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.


15 thoughts on “It

  1. I agree with all you said.

    When I was watching Justins arrival in Salem I was thinking “This is how you write and play a player.” It was funny and wonderful to see this womanizer falling for Adrienne – the most innocent and shy person around.

    Maybe Jeremy/Trevor will change with the time – right now he’s just a tool to set up Stephanie for a fall and Daddy Steve coming to the rescue.

    Btw, I had my Adrienne&Steph and Adrienne&Steve scenes last week and now I want MORE ;-).


  2. Nike, I thought of you last week when we got to see Steph and Adrienne interact. I would like more, too. I doubt Steph knows the story about how Steve and Adrienne met as adults.

    I agree this is probably a setup for Steve coming to the rescue. I would be fine with that, actually.

    I would also be fine with Jeremy being a random cardboard plot device, if he weren’t Mike and Robin’s son. He has quite a rich backstory of his own.

  3. Young actors without a lot of range are going to have trouble when they’re cast against their natural inclinations. I did catch more layers in Trevor’s performance once he was in scenes with Stephen Nichols than I saw in scenes with the younger, less-experienced actors. But I also get the sense that he doesn’t much care for the character of Jeremy at the moment, and he doesn’t have the experience or instincts to know how to layer in some of the humor or sly self-awareness needed to play the role as it should be played.

    Another actor who I think could be a real addition to this show if given the right material to play is Darin Brooks. Max the race-car-driving player? Doesn’t work. Max the sexy clown, dressed as a priest and pulling out the Flowers of Distraction to disarm a bad guy? FLOVE.

    A friend of mine went to the Days weekend a couple of weeks ago and talked Darin into reenacting the Flowers of Distraction move on video for them. And it was charming and hilarious at the same time. It also convinced me that Darin could pull off the sexy clown in a big way and make Max a must-see character.

    We haven’t had a good sexy clown character since Mike Horton of the 80s. The writers should take Max in a different direction. Quit trying to push women on him and drop the whole player thing. Just let him interact with his family and friends, being the funny, adorable guy that Darin Brooks is in real life. That’s the kind of role Darin could pull off, so let him.

  4. Hmmm, Paula, I have to say I kind of see Blake Berris as a sexy clown as he can pull off comedy really well and then do the sexy thing well too (I have that kiss by the door as one of my favorites). MA was supposed to be the sexy clown and it worked for awhile until JERk got a hold of him and made him a cartoon version of himself which didn’t work. It’s a shame.

    Mary, I agree with you on Jeremy/Trevor. I think it might have been better to not cast a guy so good looking. An actor who isn’t so pretty might work harder to sell the “I’m a stud and a womanizer” bit and use actual charm. As for Wally Kurth, I missed his initial introduction to Days so it’s humorous to see him as this seducer of women when I didn’t see him that way in the 80s. On the flip side, when he was cast on GH as Ned, OMG, he was perfect in the role and that guy was a bit of a player as he juggled MBE and Renee Sofer.

  5. I agree with everything you had to say — and I think your comments on Max are very astute. There’s something in his personality that is completely unconvincing as the player, and it saps all the energy out of his scenes, but I think he’s adorable, and his little caper with Kayla brought out all his best qualities. Maybe the plot would get a little overcrowded, but I’d love to see his romance s/ls dropped for a bit and have him do some goofy sidekick stuff with Bo or whoever investigating the DiBrady plot. He was also kind of fun with Mimi when they were locked in that basement…

    Whenever I read the casting description for Jeremy: “handsome, dangerous, edgy, sexy, funny and charming as hell when he wants to be,” I think — hey, that guy’s already on the show: His name’s EJ.

  6. Oops, I guess the stuff about Max was Paula, not marypickford. I still agree with everything you said, though 🙂

  7. Hello, Beatrice, thanks for commenting! That’s true that the description of Jeremy fits EJ—can you imagine HIM as Stephanie’s boyfriend right now? I wouldn’t blame her for being all over him every second. And talk about disapproval from the parents!

    And yes, Paula’s comments about Max were very astute. I was surprised how appealing he was on that trip to Italy. I thought he was cute with Mimi, too, especially in the basement and on their little trip to Atlanta looking for Phillip.

  8. Comparing all of the actors in the past who added that extra something to the newbies today… I wonder if there was just a greater business savviness back then. To stay on screen for long, you have to give the audience something to like about you, even if you’re playing a jerk, a playboy, or a rapist. I’m not sure some of the younguns today get that, or if they care about soaps as a long term gig.

