Epic recast fail

262637~Jamie-Luner-PostersOpinions in the soap blogosphere are a dime a dozen, and we rarely agree with each other. But I think that the verdict is nearly unanimous on the casting of Jamie Luner as All My Children’s new Liza: epic casting FAIL

The first law of casting, especially as it relates to replacing an existing performer, is to find a similar performer. Successful recasts either physically resemble their predecessors, or in some way capture the essence of the prior actor’s performance. If they’re lucky, and talented, they nail both aspects. 

Luner neither looks like Marcy Walker, who played Liza over a span of three decades, or acts anything like the Liza viewers knew and loved. Liza Colby was a cool customer; she48323_48 could be distrustful and manipulative, but that came out of wariness and wounded love.

This nuLiza seems to have dusted off stock personalities (Bitch, Vixen and Harlot) out of the Lifetime Television Movie bin. 

AMC’s mistake is compounded by the fact that Beth Ehlers, who AMC originally considered for nuLiza, is almost completely wasted as Taylor. Ehlers, like Luner, may have been a bit too young to play Liza, who should now be in her late forties. But Ehlers would have been a better match to capture the original essence of Liza (and looks a bit more like Walker, as well). 

There have been other instances of Epic Recast Fail in the annals of soap history. Here are but a few examples. 

Connor Walsh, As The World Turns: I loved, loved, LOVED Susan Batten as Luna on One Life to Live. LOVED her. Luna was quirky and fun and she was a big reason I watched OLTL during those Gottlieb/Malone years. But her stint on ATWT was a mistake.

Then-executive producer Felicia Minei Behr made the decision to fire Allyson Rice Taylor, who had been playing Connor, and replace her with Susan Batten. Behr underestimated Rice Taylor’s popularity (she’d been playing the role for six years). And, like Luner, Batten was almost nothing like her predecessor. Rice Taylor’s Connor was subdued and patrician; Batten’s Connor was…..well, a lot like Luna and a lot unlike Original Recipe Connor. 

Mindys #3 and #4, Guiding Light: Krista Tesreau is the classic Melinda Sue Lewis, of course. Many of us also liked Kimberley Simms’ take on Mindy, which took the character into a more adult realm. 

i_crampton_barbara_eWhen Simms left, though, the show was in a bind. The Nick/Mindy/Alexandra story was a huge hit, and Simms’ departure put a bump in the momentum. The first nuMindy was Ann Hamilton, a pleasant and capable actress who nonetheless was horribly miscast. She would have made a great adult Anne of Green Gables, but she wasn’t Melinda Sue.

Hamilton was followed by Barbara Crampton, another actress that I respect and enjoy. I’d loved Crampton since her days as Trista on Days of our Lives. But she was a bit older than the character of Mindy, and she never quite fit. 

Ultimately, once Simms and Beverlee McKinsey left, that particular story never regained its potency or potential (though Marj Dusay’s Alexandra is magnificent, and has been strong in other stories). 

Donna Love, Another World:  Anna Stuart, the original Donna, has always owned this role. Stuart is a wonderful actress, much missed on daytime, and her Donna provided a wonderful combination of strength, sweetness and bitchery. When she left in 1986, she was replaced by Philece Sampler, who’d made a big splash a few years before as Renee DiMera on Days of our Lives.

Sampler was great as the bitchy Renee, but whether it was the writing or her performance, her Donna was a de-fanged version of the original and was no fun to watch. 

Natalie Marlowe, All My Children: The original Natalie, Kate Collins, has always been an audience favorite. She brought 40s-movie-star quality to her portrayal of femme fatale Natalie, and then went on to create a vividly original, funny, creepy character in Janet. 

Robin Mattson would go on to successfully play Janet for a stint, but AMC did not have the same luck when it recast Natalie after Collins departed in 1992. Melody Anderson looked similar to Collins, but her Natalie came across as more brassy and brash than Collins’ cool and collected Natalie did. 

Anderson has, interestingly enough, become a well-known social worker. She works in New York City and specializes in addiction and its impact on families. 

MaxsMax Holden, One Life to Live. James DePaiva brought Max Holden to life on a large scale. If you haven’t already, you can revisit those Max moments with the interview by Damon Jacobs over at MarlenaDelacroix.com

When DePaiva left the show for a time, he was replaced with daytime vet Nicholas Walker. Walker certainly had his fans, but it was hard for most OLTL fans to accept him. The debonair, Kennedyesque Walker owned roles like Trey Clegg, but he wasn’t as comfortable in Max’s boots and jeans as he was in a tuxedo. 

DePaiva’s return to the show was an interesting footnote, since OLTL had explained the difference in appearance by saying Max had plastic surgery. When he reappeared – in a hot tub full of female friends, if I remember right – DePaiva clearly had Max’s old face. 

And Walker’s doing well for himself these days; he’s a design expert who part of the team that creates and produces Kathy Ireland’s home accessories line. 

And the one I’ll undoubtedly catch hell for….

Paul Ryan and Meg Snyder, As The World Turns: ATWT gets bonus points here for trying to keep characters we know alive, and keep ties to existing families. Their main approach over the last several years is to recast, or “reboot” existing characters with new actors. This has worked to a degree with some characters (Dusty) and even surprised us in a few cases (Brad, Craig, Casey).

