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Youth and Soap Opera: a historical perspective

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A lot is often made about the "young" casts of today's soap operas and how the "older" performers are shunted aside. Well, that got me thinking about a quote attributed to ATWT's Don Hastings (Bob). I'm paraphrasing, of course, but I remember reading how he onced asked the EP at the time (whomever it was) why he (and other older cast members) were being pushed aside for a bunch of kids when he and the others had been carrying heavy storyline for years. The producer then asked Don how old he'd been during the bulk of his front burner status. Don thought for a moment and then reportedly said "Oh, yeah. Never mind." So, that got me thinking. What were the demographics of the casts of some classic soap operas and is the "younger" casts a new thing? Pulling out some old Daytime TV Yearbooks for period specific castlists (and utilizing the good old IMDB), let's do some research.

The year is 1967 - 40 years ago. First name is character, second name is actor in the role. The age is the age of the performer in 1967.

As the World Turns

Chris Hughes - Don MacLaughlin (turned 60 in November)

Penny Hughes Wade - Rosemary Prinz (turned 37 in January)

Nancy Hughes - Helen Wagner (turned 49 is September)

Ellen Stewart - Patricia Bruder (turned 27 in April)

David Stewart - Henderson Forsythe (turned 50 in September)

Bob Hughes - Don Hastings (turned 33 in April)

Pa Hughes - Santos Ortega (turned 68 in June)

Neil Wade - Michael Lipton (turned 42 in April)

Claire Cassen - Barbara Berjer (turned 47 in June)

Lisa Hughes - Eileen Fulton (turned 34 in September)

Sara Fuller - Gloria deHaven (turned 42 in July)

Sandy McGuire - Dagne Crane (turned 31 in March)

Don Hughes - Peter Brandon (turned 41 in July)

Amanda Holmes - Deborah Steinberg (unknown)

Judge Lowell - William Johnstone (turned 59 in February)

Dan Stewart - John Colenbeck (unknown, but old enough to be a doctor)

Paul Stewart - Stephen Mines (unknown)

Susan Burke - Diana Walker (turned 25 in June)

Ann Holmes - Augusta Dabney (turned 49 in October)

Dick Martin - Ed Kemmer (turned 46 in October)

Martha Wilson - Anna Minot (unknown)

Otto Martin - Allen Nourse (turned 61 in May)

Roy McGuire - Konrad Matthaei (unknown)

Carl Wilson - Martin Rudy (turned 52 in December)

Edward Long - Jay Barney (turned 54 in March)

It is interesting to note that Helen Wagner was only 8 years older than the actor playing her son Don. Meanwhile, Dr. Dan Stewart was the son of Ellen Stewart played by 27 year old Patricia Bruder (!) and the grandson of Claire Cassen played by 47 year old Barbara Berjer. Meanwhile, Penny & Ellen were supposed to have graduated from high school together. Original Ellen, Wendy Drew, would've turned 38 in May. Some odd SORASing/deSORASing in that Lowell/Stewart family.

The Guiding Light

Bert Bauer - Charita Bauer (turned 45 in December)

Bill Bauer - Ed Bryce (turned 46 in September)

Dr. Ed Bauer - Robert Gentry (turned 27 in September)

Papa Bauer - Theo Goetz (turned 73 in December)

Dr. Paul Fletcher - Bernard Grant (turned 47 in October)

Robin Fletcher - Gillian Spencer (unknown)

Johnny Fletcher - Don Scardino (turned 18 in February)

Ben Scott - Bernard Kates (turned 45 in December)

Peggy Scott - Fran Myers (unknown, but roughly the same age as Johnny)

George Hayes - Philip Sterling (turned 45 in October)

Jane Fletcher Hayes - Chase Crosley (unknown)

Dr. Stephen Jackson - Stefan Schnabel (turned 55 in February)

Leslie Jackson - Lynne Adams (unknown)

Dr. Jim Frazier - James Earl Jones (turned 36 in January)

