress to play Brenda Barrett and she might be a very good actress, but she’ll never touch that magic like Vanessa Marcil did.  The odds are simply against it. 

When it comes to a part like Erica Kane, her portrayer, Susan Lucci, has done so much herself to benefit “All My Children,” ABC Daytime and soap operas in general, it would be a personal affront to her and all who’ve enjoyed her to even dare try to recast her.  To put it bluntly, I’d be pissed the hell off and I don’t even watch AMC anymore.  

I can remember when Susan Lucci did her first ABC Movie of the Week.  It was the highest rated program of the year (or something equally wonderful) and it was all because of her.  She brought in the crowd.  One of the best “Saturday Night Live” shows ever was the one she hosted.  I will never, ever forget the soap opera spoof she did about trying to find her lost luggage at the airport.  That episode of SNL probably wasn’t hurting for ratings, either.  Susan Lucci’s many appearances on “Live with Regis and Kathy Lee” has been cited as one of the many reasons they had the success they did.  The point is, while “All My Children” has brought Susan a lot of success, the opposite can be said as well.  To recast the part of Erica Kane would be insulting and shameful.  It would leave a lot of bitter fans who felt like they’d been spit on.  In other words, there’d be a lot of Susan Lucci fans feeling the same way a lot of Genie Francis fans feel.  Genie’s fans haven’t even gotten a full recast.  They only get a once-a-year “back of the head” shot at the mental hospital.  As a Genie fan, whenever Laura is mentioned on GH, a little voice in my head says, “Fuck you, too, General Hospital.”

SHERRY MERCURIO: We're talking simply for my own personal viewing benefit?  I don’t want to see GH’s Brenda recast, because I don’t care that much about the character and I do think that Vanessa Marcil has *something* that would be difficult to reproduce.  Without that something, Brenda is just doubly annoying.  I’ve no desire to see a Laura Spencer recast either, I’m not sure I can explain why exactly – it’s not that I don’t think someone else is capable of the character, but when I consider, after all this time, a recast or the death of the character …well, bring on the closed casket and I’ll wait for Genie Francis to wander back someday.  Lila couldn’t have been recast, purely because the fan uproar would’ve made it impossible to hear the new actress utter “now, Edward”.  I’m sure this is not all-inclusive; I reserve the right to add to it in the future!  Next time can we discuss who should be recast, should’ve been recast ages ago, or will be recast even if I have to do it mentally for myself every time he/she shows up on screen?   

EMERALDAX:  Quite simply, a character should not be recast if the only thing that makes the character interesting is the actor who portrays them.  The main question to ask is:  are the viewers attached to the character or the actor? Was it really Brenda that fans adored, or was it Vanessa Marcil?  I’ve only seen Brenda when she came back to the show with Luis Alcazar.  Frankly, Brenda did nothing for me.  I think Vanessa Marcil is very talented and beautiful, and if I had time I would definitely watch her on Las Vegas.  But Brenda?  If a new actress replaces her, she better be as charismatic as Vanessa or else people might realize that Brenda is really a twit.  If the character isn’t that compelling, a show’s only hope is that viewers will connect with the new person.  If a character is that compelling, like Carly on GH or Todd on OLTL, then the new actor better have the chops to pull it off. 

KATHY HARDEMAN:  That being said, there are a couple characters who have made such an indelible impression from the strength of their personality that a believable recast would be impossible – Lila, Luke, Faison, and Helena come immediately to mind.  Other characters, including main ones could be recast, even *gasp* Sonny if necessary to phase them out.  Very few characters should be given nonrecastable status or soaps would fade away.  No recast, no character, no storyline, no soap.  What?  No soaps?  Perish the thought!

 2)  Do you prefer that soap operas remain more true to life and realistic in their story telling or do you like it when they go over the top and get all soapy?  Why?  How much are you willing to suspend reality for the sake of the story and at what point do you decide that it’s just too ludicrous… or do you?  Do you like the other-worldy stories (such as Jesse’s ghost visiting Tad, the majority of the stories on the show Port Charles or OLTL’s trips to Heaven or Hell)?

