By Michele Dargan

WHAT has been going on with all of the actor exits on our favorite soap operas recently?????

It seems we need a scorecard these days just to keep up with who’s leaving which soap.

Earlier this month, Mark Hapka, Nathan on Days of Our Lives, got the axe after being involved in a front-burner storyline.

Now we find out that two more Days actors are leaving: Shelley Hennig (Stephanie) and Jay Kenneth Johnson (Philip).

Paula, over at Paula’s Soapbox, discusses the recent DOOL exits and the possible impact on current storylines.

Click here to read her Days blog titled “On the Outs: DOOL.”

Meanwhile in the past few days, there’s been a plethora of exits on the ABC soaps.

Melissa Claire Egan (Annie Lavery/AMC) is leaving. She opted not to renew her contract.

Melissa Claire Egan (Annie/AMC)

THAT is definitely a BIG loss to AMC. Annie added so much to life to the show and Egan was so much fun to watch…particularly when she turned into Crazy Annie!

Egan posted a letter to her fans on her official website.

It says, in part: “After 4 and a half incredible years as a member of the All My Children cast, I have made the extremely difficult decision to leave the Pine Valley family that I have come to love and respect so much.

“It has been an amazing 4 and a half years for me! I have had the privilege and honor of working with the most talented and fun cast, crew, producers and directors imaginable. I have learned so much from them and am forever indebted. To wake up each morning and love going to work is a true blessing for which I am unbelievably grateful!”

And over at One Life To Live, Brittany Underwood (Langston/OLTL) has been fired.

Another BIG loss….I so enjoyed watching Langston grow from the “freak” in high school into a Cramer woman.

Perhaps the biggest shocker of all….

Rebecca Herbst, who has played Elizabeth Webber FOR-ever on General Hospital, was let go.

Rebecca Herbst (Elizabeth)

Whhhhhaaaaatttt?????

Although, I have to say, the writers have totally ruined the character over the past several years….they turned Elizabeth…who survived a brutal rape all those years ago…who used to be a strong, kind, giving person…into a jealous, insecure – and I might add annoying – character.

Be that as it may, I still loved to watch Herbst onscreen because of her talent.

Not to mention that the character is steeped in so much GH history!

Paula, over at Paula’s Soapbox, has written a blog about her take on Herbst’s firing and speculates on how Elizabeth will be written out.

Paula also discusses how Elizabeth’s exit will impact the characters in her universe – like Lucky, Nikolas, Jason and her children.

Click here to read Paula’s blog about Herbst’s exit: “Farewell to Possibilities: GH.”

By Michele Dargan

When last we saw Aidan Devane on All My Children, he had been sent to jail for kidnapping charges after holding Kendall against her will.

The whole obsessive love for Kendall gone awry had fans going – huh???

Many fans complained that the writers made Aidan do things that were totally out of character…He was a good guy for most of his 8-year run on AMC…that is until the show was moved from New York City to L.A. last January and Aidan was written off the show the month before – much to his fans chagrin!!

I caught up with Aidan’s portrayer – the incredibly gracious Aiden Turner – Sunday at opening day of International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington, FL.

Aiden Turner at polo.
Photo: Michele Dargan

Turner is known to frequent the Palm Beach area now and again as his friend, Cedric DuPont, owns an antiques store by the same name in West Palm Beach.

Aiden, who now lives in L.A., flew in to town for a New Year’s Eve party.

Another friend of his, Shamin Abas, handles the public relations for the International Polo Club Palm Beach.

Aiden stomping divots at halftime.
( Lauren Lieberman / LILA PHOTO)

It was Aiden’s second time at polo.

With the scene set….It was an absolutely picture perfect South Florida day…Let the interview begin.

photo: Y.A. Teitelbaum

First and foremost, Aiden wants his fans to know how much he appreciates them and their support.

Regarding the twist in his final storyline – when Aidan first rescued Kendall from the hospital in order to help her avoid a murder charge and then turned it into a kidnapping, Aiden agreed with the fans.

“It’s a really lame story with a capital L and I found it to be a real shame,” Aiden said. “It made my character do a 180. As I was learning the lines I thought, this is not the character that I worked so hard on.”