Martha Frazier - Cicely Tyson (turned 34 in December)

Dr. Joe Werner - Ben Hayes (turned 35 in November)

Another World

John Randolph - Michael M. Ryan (turned 38 in March)

Pat Matthews Randolph - Susan Trustman (unknown)

Lee Randolph - Gaye Huston (unknown)

Mary Matthews - Virginia Dwyer (unknown)

Jim Matthews - Shepperd Strudwick (turned 60 in September)

Alice Matthews - Jacqueline Courtney (turned 21 in September)

Bill Matthews - Joseph Gallison (turned 32 in March)

Liz Matthews - Audra Lindley (turned 49 in September)

Missy Fargo - Carol Roux (unknown)

Danny Fargo - Anthony Ponzini (turned 31 in June)

Mitchell Dru - Geoffrey Lumb (turned 62 in July)

Michael Bauer - Gary Pillar (unknown)

Emily Hastings - Mona Bruns (turned 68 in November)

Flo Murray - Marcella Martin (unknown, but she's the real life mother of Gaye Huston)

Lenore Moore - Judith Barcroft (turned 25 in July)

Days of our Lives

Dr. Tom Horton - Macdonald Carey (turned 54 in March)

Alice Horton - Frances Reid (turned 53 in December)

Diane Hunter - Coleen Gray (turned 45 in October)

Marie Horton Merritt - Marie Cheatham (turned 25 in June)

Julie Olson - Charla Doherty (turned 21 in August)

Tony Merritt - Ron Husmann (turned 30 in June)

Dr. Laura Spencer - Susan Flannery (turned 28 in July)

Dr. Bill Horton - Edward Mallory (turned 37 in June)

Mickey Horton - John Clarke (turned 35 in April)

Susan Hunter Martin - Denise Alexander (turned 28 in November)

General Hospital

Dr. Steve Hardy - John Beradino (turned 50 in May)

Jessie Brewer - Emily McLaughlin (turned 37 in December)

Meg Bentley - Patricia Breslin (turned 37)

Lee Baldwin - Peter Hansen (turned 46 in December)

Dr. Phil Brewer - Robert Hogan (turned 34 in September)

Audrey Hardy - Rachel Ames (turned 38 in November)

Dr. Tom Baldwin - Paul Savior (unknown)

Lucille March - Lucille Wall (turned 69 in January)

Sharon McGillis - Sharon DeBord (turned 28 in December)

Scotty Bentley - Tony Campo (unknown, but a little boy)

Dr. John Prentice - Barry Atwater (turned 49 in May)

Love of Life

Vanessa Sterling - Audrey Peters (unknown)

Bruce Sterling - Ron Tomme (turned 36 in October)

Alan Sterling - Dennis Cooney (turned 29 in September)

Lori Krakauer - Claudette Nevins (unknown)

Mickey Krakauer - Alan Yorke (turned 26 in September)

Henry Carlson - Jack Stamberger (unknown)

Vivian Carlson - Helene Dumas (turned 66 in November)

Tammy Porter - Ann Loring (turned 53 in January)

Nell Salzman - Ruth Baker (unknown)

Elaine Harris - Eugenia Rawls (turned 54 in September)

Anna Krakauer - Jocelyn Brando (turned 48 in November)

Tess Krakauer - Toni Bull (unknown)

Sharon Ferris - Eileen Letchworth (unknown)

Aunt Carrie - Frances Fuller (turned 60 in March)

Charles Lamont - John Moore (turned 44 in March)

The Secret Storm

Valerie Ames - Lori March (turned 44 in March)

Peter Ames - Larry Weber (unknown)

Grace Tyrell - Majorie Gateson (turned 76 in January)

Tony Porter - Arlen Snyder (turned 34 in March)

Janet Porter - Bibi Besch (turned 27 in February)

Wendy Porter - Julie Mannix (unknown)

Kip Rysdale - Ed Griffith (turned 29 in November)