CAROLYN ASPENSON:  I’m on the fence on this one.  I didn’t enjoy the “Casey the Alien” story on GH years ago, nor was I impressed with the past/present story on OLTL.  However I’ve always enjoyed Helena and her wild rides (how did they dig that far under General Hospital and no one caught on?)  I think for me it depends on the story itself.  I can suspend reality if  I like the story, but if I find fault with it, I get all judgmental and step onto my soapbox complaining.  Hey, I never said I was perfect.   

Each story is different so I usually have different tolerance levels.  I was well over the Todd is guilty story long before he flat lined but I’m completely enjoying Jessica having another personality.  (Adding Nash to the mix certainly makes it a lot more fun to watch!)  

If I had my choice,  I think I’d nix the other-worldy stories because sometimes they’re just stupid.  I think soaps have gone a bit over the top with these things along with the crime stories.  I enjoy the good old romance and drama but if a good story outside of those is thrown in, I can enjoy them too.

THE MEDIA HO: Daytime drama is meant to entertain its audience, and sometimes goes too far over the top to accomplish this. Stories that fall into that category include the infamous "Casey the Alien" debacle on GH, time travel on PC, and La Lucci playing herself at age 14 on AMC (love ya, Lucci, but talk about suspending reality!). However, fantastic stories that do exist within the realm of possibilities, such as Jesse's ghost visiting Tad, the "honor killing" plot on PC, and Juan having a career in music on GH, are fine. They are not totally removed from the real world (okay, except for Juan's singing); they just may not exist in everyone's life. "Honor killings" are very much a part of life in certain countries and some people have been visited by ghosts. (I've have some very vivid dreams and other experiences that have me convinced that strong psychic connections between people can and do continue after death.) So, push the envelope, but don't let it fall off the desk. Tread carefully on that line that separates "Amazing!" from "What the...?" If you don't, I've got a crystal-powered spaceship that travels between Port Charles and Lumina that I'd like to sell...

KELLY B: I think the exaggerated drama, romance and sadly, even the violence is what draws plenty of viewers.  Let’s face it, most of us won’t be standing at an altar ready to marry the man of our dreams (this week) only to have his (a) back from the dead wife, (b) heretofore unknown biological child  or (c) evil twin speak up when someone asks “if there is anyone here who objects…”.   I’m not big into the supernatural, so that doesn’t really impact me.  I have a harder time believing that these women wake up in the morning fully made up and that no one – I mean, NO ONE ever goes to the bathroom.  What can I say, I’m easily amused.

JENJEN: I like both.  I like the occasional dose of reality, as long as it doesn’t reek of a badly written “ABC Afterschool Special” and gets too preachy.  I also like flights of fancy like OLTL’s famous “Heaven on a Spaceship” or “Eterna” or GH’s “Freezing Port Charles.” 

In all my years of soap viewing I have found if I care about the characters and understand them, then the story can never be too ludicrous and, likewise, the subject can never be too realistic.  This requires good writers who know how to develop a character.  What’s ludicrous is when a show thinks they can plop some new character down and make them the sudden focus of the show and that we’ll just suddenly care for them.  Why should I care about some character I just met and have absolutely no emotional investment in whatsoever?   Even worse than that is when a show takes a character I am invested in and suddenly, without explanation, completely changes who they are.  I still haven’t heard any explanation that makes sense in regards to Holly, Stefan or Rick all returning as complete strangers as far as I’m concerned.  Holly was never so mean, heartless or greedy that she would stand back and let people die so she could make a buck.  Stefan was never disgustingly crazed over money and Rick Webber wasn’t the philandering, sleazy, lying husband, so what the hell happened to these characters?  The writers betrayed them and us, that’s what happened, and as a consequence their stories were ludicrous.    