Aiden described his character as being “full of integrity. I really liked the character. I really loved playing him. Sometimes he rubbed off on me. They used to write me really cool and then the writers changed and they put a different spin on the character. But it was a good 8 years.”

On the up side, being off contract allows Aiden to pursue other opportunities.

“When you’re on contract, you can’t do anything else,” Aiden said. “It’s like a marriage. You can’t date anyone else. I wouldn’t be able to do a movie.”

Which is where he would like to go next.

“I’d like to do movies like “The Bourne Supremacy” things like that,” he said. “I’d love to do comedy….action movies….things like that.”

Aiden is one of three finalists to replace Andy Whitfield in the lead role of “Spartacus,” the Starz television series. Whitfield withdrew from role in Season two, when his non-Hodgkin Lymphoma returned.

Aiden and two other finalists for the role were flown to New Zealand for a screen test with the cast. He’s in a kind of limbo, because there has been no decision made. Aiden said they may not recast the role at all and scrub shooting the next season.

“It’s not going to be an easy thing to recast, because so many people are in love with the character,” he said. “It’s a hard thing for another actor to take on and it’s risky for the actor when someone is so loved.”

Aiden also shot a Mercedes commercial, where he plays a James Bond-type of character. That commercial is coming out in March…so look for it.

As far as AMC goes, he misses going to the set each day as well as the comaraderie and support among the cast and crew.

Aiden Turner (Aidan), Rebecca Budig (Greenlee) and Cameron Mathison (Ryan). (ABC/LOU ROCCO)

“I was inspired by being with such a talented cast…Everybody there did such a great job,” he said. “It really is like a family.”

Is there a chance Aidan Devane will return to Pine Valley?

“Yes. There is a chance, he said. “It’s up to ABC to approach me. There’s a lot of people on FB and in soap magazines that want me to come back. I’m open to coming back, but it’s really up to ABC to make the phone call.”

On competing on Dancing with the Stars, Aiden had nothing but praise for his professional dance partner, Edyta Sliwinska.

Aiden Turner and Edyta Sliwinska on DWTS

“It was a great experience. It was tough… 7 to 8 hours a day…Going from nothing to dancing and doing it in front of 24 million people.”

By Silas Kain

Silas Kain

My name is Silas and I’m a soap opera aficionado.

There I said it and I have no shame.

And that’s how I’d like to begin my relationship with you.

A couple of weeks ago, Michele asked if I would consider being a contributor to Soapbox1. I didn’t have to think about it for long – because Michele gets it. She understands the intimate relationship fans have to soap opera.

So, in this introductory piece for Soapbox1, I’d like to take a moment of your time and explain what it is about Soap Opera that I respect and admire. And when you’re done, I hope you seriously consider what I’ve written and share your thoughts here at Soapbox1.

It really doesn’t matter which soaps you may watch, we all share a common bond. So with all that being said, a glimpse into the life of a soap opera fanatic…

It began for me as a little boy.

John F. Kennedy was assassinated on the weekend of my 8th birthday (please don’t do the math). Suddenly this little 3rd grader was sitting in front of the television translating the words of Cronkite, Huntley and Brinkley to his deaf parents. It was a quick education. But that baptism of fire caused me to become extremely interested in current events, the American political system and History.

The following summer I would come in from morning play to capture the 15 minute soap opera Love of Life. Remember them? Bruce & Vanessa Sterling? Christopher Reeve? Life on a college campus? Sure, it was quirky – almost silly at times. But the lives of the people in Rosehill, New York was completely fascinating to me on so many levels and for so many reasons.

That was a contentious year – the aftermath of John F. Kennedy.

The week following Mother’s Day 1964 would transform my life on so many levels. That was the week my mother began watching Another World.

Remember we’re at the Summer of 1964.

And by the end of that summer, this little boy learned what abortion was – thanks to Pat Matthews and the vision of Irna Philips. Sure that was too much for a kid – but remember, I was my parents’ human closed-captioning device.

From that summer I was baptized by the families of Bay City into a world of bumps and curves which lasted until that final show in June 1999. For 35 years I followed the lives of the Matthews, Davis, Cory and Carrington families. I laughed and cried with Wally, Felicia and Cass. When the show bid their farewell to Mackenzie Cory, I wept openly with my mom. It’s OK for a man to have feelings. I learned that from soap opera.

