Tale of three Romans

Roman Brady, played by Wayne Northrup, was introduced in late 1981 as the detective assigned to protect Marlena.  I watched Wayne Northrup’s version of Roman when I was a child, but I don’t remember him very well. Just about the only thing I remember clearly is that when he and Marlena kissed, he used to grab the back of her head in a way that I felt would pull her hair. Ha ha. In general, it was played as an “opposites attract” type of story, the classy psychiatrist and the rough and tumble cop.

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I also remember that Wayne’s Roman and Bo had a really good, conflicted, adversarial relationship. Drake’s Roman and Bo mostly resolved those differences in the mid-80’s. I loved their dynamic too, but it was friendly rather than prickly.

Roman’s popularity ushered in a new era of male heroes:  the blue collar, rough-around-the-edges alpha male, distinct from the lawyers and doctors like Neil Curtis and Don Craig that had previously dominated the show. After Roman came Bo, Pete Jannings, and Steve Johnson. The show gradually brought on an entire family for Roman. Bo, Kayla, Shawn, Caroline, and Kim soon followed him onscreen. It’s easy to forget now that Roman has faded into such a secondary role, but were it not for Wayne Northrup’s popularity, the Bradys would not be the second major family in Salem. That boggles my mind!

After Roman died in 1984, he came back in 1985 in the form of Drake Hogestyn. This was a very successful recast, from the mystery of “the Pawn,” the exciting reveal that John Black was Roman Brady, and his chemistry with Marlena and his family. Drake, Peter, Mary Beth, and Patsy made a fantastic Brady foursome that in my opinion has never been matched before or since. After Deidre Hall left the show, Drake’s Roman went on to popular pairings with Diana and Isabella.

In 1991, Days brought back Marlena from the dead, followed just a few months later by Wayne Northrup’s Roman. In hindsight, I really wish they had not done this story. Drake was too established as Roman. He had played him for 5-6 years, had recovered his memories of being Roman, and was fully integrated into the Brady clan. To upend all that for what ends up happening (Wayne leaves again in 3 years, John’s past is retconned again and again, Josh Taylor) doesn’t seem worth it to me.

But, since I had never seen the story, I was really curious about how this plot would play out. One thing I really appreciate is that we get to see everyone’s reactions to Roman being alive. Marlena, Shane, Abe, all the Bradys. I know this is standard for soaps at the time, but it’s something that is often sadly lacking nowadays, since things often happen too fast and they don’t milk the drama out of it. The show also drew out the suspense of the final determination of which one of these men was the real Roman, when they sent Kayla off with the tissue samples to DC, only to have her get kidnapped by Cal Winters en route. In the meantime both John and Roman were both terribly hurt by the rest of the family waffling about who the real Roman was.

Here’s a taste, where Roman is re-introduced to the rest of the Bradys:

(Starts around 8:30.)

And then, there is this great scene, probably my favorite in the whole storyline. It is a perfect example of milking the drama of Roman’s return, when Roman finds out that Victor is Bo’s father:

Roman confronts Caroline

First of all, as I pointed out above, Wayne and Peter have a very interesting prickly chemistry. All the progress that Bo made with his brother was actually with an imposter! That plus the fact that they haven’t seen each other in 7 years, and he’s still not 100% sure which man is his brother, makes for a chilly dynamic which I find fascinating. Then, I like how Roman goes to confront Caroline about her affair, which everyone else dealt with years ago. I love when she points that out, that the family has gotten past it and forgiven her. “Oh, so now it’s my turn?” Roman says coldly. Great moment.

The show would never in a million years have the patience or attention to write a scene like this today. Back when Steve came back from the dead in 2006, we on the boards discussed all the things that had changed while he was “dead” — John not being Roman among them! — but the show seldom took the trouble to have him react to them.

Also, I would say that even back then, this scene is the exception rather than the rule. Roman’s return, after the initial shock, feels mostly like fuel for a triangle with John and Marlena, rather than an exploration of what it would be like to come back and find that someone had been living your life for 6 years and was accepted by all of your family and friends. Generally speaking, the Bradys and Marlena seem more concerned with John’s angst at finding out he’s NOT Roman, than celebrating Roman’s return from his imprisonment. (Or guilt at accepting another man in his stead for so many years.) There was a lot of potential material here that feels glossed over, and signals the show’s investment in Drake over Wayne.

