Busted to Blissful ~ April 2005 ~ Y&R and AMC/ATWT

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The good and bad use of soaps' talented teens.

Summer is on its way and in soapdom that means teens come front and center in soap storytelling  In this month's Busted to Blissful, Soapdom's Lesleyann Coker takes exception with Y&R, but is loving the way AMC and ATWT are utilizing teen talent.  What busted her bubble and what is putting her in bubblicious bubble bliss? 

Dish Busted to Blissful with Lesleyann Coker right here.

Busted ~
Wasted Talent on Y&R

If an actress is lucky enough to win a Daytime Emmy Award at the age of 10, chances are she’s pretty talented.  Such is the case of Camryn Grimes who plays Cassie Newman on The Young and the Restless.  However, since Grimes star-making turn in 2000, when her character Cassie was at the center of a custody battle between her birth mother and her adopted mother, Grimes has languished on the back burner.  In fact, Y&R even took her off contract last year.

Now 15, the talented teenager is blossoming into a lovely young woman while she waits for an appropriate storyline.  Lately, every time Cassie has been on air it’s during a family holiday scene or she’s whining and complaining about something.  Y&R treats her like some of the beloved stars of yesteryear from other shows who rarely do more than smile or sputter a grunt at holidays.  It’s not only a waste of Grimes’ natural acting ability, but it’s as if the writers are doing everything they can to make the character of Cassie annoying and unlikable.

Hopefully, the powers-that-be will realize the gem they have in Grimes and remedy the situation.  Recently, Cassie’s mom Sharon, played by the luminous Sharon Case, found a condom in Cassie’s purse, touching off a poignant scene between mother and daughter.  If the writers are going to turn Cassie into a rebellious teenager, then it might be Grimes’ chance to shine again.

Fans have watched Grimes grow-up on the show, ever since she joined the cast in 1997 at just seven years old.  I think the audience will share Sharon’s trepidation at the thought of sweet little Cassie now being old enough to have sex.  It’s additionally compelling and ironic watching Sharon attempt to protect her young daughter, because as Sharon herself noted, she was near Cassie’s age when she gave birth to Cassie.

Y&R can’t go wrong in highlighting emotional and true-to-life scenes between Emmy winners Grimes and Case.  The rapport these actresses have is palpable and surely rooted in the fact that Case has acted opposite Grimes since Grimes was a child, helping to ensure their mother/daughter bond.

Though I must take exception to the scene that followed between Grimes and Joshua Morrow, who plays Cassie’s father, Nicholas.  I can’t think of a single teenage girl who would feel comfortable discussing condoms and her sex life -- or lack there of -- with her Dad.  Morrow and Grimes made the scene work thanks to their chemistry, but it still made me cringe.

With all the crazy and unrealistic storylines on soaps, it’s great to have simple moments between capable actors.  It’s time Y&R realizes how remiss it has been in not showcasing Grimes sooner, and lets Cassie’s condom caper become a full fledged story of teenage angst and desire.

Blissful ~
Talented Teens on AMC and ATWT

Two of the most talented actors on daytime right now aren’t old enough to drive, but their age hasn’t stopped them from doing some of the most thoughtful and complex work currently on television.

On All My Children, 14-year-old Leven Rambin is a true revelation as the autistic Lily Montgomery.  When Rambin first debuted last year, I was convinced she was much older.  Most television programs hire actors over 18 to play teenagers, due to the strict laws for minors which limit the amount of time they can work on set.  It’s much more cost effective to hire an older actor who happens to look younger (or sometimes not, as in the case of almost everyone on 90210 in the 90’s when the “high schoolers” were all in their late 20’s, and it showed).

Not only did I think Rambin was older than 14 because of work laws, but because of her maturity as an actress.  Since Lily is autistic, any actress playing her would be challenged not to make the character into a caricature.  It would be a safe choice to make the audience feel sorry for Lily because of her disability, but only a gifted actress like Rambin could create and explore the captivating individual underneath.

Thanks to Rambin’s multi-layered portrayal, Lily is a fully developed and complicated character in her own right.  She has an inner strength that shines through any situation, and a frankness that is equally admirable, humorous and touching.  She is by turn vulnerable and childlike, but always radiates innate goodness and simplicity.

Rambin steals every scene she’s in with her understated presence and delicate beauty.  That’s no easy feat considering her scene partners are often daytime heavy hitters Susan Lucci (Erica) and Walt Wiley (Jackson).

Rambin really came into her own in the recent storyline where Lily developed a crush on the 20-something Aidan and asked him to be her boyfriend.  When she explained she meant someone to hang out with without kissing, he agreed.  A few weeks later when Aidan accidentally touched her arm, Lily decided her policy of no touching wasn’t such a good idea, and that she wanted to kiss Aidan after all.

When Lily went to tell Aidan the good news and accidentally stumbled upon him kissing his real girlfriend Anita, the pain etched on Rambin’s face conveyed more than any words ever could the hurt Lily was feeling.  After Aidan explained that he always wanted to be Lily’s friend, but not her boyfriend, Rambin made the viewer’s heart ache for Lily even more.  Everyone can remember having their heart broken for the first time, but Lily’s gift of seeing things in black and white -- and Rambin’s ability to play it -- made her sadness all the more agonizing and believable.

It looks like Lily won’t be heartbroken for long, as I suspect the show is preparing to pair her with Sam Grey (Bobby Steggert).  Since they share the common bond of having a parent murdered, it’s not too much of a stretch to see them together, and hopefully the less-is-more acting style of Rambin will rub off on Steggert, who has a tendency to err on the side of exaggerated theatrics.

Jake Weary, who plays Luke Snyder on As the World Turns, is a young actor who doesn’t need pointers from anyone.  Weary must have learned a lot from his mother, Guiding Light veteran Kim Zimmer (Reva), because he appears completely at ease holding his own against power houses Martha Byrne (Lily), Jon Hensley (Holden) and Elizabeth Hubbard (Lucinda).

Weary energizes any scene he’s in with his electric combination of innocence and anger.  Weary makes Luke seethe whenever he’s near his father Holden, who, in Luke’s eyes, abandoned his family for his girlfriend Julia.  Luke’s anger is so raw it practically leaps off the screen.

After Julia was murdered, Luke gallantly took the rap, believing his mother Lily had committed the crime.  As Luke protested his guilt to anyone who would listen, Weary let us see the pain and fear that simmered just underneath Luke’s bravado surface.

When a child of a core couple is suddenly aged on soaps, it’s usually a bit jarring.  Soap fans call it SORAS, as in “Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome.”  The word is used as a verb, such as “The child actor’s character was SORASed -- one week she was a six year old sent off to boarding school, the next week she returned as a buxom blonde teenager.”

However, after the character of Luke Synder was SORASed on ATWT and Weary took over the role, it was relatively easy to accept him as Luke thanks to his talent.  Weary’s very first scenes with Byrne and Hensley as his parents flowed naturally.  Weary has an especially comfortable chemistry with Byrne, which makes it effortless to believe he really does want to protect her character.  In scenes with Hensley as his frequent sparring partner, Weary has also shown an uncanny depth for someone his age.

It’s too bad that the mesmerizing Weary and the lovely Rambin aren’t on the same show, because that’s a love story I’d really like to see!


Lesleyann Coker is a contributing columnist for Soapdom.com, and co-author of Boob Tube, a satiric novel currently being shopped to publishers that examines what really goes on behind the scenes of the soap opera industry.  She is a former reporter for Soap Opera Weekly magazine, and has interviewed over 200 daytime and primetime actors during her career.