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Leaving So Soon - Article on quickly fired actors


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By Alison Sloane Gaylin

When Susan Keith (ex-Shana, LOVING), snagged her first soap role, she thought she had it made. After all, she'd already achieved one of the acting world's most elusive goals - job security - and she hadn't even graduated from college yet.

The part, ONE LIFE TO LIVE's Samantha Vernon, was a recast - and Keith didn't think she was right for it. "Julie Montgomery had left the part, and she wasn't anything like me," the actress recalls. "I'm short and curvy, and she's long and tall." Those details didn't faze Keith. She left Chicago's prestigious Goodman School of Drama (where she was in her senior year), moved to New York "at the drop of a hat," and signed a three-year contract with OLTL. "I couldn't believe it," she remembers. "My classmates were all selling liquor for a living, and I already had a steady acting job. There was so much to learn, and I had to jump into the part so quickly. But everyone [at OLTL] was wonderful to me, and New York seemed like such a magical place." Just as she was getting into the swing of things, the magic faded...and fast. "Little did I know, when you sign a three-year contract, you come up for review every 13 weeks, and the show can fire you," the actress sighs. "Nine weeks into my job, Julie Montgomery decided she wanted to come back. At the end of my 13-week cycle, they fired me."

Keith isn't the only daytime actor who's had to cope with a 13-week eye-opener. Review cycles are built into first year of every soap contract. And for those actors who don't read the fine print, 13 can be a very unlucky number. "I felt so humiliated after they fired me, I couldn't even walk around the studio," Keith admits. "But the other actors cheered me up. Tony [Anthony George, ex-Will] who played my father, told me a bunch of war stories about other actors who had to cope with the same thing. He told me that it happened all the time. It was too late to go back to school that year, so I decided to dry those tears, get out there and try to get another job." Persistence paid off. Within a month of her OLTL dismissal, the actress was cast as ANOTHER WORLD's Cecile; she stayed at AW for a full two years.

Keith is now a seasoned soap star, and her 13-week dismissal is just something to talk about at cocktail parties. But other actors still feel the sting. "I was absolutely devastated," says Kristen Jensen, whose stint as ALL MY CHILDREN's Laurel was cut short after 13 weeks in the spring of 1993. "I had no idea, not even a clue, that they were going to fire me. I didn't see any warning signs. After 13 weeks, they just told me that they wanted to take the part in a new direction. They gave me eight hours' notice, and I was out of there."

The part wasn't the only thing she lost. "I'd finally found an apartment, and I'd had it for two weeks," Jensen recalls. "Suddenly, I couldn't afford it any more, so I had to get out fast and take a wash on the security deposit."

Despite the emotional (and financial) shock, Jensen has learned to look on the bright side. "One thing I can say is, it taught me not to take things at face value," she relates. "When something good happens, it doesn't necessarily mean everything will be okay. When something bad happens, it's not the end of the world. When I got the part of Laurel, I was so excited and happy. But it didn't last long. When I got fired, I was completely blown away. But it gave me the freedom and the time to study acting."

Jensen has been watching her replacement, Felicia La Fortune, and says she'd consider auditioning for another serial. "Everybody in soaps knows that if you sign a contract, you have to stay with the show, but you can get fired every 13 weeks," she says. "I can understand that. The soaps have every right to do that; they're a big business."

But there's one thing she still doesn't understand. "The only thing I have a complaint about is that no one [at AMC] told me anything ahead of time," Jensen confides. "I thought I was doing fine, and the next thing I knew, I was fired. I wish I'd had more of a chance."

Unlike most employers, soap producers aren't required to warn an actor of his impending dismissal. Some execs feel it lowers an actor's morale to put him on "probation," especially if, through no fault of his own, he doesn't fit into his new role. But AS THE WORLD TURNS Executive Producer Laurence Caso has a different policy. "When you decide to let an employee go, you always have a reason," Caso asserts. "It's any manager's job to provide feedback along the way. If you ultimately dismiss an actor, it shouldn't come as a major shock if you've been trying to work on his problems."

Of course, some dismissals have nothing to do with actors' problems. "Often it's because of the producers' and writers' plans for the show," Caso says. "A Certain storyline may not be working, or a character may become expendable. Or sometimes, the direction that the writing takes may not mesh with an actor's portrayal." In those cases, Caso says, getting fired early can be a blessing in disguise. "By letting an actor go, you're giving him a chance to find a part that's really right for him."

"I try not to well on the past," says actress Ann Hamilton. "Being on GUIDING LIGHT was wonderful. Even though I was only on a short time, I was on a lot. And [getting fired] has given me the opportunity to look at roles in films or on prime-time." Last year, Hamilton was dismissed early into her run as GL's Mindy and replaced by Barbara Crampton. Like Jensen, she was told that producers wanted to take the character in a different direction. "[GL execs] told me that it had nothing to do with my acting, and I believe that," she says. "The feeling was, 'Ann's a good actress, but she's not Mindy.' In hiring Barbara, they brought the character closer to what the other two Mindys [Krista Tesreau and Kimberley Simms] were."

