Let’s say you’re an actress. You’ve been in the business for almost two decades, you’ve hit the big 4-0, and the show that you’ve been appearing on for the last decade has just been canceled. What’s your reaction?
For many performers (male or female), the scenario above would mean lots of tears, a few drunken middle-of-the-night phone calls to your agent, and a sudden interest in Botox.
But there are no tears and no handwringing for the hardest working woman in daytime (and perhaps in show business).
She just enjoyed perhaps the best year of her career thus far. She (and her costar) have ignited one of the biggest and most powerful fanbases in daytime history. The last year has been completely made of win, win, win for her.
Yes, her show was canceled. But with almost acrobatic ease, she’s managed to land a role on another daytime show, where her dedicated fanbase will no doubt follow her. AND she’s not forgetting about that fanbase; she’s writing and developing her own Web series.
And she looked damned good doing it all, too.
I am talking, of course, about the “goddess” herself, Crystal Chappell.
Chappell is immensely talented, and she’s always been a really unique performer. I wasn’t a big DAYS fan at the time she played Carly 1.0, but there was something that was really engaging to watch about her even then. (She was all but wasted as Maggie on OLTL.)
Her role as Olivia on Guiding Light has been, hands down, the most consistently compelling story on the show in the last decade. If you look at some of Olivia’s life on paper, it sounds like a multitude of different characters, not one. But Olivia’s always been consistently entertaining, and Chappell is the reason.
When the writing for Olivia was great, Chappell just soared with it. Olivia’s steamy romances with Phillip and Bill were very memorable. Her fights with Alan and Alexandra were legendary. (During Joan Collins’ tenure as Alex, watching Phillip/Alan/Alex/Olivia, with a side of Beth and Harley, was the best part of GL.)
But – and this is the key to a great performer – she made it work even when the writing wasn’t so great. She made it work when the writers tried to shoehorn Liv into the Cooper family (and smooth out our girl’s jagged edges).
She made it work when she was given a sudden daughter (and then, unbelievably, tried to take a hit out on said daughter). She and Robert Newman made the Josh/Olivia story work, even when it was a pale retread of the usual psycho-bitch-keeps-Josh-and-Reva-apart nonsense. (Their flirty chemistry is still intact – their recent scenes have had flammable chemistry.)
And perhaps most impressively, she almost succeeded in selling us the worst story Guiding Light’s told in recent memory: the Jeffrey/Olivia rape debacle.
It’s absolutely no surprise that Chappell’s performances in the Otalia storyline – and “Otalia” itself – have been glorious.
I mentioned earlier this week that I was really enjoying Alan and Lillian’s current stories, because they were bringing their characters full circle. Olivia, too, has come full circle. She started her life in Springfield as a barracuda, but she’s come to love others more than herself – her daughters and, of course, her beloved Natalia.
There are so many things about Crystal Chappell that have impressed me. I was impressed with her performances and her dedication to the Otalia story. I was impressed with how much of an advocate she was for Guiding Light, and how hard she worked to keep Otalia going after the cancellation was announced.
I was impressed that, after it was clear GL wasn’t going to continue, she wisely landed a new gig.
And perhaps most of all, I’m really impressed that Chappell had the business sense and the creative impetus to create Venice, her upcoming Web series.
Crystal Chappell is one of the most Web-savvy performers; she’s communicated with fans via Twitter and Facebook, and she’s well aware that she has a very vocal fanbase on the Web. (Big Purple Dreams, the Otalia fan site, numbers well over 5,000 unique users.)
With Venice, she’s not only hoping the Otalia lightning strikes twice, she’s connecting with that fan base on different platforms – TV, the Web, social media. THIS is what it’s all about today, kids – you’ve gotta keep fans excited and engaged on their flat-screen LCDs and their iPhones.
Daytime TPTB have been best known in the last decade or so for ignoring common sense, history, and fan suggestions about future story. By creating Venice, it’s a win for Chappell on so many different levels.
But it’s also a win for fans, who usually find that their interest or fandom is met with a slap in the face or a cold bucket of water.
This show really could be the future for soaps, and Venice could be the most sustainable model in that genre that we’ve seen yet.
I’m excited to see Crystal Chappell’s next moves, on DAYS and in Venice. But I would be remiss if I didn’t say that before I see Crystal on Venice Beach or in Salem…….that it’s time for Olivia and Natalia to KISS ALREADY!!!!!!!!!!!!!
A sad postscript: today (August 11) was the last day of filming for Guiding Light. To see my eulogy for GL, click here.