Recasting sweepstakes

Where else in popular entertainment can you recast characters, sometimes multiple times? James Bond, Doctor Who, anything else?

Let’s take a look at our current cast. For characters who have been on at least ten years, only Alice, Maggie, Doug, Victor, Marlena, Abe, Tony, and Lucas have never been recast. (Look at Lucas in there with the big boys!) In the 5-10 year range, we add Anna, Nicole, and Chloe to the list of singles. You get into grey area very quickly with this, by the way. We could count John, except he was played by another actor for several months when he was “the Pawn” all wrapped up in bandages. Or how about flashbacks? Steve was played in flashback by little Aaron Nichols (Stephen’s son), otherwise we could count him.

There have been two Chelseas, two Bos (four if you count flashbacks), two Kates, three Kaylas, three Romans, three Carolines, four Julies, four Mickeys, and five Lexies. When characters join as babies or children, all that SORASing makes the numbers get very big very quickly. There have been three Stephanies, four Maxes, five Hopes, six Phillips, and eight Samis (including Stan—hee!). Will has been played by four actors already. And of course the all-time winner is Mike Horton, who has the distinction of being played by fifteen different actors.

You’ll notice from these lists that core family members, Bradys and Hortons, are more prone to recasting than other characters (no matter how popular they may be). First because core family members are more likely to have been born on screen, and secondly because with soaps’ emphasis on family, the TPTB have a vested interest in keeping the core families alive. We’re much more likely to see another Jeremy Horton sometime in the future, than we are to see another Carly Manning.

Looking at the totals, I always think it’s most interesting when you don’t count all the little kiddies. Mike still racks up an impressive four, Lexie’s total of five deserves another mention. The greatest recasting achievement, I think, is when different adult actors can play the character for substantial lengths of time, with each actor putting their own definitive stamp on the character. This excludes Julie, for example, since the first three Julies were just warmup for Susan Seaforth Hayes, who has played the character since 1968. Looking at it this way, the two different Bos are worth a second look, especially since you have Peter Reckell’s Bo involved in one supercouple with Hope, and Robert Kelker-Kelly’s Bo involved in a different one with Billie.

Then there’s the question of how to handle the recast. Sometimes, years have gone by since the character has been on canvas, so this just means introducing the character all over again. In Kayla’s case, for example, Catherine Mary Stewart left the show in 1982, and Mary Beth Evans came back as Kayla four years later. It’s a little more awkward if you’re in the middle of a storyline. Common techniques are to have a voiceover or subtitle run across the bottom of the screen announcing the recast, or just to have another character pointedly refer to the recast character by name. I believe that one of the Jack recasts involved having one Jack step into the shower, and another one step out—but that’s a little too cute for me.

Then there’s the plastic surgery storyline. I admit it, I have a soft spot for this old chestnut. As a child, I was vehemently against recasting, so if the show was going to foist a new actor on me, I wanted them to have to work for it. Plus, plastic surgery storylines usually involve amnesia, mistaken identity, and falling in love with the wrong person—all the soap staples. When Stefano brainwashed Roman and gave him a new face back in 1985, he also made him taller, hairier, and switched his dominant hand from his left to his right. Shoot, is there anything Rolf can’t do? (Of course all this was retconned away later when it was revealed that John Black wasn’t Roman after all.)

The decision to use the plastic surgery story for some recasts and not others can lead to moments of unintentional humor, like when Kayla came back in 1986 with her (unacknowledged) new face, and expressed her nervousness about seeing Roman’s (acknowledged) new face. When Phillip came back with his face transplant and tried to take custody of Claire, Belle stood up in court and agonized that Claire wouldn’t recognize her father, while Claire’s other daddy with his new face sat placidly by.

Different actors, of course, bring different qualities to the role, which makes for fascinating intersections of character and their function in the plot. Next time, I’ll take a look at the many faces of Jack Deveraux.

9 thoughts on “Recasting sweepstakes

  1. My personal favorite is the recast/plastic surgery followed by an unrecast with no acknowledgment of the fact that the character suddenly got his old face back. The NuOldPhilip storyline almost qualifies, but it has the added twist of the plastic surgery being what restores the old face.

    My favorite storyline for this technique was Max Holden on OLTL. The original actor left, was replaced and the new face was explained by plastic surgery, but then the old actor returne and, I believe, no mention was ever made of the return of the old face (I could be wrong, though).

    Some recasts become so identifiable with the character that it is easy to forget they didn’t originate the role. MBE is pretty much the only Kayla for most fans. SSH for Julie. I think Peter Bergman has earned that distinction for Jack on Y&R. I’d argue that Rachel Melvin and Shelley Henning are pretty much there as well.

  2. The NuOldPhillip story is funny because I believe Hogan came up with it before he knew who the actor was going to be. If he had known it was the old actor coming back I wonder if he still would have done the story that way. I think they’re pretty much ignoring his “new” face. There was no mention of it at the Salem High reunion, when you would think someone would have mentioned it. I believe it was Tripp who said that maybe Phillip sent out “change of face” cards to all his acquaintances.