You see those shows were my education into the real world.

My parents did their best, but they viewed the world without the “noise”. They had innocence and as hard as they worked at being parents – their innocence and sheltering from their own families did not really prepare them for the world of the 60’s.

I grew up fast. And, in retrospect, I wouldn’t give up a thing. Every rise and fall. A marriage. Ups, downs, near fatal illness – all of it. I wouldn’t change a thing because all of it was but a dress rehearsal for this stage of my growing, fulfilling life.

And through it all, the cast of “my story” would be guests in my living room 5 days a week. They became my friends, my teachers, my guides.

Take All My Children, for instance. When Tara and Phil went through the trauma of the Vietnam War, I was right there with them. That’s where I got my attitudes against the war.

Tara Martin (Karen Lynn Gorney) and Phil Brent (Richard Hatch)

When I was introduced to the character of Erica Kane – she was a spoiled self-absorbed brat being raised by the ever loving Mona. While everyone was abuzz about Erica being raised by a “single” parent – I found it interesting from a different perspective.

My grandmother raised 10 children on her own. My dad was the product of a single parent having lost his father at 11 months. He never knew his father and I never understood my grandmother’s “hardness” until Mona Kane. She made me understand my grandmother in a whole new light.

Frances Heflin as Mona Kane

Of course, there was Ryan’s Hope.

My other Grandmother – the Irish Catholic one — and Maeve Ryan were so alike it was almost frightening. The only difference? Grandma had the faith of Maeve but the spunk of Mary.

Ryan's Hope

But it was tough to keep up in the 70’s. School work was a priority and there were many familial events which would be yet another transformation.

There was a constant.

The stories.

Those silly little daytime dramas which were packed with knowledge like no other program on television.

At this point you must be asking yourself why I’m weaving this broadcloth? Where am I going? Relax. It all comes together — and when it does I hope a light bulb burns brightly above your head.

If you’re under 50 you probably don’t know much about the 60’s. But life was different back then.

Most mothers were at home raising their families. And while they watched their stories in the afternoons they would learn about appliances, detergents, furniture and life. The classic American soap opera became a classroom in millions of living rooms across America. Don’t laugh just yet, my dear. I’m uttering a profound truth.

Twelve years ago a small group of Another World fans got together in an Internet campaign to save our show. Of course, it didn’t happen. But what blossomed were friendships and bonds that remain strong to this very day. And we had the opportunity to share notes over the years.

The first two years after AW, we held reunions in New York City. The AW stars came out – at their own expense. They spoke to us, encouraged us but most of all they were grateful on so many levels for the loyalty, the respect and the love we shared.

In 2001 we got the Governor of Connecticut to proclaim Linda Dano Day. She went on The View the day before our 2nd Reunion. Joy Behar thought it was kind of dumb but that’s Joy Behar. She couldn’t understand the daytime dynamic – she wasn’t really part of it. But this small group of AW loyalists accomplished something astounding. And we accomplished these feats by learning from Rachel & Mac Cory, Ada Downs, Felicia Gallant and Donna Love. Those people were role models to us – the simple folk. And we became determined in our goal, we had the steadfastness of Ada, the creativity of Rachel and the loyalty of Liz Matthews.

Interwoven in my 35 years of Another World was my interest in Days of Our Lives, All My Children, One Life to Live and General Hospital.

Another World was and always will the ultimate. So when I make commentary on the shows I view today, remember I was spoiled by a band of actors and writers who were in many respects the Shakespeares of their genre.

So, that’s why I am a soap fan. Not only was I entertained but I was educated on life in so many respects – as each of you is a beneficiary of that education without realizing it!

If you are young man or woman reading this, you may not know it but your grandmother or mom may have been a soap fan. And some of the wisdom they imparted upon you came from what they learned.

Like I said. Soap fans and cast have a different dynamic. They’re guests in our homes. They come on screen 5 days a week. And, in the evolution of the characters’ lives, we learn from their experiences.

A story line such as interracial romance on One Life to Live served to change attitudes on so many levels. When OLTL went out on a limb there was such disdain! Yet today, interracial romances are no novelty. They are the fabric of soap.