Arthur Rysdale - John Baragrey (turned 49 in April)

Pauline Rysdale - Haila Stoddard (turned 53 in November)

Susan Ames Dunbar - Judy Lewis (turned 32 in November)

Amy Ames Britton - Jada Rowland (turned 24 in February)

Paul Britton - Ryan MacDonald (unknown)

Bob Hill - Roy Scheider (turned 35 in November)

Petey Dunbar - Michael Kearney (turned 12 in October)

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Interesting observations. I've never had problems with younger characters getting to be at the center of most of the frontburner storylines (and by younger, I mean characters in the teen-50s age range). There should be several times a year, though, where the older characters get some time in the spotlight. And throughout the rest of the year, they should be there on a regular basis, either serving as supporting characters or as Greek chorus characters.

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But the actors aren't that young. Of the ages listed few actors are actually in their 20's. Take ATWT for example, only two of those with ages listed are in their 20's. Compare that to something like OLTL today where Adrianna, Rex, Starr, Langston, Cole, Brittany, Thalia, Layla(?) Jess and Nat are all in their teens and early to mid 20's. That's 1/3 of the contract cast and it more than shows in the performances.

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Yeah, all the teen focus *is* a little odd. I can't think of any soaps that were *primarily* teen focused except for "Never Too Young" and "Tribes" (and "Swans Crossing", off course). Even that teen classic "Dark Shadows" focused on non-teen characters.

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But you have to consider the fact that many actors and actresses play character who are a lot younger than what they are in real life. Here's ATWT's current contract cast, using the same format Matt used:

Scott Bryce - Craig Montgomery (turned 49 in January)

Martha Byrne - Lily Snyder (turns 38 in December)

Alexandra Chando - Maddie Coleman (turns 21 in July)

Terri Colombino - Katie Peretti (turned 32 in January)

Trent Dawson - Henry Coleman (turned 36 in February)

Ellen Dolan - Margo Hughes (turns 52 in October)

Kenneth Franklin - Dallas Griffin (unknown - early 20s)

Eileen Fulton - Lisa Grimaldi (turns 74 in September)

Elena Goode - Jade Taylor (turns 25 in August)

Van Hansis - Luke Snyder (turns 26 in September)

Don Hastings - Dr. Bob Hughes (turned 73 on April 1)

Kathryn Hays - Kim Hughes (turns 74 in July)

Jon Hensley - Holden Snyder (turns 42 in August)

Scott Holmes - Tom Hughes (turns 55 in May)

Roger Howarth - Paul Ryan (turns 39 in September)

Elizabeth Hubbard - Lucinda Walsh (turns 74 in December)

Jennifer Landon - Gwen Munson (turns 24 in August)

Grayson McCouch - Dusty Donovan (turns 39 in October)

Kelley Menighan Hensley - Emily Stewart (turned 40 in February)

Michael Park - Jack Snyder (turns 39 in July)

Austin Peck - Brad Snyder (turned 36 on April 9)

Marnie Schulenburg - Alison Stewart (turns 25 in May)

Jesse Lee Soffer - Will Munson (turns 23 on April 23)

Helen Wagner - Nancy Hughes McCloskey (turns 89 in September)

Maura West - Carly Tenney (turns 35 on April 27)

Marie Wilson - Meg Snyder (turns 33 in October)

Colleen Zenk Pinter - Barbara Ryan (turned 54 in January)

That's 27 people, which is only two more than the number of people in the 1967 cast list. There's one person in her 80s, four in their 70s, no one in their 60s, three in their 50s, three in their 40s, nine in their 30s, and seven in their 20s. The only difference between 1967 and 2007 is that there is a person in her 80s, a few in their 70s, none in their 60s, one less in their 50s, a lot less in their 40s, a lot more in their 30s, and a lot more in their 20s. I guess that really is more of a difference than I thought. The median age of the cast members in 1967, not counting the people with unknown ages, was 45. The median age now, not counting the person with the unknown age, is 44.

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