It’s a right of passage for any soap opera fan. A person you’ve never seen before walks onscreen, and a distant voice intones from above, “The role of So-and-So is now being played by Total Stranger!”
Some character recasts prove almost seamless. Others require a period of adjustment, and still others never quite manage to gel at all.
Then there are those recasts that prompt viewers to sit in front of their screens, day after day, and wonder what in the world The Powers That Be (TPTB) could possibly have been thinking. Check out some of the strangest instances after the jump!
Last week in SoapLand, while fans of The Bold & the Beautiful were still getting used to the idea of Ridge Forrester going from scarf-wearing, “Baby, Come Back”-singing player Ronn Moss to vaguely Scottish, poetry-spouting (at least that’s what he did on his other shows) Thorsten Kaye, two other daytime dramas also recast a pair of pivotal legacy characters.
On The Young & the Restless, Burgess Jenkins abruptly took over for David Tom. Tom played the first teenage Billy Abbott from 1999 to 2002. He returned to the role in 2014, after Emmy winner Billy Miller vacated it voluntarily. However, playing an adult, edgier Billy, rather than the sweet, naïve young man he’d once been, proved tougher the second time around. Tom was let go after only four months on the air. (Fun fact: David’s real-life sister, Heather Tom, once played Victoria on Y&R. When David played Billy, he and Victoria had very little to do with each other. When Tom returned, Billy and Victoria were now married. Luckily, she was no longer being played by his sister.)
Over on Days of Our Lives, Eve Donovan swept back into Salem. Last played by Charlotte Ross from 1987 to 1991 (you might recognize her backside from NYPD Blue, which the FCC deemed worth a $27,500 fine from each ABC affiliate), Eve is now Kassie DePaiva.
Unlike daytime newcomer Jenkins, DePaiva is a soap vet, best known for her stints on One Life to Live (as Blair) and Guiding Light (as Chelsea). She’s also no stranger to recasts, having been part of one of daytime’s strangest back in 1993 on OLTL.
To whit, when the character of Blair hit Llanview in 1991, she was introduced as the daughter of a mental patient who’d been raped while institutionalized. Blair had no idea who her biological father was. Perhaps she should have started her search with the Asian staff members, since Mia Korf, the actress who played Blair, was rather obviously half-Japanese. (On the other hand, OLTL’s then-executive producer, Linda Gottlieb, insisted that “people can’t tell she’s Asian.” Well, maybe not blind people …) Blair’s paternity became a bit more complicated two years later, when the dark-haired, dark-eyed Korf was replaced by blond, blue-eyed DePaiva. The show made fun of their radical recast when, years later, DePaiva flashed back to something that had happened while Blair was still played by Korf … and promptly pulled out a compact to check her face, looking most puzzled.
Y&R performed a similar “race lift” in the mid-1990s, when the character of Keesha magically turned from Puerto Rican (played by Wanda Acuna) to Caucasian (Jennifer Gatti).
But race isn’t the only thing that gets shuffled in a recast. There’s also age.
In 1986, Another World’s Donna Love had already learned that the baby she’d given birth to as a teenager was actually twin girls, one of whom had been kidnapped by her evil father and given up for adoption. Savvy soap fans could also see that all the pieces were in place for the son whom said evil father randomly adopted at the same time to be revealed as a long-lost triplet (giving birth is painful, messy business; who can keep track of how many babies you actually deliver?). But then, actress Anna Stuart (born in 1948) was replaced by Philece Sampler (born in 1956). She and the actor playing the presumed triplet now looked like brother and sister, not mother and son, and the story—as well as all the clues they’d laid out so heavy-handedly—were promptly dropped.
Other age-related casting head-scratchers include: Jed Allen (born in 1935) stepping in for John Ingle (born 1928) as General Hospital’s Edward, playing husband to Anna Lee (born in 1913)—despite being 22 years younger—and father to Jane Elliot (born 1947), despite being only 12 year older!
Of course, the classic is Joan Crawford, age 60, filling in for her daughter, Christina, age 27 (playing 24), on The Secret Storm in 1968. Maybe she thought playing all the scenes drunk would distract the viewers?
In the end, however, the all-time strangest recast award must go to DOOL.
In 2005, to cover the seven-month maternity leave of actress Allison Sweeney (Sami), DOOL had the popular schemer disguise herself as a man, “Stan” (played by actor Dan Wells), so that the character might continue wreaking havoc throughout Salem.
No one has ever been able to top that.
Do you have a favorite strangest recast? Let us know!