Recasts: the flip side

Last week, I posted about some of the more unusual, unlikely and bizarre recasts we’ve seen – the ones that fell flat with viewers. I figured I’d bring a little yin to balance out the yang, and talk about some of the more successful recasts. 

I think they all share two common threads – a physical likeness, and the new actor’s willingness to pick up where the previous actor left off before they make it their own. 

In order of success and/or awesomeness, these actors would get my votes. 

060908_keifer_240x320Elizabeth Keifer as Blake, Guiding Light: I haven’t made any secret of my admiration and fandom for Liz Keifer, who I interviewed back in February. Part of my respect for Liz is based on my amazement (as a GL fan) at how masterfully she took over this role in 1992. 

I loved Sherry Stringfield’s take on Blake and thought Stringfield was a great match. (She was the second Blake, after Elizabeth Dennehy.) I remember GL announced Keifer as the new Blake really early – much earlier than usual – and I was not happy to hear Stringfield was leaving. 

And I swear, by the third show with Liz as Blake, I was like, “Sherry who?” Liz just got Blake – immediately. I was really impressed that Liz had captured some of Sherry’s physical mannerisms and affectations and worked them into her performance, but not in a way that seemed obvious or conspicuous. It was very, very subtle. It also helped that the character of Blake was at a turning point, and that Liz and Jerry verDorn (Ross) had combustible chemistry. 

Rick Hearst as Alan-Michael Spaulding, Guiding Light. A close second would have to be Hearst’s casting as Alan-Michael. Hearst was the textbook definition of someone who came in to a role and put a very different spin on it (yet staying true to the character). 

Hearst, like Grant Aleksander, has a deliciously dark undercurrent to his performances. So even when Alan-Michael was a good guy, he added a layer of bad boy bravado to AM’s smiling exterior. And even when AM was up to his assets in trouble, Hearst gave him a lot of heart. 

Guiding Light has always been great at casting, especially replacing existing characters when it was necessary. (They had a nearly impossible task in filling Beverlee McKinsey’s shoes, and did a phenomenal job by picking Marj Dusay.) They’ve had some recent successes, including Marcy Rylan as the new Lizzie. But Keifer and Hearst were definitely the two best GL recasts. 

Jess Walton as Jill and Peter Bergman as Jack, Y&R. I’m sure this one will spark some debate. The original Jill, Brenda Dickson, has legion of fans. I enjoyed Dickson’s larger-than-life take on Jill (as well as those attention-grabbing vanity videos on YouTube) but I’ve been on Team Jess since Walton took over. 

Walton’s Jill is grounded but still over-the-top emotionally. That grounding gives Jill’s misdeeds more weight and more logic. When Jill manipulates someone, stabs them in the back, or sets out to destroy them, her reasons (mistrust, hurt or revenge) seem clearer and deeper. 

Bergman’s take on Jack is very similar; Terry Lester made for a great bad boy. (It’s hard to look at Billy Miller’s performance of Billy Abbott and not see a little of Lester in his sly, naughty Billy.) But Bergman inherited Jack at a time where Jack was evolving (and aging) and managed to take him from a pushy playboy to a force that Victor had to reckon with. rob002

Robert Kelker-Kelly as Bo, Days of our Lives. Another choice that I’m sure people will disagree with. Not everyone loved RKK’s Bo, and….well, let’s just say that some of his former co-workers probably didn’t keep him on their Christmas card lists, you know? 

But I think Kelker-Kelly was a great choice for Bo. He physically resembled Peter Reckell, and he had great chemistry with Crystal Chappell. (So does a potted plant, but I digress.)*

More to the point, the casting of RKK followed all the logic that All My Children ignored when casting Liza. Physical resemblance? Check. Sexy, romantic male lead? Check. An actor who can capture the essence of the character? Check. 

Anne Heche and Jensen Buchanan, Another World.  AW had a lot of luck with the dual roles of Marley and Vicky. Of course, two-time Emmy Award winner Ellen Wheeler (yes, that Ellen Wheeler) played Marley and her bad, bad twin Vicky. 

