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OLTL's Inability to Incorporate Diversity Better

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  • OLTL's Inability to Incorporate Diversity Better

    The one major frustration for me was that OLTL hired awesome Black actors and then didn't seem to know what to do with them. I also feel that a lot of these characters were the first to fall victim to the revolving door of HWs who took a Hostile Takeover of a Corporation approach rather than seamlessly integrating themes from prior shows.

    One of my biggest gripes was the shoddy way Daphne Duplaix as Rachel was treated. She was my favorite Rachel. I liked Ellen Bethea, Mari Morrow was written as too weak, and Sandra Grant seemed too slutty. She was what I thought Hank and Nora's daughter would look like on paper. She looked like a blend between the two and I loved the way DD kind of mirrored HBS speech patterns, acting choices and mannerisms. Loved their too brief scenes together. I was particularly disappointed when the show didn't exploit the awesome chemistry between DD and Scott Clifton as Schuyler Joplin. The show as going to write out KISH anyway. I thought it would have been poignant if Oliver had been killed in the line of duty, preferring to let Schuyler and Rachel raise his daughter as their own. Would have also loved their "Delgado" Marriage of Convenience blossom into true love.

    My next big gripe was Evangeline Williamson. I thought Rene Elise Goldberry was very talented, but it seemed to me that the show was determined to write her as the Black Tea. I thought she should have been written more as OLTL's version of GH's Alexis or Santa Barbara's Julia. The show kind of poisoned me towards her out of the box by having her side with the obnoxious Antonio over RJ Gannon. I did like her pairing with ME's John Usually McBane of my Existence. The triangle with the very immature Natalie never made sense to me. I thought Natalie versus Layla Williamson over Cristian Vega would have rocked.

    My last big gripe was recycling RJ having a biracial daughter like brother Hank did. Here was a chance to introduce a Black female character as his old flame and use her to reconcile and tie the hostile Rauch takeover which saw Sadie written out and Carla backburnered to infinity and then disappeared to Agnes Nixon's original canon. I thought it would have been an interesting story if CARLA had been one of ASA BUCHANANs many wives and he divorced her for "adultery" when she gave birth an obviously Black baby girl.

    Timothy D Stickney reminded me a good deal of Rick Hearst in his acting choices and intensity and I believe that if Amelia Marshall had been cast as Keri Reynold's mother and then was further tied to the canvas as Asa Buchanan's daughter by Carla Grey Hall, I think the show could have kicked it up several notches.

    IMO, Shaun Evans and Vivian Wright should have married and adopted Destiny and Matthew's son. Both of them were too young to be good parents. I liked how solid that big ole teddy bear, Shaun was.

  • #2
    This is something that went on even before the Gannons and Evangeline. In 1985 the show hired a very good actor to play a bad boy named Bobby Blue. This was a character that had so much potential and was sort of paired with a very beautiful actress named Laura Carrington who played Lisa Baron. The two of them had major chemistry. That actor was Blair Underwood. There was a potential love triangle there with Bobby, Lisa and Josh Hall (son of Ed and Carla) but the show completely wasted them and by the end of 1986 all 3 characters were gone. Then a few years later we had Troy Nichols, his son Kerry and sisters Sheila and Rika Price. Again, these characters were terribly underused and Kerry and Rika were both victims of the LInda Gottlieb purge of 1991 where a dozen or so actors were cut from the show. Troy remained for a little while and of course Sheila was eventually recast and hung around until 1996 but was still not used to her full advantage. These were all very good actors with promising characters that unfortunately went nowhere.

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    • #3
      I honestly had to Google Daphne Duplaix as the name didn't ring a bell. I seem to vaguely remember her time as Rachel.

      The treatment Renée Elise Goldberry and Evangeline received was atrocious.

      But to be honest, the issue with diversity is an issue daytime wide. Maybe it's because TV in general has had an issue. But you would think a genre that has historically had a sizeable black audience would do a better job in trying to permanently reflect that in its product.

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      • #4
        I remember Bobby Blue. Blair Underwood was a short term character, but he stood out! Loved Al Freeman as Ed Hall and Lawrence Fishburn as Ed and Carla's adopted son, Joshua, rocked any scenes he was in. OLTL got the cream of the crop where Black actors were concerned. I wonder if Agnes Nixon hadn't lost all interest in OLTL when she got AMC if things would be any different since Carla Grey was her brainchild?

