Watching Trevor Donovan as Jeremy (week of 6/11) got me thinking about charisma, or the lack thereof.
I’m not necessarily slamming Donovan’s acting ability. Lines like “A visit to Jeremy land really works up the appetite” or, after flashing Chelsea, “I was just blowing off steam” are not easy to sell. (Those might not be exact quotes, but nothing will make me go back and rewatch those scenes.) However, though Donovan is faithfully playing the jerk, nothing about him makes me think he’s “handsome, dangerous, edgy, sexy, funny and charming as hell when he wants to be,” which is how the casting call for the character worded it. Why? I think it comes down to charisma.
It’s funny how people can have plenty of looks but no sex appeal, at least none that comes through on screen. Similarly, some people can be average (well, showbiz average) in looks but absolutely popping with charisma. The writer Elinor Glyn famously called it “It” and said that Clara Bow had more It than anyone she’d ever seen. (I agree.) Judi Evans commands the screen. Ali Sweeney, even more so. Peter Reckell. I think Stephen Nichols is a very handsome man but Steve Johnson is often scruffy and unkempt. And yet, no matter what, he’s always sex on a stick.
Mary Beth Evans, Kristian Alphonso, James Scott, Jay Kenneth Johnson, beautiful people all, but they all also have that something extra. And it’s not just characters that push my personal buttons. I concede that John and Marlena are both very charismatic.
This elusive quality, I think, becomes more obvious as the actors age. Peter Reckell is so much hotter to me now than he was in the 80’s. I thought Chris Kositchek was a handsome man, but Josh Taylor’s Roman is an asexual waste of space.
I was trying to imagine any actor/character who could have played the scenes as written for Jeremy and carried them off. Can I imagine Bo taking advantage of a younger female and then making a reference to “visiting Bo land” or Steve talking about “Steve land”? I cannot. (That’s not to say I don’t think Stephen Nichols couldn’t play this type of character, I’m just talking about Steve, not Stephen.) And for some reason Wally Kurth as Justin Kiriakis came to mind.
I always liked Justin, though he never did much for me on the swoon scale. I just saw his arrival in Salem on my new DVDs (can I just say I love my DVDs so much!) when he was a womanizer and a seducer. And, honestly, I can imagine Justin saying something about a visit to “Justin land” and not making me hate him. Why? Because he’s charming. He would say it with a smile and a sigh, arrogant but impish about it, so that you’d laugh instead of slapping him. Now I can’t imagine Justin actually waving his willy in anyone’s face, but if he did, it would be ridiculous and corny, not creepy and wrong.
Think about Jay Kenneth Johnson. When he was brought back last year Phillip was evil and—supposedly—unsympathetic. But viewers like him anyway. And EJ! So it’s not the fact that Jeremy is a jerk that’s sinking him. An actor who is charming and charismatic, and who was capable of layering a little humor or something into his over the top lines, would go a long way toward making Jeremy the “dangerous, edgy, funny” guy he’s supposed to be.