Heche and Buchanan both did great work with the characters (though it must be said that their efforts, particularly Buchanan’s, were far more focused on bringing Vicky alive). They were able to put their own spin on the twins, but still kept a connection to the core of the characters.

*NOTE: This was a compliment to Crystal Chappell, who has chemistry with every performer she’s paired with and, as I suggest, would even have chemistry with a potted plant. For reasons I don’t fully understand, a few fans of Crystal’s though this was an insult. Let me be clear that it is a compliment.  

5 thoughts on “Recasts: the flip side

  1. Patrick I agree with your assessments, but I would also like to throw in Ron Raines’ being recast as Alan Spaulding on GL.

    I began watching GL a little over 30 years ago when Chris Bernau’s Alan was stranded on the island with Hope. He quickly became the reason why I tuned into GL every day. I never thought I would be able to accept anyone else in the role. Daniel Pilon for example, fell very flat.

    When Ron came a board in 1994, he captured my attention. It was awkward at first, but he soon settled in and became “Alan Spaulding.” No small accomplishment.

  2. Is it any surprise that I agree with each and every one of these? I’m especially in agreement when it comes to Liz Keifer. Elizabeth Denehy never worked as Blake. Sherry Stringfield was good. But Liz Keifer made Blake her own. It’s annoying that she’s such a backburner girl, now, because Keifer’s Blake is awesome. She shared great chemistry with so many pivotal actors: Michael Zaslow, Maureen Garrett, Jerry ver Dorn. All that…AND she totally looked as if she could be Maureen Garrett’s daughter!

  3. The reason we knew about Sherry leaving GL so much earlier than she did was because Sherry’s departure date was postponed (due to how the story was going), and she was working without a contract. Liz had been giving a start date more than once and then was told, sorry no not yet. The crazy thing was Liz was the first person to screen test for Blake (they thought she could work for that part and not the one they wanted to audition for which was Eve). It took GL a long time to get back to her as they auditioned a lot of actresses. At the time, many were concerned that due to Liz’s other roles that it wouldn’t work.

    That said, GL took pains to make it easier for the viewers to accept Liz in the role, like dyeing (she was blonde when she screen tested), straightening and cutting her hair. If you watch some of her early episodes, there is a marked difference in Liz’s speaking voice as well. (Contrast that with the original adult Blake, Elizabeth Dennehy the show wasn’t casting Roger and Holly’s daughter when they hired her–the character she was supposed to be was Rita’s daughter with Ed or Alan.)

    As it is/was, Liz was already clued in to the characters that Blake would be interact with when she started as someone who watched GL (though she admitted to not watching it regularly for about a year or two before she started). Probably she had seen Sherry in the role at one point and/or have met her due to the fact she was hired while Sherry was still taping. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if she didn’t get told what was going on with the character. Plus outside of the rehearsal time at the studio (as back then soaps built that time into the shooting day) Jerry and Liz would run lines over the phone. Effort was put into the whole enterprise, as if Liz hadn’t fit in the story would not have worked. The complex interactions among the characters would have faltered if they didn’t have a viable Blake–someone the audience would believe Holly and Roger would be heartbroken to lose and Ross would chose over his career in politics.

    BL (who is stopping now as she doesn’t want to get into my theories of why Blake is “backburner girl”. I’ve written a long enough response.)

  4. Very interesting comment, BL. I had no idea Blake was first to be Rita’s daughter.

    And Patrick I agree with all your suggestions. Maybe before all our time, but Erika Slesak and Victoria Wyndham might have them all beat.

    Jef, those are two great additions to the list. They’re so identified with the characters for me, I completely forget that they aren’t the original performer to take on the role.

  5. If Blake was intended to be Rita’s daughter, then there’s no way that she could’ve been Alan’s daughter. Blake was sleeping with Alan! I highly doubt that GL was willing to tackle direct incest 20 years ago.

    I think she was always intended to be Christina Bauer (Thorpe). Even with SORASing, Elizabeth Dennehy seemed too old to play a character that would’ve been born, offscreen, in 1982. Blake was 22 in 1988! (Although Alan-Michael aged similarly–16 years in 6!)

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