After the recent cast shakeups over at Y&R it got me thinking about the worst fear of every soap fan: The dreaded recast. For fans of soap operas there is nothing worse than having your favorite character recasted. The actor or actress that had played a character you had grown accustomed to is suddenly gone, and in their place is an altogether new entity. Even if the role is recast with a well-known actor that doesn’t necessarily mean it will sit well with fans, fans who already feel like they have been sucker-punched.
People are by nature creatures of habit, especially soap fans. And after investing into a character it is hard for fans to accept the changes in a character. Not only because the face of the character has changed, but because the writers usually tend to write this altered role in “a new direction”. Usually when fans are just fine with the direction the character was going.
However, sometimes recasts can be a positive change. For example, Marah Lewis on Guiding Light. I loved the young Marahs but my feelings towards teenage Marah (portrayed by Laura Bell Bundy) were lukewarm at best. Even with Tony I almost felt like she deserved to be alone after playing Tony and Sam against each other. But when the role was taken over by Lindsey McKeon I began to love the character again, and I clearly fell big time for Marony. Lindsey infused a level of maturity into the role of Marah and she had great chemistry with her on-screen family, as well as with Tony Santos.
Carl T. Evans was popular with fans in the role of a young adult Alan-Michael Spaulding. And I agree, watching his scenes with a teenage Dinah and Harley it is clear to see why fans liked him in the role. But recasting Rick Hearst as the Spaulding outcast proved a huge success. For many Guiding Light fans he is considered the true Alan-Michael Spaulding (count me in on that one). Rick Hearst managed to convey so much passion and emotion into Alan-Michael. With a bad boy undercurrent to the character it was hard not to like him. There were two other actors that played Alan-Michael but they all fell flat for most viewers which again shows just how recasts can be a hit or a big ole’ miss.
Beverlee McKinsey was fantastic in the role of Alexandra Spaulding. Alexandra loved her family but when crossed she was tough as nails, and watching her take down her enemies with such skill made Alexandra Spaulding a fan favorite. In 1993 Marj Dusay took over the role. While I never saw Dusay’s version of Alexandra as “tough as nails” like her predecessor but she was no weakling. I still saw Alexandra as a powerful woman, just without the innate ability for reducing enemies to stone with a single glare.
Another successful Guiding Light recast was Liz Keifer taking over the role of soap vixen Blake Thorpe. Keifer had big shoes to fill since fans seemed to enjoy Sherry Stringfield’s version of Blake. But step up to the plate she did, and made the role her own. She studied her predecessors mannerisms and included them in her performance. Of course it was a plus that Ross and Blake had some amazing chemistry!
Though there are also times when soap recasting just doesn’t work. I have talked at length about the recasting of Tony Santos and how the writers destroyed the character. Taking Tony in a “different direction” became turning him into a cold, brooding character who would stab his own cousin in the back. It didn’t work and the writers resorted to sending the character off a cliff.
A lot of fans loved Krista Tesreau in the role of Mindy Lewis. There were also those fans who enjoyed Kimberly Simms as Mindy Sue. But when Simms left in the middle of the Nick/Mindy coupling the studio was forced to recast the role. Mindy/Nick proved popular, especially with Nick’s mother Alexandra’s displeasure at the couple acting as a foil. The first recast, Ann Hamilton, took over the role in 1993 and lasted three months. Most fans tend to call her version of Mindy as “lifeless” (and that is being kind). The next actress was Barbara Crampton who also failed to capture the interest of fans, thought she lasted two years in the role.
I was a big fan of Aubrey Dollar’s version of Marina Cooper. She had so much personality and presence, a wise-talking spitfire who wasn’t afraid of taking chances. She fit right in there with the Coopers, a little trouble maker but with a heart of gold. In 2004 the character was recast with Mandy Bruno in the role and all of that personality was simply eradicated. They tried several relationships with Marina but she never did have much chemistry with anyone (besides Cyrus and that was short-lived). She was paired the longest with A.C. Mallet and that couple was where chemistry went to die.
And then soap recasts can be downright UGLY. Like when Guiding Light attempted to recast the one and only Roger Thorpe. Michael Zaslow WAS Roger Thorpe and for fans no recast would do. Michael Zaslow was special. He had such a magnetism about him that you couldn’t look away when Roger was on-screen. Even with Roger was doing dastardly deeds Michael Zaslow was able to infuse just enough sympathy into the character that you actually began rooting for him. In 1997 Michael Zaslow was experiencing difficulty speaking his lines and was abruptly fired from Guiding Light (come to find out he was in the beginning stages of ALS). But the brilliant minds behind the show decided that instead of killing off Roger or perhaps sending him out of Springfield they would recast the role. Dennis Parlato was brought in as the new face of Roger Thorpe. Sure enough, the recast was a complete failure. For Guiding Light fans there was one Roger Thorpe and he was unceremoniously fired while facing a debilitating disease. The backlash was so severe that Roger Thorpe had to be written out of the show less than a year after Dennis Parlato took over the role. The recasting of Roger Thorpe left fans feeling insulted, and angry doesn’t begin to describe the hate people still express over this recast blunder.
These are just some of the numerous Guiding Light recasts that left a memorable impression. The Good, the Bad, and the UGLY. What was your favorite/worst Guiding Light recast?