By Tracie Powell and Angela Toszegi
What do Michael Swan, Robert Newman, Randolph Mantooth, and Mark Pinter all have in common besides the obvious? They all showed up for the same job interview last week.
“Just came back from the ‘old home week’ audition of all time. All guys I've worked with over the years going back to prime time in the seventies,” said Michael Swan, who portrayed Duncan McKechnie on AS THE WORLD TURNS in the 1980s.
Swan said he was at the audition with Newman (who portrayed the well-loved ‘Josh Lewis’ on GUIDING LIGHT) and they were talking about the ill-fated ‘Brad Green’ on GL and how Mark Pinter took over the part. “His name had no sooner left my lips then (Pinter) walked in the room,” Swan continued. “So great to see him; what a classy and great looking guy. I see Mantooth all the time at auditions, and we always tell each other, ‘if I don't get it, I hope you do!’
All of these actors, at one point or another in their careers, played lead characters on daytime dramas.
Swan, Pinter and Mantooth all worked on WORLD TURNS. Pinter portrayed ‘Brian McColl,’ who became involved with Colleen Zenk’s ‘Barbara Ryan’ in the 1980s. Their steamy sex scenes were to translate into a real-life marriage that would last 20 years. Pinter would later play the role of crooked politician ‘Grant Harrison’ on ANOTHER WORLD from 1991–1999, for which he won the Soap Opera Digest Award for Best Villain in 1996. Mantooth portrayed ‘Hal Munson’ on WORLD TURNS on a fill-in basis for Benjamin Hendrickson, but is perhaps best known for his role on the television drama, EMERGENCY.
It is not unusual for actors who are friends or former colleagues to compete for the same job, but the likelihood is much greater now that the soap opera genre is in such decline.
Swan said there is a depression in the acting community in New York City due to the demise of Daytime. "It's been a long time coming. It started in 1994 with OJ and the decision of the ad agencies to concentrate on youth instead of continuing to write inter-generational conflict,” he said. "They snubbed their nose at (daytime's) core audience and dismissed the 'hand me down' nature of the genre."
A recent report in The New York Times echoes his sentiment.
The once thriving daytime industry has been decimated by declining viewership that resulted from continued budget cuts and the abandonment of inter-generational conflict that Swan mentioned, and is now being replaced with more cheaply produced talk and game shows.
New York actors had found in soaps a combination of training, money and camaraderie that isn’t likely to be replaced. In addition to dozens of regular cast members, daytime dramas like World Turns hired as many as 50 extras and day players per week, according to The Times. Due to the cancellation of dramas like WORLD TURNS and GUIDING LIGHT, many or most of those actors are now out of steady work.
Although ‘Duncan’ had a very Scottish accent, Michael Swan, the actor, is very American having been born in San Jose, California. Swan is an accomplished vintner and RV owner, and retired National spokesperson for the RV industry. Before WORLD TURNS, Swan did local theater, including improvisational work. But he is best known as the suave Scott who landed in Oakdale in 1986 and his love affair with Margaret Reed (ex-Shannon O’Hara). He would later fall in love with ‘Jessica Griffin,’ portrayed by Tamara Tunie. The interracial marriage between the two characters was one of several social hallmarks that are part of WORLD TURNS’ rich history. Jessica and Duncan became fan favorites, but unfortunately the marriage did not last. Along with an eventual divorce, Duncan – and Swan – soon exited the WORLD TURNS canvas.
Back at last week’s audition, John Callahan, Kevin Dobson and Parker Stevenson joined Swan, Newman, Mantooth and Pinter in auditioning for the part.
Callahan is perhaps best known for his work on ALL MY CHILDREN, but also worked on DAYS OF OUR LIVES, GENERAL HOSPITAL and primetime drama, FALCON CREST. Dobson was a fan favorite in two prime time series: KOJAK and primetime soap, KNOTS LANDING. In 2008, Dobson briefly appeared on DAYS OF OUR LIVES as 'Mickey Horton.' A former teen idol, Stevenson is best known as ‘Frank Hardy’ of Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys fame, but he has also worked on prime time dramas, MELROSE PLACE and BAYWATCH.
Swan declined to reveal the name of the show or the role for which they auditioned. (He said it is bad luck.) Swan added that he would love to see WORLD TURNS and/or GUIDING LIGHT come back in some viable form so that more actors could get work and “revitalize the unique entertainment that soaps provide.”
Tracie Powell is a freelance writer and editor as well as co-founder of the grassroots group, Bring Back Our Soap (BBOS), which seeks to prevent further destruction of the soap opera genre. Angela Toszegi is a child care provider living in Toronto, Canada and a member of BBOS. This article first appeared on the fan site, Keep The World Turning.