Soap's cast consistency brings believability
Television audiences are acquainted with both Darrens on “Bewitched” and a pair of Beckys on “Roseanne,” but for 20 years (a rare fill-in or two aside), soap opera loyalists have known only singular versions of core characters Stephanie, Eric, Brooke and Ridge on “The Bold and the Beautiful,” thanks to the commitments of their respective portrayers: Susan Flannery, John McCook, Katherine Kelly Lang and Ronn Moss.
“Having the same actors play these characters that viewers have grown up with for 20 years is a wonderful asset to the show,” executive producer and head writer Bradley Bell says. “It means everything to be able to flash back to a show from 1987, 1997 or anywhere in the 20 years and see the same faces.
“It’s like opening a vault of material. The memories start flooding back to viewers’ minds. They experience the tears and the emotions. That’s what we really provide.”
Flannery, who has won three lead actress Daytime Emmys for her role as controlling family matriarch Stephanie Forrester, concurs, saying that cast consistency “brings to the audience a familiarity and a believability that adds to the suspension of disbelief.”
Appropriately for a soap, the actors’ attendance has been about 99 44/100% pure. Trivia buffs take note: Catherine Hickland subbed for Lang for a few days in 1987, and Sandra Ferguson stepped in while Lang took maternity leave in 1997. Moss took about a month off in 1992 to go to Italy to do a movie, with Lane Davies filling in. McCook and Flannery have never been replaced.
The chemistry among the co-stars was apparent from the beginning. Lang, whose character Brooke is often at odds with her on-again/off-again mother-in-law Stephanie, performed her screen test for the soap with McCook, even though her main love interest has been Moss’ Ridge.
“John really made me feel so comfortable and at ease,” Lang told Robert Waldron, author of “The Bold and the Beautiful — A Tenth Anniversary Celebration.”
While some performers prefer not to get too acquainted with their co-stars, Moss notes that working alongside the same individuals for two decades on Stage 31 at CBS Television City in Hollywood (as well as on location in foreign countries for weeks at a time) has made that a happy impossibility.
“As our real lives have gone through trials and tribulations, the one constant seems to be the ‘family’ that we have at the show, specifically the four of us that have been together (from the beginning),” Moss says. “I sometimes sit back and take heed of that. I feel very blessed.
“It’s a rare thing in life to know and work with (the same) people for 20 years.”
Bonding among the soap’s long-running actors took place during the formative era of the show.
“We spend less time together now than we did in the early days because now we all have families,” Moss says. “When we go home, we want to be with our kids. That preempts the social stuff we used to do.”
Earlier this year, Bell scripted the show’s 5,000th installment as a tribute to the soap’s fabulous foursome. The episode, which aired Feb. 16, had the characters snowbound in the family’s Big Bear cabin.
“It was a nod to those four actors and a great platform to do something that was more theatrical,” says the scribe, who adds that while it may be easier to bring on new characters to the show’s storytelling canvas, it’s far more rewarding to construct new avenues for these existing favorites to travel. “The commitment that our viewers have to our show is what makes daytime unique. With that comes a great responsibility to preserve the characters and to treat them with respect.”
The 5,000th show contained clips from 1987, including the historical and significant first meetings between Brooke and Ridge, Eric and Stephanie.
“I watched it with Katherine,” shares Flannery, who quips, “We were very happy to see that we used to be really good-looking.”