    I think even with multiple recasts, generally one actor dominates as the one most associated with the role, like Mary Beth Evans with Kayla. This is usually the actor who has played the character the longest, but not always. Josh Taylor for Roman is one exception. He has played Roman longer than the other two, but Wayne Northrup—or even Drake!—is more associated with the role in people’s minds.

    When Wayne Northrup came back playing Alex North, I thought they would try to swing it that he was really Roman after all. But then they would have to explain why everyone accepted Chris Kositchek as Roman for so long. When you change the actor without the plastic surgery explanation, you can’t do plots like that. (Not that logic ever really stopped JER from anything.) Of course they could have just switched Wayne back into the role, and brought Chris back for Josh.

  3. I think I sort of would have loved to see WN and JT pretending to play exact lookalikes. Sure it would have been ridiculous, but no more so than pretty much anything else JERk came up with.

    You’re right that one actor is almost always most closely associated with the role. Matt Ashford will always be Jack. John Clarke will always be Mickey. Mike is a tough one though because I think it might depend on when you watched. MTW will always be Mike to me, but I know that others could make an equally compelling case for Wesley Eure and Roark Critchlow.

    Vicky and Marley are an interesting case on AW because they had three sets of portrayers, all who earned great praise for the role — Ellen Wheller, Anne Heche, and Jensen Buchanon. Each actress really made the role her own.

    GH’s Carly is another example. Four actresses have played the role and 3 of them have been widely praised for it (the fourth was a fairly short term recast).

    It just goes to show that you can recast even the most high profile role. So, as much as it is tempting to say they could never recast ______, history tends to show that’s not necessarily true.

  4. My favorite storyline for this technique was Max Holden on OLTL. The original actor left, was replaced and the new face was explained by plastic surgery, but then the old actor returne and, I believe, no mention was ever made of the return of the old face (I could be wrong, though).

    Actually I remember when the old actor returned, he glanced in the mirror and winked (or something) saying he felt like the “old” Max. Sometimes tongue in cheek moments actually work best. I have no problem with soaps not taking themselves too seriously.

    But like you said Mary, it’s really tough to watch when they recast two actors at the same time but one is mentioned to look different while another isn’t.

    Some recasts can be really popular. As much as I loved Anne Heche in the Vicky/Marley role, Jensen did a fabulous job with the part. At the same time, we also had Judi Evans taking over as Paulina when they let Cali Timmons (Simmons?) go.

    But some actors I can’t imagine being recast. Steve Johnson, Jake McKinnon (on AW) and dare I say it? Nick Fallon? I’d have a hard time with a recast.

  5. I feel like I’m missing something, because if Philip’s “new” face is his old one from high school why would his high school classmates have said anything at the reunion? Wouldn’t it be the same face they already knew? I didn’t know that Sheffer didn’t know they were getting JKJ back when they did the face transplant storyline, but it makes sense, because why in the world would you do that? Of course, I don’t know why they did it period, it was never necessary to me. But, “change of face cards”. . . hee.

    Michael T. Weiss is the only Mike Horton for me. I could never even look directly at Roark Critchlow–could not STAND him. (The less said about Carrie and the flying bed, the better–but at least it wasn’t MTW who hooked up with Carrie; I would have been furious.)

  6. I feel like I’m missing something, because if Philip’s “new” face is his old one from high school why would his high school classmates have said anything at the reunion?

    Well, what I meant is that, given the face transplant storyline, I think we were supposed to ignore the fact that his new face was in fact his old face. The character was supposed to look totally different than he ever had before.

    I remember thinking that because they did the face transplant story, they couldn’t use old Phillip flashbacks from his previous run. Now, since it’s been so long since anyone talked about the transplant, I wouldn’t be surprised if they ended up doing it after all.

    I love Mike T. Weiss!

  7. I thought the same thing about the face transplant story. I think it was supposed to be used to explain why Philip looked differently and they totally set it up that way. Then, JKJ ends up with the role, but they still mentioned things about his new face (I remember a scene outside Chez Rouge where Abby didn’t recognize him because he looked different, or something like that). So, I think we were supposed to believe that Philip looked different.

    Then, somewhere along the line, that whole thing got dropped and, based on the reunion scenes, I guess it’s back to the idea that Philip really hasn’t changed at all. Nobody else mentioned it (i.e. Chloe or Nicole) after returning. So, I think that’s been retconned away.

  8. I loved RC as Mike Horton..especially him and Carrie – can see why that recast was done (basically de-aging mike) so that would work. But dont worry i followed MTW to pretender.

  9. Well, the only scenes I’ve seen RC in are the flying bed scenes on YouTube, so I can’t really comment on his acting. Hee.

    Carrie was a little girl in the 80’s when MTW’s Mike was a man in his mid-30s, so it’s always funny for me to imagine them together.

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