    I think everyone’s on to something about Max. He’ll never be sexy to me, but integrating him back into the Brady fold as the goofy sidekick (and not to use it as a dating pool) would do wonders for his character. I almost want to say he needs to hang out with the older characters for mentoring. And did we ever find out who his real parents were? There could be a story in that.

  9. I believe Max’s father showed up at one point. It was while I wasn’t watching the show so I don’t know how fully they established his backstory. I know it turned out Frankie wasn’t his blood brother.

    I too wonder if young actors and actresses don’t see soaps as a final destination. I would think, though, that even with the sillier, more inconsistent writing we have nowadays, the steady paycheck has to be desirable.

    To stay on screen for long, you have to give the audience something to like about you, even if you’re playing a jerk, a playboy, or a rapist.

    Yes, and to find the motivation that would make someone that way, and layer it in even when the script doesn’t call for it. That’s what SN did with Patch and that’s why he’s still here.

    That’s obvious, I suppose, but I had to throw it in!

  10. I think it’s also one of the reasons that MA’s Jack worked so well. He could have easily turned into a one-note villian after the rape, but MA always managed to layer the performance with something more, even when he was being so mean to Kayla and/or Steve. By putting those touches to the character, we knew that even when he was sounding so confident and untouchable, he really wasn’t.

    I may have hated Jack for most of 1988, but it was definitely in the “love to hate” format. And, as much as I despised his various attempts to make S&K’s lives miserable, I always recognized that those actions came from a place that was much more about hurt, pain, and confusion than evil. I don’t know how much of that was scripted and how much was MA, but it was well done on either account.

  11. Remember our conversation on TWoP about Martha Madison’s comment that she didn’t like Belle? I think it shows. The scene under the makeshift shelter when she accuses him of wanting to use her for sex is a case in point. She just came across as bitchy, when she could/should have played it for jealousy and hurt over Willow.

    The other thing that was good about evil Jack is that he didn’t always win. Kayla and Steve weren’t out to get him but they were good at outsmarting him on occasion. And there were a number of scenes that established that Jack might have the money and the power, but Steve/Kayla were holding all the really important cards. I always got the impression that Jack felt humiliated that Steve had Kayla, that Kayla rejected him sexually, that he (Jack) owed his life to Steve. And later finding out they were related. It was just so, so well done. I can almost … almost … forgive the community center storyline because of it.

  12. I always recognized that those actions came from a place that was much more about hurt, pain, and confusion than evil

    I always got the impression that Jack felt humiliated that Steve had Kayla

    In a word, vulnerability. *g* SN and MBE are always talking about it. MA, MR, JE, Joy Garrett, PR, and KA could all do it too, and more recently, AS, JP, RM, JKJ, and Blake Berris. SH can do it, though maybe not in every scene where it would be appropriate. ‘Jeremy’ hasn’t shown it yet. MM can bring the tears and emotion, but I don’t see real vulnerability in it. BrBe I get nothing from. I still haven’t seen enough of Justin to make a judgment on the test case above. And James Scott hasn’t shown it all the time, but I think that’s what the layers! crowd is seeing.

  13. I think that’s an excellent point, lska. Vulnerability is what makes the characters human and therefore (somewhat) sympathetic. You did a great job summing up the cast too.

    I think it order to show that vulnerability, you have to have a clear idea of where your character is coming from, always. Why is Jeremy acting like a jerk? Who knows? Does Trevor Donovan know?

  14. I don’t know how the casting of Jeremy casting was phrased in the first place, but given the developments over the last week, I would say that Trevor has been playing the character spot on. He’s definitely not meant to be the dashing villain whom ladies ashamedly fall for! There’s something profoundly shady (or even lugubrious) about Jeremy, and the comparison with EJ or Phillip (even from those characters’ inception) doesn’t apply very well.

    I find it very interesting that the comments above, made more than a month ago, now seem to justify the way Trevor has been portraying Jeremy all along, in the light of the recent unfolding events!

    Hats off, Trevor, I’d say!

    I am finally gripped with this storyline, and I look forward to see how this dark situation will unfold!

  15. Thanks for commenting, Phillip!

    You know, it’s funny that Jeremy is so much more interesting to me now that he’s genuinely evil instead of a fratboy-type jerk flashing people randomly and making smartmouth comments.

    That hot tub scene was chilling.

    I admit I am getting engaged with this storyline too. I want to know what’s in the trunks!

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