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Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Has The "Soap Stigma" Finally Been Lifted?

For years, daytime actors have reported experiencing a "soap stigma" as they've attempted to break into films and nighttime TV. However, that might be changing. With prime-time shows like DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES (which features several former daytimers) gaining popularity. Hollywood is realizing what a hot commodity soap stars are.

"If you are young and you learn how to act, it's a gold mine out there." asserts Michael Bruno, the manager of many day-time stars, including Julie Pinson (Billie. DAYS OF OUR LIVES) and Kin Shriner (Keith. AS THE WORLD TURNS).

"There's no stigma at all. Take Brittany Snow [Meg. AMERICAN DREAMS: ex-Susan. GUIDING LIGHT]. They didn't care that she was on a soap. She was great on GUIDING LIGHT and is now a big star."

Agent Honey Raider. who represents Walt Willey (Jackson. ALL MY CHIL-DREN). Anna Kathryn Holbrook (ex-Sharlene. ANOTHER WORLD) and David Forsyth (veteran of five soaps. including ex-John. AW) agrees that her clients haven't had problems finding work.

"Most shows are just out to find good actors," she shrugs. "David Forsyth recently played a villain on LAW & ORDER [SVU] and there was no talk, 'He's just a soap actor.' Most of his credits are soaps. But he did the reading and got the role."

Barbara Niven (ex-Liz. ONE LIFE TO LIVE: ex-Brenda. BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL) reveals that her daytime credits have actually helped her get parts. After leaving OLTL in 2003. Niven went on to star in several TV movies, a national commercial for Outback Steakhouse and has done numerous prime-time guest stints. "I think people have become much more aware of how difficult working on a soap is," she muses. "And with all the reality shows coming out and jobs being so scarce, people have more respect for actors who've worked on scripted shows. I've landed several things because people recognized me from ONE LIFE."

Christopher Cousins (ex-Cain, OLTL: ex-Colin, ATWT: ex-Greg, AW ), who has enjoyed a successful career doing movies and prime-time guest spots since leaving OLTL in 1994, agrees that the prejudice against soaps has diminished. "When I first started looking for prime-time roles, there was a bit of a stigma;' he recalls, "but these days. you don't hear about it so much. The casting directors are aware of what's hot, so they know that someone who came from a soap is marketable."

Bruno believes that changes in the "look" of TV and movies are also contributing to the attitude adjustment. "The nighttime gloss" soap is back. and with all these 'prettier' shows on the air. were getting more calls, because they know I handle soap beauty." he explains. "Recently. I was called by one of the heads of Warner Brothers asking who I had for Superman. and I had six guys go in [the role went to Brandon Routh. ex-Seth. OLTL].
"People are becoming more aware of soap talent." he continues. "Sonia Nikore. for example, who used to cast for ONE LIFE. now works at NBC [as Director of Casting for NBC Primetime] and is very open to daytime actors. We're seeing more of that."

However, it's not getting easier for everybody. "If you're in a soap role for many years and then try to break out, that can be an issue," warns Raider, "because [the powers-that-be] worry about type-casting. It can also be difficult for current soap stars to get work outside of their show, mainly because of contracts. These days. stars are being asked to sign four, five-year contracts without outs."

"Age is the real stigma." adds Bruno, "and it's a male/female thing. too. Women can leave the soaps at 26. 27 and still have a shot at nighttime, but with guys. they have to be playing younger. like 22. 23."

But if an actor makes enough of an impression. he or she will be able to overcome any prejudice. "Look at Eva Longoria [Gabrielle. DH: ex-Isabella. Y&R] or Josh Duhamel [ex-Leo, AMC]," points out Bruno. "They're not 22, but they're now both enormous stars. Neither their soap credits or their ages got in the way."

"If you're good. chances are you'll succeed, and if you're not. then you won't." Raider states. "There are always going to be people who are prejudiced out there. And if they don't like you, they'll find any reason not to cast you."

By Naomi Rabinowitz
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