Still, Hamilton admits, getting fired was a surprise - and not a pleasant one. "Nobody gave me any warning," Hamilton says. "I was called in at 6 p.m. on a Friday night, and told not to come into work on Monday. I do wish they had given me enough respect to speak to me earlier, but I still view [GL] as a positive experience." Hamilton keeps in touch with former GL co-stars Liz Keifer (Blake) and Melissa Hayden (Bridget). And she's auditioned for some of the same parts as the original Mindy, Krista Tesreau. But Tesreau's current role, Tina on ONE LIFE TO LIVE, wasn't one of them. "I commend Krista, but there's no way I'm walking into another recast," says the actress, who is now living in Los Angeles. "If I do another soap again, I want my own role!"

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Sorry but Ann Hamilton had to go, she was bad as Mindy. Mind you Crampton wasn't Mindy either but at least she could act.

These days it seems being a bad casting you can be fired within just a few episodes, see Charity Rahmer and Kit Paquin for horrific casting decisions quickly reversed. I know Y&R fired one of those multiple Daniels we saw before Michael Graziadei took over and his scenes never even made it to the air!

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I don't think that Mindy ever acted true to her character the whole time Crampton played her, but I think she fit JFP's image of Mindy (a brain-dead nobody designed to make people love Nick). Hamilton was just plain miscast and didn't seem like much of an actress either. I try to remember what her last day was. I think Nick saw her sitting near the pond at Cross Creek.

These days bad actors are either fired very quickly or kept around forever and ever.

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Ha ha ha, I love it. Actually I don't mind Liz Hendrickson but Chloe is just a wretched role and the show's continuing inability to find a place for her proves it, IMO.

Yeah, OLTL and Y&R and B&B among others have rotgut actors in central roles. I don't know what's worse, bad actors who try or OK actors who stopped caring years ago.

I was going to say that the Digest had a photo of each of the actors interviewed -- if anyone wants to see them let me know and I'll scan it.

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I remember Ann Hamilton on Oprah once but I can't remember for the life of me what for.

Kristen to Felicity was such a head scratcher. Kristen was this tall leggy blonde. I can see how casting Felicity made Laurel seem more sympathetic as a schemer/con-artist for the sake of her child, one look at Kristen and fair or unfair you'd assume that her sexuality could get her anything she wanted. She didn't really look like the kind of woman who had to be crafty and scrappy in order to survive. I also think Erica would have been a LOT more threatened by/jealous of Laurel numero uno.

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Guess this leads us to a discussion about actors who were canned quiclky and replaced.

As I am want to do,I'll enter the Time Tunnel and go back to the glory days.

On ATWT, Will Lee was canned as Grandpa Hughes after one episode as Irna and/or Ted Corday disliked his performance for some reason. i guess the show being live meant that the actual episode was the first chance they got to really see the performer,but still,one episode seems a bit drastic.

On AW, Irna was up to her old tricks as John Beal was let go as Jim Matthews after the first show and Sarah Cunningham lasted a week as Aunt Liz.

I recall on Y&R another actor actor played Shawn Garrett for a few episodes before Grant Cramer and there was a different David Kimball and April Stevens initially.

I remember on The Doctors Carla Dragoni was cast as the new MJ but only lasted a few months when the producers took advantage of Kathy Glass' availability and dumped Dragoni.

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How long did the first Barbara Norris last on GL?

RH did this quite a bit. The first Nancy Feldman came and went quickly. The last Pat for 3 years, Fucinelli or something, was written out after only a month or two, if that.

And of course the first David Allen on ATWT.

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I remember Ann Hamilton on Oprah once but I can't remember for the life of me what for.

Kristen to Felicity was such a head scratcher. Kristen was this tall leggy blonde. I can see how casting Felicity made Laurel seem more sympathetic as a schemer/con-artist for the sake of her child, one look at Kristen and fair or unfair you'd assume that her sexuality could get her anything she wanted. She didn't really look like the kind of woman who had to be crafty and scrappy in order to survive. I also think Erica would have been a LOT more threatened by/jealous of Laurel numero uno.

That's exactly how I look at Denise Vasi's Randi. There is no way, to this day, I will ever believe a woman as gorgeous as she is would only be able to resort to being a streetwalking hooker. Especially five minutes after leaving the "profession" she lands a job as a model at a cosmetics company.

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yrsquare-1.jpg

I really like Hendrickson and Cloe is a certain 'type' (wannabe cynical, smart ass, hard on the outisde and soft in the middle). She sort of reminds me of Jill but needs a rival to work with/against. I see her less as a romantic character and more the type who belongs at odds with other women. That is why Chance and Kevin have been such failures. Cloe, like Jill before her, should be using sex as a weapon and not cashing out on the fell good scooby mobile. Billy Miller, too, isn't a bad actor and he reminds of of Lester Jack. The problem is that the writers want him to play out some wounded alpha-male fantacy. Cane had potential but it is way too late. I've never liked touchy feely Lilly and want her to go climb the cliff searching for her mama.

I notice soaps soaps wait longer before doing a recast. The genre used to be like the stage where you'd hear a voice over say 'Today playing the role of Lisa is......". I sort of miss fill ins. Imagine if Des. Housewives did this ;)

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That's exactly how I look at Denise Vasi's Randi. There is no way, to this day, I will ever believe a woman as gorgeous as she is would only be able to resort to being a streetwalking hooker. Especially five minutes after leaving the "profession" she lands a job as a model at a cosmetics company.

One of several miscastings during Pratt's era (and for that matter why would North use a street prostitute instead of an escort?) Similar to Marissa the most homely and boring hand job giving masseuse I could think of.

Carl--I'd love to see pics. I can't remember what the original Laurel looked like, except that she was leggy and blonde.

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