SHERRY MERCURIO: I do like otherworldly stories!  They’re, of course, more interesting when they’re on a subject that interests me.  I watched Port Charles, and I enjoyed the suspension of reality but because vampires have never been my thing, I wasn’t necessarily as pulled in as I could’ve been.  I have no problem with over the top and soapy, and as always I’ll call my Days days into play as proof of that.  Another World also was very soapy, and a great favorite of mine.  Soapy is great, provided it’s romantic at heart and balanced in the head when called for – it has to have soul and brains but still be fun (which is where the over the top comes in), if that makes sense?  I think the mistake some soaps make is realizing they need to go a little overboard sometimes, but making the wrong decisions on the subject matter to do it with.  Over the top violence is really best left for the prime time crowd, but in the right hands, romance, jealousy, humor and revenge can be delicious served up in sudsy style!  As for when it becomes ludicrous?  When I care more about whether what’s happening TO them is ludicrous than I do about what the characters involved are thinking or feeling, then we’re sunk.  Make me feel something for them, relate to, or root for – and I’ll keep on wishing amnesia dude would just fall for his crazy but somehow sympathetic captor already.

EMERALDAX: I just want to be told a good story.  I was watching a documentary on Star Wars recently.  When George Lucas was selling the concept to the studios and then later when he was making the movie, a lot of people just looked at each other and thought that it seemed hokey and bizarre.  Another cheesy sci-fi movie.  But when it came together, it really connected with people – not because of special effects or costumes or even because the acting was that spectacular.  Audiences really connected with the characters and the story being told.  If that connection doesn’t happen, then it becomes prime fodder for Mystery Science Theater 3000.  It’s the same really with a true-to-life or “realistic” story.  I enjoy the CSI shows – forensics really fascinates me -  but I would have stopped watching long ago if the underlying relationships of the characters were not interesting/well told. 

One of the main reasons why the NotAborted Fetus Josh storyline has been been lambasted so much is because most viewers simply do not care about Erica having a long-lost son.  I personally have little sympathy for Erica’s feelings and none for Josh.  As a result, the story of how he came to be leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  On the other hand, even more ridiculous was the story of how Jessica and Natalie came to be on OLTL.  Viki was pregnant by two different men at the same time?  I still laugh about it.  But it didn’t really matter, because the story they were telling at the time was really great.  I deeply felt for Viki and Natalie and…Jessica.  Throwing slimy Mitch into the mix was a delicious bonus.  That was a good story with sympathetic characters.  A really, really far out premise, but they made it work.  Viewers really need to be able to empathize with characters and feel like they are going to get a good payoff with the story.  If that happens, then they are much more willing to suspend disbelief.

KATHY HARDEMAN: Call me wishy-washy, I like it all.  Know the letters SSDD (same s***, different day)?  Mixing it up means SSDD rarely crosses my mind.  Give me true to life situations, soapy emotions, and otherworldly stories, mix them up and see how it falls out.  I only ask that they follow through.  Don’t build up Emily’s breast cancer and then cure it with Nikolas’ love, perfect makeup in place throughout.  Pfft!  Reality says the girl should’ve at least lost a little hair.   

I do have a ludicrous, over the top stopping point no matter what kind of story is being told.  It’s when I feel like I am watching a kids’ show or being patronized by the writers.  It is a fine line the writers tread.  Robin just blew up Carly’s life again by exposing baby John’s paternity.  True to character, she is not sorry about the havoc she’s wreaked, only in satisfying her sense of right.  Twice I can believe and I bet Carly will follow through on her threats to make Robin pay.  It could be some good storytelling.  If, in a couple years Carly hides another child’s paternity and Robin tells, well, the dreaded SSDD, probably would cross my mind and I’d stop paying attention to the storyline. 

Show me all the different stories with as much creativity and plot twists as can be thought of.  Just follow through with the storyline and don’t make the mistake of thinking I am stupid and prepared to accept mediocrity because I come to my soap prepared to enjoy.  I’m not easy, just ready to appreciate their efforts. 

3 Caption any of these photos that inspire you. 

Carolyn:  "Now Christina, when you’re my age if your boobs aren’t as big as mine we’ll get Mommy to buy you a pair as big as mine!" 

Media Ho:  "Don't worry, little sis, yours will grow, too."

