Dark Perils of the Recasting Couch

Ahhhhh.  What could be better?  A woman.  Her computer.  Her Diet Dr Pepper.  Her sleeping kids.  A whole night and a whole week of General Hospital to go into.  Bliss.  If only…if only…if only I had some delicious Krispy Kreme Donuts or some chocolate cookies, I’d know I was in heaven.  But hey, I’m going to take those hips down to a reasonable size so that I don’t feel like I’m smuggling sofas over the state line by jamming them up my dress and that involves a smidge of sacrifice here and there, so I can settle for what I’ve got. 

There are many things I could discuss at length.  NuCarly rings a solid bell as a viable topic, but I’m going to hold back on that for the requisite month before ripping her to shreds in my much afeared newcomer critique.  I am tempted to put her on the cross that stands empty next to Coltin Scott and Jacob Young (you just hang a left at Lisa Vultaggio, then a quick right after Michael Saucedo and you’re there), but I’m going to let her work out her bugs (like them bug eyes she pushes out for emphasis) and iron out the kinks (like the way she fills out Sarah Brown’s dress no better than she fills her shoes) and then send her through the wringer and see if she’s wash and wear or dry clean only.  Bless her, she’s got enough on her plate right now without me harping at her.  (I’m quite sure it would keep her up all night crying).  Let’s, instead, talk about recasts in general. 

As a rule, I think recasts are the kiss of death (which is why there aren’t many and I’m betting that bigwigs are bane to do it) and that all departing actors should either be required to give sufficient notice to write them off the show or forced to hang around until their perfect exit falls into place.  In our chummy little mail group today, we were trying to come up with examples successful recasts.  If you were into AMC, NuDimitri is going quite well, even though he looks very little like Michael Nader.  On OLTL, Kassie DePaiva proved out much better than Mia Korpf as Blair.  John Ingle managed to slip easily into the roll of Edward Quartermaine when David Lewis became ill and had to retire.  Leslie Charleson is ten times the actress Patsy Rahn was as Monica from the get go.  Billy Warlock was initially a disaster as AJ and it had spit to do with his acting because he really is very, very good.  It was because he was absolutely nothing in manner or looks like his predecessor, Sean Kanan.  Sean was tall, blonde and wonderfully, deliciously, handsomely pathetic in such a way that we all wanted to love him up and be the one to change his evil ways.  Billy Warlock is cute and fun and devilishly attractive in a very, very different twinkly way, plus his version of AJ is just MEAN sometimes.  It was extremely difficult to change gears that abruptly when we’d, ahem, grown accustomed to Sean’s face (and his chest and his abs and his butt).  BW was great, but it was like recasting Johnny Depp with Michael J. Fox. I mean, really, look at this objectively:

Not exactly ready for a Doublemint commercial, are they?  Not to mention that SK is about three feet taller than BW.  These things do not go unnoticed.

Once we got used to BW’s AJ, however, all was well.   

Recasts are difficult for actors and fans under the best of circumstances.  I was one of the first to say that recasting an obsolete and long dead character like Roy DiLucca was about as smart as a pillowcase of drowned mice, but from the moment I saw that man shaving at Pentonville, I was hooked.  He lit up every actor who shared a scene with him and had the writing not gone so miserably inane for him, I think he would have gotten an Emmy nod this year.  Shows what I know and also shows what recasts should be.  He looked so much like Asher Brauner that they were able to use the original footage, he was talented and he fit into the role perfectly.  We should not have to strain and get a brain bleed trying to wrap our brains around a recast.   

