Last week on The Bold and the Beautiful, Rick broke off his relationship with Maya to try to repair his marriage to Caroline. And while fans debate which woman is the better match for the Forrester heir—Caroline, who kissed his bother, or Maya, who jumped into bed with a married man at first opportunity (not to mention the more pressing question of whether Rick is good enough for either of them)—one topic has yet to come up. Rick is white, Maya is black. Nobody cares.
It wasn’t always this simple in soap-opera land.
In 1962, the short-lived PGP soap opera A Brighter Day made history by hiring the first African-American series regular, actor Rex Ingram. The show was canceled that September due to low ratings.
In 1966, Guiding Light hired daytime’s first African-American contract players, Billy Dee Williams and Cecily Tyson. The roles were later recast with James Earl Jones and Ruby Dee. Jones also appeared that same year on As the World Turns.
But the African-American characters were kept peripheral to the main action, and there certainly was not even a hint of interracial romance. That took several decades to develop. Below are our five most memorable soap-opera interracial loves stories (and three honorable mentions) that brought soap operas to where they are today:
One Life to Live
In 1968, OLTL pulled quite the switcheroo. Viewers thought they were watching an interracial romance when the presumed Italian Carla Benari couldn’t decide between her boss, a white doctor, and a black intern at the hospital. Fans were horrified. But then it was revealed that Carla was actually a black woman passing for white. Viewers were still horrified, only in reverse.
When Carla revealed her secret, the doctor was fine with it, but the intern was furious. She ended up with neither man. (Almost a quarter of a century later, OLTL went the safer route by introducing the characters of Nora, Hank, and Rachel. Rachel was the biracial daughter of Hank and Nora, who were already divorced by the time viewers met them. Also, Nora was Jewish, so that either made the pairing more diverse … or less, depending on your point of view.)
Days of Our Lives
DOOL dipped a toe into the interracial romance waters in 1975 by introducing the African-American Grant family. In 2001, JanuaryMagazine.com interviewed actress Tina Andrews and reported:
Over the course of two years, the character became so popular that the “powers-that-be decided to make our story more mainstream by introducing my character to the son of the lead white female character on the show. There was such wonderful chemistry between Valerie and David Banning, played by actor Richard Guthrie, that the writers slowly developed an interracial relationship between the two.” … (A)s the relationship between Valerie Grant and David Banning heated up, her fan mail bottomed out, going from 100 percent positive to largely negative and hostile. Valerie Grant’s character was shipped off to Stockholm and Andrews was canned.
All My Children
Quite possibly daytime’s most popular interracial pairing ever came in the early 1990s, with the saga of Julia and Noah. Though played by the Hungarian, Scotch-Irish, French, English, and Cherokee Sydney Penny, Julia was identified as Hispanic on the show, while Noah was black. This, as with OLTL‘s Nora, either made the love story more palatable or less palatable, depending on your viewpoint. (Earlier, Julia initially dated another African-American character, Terrence, primarily to piss off her parents, so we know how they felt about the subject.) Because the poor, lonely Santoses appeared to be the only Hispanic family in town, two more of their children became members of extremely popular interracial supercouples, including Julia’s sister Maria, with Edmund; and her brother, Mateo, with Hayley. (Their portrayers, Mark Consuelos and Kelly Ripa, are still married in real life.)
The Young and the Restless
There are many reasons why a couple might not be popular with soap-opera fans. An utter, absolute lack of chemistry between actors is a big one. This was visibly the case when Y&R attempted to pair up Victoria and Neil. Actor Kristoff St. John told Soap Opera Weekly at the time, “After living in the storyline for a few months, I think it’s almost their duty to say something about it now through some character. Bring it to the table—this racism—if we’re getting this kind of mail. Let someone say, ‘I don’t agree with this relationship because you’re black and she’s white.” The story was scuttled soon after, maybe because of race, or maybe because it just didn’t work on any level.
The tepid interracial teen love story of Molly and TJ has nothing on the truly sizzling coupling of GH‘s Lucas and Brad. Lucas is white. Brad is Asian. Oh, and they’re both men. Nobody cares. About any of it. Here is why that’s really super.
As the World Turns
The best part about Duncan and Jessica’s 1992 interracial marriage was that they received flack from both of their families, destroying the assumption that all objections would originate from only one side of the color bar.
The witch next door, a severed penis reattached backward, and a secret, illegitimate, sociopath transgendered child made it clear that being of two different races was the least of Julian and Eve’s issues.
Cruz and Eden were unspeakably hot together. Thus, nothing else mattered.
Who is your favorite soap-opera interracial couple of all time?