Press Articles (43)

Many Shabby Returns

Tuesday, December 9, 2003

For Former Stars, Going Back To Soaps Isn't Easy Anymore
By Naomi Rabinowitz

For many actors, soaps are considered a "stepping-stone," a place to learn the basics before pursuing careers in prime-time or movies. And for more than a few, it was once fairly easy to experience at least a modicum of success after leaving; enough so that they could go for years without considering a return to daytime.

These days, with dramatic roles in prime-time drying up to make room for reality series, disheartened actors may eye a daytime comeback within months of leaving. But nowadays, soaps are as competitive as the rest of Hollywood, and unless you're a big-name actor, don't expect that welcome mat.

"Things have changed so much," sighs James Horan, whose seven daytime roles include YOUNG AND RESTLESS's Don and LOVING's Clay. "I'd love to come back to soaps, but the shows seem to be much more youth-oriented now."

"It's definitely gotten tougher to return to soaps," agrees Michael Bruno, a manager to several soap stars, including Lauren Koslow (Kate, DAYS OF OUR LIVES) and Bobbie Eakes (Krystal, ALL MY CHILDREN; ex-Macy, BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL). "Unless you're an enormous name, if you're a newcomer over 35, you don't have much of a chance:"

Even big-name stars are fighting for the few parts out there. "I'm finding that it's much more competitive, not just in soaps, but in the entire industry," notes Harley Jane Kozak (ex-Mary, SANTA BARBARA; ex-Annabelle, GUIDING LIGHT; ex-Brette, TEXAS). "In the last few years, I've seen hundreds of really experienced actors whom I really admire auditioning just for guest spots. It's like, 'Why do you have to audition?'"

"'Name' actors now have to screentest for roles," echoes Bruno. "They're not just offered them anymore. What's inter
esting, too, is how many names are competing for roles. For AMC's Krystal [which his client, Eakes, landed], three names tested. It's tough out there if you're over 35. Judi Evans [recently hired as Bonnie, DAYS OF OUR LIVES] was lucky that she got that part."

Even when actors do get invited back, "older" stars usually don't get leading roles. "If you're over 35, you'll be lucky to get a supporting role," says Kozak. "There seems to be only X number of storylines that a soap can handle, and they're all going to younger actors. Obviously, that makes it difficult to return!"

The returns of Jane Elliot (Tracy, GENERAL HOSPITAL) and Anna Stuart (Mary, AMC) gave Kristen Meadows (exVictoria, SB; ex-Mimi, OLTL), a client of Bruno's, some hope. "I'm heartened when I see someone like Jane returning," she asserts. "I'm like, `Oh, good.' The trend is starting to be to give people a wider age range, as opposed to just the kids."

Not so, argues Bruno. "Even someone like Elliot isn't going to be a lead," he explains. "She may be on-screen a lot, but she's probably just going to support the story. She won't get her own. If you're over 40, you probably won't come back and be on-contract, and there won't be any perks. It's not the '80s anymore."

This change in the industry has led some former stars to try new projects. "Soaps are great, but unfortunately, they've gotten so difficult to get onto," sighs Mark Arnold (ex-Rob; OLTL; ex-Joe, SB; exGavin, EDGE OF NIGHT), who now writes screenplays. "The industry has gotten so competitive, which is why I took up writing. For a while, I was disillusioned with acting, even though I've never really left it."

Kozak started writing, too, and recently landed a two-book deal for her mystery novels. "With writing, I can be creative. Age doesn't matter so much in publishing - and in real life, 35 isn't over the hill."

Which leads to the biggest dilemma for many former stars. Even if they're not welcome back, they're too young to consider retirement. "In most jobs, people don't leave work when they're only 40," chuckles Kozak. "So, the `old' actresses don't go away. Now, there's a huge pool ofthem. It's amazing how much sexism and ageism there is in Hollywood."

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