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        • #5
          I think there were not enough Blacks on the writing teams. Some of the best writing on GH back in the day was by Michele Val Jean. I believe she wrote an Emmy for the very realistic violent sexual assault and its aftermath on Elizabeth Weber and how it affected Lucky Spencer having to face down the weird dynamics of Luke and Laura, but what I really enjoyed was the way Marcus Taggart (Real Andrews) was written by her and I loved to laugh when his sister Gia got involved with Nicholas Cassadine and his malevolent witch of a grandmother, Helena Cassadine would be menacing her and she'd be on a rant about his crazy family. Anyway, I loved the chemistry between the actresses who played overbearing Helena and nonplussed Gia. Their dialogue was not only funny and snappy, but Gia's reaction was spot on like a normal person around a very weird person.

          I honestly think Hollywood is screwing up with endless virtue-signaling when it comes to Saluting Diversity. I hate it when, instead of simply hiring Black producers, tech workers, and writers, they tamper with canon and even European history to blacken a real historical figure .. the latest casualty Ann Boleyn ... rather than finding Black novelists and bringing their work on film, like the award-winning Color Purple. They could go further and actively pull Black history and African folklore.

          I liked Lion King, but I read this African fairy tale about this beautiful aristocrat who all the men in the territory wanted and her sister (who was not the family beauty). In any case, they find this young man badly beaten, with no memory and in rags. Of course, the beauty shuns him, but the sister befriends him and they become close until he is healed, remembers who he is and goes home. Later the important prince comes to the family to get a bride and everyone assumes it's the acclaimed beauty that he wants to marry, but its the kinder sister. It turned out that the prince was the homeless beggar with amnesia they had found. He had initially been interested in meeting the beauty (whose reputation was widely known) but he realized that real beauty in a woman is her intelligence, her spirit, and compassion.

          I thought it would have been awesome animated film and put the African girls on par with Belle, Cinderella or Snow White, but Disney had already got so much criticism over the way they did Aladdin, that they went with Lion King instead. Too bad they couldn't get Blacks in on the creative process who could have worked with the animators and the musical scoring, etc. I think they could have gotten away from Eurocentric themes and stretched a little. With the right team, anything is possible.

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          • #6
            I will say that I think one thing OLTL did better than other soaps was incorporating their black characters into the canvas and having them interact with the non-black actors. The Bobby character mentioned above had lots of scenes with Erika Slezak when I believe she was playing Niki Smith masquerading as Viki. Hank interacted with ex-wife Nora and best friend Bo, and Kevin dated their daughter Rachel for a time. Matthew and Destiny had their romance. Going way back to the beginning Sadie was the best friend of Anna Wolek. Other shows like Y&R always seemed to segregate their black actors and they mostly appeared in isolated stories. So that's the one thing OLTL did right. But I completely agree at all the wasted potential with many of the black actors and stories that were attempted and dropped too quickly.

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            • #7
              This is something that has been an issue with ALL soaps (even Generations) since they've been on the air, at least American soap operas. I think in ways the writers are so afraid of writing a character that is viewed as a (negative) stereotype. When watching soap characters that are supposed to represent 'diversity' I'm often reminded of a line in the Harrison Ford/Melanie Griffith film 'Working Girl' where he tells her he likes how she's dressed at a business cocktail mixer; that she isn't dressed like a woman who is dressing how she thinks a man would dress if he were a woman....(that's egregiously paraphrased)....but in my humble opinion they write every character, irrespective of skin color or heritage....as a 'white person'....with rare exception......they write any Asian, Black, East Indian, etc., character how all the white people act on the show. They talk the same, they dress the same, they eat at the same places.....that isn't diversity....

              Last year Bold and the Beautiful and Young and the Restless both added to their cast with black actors and actresses...Bold and the Beautiful had the opportunity to tell a story about racism in America (and other countries) by having one of their black characters experience the ugliness of racism and expose it in the way it's not as 'better' as some would like to think - they could have opened many minds, possibly, to the things that people do and say - even unwittingly and unknowingly, that perpetuate racism and racist images and stereotypes...instead they developed a few 'love triangle' stories out of it, which is just about all they do. So much for bringing black actors and actresses to the foreground and helping illustrate the issues that black people (and other people of color) face to this day in our 'white-centric' society.

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              • GuidingLite
                GuidingLite commented
                Editing a comment
                When Guiding Light ended I really had hoped that Kim Zimmer would get another large role on another soap - and not revisit Echo on OLTL. To me Echo was just so long ago...and so not connected to where Llanview was in the 2010s.....and of course then the show ended and KZ was once again unemployed....

              • MemMem
                MemMem commented
                Editing a comment
                @llanviewlover:

                Clint would have been a great idea, too! I always pictured Asa who seemed more of a marrying man than Clint, but then Clint was a bachelor when he came to Llanview and it was not like he was in his early 20's. A bad marriage with suspected infidelity or ... here's another brainstorm, if you will.

