Three years ago, there were eight American daytime soaps. Today, there are four. The cancellations of “Guiding Light,” “As the World Turns,” “All My Children,” and “One Life to Live” left hundreds of people who worked both in front of and behind the camera unemployed. The four canceled soaps all filmed in New York City (though AMC moved to Los Angeles for its final year). When OLTL ended in January 2012, the city that was once home to the majority of daytime soaps now had none. The casts and crews of the of the shows, some of whom had spent their entire career in the same job, had to forge new paths. Four actors shared the stories of their post soap lives.
Soap Hopping: Jacob Young
Daytime stars have always moved from soap to soap. With so many fewer shows, that is no longer as easy. “All My Children” alums Debbi Morgan (Angie) and Darnell Williams (Jesse) joined “The Young & the Restless,” which is also now the home to former “Guiding Light” actress Marcy Rylan (ex-Lizzie, current Abby) and “As the World Turns” star Jennifer Landon (ex-Gwen, current Heather.) “One Life to Live” stars Kristen Alderson (Starr), Michael Easton (John) and Roger Howarth (Todd) brought their characters to “General Hospital.” AMC star Jacob Young, returned to the soap that launched his career “The Bold & the Beautiful,” rather than attempting a primetime career. “People always say, ‘Hey, the world’s your oyster.’ Unless they’re actually in the industry and see how political it is to go out and meet casting directors,” Young tells XfinityTV.com. “There are a million guys who are similar all trying to achieve the same thing… I feel very blessed that I’ve been able to do the shows that I have and I’ve been able to maintain a career based on that. Because I did pretty much bring Rick to life originally. I was really grateful that [executive producer] Brad Bell called me and asked if I would be a part of that again.”
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AMC’s final episode ended with Young’s character J.R. firing a shot into a crowded room. Viewers never learned who he hit, but Young has a theory. “I think maybe he shot himself. He’s having visions of Babe and had definitely lost his sobriety and he was falling down inside himself… maybe he thought he could be with Babe or something.” Young thinks that the show should not have ended. “It was a real bummer that ‘All My Children’ and ‘One Life to Live’ were canceled…. To cancel them for some talk show, it just seemed kind of ridiculous…. I’m a huge fan of scripted television, and to let it go down that way, it’s a real shame. ABC/Disney clearly missed the mark on it.”
From Daytime to Primetime: Jesse Soffer
Numerous daytime stars have transitioned to primetime. Soaps were traditionally a stepping stone for young actors who opted to spend a few years honing their acting skills before leaving to pursue the greater recognition and larger paychecks of primetime and film. Several actors who were on the canceled soaps during their final years have made the leap to primetime. Susan Lucci, “All My Children’s” best known actress will be one of the stars of Lifetime’s upcoming “Devious Maids.” Her fame made it easier than it was for other daytime stars over the age of 50 to transition into primetime. AMC’s Thorsten Kaye (Zach) landed the recurring role of Angelica’s Huston’s bartender boyfriend Nick on “Smash.” Most of the other actors who have made the leap are under 30, including “One Life to Live’s” Amanda Setton (“The Mindy Project“), “All My Children’s” Denise Vasi (“Single Ladies“) and “As the World Turns” Alexandra Chando (“The Lying Game“).
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Another ATWT star, Jesse Soffer, who played Will Munson from 2005-2008 and returned for the show’s final months in 2010, will star in the new FOX drama, “The Mob Doctor.” He found his soap experience to be an asset in his pursuit of primetime. “If [casting directors would] bring up the soaps they’d say,’“I love soap actors because you guys have the best training. You have to memorize dialogue day in and day out.’” Soffer, who began acting as a child, appearing in sitcoms and TV movies, had a clear plan for his post soap life.
“I started auditioning for other stuff, primetime. .. It’s competitive out there in L.A. I had taken classes. With [Mob Doctor], it was the right script and character. It felt great. I had a lot of fun doing it.” Soffer said of his older costars, ” I think that those folks that had been on the show for so long, I didn’t think they needed to go out to L.A. to start up a career in a different medium.. I think they were on one of the longest running shows on television and that’s that.”
From Soaps to Theater: Ron Raines
Many soap actors have found work in the theater, both on Broadway and in regional shows. “All My Children” star Michael Knight (Tad) starred in the play “The Cost of the Erection” in Los Angeles. “Guiding Lights” alum Tom Pelphrey (Jonathan) stars on Broadway as Judy Garland’s husband Mickey in the Tony nominated play “End of the Rainbow.” Another GL alum, Ron Raines (Alan), was nominated for a Tony for Leading Actor in a musical for his work in the revival of Stephen Sondheim’s “Follies” in which he starred opposite the legendary Bernadette Peters. Raines, who began his career in theater, made sure he kept a foothold in it during his 15 years on the show. “I did a lot of recording and concert things, not a lot of going out and long runs because I was on call with the soap,” Raines tells XfinityTV.com. “One time while I was doing ‘Guiding Light’ in 2002, I did a three month run on Broadway of ‘Chicago’ while I was still doing the soap. Boy, that was the hardest thing I ever did in my life, doing 8 shows a week then doing two or three days on the soap. But I always just kept this muscle going because I knew the show at some point was going to close because all shows do.”
Raines acknowledges that not all actors were as prepared for the soap’s end. “Hopefully, you’ve managed your money properly and had planted seeds for the next transition. You can always smell when things aren’t looking so good. Some of us managed the transition better than others…The rule is, if you’re an actor, you’re unemployed a lot and you audition and you work. The cushy, comfortable soap job is really not the way the game works. A lot of [soap actors] got on when they were 22 and now they’re 48 and they had 25 years of this incredible job… But what they had to do is go back and remarket themselves, go back to auditions, get rejected just like everybody does in this business. ”
A Whole New Career: Cady McClain
A few soap stars have opted to pursue a brand new profession. “All My Children’s” Cady McClain (Dixie), who also played Rosanna on “As The World Turns,” decided to turn a longstanding interest in writing into a career. She enrolled at The New School in Manhattan and has been writing articles for websites including policymic.com and HLNTV.com. McClain credits AMC with igniting her passion for writing. “When I first started working with Michael Knight, we used to rewrite our scripts a lot. That was really fun and I think I learned a lot about storytelling through that. I was very lucky to have the freedom to do that, with the understanding, of course, that we wouldn’t use or abuse that.” ABC later gave her a blog called Confessions of a Mad Soap Star. “I started blogging about behind the scenes stories and it was sort of funny or tongue in cheek about being in daytime.”
McClain makes it clear that she has chosen to become a writer because of her love of the craft, not because of a dearth of acting opportunities. “I started acting when I was 9 years old… I had to pick something really young and pursue it for my family. In a way, it’s been a blessing to have this time to reinvestigate, to say ‘Wait a minute I’ve been doing this, but does it really suit me as a person? I’m not the kind of person to jump in the spotlight. I really like being behind my computer.” She also writes and stars in her own web series, Suzy F’n Homemaker, in which she plays a crusty middle aged New Yorker who dispenses advice.
However, McClain acknowledges that with the loss of the New York soaps, it has become more difficult for actors to find work. “I think it’s quite a blow. The good news is primetime television has come to New York City and there’s a lot more here to audition for… New York’s my TV family. When ‘All My Children’ left, it was really hard even though I was not on the show at the time. It was just the strangest feeling of them not being there anymore. Without ‘As the World Turns’ or ‘One Life to Live,’ it’s like a different city in a way.”