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You're a woman now: Heroines who grew up on soaps

Last week marked the end of an era on Days of Our Lives. On Thursday, October 30, Alison Sweeney, who played the role of bad girl Samantha Gene “Sami” Brady since January 1993, left the show. She’d had a 21-year-run.

Sweeney penned a heartfelt good-bye letter to her fans on Facebook. These viewers watched Sami (and Ali) grow up, starting as a confused teen with an oh-so-trendy-back-then side ponytail that prompted on-screen mom, Deidre Hall (Marlena) to dub her Pebbles. She soon became a much-married mother of four (including a set of twins by different fathers), then a grandmother (!) who took over multinational corporations, with a brief stint on death row along the way.

But while it’s rare for an actress to go from ingénue to a leading lady on a soap opera (due to daytime’s insatiable itch to SORAS (Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome) their adorable tots into sexy sirens ASAP), it does happen periodically. Alison Sweeney is just one example of an actress growing with her role. Check out some of our other favorites below!

Lynn Loring (Search for Tomorrow, 1951–1961)
An original cast member, Loring began playing the part of Patti as a six-year-old. She stayed for a decade, taking Patti from training wheels to training bras, and the start of a lifetime of trouble with boys that would eventually include several affairs with older married men. The role was ultimately recast nine times, including with future Guiding Light star Tina Sloan (Lillian) and Nancy Pinkerton, who would go on to originate the role of Dorian on One Life to Live. In fact, Patti holds the record for the most recast female role on daytime. Guess no one could measure up to Loring!

Lisa Peluso (Search for Tomorrow, 1977–1986)
Working conditions must have been pretty good at SFT. Lisa Peluso joined the cast as Wendy at age 10 (taking over for Andrea McArdle, who went off to play Annie on Broadway), and stayed through the show’s cancellation nine years later. She continued acting in soaps, enjoying long stints on Loving as Ava and on Another World as Lila. In 2007, Peluso told Soap Opera 451 that the main difference between working on SFT versus Loving and AW was: “I was a grown-up to begin with, so I was thought of as a grown-up. On Search, no matter how old I got, if I stayed, I’m convinced I would still be thought of as a kid. I had leading-lady status on Loving and Another World.”

Kimberly McCullough (General Hospital, 1985–2014)
DOOL fans mourning Sweeny’s exit should take heart from McCullough’s example. She began playing Robin at the age of seven, making her debut clutching a mysterious doll with black pearls for eyes and introducing herself to superspy Robert Scorpio—who would turn out to be her dad, natch. She stayed with the part long enough for Robin to have sex for the first-time, contract HIV, and watch her boyfriend die of AIDS.

Robin left Port Charles in 1996 to go to Yale, while McCullough headed to NYU. But the character kept popping up periodically, sometimes for a few days, sometimes for a few years. Robin got married on-screen and gave birth to daughter Emma. She even died and came back to life, as is more or less required of all soap characters. As of this writing, she is off-screen yet again, as a result of Helena Cassadine’s machinations. But her fans live in hope of yet another return appearance.

Camryn Grimes (The Young & the Restless, 1997– )
In 2000, at the age of 10, Grimes became the youngest-ever winner of a Daytime Emmy for her role as Cassie, beating McCullough, who’d won at 11. Cassie went from a forlorn first-grader, abandoned by both her birth mother and her adoptive mother, to the subject of a nasty custody battle to an angsty teen. At that point, her desperate desire to fit in with the cool kids led to her death in a car accident, after Cassie drove a drunk friend home despite being underage. Cassie continued to appear as ghost to her (very mentally unwell) mom, Sharon, until early this year, when a Cassie look-alike named Mariah was eventually revealed to be Cassie’s long-lost twin.

Kristen Alderson (One Life to Live, 1998–2011)
Most little girls on daytime are sugar and spice and everything nice (until they hit the teen years, that is). Starr, as played by Alderson starting at the age of six, was not. She was a chip off her scheming mom and sociopath dad. However, she did go through the mandatory victimization period when, as a teen, she had sex for the first time with her boyfriend, got pregnant, gave birth, thought the baby had died when it was actually kidnapped, and reunited with the infant and her dad—only to lose them both in a car crash. What’s most interesting about this case is that, while Star’s baby saga took place on OLTL, the tot’s death happened on GH, where the character of Starr had been relocated following OLTL’s cancellation.

Then a lawsuit initiated by Prospect Park, the production company that had migrated OLTL online, challenged ABC’s claim to Starr. Alderson was promptly written off GH as Starr, only to return a few months later as Kiki. In an incredible and unremarked-upon coincidence, Kiki was paired with Starr’s romantic interest, and even got a new father, Franco, played by Roger Howarth, who’d played Starr’s dad on OLTL. (Kiki’s parentage was later changed to her being Silas’ daughter, but she and Franco still share a bond very reminiscent of the actors’ previous work on OLTL).

How do you feel about actors growing up with their characters? Do you enjoy the natural progression, or is it weird watching love scenes performed by actors you remember from before they had adult teeth?

Plus, do you think Sweeney—like several of the ladies above—will end up returning to her show down the line?

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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