Press Articles (43)

Nice Work, If You Can Get It!

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

By Jennifer Lenhart

Few would deny that the current environment in daytime is unsettling, at best; apocalyptic at worst. As belts tighten across the board, cast members are being fired left and right — and not just anyone, mind you, but big-name actors. Those still deemed desirable are being snatched up in bidding wars and stolen out from under other networks' noses. Stars who no one ever expected to see on a soap again are also coming back in droves, and those who did stick around are hanging onto their jobs for dear life. It's a terrifying climate in which anything can — and quite often does — happen. But make no mistake: This isn't just about soaps. The entertainment industry as a whole is in turmoil, and the resulting trickle-down effect has made a startling impact on daytime.

"The networks and shows have the pick of the crop more than ever," says talent manager Michael Bruno, who represents 15 actors currently on daytime. "That's why they're able to get Sydney Penny [Samantha. BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL] and Jack Wagner [Nick, B&B]. Kelly-Monaco [Livvie, PORT CHARLES: soon-to-be Samantha. GENERAL HOSPITAL] wrote her own ticket. It says something when Jacob Young [soon-to-be J.R.. ALL MY CHILDREN; ex-Lucky, GENERAL HOSPITAL; ex-Rick, B&B] and Coltin Scott [now-Stephen Martines, soon-to-be Tony, GUIDING LIGHT: ex-Nikolas, GH]. at their young ages, would come back so quickly. That's an enormous statement as to what is going on out there. These are two bankable kids; the fact that both are not only going back to soaps, but going to New York soaps, tells you how scary show business is in general right now."

AS THE WORLD TURNS's Grayson McCouch (Dusty), who left his ANOTHER WORLD role as Morgan in 1996 and has worked extensively in theater, film and television, has experienced it firsthand. "To be frank, one of the reasons I'm back on a soap is that the whole industry took a beating — along with the rest of the economy — after 9/11. and things became more competitive." says the actor, who has certainly seen his share of bountiful pilot seasons, with one job after another coming his way. Not anymore: "Those days are over. Not in a million years would that happen today to a young man who came off a soap. Film actors are finding that their careers can be rejuvenated on prime-time, like Kiefer Sutherland and Rob Lowe, and these are the parts that were commonly offered to guys like myself six years ago. [Now] any job that's giving me ballpark figures is good."

The steady paycheck holds enormous sway, especially for actors with families, but there's also a comfort level that is rare elsewhere. "ALL MY CHILDREN kind of spoiled me for other jobs." muses Cameron Mathison. who recently returned to the role of Ryan after a mere year of frequent guest work. "I didn't care for the whole experience of running around from set to set and worrying about what the next job was going to be."

Mathison has made a big name for himself in daytime, and he's treated with respect. Shows that alienate stars can pay a steep price, given the current feeding frenzy for A-list talent. Bruno says some ABC defectors, like ATWT co-stars Cady McClain (Rosanna; ex-Dixie. AMC) and Roger Howarth (Paul; ex-Todd. ONE LIFE TO LIVE), may have left because they felt more valued elsewhere. "A lot of the ABC people who are falling to the second tier feel shunned. So, when CBS all of the sudden is saying. "We love you,1 it's about that, not necessarily the money. AS THE WORLD TURNS is treating these people like stars, the way ABC used to treat them," he says. "Basically. CBS is the new ABC. ABC has always been a factory of making celebrities out of their daytime people, and that's where CBS is going. CBS is going for marquee-value names, names who could possibly win a Digest Award."

The result of all this is that daytime has ended up. quite fortuitously, with the best of the best. Consequently, the days of youns actors setting their start in the "training ground" of daytime are waning. "It's not gonna happen unless they're beautiful," says Bruno. "When it was casting one of the more recent soaps, the network said. 'We do not want models. We want gods and goddesses' so I got a ticket to Mount Olympus [laughs]" And often, even that's not enough when so many "name" actors are floating around, ready to be enticed back to soaps. "When 1 have an unknown actor testing, the first thing I try to get from the network lawyer who is doing the deal is, 'Are there any names testing?" because then I know I don't have a shot in hell."

"Because of the competitiveness that has emerged from all these actors working in different mediums, it's created a greater caliber of acting in daytime," reflects McCouch. "It makes daytime a more interesting place today than it was two years ago. It's great that people are floating around as much as they are in the different mediums and proving that daytime is as viable as any other. Certainly for an actor, it's not only gratifying, but ultimately more challenging than any other medium you could work in." In short, having done a little bit of everything, he'd recommend the job in a heartbeat.

"It's stupid to leave daytime." Bruno states simply. "It's the best job in show business. I don't care what anybody says. Hold onto it as long as you can. Get the best deal and ride it."
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