A few years later, after Isabella’s death, the show went with John and Marlena in a big way when they had their famous affair. Roman left town and was later killed offscreen. Then, Roman returned again in 1997, now played by Josh Taylor. His return was dramatic, just when John and Marlena were about to get married. I haven’t seen this storyline, but I did find these return scenes on YouTube:

(This is part 1. It continues through part 6.) Looks like high drama, which I’m sure was fun. I’m not sure, though, why they decided on Josh Taylor as the recast. He already played a perfectly viable character, Chris Kositchek, who was a fine addition to the show — lawyer, bar owner, Kayla’s ex-boyfriend, all around supporting player. I know he is friends with Ken Corday, and that might be part of it — Ken wanted him to have a featured role and meaty material. Josh Taylor probably has the highest job security of anyone on the show! But, to me that means he didn’t need to be pimped into this role — just make the role he already had bigger and better!

I’ve told this story before, but I’ll mention it again. Once, after not watching Days for many years, I turned on the TV and saw Christie Clark and Josh Taylor discussing her upcoming wedding to Austin. I was delighted to see the grown up Christie Clark still playing Carrie, who I remembered playing Carrie as a child, but I was mystified when she called Chris Kositchek “dad.” What plot point had brought that about?

Because the thing is, although Josh Taylor has played the role far longer than either of the other Romans — 19 years (!) to Wayne’s 6 and Drake’s 5 — he will always be “Fauxman” to me. He has never made the role his own. He’s fine as a supporting player, but when the story calls back to Roman’s rich history, Josh Taylor cannot bring the weight and gravitas that the character needs. We saw that just recently, in a major way, with Orpheus’s return. Roman was always his target, his original grudge, the man who changed him from a good man to a bad one obsessed with revenge. Yes, we saw Orpheus battle it out with other people in 1986 and it’s natural he would want revenge on them too, but there is no way that Roman should have been forgotten. At the same time, do I want to see more Josh? No. And that weakens the story, which is a shame.

 

Words fail

“I rented an SUV, in case anyone needs a ride to the … ”

Stevecrying

Whoever wrote and directed today’s episode did a wonderful job allowing scenes to unfold silently, letting actors do their work without any dialogue. This was most noticeable in Bo’s funeral scenes, which I thought were lovely. There has been a lot of talk about Bo over the last few weeks. Today not much needed to be said. We could look into their faces and see exactly how they felt  – especially Hope. Her silent exchange of looks with ghost Bo, followed by that almost diabolical stare at the camera (complete with a little eyebrow raise) told us everything we needed to know.

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Another scene that needed very few words was the moment with Steve and Kayla by Bo’s grave. We saw how they felt — their sadness, their comfort in each other’s presence — before they spoke. But their words sealed their reconciliation, with just a simple exchange: I’m on my own. You don’t have to be.

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My heart melted, too, in their earlier scene when Steve said “I need you today.” Ah, I love these two. They do so much with so little.

I’m intrigued by what Hope is going to find in her investigation. When Rafe came in and started playing good cop, it was so perfect I thought at first it was pre-arranged. But I love that it wasn’t. We could already guess that Hope’s thirst for vengeance would cost her family. What’s interesting is that she’s also getting in her own way. Rafe was far more effective with Claudia than she was, and I liked how Kristian played that awareness even though there was nothing in the dialogue.

The Abby/Ben scenes were extremely effective ratcheting up of tension through visual details like Ben holding the gun along with the baby. I particularly liked his discussion of why he liked the name “Colin” – so classy! The show (and Rob Wilson) are doing such a good job making Ben recognizably human, with little quirks and preferences, as well as a chillingly believable murderer. It makes him scarier.

Then, just as Ben was ready to kill Abby … Chad burst in, finally! Another scene with no words …

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…but this look on Abby’s face! She was so happy to see him. So am I, Abby, so am I!