But I think these two are miscast. Paul and Meg may not be a “fail” to every one, because they’re popular characters. But for me, a 24-year viewer of ATWT,  I think the actors and characters are a bad fit. 

Roger Howarth is very talented and brought a considerable artistry to his role as Todd on One Life to Live. But he’s been at ATWT for six years, and we still aren’t completely sure who Paul is or what he’s about. (Paul’s a hero. No, wait, he’s an antihero! No, he’s…..Todd Manning?)

For longtime viewers, we knew Paul and knew the struggles he had as James Stenbeck’s son. Watching those struggles promised to be compelling, but for the most part, Howarth and ATWT seem to STILL be trying to mesh actor and role together. That sounds like a mishmash – and a mismatch – to me. 

Fichtner-Ashe-CBS-LAnd Marie Wilson, like nearly every other performer listed here, has done great work. Newer fans who never saw the original Meg (Jennifer Ashe) have understandably accepted New Millennium Meg as the real deal.

But I think Wilson is a miscast for Meg for many of the same reasons I think Luner is a bad Liza. Wilson’s Meg may have some edges to her, but she’s been a damsel in distress for much of the past few years. Original Recipe Meg was a schemer and a manipulator, and she would have put a smackdown on anyone who tried to take advantage of her. 

Many of Meg’s recent misfortunes are replays of lessons Meg already learned when she was married to Tonio Reyes. And Wilson is almost a decade younger than Ashe, so nuMeg reads a lot younger on screen.

10 thoughts on “Epic recast fail

  1. “Wilson’s Meg may have some edges to her, but she’s been a damsel in distress for much of the past few years. Original Recipe Meg was a schemer and a manipulator, and she would have put a smackdown on anyone who tried to take advantage of her.”

    OMG – I’ve had the same complaints about Paul, Meg and Dusty since I started watching ATWT again back in 2007. I don’t recognize ANY of those characters at all, especially Meg. When I was a young teenager, I fell in love with the Lily/Holden saga, but Meg Synder was the character that fascinated me the most.

    How you described the Meg character in the above quote, is what made me love her in the first place. She was strong, in control and went after what she wanted. She wasn’t at all like Lily or Emily. She wasn’t some damsel in distress that ALWAYS needed to be saved by any male in her presence (including her brothers Holden and Caleb). Now, it seems like Holden’s constantly trying to get her away from Craig, Dusty, Paul and NOW Damian?!

    I don’t get it and thanks for mentioning Jennifer Ashe. If I’m correct, wasn’t she also on Loving at one time? She portrayed a character that had a split personality, due to the fact that she was being sexually abused by her father and everything was revealed during a trial or something? Whatever happened to her?

    Hi, Diva! Yes, Jennifer Ashe also played Lily Slater on Loving, which was co-created by Douglas Marland. He wrote the story of Lily’s abuse, and I think he wrote Meg for her when he came over to ATWT.

    She was great on ATWT. Meg was much as Emily is today – a character you can throw anything at, and a performer (like Ashe and Kelley Menighan Hensley) that can make anything work.

    I like Marie Wilson, and I can see why ATWT wanted her on the canvas. I just think she’s a bad match as Meg. I think in her case, she does fine work but the writing flies totally in the face of the character’s history.

  2. I also thank you for putting up the photo of William Fichter as Josh Synder with his co-star, Ms. Ashe. I can’t recall how TPTB at that time were able to figure out the way to explain why Josh and Meg were able to fall in love (and get married) during that time, because Fichter and Ashe had CRAZY chemistry back then.

    Did they have him also being adopted into the Synder family?

    Diva, my memory was a bit hazy on this one, but as far as I can tell, Josh was also adopted. I remember the Josh/Meg romance and that chemistry. Both characters were coming out of some pretty chemistry-free relationships, if I remember right (he with Betsy, she with Tonio) so they were explosive together!

  3. Great points, Patrick. AMC should have hired Carrington Garland to play nuLiza. Garland is the right age and looks a lot like Marcy Walker. They even played sisters on SB.

    Jeff, that’s an amazing idea! I’m not sure Carrington is still acting, though. IMDB doesn’t show any credits for her after Santa Barbara.

  4. I was watching “All My Children” when Melody replaced the fabulous Kate as Natalie. It was incredibly bad recasting, and Melody and poor Natalie did not last long on the show.

  5. Patrick,

    Thanks for a great column there and I agree with all your choices. All of those were spectacularly bad recasts!!

    AMC especially has had a long history of being unable to recast key roles. Kendall Hart and Jake Martin are the main exceptions.

    Jamie Lumer will definitely go down as one of the worst recasts ever. She’s a comptent actress, but completely wrong for the part. Laughably wrong — I find myself chuckling everytime she’s in a scene; she’s just so not Liza.

    But it’s not the first time they recast the role. Remember Alice Haining as Liza Colby back in 1984 after Marcy left to join Santa Barbara? Didn’t think so. They dropped her after about 6 weeks.

