Tuesday, February 3, 2009

FLASHBACK: Day Players Who Stuck Around 1994


By Marla Hart
Chicago Tribune
August 18, 1994

In the larger-than-life world of soaps, car crashes, murder and bizarre love triangles are all in a day's work. And for some actors, a day's work may be all it is. Not everyone arrives on the set with a longterm contract in hand.

Known as day players, performers who work on a free-lance basis are the temp workers of soap opera. They're background bodies in a swimming pool scene, thugs hired to beat up a hero, nurses who wheel a gurney down the hospital corridor, witnesses who testify at murder trials.

"They reserve you for the day," explains Amelia Marshall, who joined the cast of GUIDING LIGHT as a day player in the character of Gilly. "Each day they would call my agent and put me on `hold' for the day.

"To me it was all a bonus, a bonus check and bonus work. For the first couple of months I would work maybe two days in a row, then have a week off. I had no idea what the writers were thinking, but I had already become invested in the character. Then I had a month where they did not call me."

During that hiatus the show's writers were developing Gilly-independent, motivated TV whiz kid with a contagious energy-as a permanent resident of Springfield. In 1989, Marshall graduated to contract player status on GL.

After a few days of work, a day player can also be described as "recurring," which is any non-contract role of two episodes or more. Other day players who caught the attention of viewers and writers alike and later landed contracts include James Kiberd (Trevor) and Walt Willey (Jackson) of ALL MY CHILDREN, Jason Brooks (Peter) and Tanya Boyd (Celeste) of DAYS OF OUR LIVES, Emmy Award-winner Roger Howarth (Todd) of ONE LIFE TO LIVE, Ed Fry (Larry) and Eileen Fulton (Lisa) of AS THE WORLD TURNS, Charles Keating (Carl) of ANOTHER WORLD and Schae Harrison (Darla) and Michael Fox (Saul) of THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL.

Savvy soaps producers keep their radar tuned to the screen where unpredictable chemistry rather than a long-range story outline can change the course of events. The classic example of a day player catching fire is ex-DAYS actor Stephen Nichols, originally cast as a petty criminal who stalked Kayla. As Patch, he remained in Salem six years to become one of daytime's greatest anti-heroes.

Another thug-turned-heartthrob is Jon Lindstrom, hired by GENERAL HOSPITAL as a day player in May 1992 to play serial killer Ryan Chamberlain. He was written into the script specifically to move the storyline along for other characters and to put the heroine, Felicia, in jeopardy. But Lindstrom became popular with the GH audience.

"I was hired on a day-to-day basis," recalls the actor. "I needed to pay off my credit card bills, so I was happy to have the work. Ten months later I was still there.

"But," he continues, "I could sense they were setting up the ending of my storyline. When I was offered a soap back East, GH offered me a contract."

"They didn't have to tell me, I knew then I would be playing twins," Linstrom laughs. "You can't keep a serial killer around forever." So now Lindstrom does double duty as good brother Kevin.

Then there's actress Kate Linder, who managed to make the most of her first day's dialogue on THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS. Something about her delivery of "dinner is served" as the Chancellor maid played well from Poughkeepsie to Peoria.

"I finished work that day and Ed Scott (who was then the producer) ran after me and asked me if I could come back the next day. `Of course,' I said. I don't know what they saw in me. I guess I could walk and talk and pour wine and carry a tray without spilling things."

In fact, what producers saw in Linder was a flair for comedy that offered relief from the looming tragedies in Genoa City, and over the next few months her role was expanded.

"I did a lot with my face and eyes, over-the-top comedic things. At the end of every day I would say goodbye to everyone and thank them.

"I've been here 13 years! You just never know," she says.

- Jessica Tuck, formerly Megan on ONE LIFE TO LIVE, has been cast to play Nicole Brown Simpson in the upcoming Fox-Ch. 32 movie version of the O.J. Simpson case.

- Top five real names of soap actors:
5. Paolo Saganti (AS THE WORLD TURNS)
3. Shepperd Strudwick (LOVE OF LIFE)
2. Thyme Lewis (DAYS OF OUR LIVES)
1. Tripp Randall (LOVE OF LIFE)

- Top five soap opera character names:
5. Trucker McKenzie (LOVING)
4. Brian Bodine (ALL MY CHILDREN)
3. Blackie Parish (GENERAL HOSPITAL)
2. Brandy Shelooe (GUIDING LIGHT)

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