In my last post about the death of the soap opera (volume 1), I mentioned how the characters (and the actors who played them) had enriched and touched my life in so many ways. Yes, I know, some people think of soap operas as just being campy, over-the-top exaggerations of what life is. (After all, has anyone really cloned a human yet, or developed a rapid aging potion, or had witches live in their back yard? OK, don’t answer that last one. Christine O’Donnell MAY have been your neighbor.) Yet, so much talent has come from soaps over the last 70+ years, that I thought we should take a look at some of the stars that came from the world of soap and have gone on to make a name for themselves in primetime, on the big screen, & beyond.
Many talented actors and actresses came from the soap opera world: Julianne Moore (As the World Turns), Meg Ryan (ATWT), Demi Moore (General Hospital), Ricky Martin (GH), Kathleen Turner (The Doctors — a soap that ran for nearly 20 years from 1963-1982. Jonathan Frakes & Alec Baldwin also got their start on this show), David Hasselhoff (The Young and the Restless), Teri Hatcher (Capitol, a short-lived CBS soap focused in Washington, D. C.), Kevin Bacon (Guiding Light), and Marissa Tomei (ATWT) to name a few. These actors have said that soap opera work is some of the most difficult work an actor will ever do. This is mainly due to the fact that they have limited rehearsal time & they film several scenes that will be used for a week’s worth of shows in one day. Some of the plots may be hokey, but the work that these actors do on a daily basis is nothing short of amazing. No cue cards are used — everything has to be memorized. These actors have said that the careers they have gone on to have would not have come to fruition had it not been for their experience on soap operas.
Some famous film actors have taken a different route to the soaps. Film & primetime TV actor Eric Roberts (The Dark Knight, Chuck, Heroes, among others) has taken a recurring role, playing the shark-of-a-lawyer Vance Abrams on The Young & the Restless (CBS). Also on “team Y&R,” ‘80’s quirky film actress, Sean Young (Stripes, Blade Runner, among others) and (as I noted in my previous post) a star on ABC’s new reality series, Skating with the Stars, is playing the role of “Meggie McClaine,” an evil seductress out to get all of Victor Newman’s fortune on the CBS soap staple.
Many soap actors are also well-known on Broadway and on primetime TV. Michael Park (who played the role of Jack Snyder on ATWT) was in the original cast of Smokey Joe’s Café. Laura Bell Bundy (the sixth “Marah” on GL — Reva & Josh’s daughter) was the original “Elle Woods” in the musical Legally Blonde. Thad Luckinbill and Michael Graziadei (both from Y&R) have had a slew of guest spots on the CSI franchise and Criminal Minds, in addition to other shows like Miami Medical and Castle. You’d be surprised at just how many actors in some of your favorite movies and primetime TV have been on soap operas, either as a day player (nurse #1) or in a contract role. (In fact, Luckinbill has gained such acclaim for his recurring and guest spots in primetime, he decided to leave his contract role as “JT Halstrom” on Y&R. November 5, he and his character leave Genoa City for newer things. His real wife, and former “reel” wife, Amelia Heinle, will remain on Y&R playing Victoria Newman Abbott.)
Last night, I had the great pleasure of watching Robert Newman (aka Josh Lewis from the sadly-now-cancelled soap, GL) play a hardened sheriff on Criminal Minds. He is SUCH a talented guy, clean-shaven & with a crew-cut now, that I *almost* didn’t recognize him. But that smooth, baritone voice of his was a dead give away. I hate to say this, but I kept thinking, “Josh! What type of parent have you become that Shayne would go and kill a boy!” (Irrational, I know.) But after, the initial shock of seeing his “new look,” I did manage to get past the fact that he was indeed an ACTOR playing this new role. However, it made me miss him daily playing Josh, even more.
With the death of the soap opera, we are going to see many talented actors looking for jobs, and actors that could be incredible not get the chance to hone their skills of timing, discipline, and “paying their dues” because the soap opera is a dying breed. I think the cast of Guiding Light sums what it's like to work on a soap opera best. Take a look at their "Final Thoughts" and you will see what I mean...
Do you have any favorite stars from the soap opera world that I haven’t mentioned? Or favorite characters or soap actors that you’d like to see on other shows? Comment below and let me know! I’d love to hear from other soap opera fans out there about some of your all-time favorite soap memories, shows, and the like. I look forward to getting your input! Long live the Soaps!
Conni Ironmonger-Mann lives in Yorktown with her husband, Don, and daughter and can be found either watching TV from her sofa or writing her dissertation (guess which one is more fun?) You can read her blog at dailypress.com/dpop or follow her on Twitter at @Conniim.