                Clint was away when Carla gave birth. When he came back he was told the child died. The marriage fell apart and Clint/Carla divorced. Asa even orchestrated the coverup.

                The story could have been done with flashbacks and when Clint's Black daughter showed up, Asa would have to acknowledge the family scandal.

              • llanviewlover
                llanviewlover commented
                Editing a comment
                Love it MemMem! Why is it that us viewers on the boards can think of these great stories but the writers never can? LOL

            • #8
              I think over all for the times OLTL did well. I was disappointed some when they made Rachel an addict. I also never understood how Natalie was a better match than Evangelne. That was one couple war I really cared about.

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              • Mr.Sami_Brady
                Mr.Sami_Brady commented
                Editing a comment
                The Evangeline/John/Natalie triangle was before my time, but when I started watching OLTL in '08 I saw old OLTL clips and I am so sorry I didn't watch OLTL sooner, I would've loved Evangeline.

            • #9
              Here are some of my thoughts as a long time viewer. I can absolutely respect and see why OLTL didn’t do well in the diversity department. They would make positive steps then shoot themselves in the foot or execute poorly laid out ideas in an attempt to add diversity.

              While Paul Rauch is credited with revamping OLTL in the 80s, it came at a negative cost. There was no reason to do what they did to Lillian Hayman and after the departures of her and Ellen Holly, Al Freeman Jr didn’t really have much to do. If the changes had been handled better, more respect could have been shown to them

              The show later brought on Dennis and Vera Williams but gave them nothing really to do so they were gone pretty quickly. I suspect many viewers don’t remember them. That along with Bobby, Lisa and others who didn't last long in the mid eighties.

              We then had Troy, Sheila, Kerry and Rika (along with Kerry’s bandmates). Rika was a positive portrayal but she then left and the show seemed to act like Sheila didn’t have a sister. Kerry and his bandmates weren’t fleshed out and were poorly written in a bad attempt to portray racial differences. I recall a scene where Dorian (Elaine Princi) interacted with them and it was awkward - portrayed as I recall in a way to show Dorian in a negative light related to the interaction as some sort of “learning“ experience”

              The arrival of the Gannons and Nora was a big plus at first. Having a Jewish character on canvas for the first time since the Siegels in the 70s as well as having an interracial couple and their child. Sheila was more interesting with Hank as well. Race still played a role as I recall there was some storyline where Sheila was going to try out for a part in some play and the producer didn’t want her because she was black.

              While the arrival of RJ added to the storyline, Nathan Purdue later noted in an interview how they portrayed the “good brother” vs the “bad brother”. Hank had to be clean cut, wearing suits, short hair and be very respectable whereas RJ had to have dreadlocks. Nathan noted there was pushback when he started growing his hair out as having dreadlocks didn’t fit with what Hank was supposed to be.

              The show tried to pair Rachel with Jared Hall who was related to Ed and Carla even going as far as to get Al Freeman Jr back for disposable scenes in an attempt to validate the character. Ed disappeared as quickly as he came and Jared soon left.

              Once Ellen Bethea left, the show seemed to forget who Rachel was and after two recasts, considered the character disposable enough to send to prison for Georgie Phillips murder. I finally got a change to rewatch some of Sandra P Grant’s final scenes where Rachel takes responsibility and does the right thing but it was also written acting like she’d be back in 6 months - but she wasn’t.

              After Valerie Pettiford left, the show recasted with Stephanie Williams as they were paired previously on Y&R. But even after adding a brother Ben, the story for Sheila fizzled out while Ben was victim to the poorly received storyline for Rachel.

              Hank and Sheila became afterthoughts with the focus more on RJ. First, they added a business partner Jacara Principal and transgendered “mixologist” named Wendi but again with the head writing change, both were dropped.

              They then attempted to recreate Rachel as Keri, the daughter RJ didn’t know he had. Her mother Liz was in an odd story that didn’t last long and as I recall she died. When Sheri Saum wanted out, instead of recasting, they chose to have Keri for no clear reason kill herself. The Gannons faded out after that.

              REG’s Evangaline was very popular and when she chose to leave, the show made the mistake of putting her in a coma instead of giving her a graceful exit. They gave her a sister Layla but didn’t seem to know what to do with her which is sad because as Tyler Perry has shown - Tika Sumpter can do well if given good material.

              Both Nathan Purdee and Timothy Stickney returned briefly to reintroduce Rachel (Daphnee Duplaix) but TPTB then chose to end her storyline for reasons that were never clear to me. As she departed around the same time as Kish and Schyler, I suspect something was going on behind the scenes. It was also disrespectful to Nathan Purdee and Tim Stickney who had agreed to come back.

              Much could be said about the Vega family as well but I will save that for another post.

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