    For that matter, remember Jack Armstrong as Greg Nelson? I think he lasted all of 3 months in 1986. But that’s still longer than the 1 month Armstrong played Kevin Buchanan (replacing Kirk Geiger) on OLTL in 1994. (Armstrong has the unique distinction of being let go in short order from two different recasts that he was spectacularly miscast in).

    And do you remember the other two actresses who played Nina Courtlandt? Or Harriet Hall as Brooke English?

    In those cases, AMC wised up quickly and let the miscast actors go. The real lunacy is when shows stick with miscast actors for so long.Those are the ones we really remember and the ones people get to write colums about.

  6. I couldn’t agree with you more Patrick, though in the case of Roger Howarth and ATWT I can’t help but think that some of the problem lies in the weak writing. Who is Paul? After six years of Howarth, who knows, who cares?

    Other horrible recasts I can remember?

    Christine Tucci as Amanda Cory on AW (for all the reasons you mentioned).
    Christina Chambers as Marty on OLTL
    Anne Howard as Kimberly Brady on DAYS
    Camilla Scott as Melissa Anderson on DAYS
    Judith Chapman as Anjelica Deveraux on DAYS (great actress, wrong part)

    Yes, it seems DAYS has been guilty of some horrible recasts. Good thing they made it up for it with Charity Rahmer.

    Damon, your list is great adds to my point – I’m in most cases not complaining about the performers. I like Tucci, Howard, and Scott (who did great work in “Mamma Mia” when I saw it in Toronto) and Chapman is divine as Gloria. In most cases, it’s just a bad fit of performer to part when a quick recast is done.

    I’m just waiting for someone to pick “Charity Rahmer” as their drag name…..

  7. I’ll admit I have gotten away from watching anything other than GL, but I have caught AMC off and on during the past few weeks, more or less to see David Canary, but I will agree that the nuLiza just isn’t ding it for me. There is something about Marcy Walker that you can’t shake. Even when she was on GL playing Tangie Hill, I enjoyed her work.

    I just don’t find myself wanting to care about this version of Liza, and she doesn’t evoke that sympathy you would feel for Liza when MW was in the role.

  8. When I see Jamie Luner on AMC, I think Jamie Luner and not the character of Liza. Then again for me Marcy Walker is Eden Capwell before Liza Colby as I didn’t see her original stint on AMC.

    This may seem kind of odd, but when I equate an actor or actress to a role and then see them in a new part, I tend to have more issues in getting used to them as another character. For example, I didn’t see Nicholas Walker on Capitol, so I had an easier time accepting him as Max Holden. No he wasn’t James DePaiva, but I was okay with him as JDP had decided on his own to leave OLTL. The plastic surgery story made it easier for me to enjoy him in the part. BTW when James DePaiva came back, there was a wink at the audience and nothing more was said that Max was back with his original face.

    For the record, didn’t like OLTL’s Luna and felt like my dislike of the character made it impossible to judge Susan Batten’s acting in any role she has played. The Connor recast was one of the many mistakes ATWT made in 1996. Between that issue and the writing tanking my interest in that show started to wane.

    I felt sorry for Anne Hamilton when she was Mindy, though I last saw her on OLTL play Rex’s Aunt Corinne (who raised him even if he wasn’t a blood relative). The material they gave her on GL was bad like Billy and Mindy going fishing. It felt like they gave her no direction on how to play the part, so that was that. Right before Barbara Crampton left GL, Michael O’Leary returned and the two of them were really good together. It was only then when she was just about the door, that she clicked in the role for me.

  9. Poor Christina Chambers. She can’t catch a break. SUNSET BEACH, cancelled. AND she’s been miscast TWICE, on ATWT (as Molly) and OLTL (as Marty).

    Speaking of SB, her castmate, Tracey Lindsey Melchior, flopped, IMO, as Kristen on B&B and Kelly on OLTL.

    Jerry verDorn is a charmer, but I’ve never believed I’m watching Clint Buchanan on OLTL. Whoever “Clint” is, I like him, but he’s a “new” character–the same thing I consider “Meg” (Marie Wilson) on ATWT. Only the name’s the same; nothing else.

    Glad you mentioned the horrible Donna Love recast. Boy, Philece Sampler’s Donna worked my last nerve for two years! I was so happy when Anna Stuart returned.

    Why are two recasts that were REVERED in their time so denounced today? I’m speaking of Robert Kelker-Kelly as Bo on DAYS, and Heather Rattray as Lily on ATWT. These actors were praised like they were the second coming at the time. The soap press LOVED their new takes on their characters. Today, RKK is bashed regularly online for a role he played well over a decade ago, and Rattray is oddly forgotten. Karen Witter is also sometimes knocked as Tina on OLTL, but I thought she was a vast improvement over Andrea Evans. (I liked Krista Tesreau too. Not so much Marsha Clark–Hillary Bauer plays Tina? No.)

    Richard Van Vleet as Ed Bauer–the year on GL I’d like to forget…along with Michelle’s birth name. (It was Bert, and they called her BiBi…for awhile!)

  10. Forgot to mention…AMC should have waited for Beth Chamberlin (Beth, GL) to come available. She would be an excellent Liza recast.

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