Here’s another thing about recasts.  Inevitably, when a soap star leaves a role, it’s because they are moving on to something better.  This is usually because they are very, very good at being a soap super star and someone took notice and gave them an offer to break out into big time in a movie or prime time.  Unfortunately, the average soap actor is of mediocre to poor talent where acting is concerned.  In fact, after a couple of months of objective (I have no emotional attachment to this show as I do OLTL and GH since I just started watching it) AMC viewing, I am saddened to say that there might actually be a very, very good reason that La Lucci *didn’t* bring home that Emmy for so long, if you know what I mean.  I don’t think any conspiracy was involved at all.  Nuff said on that.  But back to the topic.  The ridiculously low standards of talent expected of soap actors is exactly why actors that would be considered to be of average talent in the “real world” are lauded as super stars and given the big pep talks by their agents.  (Love you too, Steve Burton)  They branch out, find out that their level of acting talent will cost ya about ten cents for a half dozen in the real world.  Pretty soon, the Porsche payment comes due and before you know it, we have the lightening splitting the Eastern sky of the soap world and the second (or third or fourth) coming is heralded, complete with bells, whistles and a 21 gun salute.  NO ONE is ever killed off any more and if they are, we know that in Port Charles, America’s City of the Walking Dead, death is no obstacle to a triumphant rehire.   

So what happens if a role actually has to be recast?  We usually get NOT a seasoned veteran of stage and screen (as used to be seemingly required for soap opera hiring), but a model or a playboy bunny or a guy who played “Man #4” in “Martian Bimbos on Planet 6.”  No way is this person who probably slept their way into a role going to compare with our fan fave who is leaving with a fat contract in their hand and roadrunner zings in their wake.  The veteran got out of the biz because they are good, the newcomer gets in because they can’t work anywhere else in the film industry and their face is just so darned cute and their boobs are so perfectly sculpted that it’d just be a shame for them not to be seen.  Sure, these people work hard.  Sure, they have to learn a ton of script a day.  But sure, they get paid thousands of dollars a day to do that, too.  I think they should be allowed a few days to settle in, but beyond that, you’d better be earning those giant bucks you’re cashing at the bank on payday when your fans can barely afford the cable bill to watch your sorry ass.  If this was even semi-pro ball, you’d have to know how to play the sport to a farethewell to start making the big bucks.  I’m STILL waiting for Jacob Young and Coltin Scott, those Brothers of Mediocrity, to “find their land legs” and show me what they’re made of.  If this is as good as it gets, I hope they are listening to what Michael Saucedo is telling them about investing and interest bearing savings accounts and IRA’s and such.  Why can’t all of our newcomers be the Ron Hales, Constance Towers, Jensen Buchanans and A Martinez’s of the world who come in, hit their mark, show their talent and earn their bucks?  Why are these “actors” not having to prove their salt in places other than the casting couch and the catwalk before they clutter up our show?  Why do we have to spend MONTHS letting actors that are barely tolerable sink into their role and get comfy, only to find that they STILL suck?  Soap acting should NOT be an entry-level position.  You should have to be GOOD to get in.  We deserve that.  We tune in every damned day to these things and our time is valuable, literally and figuratively.  I’m not tuning in to let some chick who played a tree in fourth grade pick up a few grand a week because she was a model for a few years and happens to have a “look” the powers that be want.  My show isn’t where they need to find their feet.  Send them out to do a few years of stage work.  Let them guest star out the butt on prime time.  Tack a half dozen or so B movies under their belt and when they’ve paid their dues and proven themselves, THEN put them in a role making a digit with lots of zeros behind it.  That should separate the wheat from the chafe.   

In summary, being a recast is a thankless task.  You are usually following in the footsteps of someone with leagues more talent and experience than you.  You are facing a legion of fans that are poised and ready to leap on your every wrong move like a hungry lion on a lame gazelle.  You’d better be good.  You’d better be ready.  You’d better have nerves of steel.  It’s not for the light of heart or lacking of talent.  Sending these little newbies in to take over the role of a powerhouse or even act in the same scene with one is like asking them to feed marshmallows to a grizzly with their teeth.  Somebody’s gonna get hurt.  If you need me, I’ll be in the back, tacking up Tyler Christopher and Jonathan Jackson’s posters onto the Most Wanted Return board.   

Rant off.

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