KellyB:  “Don’t worry sweetie, I read that insanity usually skips a generation”

JenJen:   “Kristina, when you grow up, you’ll meet a man, fall in love, get married and have beautiful children with him.  Then, I’ll come over when you’re not home and fuck him.”

Sherry:  “But my mommy said she thinks she *can* teach me about whore blouses, so you have to let go of me now.”

Kathy:  "Now Kristina, you know that your mommy and daddy are crazy, right?"

Katrina:  "The paso doble is a very angry dance with lots of stomping and intense staring.  Your timing is for SHIT.  It's step, step, stomp, step, step, stomp, stomp.  Can you not GET that?  Now get back out there and do it right or you get no ice cream."

"OK, Kristina, I'm on it!"

Carolyn:  "Hey!  Wouldn’t it be funny if they really did put Tequila in this bottle so we could actually tolerate this stupid storyline?"

Media Ho:  "Okay, who swallowed the worm? No, Robin, the one in the bottle!"

KellyB:  “And this one time – at band camp…”

JenJen:  "Welcome to breakfast time in the General Hospital Employee Lounge!"

Kathy:  "To more guys in Port Charles with snaps on their shirts!"

Katrina:  "To whores!"  "TO WHORES!!!!'

Media Ho:  "Sorry, dude, it's in my contract that only I get to raid Kari Wuhrer's wardrobe. Check it out."

KellyB:  Luke – “Last man standing has to go home and sleep with my Spankybuns”   Coleman – “Dude, not unless there’s a Benjamin at the bottom of that shot glass”

Sherry:  “Hey Cat, have you ever considered that it’s hard to know if you’re having a private convo when this room is draped with more brocade than a Victorian whorehouse?”

Emeraldax:  Coleman:  "Hey man, we aren’t exactly what one might call ‘handsome.’  But the chicks really seem to dig us.  Why is that?"

Luke (shrugs and pours drink):  "Beats me.  You complainin?"

Coleman (knocks back a shot):  "Not a bit, man.  Not a bit."

Kathy:  "Dude, need a break from Spanky Buns? Buck is always ready to step in." 

Katrina:  "Are you going in first or am I?"  "Want to go together?"  "Our boys won't touch?"  "Not even a little bit."  "No eye contact."  "Only with her."  "You got the massage oil?"  "Yep, you got the 'do not disturb' sign?"  "I'm on it."  "OK, let's not keep Mistress Katrina waiting."

Carolyn:  "I’m tellin’ you Justus, if you just shave your head a little closer to the skin you’ll get a much better storyline.  A little facial hair doesn’t  hurt either!"

Media Ho:  "Yeah, that Sam...can't stop thinking about my little sweetness."

KellyB:  “No really, guns don’t kill people.  People kill people.”

Sherry:  “You really don’t want to know how I get it like this?  Because you look like maybe you could use some help, you got all this stubble up there…”

Kathy:  "You think I am just a pretty face, good body and tattoos?  These hands can create art.  Want to see me finger dance?"

Katrina:  Justus:  "On your fingers, what does that say?"  Manny:  "Pick Flick.  Did you not see 'Election?'"

Carolyn:  "Oh shit, I think the kid just dumped in my hand!"

Media Ho:  "Why is my left hand all gooshy?"

KellyB:  “DNA SchmeeNA  All you gotta do is check that abnormally large forehead and you’d know he’s gotta be from my loins.”

Kathy:  "John, just squeeze your butt cheeks tight like me and that stinky, squishy stuff won’t come out." 

Katrina:  "I smell a doo doo."

"Do not."

"Oh yes I do."



"I didn't go dookie in my pants again.  I didn't!"

"Yes you did."

"I hate you!!  I'm sending you back to Carly and Jax!!!  Whaaaa!"  (Nikolas runs from the room crying like a girl)

"Pfft, Eurotrash loser.  Now where's that Nanny chick with my bottle?"


We hope you have enjoyed sitting around the table with us and sharing thoughts.  Check back next month when we will be hammering out other topics and ideas.

Round Table - May 2006

Round Table - April 2006