The rape of Laura on General Hospital became fodder of discussions in millions of homes. The abortion of Pat Matthews in 1964 had equal impact. The bottom line is women across America were learning more about the realities of life through the stories created by visionary writers.

Do the research. As far as I am concerned, women would not have achieved that which has been achieved without the influence of American soap opera. While most thought of the typical soap fan being an overweight bon-bon devouring woman, lounging like Jean Harlow across a couch – there’s the truth.

Once upon a time, All My Children was shown on college campuses across America. Luke & Laura’s Wedding dominated the entertainment headlines like no other.

Luke (Tony Geary) and Laura (Genie Francis)

Days of Our Lives attempted to introduce a gay character – Eric Peters — at a time when gay rights were just an idea. The fan backlash was so horrific, Days writers reversed course for the character.

It would be years before soap would dare enter the forbidden zone. Remember Capitol? Believe it or not, many female political science lovers were inspired by Wally McCandless and Myrna Clegg.

What Daytime accomplished most is that it served as a vehicle for women to come into their own. Were it not for the strong, driven female role models of soap opera such as Maggie Powers, Dr. Althea Davis and Mona Aldrich, I dare say the evolution of women’s parity in our society would remain delayed.

So, young men and women, believe it or not your lives would be remarkably different today were it not for the genre known as Daytime. As Shakespeare revolutionized storytelling in his time, the pioneers – Irna Philips, Agnes Nixon and countless others have helped shape and shift our attitudes toward contemporary life.

To be honest with you, my ultimate fantasy is to have the Museum of Television & Radio do a serious symposium on the influence of Daytime on American society from 1955 – 2000.

While Daytime seems to be dying these days, I hope to inspire you to understand that which I’ve known for years. I hope you will come to appreciate Daytime’s stellar history and realize that soap opera remains an interesting facet of our culture which needs a little love right now.

And maybe, just maybe, I’ll get you to return to one of those stories you stopped watching.

Reality TV may be the rage these days but there’s nothing “real” about it.

Those who write the lines and create the characters of daytime have a keen sense of our society and world. And in their own little way they bring those things to the screen every day, every week. And, in many cases, the situations the writers create are more real and relative to our lives than that of Snookie and da Situation.

Another goal is to have you come out of the closet.

There’s nothing wrong with being a soap fan. You may be a housewife or retired homemaker. You may be a working gal in a law office or the head of a corporation. You’re a law professor, banker and, yes, even a physician.

Soap fans come from all walks of life. And plenty of them are male – gay and straight. Get over it.

Soap opera is the diversion – the non-pharmaceutical which calms, infuriates and makes one consider options.

Every couple of weeks I’ll be writing a piece for Soapbox1. I’ll be talking about story lines, actors, writing and more. I’m going to be coming from a perspective of 35 years’ intimate experience with the world of Daytime.

I’ll call them like I see them – you may not agree. And when you don’t — I hope you’ll get in to the discussion. I’m human. Perhaps you have a perspective I haven’t considered.

If there’s something you want me to write about, don’t hesitate to ask. I’m full of myself. There’s nothing better than bellowing out an opinion. That’s the Irish in me.

Perhaps you’ve finally reached that point of enlightenment which suggests that soap opera did, indeed, have an impact on your life even before you knew Todd and Tea or Sonny Corinthos.

Perhaps from these story lines that we discuss, we can come up with the writer’s rationale. That’s another beautiful aspect of being a soap fan. We get it. We get the actors and we know when a writer screws up history. If a producer changes, we’re the first to cast our ballots. If a costume designer changes – we know it.

Soap fans are the ultimate focus group underused by media companies. We’re the ones who can tell you everything right down to the sets or change in make-up artists.

We’re up close and personal.

And – we are the ultimate consumers of advertisers’ products. Think about that the next time you go shopping. Those companies who sponsor OUR shows deserve our response.

So, thanks for reading.

The next column I post will be all One Life to Live – on many levels because I am on FIRE at the direction I suspect they’re taking.

Adieu.

[NOTE: Silas Kain hosts the weekly BlogTalk radio show Delibernation, where he and his guests discuss a variety of topics that include “politics, personal empowerment and what each of us can do to make this world a better place for the next generation.”
Michele will be his guest Thursday at 11 p.m. EST to discuss “The Influence of Soap Opera on American Culture.”]